It showed up right on time, peeps! Well, that’s not really true. With Reese the first hard anxiety I felt was the Sunday after she was born. We went over for family dinner and even though everyone was healthy and so nice and totally respectful I still had a mild panic episode when I walked back in the room and the person I’d left her with had handed her to someone else. NBD, right? Totally fine. Except that my heart and brain did NOT think it was fine. I was so shocked and scared at how shocked and scared I was. The worst part was that I deep down KNEW that it was unreasonable to get nervous about that. But I couldn’t stop it!
My postpartum anxiety with Reese was a weird on-and-off battle. I definitely didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel out of control or weepy or dark or apathetic or any of the adjectives I’d heard describing PPD. I would just sometimes, usually at night right before bed once I’d put Reese down and the world got quiet, start to think about horrible and stupid and impossible things. Heights in particular, of which I’ve always been a little terrified, preoccupied my thoughts. It was so dumb! It would come and go, good weeks and bad. And other than being a little more tired after a bad night, I don’t think anyone could even tell. Not even me. I would straight up forget about it, because my days were so perfect and I felt amazing!
Over time I learned some really helpful coping techniques and preventative measures. It also turned out that my thyroid practically quit on me and that fed into some of the emotion and sleep issues I’d been experiencing, so once I started thyroid medications it improved as well. I still lose my shiz when I see an Angel’s Landing video but for the most part I thought it was securely in the past! Yahoo!
When Malone was born I had a much more stable emotional/hormonal response. Reese had already converted my mom heart, so the random crying, heart growing pains, and intense emotions didn’t slap me silly this time. I definitely felt the hormone swings that are natural after birth, of course. But I just felt so much more stable and comfortable. Maybe, I thought, maybe this means I won’t have any anxiety this time!
“LOL” – my anxiety. It was just waiting in the wings, generously and thoughtfully waiting until our RSV hospital episode concluded. For that I am thankful. I was enough of a mess without the hormones and emotions and anxiety.
I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m in need of serious help, or that this is a cry for help or anything like that. I freaking love my girls. I love my life. I love this! It’s like this most delicious meal that I’m so happy to eat, but like I also have to eat some gross veggies on the side. It’s ok. It’s probably good for me. I’ll survive. It’s definitely not ruining my meal. It’s just a little eye roll emoji, you know?
I wanted to share this because, like last time I wrote about it, it was because I’d had an enlightening conversation with a friend who was going through the same things, same feelings, same weirdness and didn’t feel like it was “full blown PPD” so it didn’t count or didn’t matter.
Our feelings count. Our feelings matter. Our experiences are real and important and ~ok. Last time I really only talked about it to a couple of people (besides Ryan, obvs) but once I really shared my experience I felt so much better and found that it resonated with a lot of my friends, too. Going for the same vibe today.
Here is what I feel. Here is what it’s been like.
- Sensory Overload – this one is new. All the rest of these I had last time to some extent, but this time I find myself starting to freak out if there are too many noises going on at once. It’s so weird. If Reese is shouting (which she often is), Glen Coco is barking (which he often is), or any other noises are combining I seriously start to feel like my head is spinning into explosion.
- A buzzing excitement or burst of energy when I finally lay down to sleep
- Restlessness, even when I’m exhausted. Wtf. I feel a need to get up, tinker with things, pace, slide something 2 inches into the spot I prefer for it.
- Feeling certain that everyone dislikes me, and that everything I say bugs everyone.
- Fear of bugging people, offending people, being around anyone when I’m feeling less than 100 emoji – because they’ll never like me again.
- Irritation and impatience with social media
- Nervously checking my phone. Which is why I’m irritated and impatient!
- Headaches, neck & shoulder tension, red eyes, biting my lips, picking at my nails & cuticles
- Negative self talk and being critical of my appearance
Ok that sounds really bad altogether, but it’s not like I’m feeling all of those all day every day all the time. I’ll feel many of them on a bad or weird day. Many days I feel absolutely none of them! I’m not sure I would be diagnosed with formal anxiety. I think medication is awesome and totally helpful for anxiety & depression, but I am definitely not there. It’s totally manageable for me – and another great thing about doing this for the second time is that I already have a lot of great ideas for managing it!
