Disclaimer: Has to be said just in case, I am not actually sleeping in the above photo 😉
Whether you have depression, rage or stress all of these things can go from bad to worse with the push of a button. Even without dealing with PPD many parents find that certain factors, when joined together create the perfect moment for an unplanned and later regretted action. You may find yourself crying over dishes, unable to hold your child with that affectionate touch, angry at the slightest mis-step of your toddler…whatever it is we need to talk triggers.
Identifying your triggers does not mean you won’t battle your depression daily, or not have to step away from your children when that rage begins to bubble, but it does mean we can help identify what makes it go from manageable to extreme and work together to have more good moments in a day than difficult.
This is honesty time. As I have battled my postpartum rage demon I have been watching my life closely. What do I eat, how much sleep did I get the night before, what does my home look like, what kind of mood are my children in, what is the weather like, how am I perceiving how I am being treated (notice I said perceiving, we usually do not perceive the reality when depressed), what other stress factors are high right now eg. unpaid bills, business annoyances, uncontrollable circumstances with other humans. These things matter folks! Some things will need to change, which is where the honesty comes in. I know the difficulty it is to give up certain foods, asking for help or just setting your standards a little lower for the time being but getting a handle on those triggers will definitely make a difference.
In my previous post I talked about diet and the importance of being present and under whelmed instead of constantly multi tasking. But this takes it a step further. A lot of times you will hear that medication can take the edge off but there is usually more that can be done to get you to the next level of coping. As we are all serious about beating our ppd, no matter which symptom you have to survive with let’s go over a few things we can watch, do and talk about.
- Study your life. Study it hard. Keep a food/emotion journal. Write what you eat and then jot down when you had a melt down or an outburst. How you felt over all during the day.
Then after a month, look it over. It may take even less than a month for you to see a trend. Do you have an irate moment 2 hours after downing a sleeve of cookies? Does the 3pm slump always hit because you have not eaten since lunch? How about after carb loading at dinner time…any anger increase at bedtime? You will be surprised which foods can trigger the downward cycle.
- Usually it is not our children that set us off. It isn’t the fact that your baby won’t fall asleep when you want them to or that their teething pain is keeping them from nursing effectively. It is a variety of factors rolled together and then set aflame by one final thing. For me an environmental trigger is my home. I love my home. My safe place, where one baby was born and both of them raised. It makes me really annoyed when I cannot get it cleaned when I want to. We have a 100 pound shepherd and a long hair cat…recipe for constant hair balls, dirty paw prints and sprinklings of litter everywhere. Lovely. Throw in a husband who works many hours, a three year old learning to pick up their toys and a newborn who needs outfit changes multiple times a day and it means stuff…everywhere. So when our house is a bigger mess than normal it brings me a little closer to my boiling point. Seeing the clutter makes my mind feel overwhelmed and this is never a good thing.
- What about how you look? Does it raise your blood pressure or heavy your head when you see yourself in the mirror at 4 PM looking the same but more dishevelled as you did at 6AM? Same clothes as yesterday, smeared make up that was never removed, hair in the ever trending mum bun and possibly a little more stanky than you would prefer to be seeing…but not as bad as you thought considering its 5 days past your shower due date? Trigger anyone?
- Just too much going on. My husband and I lead busy busy lives. Full time job, full time mum, real estate business, birth support business, family and friends to love on, hobbies to fit in, home to tend, background businesses often needing attention. What does your schedule look like when you break it down? You may be surprised how many roles you are playing, often more than you realize and it fills you up. Write down those titles and see if a couple can wait until emotionally things are more under control.
- This spot can be filled with anything else you find knocking you down a notch emotionally. Is it just letting your body get too warm (crazy thought but physically cooling off or warming up can change your tune immensely). For myself personally, I never put my kids to bed with socks on. Weird. Maybe. But if I can stay cool physically it totally helps me keep my temper in check and bed time can go off without a hitch (meaning without an impatient sigh, angry look, uncalled for stern word or me leaving in a huff because I just couldn’t handle the annoyances).
Take a week and really study yourself. Be totally honest about what you need and don’t need in your life. If you can’t do it by yourself then ask! Ask you husband to help with some extra housework bits that you usually tackle. Ask a friend to bring a meal over once a week. Clear your cupboards of the sugary stuff that always sends you straight to the pits. Get your hair cut in a no mess style so you look put together even on day 3 of no hair wash. Do what you need to avoid those triggers. Your days may not be easy but they will be easier.
What have you done to help you in postpartum…even if you have not battled PPD getting support during that first year is extremely important! I want to know what you have done, share your wealth!
Take care of yourself my loves,