Getting Help

So here it is, I have postpartum anxiety.

If you spent any time with me, you probably wouldn’t know it. I go out and do normal things. I function like most people. But behind my smile, behind my relatively calm outward appearance is persistent terror. I would tell you it’s not like in horror movies where people are terrified of an intruder or a ghost or whatever the always outstanding plot is, but honestly, some days it feels just like that.

At first I thought it was normal. I assume more mothers fear few things more than something happening to their new baby. I knew that my history of anxiety and depression put me at risk, but I was keeping an eye out, as was my family. And for the most part, I think I was pretty normal. Yes, I maybe checked to make sure my baby was breathing a bit more than most moms, but it wasn’t holding us back.

And I really thought it was just a phase. I thought that once Elijah was bigger and more sturdy, I’d be less afraid of something happening to him. But I think the opposite has been true. As he has gotten older, my fears have intensified.

Wherever we go, I’m constantly assessing risks. Could he put that in his mouth and choke? Could someone take him on that balcony and drop him over the edge? Could someone with a horrible contagious disease have been in that pool? That store? That room? What if someone gives him honey? If I send him to daycare with his blanket, will he pull it over his face during naptime like he does at home? Will anyone notice? What if he gets dropped near that table and hits his head? Over and over and over.

It’s exhausting.

I remember the first time we visited my family in our hometown, I sighed a big sigh as we left. I felt relieved because now if Elijah died, at least all of my family had gotten to meet him. And I think things like that all the time now. On nights where I’m frustrated with him, I think, what if he dies in his sleep and the last thing he experienced was his mother being frustrated with him? What if he dies at daycare and I wasn’t there to drop him off? After last night’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, I just thought, well, if he dies tonight, at least this was a really nice evening.

And somewhere in the middle of that thought, I had an epiphany.

This is not normal.

I should not be living my life in constant suspended fear of something happening to my son. I shouldn’t be judging my attitude or an event on whether it would be a good “last moment” for my child. This is not healthy and it is no way for me to live. And my son, who I love with such fervor that I’ve basically devoted my mind to keeping him alive, deserves better. He deserves a mother who isn’t scared of the world around him.

I just love this child so, so very much. He is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, the sweetest baby I have ever encountered and the fear of losing him is just so tremendous. I don’t know who I’d be without him anymore. I don’t know how I would even exist. And so if I find every risk and remove it, I feel like I can prevent things from happening. And if I imagine every scenario then I won’t let myself be surprised if anything ever does happen.

I realize that nothing about this is healthy and that waiting it out isn’t working like I had told myself it would. And so today I called my insurance, found out about our counseling coverage and am in the process of setting up an appointment with a local therapist. I don’t know if or how or when it will help, but I have to do something different. I can’t live like this and I know it.

So I’m getting help.

14 Responses to “Getting Help”

  • I am glad you’re taking the steps you need to get better. You’re right, you and your sweet boy both deserve better than constant fear. I hope there are less fearful, more relaxed days for you very soon.

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  • Megan:

    Good for you, girl. You are an excellent mom (I’ve seen you in action!). Completely different situation but getting help for anxiety was one of the best things I’ve done in the past few months. Stay strong – much love and support from the AZ.

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  • Kristin:

    Congrats to you for recognizing that there is an issue and taking the steps to make it better! In my experience the hardest part is actually making the call to get the initial appointment. I don’t know why but it was HARD. I have anxiety (social and a tad general) and initially was overwhelmed because I did not like my therapist. I switched and now have an amazing therapist that I love working with. Mental health is just as important as your physical health. I hope you find a good therapist and can get some sense of relief.

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  • kellye:

    I read all the time, hardly ever comment. Just had to say – I’m so proud of you, Katie! Good for you for noticing this and choosing to do something healthy to make things better. I hope therapy brings you some relief. I’m not sure if you’ve done talk therapy before or not, but please: if you don’t “click” with the therapist after a session or two, please find someone else. You don’t have to settle on who you see first! It can be hard work finding someone you click with, but it’s so worth it.

    Best wishes. xxx

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  • My heart breaks for you over having to endure this anxiety. However, I’m soooo glad you’re recognizing it and getting help. So very proud of you, mama.

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  • you are so fortunate to know the symptoms and to have the resources available to you to get some help. Talk to someone as soon as you can. None of these things were recognized when I was raising my own. I lived every single day in fear just as you described. Didn’t help that I had two grandmothers ie mothers hovering and judging my every movement. I was terrified to be alone with him…how would I ever explain if I let something happen. Unfortunately I didn’t get help and many of my memories are poisoned with those same fears, my children deserved a normal, healthy mother and they didn’t get one. Do this for you Katie, really, if I could change one thing.

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  • Kathy:

    Well, huh. I thought I was the only one who did that, looking for the positive when you imagine something bad happening. Like WTF did that come from?!!. It started after my husband died when I was 22. I have a really great therapist, but I still occasionally think those thoughts and my youngest is 16! It can be crazy-making.

    Good that you recognize that this is a problem…and I’m really glad that you shared. I hope you find a therapist that is able to help you.

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  • Getting help shows your absolute devotion and commitment to your son. I know calling for the help was amazingly difficult and I think you should be so proud of yourself for tackling the anxiety head-on. You go, girl. Your postpartum anxiety does not indicate any weirdness…just that your hormones are creating havoc with your emotions. I can tell from your writings that you are (and will be) a wonderful mom.

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  • Editdebs:

    Good for you for getting help. You deserve to enjoy your son’s life–not just worry about it ending. The fear never goes away completely when you are a mom, but managing the fear is important for everyone’s well being.

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  • Jamie:

    I’m a HUGE supporter of therapy – it totally changed my life for the better. Good on you for recognizing that you need a change – I think that shows what a great mother you already are <3

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  • Glad you’re being proactive and getting help. I wish I had with my first. Good on you, lady. Take care of yourself. XOXO

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  • Oh boy. I had post-partum anxiety but didn’t recognize it until well over a year after my daughter was born. Can you believe that?! I was super aware of all the warning signs of PPD, and knew to be vigilantly watchful for signs of depression (which I also missed but that’s another story). Your description of the thought process (particularly fixating on the idea of the last moments of life) is really familiar to me. Reading about your experience helps me to see mine in a bit of a different light. I’m glad you’re getting help. I’m glad that you’ll soon start to feel better. And soon you’ll revel in these moments, and no longer worry about last moments. Good luck to you.

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  • Judy M. from Catonsville:

    Take a deep breath and know that whatever it is that is making you this way is treatable. I did almost the same thing with my first child (who is now 25 and has 2 kids of his own). I would always envision me dropping him or tripping while I was carrying hiim. Finally, when he was about 10 months old, I finally got some help. It worked. I had a second child (a girl, now almost 21) and it was so much different the second time around.

    You are doing the right thing and nothing about it is crazy — it’s probably hormonal.

    Judy M. from Catonsville

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  • Al_Pal:

    Glad you’re getting help!
    That sounds like some scary thoughts to live with.

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Welcome!
I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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