PPA Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments | Jessica Rabon, Psychologist
Hey, Everyone. Thanks for joining me today. This episode of mom talks with Christa. Today we have Jessica who is a psychologist and we're going to be talking all about postpartum anxiety from her perspective, and actually, through going through it herself as well and just kind of different stigmas about being a psychologist and having postpartum anxiety so many questions to address today. Thanks for being here.
Jessica: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk about this.
Christa: Yeah, I'm really excited to have you on and talk about this topic you know, like we've kind of discussed this. We've covered postpartum anxiety before, but we get it from different perspectives, and everyone goes through it a little bit differently as well. So before we kind of get to that though, can you just tell us a little bit about you, and what you do and all that.
Jessica: Of course. So like you said, I'm Jessica. I am a licensed clinical psychologist. I work in a children's hospital. So I work with 0 to really 24 working mostly with chronically ill children on the medical inpatient side anxiety depression, as well as eating disorders and LGBTQ health. So really busy there. I am a first time mom to a six-month old daughter, which is weird to say that she's already six months and additionally, I enjoy like creating mental health content online with the goal of really making mental health more accessible, relatable, and destigmatizing mental health.
Christa: So, can you talk a little bit more about your experience.
Jessica: One being a psychologist, obviously, I am well aware of the symptoms of postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD, all of that. And I just have a history of anxiety and depression myself so I knew at baseline I was at higher risk. So during the prenatal time, while I was pregnant, I was looking out for symptoms. I experienced some anxiety, but nothing's out of the ordinary of any pregnant woman just worrying about her baby. And once I had my daughter, I was still on the lookout, and really didn't experience any significant anxiety or low mood other than the quote, unquote, baby blues, and things like that. And I remember actually having a conversation with one of my brother in law's at about probably 10 weeks postpartum and he was like, honestly, like, I thought you were going to be a lot more anxious, like knowing you. And I was like, I know, it surprised me too. And then a week before I went back to work, so I took 12 weeks, I feel very lucky living in the US getting to take 12 weeks off. I started feeling really anxious about going back to work and I was crying every day. And I was just really worried about leaving my daughter. And I remember, she's in daycare, and we went to the daycare just to kind of re-meet everybody, meet the kids and I knew she was going to be safe and well taken care and I came home and just started crying and I was like, I can't do this. I can't do this. The day came, I returned to work and honestly, it wasn't that bad. I was like, okay, so maybe I was just anxious, anticipatory anxiety, and this is going to be okay. And my first week back to work was actually like really easy in the sense of like, I had a slow transition in on the outpatient side. I didn't schedule clients, it was more just calling them saying I'm back on the inpatient side, everybody let me and ease into it. And I was like, okay, maybe this isn't that bad. And then once I got into the depths of work, I started noticing I was having a lot of anxiety about my daughter, about work, about my relationship with my husband, I wasn't sleeping well, I was having nightmares, a lot of stomach issues, catastrophic thinking, and I was like, Okay, here's the anxiety that I was expecting to have 12 weeks ago and now it's coming on at three and a half months postpartum.
Christa: Are you like, okay, now's the time, Need to look for some outside help? Or did you first try to, being in the industry of helping with mental health, like, Okay, I know what I need to do, I'm going to try to help myself first, like, what were kind of like your thought process and your steps after that.
Jessica: So, I definitely tried to help myself first. And I think for a while, I was like telling myself, Oh, this is just like, normal transition back to work. Like, it's going to be hard, transitioning back to work so maybe I just do some journaling and deep breathing, and, taking time for myself. And I tried that for a couple of weeks and then I realized that that was not enough. And I remember saying to myself, like, just you are a psychologist, you tell people all the time that there's no shame in getting help. But honestly, part of my concern was like, how do I add therapy? on top of me already being so stressed and overwhelmed. And I know, teletherapy isn't for everyone. But one of the benefits that COVID has had is made therapy more accessible via telehealth. And so that was something I particularly looked for. I was like, can I find a therapist that I could do telehealth because then that takes out the driving and things like that and fit more into my schedule. But I definitely tried some things by myself first, because we tell ourselves oh, we know what to do. But it's different when it's us, if that makes sense. Like we have all the skills, but sometimes we still need extra help or an outsider's perspective.
