By the time my second baby arrived, I had thought I was not only more prepared but also less anxious about the stuff I knew I couldn’t control. Unfortunately, it took me almost a year, a global pandemic, and quitting my job to realize I had postpartum anxiety. Postpartum anxiety is not the same for everyone and it is something that in the end helped me learn about myself and make decisions based on what is actually most important in my life.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety is simply a mood disorder that can affect pregnant and postpartum women up to a year after giving birth. The majority of cases are found in women who are also experiencing postpartum depression, but this is not always the case. A lot of the time postpartum anxiety is intense fears, worries, anxiety, and stressors that disrupt daily life. From caring for your new baby to taking care of simple day-to-day tasks.
Postpartum anxiety has a wide variety of symptoms and not everyone has all of the same symptoms and they can affect people differently. Most people know when something is off with them, but not all want to admit it or might blame it on something else. It is possible that you might just be experiencing baby blues or your hormones are regulating, but at the same time a prolonged experience of any one or more of the following symptoms could be postpartum anxiety and or postpartum depression.
One can experience any or all of the following symptoms:
- Poor sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sitting still
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Heart palpitations or increased heart rate
- Feeling short of breath or like you can’t breathe
- Tense muscles
- Weight loss
- Irritability and frustration
- Unable to relax or feeling constant “nervous energy”
- A sense of dread or doom
- Forgetful, distracted, or like you can’t focus
- Fearful or worried
- Obsessive about things that probably aren’t going to happen
- Feeling on edge
- Guilt and shame that you are not doing things right
- Restlessness and tension
For me, I had constant nervous energy, felt always on edge, and was extremely irritable (to put it mildly). I constantly felt as if I was fighting myself and everyone else, as I mentioned work became a huge trigger for me and anything else that I couldn’t control. I knew I would only be able to control certain factors after having a newborn, but being unable to make my work situation better was very challenging for me and the one thing I couldn’t seem to make better.
How Postpartum Anxiety Affected Me
I will be honest, not only did I not realize I had postpartum anxiety for months, I was in denial that anything was wrong for a long time. I assumed postpartum anxiety presented itself the way that I had heard others describe it. Debilitating and unable to even leave the house, hard to go anywhere, and unable to often take care of the most normal day-to-day tasks. My situation was nothing like that, I was working full time as Vice President at a local non-profit, running on at most 5 hours of broken sleep a night, serving on a board, and maintaining a social life (well as much as I could with a newborn and toddler).
There were no panic attacks, depression, uncontrollable thoughts, or feelings, I was the same me, but just with an edge…a very dark and sharp edge. I did experience quite a bit of postpartum rage that went hand in hand with the anxiety and the triggers of my postpartum anxiety. Sadly a huge trigger for me ended up being my job and the hostile work environment I came back to following maternity leave.
The first time I felt something was off was when my supervisor at work texted me to check in, and for some reason that just did not sit well with me. You know that feeling when you just want to run away and hide, that was how I felt. I thought it was just because I was a little apprehensive to go back to work with 2 kids 2 and under, but it was more than just that. This feeling did not go away, it just got stronger during the last month of my maternity leave.
Dealing With Postpartum Anxiety and Moving on
My experience with postpartum anxiety go so extreme that after being bullied and mistreated by my supervisor, I quit my job. I left my job at the beginning of 2020 and within less than a month I had been offered a part-time position with a former employer. It seemed like the perfect fit and I started the new endeavor the second week of March 2020. Needless to say, I was let go less than 2 weeks at my new job and was hit (along with the rest of the world) by a global pandemic.
On the positive side, this forced me to slow down, focus on my babies, and really realize what was important in my life. For that single reason, I am forever grateful for my experience because it got me to where I am today in my career and family life. On the flip side, being stuck at home with a 9-month-old and 2-year-old bombarded with death and a nonstop bad news cycle, I took a turn for the worse. I felt as if I was getting better, but in reality, I had just learned to deal with it and once and finally face the reality that this was not something I could escape but had to learn to deal with.
I wish I could say it was easy once I made the decision to just deal with it and not fight myself or the fact that I was dealing with postpartum anxiety, but even now a couple of years later I can still feel it creep up. I have to remind myself that I can not nor do I need to be in control of everything and I can make it better by choosing to deal with stuff that makes me anxious in certain ways. Due to timing, I did not get professional help long-term nor did take any medication.
I did speak with a couple of therapists but wasn’t able to really connect with anyone, then everything shut down and it was much harder to do that. So for me, I dealt with it on my own essentially, leaning on my husband and trying to explain to him how I was feeling. That was really hard for me, to admit that I was not 100% okay and try to explain exactly how I felt, which made me feel a bit crazy, to be honest. It was really hard on us, but we got through it and I learned how to explain things better to my husband and how to express my thoughts, feelings, and needs in a healthy manner.
I had to learn to let go of the things I could not control and focus on what I could control. Easier said than done and it is something I still struggle with, but work on it every single day that I can. Now with my littlest one going on 4, I am so grateful for my experience with postpartum anxiety. It changed me and in the end, forced me to make changes for myself and my family that we are all the better for.
Read More: What is Normal Postpartum Hair Loss?
Postpartum anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of, there are so many changes in your life at the same time as your hormones are going through another huge shift. Having a child is a remarkable and life-changing event, you nor anyone else will be the same person after they have a child as they were before, it is impossible. Give yourself grace during this time period and pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, reactions, and body. You and only you know yourself best, ask for help, and don’t let something get out of control.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out My Year With Postpartum Depression – How I Got Better.
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