Mental health is so important, yet it’s something I ignore until it gets really bad. I imagine many of us are like this. We muddle along until need major help.
I’m currently in a period of working on my own mental health, since accepting the anxiety and depression feelings I was having postpartum were bigger than they should have been. I’ve been finally working on figuring out how to work on my mental health and get back to a place that’s comfortable and happy.
Part 1 of dealing with postpartum anxiety is making a plan.
I’ve heard these issues can drag on and that’s not what I want for my life. I want to work through this and live the happiest life possible. Enjoying life with my daughter is so important and I hate how I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.
I’m hoping to share my experience dealing with and overcoming these issues to show any mom who may find me how it can be done. These things can manifest in various ways and don’t always look the same in each person, but I think a lot of the treatments can be similar.
Right now I’m in the phase of building a plan. I listened to a podcast recently where a doctor who works in postpartum mental health said what she does is work to “maximize wellness and minimize stress.” So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m looking at the areas where I’ve been working against myself (whether I knew it or not) and working to turn things around. Here’s my plan so far.
What I’ve Done So Far
- Started taking Zoloft. I’m taking 25mg of Zoloft daily now. I’m not sure if this is the best dosage or not but it has helped eliminate some symptoms quickly.
- Started exercising again… slowly. I mostly have been walking each day but getting back into the swing of being active.
- Started working on my sleep. Getting better and more sleep is a priority after weeks of sleep deprivation.
- Start reading about postpartum mental health how to overcome it. I got a book about postpartum anxiety and mood disorders and have read a lot online about teh topic.
What I’m Planning To Do
Start exercising…. a lot. Exercise is something that generally makes me feel better when I’m doing it regularly. I started walking at night a few weeks ago with family and that has been lovely. Over the weekend I dusted off my gym membership and hit the gym. I plan to start working out during my lunch hour as well once I stop breastfeeding.
Start getting more sunlight. I tend to be very deficient in Vitamin D, to the point that I went to the doctor previously for extreme fatigue which was in part due to super low Vitamin D levels. So I plan to get more sunlight every day. I will get out of the building during my lunch hour (pump outside? stop pumping?), sit closer to my window at work, and get outside with the baby covered.
Start taking vitamins and magnesium again. I ran out of my vitamins and in the busy season of life just forgot to refill them. So I went weeks without taking them and unfortunately this means I’ve probably got some deficiencies going on. I know in the past I’ve had major vitamin deficiencies when I was tested so it is likely that this is the case again, and perhaps a leading cause of fatigue. I’m missing the magnesium that has in the past helped with anxiety issues.
Start improving my diet. Y’all, I know that the way I’ve been eating has affected how I’ve felt. We eat a lot of healthy meals but the in-betweens and the non-planned meals tends to be more toward junk. I’ve also been researching the link between aspartame and anxiety which means I’m planning to cut this completely out of my diet and see how things improve. I was previously drinking waaaaay too many diet drinks.
Start meditating. I’ve looked up some apps and podcasts and want to get more in touch with this concept and practice. I’ve always been too high strung and my mind races too much to meditate, but to overcome anxiety I have to retrain my brain. What I’ve got going on doesn’t work for me. So I’m planning to add meditation and maybe yoga into my routine to build internal calm. I’ve downloaded a couple guided meditation apps and a Christian meditation podcast and hope to build on these.
Stop pumping for breastfeeding or change how I’m doing it. We are already supplementing with formula and have been since she was 2 weeks old. I’ve been so proud of myself for providing 50-75% of her nutrition needs for the first 4 months after struggling with breastfeeding. I really wanted to do this for the first three months and for her first cold and now I’ve done both.
However, I think I’m done. I don’t think giving up my hour of lunch time to chain myself to a pump in a dark room is helping with my mental health. I LOVE nursing her, and hope to continue doing that in the morning and at nights. But I don’t plan to continue pumping to provide pumped breastmilk. I just can’t keep this up and improve my mental health at the same time. Maybe my milk will dry up, or maybe we can continue nursing for those morning and night sessions. Either way, I think this will help me start to add in healthier activities during my day that benefit my mental health. I know a mentally healthy mom for the long haul is way more important than whether baby gets a few more breastmilk bottles.
After writing this my amazing sister-in-law let me borrow her portable pump, so Im going to try continuing to pump by pumping outside in my car in the sun. It might not be the right solution but it might be better than what I’ve been doing.
Start therapy. I’ve booked an appointment with a therapist at a practice that works with postpartum mental health exclusively and I’m hopeful to begin the sessions. In the past I’ve neglected to add therapy to my budget but there is no way I can continue to neglect this area. I am hopeful that this particular therapist can help me adjust to my life changes and also help me figure out a better ongoing plan for managing anxiety. I’d like to deal with several anxiety related issues and know that this will take some time and many sessions most likely.
What’s Working So Far
Zoloft has worked well to take away a lot of the general anxiety, rage and irritability, and separation anxiety. This has helped a lot and has made it much easier to function at work and in general.
However, it’s also left me with the realization that I’m still anxious and the depression aspect of this is stronger than I realized. I’m considering talking to my doctor about a stronger dose but would like to try some of the other things first. I consider Zoloft successful so far and am so glad I started taking it. I can generally manage my anxiety naturally but sometimes medication is the best thing.
Getting more sleep has also helped. I’m still not getting enough sleep, but getting more is definitely helpful. It’s hard to remember that the sleep deprivation of being a new parent can have real consequences. Going to be earlier is a daily struggle for me but getting in more sleep for the last few weeks has been helpful.
Why I’m Sharing My Postpartum Struggles
Overall, I feel hopeful. It’s only been a month or so since I accepted that this was happening to me and started working on fixing it. So far I’m happy with the progress and hopeful on future improvements.
I’ve had some people close to me question whether or not I should share while I’m going through all of this. Even part of me questions whether it’s a good idea and feels embarrassed by sharing such a personal and unexpectedly negative experience online.
But I feel that it is so important to share while I’m recovering! I don’t think it has the same impact to share “oh I had this problem and pretended everything was ok, but it was really bad, but here’s how I overcame it”. Sharing after the fact that there was something going on underneath that I hid feels disingenuous and that’s not who I want to be. I want to share the truth of how hard it’s been to transition into this next phase of life.
I’m grateful for other moms who have spoken out about these issues and I hope by sharing my own struggles I can be that same inspiration and solidarity to another mom out there. We are all in this together. We’ve got this!