Before I became a mom, I was aware of the “classic” postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms. Severe depression. Crying all the time. Not being able to bond with your baby, etc., etc. I also knew it was a fairly common condition, affecting between 10-20 per cent of moms in the first year of their baby’s life.
And then there’s postpartum anxiety – commonly known for symptoms like irrational thoughts about your baby’s safety, constant worry, and, well, feeling anxious a lot of the time.
Only it didn’t look that way for me at all.
You see, in the early months, I chalked my stress and anxiety up to lack of sleep and adjusting to being a new mom. I wasn’t having ANY trouble bonding with my baby and I wasn’t feeling depressed or particularly anxious.
But the alarm bells started going off at about five months postpartum. Even though my son was finally giving me the odd six-hour stretches, I couldn’t sleep. I started losing interest in doing the things I loved most like going to the gym, shopping, and socializing.
And the most constant emotion I felt? ANGER. The kind of anger that gives you the shakes and has a grip so tight on your chest as though it were trying to suffocate you.
Slowly, over time, that anger turned to resentment towards the people I loved most. My husband, my friends, my family and, dare I say it, my baby sometimes.
And one day it all came crashing down. My husband was about to leave for job #2 and was making an obnoxious amount of noise as I was trying to put my son down for his 8th nap of the day because he refused to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. I come downstairs, the baby is crying, dogs are barking, and my husband is trying to rush off to work. I realized there was no way in hell my baby was gonna nap and I was gonna be stuck alone all night with a cranky baby for the 5000th time. I snapped. Before I knew it, I picked up a glass and hurled it at the floor. It smashed all over the place and I started bawling. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t normal. I went upstairs and held my baby and promised him I was going to do better.
Almost immediately, I used the resources I had and started doing some research on anger and postpartum anxiety and depression. As it turns out, it’s an EXTREMELY common symptom no one talks about. I turned to an online community of moms and told them what I was feeling. One mom reached out to me and shared her story. It was eerily similar to mine and she told me going on medication changed her life.
I also took this postnatal depression questionnaire and, thinking I low-balled the answers, I wasn’t too concerned when I went to look at the results. I scored a 17. Anything above a 14 was considered “probable” postpartum depression.
Talk about eye-opening.
After a few days, I finally worked up the courage to see my doctor. He was fairly convinced this was all driven by the fact that I had been getting an average of 3-5 hours of sleep per night for the last five months straight. I scored moderate on the anxiety scale and low on the depression scale. Was my anxiety driven by lack of sleep? Probably. Did it matter? No. Because as a new mom I couldn’t always count on a perfect night of sleep. Heck, I couldn’t count on it before I was a mom either. I needed to be able to cope with whatever life threw my way regardless of how I slept the night before.
So I asked for medication – the same one that other mom had told me about (Zoloft, in case you’re wondering). He put me on the lowest dose to start with and would check back with me after two weeks to see how I was adjusting and whether I was having any adverse side effects.
Well, it has been just over a month now and to say my life has changed would be an understatement. My husband (who was skeptical that I may have PPA to begin with) said my disposition changed overnight once the meds had time to kick in. I was no longer angry. When I didn’t sleep well the night before, I was JUST TIRED. I didn’t have a million other emotions swirling inside me just waiting for the next insignificant event to cause my mental health cup to overflow.
The fact is, PPD and PPA look different on everyone. If you have ANY concerns about what you’re feeling, talk to someone. And don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you need. My doctor initially wanted to prescribe me a sleeping pill so I could knock myself out every once in a while to catch up on sleep. I knew this wasn’t going to be a viable, long-term option (especially since I was still breastfeeding two times overnight) so I stuck to my guns about anxiety medication.
Being a mom truly is the hardest job in the world, but don’t let your hormones take control and make it harder. You CAN get help and you WILL feel better. And there endless options for coping out there so don’t ever settle for something you’re not comfortable with.
One of the best things about being a mom is the sisterhood you create with other moms, so don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. This too shall pass.