Monday, January 30, 2017

A Letter to the OCD Momma

To the mom who suffers OCD in silence: I see you.
To the mom who spends all of her "me" time crying into her pillow: I get it.
To the mom whose eyes dart across the room, wondering who is worrying about her sanity: I feel your pain.
To the mom who fears holding her child: You're okay.
To the mom who fears not bonding with her child: It will come.
To the mom who's hungry, but can't eat: I've been there.
To the mom whose greatest fears are stuck on repeat in her brain: I know, it's hell.
To the mom who feels trapped in her own mind: You will escape.
To the mom who mourns her former self: You will be restored.

Right now you may feel helpless, alone, and misunderstood.

You might look in the mirror and not recognize the woman in the reflection. You've always been strong, self-sufficient, and courageous, but now you find yourself needing reassurance for every move you make. The fear is real. The emotions are real. The way out seems impossible.

You obsess over having "the thoughts."
You obsess over not having "the thoughts."
You cry when the thoughts upset you.
You cry more when they don't.
You wonder where these thoughts came from and fear what they could mean.
You long for a clear mind, something you never before considered to be a gift.

You've become robotic. You don't act how you feel, you act how you think you should. You smile is empty. Your eyes heavy. Your face is still, but your mind is racing. Your body is withering away. Your once strong spirit is begging for shelter. Shelter from the thoughts and anxiety. Shelter from the chaos. Shelter from yourself.

You're running. Endlessly running. Your mind is running. Your body is running. Staying in one place is the enemy. An empty schedule invites the thoughts. Being alone is not your "safe space". You have no sanctuary.

Why are you like this? How did you get here? What did you do wrong?

You are like this because you love hard. You got here because you are selfless and protective. You did NOTHING wrong.

From the depths of despair, there is hope. OCD feels like an Everest you were never trained to climb. You will fight this until you don't feel like you can go on and then you will fight some more. You will find inner strength you never knew you had and discover parts of yourself you didn't know existed.

OCD can feel like an identity crisis. Your mind has turned against you and you feel completely betrayed. I'm here to say: It's okay.

It's okay to cry, hard and long.
It's okay to mourn for time lost.
It's okay to feel defeated, though you swear you won't give up.
It's okay to fake being "okay" long before you feel it.
I'm here to tell you everything will be okay. Maybe not now, but eventually.

Eventually the fears will fade. The obsessions will lose their grip on you. Your mind will rest and you will relax in the serenity of silence. On the other side you will be stronger. You will be sensitive and understanding. Empathy will be your greatest strength.

On  the other side, there is joy and there is peace of mind. On the other side you will understand yourself far more than you could have ever imagined. The fear will have left you, but the lessons remain. On the other side of it:

You will know what true strength is.
You will have fought for yourself and those you love.
You will be able to enjoy your life and your family.
You will forgive yourself.
You will have overcome unimaginable obstacles.
You will be grateful for the little things.
You will enjoy simply being.
You will be able to help others through their struggle.

OCD is like the world's greatest test of character and I promise, you are acing it.
When I was finally able to enjoy my family again : )


Friday, January 27, 2017

Canvas: My Favorite Way to Decorate

Monday marks the 1 month anniversary of the blog's re-launch and I couldn't be more excited! With the help of my friend, Lauren, we've been able to reach over 10,000 views this month! Now that I've told everyone who will read my deepest and darkest secrets, I figured I would share some of my decorating style with ya'all! So, here's a little bit about my style and my taste...

I LOVE canvas pictures and artwork! It's everywhere in my home! I have a floral canvas picture in my entryway, as shown below. I love how it pulls together the side table below it. I've picked out a picture of each of our children to place in a frame. I've also put 3 flowers, 1 for each child in my painted bottle or "vase." I also included the "&" to show that they are all connected. Every time I come into my home, I'm reminded of the people who live with me that fill our house with love.






