If someone were to ask me what it’s like bringing your baby home from the hospital or what the first few months are like, I would instantly gloat about all the memories to be shared, the happy moments that will be forever remembered, and the milestones that come and go way to quickly. Something I tend not to share is what it was like trying to enjoy those memories, moments, and milestones while having my own struggles with postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD.
You probably have heard postpartum depression slowly starting to be talked about more (however, still not as much as it should be) but you very rarely hear about postpartum anxiety and OCD. Some of you may not even know they are a “thing” but in fact lots of new mama’s struggle with these and it can be very hard to cope; I am speaking from personal experience.
When I had my son, my first born, I was your typical first time mom. The excitement, the love… the exhaustion… it was what everyone told me about. I was in awe of my baby boy (to be honest, I still am). I had the baby blues quite bad after he was born; however, I honestly did not realize it at the time because I was so wrapped up in my baby boy that I really was not focusing on myself. I would cry and cry and cry then it would turn to just anger and I had no idea why. I honestly felt crazy and did not know what was wrong with me but was embarrassed to say anything to anyone… what if someone saw me as a bad mom… what if I was portrayed as “weak“. So I kept my mouth shut…
As months went on it got worse, it no longer was baby blues, and some days were so bad I literally couldn’t push myself to leave the house. If I did push myself to leave the house the littlest things would set me off, either into anger or crying. Some days it took me 4 hours to get ready because my clothes wouldn’t fit right, my hair wouldn’t stay perfect, my eyebrows just weren’t how I wanted them (the OCD). Some days just getting ready to leave the house would make me have a literal panic attack because in my head I would think of all the things we have to do… or what if Jace cries the whole time we are at the mall… and what if because he is crying all the people think I am a bad mom (the anxiety).
These thoughts may sound literally ridiculous and honestly even while I was thinking some of these things I could not figure out why I couldn’t just go on and be happy… after all I had the dream family, a nice house… a lot more than most people my age had, but it was the depression, the anxiety, the OCD… these three things literally took over my life until I noticed what the problem was.
Through out the struggles I remember thinking “maybe I do have post partum depression” but then I would talk myself out of it because all the stories I was told were ones where if i had it I would be suicidal or want to hurt my newborn child… but that was not me so in my mind I did not have it but in reality I just did not have that severity of it.
I still remember the day I told myself I need help… I was in the kitchen putting away dishes, Jace was about 6 months old at this point, and I flipped and I mean flipped, at Rob, my husband. I don’t remember why but I remember flipping, and two and a half years later I still feel guilty for what he put up with in the 6 months that I was in denial. I just remember we were happy, getting ready for the day and then in a matter of seconds I was screaming, pacing, and I just could not calm down. All Rob said was “What is with your anger lately?” And something just clicked… I started balling my eyes out. At that moment I knew what I had been denying was the issue and something needed to be done to fix it. I realized in this moment something really needed to change because my family was and is my life and if I let things go on the way they were going on I would lose that.
I had a doctors appointment booked with our family doctor for Jace the next week and I decided to ask him about it. I told him my main concern with bringing this to his attention was the fact I did not want medication but I wanted it to end, I wanted to be “normal” again. To my surprise he had many ways I could manage it without medication and it would just take time. He told me it wouldn’t be an overnight change and this is something I had to remind myself regularly.
I started going for regular walks, doing daily work outs, eating healthier food, making plans for my week to keep me busy, taking “me” time, and most importantly surrounding myself with positive people in my life. All of these things slowly made a huge difference in my struggle with postpartum depression, some days being easier than others, but something still was not right. I still was not myself or at least who I wanted to be as a mother and a wife.
At this point I reached out and went to therapy – I got a counselor who I saw regularly and who I still see as needed. This is the turn that made a drastic difference. This is where I found out about postpartum anxiety and OCD and that I most definitely had it. By seeing my counselor regularly I learned how to manage my anxiety and OCD, I learned how to notice when I was having an episode, I learned how to control the obsessive compulsive thoughts until they no longer controlled me, and most importantly I learned that my anxiety and OCD layed hand in hand… before therapy I managed my anxiety with my OCD tendencies, it was a vicious cycle. Even though today I may still struggle with anxiety and OCD, again some days being harder than others, I know how to manage it and instead of letting it control my life I control it instead.
Now having my second child just this past January I knew I had a higher chance at struggling again. I was very cautious and alert to the signs so that if it did happen again it wouldn’t spiral out of control. I definitely had the baby blues again, lots of crying, but this time I was very open with my doctors about it right from the start. I really pushed myself to start the things that helped me last time pretty much right away to try and avoid the depression all together – it definitely helped but I also definitely struggled. I did and still do try and get out of the house and do something with the kids at least once a day, I work out almost daily (whether it be for 20min or an hour, it depends on the day), and I really try my best to take care of me because taking care of myself is the first step in being the mom and wife I want to be (I say try my best because I really struggle with this sometimes).
Just in this past month I had noticed the postpartum depression and anxiety creeping up on me again. I noticed my moods going from happy, to sad, to angry in a matter of seconds. I noticed the tight feeling in my chest becoming more regular. I constantly felt alone, like I had no one to turn to even though I had plenty. Luckily this time I caught it pretty quick and pinpointed it to starting when I started the birth control pill. As soon as I stopped that particular pill the depression and anxiety improved, so I knew that was at least part of the issue. However, since having Cassidy I have been regularly going to my counselor again just to be proactive. Throughout this journey I have learned there is no shame in taking care of you, and taking care of your mental health. Know your body and take care of it.
I really have to thank my husband for the continuous support through it all. It has taken a lot of patience, a lot of doctors appointments, and a lot of love to get me, us, through this the first time and the second time and through it all he stood by me (and pushed me at the times I needed to be pushed). I don’t think I would have been able to get through the toughest of times without you by my side.
Finally, as someone who has struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD I want you to know you are not alone. This post is for you. This post was not in any way easy to write and definitely not easy to post, lots of tears were shed, but I want you to know you are not alone… reach out, get help, focus on YOU because if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to take care of your family the way you want to. Make the change so you can run your life the way you want to not the way your depression wants you to.
If you have made it this far to read my story, thank you! I really hope this helps at least one person know they are not alone. Stay tuned for some more struggles, chaos & fun from this Mediocre Mommy! ❤