Fighting in the Dark: My Battle with Postpartum Anxiety

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post on postpartum anxiety comes from a Climb Leader who said, when she sent it to me, that sharing her story is the only way to begin fighting stigma in earnest. We 100% agree. When we share our stories, we help others and break down the walls of stigma. Every single time. So thank you, Sarah Michals. We appreciate your bravery. You are a true Warrior Mom! -Jenna]

Fighting in the Dark: My Battle with Postpartum Anxiety -postpartumprogress.com

“Motherhood is hard. You’ll get used to it.” These were my doctor’s words when I went to her for help. I had told her that my daughter was thirteen months old, newly night-weaned, and finally sleeping through the night. I had told her that I had a loving, supportive husband. And I had told her that I hadn’t slept in days. And, yes, I had agreed. Motherhood is hard.

So there it was, I thought. The reason that I was sleeping no more than twelve hours a week was due to my inability to cope, to become the mom that I had always wanted to be. When the panic attacks started—while watching a particularly dull episode of Mad Men or reading an article about Britney Spears’s new body—I figured that it must have been from the stress of being a working mom and, again, from my failure to adjust. It had to have been my failure when, with the slightest trigger, I would fly into a rage at my ineptitude to the point where I would punch myself in the head until the flooding stopped. The beginning of my daughter’s second year had become my own personal Fight Club and, according to my doctor, I should have gotten used to it.

For me, as a first-time mom, I didn’t know enough to question her. The only models of motherhood I had ever seen were well-adjusted, functioning women. When I talked to these women, they would say, “I know what you mean. I’m tired, too.” I would nod, and then I would go home and cry beside my baby because I was not them. For whatever reason, I could not adapt. All I could do was crack a little bit more every day.

I already knew what it was like to be tired. My daughter never slept for more than three hours at a time for her entire first year, more often than not in forty-five minute intervals, but that had been nothing compared to this. This insomnia, this five hours asleep—72 hours awake—three hour asleep rotation, was breaking me. I taught my classes and watched college students tilt their heads at my paleness as I spoke without hearing myself. I rode the bus across town and missed my stop because the scenery all started to look the same. Time seemed to spin around itself without progress like the ceiling fan I would stare at from the bed that tormented me.

As I stumbled bleary-eyed into my fifteenth month of motherhood and my fourth month of true sleeplessness, I knew that I could no longer fight against myself; it was going to kill me, and allowing that to happen was not an option. Instead, I had to fight for myself.

The Internet can be a dull weapon, but when you’ve exhausted all other resources, at least it gives you something to wield. I Googled until my fingers hurt and, somehow, I discovered something that I hadn’t found in my million previous attempts: Postpartum Anxiety Disorder. I clicked, and so did my sense of what was happening to me. The symptoms of Postpartum Depression had never fit, but with PPA, I checked every single box.

I called my doctor once again, and I knew that she would volunteer nothing, so instead of waiting, I told her what she had to do, and I told her she had to do it immediately. She sighed and consented. That evening I picked up my new prescription, and a week later my panic attacks had disappeared. My self-loathing had dissipated.

And I was sleeping.

This story began in darkness—the darkness of night after lonely night when everyone else was sleeping; the emotional darkness that had filled up the space for love in my heart; the darkness of the silence that surrounds postpartum mental illness; the darkness of my ignorance and blind faith in a medical system that was never designed for me. But I fought to the surface when I finally knew where to strike.

So many moms live in this darkness every single day, and what I can say is that through all of this, my night vision has gotten better, and I can see you. Other women like us can see you. And there will come a day when you can see yourself again. She’s in there still. She’ll be back.

~Sarah Michals

On Partner Support and Self-Care

Facebook Live: On Partners and Self-Care -postpartumprogress.com

This week’s Facebook Live Event took place at noon today—which is when you can plan to find us weekly right now. We experienced a few technical difficulties, including near-literally blowing up Katherine’s phone, but we also experienced some great engagement from those in attendance.

It turns out that gathering together in the comments to chat about what Katherine is saying on the video provides Warrior Moms with a great chance to connect. We didn’t realize that would happen with these events, so it’s an added bonus for us all.

If you missed the live event, you can watch it now.

Here’s a list of all the links shared in the comments:

During the chat, Warrior Moms shared what they do to incorporate self-care into their day. Some ideas included coloring, photography, spending time in nature, gardening, showering, reading, taking time to eat, and more. It was really great to see moms promote self-care to one another and reassure each other that self-care is not selfish. It’s what we do to take care of ourselves. Even stepping outside for a moment, as one mom shared, can be all you need to breathe a little easier.

Katherine really drove home how important it is to get quality sleep, even though that feels impossible at times with an infant. She gave different ideas for how to manage sleep, such as parents splitting up the week into two days on and two days off or even splitting the night into five hour segments (or 3-4 hours at a time for our nursing moms).