Canvas pictures of my children are hanging in my playroom, which is the room directly off of my entryway. In my playroom, I used one of my favorite methods of hanging canvas pictures, which is attaching thick twine to each canvas (either by hot glue or small tack) and hanging it off of decorative knobs. My favorite knobs are sold at Hobby Lobby, either at store or online (always buy when they're 50% off or use a 40% off coupon). I love how this room combines all of my children as well as fun colors and an "arrow" theme (I will be sharing more of this room next week).





I also have canvas pictures hanging in my living room. Above the fireplace I have a flowered  canvas painting. I love the way that the paint on the canvas has texture and depth. Next to my stairwell I have a canvas collage of my wedding pictures that my husband made. Above it I've put a beautiful ornate wooden piece. I love mixing canvas pieces with decorative accents.



There are a couple of different ways to make sure that canvas pictures stay straight. At a local craft store, it was recommended that I use Scotch rubber pads (like you use on cabinets) to keep my canvas pictures straight. I used them on some, but was not completely happy with the results (the pictures get crooked often). I would recommend using adhesive putty to keep canvas pictures straight.



I hope this gives everyone some ideas about different ways to use canvas on their walls or at least gives some insight into the personal style of the girl who you've been reading about!

Thanks for reading! "Like" and "Share"

Chels

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Extreme Mommy Guilt

Mommy guilt, we ALL have it. Whether we feel bad about not breast feeding, being too distracted during play time, working too much, not reading them enough books before bed, not making heart shaped sandwiches etc, there is always something to feel bad about. Parenting is hard. Being "on-call" 24/7 is very draining. That compiled with the fact that everyone on social media constantly looks beyond happy and put together (ugh) there is always someone who appears to be doing "it" better. Now, I want you to imagine the "regular" mommy guilt combined with the "OCD/depressed/anxious" mommy guilt. One word: OVERWHELMING.

When I first developed OCD, I was very resistant to accepting the fact that these horrible thoughts were not mine, but instead anxious thoughts. Excuse me! They're in MY brain! I obviously WANT to be thinking them. False. This lesson took me a looong time to learn. Countless therapists would assure and reassure me that even though my brain was thinking horrible things, these thoughts were not the true "me." Remember this, please remember this...anxiety makes you worry and think irrationally. OCD puts those awful thoughts/fears on repeat. OCD thoughts come against your will. I could not control my mind. It never quit. It was like I was running full speed on a treadmill that I could not get off of. It was exhausting. It was all consuming. When I say it was hell, I'm not lying.

For a long time, I felt like I needed to remember each thought so that I could torture myself with guilt over it. If I was going to think horrible things, I was going to make myself pay the price for it. This was a huge mistake. During my OCD I promised myself I would never forgive myself for the horrible things I had thought. I didn't deserve forgiveness. I thought saying the phrase "those aren't my thoughts, but are anxious thoughts" seemed like a cop-out. I wasn't going to blame an illness for my thoughts, I'm an adult and I needed to take responsibility for what was going on in my mind. This, my friends, was flawed thinking.

It took me getting out of the "fog" of OCD to realize those thoughts were not mine. Once I began taking medicine and my thinking slowed down, the thoughts did too. Suddenly, I was only thinking things I WANTED to think, and surprisingly (or not surprisingly) none of those thoughts included hurting anyone. That is when I realized that I needed to forgive myself.

You see, people with OCD/anxiety are very sensitive to bad thoughts. They believe in "right" and "wrong" and when they have thoughts/obsessions that go against their beliefs, they are shaken to the core. The very fact that 1 bad thought spiraled me into the depths of despair proves that I have morals. I love hard and I take failure very personally. I was willing to risk my own mental health to protect my kids, the problem was, that wasn't necessary. I did not need to forfeit my sanity to keep my children safe. What I needed was expert care and medication to help me understand my disease and get well.

So, you may wonder, what happened to my guilt? I finally took the advice of the professionals in my life and practiced self-care. In the depths of OCD, I didn't think I deserved to care for myself because I was an awful person. I thought: why does everyone keep worrying about how much sleep I'M getting when there is an obvious crisis going on. I couldn't worry about me because I was completely invested in worrying about my kids 100% of the time. I have now realized that if I don't care for myself, I'm doing my children a huge disservice. For me, self-care meant cutting myself a break. Holding onto all of the guilt and shame over the thoughts was ruining me and ruining my relationships with my children. I would have never been able to recover if I had not decided to forgive myself and let those thoughts go. It was a process. It took time, but now I understand the disease and I know that pushing forward instead of dwelling on "bad thoughts" is something that is so important toward maintaining my mental health.

