You’ve recently had a baby.
You are more than 3 weeks postpartum.
You do not like the way you are feeling. You wonder if you are too anxious or too depressed.
Your family, friends and healthcare provider have tried to reassure you, but you wonder if they really understand how bad you feel.
You worry that this is what being a mother feels like and you might never feel better.
Here’s what you should do.
1. Ask for help. Any feelings of depression and anxiety that interfere with your abilty to function are not okay right now. Tell those closest to you that you are worried about the way you are feeling. If you know what they can do to help, ask them. If you are not sure, tell them you are not sure, but you need their help, regardless. Then, let them help you. No one is asking that you diagnose yourself. If you are not sure what is going on, you should err on the side of be cautious and healthy by letting someone you trust know how you feel.
2. Contact your doctor/healthcare provider. Be specific and clear about how you are feeling so you can discuss options. If you feel dismissed or misunderstood, make the effort to clarify and reiterate.
3. Do your best to locate a therapist who specializes in the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety. You can find one here. Or, here. Or, here. Call one or two or three therapists and talk to them directly. See how that feels. Do not let feelings of guilt or anxiety get in the way of reaching out for the support that you need right now. Therapists who are trained to treat postpartum depression and anxiety understand how difficult this first phone contact can be. Take the risk and let someone help you. You do not have to go through this alone. If you cannot find specialist in your area, call one of the perinatal specialists listed and talk to them about finding someone closer to you. They will help you do this.
4. When you make your first appointment, ask your partner to accompany if that feels better for you. Most therapists will welcome that and it is highly probable that you can bring your baby to that session, also. Your family is an vital part of your healing process.
5. Stay off of the Internet until you get some relief from your symptoms. While there may be numerous outlets for support available online, you will inadvertently be exposing yourself to random and unpredictable anxiety-provoking, shame-inducing triggers. It is best for you to protect yourself from that for a while.
6. Accept the fact that you are not feeling good right now and that it will not always feel this way.
7. Avoid all triggers that make you feel worse. That includes people who are unsupportive, events or obligations that increase your anxiety. Self-compassion is essential. Pay attention to what you need and do your best to express this to your partner and helping professionals.
8. Do not stop until you find the right help. This means you should feel comfortable with the support you are getting. This means your healthcare provider, your therapist, your support group, your medication, your adjunctive recovery team, must all be appropriately responsive to your needs and it is important that you continue to communicate with those caring for you. If the level of caring you receive feels insufficient or inauthentic, you can decide to either let someone know how this feels, or find another/additional professional/treatment alternative.
9. You do not need to suffer. Not even a little bit. There are more and more healthcare professionals who understand that new mothers are at risk for serious depression and anxiety disorders. Help is out there. Do what you need to do to help yourself get the help you need and deserve.
You will feel like yourself again.