I have taken notice of the increase in posts and mentions and nods towards postpartum depression and anxiety. They are like little nudges whispering to me.."Brezi, you really should go and write your story.".... But I've got to tell you friends, as much as PPD and anixety is so entangled into every fiber of me, so is the fear of rejection. Being vulnerable is not my strong suit, but I have felt this push to write this, so I hope this lands into the hands and hearts that it needs to. . .
I hear it come up in casual conversations all of the time. Heck I even do it...."It made me anxious"...."I almost had a panic attack"....so on, and so forth. For some people describing nervousness or butterflies in the tummy for naturally nerve wracking events means "anxiety". But for 18% of of the population, "anixety" means something completely different.
For starters, this blog post may get personal and maybe a little uncomfortable, but it is something that is so embedded into my story and what made me who I am today, I can't help but to talk about it. Especially when for so long I was so scared for people to know this about me for fear that I would look even weaker than I already felt. I am not one for living in my feelings, or sitting around talking about my struggles....unless it's going to help me or someone I know in a positive way. This is me wanting you to get to know me a little better, but also I want you to know that I see you. If this is you, I see your pain. You are not alone, and there is a way up and out of it. The one thing that helped me the very most, was realizing that I was not the only person to feel this way. . .
My story is now 26 years old as of March 11, 2018. It's always growing, and expanding and deepening in so many beautiful ways that I am so grateful for. But the foundational years, the opening acts of my story created an almost agoraphobic teen mother. Age 18-19 I unlocked another door to it when I found out that the feelings I had always had, actually had a name. I remember this day so vividly. I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, with a beautiful cocktail of new mama hormones surging through my body and intensifying these feelings. I just had to fix it before this baby came. I could NOT be this broken before she came. She needed me. I needed her to need me, and I needed to be someone worthy of her. After furiously Googling I stumbled upon the name.
Social. Anxiety. Disorder.
This was it.
Why I couldn't keep eye contact with anyone, not even my family. Why my heart would race in any social situation, especially when I was in the grocery store of all places. I'd sweat until it dripped down my legs. My hands would become so numb I couldn't feel the money or the buttons I needed to push. My mind would race and I couldn't think to smile, make eye contact, to be NICE to people in general when I was working so damn hard not to pass out right then and there in the middle of the check out lane that seemed to close in on me with every passing second. The eyes of the other customers I thought for sure were staring & burning a hole into me as they waited for me to get done checking out. The incredible feeling of filling my lungs with fresh air as soon as I stepped into the openness, realizing I hadn't really been breathing at all until that moment. . .
Wow, even as I write this, it comes flooding back in terrible ways. Anxiety truly is amazing what it can do to a person when you give it the power it needs to live.
As my belly grew. So did....IT.
"Was I good enough?" "Was I going to be a good mother?" "Will I be able to handle the hard stuff when it comes up?"
Because it always comes up.
Months after having my daughter, which was amazing and beautiful and you can read about that here, I added postpartum depression to this new found self diagnosis of SAD. And my anxiety grew to nearly being completely shut inside of my house and agoraphobic. I was 18-19 years old, with a newborn with bad jaundice, a less than ideal living situation and I knew I needed to do something for my mental health and fast. I was so in love with this new little person, she deserved at least that from me.
The tipping point for me after weeks of uneffective therapy, was the full blown panic attack I had in my doctor's office. This was the worst one thus far. I was in for a physical and to talk about the potential need for some kind of medication for anxiety/depression. I remember he was talking to me, with lots of attentive, dreadful, eye-contact, he was checking my back/spine and doing all the good doctorly things. He asked me to stand up and the bend over to continue checking my back (I've had lots of back issues) and either the fact that he was touching me (I also have lots of men issues), or that I was now dizzy by being bent over, but I remember going from standing up, to curled into a ball in the chair across the room. With my head in my arms looking over the top of them, crying, hyperventilating, I listened to the doctor tell me that he was going to be right back with someone that could help me. Another guy walked in, asked if he could turn the lights down, and he somehow magically and very patiently waited for me to come back to reality. I couldn't speak for what felt like forever, but it was probably all of 4-5 minutes while I let his voice fill the void.
I think it goes without saying, but I walked out with a prescription to Sertraline, (generic Zoloft), and began taking them immediately.
This was the start of my journey to better mental health, and I will never look back. The meds didn't work. I didn't give them enough time to work. They made me feel much worse, and I really was not in the market for worse at that point. I quit them cold turkey, and of course suffered some withdrawal side effects for a couple of weeks because of that.
The solution for me...
I used YouTube and Google to help me with all kinds of things, and still do. But it was when I stumbled upon a YouTuber who was talking about SAD specifically without lumping it into general anixety disorder, I took notice. When I found out that he was actually a local SA coach that was taking on clients and suffered from this himself, I called as soon as I could. We had some awesomely awkward phone and Skype chats and I enrolled in his program. I re-learned the basics of social interaction, and learned new things about SA and about myself that I never knew before. I learned new ways to use and rewire my own thoughts and my own brain. I learned that I don't have to give it power, and that I've been doing exactly that all these years. That I wasn't suffering from anything other than my own thoughts, and I learned how I can take charge and change them by actually letting go and loosening my control grip. I was so excited that anxiety finally didn't have the hold own my life like it did before. I am proud to say that over the course of about 5-6 years I completed a few of his programs, and even became one of his brand ambassadors for a little while and helped other people purely by sharing my story and showing people just how to let go of it.
That's what I am doing with this post, I hope.
I hope this lands in the laps of those of you, that need to hear that you are not alone.
I know that I encounter people with this especially now that I have lifted my eyes up and can see past my own problems and my own nose. I see those moms in the store with their babies looking scared, and stressed and all I want to do it go over and give them a giant hug. I have had nearly 90 families trust me with some of their most precious memories and only one family has openly admitted to having anixety about me being there before I came to their birth space. And only one has told me of their postpartum anxiousness of not being able to leave their house. The majority of us suffer in silence with this, but the statistics tell me that out of these families, about 16 of them have struggled with anxiety in general, if not more. My hope is that by me telling my story here that it prompts some mamas out there to go and find a little help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
I send so much LOVE to everyone that takes their time to let me and my story into their lives right now. God bless.
“Don’t be ashamed to admit you are vulnerable. Recognize you’re taking the first steps to save your own life.” — Carole Anne Trisler