When I see how much my children love each other, I know I'm doing it right.

All moms, not just ones with OCD/anxiety/depression need to learn to cut themselves a break. We work hard. Parenting is emotionally, physically,  and financially draining. It takes everything I have every day to keep my family going and I still fall short. I still lose my temper or cut bath time short. I still skip a story or don't cuddle as long as they'd like. I'm constantly trying to juggle meeting all of my children's needs while still trying to keep myself and my husband happy. Right now my dishes are dirty and I'm pretty sure the amount of food spilled on the floor during dinner could feed a small country. I don't know the secret to good parenting. I put everything I have into these little people and still find myself constantly apologizing for things that they do. I'm not the perfect mom, but my squad knows they're beyond loved and I will put everything I have into raising these amazing children I've been given.

Love yourselves, mamas!

Ps, I got as far as making a YouTube channel with my name on it before I decided I was too tired to put on make-up and turn on my camera...there's always next week!

Chels

Sunday, January 22, 2017

When Having Another Baby Takes a (GIANT) Leap of Faith

Hey guys! I'm pretty excited about this week because I have a lot to say and I also have some awesome projects going on that I can't wait to show everyone! Today, I want to talk about something that I know every mom who has had a bad postpartum experience worries about: having more children. I think if you've read my posts thus far, you can see how hard I struggled. There was a point where I sold every baby item I owned and swore up and down I would NEVER have another baby. I had seen the dark side of postpartum mental illness and I was NOT about to risk going through that again! Then, you know what happened? I healed.

You may be wondering, what does healing look like? I'm glad you asked! I knew I was healing when...I was able to complain about my children again. I know, so weird, but very true. When I was in the middle of OCD, I never spoke to my children in any sort of raised voice. I was very careful to always control my emotions around them (to ensure I didn't "snap"). I wouldn't say anything bad about them because in my mind, we were so lucky to have made it through another day! Part of my (and many other mom's) OCD was feeling like I couldn't complain about my children, because to me that meant I didn't love them and wished they were gone.

Now, please don't be upset. I don't sit around complaining about my children all the time. I obviously love them, I spent an entire year completely obsessed with them, but sometimes mama's gotta vent! I share my everyday frustrations, but keep my attitude about it light. Waking up to my son quizzing me about Pokรฉmon while the 2 year old is ripping off his diaper and the baby just spit up in my hair is just a Monday for me. I post about it on Facebook and I'm not looking for anything other than another mom to say "been there" and just like that, I'll go and make breakfast that no one likes.

It is so weird, but when I realized I was okay having normal emotions and frustrations again, I also began to long for a third baby. The thought of going through OCD again scared the crap out of me, but I'd always wanted 3 children. Recovering meant me being able to have the strength to try again. Getting better was a journey, I was constantly trying to "rush through" it. I wanted to be better ASAP, but that's not how it worked. It took time, but once I regained my strength and personality, the need to "complete" my family came back.

I know some of you are in the trenches right now thinking "HELLL, NO!" I get that. I just want to show that the option is out there and it's the choice we made. Now, having another baby wasn't just a walk in the park. I had to put precautions in place. I changed medications to make sure I was taking ones that would be safe during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding. I also kept up with my weekly therapy appointments (which at some point changed to a "need to go" basis). My friends and family also knew to keep their eyes peeled in case anything went wrong.

Since this is a safe space, I'll also share the fact that it kind of sucked going through a pregnancy after such a traumatic prior experience. For a solid year and a half, I felt like everyone in my life was handling me with "kid gloves." I felt like I had to ask for permission to have another baby and people weren't sure that I would be able to handle it. That was hard. That sucked. I felt like my friends weren't as excited when I got pregnant this time because they were scared for me. I literally had to tell them they couldn't share their worries about it with me. I needed them to support me and have faith in  my ability to take control of my mental health if needed.

