Postpartum Anxiety & Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Anxiety & Postpartum Depression

I have been wanting to write about this for a while, but I've been avoiding it because part of me felt ashamed. I didn't want my friends and family to know what I was going through because I didn't want extra attention, and I didn't want anyone else to think they failed me or weren't doing enough to help me. I also have trouble accepting the fact that I was diagnosed with PPA and PPD and don't feel like I know enough to share this information. Recently a friend shared her story with PPD and I've been feeling a nudge to share mine, too. I don't claim to know everything about this subject and I'm definitely not an expert, but I thought that maybe if I share my story and some of the information that I found that pushed me to reach out to my doctor, I could help someone else do the same.


About 4 months after giving birth to Rowan, I started to look into therapy options. Rowan had been in the NICU since birth and we would be taking him home in the next few months. I started to become more anxious the more I thought about and planned for this transition and I knew I needed help to prepare myself. By the time I found a therapist that seemed to be a good fit for me, it was almost time to bring Rowan home and I didn't want to see this therapist only once or twice and then move 3 hours away and have to start over. So I chose to wait until we transitioned home and got settled.
In November, after about 2 months of being home with our sweet little boy, I was struggling and decided to find a therapist near my home. I found one close by and met with her about 4 times, but it just didn't feel "right". It wasn't comfortable and I dreaded going because she made me feel like I was just being dramatic and that's not the kind of therapist I wanted help from. I stopped going to therapy and decided that I would just figure things out on my own because things weren't "that bad".
At this point, I was one of those moms who thought she didn't need medication; who thought, "I know I'm anxious and a little sad, but I definitely don't have PPD or PPA". In January, I finally broke down to the point where I knew something had to change. I can remember the night so clearly in my mind when I wrote this journal entry on January 15, 2020:
"For some reason, I just feel like writing. I feel full to the brim with thoughts and questions and need to pour some of them out. I feel so full I can’t breathe, and so weighed down I feel smothered. I have this vision of myself underground in a cave with no way out. I’m sitting there looking up and wondering how I’m ever going to escape. Part of me wants out and part of me wants to stay there and hide. I’m stuck with no energy to get out and I don’t know how to get someone to help me. I’m afraid they won’t get it, that they will think I’m faking whatever it is that I’m feeling. I'm afraid they will think I’m overreacting or looking for attention. They won’t understand me. They don’t know how it feels. I wait and wait and pray and wait and nothing happens. I stare into the darkness and just wait. The cave begins to shrink and it shrinks until I feel like I have no room to move. And then I lose it. I explode from the inside out, all of my emotions and thoughts bubbling out in the form of anger, sadness, desperation.
I try to tell myself I’m okay and that this will pass. I sit alone and listen to music. I wait again. I wait to feel better. I decide to go to bed and get some sleep. I lay down and pull the covers over me. I stare up at the ceiling and beg God to help. I cry and I can’t stop. I have no idea why I’m crying, but it feels good. Like it's making some space inside of me. I wish someone knew I was crying so they could comfort me. But I don’t want anyone to see me crying because they’ll think I’m weak. Or crazy. Or both. I whisper to God, “Please help me. I need you.”
I think of my baby and wonder if he knows about me; if he can tell I’m sad, scared, falling apart. I wonder if he’s going to grow up thinking something is wrong with him because mommy is always sad. I don’t want him to blame himself. I don’t want him to think that I’m not happy because he is one thing that does make me happy. He is my light. But, then, why am I so sad?
I think of my husband and wonder if he thinks I’m crazy. I wonder if he loves me less because of how I am, always frustrated and upset. How could he love me if I don’t even feel like the same person I used to be?
I wonder who I am often. I wonder what happened to me. Why don’t I feel like myself? I used to be so happy, outgoing, fun… Now I feel overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, angry, scared, unsure. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to leave the house. Yet all I want is to talk to someone and get out of the house. How is that even possible? No wonder I can’t move. My mind is constantly telling me completely different things. It doesn’t stop running, but it’s going nowhere. I need space. I need peace. I need patience. I need love. I need grace.
I need the grace to work through this, to learn who I am again, to be a new mom. I need the patience to make mistakes, to fall and get back up again, to ask for help, to ask for space, not to feel pressured to do something. I need to fill my cup before pouring into others because lately, I’m running on an empty cup. Or even worse, a cup with one sip of old coffee left in it. Who wants that? Not me. Not my family. Not my friends. How do I find myself again? How do I laugh again? How do I create again? How do I feel content, happy, positive, at peace again? When was the last time I even felt that way? I need to find my heart in this mess."
And then, on February 4, 2020, I wrote:
"It’s happening again, one of those days. Actually a lot of those days in a row. When small things go wrong and I can’t contain my emotions. In my head, I'm constantly crying out for help saying, “I’m struggling,” but no one can hear me. I’ve told others I’m struggling and they don’t get it, but it helps that they know. It helps to talk about it to friends, but I always come back to this place. I feel like a failure; like something is wrong with me. My brain is not fully functioning. I’m so mentally exhausted that I’m not thinking straight and I'm forgetting simple things. I don’t know what to do. I want to be in control, but I want to let go at the same time. I want to be present, but I want to plan ahead at the same time. I want to stay in, but I need to get out. When will this feeling end?"
Reading these brings back some of those feelings all over again. It makes my heart race and my palms sweat. After I wrote these journal entries, I knew I needed to do something to make sure I was taking care of myself so that I could properly love and care for my family. I went to my PCP and asked my doctor what she suggested. She recommended therapy and told me that medication was an option if that was something I wanted to try. I was scared. I felt ashamed for even considering taking medication. But I knew after my experience so far with trying to find a therapist, I needed to try something different that would hopefully help quickly. I was prescribed a small dose of medication and decided to continue to look for a new therapist.
In February, I started going to a new therapist. I liked her better than the first one and felt much more comfortable. I still didn't feel completely understood, but at least I was able to talk to someone and get things off my chest. I only saw her about 5 times before COVID came along and I had to stop going. Thankfully, I am still taking the medication my doctor prescribed me and it has helped me IMMENSELY. I wish I would have considered it sooner than I did. I feel like a different person. Like a good mom and a fun, loving wife. I have more confidence, energy, and joy back in my life. I still have bad days, but the majority of my days are SO much better. I know medication isn't the only thing that helps PPA or PPD, but it's helping me and that's why I wanted to write this post. I still plan on going back to therapy in the future when I feel safe in the midst of COVID, but for now, I'm thankful that I chose to try medication.


