The following essays were sent to us by a grateful Yad Rachel client who struggled with and overcame postpartum anxiety.
Feel free to respond, comment and share your thoughts!
Please note: All views and opinions expressed do not necessarily state or reflect those of Yad Rachel.
Until I was faced with the challenge of anxiety, I viewed the term anxiety and depression as a scary mental disorder that only happens to “someone” else. While experiencing the symptoms, the actual word anxiety and panic were so provoking that just reading or hearing THAT word caused my mind to go into a tizzy. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office when the screen flashed the words “Anxiety” with strange pictures following. Instinctively, my blood pressure went up and my body broke out in a sweat. My “escape- panic” emotions engulfed me as I tried to stay composed in public. It took me quite some time to relax my mind and return to my normal self. After searching for a solution to prevent my intense reaction, it occurred to me that just by mentally switching the word anxiety to “a flash of worry that will soon dissipate,” made a world of a difference. I realized that the word anxiety automatically triggered thoughts of abnormal people and a subconscious fear that I’ve just joined them. This led my mind to images of extreme scenarios and ridiculous imaginations. My simple adjustment of viewing THE WORD as a worry some thought that everyone experiences, enabled me to lose the fear of viewing myself and the word anxiety in an unrealistic way.
P.S. In hindsight, my view of anxiety was totally wrong. I used to think it was a condition or mental disorder that attacks you when you’re stuck. Now, I can laugh back and realize that it really is a negative thought that snowballs. It’s a bad habit of the mind that can be readjusted by training yourself (at length) to think in a healthy, truthful & positive way.
You Are Your Own Best Friend
During one of my attacks, I was talking on the phone with one of my “support” friends. I was fervently hoping that she will tell me the magical words that will make my anxiety disappear. She really tried hard and spoke logically. She put her entire heart and soul into the conversation and continuously reassured and promised me that I will be fine. However, the reassurance and calm mind only lasted as long as the phone call. Once I hung up, my illogical fears and intense panicky emotions started exploding again. I stared helplessly at the phone wishing I could call her right back, yet I was too embarrassed and emotionally drained. My self-esteem was too low and hollow to risk making myself more needy than I was already. I just couldn’t take her powerful words and internalize it. I just didn’t know how to rebuild my inner- self that has crumbled beyond recognition. As warm tears of despair washed over my face, I came to a crystal clear realization that I am the ONLY one who can make a true impact on myself. I would have to learn how to soothe my fears with honest and encouraging words. I would have to learn how to relax my inner turmoil by using positive self-talk and strengthening my emunah and bitachon until I felt Hashem’s love and kindness to me through powerful phrases and “pesukim” (For ex: ״ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה׳…״ or ״בא מינתך יחי׳ה צדוק״). Coming to this deep understanding that I had to build myself and I had to develop the inner strength of believing that Hashem is the only One capable of causing good or hardship to befall me was my very first stepping stone in recovering from my ridiculous fears. Knowing to believe in HIM and recognize that He has only my best interest in mind was a crucial piece in viewing any situation as GOOD. Releasing my need to understand and letting Him be in CONTROL enabled me to relax and start taking a back seat while enjoying the ride.
P.S. When I hit my rock bottom and started having anxiety and panic attacks, I purchased the Lucinda Basset Recovery Program. It took a tremendous amount of self-control and hard work to follow through on a daily basis. I was very determined and very successful. I realized that what I need most was directions in how to help myself. There are certain things in life that no-one can do for you, and re framing your mind must come within!
Let’s Talk Practical:
I know the mood when it comes.
…..Those anxious, irritable, fearful & fragile thoughts that threatens to kill your day. They won’t just go away. Your daily activities, and typical schedule that you usually enjoy seem dull and uninviting. It’s like your mind has been kidnapped by negative and helpless thoughts. My logic knows to let the feeling float and not take it hard, yet my emotions take me over.
Here are some tips I’ve used to help me pass through “those moments”. Many of these ideas are not my own, and were taken from books, programs or good friends.
a) Get involved in housework, a project, or any activity that requires quick movement, or release of energy.
b) Connect with the outside world (positive people only) through the phone, shopping, errand or a brisk walk with a partner.
c) Fill your mind with light cheerful and humorous thoughts and stay far away from any negative reading material, especially on the topic of mental health.
d) Listen to great music. Open your positive energy channels by singing along.
e) Avoid dwelling and analyzing about what you’re thinking- just go light and easy.
f) Strengthen and inspire another person in pain and you’ll become stronger in the process.
g) Use this opportunity to Daven. Disconnect yourself from the entire world and download every feeling, thought, and emotional pain to your creator. It’s so therapeutic and beneficial. It’s amazing how long it took me to realize the very same Ribbono- Shel- Olam- who gives me my health, parnassa, children and everything else, is also in charge of my moods. He knows how very difficult your situation is. He’s waiting to hear from you and has the power to change it!
h) Stop viewing yourself as a “situation”. Look at the total picture and realize that everybody has negative moments that come and go.
i) Create an honest picture of yourself and your thoughts. When you perceive your negative moment a black dot on a beautiful picture that includes your gifts of life, you will feel less threatened by them. Keep verbalizing and listing details within your gifts especially those which we tend to take for granted. (for ex. My baby has the softest most beautiful color skin with long gorgeous eye lashes. She’s so…)
j) Write out your thoughts with every detail; describe it as clear as possible. It will help you release some pressure.
It’s fascinating to watch the ocean waves calmly moving its way to shore and slowly blending itself into the sand. I’ve been thinking about waves and how they work ever since I’ve heard a speech that describes emotional outbursts as waves in a storm. It was a moment of truth that flashed through my mind. What a great metaphor! I think of the times when my mind gets an anxious feeling or though and it triggers such threatening and insecure feelings all over. It all starts as a wave- a silly thought that I fall prey to. Then I start reasoning and fighting with it only to create more barriers for the waves to deal with. If only I can view it as a splashing wave from a big boat nearby, the thought will surely subside. The very first rule when a ship faces strong waves is turn off the motor and let it float. It would surely be ridiculous for a captain to speed through the stormy violent water verses waiting patiently in his boat till its calm.
So… I’m learning.
I’m learning to be like a captain who views my negative or anxious thoughts as waves amidst a huge ocean.
I’m learning to patiently wait for the storm to subside before I try to fight it.
And most of all, I’m learning to float through the feeling, how uncomfortable as it may feel, knowing in my heart, that all waves subside and all emotions as well!