In my journey of healing from trauma and heartache that resulted in Postpartum PTSD, Anxiety and Depression, I’ve found some practical steps toward actual healing and it’s been life-giving to receive healing for my body, brain, and spirit. I know I am not the only person to experience these kinds of issues, and I am not the only mama to experience a traumatic experience at my precious little one’s birth. This month is Maternal Mental Health Awareness month and I am here for it! Many women experience Postpartum Disorders and I share my story and open up about it because I hope that even one mother is helped and feels less-alone because of my story.
I often receive messages from women who are mothers and are walking through the pain of dealing with a traumatic birth experience (whether that be the shock and sadness of a major change of birth-plan, major physical injuries, and fear during you baby’s birth that you and/or you baby may lose your life… I experienced all of these things on my beautiful boy’s birth day.) And my heart aches for you if you’ve walked through anything similar to what I have. It’s been beautiful to become a mother but brutal to sift through all the ways trauma affected by brain, body, and heart. Trauma is real and it does take a toll. PTSD is absolutely true, uncontrollable (meaning, you can’t just say, “Read a Bible verse or trust God more” to a victim of it…. even though, my faith in Him is the dearest and strongest part of my life) and postpartum anxiety and depression (and other disorders like Postpartum Psychosis) are a serious, potentially deadly condition. Light needs to be shed on these things. Many women walk through this and our culture needs to know that it is okay, it happens, and there is HELP. You do not ever have to suffer in silence like I did. And you never need to feel guilt or shame for what you are walking through or battling. Even if you have the strongest support system in the world like I do and have had (I have so much support and help) you can still battle Postpartum Disorders and that is okay. We need to be better about showing up for the new moms in our lives. Checking in. Commenting and asking less about how much weight a mama has lost and being far more concerned about her mental health as well as physical.
Last October I broke down, after fighting through Postpartum PTSD/Depression/Anxiety for two years. I fought and fought and fought. There are lots of photos of me during that time and you’d never know I was struggling as horribly as I was… that is scary part about this; so many women “seemed fine!” and then we lose them. Women need to know it is okay to ask for help and admit we need it.
A question I’ve been asked commonly since sharing my story is: how did I know it was time to get help?
I could not cope anymore. I fought through (what I now know were) panic attacks for several years postpartum. But, one warm Saturday last October, I experienced a terrifying panic attack and trauma-flashback at a pumpkin patch with my family, and my heart would not stop racing…..for days. I could not breathe. I could not stop shaking. And I knew….I cannot do this anymore. I need help.
So, I called my doctor, the one who saved my life when Weston was born. He called in medicine for me, and I immediately (that day) went in for an emergency appointment with a Christian Psychologist family friend. He helped me with some “Anxiety CPR” and then helped me find the perfect therapist. I am so grateful I finally asked for help.
Things that are helping me heal:
Therapy. As I’ve shared, therapy is the number one thing that’s helped me heal. My therapist shares my faith, is a young mother, and a psychologist who specializes in trauma and postpartum. I can’t even find words to describe how helpful it’s been to have a Christian therapist to talk to. She has taught me that PTSD is a mental health issue that can be 100% healed and I’ve found that to be true, ongoingly! I highly recommend therapy for anyone who can access it. It’s such a gift.
Medication. In situations like mine, I 100% believe medication is needed and helpful, under the care of a doctor and handled responsibly. If you want to chat with me more about the medications that have helped me — I’ve taken medicines for postpartum anxiety and depression — email me and I will share more :) (Note: as Christians, there’s a lot of heartbreaking stigma and shame surrounding medication and mental health. And yet, I truly believe that certain mental conditions are no different than physical. Of course, our #1 hope is in our God to heal and help us; and yet, you’d never in a million years tell a Diabetes patient to not take their medication. In the same way, I believe Christians should be careful with how we speak to and support those with postpartum disorders and mental health issues … they are real illnesses that should be taken seriously.)
Natural Supplements. I’ve been taking a Multi Vitamin, Omega 3, Magnesium (it helps with stress and sleep), a Sleep Support Spray, a few other supplements one of my sisters-in-law researched and shared with me: Lactium and L-Theanine: these are proven to help treat anxiety and stress and I’ve felt a difference since taking them.
Working Out and Movement is a helpful part of my current routine and healing process. I’m loving the Tone It Up Workouts (look it up on the App store!) and just taking walks with my little guy.
Essential Oils are super helpful for me, especially for sleep support. I have sensitive skin, so I mostly love diffusing oils all day and at bedtime: emotional support oils like Frankincense, the Joy blend, citrus oils, and Lavender at bed time. See my oily IG for more info.
Throwing Things Out and Purging. As a natural pack-rat, I tend to keep all the things. But mid-way through my start of therapy, I did a big purge…and it was so therapeutic. Do a big purge and a Goodwill drop-off. You will not regret it!
Getting Ready for the Day is something that, for me, helps me to feel more like myself and cheery. Of course, in those early weeks and months of postpartum healing and being a brand new mom, I didn’t need or want to do my hair, get ready, etc…. surviving the day was all I could do and that is absolutely okay! Stay in bed with your baby as long as you can. But, in these days of toddlerhood, it’s been helpful for me to carve aside time in the morning to shower, brush and curl my hair, and put on some makeup and a comfy but cute outfit.
Journaling. A lifelong passion of mine. I have 30 + journals from my life so far. I stopped journaling for a bit (a sign my mental health is suffering) and I’m so happy to be back at it again.
Thrifting. Finding a gem in the junk is a passion and an enjoyable pastime of mine.Try it….. it’s happy and cheap and addictive and fun.
Lavender Tea. I love the Yogi brand at Target / Wal Mart. Relaxing and lovely.
Organizing and Cleaning our home is something that is recently very calming for me. Taking a messy place (and boy, can our place get messy ;) Washing all our dishes or mopping the floor, folding fresh laundry or vacuuming all the rooms has become a thing that helps me feel more calm. It’s tough when it all gets messed up so quickly again haha! But it’s nice while it lasts.
Focusing on the Beautiful. A happy movie. A lighthearted book to read. A pretty magazine. Lovely music. A positive podcast. I’ve steered clear of things that are super heavy or emotional. Focus on the good if you’re struggling.
Epsom Salt and Lavender Oil Baths. Magnesium and relaxation!
Grocery Delivery or Pick-Up has been a time saver for me AND stress-saver!! It’s worth the delivery cost. And I tend to spend less because… less impulse-shopping. Wal-Mart and Target Pick-Up and InstaCart is a lifesaver these days. I am grateful.
Playing Music is a proven way to heal trauma and heal our brains! I am grateful for the ability to play piano and sing, it’s such a gift to sit down at those keys and pour your heart out.
Sunshine. That Vitamin D helps soothe the soul, mind and body. A daily dose is helpful.
It’s been a long journey but I am grateful for the ways my heart, mind, and body are healing so dramatically.
Message me if you’re in the trenches, sister. I understand. Know you are not alone.