Mental Health Resources and My Story of Recovery from Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

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47.6 million adults manage mental illnessMay is Mental Health Month. As someone who has recovered from postpartum anxiety and depression, this is a topic very close to my heart.

I’m far from alone in my experience with mental illness — nearly 50 million adults in the United States alone manage a mental illness every day. And right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, many millions of people are suffering.

Even folks who don’t have diagnosed disorders are experiencing sadness, anxiety, loneliness, stress and frustration like never before.

Mental health struggles in the time of coronavirus

Whether you have a formal diagnosis or not, these times are hard on everyone. There are many factors at play.

But before I call out the factors I want to be clear: It can be terrifying to look at our fear and traumatic feelings. But if we don’t look at them, we get stuck in them. When we call out our fear, we can see it as separate from who we really are. Calling it out and naming it is the first step to relief.

So while you’re reading the ways we’re struggling right now, take a deep breath and get honest with yourself about what is up for you. Give yourself permission to be going through a tough time. Honor your feelings and your experience. We’re all in this together.

Isolation

We humans are social creatures, but in order to protect ourselves and our communities, we must isolate ourselves right now. Finding support becomes more challenging when we can’t just get together with friends or hug our families.

It’s very important that we keep our distance, but we can’t deny the psychological toll of quarantine. If you feel lonely or miss people, that’s something all of us can relate to in some way.

Work and the economy

Another source of fear and anxiety is the state of the economy. I don’t need to rehash the statistics here. We all know they’re bad. Many people are out of work and can’t go out to find other work. Many others are risking their health to do essential work.

Still more are working from home, carving out office space on their kitchen tables or in their basements, helping their kids with distance learning, caring for babies and toddlers and elderly parents, trying to keep the house somewhat clean amid the chaos.

Even if you’re in a relatively good position, the stress is still serious. You don’t have to dismiss it or tell yourself, “I’m lucky, I have no reason to feel bad.”

Physical health

Health anxiety is another big one, especially for people who are on the front lines, who have risk factors that make them particularly vulnerable to infection, or who are suffering from COVID—19 or have a loved who is.

Plus, the pandemic has interrupted routine health care for so many people. Elective surgeries, important check-ins, fertility treatments, dentist appointments, prenatal care and more are the kinds of appointments being delayed or dramatically changed right now.

Uncertainty

We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns, and the onslaught of news (not to mention rampant misinformation) can be overwhelming. Many questions don’t yet have answers.

Despite all the uncertainty, we can still reclaim our power and remember that we’re always being guided. If you’re looking for help or resources right now, or just want to know that you’re not alone, you can trust you landed on this post for a reason.

Mental health is important for everyone

Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed mental disorder or you’re just feeling the enormous stress of the times, mental health is paramount right now. (This also goes for anyone struggling with addiction, which I address in this post as well.)

In this post I want to do a few things:

  • Share my own mental health story
  • Show you that you’re not alone
  • Provide accessible resources for mental health care
  • Share tips for how to help yourself and others right now

I’ll start with my story, and then all the resources are linked at the end of this post.

My story of postpartum anxiety and depression

I had my son, Oliver, in December 2018. I was fortunate to have an easy pregnancy and the labor and delivery experience I’d hoped for. When Oliver and I came home from the hospital, we were both doing really well and had a lot of support.

Then, three months later, I started to feel my anxiety flare up in weird ways. I started worrying about things like which diapers to use and whether my son was sleeping okay.

At first I brushed them off as the kind of thing every new mom worries about. But I couldn’t deny that the feeling behind them was one of terror and panic. I wasn’t just concerned — I was obsessed.

My anxiety only got worse

My anxiety got worse with each passing week. I couldn’t sleep. I had panic attacks. I became agoraphobic. My insomnia was so bad that I was scared to even attempt to fall asleep.

Scariest of all was the fact that when I looked at my son, I didn’t recognize him. This disconnect plunged me into depression.

I tried to fix the problem in all kinds of ways. I called every doctor friend and wellness expert to ask for their opinion. I took supplements for anxiety and sleep, but nothing worked. I was so sleep-deprived that I was having meltdowns regularly.

Hitting bottom with postpartum anxiety and depression

Gabby Bernstein smiling | mental healthI hit bottom in May 2019. On Mother’s Day I was so depressed, anxious and exhausted that I said I wanted to kill myself. But I still didn’t let myself get honest about what was going on.

Later that month, I went to Manhattan with my husband and son because I had a talk scheduled. The night before my talk (we were staying at the apartment we rented in the city), I didn’t sleep at all.

