Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions, and Compulsions
I am about to get very real in this post. Social stigma and ignorance can stop a woman who is dealing with post-partum issues to get support and I want to be part of the solution. I had my first real full blown panic attack at work when Brooke was just a few months old. Stupid me, I thought taking a non-supervisory job when my first child was in the NICU would be a nice step back where I could focus my efforts on being an analyst and not a babysitter to my adult employees. It didn’t work out that way and during a very intense meeting complete with yelling (the yelling did not come from me or, at that time, even at me), I had a very intense feeling of dread, panic and downright sadness overtake me. I. Had. To. Leave. As soon as I took a deep breath of fresh air outside, I trembled as I called my OBGYN and headed to her office.
I had post-partum anxiety.
How did that happen? I have never been a social person but have been able to overcome that through sheer willpower and even became a supervisor at work with much success. As someone who has worked very hard to climb the work ladder and started at the very bottom, I take pride in my job and try to always give 110%. It was a very difficult time and returning to work with a preemie and a new Stay At Home Dad at home, my new job brought expectations on me in a workplace that had lots of personnel issues and, while I was not management, it was allowed to become my problem without any real power to change anything. While I was used to dealing with unique and interesting problems at all my new jobs, the expectations were so off from the job level and requirements in reality, I found that I couldn’t deal with them at the time. I felt trapped as the sole financial provider and while I tried to do everything I could to remedy the situation in what I thought was a professional manner behind closed doors, it did not seem to help. Having an anxiety attack in a work meeting that was riddled with explosive behavior was both embarrassing and difficult. I left that meeting wanting help and immediately asked for it from my doctor. I could not go to work in that environment and have panic attacks. It was so overwhelming! I am happy to say that with time and a joint effort with professionals who helped me, I was able to stop the panic attacks which would sometimes leave me sobbing on my way to work or even at work. Yes, it was that bad.
The thing with post-partum anxiety is, it can return if you have more children. I had more children. I wanted more children and am a great mother and work very hard to be the best I can be. I tried to do everything I could to prevent it each time, but my next pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage and a D&C procedure and in my final pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, had lots of family medical issues and had to deal with the potential of a furlough as I got near my due date and maternity leave. While these things may all be things I could have weathered a lot easier in a perfect world, the post partum anxiety returned and it was back to seeking help. Even now, a few months after my lovely baby girl was born, I struggle with it. I am beginning to feel better and started dealing with it with help as soon as I knew it was back, and I know I will get back to where I was with diligence and even some patience on my end. After all, I love my family and children more than anything and I realized the first time around that the more that I talk about it with others, the more I realize that seeking help and support helps me. Those who do not ‘get it’ or want to think I am a weak individual for having post-partum anxiety and seeking help do not know me and I do not care what they think.
I have learned to step back and appreciate my body and my mind. I have learned that if someone pushes you in a direction you can not go, you have to take control. Control can come from seeking advice and help to know how and why things might not be working and how to get back on track. Guides like the The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook have been so helpful to me, especially since post-partum anxiety is less known and talked about than post-partum depression (yes, there is a difference). This workbook is a nice guide on different cognitive behavioral therapies you can do, such as breathing techniques, to help manage your post-partum anxiety. I have to stress that this workbook is in conjunction with other treatment plans with my doctor and there is no shame in taking medication with therapy to help you through this period. I have read a lot about post-partum anxiety and treatment can vary from person to person, which is why it is important to seek help immediately. I hope that this post helps those who have or are struggling with post-partum issues to start the path back to healthy. It has not been an easy road, but it is rewarding and important for you and your family. You and your family are worth it.
Please Note: If you are a significant other who believes the mother is having post-partum issues but is not getting help, it is important that you intervene and call their OBGYN to seek help and guidance. In my experience, this is not something that just goes away and you have to actively seek help and follow treatment in order to get things under control.
A Little Note: This time around, it has helped so much that I now have a very supportive boss who honestly cares about my path back to healthy. I wish that for everyone who experiences post-partum issues or anxiety issues in general. If you are a supervisor who has an employee who you know is seeking treatment, please take this information to heart.
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