“The Second Trimester is Amazing!” and Other Pieces of Fuckery: Mental Health & Pregnancy

Someone promised me that the second trimester would be all roses and sunshine, and to that mystery person, here is what I have to say:

Fuck you.

I mean: I’m glad you had a great second trimester, or your partner did, or whatever. But mine has been a totally different story, and I’m convinced that the second trimester isn’t really that you feel the best you’ve ever felt in your whole life but that you’ve been so worn down from the first trimester that finally feeling some sort of relief makes you feel so grateful that you’re willing to call it “great.”

It’s like an abusive relationship in that way.

Physically, they were right–it hasn’t been terrible. (Though “roses and sunshine” is a far cry from “not the worst thing I’ve endured, but that’s a separate conversation about what women put up with.) But emotionally and psychologically–baby, this has been a whirlwind.

I talked in my last post about this feeling of what I’ve been equating to body dysmorphia as I’ve been pregnant, and how miserable it is, and how I can’t escape the feeling. Worse yet, I can’t find the vocabulary to quite describe it, nor can I find an online community of feeling people the same thing. Or rather–my lack of vocabulary might be blocking my ability to find an online community of people feeling the same thing.

This is psychological, you might tell me.

Well, no shit, Sherlock. I’m in therapy. I have a psychiatrist. I’m on medication. And I’m feeling this stuff anyway.

Therapy’s approach typically is: identify the feeling, then look into your childhood/past to see if you can find a source for why you might be feeling that way. But when you can’t come up with words to accurately describe what you’re feeling, you can’t really identify things with words, can you?

So in desperation, I kept scouring the internet. I tried all the search terms I could think of, including:

  • I hate being naked
  • I don’t like my nipples being touched
  • I hate how my body feels
  • Pregnancy body dysmorphia

I found a sort-of-shitty set of Whisper (whatever happened to PostSecret??) posts in a BuzzFeed list; I found a bunch of pregnant woman saying “lol” with too many exclamation points (WHY. DO. MOMMY. GROUPS. DO. THIS.–note to self: write a post on the cutesiness of pregnant woman in the face of extreme pain and horribleness, bc pregnancy is NOT cute). I found a lot of people complaining with no real solutions.

Then, I found a how-to article: How to Stop Hating Your Body. It wasn’t too helpful, but it got much closer than anything else I found to really being a solution to what I was feeling. Particularly when the author said this:

I was reading through comments on a site recently when I came across this statement from a young woman: “I don’t know how to stop hating my body.”

That really hits the nail on the head, I think. So many of us are tired of hating our bodies, and know we deserve better. But when it comes to actually changing our relationship with our bodies? We’re not quite sure what to do.

I’ve cried to my therapist: “I want to be done feeling these things. I’m ready to stop feeling them. Tell me how I do this.”

But talk therapists really aren’t equipped to tell you what to do. In fact, they’re not really supposed to tell you what to do, because that would be prescriptive and not inquisitive, and talk therapy is supposed to be about getting to the root of problems, not telling you what your problems are. There’s supposed to be an acceptance from the patient that the patient accepts and understands that they do have a problem, and that they’re taking ownership of that problem, and how are they supposed to do that if the therapist is telling them what their problem is?

So this makes sense, but when I accept a problem and I’ve identified it and I want to just fix it already (although me-fixing-things was another psychological issue that I hadn’t identified, so the talk therapy was actually really useful on that front)–not that helpful.

The advice that the article above mentioned is overly simplistic. It’s extremely surface-level. But it’s also completely useful as a starting ground to where I want to go.

I remember the video I saw once where best friends wrote down the things they hated about their own bodies, swapped papers, and then read them aloud to each other. I even quoted it in my own damn blog post about my sense of self-worth when I gained a bunch of weight around the same time that video came out. and I tell myself now: why did I forget my commitment to myself to treat myself the way my best friend would treat me? I made a decision, in 2016, to treat myself with respect. And I lived up to it for a while, but with the rush of everyday society, sometimes that commitment wanes.

