Week 24: "Your baby is about eight-and-a-half inches long (standard letter size!) and weighs one-and-a-half pounds... Is your baby a brunette, a blonde or a redhead? Actually, right now her locks are white since there's no pigment yet."
Not exactly sure how to start this, so let's just dive right in there, warts 'n all. I've lived with General Anxiety Disorder my whole life, something which only became apparent to me after the birth of my first daughter. When the district nurse was describing the symptoms of anxiety and post natal depression, and "what to keep an eye on", I was thinking, "But sure that's how I feel all the time - but with added panic attacks." Then, as usual, the thought was put to one side - to make room for more incessant, needless thoughts that seem to badger the brain 24/7.
The fact that I've got GAD isn't exactly surprising. My mother, despite her best efforts to hide it and carry on regardless, suffered from her "nerves". Dad was "fond of the jar", so growing up wasn't plain sailing. On top of the genetic predisposition and several external factors / life situations - too lengthy and personal to go into here - it wasn't exactly surprising that I found myself at the GP a week after miscarrying back in August. Enough was enough. I was put on 10mg of Lexepro, which did make a difference to my mood. I felt "light" for the first time (after a number of weeks, I hasten to add). And then the heaviness came back again... As it turns out, I was pregnant again, so the hormones were all over the shop.
I decided - with the advice of a GP and a mental health practitioner - to come off the medication as the dosage wasn't making much of a difference anyway, and personally didn't feel equipped to deal with the feelings a change in dosage can bring. But I was scared (more than usual).
The upside to the all encompassing morning sickness that followed, however, was that it seemed to take the edge off the anxiety. Such was the concentration required to not spew, it took my mind off the incessant rumination of negative thoughts. There was a different perma-sick feeling gripping the belly.
Once the nausea lifted, however, the anxiety and general 'FEAR' came back with a bang. Hormones. According to my GP the surge of HCG and oestrogen can cause anxiety in those prone to it during pregnancy. The good news is that it generally subsides a bit around week 20.
Knowing it was "just hormones" did help with rationalising the feelings. This was "normal" for me. It wasn't going to be forever, but man was I finding it hard to cope. My usual first port of call when anxiety takes over is self-medication. Gimme wine and lots of it. Obviously this isn't a longterm solution by any means (and leads to its own issues), especially not when you're pregnant.
Through talking to my doctor and a CBT counsellor she referred me to, we came up with a few things to alleviate the symptoms.
* Rescue Remedy: Obviously don't be downing bottles of it because there is alcohol present, but I find it helps to momentarily take the edge off while also settling my stomach. Check with your doctor beforehand, but my GP said it was OK!
* The 7/11 or Belly Breath: Breathe into your belly for 7 seconds, and then breathe out for 11 seconds. Do this ten times in a row. It does calm you down. Feel free to incorporate your pelvic floor exercises - two birds ;-)
* Mindfulness: There is a rake of free apps to choose from. The sleep ones are especially helpful if you can't unwind at night.
* Exercise: Walking, swimming, prenatal yoga and pilates, whatever works best for you.
* Counselling / talking to a friend: When you hear yourself articulate your worries, it helps rationalise them. Look into CBT counselling. If you can't afford it, ask your GP if there's anyway you can access a CBT counsellor via the public system. My counsellor is a trainee and she's made a HUGE difference.
* Write down your anxieties, and postpone them to a certain time: Sounds ridiculous, but this helps stop the incessant rumination of worries. When a worry comes to the fore, acknowledge it, write it down in one sentence, and then designate a time when you're going to "worry" about it. Forget about it until that time. You'll be surprised just how many of those "worries" have dissipated when you get to "worry time."
* Download a pic of "The Worry Tree" and stick it on your fridge.
I hope this has helped some, and sorry it's so brief. It's something that requires a lot more time to address, and hopefully I'll get to do that at a later date; currently 5 minutes late to pick up the child from play school!
What do you do to help beat stress and anxiety? All feedback appreciated.