Thursday, December 28, 2017

Balancing With Babies & A Monkey On My Back

Sure, monkeys can be cute and all. Sometimes cute like babies.
What's not cute is juggling a baby and a toddler with a monkey affixed to my back constantly punching me in the back of the head ...

That's a lot what this all feels like, postpartum anxiety.
It's pretty nasty.
It's confusing.
It's isolating.
It's mind numbing.

So here I am, ten months postpartum, just trying to live with it & keep a smile on my face so I don't snap at the invisible chimp driving me completely mad.
skip to the bottom if you just wanna see some of the tools I am using right now

I shared a great article last week which pretty accurately describes what I'm actually thinking when you ask me, "how are you doing?".
I wrote, "If you’re a man please read and hopefully understand the potential of what a mother is feeling.
If you’re a woman without children, please and understand motherhood is a miraculous gift but with that gift are some struggles and it’s okay to talk openly about it.
If you’re a mom: please know you are so absolutely far from alone. Don’t think you have to have your shit together all the time. Don’t think that your feelings aren’t validated or real. Please reach out, seek help; know you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

I stand by this, so please give it a read here.

Since having opened up a bit about my own personal mental health issues and postpartum anxiety/depression, I have received quite a bit of messages and encouraging words from other mothers. I'm not sure exactly how this makes me feel. On the one hand, I feel completely terrible that other people have the same consuming, negative, and scary thoughts that I do.
On the other hand, I also feel somewhat relived to not be alone, and thankful to have a platform to share my experience with other moms so they too don't feel so alone. 

I've known for a little while now that I've been dealing with PPA.
I had it after my first baby - though I had NO idea it was a real thing. I 100% thought I was just losing my mind.
So fast forward 2 years when I'm pregnant with number two and I was determined to stop it before it even started. I did borderline obsessive (hello sign #1) research on how to prevent it, how to stop it, and how to manage it. I started yoga, mediation, crystal healing, breathing exercises, acupuncture. I encapsulated my placenta, I ate it raw, I had it made into a tincture. I was well on my way to a happy go lucky, postpartum positivity train!
.... However here I am.

So, what went wrong?


Even typing that out I'm like "yea, okay Ashley". But it's true. Nothing "went wrong". This is simply how my body responds to an insane influx of unregulated hormones. How nursing exclusively (for nearly 4 years now), getting my cycle back, and day to day life stresses affect my body chemistry. That's what this is - body chemistry.
I am not crazy. You are not crazy.

This IS temporary
... as long as it's not ignored and properly dealt with.

So - how am I dealing with it?

Some days are easier than others. Two weeks ago I hit my rock bottom. My PPA was winning, taking over, and a was a crumbling building of rage. I spent my nights in my own head with horrible thoughts, believing them to be true. My greatest fears and worries coming to life in my head.
To be perfectly transparent, it was about 4 AM one morning after not sleeping and the baby was crying. My husband ran into the bedroom after he heard me screaming at her.
That's not me. That's not the mother I am. But it's what I did because I could not control my own emotions and thoughts.

After that day I called my midwives. I knew I needed help but I was still embarrassed to admit it. I made my appointment for my 6 month post op check up - never even mentioned my feelings. Appointment made for a week later.
Two days later, my three year old needed a diaper change and again, I lost it. Completely normal circumstance with a completely unreasonable response. I started crying and immediately called my midwives back asking for an appointment that day.  We had a phone 'appointment' and I set up a  meeting with the psychiatrist the next morning. One of my closest friends came with me and drove my kids around while I sat in the meeting - she knows how leaving my kids is a major issue for me and was an angel for doing this.
My 30 minute appointment ran to about 50 minutes, with promise of a follow up.
A lot goes into my "diagnosis" and my treatment. Yes I have PPA/PPD, but I also have a litany of other mental health issues. Issues that I previously have worked to manage and mitigate, however at this time have reared their ugly heads in my mental state of disarray.
Because of this, medication isn't an option (at this time). I am not opposed to medications for times like this. In fact, I had ever intention of leaving with a script that day.
For now - talk therapy will have to do. And it is.

Sometimes simply saying things out loud can help. Hearing your own voice say the things you think over and over in your head can help. For me - it helps me to see just how illogical and fear based my thought process has been. It doesn't mean I simply ignore the old thoughts, but I do feel like I WILL be able to get a grip on them and once again overcome them.
The monkey is still there, gripping on to my back, however he's let up on the head banging a bit.

Along with weekly therapy, I have started to focus on my health. Part of my PPA makes it near impossible to care for myself - so I have to consciously make the decision to shower, eat, drink water, and attempt to do something that I want to do a few days a week. It sounds silly to some, I'm sure, but to me this is quite the lofty task. I've begun taking the supplement 5-HTTP, keeping up with my prenatal vitamins and supplements to help with my degenerative discs. More Pain = More Anxiety = More Rage and no one wants that.

The psychologist and I are working on a plan for me. Admitting I need help is far from easy, and I still like to pretend I am fine some days, but it's also such a crucial step to my "recovery". Simply doing something about this is breaking the cycle, which for right now is a huge win for me.

Here are some of the resources* I am utilizing right now.
**Please discuss any supplements with your doctor before trying**
There are some that will have adverse efects depending on the person, so I cannot stress this enough.

* affiliate links

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