I think the sense of self-worth has a lot to do with my sense of hatred for my own body. Because that’s really what it is–my anxiety disorder has to do with my own sense of lack of self-worth; my depression is a result of not feeling worthy; my OCD is a result of trying to fix the feeling of not being worthy. It’s a chain reaction that–when I don’t get down to the root of the problem–my freaking self-worth–I just keep hurting myself further and further and further. It’s like when I was 16 and I injured my groin, and then stopped physical therapy halfway through, and then I got a piriformis injury (which is giving me grief now during pregnancy, along with some sciatic pain) as a result of not healing my groin injury, and then I ruined the cartilage in my knees because I didn’t heal my piriformis injury. When we’re broken and we don’t heal the root of the problem, we overcompensate and create more problems. And then we create coping mechanisms for those problems, too, but those aren’t healthy, either, and on and on the cycle goes, where it stops–

No.

I’m not going to finish that thought.

Because where it stops, I know. decide.

I found another site that provides real, free exercises, thoughts for disrupting my own thought patterns, particularly as pertain to my OCD. One line that struck me was this one:

The OCD Trick is this: you experience doubt, but respond as if it’s danger.

I found this site because I somehow linked myself to information about depersonalization, which I thought might describe how I was feeling. But ultimately, it wasn’t quite matching how I felt. I started to realize that everything I was feeling–

  • an obsession of cleaning my house,
  • the need to have things be symmetrical,
  • my obsessive skin-picking,
  • the feeling that things are always out-of-control,
  • my fear of abandonment,
  • my constant need to put more things on my plate that I can’t necessarily handle,
  • my lack of being able to relax,
  • my compulsion to get involved in battles I know I can’t win,
  • the constant feeling that my friends and family are going to stop loving me,
  • feeling that my twelve-and-a-half-year-old dog doesn’t get enough love,
  • feeling like I’m never doing enough,
  • feeling like I’m never enough

–these are all things that have to do with anxiety.

My brain identifies fear as a threat, and it panics. Which leads to me feeling panic without a legitimate danger being in place. And according to this article, my response of trying to identify why I’m feeling it and resist the fear is only making things worse.

Ah.

Click.

I read further:

The Five Steps of AWARE

The five steps to overcoming panic attacks are:

Acknowledge & Accept

Wait & Watch (and maybe, Work)

Actions (to make myself more comfortable)

Repeat

End

I’m feeling out-of-control, so identifying why I’m out-of-control is less helpful than doing something that makes me feel in control. And as counterintuitive as it is, accepting that I feel out-of-control is more helpful to deciding to be good to myself.

wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Okay, so. Acknowledgement. I tried this two days ago when I felt so horrible about my body that I didn’t want to eat my whole dinner (which, as you know, is kind of detrimental to infant development. My OB later told me that part of the reason I feel full and uncomfortable so quickly is because my baby is moving around my internal organs, pushing them into my diaphragm, so that’s fun). I took my time eating and that helped, but I literally cried when I felt so bad about my body because I felt helpless.

I did yoga later that night (Yoga With Adriene is my hero, and her Yoga for All series going on now is both free and transformative thus far). The theme of the video was Notice, which significantly helped me actively provide an awareness to my body, with some thoughts when I got to a place where I felt exposed and negative about my body. I placed my hand on the parts of my body that felt exposed, and I acknowledged that they were there, and I tried to get used to the feeling of my hands on my diaphragm, on my breasts, on my belly. And I told myself:

  • This is my body, and I am controlling it.
  • I feel uncomfortable right now, and that’s okay.
  • This feeling will pass.
  • I am here.
  • This is my body.
  • It’s mine.
  • I choose to share it with my baby.
  • I choose to use my body to help my baby grow and develop.
  • And I love this baby. I love you. I never want you to feel this way about your body.
  • I love you.
  • I love you.

Of course, as you can imagine, I was sobbing while I said all of this aloud. And that was part of the trick: saying it out loud. Hearing myself say these words to myself. Hearing myself provide radical empathy to myself, just like I’m so used to doing for others.

I did this again this morning when I started to panic about my body after I got out of the shower. I told myself, I feel anxious, and that’s okay. The discomfort will pass. 

And you know what?

It was okay.

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