Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada where Bell will contribute 5¢ to mental health initiatives for every text, call, tweet and Instagram post (with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk), Facebook video view, and use of their Snapchat geofilter. The goal is not only to raise funds but to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
So I guess there’s no better time to share my experience with anxiety almost a year after my son Sebastien was born.
Postpartum depression and anxiety should always be taken very seriously but it can be hard to recognize or diagnose. I never had an official PPA diagnosis but a few weeks before my son’s first birthday, I struggled with a level of anxiety I had never felt before.
They give you so many signs to watch out for after you give birth, but many people don’t realize it can still happen up to a year later.
This was something I didn’t know at the time either.
What I knew was I loved my son and I loved being a mom, so I didn’t think PPD applied to me. It was confusing because I had terrible, intrusive thoughts about myself though. It’s hard to explain but I suddenly felt like I was not enough. It was also around the time I made the very difficult decision not to return to work following my maternity leave, but it was more than that. I had irrational worries, I felt I was ugly, and I just didn’t love myself at all, which is not normal for me. I knew there was something wrong and it scared me.
Many moms think they’re a bad mother if they admit these feelings so they don’t seek help. There’s a lot of pressure on moms to have our shit together, be strong, and take care of everything. That’s probably why I kept it to myself for a few weeks before finally opening up to my husband and some friends who were very supportive. However, I realized I should also see my doctor.
I had done the PPD check-ins and “passed” but I still knew I didn’t feel okay. Then, my doctor explained what I was experiencing was… wait for it… likely related to a major drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels due to my son stopping breastfeeding and it’s usually only temporary. Seriously? That was it? That was what affected me to the point where it severely changed my mood, thoughts, and how I felt about myself for weeks?! Needless to say, I was shocked to learn that it had anything to do with breastfeeding, but I know all too well those hormones can be powerful.
Our bodies go through so many changes from pregnancy to giving birth to breastfeeding to weaning; of course everything doesn’t always just “snap back” to normal.
I ultimately felt relieved knowing what was happening to me was biological, which is the case so often. I couldn’t be expected to fix or control something on my own that was happening to my body, just like with any other illness or condition. Thankfully, I started to feel more like myself soon after seeing my doctor, but she continued to follow up with me to be sure.
I do wonder if I had known beforehand that this was a “thing” if I wouldn’t have been as overcome by it. If maybe I would have tried to seek help sooner. I’ve since had friends who have suffered through very similar experiences as well, which is why we need to be more open and talk about these things!
Moms need to know they aren’t alone.
I know PPD and PPA can be much more serious than this, but it’s also confusing when you feel you’re in a grey area, like maybe you don’t technically have it so you shouldn’t reach out. That was my mistake.
The point is: if you don’t feel right, say something. You don’t have to suffer in silence. If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, find another doctor and tell them, “I’m not okay. I need help.”
Take care of you!
xo – Bri
[Look for my #BellLetsTalk tweets under @Bri_Cook today.]