No recipe here, but I wanted to share something I’ve been struggling with in my postpartum journey. Maybe you or someone you know is going through something similar. (It goes without saying that I am not a medical professional and this is only me talking about my individual experience.)
There are days I feel like I’m crushing it at this working mom thing. Days when all my work gets done and then some. The house is clean. My hair is washed. Dinner is well-balanced and ready before Harper asks for it (aka screams until food presents itself). We go to the park or library or farmers market. And everyone lives happily ever after.
More often, there are days like yesterday. Days when I come home from work physically and mentally drained. I turn on the TV (gasp!) to distract Harper for a minute so I can make dinner. Dinner is a box of macaroni and cheese, which I somehow manage to mess up. We end up eating boiled cauliflower with spinach and fruit cups and attitudes and we all go to bed early.
Two months ago, having a day like this would have sent me into an anxiety nosedive. It felt like my brain was always in overdrive and I couldn’t keep up with the endless string of hypothetical questions. Like the what-ifs were coming faster than the answers. I felt paralyzed by the overwhelm of all the responsibility I suddenly had. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t see anything but worry, and it made me want to hide under the covers all day.
In addition to anxiety, I felt tremendously guilty. I knew I was forcing myself to go through the motions, when I should be cherishing each moment, but it felt like all I could do was keep us afloat.
Thankfully, I have found a therapist who listens to my concerns, validates my feelings, and has been helping me develop practical tools to control my anxiety before it takes over.
I’ve started implementing practices to remind me to regularly stop and have a check in with myself and my mental state – What am I feeling? How’s my anxiety? What does my body need? And I’ve been spending more time focusing on personal growth through books and podcasts and less time on social media.
I’m learning to catch myself when I feel my anxiety creeping in. To stop and ask myself what is the root of what I’m feeling? What I can control about this situation? If I can’t control it, why am I spending my time and energy on it?
I’m learning to manage my expectations. If I don’t expect to make a perfect dinner, go to the park, sweep, mop, do the dishes, and catch up on laundry, then I’m not disappointed when those things don’t happen. I pick two to three things per day and focus on those. If I only expect to make dinner, get the dishes done, and shower, then everything else is just a bonus. Some days those things are snuggle my baby, feed her, and take a moment of rest for myself.
Honestly, just feeling heard and validated has been the most helpful thing for me in my journey. I’ve been to two other therapists before the one I’m seeing now. The first made me feel like I should just get over it. The next listened to me list off all the ways I’d been struggling and then literally responded “so, what is the problem?” I was stuck for months thinking there’s nothing wrong with me, I just need to get over it, this is my life now. It left me feeling weak and helpless and hopeless.
Since I started talking to the therapist I am seeing now, things finally feel like they’re starting to turn around. I’ve seen little rays breaking through the clouds. I’ve felt joy that wasn’t overshadowed by what ifs. I’ve been present without panicking. I’ve begun thinking about the future beyond what terrible thing could happen next.
I still get overwhelmed. I still have to actively choose to be positive and optimistic most days. I still wrestle with not having complete control over everything. But going through this struggle has given me so much appreciation for the little things. For feeling happiness or unforced optimism. For feeling at love and loved. And especially for feeling peace after so much chaos.
Right now the hardest thing I am walking through most days is accepting the time anxiety stole from me and the moments I missed because I was lost in my worries. I know I cannot get that time back and that those memories will probably always be accompanied memories of feeling fear. All I can tell myself is that I did the best I could at the time and I’m sharing my story in the hopes that it will help someone to feel seen, heard, and known.
If you are struggling with this, you’re not alone and it doesn’t make you a bad mom or wife or person. Please, reach out to someone you trust – a friend, family member, or your doctor. And, this may be most important, keep reaching until you are heard. I went to my doctor three different times, because each time I talked myself down and played down how I was feeling. And I saw three different therapists over a 14 month period before finding one that I connected with. If I could go back and have a conversation with myself 15 months ago, I’d say not to be afraid to advocate for yourself. Your feelings are valid. It can get better, but you have to put in the work.