Lindsay Maloan

Lindsay became a serendipitous advocate after being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in 2011, six months after the birth of her son. She lives and breathes New Orleans with her patient husband, spirited son, identical twin daughters, and critters. She blogs at www.withalittleloveandluck.com and you can find her over-sharing on Twitter @lilloveandluck.

    Paralyzed By Fear: I Think I Had Postpartum OCD

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    221144_843371654546_2779282_oBefore I knew I had PPD and anxiety, I thought the obsession I had with making sure my son was still breathing was normal. I found out eventually that it wasn’t, but not until after I had spent months totally paralyzed by the thought of losing him to something I couldn’t control.

    Instead of finding ways to calm my fears, I found myself diving deep into the blog of a family that had lost their first child to SIDS. I didn’t know the family at all. I can’t really remember how I found their blog-maybe it was a friend of a friend of a friend. Their real-life nightmare was my nightmare. I could not shake the fear that the same fate would fall upon us.

    I barely slept for months. I researched every way to “prevent” it and I made that a policy. I put off crib naps as much as possible-I had to hold him so I could watch him breathe. He stayed in the Pack-n-Play in our room for over five months so he was within reach. I joked that that way I could poke him to make sure he was ok. Except it wasn’t a joke-I really did it, at least twice a night.

    The thing about all of this was, I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I probably knew that I was torturing myself by obsessing over the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself from typing that address in my browser. I knew what I was doing wasn’t all that healthy, but I didn’t really know how to stop. Once I got a therapist at seven months postpartum, we had passed the main window for SIDS loss, so I never really brought it up with her because I believed my fears were slowly subsiding. Yet, I still leaned over the crib rails every night before I went to bed and told him I loved him so it was the last thing I said to him….just in case. I still found myself holding my breath every morning until I heard him call for me. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suspect now that my therapist would’ve diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD if I had been open about it.

    When the twins were born, I forked over money I didn’t really have for the portable SIDS monitors. They allowed me to sleep by quieting the voice of fear that was peeking from behind the medication I was on to keep the anxiety and depression at bay. The video monitor someone gifted us helped me, too. I wasn’t without concern, what mother is, but I was much calmer, more aware of my own actions that perpetuated my fears, and understood that I could not control everything.

    Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I wake up with that same feeling that used to keep me awake for hours. On the nights I can’t shake it, I tiptoe into their rooms and kiss their sweaty, sweet-smelling heads, and tell all three of them I love them…one more time. The fear never really left me, but I try my hardest not to let it rule me like I did for so long.

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    Bye-Bye, SSRI

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    I’m not on my SSRI anymore. It happened accidentally-I would get so scatterbrained with work and taking care of the twins plus the preschooler that I would totally forget for a day, then take it the next day and swear I wouldn’t do it again. That happened over and over for months. Then one day became three. Three became a week. Then one day I realized that it had been two weeks since I had taken one and it was an opportunity for a hard choice.

    I had been considering getting off of it-this time around it was more of a precaution to ward off PPD/A since I was the poster child. I had talked at length with my husband and toyed around with the idea with my doctor. We decided to go for it, though I knew I had a hard road of withdrawals ahead and I would need to work extra hard to put what I had learned in therapy into practice.

    After a few more days of feeling off but otherwise ok, I turned into a cranky grizzly bear. I cried constantly and my emotions were roller coaster to say the least. I had headaches and I was exhausted, but I pushed through.

    A week later my coworker commented on how I looked like weight was off of my shoulders and I was much more level-headed than the week prior. She could actually tell that I had gotten over my withdrawal symptoms and I seemed happier. That was really nice to hear, because I’m always worried about how my emotions present themselves.

    Two months off and I’m feeling pretty good. I still have my moments. I’ve always been a crier– after not being able to have a good cry when I needed the emotional release for nearly four years, the tears are welcome. No one has pulled me aside to tell me they think I need to get back on them, so for now I’ll take that as a positive sign too.

    I’m relearning to operate in a stressful world without the thing that has helped me get through a lot of hard stuff. Sometimes I wonder if my emotions and reactions are a result of my history, or if they’re just normal feelings related to raising a strong-willed preschooler and infant twins. Or is it that I’ve changed so much as a person in the last four years that I don’t know quite what to expect of myself? It’s probably a little bit of everything. Raising kids is HARD. It’s emotionally and physically draining-I’ve had to grow up and make changes I never dreamed of. It’s confusing, and ugly and beautiful and the best thing I’ve ever done all rolled into one. 1972253_10101347043226636_9202139299031372242_n

    When I’m having a rough go, chatting with other moms to find out that they’re all going through the same things helps me feel normal and gives me the boost I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Medicated or not, surrounding myself with real, honest moms was [is] a huge part of my recovery success and one of the best things I could’ve done.

