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What’s Wrong With Me? Why My Postpartum Anxiety Was Difficult to Diagnose

Today’s guest post is submitted by Stacey Ackerman, author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story

The first time I noticed something was wrong with me was three weeks postpartum. It was after the birth of my third child, so I felt pretty confident that I could handle this newborn thing. I woke up that morning feeling dizzy. The room started spinning. Everything felt sort of off balance and out of whack, but I couldn’t figure out why. I called my OB/GYN who thought the allergy medicine I had taken was making me drowsy, which seemed like a logical explanation.

Over the week, the dizziness came in spells. It would get really bad, making me feel like I was living in some kind of dream world, then I would feel okay for a few hours. I wasn’t feeling sad or depressed; just strange and surreal.

I called for a follow-up appointment to learn more about postpartum depression (PPD). I talked to a friend who had given birth two weeks before me and she was taking antidepressants. I didn’t feel like I was depressed, however, I just didn’t know why I felt so off.

The nurse asked me to step on the scale, and as I tried to, I started to collapse. The staff came rushing over and caught me. They decided to wheel me down to the emergency room of the hospital, which was connected to the clinic. The ER doc determined that I had mastitis, a breast infection that was very painful, but couldn’t find anything else physically wrong with me—despite the MRI’s, x-rays and other procedures that took place that day.

I went home where things went from bad to worse. Suddenly I became unable to focus. I didn’t even have enough concentration to sit down for dinner. I paced around my house chanting, “What’s wrong with me? Please help me, please help me!”

I knew something was drastically wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I had never heard of postpartum anxiety, and I didn’t have the classic case of PPD. My body felt like it was fighting itself, an intermixing of sped up and slowed down, like a bad alcohol and caffeine collision. I felt this strange sensation running through my body, like the adrenaline rush you get when riding a rollercoaster.

I’ve now learned that what I was feeling was actually anxiety and panic. I was hospitalized for 12 days in the Behavioral Health Unit at the hospital. I was diagnosed with severe PPD, anxiety and panic disorder with psychotic features.

Today it is my mission to bring awareness to the less commonly diagnosed postpartum mood disorders. No woman should have to hit rock bottom before learning what is really wrong with her.

Check back throughout the week for more on postpartum anxiety.

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