We also talked real about what moms can do if they don’t have a supportive partner, either by choice or because the partner doesn’t understand postpartum depression. We reminded moms that it’s okay to ask for help, to ask someone to come watch the baby just so you can get five hours of sleep. Even those with a supportive partner talked about how they felt guilty, that their partner deserved something better than what they had with them. We all know that’s depression whispering dark lies in a vulnerable mom’s ear. Don’t listen to or believe that lie!

Near the end of the chat, we started talking about the decision to have another baby, but were cut off due to the phone overheating. We’ll be starting out next week’s chat with that topic and addressing two others as well. Please let us know what you’d like to talk about next week!

Thanks to all who attended and participated or shared in any way. When we share our truths about our experiences with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, we help other moms. Even those mamas still struggling can be a life line for other moms just simply by opening up and sharing what’s going on in her head, heart, and life. You are all Warrior Moms and we are grateful to have you as part of our team.

See you next week!

Maria Shireen Partners To Support Maternal Mental Health

Charity TiesWe’re so excited to tell you about a brand new maternal mental health partnership between Postpartum Progress and Maria Shireen™, the fashion accessories company famous for developing the Hair Tie Bracelet. The company was co-founded by Shireen Thor, who experienced first-hand the difficult challenge of postpartum depression following the birth of her son last year. As someone who has come through the experience of PPD and launched a successful accessories business in the process, Shireen and her husband, company co-Founder Arni Thor, have decided to support women through programs that address moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

For each Charity Ties bracelet dedicated to postpartum depression and maternal mental health that is sold, Maria Shireen will donate $10 to the nonprofit organization Postpartum Progress. These awesome bracelets have ‪#‎BANDOFSTRENGTH‬ engraved on them and come with a white hair tie corresponding to the specific cause of maternal mental illness. You can remove the hair tie whenever you need to put your hair up, and then put it back into this gorgeous bracelet rather than just wearing a hair tie directly on your wrist for hair emergencies. I have long hair, and I have to tell you I love mine!

Maria Shireen bracelets have been featured everywhere from InStyle and Pop Sugar to the Today Show and Allure magazine. Since the company’s debut in 2015, more than 110,000 bracelets have sold around the world in 40 countries.

I got to meet Shireen Thor recently while on a business trip. We sat together and talked for hours and she shared her own story with me of her recent experience with postpartum depression. Like most of us, she was completely shocked to go through it and now that she’s coming out on the other side she doesn’t want other mothers to feel alone and ashamed. I loved getting the chance to spend time with her and hear her story, and I’m thrilled that she’s decided to use her success with Maria Shireen to help Warrior Moms and support the work of Postpartum Progress. We believe it’s so important for women leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs to recognize that maternal mental illness is exceedingly common and yet the majority of those who have it never get the help they need. We won’t be able to succeed with our organization’s vision — Every pregnant and new mother with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder will quickly recognize her illness, know why treatment is important, seek help and fully recover thanks to having access to the information, services and support to help her through. — without the support of leaders like Shireen Thor, CEO of Maria Shireen, or Cotton Babies CEO Jennifer Labit, who has also experienced PPD.

charity_ties_2-2Click here to order a Maria Shireen Charity Ties bracelet to support Postpartum Progress.

 

mariashireenwebsite

The Sun Will Shine: A Poem on Postpartum Depression

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from Stephanie, and she brings a little something different today: a poem on postpartum depression. It’s beautifully written. It’s also a piece many mamas who have suffered postpartum depression can relate to; the imagery is pretty universal. Enjoy! -Jenna]

The Sun Will Shine: A Poem on Postpartum Depression -postpartumprogress.com

Rocking chair moves, dark room,
Blank stare, melancholy doom,
Holding babe, lanky arms,
Tear falling, first do no harm,

Rock forth, rock back,
Losing grip, feeling slack,
Beautiful girl, pudgy cheeks,
Trying to hold close, feeling so weak,

Told you’ll be okay, trying to believe,
Closing your eyes, just feeling grief,
Slipping fingers, baby girl falling,
Quickly catching her, still bawling,

Fixated spot, empty wall,
A big void, emotional overhaul,
Losing the battle, giving up,
Hating the child, yet still in love,

Months gone, still feel alone,
Trying to fane happiness, trying to feel whole,
Body raped, pill after pill,
Combinations played, climbing that hill,

Happy eyes stare, filled of ocean blue,
Trying to love, holding and hugging you,
Dormant smiles, buried deep,
Hiding my pain, inside I weep,

Hour glass runs out, flipped once again,
Feeling less zombie, gaining control of my head,
Hearing you laugh, seeing you crawl,
Suddenly amazed, Inhaling it all,

“The sun is shining,” I say holding you,
“Let’s go out and observe,” just us two,
We both stare in awe, you at the sky,
Me taking deep breaths, pushing your first year to the side,

The rocking chair still sits, alone and bare,
Room still darkens, my mind is not there,
Now cradling you, swaying side to side,
I’ll never leave you, my baby girl, my pride.

– Stephanie Paige, 2016

 

If you’d like to submit a poem on postpartum depression or any other form of a guest post, you’re welcome to send them to editor@postpartumprogress.org