on triggers and the continuum of better

Most days I think about my postpartum depression and anxiety maybe twice. Both of them usually in relation to this sweet baby and how I will not let myself go without help again if my depression flares up after he is born. They are fleeting thoughts, but they are thoughts I need to have to prepare myself. They are healthy thoughts.

That is most days.

Some days, it’s like I have taken 8 steps backwards. These are not just “bad motherhood days”, no, I have those too and my PPD/PPA will still only cross my mind a couple of times. No, there are days where every other 30 minutes I have to ask myself “is she back?” One of those days was yesterday.

Yesterday was a fairly normal day, but I was the variable. Little things that OBaby would do on any given day (read: toddlerhood and testing the waters) had me all tied up in knots, even furious. I survived the day, keeping my frustration and illogical reactions mostly at bay (from the outside at least – in my head? They were prominent). Then, while I was cooking dinner, giving myself ample servings of negative self-talk, bemoaning how I am never going to be able to survive life with two children (RED FLAG! RED FLAG!), OBaby got a boo-boo. He had pinched some skin on the palm of his hand pretty good, and he was distraught.

DanO took care of him, got him all kissed and band-aided up, but OBaby remained off-kilter for the rest of the evening. Anytime something – including dinner – touched his palm he sc.re.am.ed. screeeeeamed.

The screaming did me in. I was already teetering on the edge of snapping, what with the self-talk and the short temper, but the screaming was my trigger. It always has been.

The fear, irrational fear, of OBaby’s crying as an infant was what would petrify me. It was what caused anger and anxiety and irrationality to bubble up from my gut and come spilling over out of my thoughts, words and actions. It physically affected me.

Like it did last night. I ran, as I always had, but this time not out of the house. Praise God, this time I did not feel the need to flee. This time I went simply to my bedroom and closed the door. The boys ate dinner alone and I looked for peace in the pattern of my sheets.

As I laid there, I had to ask myself, “Am I actually better?” I mean, here I was, almost 1 year post diagnosis and starting treatment, acting like I did a year ago.

BUT. I wasn’t. I wasn’t at all acting like I did a year ago. My decision to walk away before things got bad, my decision to simply go into my room and close the door (without slamming it!), my ability to recognize the screaming as my trigger in this situation, my state of mental self-awareness, my general rationality about the whole thing – these are tools I did not have a year ago. I could not have told you what was wrong or what was making me act ‘crazy’, let alone deal with it in an appropriate way a year ago. A year ago I kicked a hole in our wall and ran from our house in my slippers (in the snow).

I can’t pretend to understand how much of last night was impacted by pregnancy hormones, nor can I make any predictions about what will happen postpartum this time, but I can tell you that I have so much hope. Weird, that a trigger and a flare up in my anxiety would leave that impression, but it has. It has left me knowing just how much better I am.

O, friends. Better is better. Better may not be cured and better certainly isn’t perfect, but better – praise God – is so, so much better.


40 Responses to “on triggers and the continuum of better”

  1. Vanderbilt Wife

    I’m glad you wrote this.

    I have a history of depression so I took Zoloft during my pregnancy and just didn’t stop. I am too afraid of PPD and at too high a risk for it. But reading this I wonder if my inability to handle certain situations (and yes, with two kids, it is definitely escalated) is a sign of some lurking PPD that is not zapped out by my dosage.

    Thank you, sincerely. I’ve never heard anyone put it like this.


  2. kerANDuh from Mommyhood

    Thank you for this. Though I don’t have PPD, I am definitely at risk for it and I want to keep myself in check to do everything I can to not feel that way. I can understand how you feel with the screaming. There are times when I can’t handle it anymore and I have to hand my son over to my husband and retreat to my bathtub. I always feel bad about locking the door and taking a few minutes to myself, but I realize that it’s the best thing because it stops me from reacting badly to the situations!

    Again..thank you for this post!!

  3. Annie

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing these feelings. It helps to be aware of triggers. Knowing when to walk away is so important. And KNOWING that it is OKAY is huge.

  4. Lani

    You’re awesome! I love your honesty and the fact that I always find comfort and encouragement when I read your posts. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Britt @ The MamaZine

    In rough moments the screaming sound is the one that makes me crack. There are times when I feel like that sound has crawled inside my soul.

    I know I’ve said it before but thank you for coming to this space and continuing to share so candidly with us. Not all of us can write things like this, but so many of us need to read it. I’m so glad you are on the better side of things!

  6. themanager

    i love your honesty. there are times that the noise, mess & needs are just to much for me. thankfully, i have a husband who can take over for me while i put myself back together. i’m not perfect. i’m not always what i want to be. but, i go into each day knowing i will try to do the best i can.

    which is also the best thing for everyone! if mamas happy, so is everyone else :)

  7. kim

    Knowing what your triggers are, being aware of how you feel and acknowledging it IS healing. Planning for how you will feel and react with this new baby IS healing. Good for you!!

  8. Katherine at Postpartum Progress

    Can I just add that while it may seem that a year post diagnosis is a long time, in the world of PPD it isn’t. I’m so glad you could recognize that you weren’t getting triggered to go back to PPD, but instead being reminded of what a terrible experience it was. You are still SO close to that experience. So close. But you ARE better.

