I was diagnosed at birth with congenital hypothyroidism. This means that the gland in my throat, called a thyroid, doesn’t work. What this can look like is a constant battle with weight, low metabolism, lethargy, hormone imbalance, irregular menstrual cycle, mood swings and depression. This has played a huge part in the conception of both of my girls.
With my first daughter, we got pregnant within the first month of trying. I had terrible morning sickness for 18 weeks; after that it was smooth sailing. My daughter was as cute as a button and a live wire! She was colicky and was either incredibly happy or incredibly angry. As a new mom I thought this was just life with a baby. It was hard, sure—but it also brought so much joy.
I had a sense of euphoria.
When my daughter was 11 months old we decided to try for baby number two. This began the struggle to get pregnant. For us, we knew the whole time what was preventing it—my thyroid. We could not get it balanced in order for my cycle to return, thus, the ability to get pregnant. If any of you have struggled with infertility, you know this pain of wanting something so badly, something good, and not being able to have it. I felt sad and angry all of the time.
After a year and a half, and having gone three months without a period, I unexpectedly became pregnant.
I was incredibly happy and also in disbelief.
And though I now had my baby growing inside of me, the anger and sadness still remained. It took a while for the old emotions to wear off.
Around week 30 I began to feel irritable, moody, and on edge. There were a variety of reasons this could be. My thyroid hormone levels were off and I was also largely pregnant in the summer heat. After delivery, the feelings only intensified. My second daughter was such a sweet, easy going and calm baby; yet I was constantly on edge, imagining the worst case scenario. I could not relax. My mind raced and my body reacted. I had panic attacks almost daily. I loved being a mom, and being a mom of two was much easier then I had anticipated, but I couldn’t get a grip on myself. I could rationalize enough that I knew my thoughts were illogical, yet I couldn’t prevent them.
Once the flood gates opened, these thoughts consumed my mind, body and soul.
One day, a friend was over with her girls and I tried to describe how I was feeling. Nonchalantly she asked me if I thought maybe I had postpartum anxiety. Yes! That was it! As soon as I heard the word “anxiety,” I knew that was exactly how I was feeling; I just needed someone to say it. She encouraged me to speak with my midwife at my next appointment.
After visiting with my midwife, my family doctor, and having a psychiatric analysis, I was told I had severe postpartum anxiety. I was prescribed a low dose of a medication that is safe to take while nursing. The medication doesn’t stop the irrational thoughts from coming, but it slows them down enough that I’m able to properly process and deal with them as they come.
I also began seeing a counselor on a weekly, then bi-weekly, and now monthly basis. Seeing her has helped me immensely. She has given me coping techniques to control both my mind and my body.
My favourite technique to reduce anxiety is to imagine my thoughts as balloons.
We have thousands of thoughts daily, and we get to choose which ones deserve our time and energy. I visualize helium filled balloons floating above me and I can pick a string tied to a balloon and pull it down. I read what it says on the balloon, and if it doesn’t deserve or serve a purpose for me then, I let it go, and it floats back up and away. If I pull one down that is okay, I can hold onto it for as long as I need before I let it go.
My counselor has also reminded me how important it is to take time for myself. She has encouraged me to prioritize prayer, relaxation, and reflection. Although this is incredibly difficult to do with two kids and a house to keep up, I know it is something I must do.
Looking back on where I was six months ago, I see such a difference. I feel more in control of what I allow to occupy my mind. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, worry, or racing thoughts, I want to encourage you to talk to someone. Pick up the phone and call a friend, your mom, an aunt or a help line. Picking up the phone and calling is the hardest part; once you talk you’ll feel so much better.
Don’t ever feel guilty for making yourself a priority.
Michelle Smid is the author of the family and lifestyle blog Just An Ordinary Family. She is a stay-at-home mom with her two daughters, ages 6 months and 3. She and her husband have been married seven and a half years and reside in South Delta, B.C.
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