Christmas time is approaching. The cups at Starbucks are now red, stores are selling stocking stuffers, treats to bring to the next gathering, and are blasting holiday tunes. You probably have an image in your head of what you wanted this season to look like; longing to experience the joy with the new member of your family this year. However, what if you can’t seem to shake the pain off? Do you want to break down every time someone wishes you well this holiday season?
Motherhood is hard.
Mother hood gets more challenging with postpartum blues and it’s more intense emotions. During the holidays, the sadness or anxiety can be especially tricky. You are confronted on all sides by the cheery goodness of the season. With each passing holiday party, you may feel obligated to look and feel a certain way for your loved ones. Wearing a mask to veil your true feelings can be exhausting enough. Throw in an extended family visit with little to no privacy and it can completely knock you out.
So, you’re on your way to visit family, or you feel obligated to host again because it’s tradition you’re trying to hold together. All the music, food, and gatherings just aren’t appealing to you this year. On the other hand maybe you are getting intensely wrapped up in the hustle and bustle trying to escape your feelings. What can you do to help yourself when this season of abundance is draining you dry?
Identify Your Symptoms & Acknowledge Your Feelings.
Symptoms that last longer than two weeks post delivery may be a sign of postpartum depression or another postpartum mood disorder. Women who had anxiety or depression before giving birth are at a higher risk. Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety include: guilt, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in activities, mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety, sadness, anger and irritability, difficulty sleeping, and intrusive thoughts.
Do you feel guilty that you’re not happy? Are you sad that you feel guilty? Stressed that you didn’t get the perfect Christmas card picture? Anxious about what the house looks like, if the kids are having a good time, if you can make it one more day without collapsing? There are many ways postpartum stress, depression, and anxiety presents itself. These may change with the added stress of the holidays. Pay attention to your feelings, acknowledge that they are there. Try not to burry them. We might call it the best time of the year, but it just might not feel like that for you.
Embrace Your Limits and Create an Exit Strategy.
Maybe every other year you can handle this season with grace. However, this year might be different. What are your limits? Have you set an boundaries to protect yourself this year? Speak to a close friend or family member that typically spends the holiday with you. Create an exit strategy. Use a code word. Block off a safe space in the house that is specifically for you this year.
Find a Counselor & Speak Your Truth.
Coping with postpartum depression by yourself can be a lot like being dropped off in the middle of the ocean with no life jacket. Add in supporting a baby while you tread water. You do not have to suffer alone. A counselor can help you acknowledge your feelings, embrace your limits, create an exit strategy and speak your truth. Find that place where you can speak your truth. Where you can say the scary, hard, and dreadful things aloud. This isn’t your forever. It does not define you. It’s ok momma. You don’t have to hide.
You do not have to be jolly for the season’s sake and you don’t have to pretend. If you miss being jolly, come visit. I am happy to bring you a life boat, and help you climb in, so that you can safely make it back to shore. You have made it this far, you can do this!
For more information on coping with postpartum depression and anxiety or other questions relevant to any therapeutic topic, we are here to help! Please contact Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832-421-8714.
Written by Sarah Dailey