    I know that there’s a chance I may need to take medication again in the future. I needed it once before kids and I needed it for nearly four years after. I’m ok with what the future holds in that department-either way, I know that I’m always going to be trying to be the best me I can be for my three children and my husband. That won’t ever change.

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    Adult Time-Outs: Lessons From Postpartum Rage

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    As part of my recovery from PPD, I learned through lots of expensive therapy that I also experienced what’s called postpartum rage. What could be a simple annoyance to a regular person could send me flying off the handle. My rage manifested itself in yelling, lots and lots of yelling. Occasionally there were slammed doors and a desire to hit wIMG_1612alls-nearly all of it was directed toward my husband, but upon my return to work (pre-diagnosis) I reacted poorly to stressors and would find myself crying in my office, angry that I hadn’t been able to contain my frustrations or explain myself without becoming a blubbering idiot. My emotions during that time cost me a lot of professional respect that I’m still trying to gain back.

    The birth of my twin girls brought a whole new set of stressors, but I didn’t experience the PPD/A to the extent I did with my son because I was prepared and so was my doctor.

    Now that my son is older and he can read and understand my tone and body language, I have to work extra hard to contain my urges to express my gigantic frustrated feelings with loud words, slammed cabinet doors, or throwing a toy outside on the porch, aka “toy time out” when he accidentally-on-purpose tries to hit his sisters or nearly breaks the TV with said toy seven times. He’s my mini-me: a big-hearted fixer who wants to make and keep everyone happy, but he has just enough mischief behind those big blue eyes and smart-alec in his mouth to push every single one of my buttons. We butt heads a lot because we are so alike. Lately, I’m finding that he’s picking up on my yelling and it breaks my heart that he’s learned that from me. As a result, I’m trying to be extra aware of my triggers and follow through. Sometimes I walk away, but walking away isn’t always possible with the ten-month-old mobile twins in the mix. Sometimes I try to distract or deflect our attention from the stressor, even if that means TV, candy, or something I might find more annoying or would normally deny. Going outside always seems to help us both. Still, there are plenty of times when I lose my composure and I yell. When that happens, I try my best to walk away for just a minute to pull myself together, and then I explain my “big feelings” and talk about why I yelled. I also apologize and remind him that I always, always love him, even if I get mad or frustrated. We attempt special one-on-one time when we can, and I do my best to use positive reinforcement.

    I need time-outs from more than just my son. The other night my husband tried to express his frustration with my addiction to screen time. I understood his underlying point, but his delivery frustrated me and I worked myself into anger (this happens a lot with us-he’s a man of few words and I expect lengthy discussions and explanations.) As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I felt the heat burning a hole in my tongue, and in order to resist saying things that were unnecessary and downright mean, I put myself in time out by exiting the room and laying on the couch in the dark. Twenty minutes later, he found me asleep and when I awoke, apologetic. He didn’t deserve my outburst.

    I try to think of myself as s toddler when I’m frustrated. What are the roots of my rage? It’s usually the big three: fatigue, hunger, or feeling like I’m tapped out. If I can stop myself just before the yelling starts, or even in the midst of it, I address these things first. Snacks, snuggles with my three kiddos, sneaking off to take a rare Saturday afternoon nap, and trying to use my words to explain why I acted out and ask what we can do together to fix it all help. Communication is key with my husband. Venting to friends and patient coworkers helps me survive when I’m at the office.

    I’m far from being the perfect parent, but I know that I still fall into the realm of normal. My son is not old enough to understand this, but I remember my mom saying “I love you, I will always love you, but I do not like you very much right now.” We all have those moments. All of us—and that’s okay.

    Some of us just have to work a little bit harder to make sure they’re fewer and farther between.

     

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    Quick (and Perhaps Obvious) Reminders About Self-Care

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    self careThe number one mantra we must learn as recovering women is: the best way to care for everyone else is to care for you first. Sounds easy, right? From experience, I can say that as mamas, self care is singlehandedly the hardest thing for most of us to learn. What’s even harder is putting it into practice. There’s always someone that needs us — friends, other adults, random children, your children, your partner, the dog, the judgey cat — all there, waiting to distract us from ourselves.  Self care comes in all forms: painting, writing, running, helping others, and even seeking quiet.

    If you’re still feeling bruised and broken, it’s okay to still feel that way. It will get better. I cannot say how or when, but it will. Find what makes the weight on your shoulders feel lighter, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and do it. Be proud of yourself for doing it, too.

    If you’re finally feeling okay, I need you to know that it’s okay to be okay. No guilt if you’ve recovered and your friend has not. Neither of you has done something wrong by recovering or still struggling. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the why me’s, even the surprising ones. Why am I okay and she isn’t? She’s worked just as hard as I have, maybe more. Do I even deserve to be okay? Yes, you do deserve to be okay. No one deserves to be not okay. [Read more…]

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