The Endless What-Ifs of Postpartum Anxiety

Dr. John Grohol at Psych Central offers up an explanation of anxiety in his discussion of a recent article in the New York Times Magazine. What is it, he asks, then quoting from the Times piece:

“Anxiety is not fear, exactly, because fear is focused on something right in front of you, a real and objective danger. It is instead a kind of fear gone wild, a generalized sense of dread about something out there that seems menacing — but that in truth is not menacing, and may not even be out there. If you’re anxious, you will find it difficult to talk yourself out of this foreboding; you become trapped in an endless loop of what-ifs.”

Oh, have I been there with postpartum anxiety.

What if my son never loves me? What if I don’t know how to be a mom? What if I never stop crying? What if I harm him by ________? (Fill in the blank with the many terrifying ways I wondered about hurting my son which I won’t list here so that I don’t make you start thinking the same damn things.) What if he doesn’t wake up? What if my husband doesn’t come home from his trip? What if I can’t get my baby to eat? What if I’m not who I thought I was? What if I stay this way forever? This was me during postpartum anxiety and OCD.

I wonder if I was more exhausted from the lack of sleep or the constant mental gymnastics going on between my ears. My mind never stopped with the worrying and the thinking and the being scared of the thoughts I was thinking. It wouldn’t stop. Why won’t it stop? MAKE IT STOP.

That’s when you want to quit. To run away or give up or maybe something worse. Because the noise in your head is loud and unbearable and hateful and exhausting. It was torture and I couldn’t quiet it no matter what I did.

For some reason I didn’t quit. I think it was that roly-poly-baby-faced boy looking up at me. I decided I’d try and reach out for help.

There must be somebody somewhere who can help me fix this. Who can cure my postpartum anxiety and OCD. This can’t be all there is.

There was. And it isn’t.

If you have postpartum anxiety, call your doctor. Get some help. It’s going to be okay.

For more stories on postpartum anxiety, I think you’ll like:

Getting Postpartum Anxiety to Back Off

The Unrelenting Self-Doubt & Second Guessing of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Have I Wrecked My Child’s Life? Parenting After Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

A Toolkit for Postpartum Anxiety & Panic Symptoms