Mental health is not one-size-fits-all.
My postpartum mental health landed more toward the “postpartum anxiety” end of the spectrum. It took me a long time to seek help, because I felt like things were only serious if I had a suicidal thought.
My actual hallmark symptoms were irritability, the longevity of it, and disturbing thoughts about accidentally harming my children.
Eventually, the lack of sleep and anxiety felt so overwhelming that I started looking for a way to make it stop, but it never felt like something I was capable of, or sincerely wanted.
It felt more like a wish for quiet.
Which isn’t something I love talking about, but I wanted to point out that mental health and postpartum mental health are not one-size-fits-all.
I knew all of the technical “signs” of postpartum depression, and I never felt like that applied to me.
Everyone is different, and I don’t want to downplay more critical experiences, but I wanted to point this out, because I wish I had gotten help sooner!
Sometimes, the battle is ongoing.
Last month, I had my first similar suicidal thoughts since my postpartum depression days – not something I actually planned or wanted, but my body’s way of trying to make the anxiety stop.
After some deep breaths, I told my husband and scheduled an appointment with my therapist.
She had some amazing suggestions!
*Please don’t mistake this for psychological advice or medical care that fits your needs. If you know me, you know how much I believe in therapy. One of the biggest reasons for that is because they are trained professionals who know exactly what to look for, how to assess risk, and what your options really are.
But, I feel like her advice was something we all need, especially right now, so I wanted to share!
The number one fear I had was what if.
I’ve never been so grateful for all of my practice in self-awareness, but, what if, I hadn’t been coherent enough to call myself out and get help?
The me in that moment wanted to do something the me now logically knows I would never want to follow through on.
I asked my therapist, in tears, “What about next time? What do I do?”
She estimated that probably 98% of her clients experience similar thoughts about “making it stop”, but continued:
Thoughts are not fact – let them come, so that they will go. And remind yourself of that.”
Creating A Mental Health “Emergency First Aid Kit”
She then suggested creating a mental health “emergency first aid kit”.
She explained, sometimes, anxiety causes our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode so often, that after “fighting” for extended periods of time, it chooses flight.
However, because thoughts are not fact, we aren’t always honest with ourselves about the full scope of our options.
So, we need to have options on hand!
My mental health emergency kit looks like this:
Breathing is something I’ve already been using, but my therapist explained that it works because oxygen to the brain is one of the fastest ways to chemically pull our brains out of fight-or-flight mode.
Makes sense, right?!
Give it a try!
My challenge to you this week is to sit down and make your own mental health “first aid kit”, if you haven’t already.
Self-care isn’t about what’s on your list; it’s about the intentionality you bring to the table, and giving yourself the tools you need to do that, especially when it doesn’t come easily.
Here’s to tools, and to being there for each other.
You are never alone.