It’s been almost a month since I posted about my plan to deal with my out-of-control postpartum anxiety, so I wanted to share an update on what I’ve been doing and what has been working for me. Sharing this experience will hopefully help another mom out there who discovers their mental health postpartum just isn’t what they expected.
I’m still not sure of my “official” diagnosis yet but after talking with the therapists I’m seeing and reading through my workbook, I’m pretty sure it’s anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Definitely not what I was expecting from my life after having a baby.
What I’ve Done This Past Month
Started therapy. I’ve been seeing two therapists for different things and have already made some progress to at least understanding what’s going on. I learned that even though my labor had a good outcome, it was traumatic to me and I hadn’t processed that at all. I’ll be working through birth trauma in the coming months and also dealing with the fact that having a baby also brought out a ton of past trauma that was never resolved.
Additionally, the intrusive thoughts that so many new parents have (it’s normal as a new parent but most don’t get stuck on them), which helps me better label them in my mind as they happen. However, in my case this has developed into a case of OCD (or I already had OCD and didn’t realize it until it). This is basically where the intrusive thoughts are very distressing to me so I get extremely anxious and then perform mental compulsions to help relieve the anxiety (which only works short term). I had no idea that OCD wasn’t just handwashing or checking or lining things up perfectly type actions…. it can be completely contained in your mind.
Read about postpartum mental health. I’ve been reading a lot about how to deal online (Postpartum Progress is a great resource) and also working through a postpartum anxiety workbook (that I told the therapist about and she then pulled out her copy!). It’s been very enlightening and a great option for anyone that needs help but maybe can’t do therapy. It’s under $20 on Amazon: The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions, and Compulsions
Exercising more. I’ve been walking most nights at least a mile, sometimes 2 or more. It’s been helpful to have a little exercise every night. I’ve also been going to a yoga class every Saturday and that has been a very positive experience. Focusing on the exercise and my breathing for an hour keeps my brain calm even if it just for that time.
Getting more sunlight. I’ve been spending more time outside and the time in nature combined with vitamin D for sunlight has been a positive. I’m looking forward to fall temperatures to do more of this.
Taking vitamins and magnesium again. I’ve added back a prenatal vitamin (hopefully to help with my postpartum hair loss because OMG), a fish oil supplement, and natural calm at night. The additional magnesium from the natural calm and an epsom salt bath at night has helped with improved sleep.
Improving my diet. I’ve cut out diet drinks and a lot of fast food in the past month. I’m now planning to experiment with going gluten free and doing an overall elimination diet to see if some of the foods I’m regularly consuming are causing sensitivities. I’ve been reading a lot about gut health, inflammation, and the links between your gut and brain. Turns out… there are a ton! I’ve obviously neglected this part of my health due to poor diet so I’m hoping to see if a stricter diet causes improvements.
Meditating. I’ve been meditating daily with several apps and podcasts, switching between the different styles. I’m still working on making it an actual habit that is done every day around the same time but for now it’s just something I do most days. It does help calm me in the moment and for a little while after so I highly recommend this to anyone with super high anxiety.
Stop pumping for breastfeeding. Quitting pumping definitely was the right choice. I had to wait until a therapist literally told me to stop, but now that I have I’m happy I did so. Trying to figure out how to pump enough and keep up supply was so much added pressure that I needed to release.
Increased Zoloft dosage. I’ve upped my medication to 50mg and that has helped a bit as well. Based on my most likely diagnosis however medication does not tend to resolve things without therapy work as well so these are linked together for now and hopefully I will eventually taper off the medication.
So….. all that to say, I’m working on it! There is clearly a long road ahead and I’m not sure where it will lead or how long it will take. I’ve been told to not rush the recovery and that there are levels or new normal that will be reached. It still feels very much like I’m at the beginning and while that is frustrating to me, at least I have hope in knowing what is wrong and that God will grant me the strength and guidance to overcome it.