Surviving Postpartum Anxiety with Insomnia: Gina’s Story

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Today I’m welcoming Gina, a survivor of postpartum anxiety with insomnia. Like her, I was in denial over my postpartum depression and anxiety after G was born. I chalked everything up to needing time to get used to being a new mom. Even after his nurse practitioner urged me to talk to my OB ASAP about getting help, I waited. I look back on that appointment and wish she had handed me some information about postpartum depression, or a number or website to get information about what I was experiencing. I might not have bothered looking at any of it, but I think Mr Boots would have and realized I couldn’t — shouldn’t — wait for help.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself:

I’m a counseling psychologist in Central Illinois and I work at a mid-size university. I am married with two young boys. I enjoy family time, traveling, cruising, shopping, napping, and playing with our two boxers!

2) What was your diagnosis?

I had severe postpartum anxiety with insomnia. The anxiety alternated with depression (including suicidal ideation) and I also had some OCD.

3) When did you realize something was wrong or that you needed help?

Well, I was in denial for a long time. I thought, “I guess having kids is just terribly hard.” I was scoring between 11 and 18 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, but I was writing in the margins justifying my answers. I believed postpartum depression would not happen to me. I also had no idea it could manifest as anxiety. When my boss sent me a link to Postpartum Progress’s website and I read the symptoms in “plain mama English”, I knew I had it bad. I would fall asleep for 2 hours and then wake up, anxiety coursing through my body. I wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep, which meant I couldn’t function at work. I had to take a 5-week medical leave to get better. I used to stare at my wedding picture thinking I’d never “be her” again. I felt like this torture was just my new normal.

4) Were you screened for a PMAD?

Just the Edinburgh scale. The pediatrician noticed my scores and asked if I wanted to talk to someone. I said “no” and that was the end of that conversation. I wish she would have pressed further and asked me more questions. I could have used some education and resources, but instead, I continued to suffer for 6 months before getting help.

Surviving The Darkness: Gina's journey through postpartum anxiety and insomnia via muddybootsanddiamonds.com

5) What did your treatment plan look like?

I attended therapy for about a year. In the beginning, I went twice a week until the symptoms began to decrease. I also tried a number of medications before I found what worked for me. A combination of Lexapro (anti-depressant), Ambien (sleep med) and Klonopin (anti-anxiety med) is what worked for me. Eventually, I came off the Ambien and Klonopin, but 2 years later I still take the Lexapro. I also took Lexapro throughout my second pregnancy and did not get postpartum anxiety or depression with my second child (who came 23 mo after my first). I tried exercise and meditation during the acute phase but they didn’t work for me. Most importantly, support from my husband and family were essential for my recovery as well.

6) Did you face any challenges on your road to recovery?

I went through multiple medications and classes of medications until I found what worked. A few prescriptions weren’t strong enough for my anxiety and insomnia. Another challenge was not knowing what I was going through and not getting help right away.

7) Did you come across any resources that helped you?

Postpartum Progress, Postpartum Support International, Northshore Mom’s Line (24/7 Support from licensed counselors), PPD Alliance of Illinois, Smart Patients support forum, (affiliate link) “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression” by Karen Kleiman, and Climb out of the Darkness annual walks.

8) What is one thing you try to do each week as self-care?

I try to get at least an hour or two of alone time each week. During that time I go shopping, take a bath, nap, or read.

9) What advice would you give a parent struggling with a perinatal mental illness?

Know that you will get better and have nothing at all to be ashamed of. Reach out and get the help you need. You and your baby are so worth it. If you can’t recognize yourself now, hang in there. You will get back to who you are. Having a baby is an incredible experience, but it’s also a huge life adjustment and can be a big stressor.

Gina, thank you so much for sharing your story of postpartum anxiety with insomnia with us today! If you have any kind words or comments, please leave them below.

 

Surviving Postpartum Anxiety with Insomnia: Gina's Story via muddybootsanddiamonds.com #SurvivingTheDarkness #MentalHealth

If you are a postpartum anxiety survivor, or a survivor of another perinatal mood and anxiety illness, I’d love to interview you as well! Check out this post for more info.

3 thoughts on “Surviving Postpartum Anxiety with Insomnia: Gina’s Story

  1. I really love this post. I have personal experience with mental illness and postpartum depression /anxiety. It is quite common when you have a history of MI. I felt much better prepared though the second time around.

  2. I suffer from anxiety in general and it sucks. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s so important we put and end to the mental illness stigma!

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