I’ve been pretty quiet on here lately, only updating when I can get a spare moment to do so when I’m feeling up to it.
Things were going pretty well. I obviously wasn’t feeling like my normal self, but the closest I have come to it.
Then came last Thursday. I woke up feeling a bit anxious and wasn’t sure why. I did my relaxation and breathing techniques, did some mindfulness and grounding, and eventually the anxiety faded.
Skip to Friday and it was probably at the same level. I couldn’t quite figure out why all of a sudden I had dropped down the ladder of recovery AGAIN. Over NOTHING.
Then, because I was so anxious I got really defeated and sad. So I was back to a pretty dark place. Not as dark as it has been, but just low. Crying. Anxiety. Constant googling.
Saturday night came and all hell broke loose. My anxiety levels peaked and I was crying and freaking out. I went back to that place of ‘will I ever get better?’ And more catastrophic thinking.
Sunday I tried to pull myself out of the hole and made arrangements to go to the movies with some friends of mine. I was really anxious and they could tell I wasn’t myself. I could tell I wasn’t myself. But the day was good. The movie was fabulous and it got me out of the house. That night I got my period.
I remember people saying that after childbirth your body chemistry changes and you can go from not having PMS symptoms to suddenly having them all. I thought maybe this was the reason for the anxiety?
Then jump to yesterday. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist.
She said ‘Hi Chantelle, how are you doing?’.
And you guys can imagine what happened right? Tears. Sobbing. Ugly crying. Chest heaving. Hyperventilating. Bone deep sadness just erupting from my body.
She calmed me down pretty quickly and asked what had happened. I explained everything. The anxiety. The panic. The period.
So she tried to nut out what happened. We spent an hour going over everything. And let me tell you, there is a reason these psychiatrists are paid the big bucks.
She asked what had changed last weekend compared to other weekends. After some thought, I realised that every weekend for the last 4-5 weeks we have been going to a market in Sunday’s, but this weekend there wasn’t one on.
She asked if not having anything planned makes me anxious. And it does. I know when I’m out and distracted I feel better. And as soon as she pointed this out, it clicked. I was avoiding having down time because that leaves me stuck with, well, me. Me and my thoughts.
I was anxious over having to face reality and instead of dealing with the anxiety, I’ve been shoving it down and keeping busy to avoid it.
She explained that when people get anxious they tend to follow two vicious cycles. Avoidance or reassurance. Both of them make you feel better in the short term, but keep the anxiety going on the long term. Reassurance behaviours consist of things like googling recovery stories of PPD or constantly asking family/doctors if they think you will get better. Sure, you feel fine once you find the answer you want, but then you’ll want more reassurance. So you’ll keep seeking it. Eventually the reassurance runs out and then you are left with nothing but anxiety, which is now doubled because google also shows you the bad answers you really shouldn’t have seen.
I’m guilty of reassurance seeking behaviours.
Avoidance is avoiding places or situations you know will give you anxiety so you don’t have to deal with it. While that’s great in the short term, the longer you avoid something the worse the fear becomes. Plus, you develop new fears. You may start out anxious in a bar, so you stop going to them. But then restaurants have bars, so you avoid them. Then you avoid cafes. And then shops all together. Eventually you’re confined to your home where you can’t avoid yourself. And the anxiety hits.
I’m guilty of avoidance.
So she gave me strategies to help myself. I need to stop avoiding because I need to learn to tackle the anxiety on my own. I can’t run from it. It will just keep the anxiety going longer. I also need to stop seeking reassurance.
To stop these behaviours, I need to create evidence for myself to create reasonable doubt in my mind. For example, I will demonstrate with the fear of never getting better:
- I know I’m getting better based on the amount of smiley faces have been logged in my mood chart during February compared to the smiley faces in January
- This month I’ve been able to be alone with Reece several times for several hours, last month (or any of the previous months) that wouldn’t have been an option
- Even though I have gone ‘downhill’, I haven’t reached that deep, dark only black hole again. And I won’t, because I have already dealt with many issues that aren’t triggers anymore
- Even though there will be downs, I knew that the recovery process would be up and down, but with overall improvement, and even if it’s a slow process, I’m doing everything in my power to recover
- Trust my doctors who have told me that everyone recovers from PPD/PPA if they stick to their treatment plan, and so far I have not deviated from that plan once
- My bond with Reece is growing this month, whereas last month I questioned whether I would ever feel anything for him
- I have become more competent with household things. A few months back cooking a meal would have been out of the question because it was too overwhelming, but this week alone (during a low week!) I’ve managed to cook 4 dinners and 3 lunches
- I’m able to meditate now. There was a point where I couldn’t lay down because I felt like the walls were going to close in on me
- I can tell I’m getting better because I’ve forced myself to socialise more, despite the fact it gives me anxiety and makes me uncomfortable. A few months back just having someone ask if I was okay made me fall apart
- I’m more present for the kids
There are more but I’ll be here forever listing them.
The point is, I need to create evidence against the things that make me anxious. This is a process and I’m still learning to do it, but today I’ve been feeling better, so let’s see how we go.