Coming from a family with hereditary depression and anxiety (literally, practically every female for four generations has had symptoms on a varying scale), it came as no surprise to me that I was the "1" in "1 in 7". As in, "1 in 7 new moms will be affected by Postpartum Depression and Anxiety".
My PPA went undiagnosed for months. The day I knew this was not normal, that I really needed to reach out for help, was the day that I called out of work because I LITERALLY could not get myself and my baby girl out the door. The world inside my home was safe...the world out that door was not...car accidents, guns, someone slipping and falling...you name it and my brain was running the scenario.
I did get help. Through Peer Counselors and Professional support I learned some great coping skills, started using essential oils and added meditation into my morning routine (and sometimes the afternoon and evening routines as well). I got on top of my anxiety without medication...I am one of the lucky ones. Daily struggles no longer send me into a panic attack and my rational brain leads the charge...most days...
My wife and I have been watching this new show that's out...its a great show, but the characters live in high-stress situations. As an episode ends, previews for the next episode show a plane crash and the aftermath. Now, let me be clear here...I have been TERRIFIED of flying most of my life. I push through out of necessity, but man does it send me into a tail spin (no pun intended!).
The plane-crash episode comes and I make my wife watch it first. What parts do we need to fast-forward, what parts will send me over the edge...this is her job...to weed through so I can watch and enjoy it. We start to watch the episode together...she moves past the crash and fills me in on characters and outcomes. She tells me...there's a mother and a son...they both make it out and survive. I start watching the scene with her...
The rescuers board the plane...it has crashed in water and is sinking. The mother is trapped. She puts on a brave smile, holds her son's face and tells him to go with the rescuers. That they need to make sure he is safe so they can work their best to get her out. She promises she will be right behind him...she hugs him and kisses him in that way that a Mom fears....wanting to slow time and take in every second knowing this is probably the last hug and kiss you will share...but not wanting to make it too different as to let on that you are scared....they take the son away...out of the plane....and
I feel it building. The panic, the fear, the tingling all over my body. The tears start to come. I try to hold them in but they are taking over. My rational brain has been pushed to the back...OBVIOUSLY - AS I KNOW THESE TWO CHARACTERS MAKE IT OUT ALIVE AND ARE REUNITED - but I am powerless to stop it. I know have to leave the room...I don't want to upset my little girl who is watching her own show on her tablet sitting comfortably between her Mama and I. I get up, excuse myself to the bathroom before things really get out of hand...I close the door and I let it go.
Shaking, crying, short of breath, tingling all over my body...and the thoughts...they are racing...rational brain fighting the irrational thoughts like a cage match. I start my breathing techniques, I close my eyes and lay my head in my hands. I remember we are home, we are together, we are safe. There are things I cannot control and I CANNOT let those things control me. I ride the wave. I have beaten it...this time.
Sometimes it surprises me that, four years later, my PPA still rears its head at the most seemingly random of times. Maybe that's part of the problem...I think of it as being "under control" when in fact it never really will be. In the end, after all of this is said and done...I come back out to the family room with my head up and eyes (kind of) clear. I sit on the couch, snuggle my baby girl and finish watching the episode.
I may never have my PPA "under control" but, after a long and hard-fought journey, I am no longer under its control. In fact, when I have moments like this...where I quickly overcome the situation, I am reminded of my strength, my resilience and I focus on that. I feel grateful for the journey and that I am still here to continue it...after all, if something is too easy, it's not worth having.
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