Christa: With mental health not just one appointment, and you're good to go, it's a constant like upkeep, or different tactics or tips that you do throughout the day to kind of make it better. So, do you have things that you do now so like when you go to work, you kind of address your anxiety and kind of feel better?
Jessica: I'm still in therapy. I go to therapy weekly and part of that is just even when there's weeks that I'm not nearly as anxious, it's nice to have an hour a week where it's just about me, and I can just talk about my struggles for the week, a big thing I started doing is setting boundaries at work, one thing I realized which highly contributed to my anxiety going back to work is that prior to having a kid. I spent most of my time at work, like I didn't need to leave at four or five, to get home, to take care of my daughter and my husband works a lot too. So, I would stay at work till 6:30pm because I could. And now that I have a kid, I realized, Oh, hey, I was putting in like 60 hours a week at work. And that's not where my priorities lie anymore. So, setting boundaries with myself and with other people so leaving work on time, or saying no, I can't do those certain things, taking breaks during the day to pump. I am breastfeeding and supplementing with formula because one of the other stressors and anxieties was when I went back to work my supply depleted but It I was originally pumping and doing work at the same time and that was stressed me out. So, I have an office. I just close my office door, put a sign up. and use that as me time, whether that is scrolling through Instagram or doing something super non productive, or deep breathing, or grounding techniques, and just listening to music getting myself like me time helps a lot with anxiety. I also have started, I've listened to podcast forever, but started listening to a lot of podcasts, yours and other ones that specifically focus on maternal mental health or mom related issues, because that has really made me feel a lot less alone. I'm not the only one that is going through this looking at pictures of my daughter during the day has really helped when I'm away from her as well. And then just a lot of journaling and writing which like I said I did do initially before I sought out therapy, but now it seems less forced as like I'm doing this as a coping skill more so like, this is a really stressful time at work today. So, I am just going to I have a paper planner still, because I'm one of those people that loves paper planners. I mean, everything at work is digital, but like I still bright in my paper planner, but it has room for like notes and stuff. So I'll just take it out and write down some of the things that are bothering me and all my heart and mind. And that's really helped as well.
Christa: I think you made a couple good points about not only helping yourself or doing things for yourself when you're in crisis mode, because I think a lot of times when something's bad, or we hit that rock bottom, or we need to make a change, we're like, as soon as you start feeling good, we're like, oh, I don't need to do that anymore. And we instantly, drop the habit, when in reality, you're feeling good because of those habits. So, that was a really good point there about even just your regular days, you'll still journal and even when you're feeling good, you'll still talk to your therapist, don't cancel the meeting, because I know that's a very normal thing is people are like, No, I'm good now so I don't need to do it and your body's kind of like, least with me, I'll be like, oh, okay, I don't need to do that and then you kind of like, go down this path, you're like, I'm fine. Then all sudden, your body's like, Wait, hold on, what would happen to all those outlines and those things you were doing before?
Jessica: I think it's a great play. Yeah, no, definitely. I mean, you made a really good point by saying, like, you're feeling better because you're doing these things and that's a very common thing, like, Oh, Now I'm in a good place. And the things that we made a priority to get us to that place no longer become a priority and then we wonder why we no longer feel as good.
Christa: And that's great to about setting boundaries at work because I think boundaries in general, especially when you have a new baby is so important, because I hear it all the time from the moms in our mom group about someone wants to come over today, or they just showed up, and I wasn't ready for guest over the house, or, I'm supposed to do this and I think setting healthy boundaries to make yourself whatever works best for your family and your mental health is a super important.
