Monday, April 27, 2015

State of the Anxiety Address

First things first: A picture of a really cute baby.

As many of you know I experienced debilitating anxiety and depression after Noni was born. This puts me at a much higher risk of developing PPD this time around, and during these first few weeks with baby Ender, Nemo and I, as well as my friends and other family members, have been watching closely for signs of PPD. The goal being to deal with it early, before it becomes a crisis.

The first week went really well. The weather was warm, my MIL was entertaining the big kids, and Nemo and my mom were splitting night duty so I could focus on getting lots of rest. But during the second week I was starting to feel anxious--about the future, about whether or not Ender would develop colic, about how I would handle sleep deprivation once night duty was mine again--there are so many "what ifs" with a new baby, and unfortunately for me I have a tendency to let the what-ifs rule my life. I started to show some of my tell-tale signs of PPD--not being able to sleep and losing my appetite. I was feeling like I was on the edge of panic, and the trouble with me is if I let in one panic attack, it paves the way for many many more. Fending off that first attack was becoming a full-time job, and I was exhausted.

I had a prescription of Sertraline (Zoloft) prescribed by my OB "just in case", and I started to take it at that point. However, the side effects were just as bad as I remembered. My insomnia became so bad I was only getting about an hour of broken sleep a night, I was experiencing tremors, muscle spasms, tics, and heart palpitations, and worst of all, it increased my anxiety about a zillion times. The side effects are supposed to wear off eventually, but last time around I had to be hospitalized while I adjusted to the meds, and I wasn't willing to risk that again. With the blessing of my doctor, Nemo and I decided that I would stop taking the Sertraline and attack my anxiety and depression symptoms from other angles.

1. Sleep
My doctor gave me a prescription for Mirtazapine, which is an antidepressant that at low doses is known to have a positive effect on sleep patterns and appetite. I used it (in conjunction with Zoloft) during my first PPD experience and didn't experience any troubling side effects,  so it seemed like a good choice. So far, so good. The only downside is it gives me the munchies like you wouldn't believe.

2. Diet
When Nemo and I did a Whole30 for Lent, I noticed that my anxiety and sleep both improved markedly.  So now I am doing my best to follow a sugar-free, low-grain, and low-dairy diet. This is kind of difficult to do right now, given that I am postpartum AND I am doomed to get the wicked bad munchies mentioned above, but I'm hoping that the payoff will be worth it.

3. Reminders
This is temporary
I think the newborn stage might be ruined permanently for me. I do enjoy the snuggles, but the uncertainty and craziness that comes with a new little one really stresses me out. Whenever I feel like I can't handle the next three months, I remind myself that it is only three months. The newborn period is special, but also fleeting! There will be a time soon when I will feel more at ease with Ender. I will know her personality, she will be able to smile and laugh and be entertained by something other than a bottle or being held. She will be on a more regular schedule so I can count on some "me time". It seems like such a long time away, but when I remind myself of the temporary nature of the newborn period I am more able to enjoy it for what it is.

Different baby, different situation
One of my main anxiety triggers is the thought that Ender will be just like Noni was when she was a baby. I'm afraid that she will cry constantly and I won't be able to soothe her. That I'll be trapped in the baby carrier, walking in circles for most of the day. That I won't be able to get her to sleep, and if I do, I won't be able to put her down without her waking up immediately. Well, Ender is a different baby. So far she has been fairly easy-going--but there is still time for her to develop colic or reveal a high-needs personality. But even if she does, this is a different situation. I have more coping strategies than I once did, I have a wider support system, and better safety nets. 

Don't over-think things.
This is probably the most important thing I can do to fend off anxiety. When my brain wants to think about things that make me anxious, it can very easily snowball, so whenever a potentially troubling thought pops into my head I have to remind myself to SHUT IT DOWN. Just don't even go there, Eva.

4. Mind games
Looking forward to things
When I think about the future, I tend only to think about the BAD things that might happen. Obviously that isn't helpful, but it's where my mind naturally goes. To try to break this habit, every day I try to identify at least one thing that I am looking forward to--even if it's just the next episode of Game of Thrones. Don't worry; I can actually think of much better things than that, but when all three kids are crying at the same time it's hard to think so far ahead as our summer trip to my parents' lake house. But counting down the days until my next dose of GoT is totally do-able.

Last time I experienced PPD it got to the point where the activities I once enjoyed the most not only no longer interested me, but they actually disgusted me. This time I am making a conscious effort to hang on to my hobbies so I don't lose that part of myself. I can't do them the same way I used to--this isn't a season of life when I can just paint a room or refinish furniture--but I can certainly watch as much HGTV as I can handle, look back on all my favorite projects here on the blog, and plan future projects with Nemo.

The Best Medicine
The act of smiling can fool your brain into being happy. Nemo has been telling me this for years, and I am finally willing to concede that it's true (shhhhhhh! Don't tell him!) Luckily, 3rd Rock from the Sun has recently been added to Netflix.

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Postscript: There's more Humblebee on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope to see you there! Especially on Instagram. I love Instagram.


  1. Thinking of you, Eva. I'm glad you're able to catch things early this time. Hugs from afar!

    1. Thank you, Andrea! Things are continuing to go well.

    2. Thank you, Andrea! Things are continuing to go well.

  2. Oh hon, this time of post-postpartum newborn stage is so hard! you have such a good plan and so much more self awareness. Prayers for you!

    PS...have you ever looked into progesterone injections? I'm sorry if someone else has suggested this and I didn't realize. It has helped many and can be just part of the plan. Your OB may be able to help. Please ignore this advice if it won't be helpful or feasible, just thought I would mention it. (((HUGS)))

    1. Thanks for the prayers! I have been meaning to look into progesterone injections for a while; I've heard from several people who find them very helpful. Thanks for the link, it's a good place to start!

  3. Praying for you Eva! Those first three months are so, so bittersweet. So hard yet so sweet.