  9. molly

    wow, I had no idea. I’m glad you recognized your triggers and did what was best for you. It will not be the same experience. With those hard hard experiences, comes awareness and knowledge.

  10. Heather of the EO

    I still feel like I’m failing so much of the time…with depression, with how I get so tense and angry. But then I have to see that I’m not failing, I’m just being human. We live a daily grind that is in no way easy and our hormones and chemicals like to make it even harder (jerks) and so we just have to take care of ourselves sometimes. We just have to go in a room and close the door and thinkthinkthink. I used to feel so bad for even that (and still do sometimes) but it’s getting better. The lovely Ellie keeps saying things to me like “what you’re doing is simply self care,” and “be gentle with yourself.” You know what? That’s really hard for me. I feel like any kind of backing down or not being able to just rise above myself…is somehow failing. How silly for me to think that. I’m pretty sure I get stumped because I for some reason don’t think I “deserve” to be good to me in those ways…ways that are simply me relaxing or hiding or finding a bit of myself somewhere in the bed…
    anyway…it’s a looooong journey, but entirely necessary for the becoming of the mother I want to be.

    • Robin

      Heather, this is so true. I was just talking to my husband about this the other night and he was telling me to go upstairs when I get home from work if I’m not prepared for the loudness and chaos that is a 2.5 year old at 5:30 pm. I know it’s okay to do that, but it doesn’t make it any easier to do. I think of it as failing too. Next time I’ll think of your comment and try to view it differently.

  11. Nicole

    Thanks for sharing this, Allison. This is such a hard subject. I remember going through our birthing classes and hearing the presenters talk of PPD and warning husbands that they will be the first to notice and not to let it go unnoticed. I also remember thinking, that won’t happen to me. It did. I wouldn’t say I had a severe case of depression…probably more of the anxiety side of it. I was sometimes nervous and afraid to be alone with our baby, would dread hearing her cry, would feel like I was a failure if I didn’t meet the (way too high) expectations I set for myself and my day. I have even had the same thoughts as you…what will happen with the next child? It’s scary. I’m so glad you’re talking about it. I hate that it’s such a taboo subject because what really helps most is talking about it. Thanks again.

  12. Kaitlin Cole

    Praying for you (really, I am!). My sister in law had PPD with all 3 of her babes and I was so worried about it I felt like I was “waiting” for it to hit. By the grace of God it didn’t but I know how life shattering it can be. You are such a good mama and LOVE that boy(s) so much. I will pray more for you in this wonderful season (confess those things you want to have…right?) and I will pray for your husband that he would be FULL of grace, wisdom and patience!
    Thanks for sharing and being a real mama. I am so excited to read about baby #2!

  13. Nicole Drysdale-Rickman

    “O, friends. Better is better. Better may not be cured and better certainly isn’t perfect, but better – praise God – is so, so much better.” <—–these words- ring so true.

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing your heart with Blogland. :)

  14. Casey

    I felt like I was reading about my life in this post and it slapped me in the face… I read it to my husband and he agrees it’s time to get help. Thank you.

  15. Stephanie

    Thank you for writing and for sharing something so personal. I know it will help many people. I think the best thing we can do for our kids is exactly what you did last night – take care of yourself. There’s nothing to give if we don’t refill ourselves with peace, silence, and prayer when it’s needed. So much grace to be had when we listen to what we need and give ourselves permission to take a break and let God take care of us. Sometimes motherhood is so demanding and busy that we forget that we are children, too – God’s children who also need to be gently cared for.

  16. katie

    O Allison! Those nights with constant whining? They still send me in spirals. He cries. and cries. Carrots make him cry. milk instead of water make him cry. me not setting the blocks right make him cry. the cat giving him the side-eye makes him cry (ok, maybe not that last one). but you get it. I have learned to take a “time out” in my bedroom too. And sometimes? I just cool off without major sobbing…and I am not even pregnant.

    What terrifies me and has sent me into scary tears? When it happens when Cort isn’t around as backup. I had this happen last week Thursday during bedtime. I bawled to twitter. Then I picked myself up and tried bedtime for a fourth time.

    We keep going. Because God carries us.

    Love to you.

  17. Kimberly

    Thank you so SO much for sharing this. I am 2 years…yes 2 years into PPD battle and I am winning. It has been a very long recovery to say the least but my days? I own them now. Most days I own my feelings. But some days like you mention…triggers…send my head spinning. But I think it is so important like you said, to recognize how well we handle it now. We couldn’t do it a year ago or two years ago. That’s something to not only be proud of but to take hope in.
    Thanks girl for giving this girl inspiration ;)

  18. Catherine

    good to know someone else kicks (kicked) walls and slammed doors. thank you again for writing things like this. it’s more of a comfort than you know.

  19. Rose

    I’m pretty new to blogging and a very new reader but this was so honestly written I just had to let you know. Thank you. These things that are so hard to say are sometimes the most healing and important things to be said. One of my best friends struggled with PPD. And there is such a taboo about it. She always felt like she couldn’t talk about her feelings because other people would label her a bad mother. I really feel that the more PPD is talked about openly, the more we can protect mothers from feeling alone and desperate. Thank you. I hope better only continues to get better.