Jessica: Oh, definitely it's speaking of just broader anxiety outside of work. That's really important to help reduce your anxiety even if you're not a working mom. So, setting boundaries, like you said, with people not coming over because if you are so anxious that you have to clean the house, or you feel like you have to entertain people, that's not going to be helpful for you so setting the boundary of who can come over when or, for me, my immediate family doesn't live local, but my husband's family does and they wanted to be helpful by inviting us over for dinner, so we don't have to cook. But it became really overwhelming for me because I'm like unpacking a newborn on a weekday after work. And so, I finally said, like, we can't do it during the week anymore. Like I can't, it's just too overwhelming and stressful for me. And setting those boundaries really helped reduce some of that in the moment anxiety about the certain things.
Christa: And I think another thing to note too is a lot of times too with people pleasers or like I always say I'm a recovering people pleaser, I always say yes to people are used to I say yes, you think setting a boundary or saying no to someone is mean or going to hurt their feelings but there's so many like, you just made an awesome example of like having a healthy boundary and just saying like, Oh, this doesn't work for us, because so we have to move, those two once a month, or whatever it is. So, I know like a lot of moms listening out there might feel bad about saying no, if they're used to saying yes to certain people and it's like, it's okay, and anyone that loves you and respects you is going to respect your boundary that you set.
Jessica: Oh, definitely. I mean, there's a lot of quotes out there about boundaries. But one thing because I do a lot of boundaries setting, especially with my team clients, is that if somebody gets upset about the boundary set, it's because it's not serving them in a way that they want to be served. So, you made a very good point, anybody that loves and respect you are going to respect your boundaries and just being clear about it and saying, like, I can't do this, because and we have not had any issues with that. My daughter's very loved and people are very excited because she's the first grandchild, niece, whatever, on both sides, but at the same time, they understand like for new parents and things can get stressful and overwhelming.
Christa: That's a great point to have. So, for anyone listening that might kind of be in a similar boat or they're like, Okay, I have a normally anxious kind of person, like maybe they're currently pregnant or, and they're kind of the same boat where they're like, thinking like, okay, I don't know if it's going to come on strong or how it would come on. Do you have any coping techniques for obviously, like the for that time, but almost like just to kind of get them mentally strong in their postpartum journey?
Jessica: One thing I would say, first, just be aware. So, if you're already thinking like, Oh, I might be anxious, retrospectively, I probably should have just started seeing a therapist before I recognize that I was really anxious. So, that is also a possibility if therapy is accessible to you, because I do recognize in our country, it is a privilege for many, but plan ahead as much as possible. So like, we're just talking about boundary setting. So, if you know that having a bunch of people coming over to your house is going to be overwhelming or increase your anxiety, delegate certain tasks. So, I know mom is going to really want to come and snuggle with the baby but what would be more helpful is mom cooking dinner so I don't have to, and that's going to reduce some of my worry of how do I take care of a newborn and cook dinner at the same time prepping in the sense of yourself care. I think this is really important, because as new moms, the focus is all on the baby. And a lot of women, or parents in general, let go of their self-care. And like even the basics, like don't shower, brush your teeth. So think about, you know, what are my non negotiables for self-care, I want to make sure I shower every day. So you know, if you have a partner or somebody else that can watch the baby for that 510 minutes that you're in the shower, and kind of identify those things that you don't want to give up plan. If you have a partner with your partner ahead of time, you know, what are the responsibilities that we're all going to have what it or nighttime is going to look like, the more you can plan ahead. And you know, plans always go astray as well, is going to help reduce anxiety or if there's particular things you think you're going to have anxiety about, whether it's, you know, leaving your child with a grandparent, or how am I going to balance going back to work, talk to your work? What's it going to look like? I was actually listening to the episode, your episode today about going back to work and talking about things like you know, where can I pump and things like that. So planning ahead, and any coping skills that you have now. So I tell people coping skills, anything that makes you feel better. So listening to music, listening to podcasts, going for walks, whatever those things are, continue to do those things, during pregnancy, postpartum, etc. And then two other things that I recommend whether it's perinatal, or postpartum, is values work. So what I mean by that is like identifying what do you value about becoming a parent, or also just as a human, so I value family time I value, learning new things, and try to identify ways that you can live out those values. So it's going to look different being a new mom. So maybe family time now, if you're childless, is just you and your partner, you know, going out, you're probably not going to the bar, but going out or going to concerts. So maybe family time is like snuggling on the couch and watching a movie together. As part of or if you value learning things like getting books that you can read to your baby, because the more we do things in alignment with our values, the happier we're going to be and then practicing self-compassion. So we all know mom, guilt is a thing. We know we're really hard on ourselves. So starting to practice self-compassion while you are pregnant, can help you then continue the practice of talking kindly to yourself, mindfulness practice, recognizing that you're not alone. And that could involve joining a mom group, like you have, or other mom communities, recognizing that you're not the only one going through this and relying on those supports.
