A Year in the Life of PPA

I’ve wanted to share this for some time now but just couldn’t quite find the words.

Life is funny. And weird. It’s so freaking weird sometimes.

Looking back at the past year I find it so unbelievable that you can have the best year of your life at the same exact time as hands down your most difficult year on this planet.

As time gets closer and closer to our daughter’s first birthday I can’t help but think back at how much has happened since she’s been born and the whirlwind of ups and downs that has followed us through the past 12 months.

I knew I wanted to be a Mom. I knew there would be ups and downs. I knew that the second I saw her my heart exploded and being her mother was the reason I was put here. I knew no one would ever love her like I do. I knew that it was going to be a big transition from a family of four (my husband and two stepsons) to a family of five.

But.

It took too long for me to figure out that what I was experiencing in the months following her birth was more than me just being nervous about being a new Mom.

It took too many declined invitations to meet up with other Moms…

Too many excuses as to why I couldn’t go somewhere, eat at a restaurant, go shopping or bring the baby to visit…

Too many “pep talks” I had to give myself before being around people, including family…

Too many days in a row of not leaving the house…

And a few instances that are unfortunately burned into my memory…

I had a really bad panic attack in the grocery store in October where I left a full cart of groceries and called my husband in full on frenzy ugly-cry mode (although I did responsibly note which aisle I left it in so he could find it easily when he went back to buy them).

There was the day we took our kids to see Santa Clause. It will forever be in my “Mom-guilt closet” because I missed everything. I put the baby on Santa’s lap, the room instantly spun, my face turned red, I couldn’t breathe and I had to get out of there. I wish I could apologize to the nice lady who was trying to take a family picture with my parents and grandparents and all of the kids. I swear I’m not a Grinch. I thought I was going to pass out by the Christmas tree.

And then in early January I was on a day date with my husband in Panera and had a panic attack that had me literally gripping the table, trying to take deep breaths, failing at that, and leaving. Quickly. I bolted out the door for fear of completely losing my mind (followed by my sweet husband who made sure to grab my sandwich on the way out. Bless him I swear)…

In the days following the Panera incident I realized that without even meaning to, I had little by little rearranged almost everything in my life to avoid anything I thought would trigger one of these episodes. I ordered my groceries online where some nice smiling person would shop for me and then bring them to my car (WalMart pick up is amazing by the way, I don’t think I’ll ever change doing this!), everything else I needed was brought to my doorstep via Amazon Prime. I even did an eye exam on 1-800-contacts.com to update my prescription so I didn’t have to go into the office. I realized I hadn’t gotten my nails or hair done, been to a girls night, or gone to a restaurant since the baby was born.

I also realized the only people who knew were my husband and my parents. Not because I was purposely trying to hide. I dont care about being imperfect or “only showing good things on social media” or having flaws. I just didn’t understand what was going on so I didn’t really know how to explain it. I am very much a homebody and always have been, but this was on a whole other level.

It took way too long to realize that Post-Partum-Anxiety was affecting my life, my personality and my relationships. I specifically say PPA and not PPD because I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t crying in my bed. I wasn’t having abnormal thoughts. I was tired as hell but still so happy and grateful for my family so I didn’t connect the dots that it could be post-partum related. My baby was happy and loved and cared for, and I was happy to be the one with her. Because of this, I thought my constant racing mind and worrying every single time I knew I’d be leaving the house was normal.

In the past few years I have experienced anxiety, but only when I was taking birth control and since I stopped taking it altogether it became almost nonexistent. Until after I had baby girl. This period of time was different. I think of it like my mind being a race car, going round and round at full speed without stopping.

I made an appointment with my OB and the day of I almost didn’t go in. I was sitting in the parking lot contemplating leaving but couldn’t stop thinking about my husband and my daughter. I walked into that appointment because of them and laid 10 months worth of anxiety, panic attacks, insecurities and tears on my doc.

