Mental Illness in Pregnancy: Is It Me, My Illness, or the Hormones?
Mental illness in pregnancy can be tricky to manage for several reasons, but the most frustrating thing for me has been that I can't tell what's causing my symptoms. Last weekend, I slept for 13 hours each night and took a two-hour nap each day. Usually, that would be a classic sign of my depression, and I definitely noticed that my mood was down over the weekend, but pregnancy has also made me absurdly tired. Plus, I'm pretty extroverted and I spent a lot of time alone over the weekend, so I may have just been sleeping out of boredom. How am I supposed to find out what's really going on with me when there are so many overlapping factors?
Coping with Mental Illness in Pregnancy
Pregnancy is teaching me that sometimes all you can do is accept reality and deal with it, even if you can't explain it. The trouble is, pregnancy is also messing with my typical coping mechanisms. I already have a tendency to turn to food to solve all my emotional problems, but that urge has multiplied by 1000 since my pregnancy cravings kicked in. Last week, I ate an entire pan of brownies in 24 hours. Although I have no problem indulging in my cravings to a certain extent, I don't want to throw off my blood sugar so much that I have a horrible sugar crash an hour later. Basically, I've had to come up with a few new tricks for coping with my brain on bad days.
How to Cope with Mental Illness and Pregnancy on the Bad Days
First, pregnancy has taught me that sometimes my body has needs, and I will feel much better if I just fulfill those needs instead of wasting all my energy trying not to need them. Sometimes, I just need a nap. Maybe it's because of my hormones, or maybe my depression is acting up, or maybe I just didn't sleep well last night, but the reason doesn't always matter. If your body says it's tired, let it rest. This is a great tip for dealing with mental illness in general, whether or not you're pregnant. Listen to your needs. It's okay to have them.
Second, find someone to vent to who won't constantly make comments like "Wow, looks like those hormones are really kicking in, huh?"
Sure, sometimes we can laugh at ourselves when we're being a bit overdramatic, but when you're trying to express yourself, only to be met with comments that belittle your experience, it's hurtful. It might "just" be the hormones, but anyone who has ever been pregnant knows there's nothing "just" about them. They can cause powerful and painful experiences that are very real. A good listener will be there for you and take your problems seriously, regardless of what's causing them.
Finally, talk to your doctor and/or your therapist about what you're going through. Even though being mentally ill and pregnant can be confusing and the symptoms can overlap, some things may require acute treatment. For instance, if you're feeling suicidal, it's important to let a professional know so he or she can help. It can be especially painful to be suicidal while pregnant because of the other life within you that would die with you, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. Your mental illness didn't take a vacation when you got pregnant, and you may still experience some of the scarier symptoms while pregnant, and that's okay. Just be sure to get help or go to the nearest emergency room if you're in immediate danger.
Do you have any tips for dealing with mental illness in pregnancy? Feel free to share and find support in the comments below.
Griffith, M. (2019, July 30). Mental Illness in Pregnancy: Is It Me, My Illness, or the Hormones?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2019/7/mental-illness-in-pregnancy-is-it-me-my-illness-or-the-hormones
Author: Megan Griffith
Pregnancy with a mental illness is difficult, but not impossible. I felt sick through most of my pregnancy with my daughter, and one way I coped was just by reminding myself that pregnancy is temporary. When the nine months are up, you will move on to the next stage of your life with your new baby.