Christa: Yeah, I love that. The hardest thing is, when you go through something, you instantly think I'm the only one that feels this way. I'm the only one that's going through this. And I think reaching out to a community or talking to someone like a therapist or a friend or you know, it's going to real help you realize that you have a you have a tribe with you, you have other moms that go to bat for you. And we'll you know, either have been through what you're going through or know someone that has been through it and can just kind of be there for you. So I think that's awesome. And I think to what you said about asking yourself what you value I think that's super important. You know, even if you're listening and you're trying to conceive or you're pregnant right now, because I think sometimes as we get over older we kind of forget where our actual like value and our what makes us Happy we get kind of caught up in other things. So, especially as your life changes with a new baby or other kinds of things, it's good to kind of hold those values to you and realize what makes you happy.
Jessica: And that's exactly what it is the things we value are the things that are going to make us happy. And doing those things. That doesn't mean you're necessarily not going to experience any anxiety or postpartum depression or anything like that. But the more you can do those things that is going to help one buffer, the intensity of those symptoms, but to still give you something like sense of purpose, or things that you do enjoy, because the more we're doing the things that we enjoy, the less we're hyper focusing on the things that are making us anxious, or sad, or depressed, etc.
Christa: I think I wonder too, if it has to do with like, feeling like you are in control of something like you're like, Oh, I journal this morning, because I wanted to, and it made me feel like my words mattered or my feelings mattered. Because I know, a lot of moms talk about, just feeling kind of out of control the first weeks because you're on someone else's on someone else's time now, and you're kind of moving, you know, lower on the totem pole, I guess.
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. And with anxiety, there is that feeling and loss of control over whatever you're feeling anxious about. So I like that you brought up that point, because doing something that you value, it's like, Yeah, I was able to sit down for 10 minutes, and journal this morning. And that made me feel good. And it was something that I chose to do. It was in my control. And that's something I say to clients a lot, as well with any type of anxiety is, what about the situation? Can you control? And if it's something that's out of your control, like, it's easier said than done, saying Don't be anxious about it. And that's not helpful thing to say. But if it's not something you can control? Are there aspects of the situation that you can control that would reduce your anxiety? And if there are, can we challenge these anxious thoughts? Or can we go focus on something else? So that is not at the forefront of your mind.
Christa: That's a great point. Yeah, I love that finding aspects of the situation you can control. Awesome. So there's Yeah, there's a lot of awesome takeaways and tips in this. So for moms listening that are kind of in a rough spot, or feeling a little anxious about maybe going back to work or just feeling anxious, you maybe your stay at home mom, and you're feeling anxious. You know, it's it was like to say it doesn't anxiety doesn't discriminate, you know, it's, it can hit anyone. And so I think it's just important to be like you said, very aware and do those things that make you happy and feel valued and feel in control. Those are awesome, awesome points. And so I always like to end these interviews with fun thinking questions, I call them. And so if you could have a billboard made today where you could share one tip with moms everywhere, what would you have it say?