For the first time in my 15-year career, I canceled an appearance.

As I sat in my living room breastfeeding my son, I felt ashamed and beaten down as well as afraid. Finally, I knew it was time to surrender. I couldn’t go on like this any longer. I prayed for guidance.

That afternoon, my therapist called me to intervene. She said she thought I had postpartum anxiety and depression, and she suggested I talk to a psychiatrist and get on medication.

Her recommendation alarmed me. I’d been brought up homeopathic, and prescription medicine was totally foreign to me. But I’d prayed for guidance, so I stayed open. I made some calls and met with a psychiatrist who specialized in maternity and postpartum mental health. She diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety and depression (PPA and PPD).

I was relieved that I finally had a diagnosis and a healing path. But I realized I was also ashamed of my diagnosis. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t help myself. None of my tools had worked. I also felt ashamed that I was suffering from mental illness, because the stigma made me feel broken and inferior.

Accepting help and speaking up

I had a choice. I could stay silent and ashamed — or I could speak up. The voice of my Higher Self was guiding me to open up about that unspoken shame in order to help others. That same day, I posted a video on Instagram where I shared my diagnosis and postpartum experience.

Posting that video was a huge relief, and I was so grateful to be able to serve other women who have suffered from postpartum anxiety or depression. Since then I’ve continued to be very public about my experience. I’m committed to erasing the stigma and shame for myself and others.

I’m no stranger to stigma. In my early twenties, I suffered from addiction. In order to get clean, I had to overcome the stigma around addiction, ask for help, show up to meetings and do the work.

Every ounce of effort was worth it: This year I celebrate 15 years of sober recovery. You can read more on the spiritual tools I use in my sober recovery, and below, in the resources list, I include links for treatment and support.

Once again, in 2019, my willingness to ask for help and do the work cleared my path toward healing. It wasn’t always easy, and I still had resistance. I had a hard time being patient and wanted to force myself to recover faster. I had to remember to surrender every single day.

The gifts of recovery

Sometimes the great stuff can coexist with the tough stuffMy recovery from postpartum anxiety and depression involved therapy, my spiritual practice and psychiatric care — including medication. I was really hesitant, at first, to accept the medication part of that equation. As I said earlier, it was totally unfamiliar to me. And there’s still plenty of stigma around psychiatric medication.

But today I’m so grateful that I didn’t let my fear or shame hold me back… because medication saved my life.

Suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. But one beautiful lesson I learned through my recovery is that the great stuff can coexist with the tough stuff. ⁣

Now I can look back and see how my darkest struggle was the catalyst for my greatest transformation. I’m able to forgive my experience and release it. Best of all, I can celebrate my resilience.⁣

I stand here today, joyful, healthy, confident and strong, as a result of my willingness to seek help. And while I’ve recovered, I still tend to my mental health daily, the same way I tend to my physical health daily.

Anxiety, depression, panic, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, PTSD, addiction disorders, eating disorders, and every other type and expression of mental illness — they don’t care who you are. They don’t care how spiritual you are, where you come from, what you look like. If you’re suffering with one or more of these conditions, it doesn’t mean you’re broken or inferior or weak.

In fact, living with these conditions requires extraordinary strength. Recovery, however it looks for you, however messy it may be, is something to be deeply proud of.

It can be really hard to reach out and advocate for yourself, especially if you suffer from one of the more stigmatized and debilitating disorders. But you are worth it. Your life, your well-being, your health, your happiness, your very existence are all worth it.

The spiritual side of mental health

Gabby Bernstein walkingWhile my PPA/PPD recovery may have started with a medicated path, it was my spiritual faith that helped me get to where I am today. The medication helped me feel safe. But my spiritual and personal growth tools are what led me to the next level of genuine safety and trust.

Through my devoted weekly therapy sessions, I dove deep into healing modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Somatic Experiencing (SE).

Each day I woke up and prayed to be supported and guided. I built up my meditation practice to be a sustainable source of peace throughout the day. I made sleep hygiene non-negotiable by turning off my phone two hours before bedtime and putting all my devices in another room.

I also created a very powerful nighttime ritual. I take a bath, journal and listen to bilateral music.

When dealing with anxiety, exercise is one of the greatest ways to move the stagnant energy out of your body. Our body holds our fear and we have to move to release it. I walk four miles uphill every day along with other online workouts.

I know it may sound like a lot to stay mentally well, but that’s cool! My inner peace is my highest priority. When we make that commitment to ourselves, the rest of our life can flow.