Managing My Postpartum Anxiety
Now, these are just things that worked for me in the past. Some are preventative, some are coping mechanisms, some are just fun! And yeah, I know a lot of people recommend cutting out caffeine to help with anxiety but I can guarantee you things would get a hell of a lot worse over here if I tried that.
- No naps. Respect nighttime sleep. Napping makes it harder to fall asleep and get good sleep.
- Exercise & Earn My Sleep. It soothes my mind, feels great, helps me sleep better, home run. If I don’t exercise I still like the mantra of Earn Your Sleep. Basically accomplish something good each day that I worked hard at – even if it’s just cleaning a bathroom.
- Drink lots of water. Helps with the headache/lip/nail/weight loss situation.
- Get Outside. Wow this one makes such a difference, and thankfully it’s warming up to accommodate us.
- Journal. I’m so so bad at this, but my friend Katie got me the prettiest journal and pen so I’m trying to do a better job and writing down my feelings and thoughts as often as possible.
- Watch The Office. I’m dead freaking serious. Turn to something you love
- Tell Ryan. Last time I’d let the anxiety pile up, or ignore it. I was in denial or embarrassed or just overly optimistic that it was going away. Instead, I am trying to talk to him about it more. Not only does it give him fair warning that I might be a little more fragile or testy than normal, but he’s so good at validating and calming me.
- Saying No. This is hard for me, but thankfully I’ve been working on it since January 1st as part of my HOME resolution. I’ve been saying no a lot lately, but honestly I need to do it even more.
- To-Do List Trim. This is a new one I started doing this week because I was just feeling overwhelmed. I made my to-do list for the next day, then went back through it. Everything that HAD to be done was highlighted. Then I deleted about half of the items that didn’t HAVE to be completed. This gives me better focus, a more achievable goal, and way less stress.
- Mental Health Day. Last time when I had a bad day I felt this natural urge to push through and have a super Danica Type A day the next day to try to shove it behind me. It never worked. This time I’m doing the opposite and it’s already worked twice. Last Saturday was rough, and so was this Tuesday. So instead of jumping into Sunday and yesterday with a mile-long to do list, I said “Yep. That was rough. Let’s take it easy.” I cut down my to-do list to only the essentials. Didn’t get ready. Wore comfy clothes, allowed myself treats or popcorn, watched The Office, postponed errands and chores, and spent some quiet time reading. Sure enough I bounced back quicker.
- Get ahead on work & chores. Taking a few hours to pound away at some work or cleaning frees up time and eliminates stress for me – big time.
- Phone Control. Breastfeeding means I spend a lot of time sitting there on my phone. I use it to track feeding times, but then I often sit there mindlessly checking social media and winding myself up. I’m trying to replace several feedings a day with reading over phone time. I’m also trying to keep my phone out of arm’s reach while I work or get ready or do anything. It eliminates the mindless checking that was adding to my stress.
- Shopping. It helps. We all know it does.
- Priesthood Blessings. I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but when I really have a tough couple of days I need to ask for one. I plan to when I need it!
- Step Outside Myself. This has been huge when I feel like everyone hates me or that I want to hide at home. I try to think about how much I love all the people in my life, and put myself in their shoes. I try to feel the faith and hope that they feel about me the way I feel about them. Sometimes just thinking “wow what if my best friend was sitting there thinking that I didn’t really love her or that she bugged me??” is horrifying enough that I realize – Hey Danica. You’re being dumb.
- Admit that I Suck. On the flipside, there’s often a lot of truth to my anxiety. I need to be a better mom. I need to be nicer to everyone. I need to do less, but do it better. It’s actually relieving to stop pushing back and just say “yeah. This is why I don’t feel 100 emoji. What can I do to fix it?”
- Pointlessly blog, apparently.
This post is just a mess, sorry everyone. But I feel better for writing it! I feel much better this time around, for sure. The anxiety is less. My ability to handle it is greater. The cuteness in my house increased exponentially. The sun is shining. Beauty and the Beast comes out this week. I bought a ton of new makeup that I don’t need. Life is great, people.