Jessica: It is okay to ask for help. You don't have to do it alone.
Christa: Yes. Love that. That's great. We always like to say like how important community and your tribe is. And so if you feel alone, just reach out, reach out. That's the one really awesome thing about online communities is, or I should say, social media is that there's this online community that we didn't have, you know, 20 years ago. And so what, what advice would you give to new moms that are kind of in a hard spot right now, I know this episode was, was a lot about that. But what's a piece of advice for that? Mom? That's listening right now that's kind of just done dangling by that last thread that just need some words.
Jessica: So one thing I think is really helpful is asking yourself when you're in that hard spot, what do I need right now? And then identify how that need can be met. So do I need a break? Do I need a hug? Do I need a glass of water? Do I need to eat? Or do I just need somebody to listen to me or hold me while I cry? So asking yourself, what do I need right now? And is there a way to get that need met? That simple question can do a lot for you. Because when we're really anxious or really overwhelmed, everything just seems so overwhelming. But if you pause and ask yourself, like, what is it that I really need? A lot of times the answer is really simple. It's not this really grim thing. It's like I just need a hug. Like I need somebody to hold me or I need somebody to tell me it would be okay. And if somebody is not available, tell yourself that it's going to be okay. Or I just need to know that I'm a good mom. tell yourself that you're a good mom. So that would be probably my number one advice as a like actual like tool for moms out there, especially with anxiety. There's a really good book that is called good moms of anxious thoughts by Karen Kleiman and I used it, it's been recommended to me by my therapist, but I bought it before then. And it makes you feel a lot less alone. And there's also journaling prompts, which is a great help as well.
Christa: That's awesome. Yeah, I love that advice. Because I just think like, like what you said about, if you just ask yourself kind of what you need, because it's so true. Like, if you I always think about, like, if you have, you're having a bad morning or something. And it could be because of the littlest thing. And then little things throughout the day can make you really mad, like things that you normally would not care about. Like, it could be something small, like I don't even know like you spilled a glass of water or, you know, whatever, something like that. And on days that something's bad, it just kind of piles on so to ask yourself, what is it might just be, you know, something small, like, I feel like I need I need a friend to listen or you know, I think that's, that's a really great point about doing that. And just really being kind of goes back to being like aware and in tune with yourself and what you need. That's very nice. So for anyone listening that kind of wants, wants more insight from you, where can they find you and other resources do you have?
Jessica: So on Instagram, my handle is at Jessica Lee, PhD. I have my own podcast. It's called psych talk. So that's everything's psychology, mental health, self-growth. And I've done a number of episodes on motherhood and maternal mental health, things like that, just being a new mom. And the other platform I'm on the most is Tick Tock. I was one of those people that joined during the quarantine and big became addicted like I swore I never was. So my handle there is Jessica Lee's PhD as well. And a lot of my content is mental health. A lot of mom related mental health stuff postpartum I, one thing I really wanted to do was be open about my postpartum journey online and on my platform to make people feel less alone, so and that mix within a bunch of other mental health contents.
Christa: That's amazing. I can never get enough of it. I think it's just it's just feel good. And you feel like you're part of a community when you see just different posts or TikTok, Reels about mental health. I think they're, they're very impactful, and you just feel like, again, I'm not alone. And I think that's the biggest thing is that a lot of people struggle feeling alone, or they don't have anyone. We'll put all the links below in the show notes as well. Well, thank you so much for coming on. This was so insightful and just your tips and takes takeaways for so many moms out there, I think will be super helpful.
Jessica: Well, thank you for having me. I enjoyed talking.
Join our private Facebook Group - New Moms - Breastfeeding & More Support Group by Mommy Knows Best: https://bit.ly/3gQIF9z
*Mommy Knows Best is committed to providing informational, motivational, and inspiring videos to all moms. Statements in this video are for informational purposes only and are not to be taken as medical advice or recommendation. Any health concern or condition should be brought to the attention of your doctor.