In times like these, we must prioritize our mental health. I recently heard Sister Joan Chittister say that her daily prayer was meant to punctuate throughout the day. I feel the same way about my spiritual practice! Read more about my daily spiritual schedule and learn how to create your own.

Mental health resources

Mental health statisticsI’ve been very fortunate to have access to excellent medical care, but I know this can be a profound struggle for many people. Sometimes it feels impossible just to know where to start. So here I’m listing mental health resources that my team and I have gathered over time.

First, I want to make sure you know about my free Anxiety Relief Workshop. In it, I share some of the methods that really helped me recover from anxiety and depression. These are simple and very effective tools that you can bring into your daily life and use regularly. Click here to access the workshop.

Undoubtedly there are ones we’ve missed, so please feel free to share a comment below with any resources we should investigate.

General mental health

COVID—19 mental health resources

Be sure to check out resources available in your state, city or other local community, in addition to the links below.

Postpartum anxiety and depression resources

From the American Psychological Association:
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, take action now: Put the baby in a safe place, like a crib. Call a friend or family member for help if you need to. Call a suicide hotline (free and staffed all day, every day):

  • National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • National Strategy for Suicide Prevention LifeLine: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). There are hotlines for every state.
  • PPDMoms: 1-800-PPDMOMS (1-800-773-6667)

Call your psychologist’s or other licensed mental health provider’s emergency number. Call your doctor’s or other primary health care provider’s emergency number. Tell someone you trust about what you are feeling; ask him or her to help you take these steps.

(Source for the above guidance and resources)

Emergency numbers

Important note: If you’re in a dangerous or life-threatening situation, call 911 (see below for emergency services numbers in other countries).

Emergency numbers outside the United States:
Canada: 911
Mexico: 066 or 911
UK: 999 or 112
Ireland: 999 or 112
Netherlands: 112
Germany: 112
France: 112
Australia: 000 or 112
New Zealand: 111
South Africa: 112 on mobile phones
See a complete list on Wikipedia.

Suicide prevention

United States
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
Chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
For Spanish speakers: 1-800-273-8255 then press 2
For LGBTQ youth: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR

Veterans
Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 or TTY: 1-800-799-4889

Canada
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566

United Kingdom
Call Samaritans 24 hours a day: 116 123
More suicide & mental health helplines in the UK

Australia
Lifeline.org helpline: 13 11 14
More suicide helplines in Australia

Ireland
Suicide and mental health helplines

Click here for more suicide prevention resources, including international hotlines.

Domestic violence, physical abuse & sexual assault

RAINN is an organization for helping sexual assault survivors. Free, confidential sexual assault hotline is available 24/7: 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). You can also chat online with a counselor.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is free, confidential and available 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

You can also talk to an advocate in their free, confidential online chat, also available 24/7. The website is thehotline.org or in Spanish: espanol.thehotline.org

Addiction recovery

SAMHSA.gov: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The main hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357). It’s confidential, free, and available 24/7 in English and Spanish.

This helpline is for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Click here for the Alcoholics Anonymous website.

You can also find free online addiction recovery support from In the Rooms.

Eating disorders

The NEDA Helpline is 1-800-931-2237. Find more helpline info here.

Other resources include the Bulimia.com eating disorder hotline and the ANAD.org eating disorders helpline.

How to support yourself and others in daily life

There are a number of ways you can support yourself and others during the crisis. Here are some helpful links:

As soon as I choose to see the light in the dark corners, I redirect my power toward what I wantDuring times of crisis (especially when the #1 thing we can do is just stay home), we can feel powerless. One way to regain our sense of power is to help others! If you’re able to, here are some ideas: Check out this Washington Post article for ways to support nonprofits helping vulnerable populations. And ELLE.com did a beautiful job rounding up safe ways to help your community.

If all you can do right now is focus on your own mental health and well-being, know that it’s enough. We must take care of ourselves first. And remember that as you feel better, your energetic shift lifts up everyone around you.

How are you supporting yourself (and others) right now?

Spirit Junkies, I want to hear from you! If you feel called to share, leave a comment on this post and let me know how you’re supporting your own mental health during this time.

And if you’re also caring for others, whether that’s your own family/friends or the greater community, please feel free to share whatever resources you’re relying on now.

You are not alone.

Remember that no matter what’s going on — during this crisis or long after it — you deserve mental health care. If you suffer from a mental health condition, you are NOT alone.

Help is available, and there are brighter days ahead. The first step is to reach out, whether that’s calling a helpline, a doctor or a trusted friend.

The Universe has your back now and always.