I wasn’t too surprised when she prescribed me a anti-depressant. I probably would have given myself one too if I were in her shoes because I just had so much built up I didn’t even realize was there and the tears were flowing like freaking Niagara Falls. The more I spoke about it out loud to someone though, the better I felt. I walked out of there feeling lighter. Slightly embarrassed, but definitely lighter.

Through my chat with the doctor I also realized I hadn’t slept through the night in months, as our little angel wasn’t a big fan of sleep. I was running on fumes a lot of the time. I realized that leaving my career was harder on me than I thought it was going to be, that while I was happy being with the baby and wouldnt change the decision, the transition to a stay-at-home-Mom had been a challenge. My husband also left his job and we started a company together in which I was in charge of finances for a business in a field I knew nothing about. I had people calling me about invoices and questions while I was holding a teething baby who hadn’t slept all night. One time I even sent a check to the wrong person. Throw in everyday adulting like making sure the family eats, the bills are paid, the laundry is done, homework is complete and correct, keeping the house in somewhat working order and trying to be the Stepmom and wife I was before all of this, and here I was. I had put so much damn pressure on myself that I weighed myself down. Its not my husband’s fault, its not my kid’s fault. I hit my limit but didn’t ask for help. That’s on me.

Through this I have learned that stress does different things to people and this is how it showed up during this time in my life. Looking back now I see these panic attacks and behavior changes not only as something out of the ordinary, but as warning signs that I ignored. The mind and body are powerful things and will tell you when something is wrong. When you ignore it you feed it, and that is the worst thing you can do.

I think as strong women we like to think we can do it all, and we do regardless of the situation. We’re wired to put our heads down and keep pushing forward in the name of keeping things running because let’s be honest here – without us, things fall apart.

Once the dust had settled from starting my husband’s company, my Young Living business hitting a milestone, baseball season and all of the holidays were over, I couldn’t hide behind anything. Everything and everyone else was finally settled and ok. And so I broke down.

Luckily, my husband was there to catch me and so were my parents. I was honest with myself and with them. I also finally reached out to other Moms and my friends. It was almost a relief that what I was feeling had a name. That I wasn’t crazy or losing my mind and I wasn’t “sick”. That other people knew exactly what I was talking about. That I was still a kickass Mom. That I was OK!

In my personal situation, I chose to not take the anti-depressant and instead wanted to try changing certain aspects first. I’m far from full on “crunchy” but I do believe in natural remedies as a first option because my body has a hard time with medication in general.

A friend of mind suggested a meditation app called “Headspace” which was a big help. Download it today. Everyone needs 10 minutes of quiet and stillness.

I also started taking vitamins and a natural alternative to the anti-depressant. I began making sure I went outside daily and talked to my girfriends on a regular basis. I made sure I was going places with baby girl and also getting alone time. Also, shortly after my doctor visit the little one started sleeping through the night, which meant my sleep also got back on track. Broken sleep + stress is one awful combination. Go to bed at a decent hour.

To be honest I am not sure if I’ll ever be 100% free of anxiety. I am not saying that I will never in my life have another panic attack or that being in a super crowded area won’t make me nervous. I am fairly certain anticipation and I will never be friends. However, I can say with confidence that I have this certain situation much more under control and that the worst of it lives in the past right alongside those months of sleepless nights.

I am at a point where I am completely ok with sharing this with anyone because I understand it now. If even one person reads this and says to themselves, “This sounds like my friend”. Or sister. Or daughter. Or even themself. Then its totally worth it. This is real and raw and the worst feeling I’ve ever had. I don’t want anyone to feel like that if they don’t have too.

And finally, if you’re ever in Panera or anywhere public, and you see a woman rushing out the door followed by a man holding two sandwiches, don’t assume they’re arguing. And if you see a cart full of groceries in the store with no one in sight, leave it be. A worried spouse might be on their way to get it.

((Special shout out to my amazing grocery-getter, sandwich-grabber, Santa-picture-taker husband. Christopher you’re a damn good man and I love you ❤️))

((Good article about PPA – https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/the-other-postpartum-problem-anxiety/ ))