Below I'm going to share some common symptoms for PPA and PPD that I've researched and found on other blogs and medical sites, and then share the specific symptoms I experience(d). First, I want to explain that you may not experience all of the symptoms listed below. You may experience just a few of them and you may not have others at all. Also, postpartum depression and anxiety are not just "a bad day". Women with PPD or PPA have some of these symptoms most of the time to the point where they make it very hard to do daily tasks or interfere with your relationships. Finally, if you have symptoms on both lists, it's not unusual.
Some common symptoms of postpartum anxiety are:
  • Excessive worry
  • Obsessing
  • Feelings of dread
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Tight chest and throat
  • Muscle tension
  • Shallow breathing
  • Imagining worst-case scenarios
  • Avoiding everyday situations because you fear for your baby
  • Being over-controlling
  • Needing constant reassurance
  • Checking things repeatedly
  • Panic attacks
I personally experienced many of these symptoms listed above, including excessive worry, obsessing, racing thoughts, trouble concentrating, memory problems, trouble falling and staying asleep, rapid heartbeat, tight chest, muscle tension, shallow breathing, avoiding everyday situations because you fear for your baby, being over-controlling, needing constant reassurance, and checking things repeatedly. My most common anxiety symptoms were racing thoughts, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, tight chest, rapid heartbeat, and shallow breathing.
Some common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you're not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
I also experienced many of these symptoms, including severe mood swings, excessive crying (or sometimes not being able to cry when I normally would), withdrawing from family and friends, inability to sleep, overwhelming fatigue, reduced interest and pleasure in activities I used to enjoy, intense irritability and anger, fear that I'm not a good mother, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, and inadequacy, diminished ability to think clearly, and anxiety attacks. My most common depression symptoms were severe mood swings, intense irritability, overwhelming fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, and inadequacy.
I felt the need to constantly be doing something; preparing medications, mixing formula, cleaning up toys, doing laundry, checking in with friends, calling supply companies, emailing Rowan's doctors, running errands. I wanted to get things done but there were days when I just couldn't get up off the couch. I constantly worried about Rowan and wondered if I was really good enough to take care of him at home by myself. When Rowan would cry, I would get so irritable because it made me feel like I wasn't doing a good job and that he needed something that I couldn't give him. I always felt exhausted, but couldn't sleep. Sometimes I would get headaches and blurry vision. Sometimes my heart would race, my chest would tighten, and my breathing would be shallow making it hard for me to take a full, deep breath in. I couldn't relax. I couldn't quiet my mind. I had this constant feeling of numbness and suffocation and I couldn't get away from it.
It's important to get help if you're experiencing anxiety or depression, especially if it's disrupting your sleep, you're constantly preoccupied with worries, if it's impacting your daily functioning or your relationships, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Please don't be afraid to reach out for help. If you don't have anyone to reach out to about this, feel free to send me a message! I'm happy to share more of my story if anyone wants to learn more.


I created a checklist of PPA and PPD symptoms with descriptions that might help you determine if you have either. I found the original version of this list before I reached out for help and it really helped me realize that I did have PPA and/or PPD and motivated me to seek help and make a change. This list is inspired by Katherine Stone's blog post on Postpartum Progress. The website is linked below if you want to check out her whole article!
c r e d i t:
+ Parents by Stacey Colino and Nicole Fabian-Weber
+ Postpartum Progress by Katherine Stone