  20. Erin

    I want to echo many of the other comments here and include my “Thank you!” for your openness and honesty. I THINK I may be experiencing some PPD/PPA. (My son, Garrett, is almost 4 months old.) I have my second appt. with a counselor next week and am currently reading “This Isn’t What I Expected” by Karen Kielman and Valerie Raskin. It’s SO comforting to know that I am not alone in my struggle. Hang in there. I’ll hang in there, too. :-)

  21. Lisa H.

    I love your honesty. I’ll be praying for a clear head the second time around. I don’t think i was depressed after Jack, but his crying also affected me so much – I actually took every cry (and he was colicky for 10 weeks) SO PERSONALLY. I was sure it was because I wasn’t doing something right. You’re a great mom, with a great God, you’ll be just fine :-)

  22. Tina

    I too love your honesty and sharing this with us. I think as moms or even woman or even just as humans we often strive for perfection or the appearance of it. God though doesn’t expect perfection, he expects recognizing and improving, striving for baby steps. I love that you can recognize that in you! Take care. XOXOXO

  23. Amanda

    Thank you for being so real, Allison. I wish I had found your blog earlier, back when I was a new mama and had no mommy friends, and thought those anxious feelings meant I was going crazy and a bad mother. Things are mostly better now, 2 years later… but the whining and crying still get to me. I’m such an auditory person – music and words touch me and teach me, and yet sound can also be a source of such anxiety and stress. Sometimes it helps me to just talk myself through the stress aloud, or to keep talking to my son until he stops whining long enough to listen. :) But it’s also so good to give yourself permission to just walk away before blowing up. Sometimes I just lose it and yell, and then feel so horrible. But God is good and so forgiving. He knows the struggles of parenting all too well, and gives such grace. Ann Voskamp said something like “it’s not that we won’t mess up – we will. What matters is what we do after messing up”. What grace… God will teach our children through our humility, through our weakness and brokenness. May He be your strength, sweet mama. :)

  24. Julie

    This is beautifully written and so incredibly honest. I commend you for walking away before totally losing it, that shows courage when dealing with those struggles. Hang in there- I am so glad you have hope. God is totally in control of this!

  25. Ashley

    Thanks so much for sharing. I found your blog a few months ago, back when MODG was begging for votes to beat you in the pregnancy blog contest, and have loved your site ever since. I had been in denial about PPD, thinking that it couldn’t be true, my baby was 10 months old, it had to be something else. I feel like I found your site at exactly the right time, it helped me so much to read your first post on the subject and realize that maybe I wasn’t alone. It’s not a subject I felt comfortable talking about, because as silly as it sounds I thought it really was just something wrong with me. Anyways, all this to say thank you for your honesty.

  26. Elaine

    I was worried about what would happen when my second was born too. And speaking from experience, of course it can rear it’s ugly head but I think your body and mind just KNOW that you’ve done this before and you’re stronger. I personally, still took anti-depressants and then didn’t need anything when K (my third) was born. I think you’ll do better than you know also because you obviously KNOW what to do this time around. Hugs girl, it’s certainly a journey…

  27. Amy

    I am loving reading your blog. Thank you for sharing so openly about your PPD. It is really hard to have those thoughts (and days) that feel so much like being sick. Praise the Lord you can see through the fog and recognize that you *are* on that continuum of healing.

  28. Laura

    It is so hard to be honest, I LOVE and admire your honesty about these tough situations. Sometimes I feel on the verge of not so healthy actions but I too resort to leaving the room to cool off. It helps, but writing about it may be what really saves you. It will help you process your emotions in a healthy way and help you see the bigger picture. I wish I could be more honest on my blog, I care too much about what others think of me. You are creating a good connection between yourself, your own life and your readers which is most likely why your blog is so popular. I really admire you for that, so thank you again for opening up and making those of us who experience the same feelings not feel so alone.

  29. Suzanne from pretty*swell

    Beautiful post. You should be very proud of yourself — you HAVE come a long way since those early PPD days. You recognized the trigger and did something to help yourself — the best thing you could have done for you AND your family. I, too, am very worried about the newborn crying. But I’m hopeful that this next time around I’ll be able to keep in my head the fact that the crying WILL stop, things WILL get better. Thank you for sharing this! xo!

  30. Robin

    I’ve replied to a couple of other comments above, but just wanted to reply to the post itself :) Such a great post and I need to remember this as well. Lately I’ve been thinking that I’m not better at all – and if I looked back at a couple of my recent blog posts I’d probably be embarrassed thinking about my reactions in relation to the reasoned point of view you exhibit here. I’m better, too. Not ALL better, but better. Thank you for pointing that out.

  31. Marybeth

    I am right there! PPD/PPA. I have a 16 month old and a 2 month old, and some days I am on the verge of LOSING it. I can’t do it alone, but for some reason I am trying. Thank you for this post. I will be on the lookout for “triggers” and better ways to cope.


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