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  1. Hello Gabby Team,

    I would like to know if Gabby Bernstein has ever reached out to doctor Daniel Amen, he is a neurologist and psychiatrist doctor that takes brain scans to see the type of trauma people might have. I believe he is also considered a functional medicine doctor. I cannot afford him even on a medical credit card. I am so curious & determine your figure out why soo many women go through this. I don’t feel we have enough research out there. Maybe someone like Gabby can help us figure this part out.

    I too went 8yrs undiagnosed which I believe I had postpartum I probably still do who knows because my gynecologist and doctors sure don’t. My story is very similar to a lot of people that have gone through the same monster of emotions. Anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, 1 yr of denial going through all the books, prayer, meditations, yoga, therapy, essential oils lavender is the best, etc. I suffer from my periods but no doctor has taken me seriously because they say I’m too young at 42 to have perimenopause but yet I feel all the symptoms. I continue to fight everyday keeping my head in hopes that someday some doctor will care enough to do more research on women’s hormones/brain/nerves system & how they can sometimes do a number on us.

    I was very happy to know that someone like you is out here fighting and believing, you give us hope.

    Thank you, Ana

  2. What a truly wonderful human being you are Gabby , always there to help others in such an inspiring way .We can all learn so much from you in so many ways and not only help ourselves but pass all this goodness on
    Love and Light

  3. I can’t thank you enough for being such a strong resource for people. It took me years to recover and fight on my own and I did it! I wish I had your support 6 years ago with 10 panic attacks a day. Mine was so bad that I literally changed my career to now help families with postpartum, PTSD, anxiety and depression, just through my story and the tools that saved me as well. It’s such a powerful balance and we are not alone! I’m so impressed that you recovered as fast as you did and are able to hold your career together. I wish I found my spiritual practice when I was fighting 6 years ago, but I found it 2 years ago and that was the last missing piece to the puzzle. Hopefully one day I can meet you and help people like you do on such a massive scale. One person at a time for now is better than nothing :). Thank you Gabby!!! You have been a powerful inspiration for years! God bless you!

    1. Wonderful that this post resonates with you, Danoucha! Keep shining your bright light- it sounds like you’re doing graet work. xoxo

  4. Thank you Gabby… I walk everyday 6 miles everyday and listen to you meditation a couple of times a day and during my walk… I listen to it on repeat lol, but it’s so healing.
    Thank you for all your support and help and showing up with all the things you know that can helps us through life.
    I had a brother who committed suicide in 2018 due to mental health , I appreciate from the bottom of my heart your amazing guidance nd support..
    Much love to you, your follower and your team
    Thank you thank you thank you!!

    1. I am deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience here. I’m glad the meditations are serving you. Sending you big love. xoxo

  5. I’m currently dealing with postpartum. I’ve been following you since February been feeling stuck, my baby cries all the time. I just finished spirt junkie the meditations are powerful I just started. You are a inspiration to me and feeling I’m starting to heal. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your honest share, Elsie. We’re so glad the Spirit Junkie meditations are serving you. If you’re not already doing so, we recommend seeing a therapist, perhaps one that specializes in postpartum anxiety. This is a wonderful action in self-care. Like Gabby says in the post, she would not be where she’s at right now if it weren’t for her therapist. You may also find it useful to attend a support group for people with postpartum anxiety and depression.
      Also, a while back Gabby did a workshop on anxiety that I’d like to share with you:
      https://www.gabbywebinar.com/relief
      xoxo

  6. Your writing on this topic touched me deeply. Thank you Gabby for sharing your journey and openly discussing metal health. I too suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. When my daughter was born 20 years ago I thought that this is what all moms experienced. I wanted to take my life…I thought my husband and daughter would be better off without me. The disconnection to my beautiful baby confused me….new mother’s aren’t suppose to feel this way. I felt shame and disgust with myself. Each day was tortuous. Very little sleep, darkness and loneliness plagued our first months as a family. It was not until my daughter’s 8 month appointment that her doctor looked at me and said “How are you?” I unravelled.

    It was time to look at my mental health and wellbeing. In 2000 this was not a topic freely discussed. Over the next twenty years my healing process consisted of meditation, talk therapy, energy healing, medication, nutrition, yoga, became a yoga teacher, did EMDR, tapping and started my own healing business. In the middle of this we were gifted with our third child unexpectedly. He truly was a miracle. I had a very strong spiritual practice, did yoga, daily meditation and I believed with my whole hear, this time would be different when our baby arrived. I had the tools to support myself. Nope, that was not what happened. Post postpartum took me to the darkest loneliest place for the 3rd time (I have another incredible son who is 17).

    How could this be? I can’t take medication now! I’m spiritual! I “SHOULD” be able to heal this naturally! Again life did not seem worth living. I surrendered when my husband gently and kindly made me aware that he could see the space I was in quickly this time and made the appointment with our medical doctor.
    The medication in conjunction with all of the beautiful practices I have learned over the years, saved me. I know your story is going to help many! If I could have come across all this great information and these resources back then, it would have given me clear direction on how to get help without shame or judgement. Maybe you might publish a short book with your story and resources? Thank you for being of service in the highest good of all by using this beautiful platform to bring awareness to a critical topic. With deep gratitude and love~Lauren

    1. Thank you for your honest share, Lauren. So glad this post resonates with you. Sending you big love as you continue on your healing journey! xo

  7. I have been battling depression and anxiety all my life.
    I nursed My mother through it through my childhood years, who am I kidding, all my life.
    I now care for her, she 91 and we live together.
    This has taken over my life all my life.
    I have no children, I was encouraged to stay close and be the fix in my parents marriage so I finally escaped into a relationship for 20 years that ultimately ended in heartache.
    I then found a relationship with another girl who suffered greatly from PTSD from a life of abuse, trauma, alcoholism, who battles every day just as you explain here but has taught me so much.
    I struggle to feel really safe with anyone.
    I felt safe in my 20 year relationship as she would never leave me but I left her three times for other people, becoming bored with our lack of stimulation, although the feeling of safety and a relationship I now do miss.
    After reading this Gabby, and I have followed you for over 2 years now and you have guided me so many times, I now really realise I need help.
    I can’t do it on my own.
    I need to surrender it all.
    I’m tired.
    Tired of feeling alone in all this.
    I crave a better life although my life has stabilised somewhat I want the life I NEED.
    It’s time for ME.
    I want to be HAPPY and working on my life and moving forward, not always fixing problems.
    I want to settle into my life finally @54 with a relationship and friends around me, food, good times…. NORMAL.
    Normal terrifies me I think I’ve never felt it.
    Thankyou for listening xx

    1. Thank you for your honest share, Tracey. I want to honor you for showing up for yourself in this way. It takes courage and strength to shine light on our fear-based patterns and make meaningful change. If you’re not already doing so, we recommend seeing a therapist. This is a wonderful action in self-care. As Gabby shares in the post, she wouldn’t be where she is right now if it weren’t for this practice. Sending you big love as you continue on your healing journey! xo

  8. Gabby,

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your PPA&D story and being vulnerable and honest about taking medication… I too believe medication saved my life.

    I started taking it a few weeks postpartum when I was in the darkest place in my life with anxiety and insomnia. It was difficult for me to accept psychiatric help as I’m a holistic health coach and I felt very ashamed I couldn’t fix myself the “natural” way… I had listened to a podcast you did while I was pregnant and remembered you sharing your story with medication – it helped me moved through that shame and accept the help I needed. I am now 3 months postpartum and thriving.

    Thanks for all the amazing work you do.

    Much love,
    Grace

    1. Wonderful, Grace. I’m so glad this post resonates with you and that you experienced this energetic shift. Sending you love and healing light as you continue on your journey! xo

  9. Thank you for sharing this. Your note around mental health challenges like depression anxiety and eating disorders not caring about who you are, how spiritual you are or where you come from really hit me. Ive been seriously struggling, every day, with giving myself some grace that I’m doing my best and I have to keep showing up for myself and trying. Some days are easier and some are harder. Today has been harder and this message helped me. When you’ve surrendered, surrender more! Thank you xo

    1. Amazing, Jessica. I’m happy to hear that this post resonates with you and that you’re also practicing giving yourself some grace during this time. It takes courage and strength to show up for yourself this way and it sounds like you’re doing great work. Sending you love and light as you continue on your healing journey! xo

  10. Thank you for speaking out as its so important for reducing the stigma behind mental health. I publish my Memoir last year focusing on Mental Health and started a platform supporting those looking for healing. And I’m doing speaking engagements and developed workshops around depression and releasing guilt related to mental health challenges. During this pandemic I have been doing a Telehealth sessions with a counselor to support me through the difficult challenges. And I blog about those challenges. It’s important to let people know that reaching out for help is not a weakness but a strength. Thank you!

  11. Thank you for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to a lot of people! Sending you a lot of love! ❤

  12. How do you know I’m suffering from mental health issues? I’m so amazed .universe has delivered me what I needed. Thank you so much
    I’m so grateful.

    1. So glad this post ended up in front of you when you needed it, Saleha. May you continue to be guided to the right and perfect resources to support you during this time. xo

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