Episode 60: Fiona’s Story of Adjustment Disorder

This week, Fiona shares her postpartum story. Fiona is a thirty-three year old mama of one CRAZY toddler (two and a half years old) named Sully. She’s a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator living in Ottawa, Ontario where she was born and raised. Growing up, Fiona battled with anxiety but she did not identify it as such. I’m sure many of us can relate. (I know I certainly can!)

Fiona’s adventures started with an unexpected c-section after learning her baby was breach. The difficulties of recovering from a c-section, like not being able to lift heavy things or drive, helped set the stage for anxiety and depression.

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During her six week checkup, Fiona broke down. Breastfeeding wasn’t working and she felt like she was drowning. She thought this was how all mothers experienced the transition to motherhood. Her doctor told her that she had postpartum depression. Though she was struggling, Fiona didn’t notice what was happening to her until someone else pointed it out.

Fiona was conveniently already seeing a therapist for some other issues, so they just shifted gears to deal with the motherhood issues that had popped up. During therapy, Fiona did some cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with her anxiety. If you have not heard about it before, I like to describe CBT as therapy with homework.

Fiona’s therapist diagnosed her with Adjustment Disorder. I must confess that this is the first time I heard about a maternal mood disorder being classified this way, but you know, whatever works to mamas (and papas) get the help they need. For Fiona, she experienced a mix of anxiety and depression but the anxiety was the stronger symptom. She was still able to function with depression and project a happy face for social media.

In the beginning, Fiona saw her therapist every two or three weeks. Now they touch base every four weeks.

Fiona experienced intrusive thoughts about dropping her baby. These were graphic images of the baby falling, either on purpose or accidentally.

Fiona feels like her postpartum experiences stemmed from difficulty with the transition to motherhood. She did not have baby blues, and her adventures did not feel hormonal.

Fiona did not take any medications during her recovery. She wanted to work through her feelings and get to the bottom of her emotions and was concerned that medication would prevent that.

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Going back to work helped Fiona a lot. She was able to connect with her old self and the things that fired her up.

As part of her recovery, Fiona struggled with how her husband supported her. He did not check in with how she was feeling. He worked late, went out with his friends and kept playing hockey and baseball. This stirred up a lot of crappy feelings for Fiona and I know from talking to other moms that many of us struggle with how our partner’s handle maternal mood disorders. With time, Fiona’s husband became more hands on with their son. Fiona and her husband did work through their early issues and are still happily married.

Breastfeeding was another issue for Fiona. She felt judged because she was pumping. This stirred up lots of feelings of shame and guilt.

The gym was a huge part of Fiona’s self-care. It gave her a chance to be alone and feel like herself while her son was in the gym day care. She also likes to get outside for walks and fresh air. Acupuncture is another component of her self-care.

Fiona is giving herself the grace to have days at home. She struggles with slow days and being less than the perfect mom.

Before she gave birth, Fiona liked to always be in control. She was very rigid on what needed to happen during any particular day. She is still learning how to go with the flow.

Her son is in daycare and Fiona works four days a week. This gives her a big window of time to take care of herself.

Fiona feels like she is not yet out of the darkness but she is on the verge. She has more happy days than sad. She does not think she’ll ever think of herself as fully recovered, though, because she wants to keep working on herself and improving.

This year, Fiona is leading Team Ottawa for the Climb Out of the Darkness. To donate to Fiona’s climb, visit her personal page. Visit the Team Ottawa page to join her climb. And head over HERE to learn more about the Climb Out of the Darkness. There’s even a video!

Thank you, Fiona, so much for coming on the show! I feel honored to be able to share your story on the podcast.