If you ever have the radio on, a television on in your vicinity, or follow social media at any point during any given day, you will hear stories of tragedy. Sadly, sometimes those stories involve moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
We know stories such as those are painful to hear and can make you fearful and anxious and also have the potential to trigger your symptoms. So here’s a guide for what to do and how to care for yourself when you hear upsetting news.
Self-Care Steps to Take When Tragedy Strikes
First and foremost, please to try remember that another person’s story is NOT your story. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in another person’s life, and neither does the media.
You don’t know what a person’s risk factors are, what type of symptoms she has or had and how severe they were; whether she sought professional help and received a proper diagnosis; whether she was being treated at all or effectively; what her life circumstances are and what stressors she may have been dealing with; and what kind of support she may have had around her. Each of us is a very unique individual and this is why it’s just never helpful or healthy to compare. The fact that a mom in the news has an illness that is the same as yours or similar to yours has little bearing on you and what is happening with you. Her story is NOT your story.
Second, try to consider the data. Numbers don’t lie. The vast, VAST, SUPERVAST majority of moms with perinatal mood or anxiety disorders never end up in the news. There’s a reason for that: It’s rare for a tragedy to happen. We still talk about them because, when they do happen, it’s an important reminder that maternal mental health awareness is important and providing the best help to moms who need it is important.
Third, try to remove yourself from news that might be upsetting to you or affect your health. You can turn off the TV or radio, walk away from the computer or smartphone, and instead do something nice for yourself. Focus on people or things you enjoy or that help you feel centered. Sometimes I light a candle. Sometimes I take a hot shower. Sometimes I play a favorite CD. These are little things that tend to help me calm down when I feel myself drifting toward anxiety or becoming obsessed over bad things that could happen but very likely never will.
And finally, if national tragedies or upsetting stories related to moms are really triggering you to the point that you have a worsening of your own symptoms and all the self-care in the world isn’t helping, call your therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or whoever the person is who is already helping you with your perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. It’s more than okay to reach back out for help and say that you are concerned and need some support during this time. If you don’t have someone you can reach out to, try the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline.