What Do Postpartum Anxiety ‘Aftershocks’ Feel Like? This Mother Explains.

Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Jen Bullett, who lives in Chicago.


By Jen Bullett

Hours, days or weeks after a major earthquake hits, the world braces itself for the impending lesser shock known as the aftershock. The tragic nature of the earthquake is drawn out. We wait to see if the aftershock is truly destructive or more of an inconvenience.

If you have experienced any number of challenges with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, dealing with loss or postpartum issues, you probably know a thing or two about aftershocks. They come in so many different forms and appear at the most unlikely of times.

Like when you are filling out a form at a new doctor’s office and it asks you how many pregnancies you’ve had, followed by how many of those pregnancies resulted in live births. Then there’s the one that asks whether or not you’ve been hospitalized or had procedures. I don’t know whether a D & C is considered a noteworthy procedure. I put it down, just in case, and then cringe a little while a doctor glosses over it. “I see you had a D & C after a miscarriage.” Aftershock.

And then there are the times when marketers, having purchased your name from one of the many pregnancy apps, decide to send you formula in celebration of your soon-to-be-delivered baby. I guess their database didn’t inform them that there was no baby. I remember having to log into the pregnancy tracking site, and choose the setting that noted that my pregnancy was not successful. It was the only way I could stop receiving notices saying my baby was the size of a grape or a nectarine. Aftershock.

If you’ve experienced loss or complications with pregnancies, you may also be hyperaware of other people’s situations. Your heart aches when a friend, colleague or acquaintance has a loss, or complication, or postpartum struggle. When this happens, I remember exactly how I felt in those moments in my own life. I would give anything for this person not to have to feel this pain or sadness. Aftershock.

The author and her son.

Finally, there is the question, “Did you just love your maternity leave?” When someone asks that, the blood drains from my head to my toes. If by “love” you mean I felt like Sisyphus most days and I often felt so anxious I wanted to claw my way out of my own body, then yes. I love my son. He is literally the sweetest little boy ever and he makes me smile pretty much every second I am around him. It was all worth it and yet, I will never forget my lonely and scary maternity leave. Aftershock.

Over a year after the birth of my son, with the accumulation of aftershocks, combined with the normal stresses of life, I got hit with a real whammy. Turns out my postpartum anxiety decided it needed a sequel. In May, I found myself in the familiar spot of feeling panicked, struggling with insomnia, battling a racing mind, and coping with a constant physical buzzing through my body. How did I get back here? Only months earlier, I had cavalierly transitioned off medications. I was cured. But bad habits creep in when you are living your life. I forgot to take care of myself. I forgot to take time to be healthy. I tried to be tough through every aftershock and I never asked for help.

The thing about most aftershocks is that they aren’t as strong as the first shock. Yet it’s a double edged sword — you’ve already pulled yourself out of it once, so you know how to do it, but you also know how bad things can be. When you know what hell feels like, you are petrified of finding yourself back there. You will do anything to prevent that. You might be like me and begin a quest to find a quick fix.

But there isn’t a quick fix. The only path is to start again from the beginning. You make goals. You celebrate small accomplishments. You give yourself a break. You ask for help. You put yourself first. You climb up. You rebuild. You construct an even stronger foundation and reinforce supporting structures so you’ll be ready for the next aftershock.

Aftershocks are going to happen. This is a reality of life. Nobody means for them to happen. If you do find yourself in the middle of an aftershock, I hope that you have the good fortune, as I did, of being surrounded by a spouse or partner, family, colleagues, bosses and experts who are compassionate and supportive. And don’t forget: There is an end. As noted by Winston Churchill, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Introducing Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums

postpartum progress online peer supportThis has been a long time coming, mamas, but we’re thrilled to introduce Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support Forums!

When I started out as the coordinator for our Warrior Mom® Ambassador program, the one thing I wanted was to create online peer support forums for Postpartum Progress. Today, this dream becomes a reality.

Thanks to Facebook and its groups capabilities, we’re now offering EIGHT(!!) regional support groups for moms suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum PTSD.

Our online peer support forums have been divided and assigned based on geographic regions because we realize that resources and postpartum need varies around the world. Yep. World.

In addition to offering US support, we’re also opening Canadian and International support groups to reach moms around the globe.

Why Facebook for Online Peer Support?

Well, why not? Facebook boasts more than one billion members on the platform, and it’s where many moms find us and their place in our community. We believe in reaching moms where they are and making it easy for them to find support when they need it.

If a mom is online at 2 in the morning, feeding a baby, or unable to sleep, we want to give her a place to go, and chances are, she’s already on Facebook, scrolling through the newsfeed. Now she’ll have a safe space to say what she needs to say about what she’s experiencing, or she’ll be able to read the experiences of other mothers and know she’s not alone.

What About Smart Patients?

Our Smart Patients postpartum depression forum will continue to exist and operate just as it always has. In fact, we believe we’ll see growth there as we’re better able to refer moms who need a little extra support from Heather, our forum moderator, and the Smart Patients staff.

We just believe there can never be too much support for moms, so now we’re offering both.

What Can I Expect?

Our online peer support forums will be moderated by volunteer Warrior Mom® Ambassadors who have completed Mental Health First Aid training. They’ll be the frontline contact for moms seeking support.

Moms will request membership into the group for their geographic region. Our WMA volunteers will reach out to them to provide a copy of our guidelines and welcome them to the group.

Posts will be held in moderation until they can be reviewed by a forum moderator. We want to make sure we protect moms in the forums from potentially triggering information. We believe this will allow us to maintain a spirit of trust and safety in the space.

We know that some of these groups cover large territories, and our plan is that as the groups grow, we’ll subdivide as necessary. For now, choose the group corresponding to your state or geographic region and request membership! (Please only join the group corresponding to your state or geographic region!)

Where Is My Group?

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Northeastern RegionConnecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and DC

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southern RegionAlabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Southwest Region: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – West Coast Region: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Rocky Mountain RegionColorado, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – Canada

Postpartum Progress Online Peer Support – International

The research is clear: peer support works to help people overcome their battles with not just maternal mental illness, but mental illness in general. There is power in sharing our lived experiences with others.

At Postpartum Progress, we believe in being innovators, and we know that online peer support is just as relevant and important as face-to-face.

In fact, everyone who works for Postpartum Progress, every Warrior Mom® in our community, every leader for Climb Out of the Darkness, we’re all here because of the Internet. We know the collective power of online communities for support and healing and we’re excited to have you on this new journey with us.

Rise Up With Postpartum Progress

I have no words that can make this any better or more beautiful than it already is. Just watch this incredible PSA for maternal mental health and Postpartum Progress.

 

Thank you thank you thank you thank you to the immensely talented Jill Krause of Baby Rabies. Thank you thank you thank you to Cotton Babies for being a brand that truly cares about maternal mental health. Thank you to BMG Gold and the writers of “Rise Up” Jennifer Decilveo and Cassandra Monique Batie, and performer Andra Day. We are so grateful.

Together. Stronger.

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photo by Amy Dingler

Why These Women Are Climbing Out of the Darkness of PPD

climbing out of the darknessThis weekend, Postpartum Progress’ 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness will take place in cities in towns throughout the world. Some of the women participating, all of whom are survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like PPD, have shared with us why they are Climbing. I know many of you will recognize your story in theirs, and I hope it inspires you to keep climbing out of the darkness.

Because I was very excited to be a mom.
Because I was told how wonderful it would be.
Because it was the complete opposite of wonderful.
Because I thought it was “just the Baby Blues.”
Because I knew it would be hard, but not miserable.
Because I felt like I was existing inside a great big cobweb of quiet anger.
Because I was terrified of that anger.
Because I wanted to reach out, but felt like nobody could truly see me or hear me.
Because I was faking it every day.
Because I was ashamed of how I felt.
Because I wanted to nurture and connect with my son, but the more I tried to connect, the more disconnected I became.
Because I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Because my husband and I existed with a lonely chasm between us due to my inability to express what was happening inside of me.
Because I waited 15 months to find help.
Because Postpartum Progress was instrumental to my recovery.
Because I climbed out of the darkness of postpartum depression!
Because I love my son and my husband more than anything.
Because other moms need to know they are not alone in the darkness…
Because it’s scary to share the truth.
Because … I am a Warrior Mom! ~ Ali

I Climb for my daughter, my husband, my parents, and my in-laws. This was my support system in my darkest time. They were there when I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally or physically. They came to therapy and psychiatric appointments. They visited me in the hospital. They kept my daughter healthy and alive when I couldn’t. They woke up with me to feed Sophia. They kept calm and cool in a situation that should’ve driven them crazy with worry. They have my utmost gratitude and love.

I Climb for myself. Somehow I survived an ordeal that rattled my brain and mentality to points this depression sufferer never thought imaginable. I battled by going to therapy, admitting myself into the hospital and taking my meds. I came out stronger.

I Climb for other mothers who have, are or may suffer … To be their support, to show them they are not alone. There is a whole Warrior Mom Family out there to lean on. ~ Stephanie

Because I want better for every woman, child and family.  ~ Kristen

Because a co-worker once told me that only selfish people get PPD, and sadly her complete ignorance is not that uncommon.  ~ Teresa

My ‘baby’ turns 11 today. His pregnancy was what brought me here, to all of you. I was not sure we would make it through, but we did and EVERY SINGLE birthday he has makes me so very grateful. ~ Lara

My daughter turns two on Friday, and Monday will mark two years since my world was turned upside down by postpartum anxiety. I’ve been looking back at photos from when she was tiny and my heart breaks remembering how much I missed in my swamp of anxiety. And, because I expect so much more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else, I struggle with the knowledge that I STILL, two years later, am not back to “normal.” So, this week, I’m especially thankful for Postpartum Progress and all of you wonderful ladies. I’m grateful that I have a place to go when I’m feeling lost–a place where I know I’ll be understood. This is why I Climb, so that ALL mothers may know that they have a safe place too. ~ Amber

Because when I had my first I had NO idea what was wrong with me … I was even “taught” about PPD In a parenting class in high school. The only thing I ever heard about was a woman wanting to hurt herself or her baby. I was the complete opposite. I had a debilitating fear. After my second was born I hit rock bottom, and I started to realize how incredibly lucky I am to live in Grand Rapids. The support here is unlike anywhere. I now have a deep passion for working with moms with PPD, being involved makes me feel like I’m making a tiny difference in someone’s life. I want to be apart of the change, and I want every city in the world to have the kind of help and support that we have in GR. Women deserve it. ~ Tabitha

I climb for my brother, sister-in-law and my nephew. I climb to support them and also to encourage others to get help with postpartum depression. I climb because it doesn’t just affect the mom in the family, it takes it’s toll on dad and baby, too. I climb because both of my sisters-in-law have experienced PPD, and they are worth speaking up for. I climb because of the countless friends who have suffered in silence, who had nowhere to turn. I climb because even though I can’t conceive a child I know the impact of a new baby on a family. I climb because Topeka has very few resources to help new moms with PPD. ~ Melanie

I’m climbing because I was ashamed to be diagnosed and I waited forever to get help because of it. I am climbing because I want to help find those moms that are afraid to say anything and tell them there is power in their voice.

I climb because there was a point in time where I did not want to be here anymore; and thankfully, I survived that to be the advocate I am today.

And most importantly, I climb because there is a strong genetic link to my diagnosis, and I want my little girl to know it’s okay to ask for help. And if she does get PPD I want her to know it’s okay to seek treatment and that I will be here to guide her along the way! ~ Christina

I climb because I know what the darkest pit looks like and now I know what the top (or at least close) looks like. I climb because I know how it feels to think you can’t take another step and continue pushing further up that hill. I climb because I know what it feels like to think you have no hope and I know what it feels like to find Postpartum Progress and realize that I am not alone. And finally, I climb because without this group and without this climb, I don’t know where I would be but today I can stand here, loving my two babies more than anything in the world, and hopefully help others who are or have been in the same place. ~ Rebecca

I grew up without my mom present in my life and I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to grow up with a healthy mom and I want moms everywhere to get help even if they aren’t feeling strong enough to seek it out themselves. I want them all to know that self-care is not selfish. Postpartum Progress helped save me. I’m so glad I’m still here for these cuties! ~ Lucy

I’m climbing for myself and every mother who has struggled with postpartum depression and other perinatal mental illnesses.

I’m climbing to raise awareness and erase the stigma attached to mental illness. When a woman becomes a mother she expects (and is expected) to be on cloud nine. When she doesn’t feel ecstatic, it can be very upsetting. And when a mother feels absolutely awful it can cause her to become reclusive.

Society makes it so hard for women to admit that their thoughts and emotions aren’t normal because they feel shame. I want to change that ~ Jolene

I am “climbing” because I know the struggles of depression. Everyone deserves to have a “winning” chance at life. Your support team, whether it’s the community, family, friends, church, therapist, or coworkers can make a huge difference to finding a path that’s right for you to succeed. This group can help so many that struggle with PPD and is an outlet where they can not only receive help, but find some kind of normalcy. ~ Christal

I climb because I worked HARD to get here. My family is strong because I am, they have traveled this road with me! I push every day to climb out of the darkness! ~ Heidi

I am climbing for my two little superheroes. Because they saved me in so many ways. ~ Avery

I climb so others don’t feel alone. I am 16 weeks pregnant and am hopeful that I have the knowledge to make my next postpartum period much better even if PPD comes back. Knowledge is my fight song. ~Alicia

I climb for mamas and families who have struggled and who might struggle. I felt so alone during my battle and I’d give anything to help another mama not feel that way. ~ Anna

I’m climbing for my little peanut and for all the mamas out there fighting! Six months postpartum! I thought I’d never get to this point or feel like myself again. So grateful for my support team and Postpartum Progress! ~ Sylvia

I am Climbing so that other moms can also enjoy moments like this without guilt or shame over all the moments they missed because of postpartum depression and anxiety. So that every last mother who wonders if her illness ruined her child forever can be present enough to realize that the answer is an emphatic “no.” So that the hundreds of thousands of us who were and are in the darkness of mental illness – and all those who love us – can rise up to bring each other into the light of transparency and community. ~ Bethany

I am in the midst of recovery again, though light years ahead of where I was four years ago. So this year, I Climb for myself, my two incredible daughters and the husband that has been my rock throughout both struggles. I Climb for the mothers who are suffering silently in shame, and those suffering who don’t even know that this is not how motherhood is supposed to be. And most importantly I talk to anyone that will listen, in the hopes that anyone who knows a mom that may benefit from my experience can and will share it. ~ Lesley

Why I climb…
– in celebration of coming through hell
– in thanksgiving for the deep love I now have for my son
– in support of all the other mamas out there who struggle
– to make people aware of the seriousness of PPD and related illnesses
– because “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more” that maternal mental illnesses aren’t taken seriously by some, and that so many medical providers have no idea how to handle any cases they encounter.
– to show that I’m a SURVIVOR and a WARRIOR ~ Mariah

Why I climb… Because I miss “me.” Because my husband misses “me.” And my kids should know the full “me,” too. ~ Jessica

I climb because 4 years ago I was crippled in fear of my thoughts. I could not move, nor did I want to.
But Postpartum Progress opened my eyes and had me name my illness, postpartum OCD & depression.
There is hope, it is not permanent. ~ Chrissy

As of this morning, there are more than 2,100 Climbers registered to participate in Climb Out of the Darkness, and they have raised $191,000 for Postpartum Progress. If you’d like to register to join us or to donate to help us reach our $200,000 goal this year, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/COTD2015.

Photo credit: Fotolia/jessivanova