You silently take note of what needs to be done: empty dishwasher, reload it with dirty dishes, and then sweep the floor. Three things. Not hard.
The baby starts fussing. Just fussing. So you tell him he is okay and he needs to wait a moment while you put some glasses back in the cabinet. Your heart starts beating faster.
Your toddler starts whining because the baby is making noise. You take a deep breath and tell him the baby is okay. This doesn’t help. Neither does the next deep breath you take as you put dishes in the cabinet.
The fussiness from both children start intensifying. You find you are breathing deeply with each breath. Your chest feels tight.
You stop what you are doing to find a pacifier for the baby. He doesn’t want it. Your toddler calls out “Mommy!” Repeatedly.
Suddenly you can’t think. You can’t concentrate on giving the baby a pacifier. You get angry and tell the baby he needs to wait. You snap at the toddler and tell him he needs to wait a minute.
You have lost all concentration. What were you doing? Oh, dishes. You turn to finish emptying dish washer but as you stare at what’s left and gaze at the dishes piled in the sink from the day, it seems like too much. Then you remember the floor and you start feeling panicky. It needs to be done but you can’t. You know it isn’t a lot, but those three tasks suddenly seem like a to-do list that is 200 tasks long. You stand in the middle of the kitchen gripping your hair and biting your lip.
Your husband walks down the stairs. You try not to snap when he doesn’t immediately calm the baby down when he starts fussing again.
You’re unsuccessful. You make a snide remark to your husband and slam a cabinet door shut. You feel guilty you snapped. You feel guilty your kids had to see that. You feel guilty for feeling helpless over three simple household tasks. You feel guilty for feeling guilty.
This happens to me almost every day. An immense feeling of being overwhelmed by one or two things that need to be done before I go to bed at night. Loosing my cool with everybody because OHMYGOODNESS can’t everyone just be quiet for ten minutes so I can think about what I’m doing?
This is one way postpartum anxiety affects me. An extreme sense of feeling overwhelmed by small tasks. Tasks that don’t take more than a few minutes to complete.
The fussing. The crying. Being tired. Those are triggers for me. I’ve never handled my kids’ crying well and now I have two fussing and crying at me 24/7. If I feel tired it’s a lot worse.
I’d cry myself, but my meds prevent that from happening most days.
When there are other people around, I expect help. I expect they will see I’m trying to do something and jump in to quiet whichever little person is asking for attention. If it isn’t done yesterday I get angry. A few times I’ve found myself nearly blacking out as I’ve snapped at the person I expect better from, barely knowing words coming out of my mouth.
“It’s okay to let them cry” is something I am told by Mr Boots. By friends. By family. By my therapist. I know that, damn it. And I’m more okay with it when I am home alone with my two boys. I have to be. But when someone is there to help, I can’t seem to breathe my temper away. I just get angry. Sometimes suddenly. Then I feel guilty. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m getting help for my postpartum anxiety. I’ve increased my Zoloft dosage. Although not convenient, I’m driving up to NOVA twice a month to see a therapist who specializes in perinatal mood disorders. She referred a book to me that I hope to finish reading and then review here soon (the 20 pages I’ve read so far have been awesome).
But the vicious cycle is exhausting. Trying to keep it all together so my kids don’t see an angry mother all the time is exhausting. I know some of what I’m feeling won’t go away. It’s my plight as a mother. But I’m more than ready for the worst of my anxiety to be over. I know it will, eventually. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know this because I eventually got there after G was born. I just wish it didn’t have an open ended expiration date.