No one ever warned you about this. No one told you that you were vulnerable from the moment you saw the positive pregnancy test. But here you are; rock bottom, the lowest of lows…the saddest and scariest place you’ve ever been. But this is reality. You’re here and you’ve decided to ask for help, GOOD FOR YOU! Time to put on that armor and fight for your life.
Since you probably weren’t expecting this, it’s hard to know where to go first. You cover your bases – OB, primary care…you know you really need to talk to someone and frantically Google therapists and psychiatrists nearby. What you’re feeling is urgent and real.
OB is too busy and you can’t get an appointment for 3 weeks…
Primary care doctor tells you this is just the baby blues…
Therapist can’t see you for another 4 weeks…
Psychiatrist can’t see you for another 5 weeks…
But you are hanging on by.a.thread.
You are playing the waiting game. The space between realizing this is bigger than you and the time where you can connect with the help that you so desperately want and need. You’re terrified. Holding your breath. Fearful that you can’t wait that long. You are not alone!
If you’re reading this, you’re lucky. Because that means you’ve found Moms Mental Health Initiative. It means that you’ve likely been connected with resources near you and that you’ve been given access to a peer support network of moms on a similar journey. Suddenly, there is hope.
But you still may be left with a wait. Whether that is hours or days, how do you fill that time? Here are some things that have been helpful for this struggling mama:
- SELF-CARE: You might be thinking that taking time for yourself is selfish. Or, maybe you tell yourself that you have a newborn and all this comes with the territory. But I encourage you to think of the safety instructions before a flight: “the passenger should always fit his or her own mask on before helping children, the disabled, or any persons requiring assistance.” You can’t take care of anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself. What does this mean to you? Maybe it’s a walk outside, a 5 minute guided meditation or a few minutes reading a book you enjoy. Whatever it is, make time for it. You do deserve it and it’s essential.
- MINDFULNESS: This takes dedication and practice. My OCD loves to latch on to the “what-if’s” and mindfulness is often able to shut that down. An exercise that has been helpful for me is the 5 Senses Exercise. The idea is to ground yourself in the present moment through the five senses. Start by sitting upright, rest your hands on top of your thighs, and make sure you’re comfortable. Next, breathe slowly and deeply. Focus in on the 5 senses one by one: hearing, smell, sight, taste, touch. Try to find 3-5 things that you can partner with each of the senses. If you get distracted, that’s okay, just start again.
- TIP: YouTube offers many videos guiding you through this exercise if that is helpful for you!
- BEHAVIORAL ACTIVATION: Essentially, Behavioral Activation is doing the opposite of what you feel like doing. When depression hits, even the smallest of tasks can seem insurmountable. Call a friend, go for a walk or (depending on where you are) this might even mean getting out of bed or taking a shower. That’s okay. The key is to challenge yourself and go against the scary, negative feelings you are feeling. By doing this, you are proving to yourself that it’s possible one step at a time.
- SELF-COMPASSION: Self-compassion has been a hard lesson for me. However, through my journey, I’ve come to realize just how critical self-compassion is. We all have hard days, we all make mistakes, we all wish we’d handled certain things differently. In those moments, what would you say to a friend? How would you comfort or support them? Why do you deserve any different? The next time you notice negative self-talk, try to shift the perspective and treat yourself like you would a dear friend.
- GRATITUDE: I wish I had a nickel for everytime someone told me to start a gratitude journal! In a very dark time, I decided I had nothing to lose and started each day by writing 3 things I was grateful for on a notebook beside my bed. What I soon realized is that the entries didn’t need to be profound or life-changing. Some days, I wrote that I was thankful for ice cream or the smell of my babies’ shampoo and those are 100% valid!
- MOMENT BY MOMENT: Waiting will likely not be easy (boy, I have been there!). When things seem hopeless, the best advice I can give is to take it moment by moment. Remember that two opposite things can be true at the same time: “Right now I am struggling but I have taken action to get the help I need”. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself and focus on what is right in front of you.
I wish I could hit the fast-forward button because I’ve been where you are and it is absolutely agonizing. But hopefully the tips above and even just knowing you aren’t alone gives you some comfort. Above all else, be kind and gentle to yourself. Remind yourself that (even though you might not believe it right now) you are incredible, you are strong and you WILL get better!
-Written by Alexis Bruce