Please note that I’m not a doctor and can’t help diagnose postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. This is simply me sharing a little of my personal experience and journey.
What’s Wrong With Me?
I’m a first-time mom with about six months of experience at the toughest, most wonderful job in the world. I had always heard it was hard work, that it was life-changing, that it was the most love you would ever experience. All of that is true in ways I didn’t fully understand before living it.
What I didn’t expect was the amount of heartache, exhaustion and crazy emotions I would experience after I had my sweet baby. The first month was ok-ish. I was exhausted (what new mom isn’t?), my baby had acid reflux and would scream and scream for hours until we could finally get her settled down. At the same time, I was in love with this little human I had labored so hard to bring into the world. But things just kinda went downhill for me emotionally after that. All the while I was determined to push through, determined that I could do this mom thing and do it well. Trying to keep my normal optimism.
That optimism eventually crashed completely. I felt heavy. On edge. Sometimes my thoughts race like crazy and I can’t shut them down or redirect them to something positive. Literally, sometimes it feels like my chest is constricting and I can’t breathe. My brain sometimes feels like it shuts down and can’t think of anything to say to those around me … I can only focus on getting the one task in front of me complete, even if it’s packing the diaper bag. Sometimes I feel incapable of doing even that. Other times I feel such a heavy weight that I don’t want to get out of bed.
At first, I attributed all this to lack of sleep … then I started thinking something was seriously wrong with me.
It wasn’t until early in January that I read a post that caused me to realize that I was dealing with postpartum depression. And during more research, I realized I also had the symptoms of postpartum anxiety. (I definitely had anxiety about clicking the publish button on this post!)
It was something of a relief to come to that conclusion.
I wasn’t going crazy. I wasn’t losing it. I was just dealing with something that was normal — as awful as that normal is. It’s something that I can take steps to address and help. I did some more research and then reached out to some other moms I knew to see if they had been there. To learn that I wasn’t alone. To get advice. It was a tough step, but I have personally seen what happens when someone close to me didn’t get help for their depression and I didn’t want to be like that.
Why do I share all of this?
Because I know I’m not the only one in this dark, tough place. Because, if you’re reading this and you also have dealt with, or are dealing with, postpartum depression or anxiety … I want you to know that you aren’t alone either.
Because I hope it will encourage you, even just a little.
Because there are things that I am trying to do to overcome this. To recover.
One of those things is writing this blog post. Writing is a kind of therapy for me. Sewing is my other therapy.
The Benefits of Sewing
With a six-month-old, sewing doesn’t always happen! But I am trying to make time for it. It’s a form of self-care.
I’m trying harder to take care of myself. To get sleep even with insomnia. (Why does that even have to be a thing for an exhausted mom?! :D) I’m trying to make time every day to do things that help me relax and de-stress. Being creative and sewing is one of those things.
So, why does sewing actually help? Is there science behind the “Sewing is my Therapy” phrase?
Dopamine is a natural anti-depressant that our brains produce when we do something that brings us pleasure.
I don’t know about you, but (most of the time) sewing definitely brings me pleasure. There is something very rewarding about creating something with your own two hands. And the feeling when you’ve completed a project is so wonderful!
During the creativity of sewing, I can get lost in the process and lose track of time … at least until my baby girl needs fed! She doesn’t let me forget. 🙂
It’s during those sewing times that I feel my stress levels drop. I’m creating something beautiful … and my brain is producing dopamine to combat my depression.
Fight or Flight
I have noticed that I feel much more relaxed when sewing. I can unwind.
The fight or flight response is something I have definitely experienced lately. But sewing actually reduces that! Because I am focused on what I’m doing while I’m creating, and I’m enjoying it, my brain can’t focus on all its worries, so my anxiety is lessened! Science shows that while you are creating something by sewing or knitting your brain goes into a state of ‘flow’ and quiets that fight or flight response.
Be Kind To Yourself
Being a new mom and dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression is a journey. I didn’t expect the depression and anxiety part of my story. Regardless, I am learning more and more that I need to take care of myself so I can take care of my family. I’m better company for my family when I’m relaxed instead of tense from anxiety.
If you are dealing with depression or anxiety, I feel your pain. It does hurt. Sometimes more than we can express. I don’t have all the answers, but know that you’re not alone.
Take care of yourself.
Find ways to get more sleep, to eat well and find other moms to visit with — so you feel human again.
Go out for coffee.
Enjoy a cup of tea and a book.
Try not to stress about the messy house.
Do some sewing and enjoy the benefits of the dopamine and lowered stress levels.
I know that each of those things can be hard to do with a new baby or especially with multiple kids. But even if it’s five or ten minutes a day, find ways to relax.
Most of all, be very kind to yourself. Being a mom is truly one of the hardest jobs out there. But snuggle your little ones and know that you are the mom they need.
You brought something beautiful and amazing into the world when you gave birth.
So take care of yourself. And take another step …
If you have dealt with postpartum depression or anxiety, what are some things that have helped you?