A lot of the shorthand in the online community talks about our “triggers”. It took me a while to realize that a trigger was a physical or emotional response to some type of stimuli.
One of the biggest contributors to my anxiety still continues to be noise. If the noise reaches a certain level, I lose my ability to think or concentrate. This aversion to loud noises began shortly after Skeeter was born. She had a very loud cry that was almost like a shout. It would startle both my husband and I awake. It would evoke that fight or flight response in me. My heart would be pounding in my ears, and my breathing would be shallow. I would be sitting bolt upright before I even realized that I was awake.
In my darkest moments, I remember sitting in the corner with my arms hugging my body into a ball. I would beg Skeeter with the same phrase over and over “please don’t cry, please don’t cry”. I could barely manage to take care of her without breaking down myself. If she was screaming, I would get anxious and tense. I would be unable to respond quickly enough to meet her needs. If she was screaming like that, it was so difficult for me to discern what she needed. All I could hear was the noise. I was unable to decide if she was hungry, wet, tired or needed comfort. In that respect I felt like a new parent all over again. I needed some time to process and make a decision. I felt pressure to make a quick decision so I would be responding quickly and appropriately. I would get angry and frustrated with myself because I did not know how to handle my own child.
I didn’t realize at the time that I had postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. I just thought that having two children simply overwhelmed me. I wanted so much to be the perfect mom to both of my girls. I did not want either of them to have to wait for anything. I wanted to be able to meet and even anticipate their needs. What was missing in all of this? It was me and my needs. In my need to be perfect, I was not taking any time to tend to my own needs. I was suffering from fatigue, insomnia and stress.
Now if I get overwhelmed with the girls running around and shouting, I take a step back. I ask them each to repeat their questions or requests. I then determine which need is most urgent. They have learned how to share my time and attention, and they have learned how to be patient.
If I could say anything to that mom crying in the corner, it would be some words of wisdom that I learned from the lovely Lauren Hale of http://mypostpartumvoice.com/. I would say to myself “Jen, you are okay. You are not alone, and you are not to blame.” You will get better once you get help.