Ella at Christmas
Well, we all rallied and Ella arrived! She is my miracle. I'm completely speechless over her. Her sweetness is amazing. She has 1 dimple, porcelain skin, and dazzling blue eyes. She fits so perfectly into our family. She was meant to be ours. She completes us. More than that, she has healed me. From the moment I got pregnant, the last remnant I had of OCD was gone. I've been able to cuddle her from the beginning. Everything has honestly gone far better than I could have ever imagined. (I'm not trying to ramble right now, but there's tears rolling down my face at how grateful I am for her.)

Statistically, I was more likely to struggle again postpartum so I definitely kept my eyes peeled, it just never happened. I had high anxiety for about 4 days (not OCD) and I made the appropriate calls right away to get it taken care of. When postpartum anxiety happened to me the first time, I was completely uneducated about it and had no idea what to do. This time I had tons of resources to lean on in case I needed it.

I'm amazingly blessed, but I want to make one more thing clear: I've healed, but I still think weird shit sometimes. I know, *gasp*! So, healing doesn't mean you will never have another bad thought, it means you can file it into the "STFU" department of your brain and let it go. (I'm not trying to use offensive language, but honestly, I got to a point with OCD where I had to get mad at it. Getting mad and making it "back off" was the only way I could conquer it.)

I hope this has given women hope that more babies after postpartum OCD, anxiety, and depression IS possible. It takes work, but by this point you're used to fighting for what's important to you!

Thanks for reading! "Like" and "Share"

Chels

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Take a Chance, Tell a Friend

Hey everyone! So, I'm writing this on Saturday because honestly, this week got away from me! I have mad respect for actual single moms, because I'm lucky enough not to have to work AND parent by myself. Taking care of my 3 minis alone during the week can be draining, but I try to remind myself to enjoy our time together and to "let them be little."

I'm starting to think about redesigning "the blog" to show a little more of my personality/organize my topics. Also, my biggest fans (hey neighbor girls) really think I should look into "vlogging" a little so people who don't know me can hear the voice behind the words. I'm going to try to work on both of those things! In the meantime, I have some super cute crafts that I'm going to start sharing, so keep your eyes peeled!

Now, down to business! Today I want to talk about reaching out to friends and family. When my OCD/anxiety began, I was too embarrassed to even tell my closest friends that I was seeing a therapist, much less WHY. Everyone could tell something was wrong with me, but I tip-toed around what was actually going on because I didn't want to seem "crazy" or "dangerous." I would sit with my friends with a hopeless look on my face, literally seeing no way out of the "hole" I had dug myself into. They couldn't understand what was going on though.

At some point, I decided that it was impossible to hold in what was bothering me. I decided that I was  going to take a chance and risk looking "bad" to the people who were closest to me because I honestly felt like the anxiety and guilt were too much for me to bear alone. Opening up and telling people what was wrong was hard. Very hard. At times it would feel SO GOOD to get something off my chest, but then I would go home and have anxiety for hours worrying about what they were thinking about what I had said. Luckily, I've been blessed with amazing friends. You know what happened when I started telling my friends about my struggles? They supported me. They reassured me that I was going to be okay. They promised me the boys were safe. They didn't understand WHY I needed this reassurance, but they knew that in my mind it was a big deal.

After I started slowly opening up to the people closest to me, I began to realize I wasn't alone. I had so much support from the people in my life. They got used to my fears, and "knew the drill" as far as reassuring me went. My friends have talked to me on the phone for hours, listened to me cry on their couches daily, slept in my BED with me, all because they knew how important it was to help me out when I needed it most.
Some of the girls I leaned on then (and now!)

I'm super close to about 12 girls in life, since going through OCD, my friendships have only been strengthened. Going through hard times is the worst, but looking next to you and seeing the people who held you up during the struggle is everything. OCD was awful, but I know each and every person who was with me during that time have become lifelong friends.

I developed OCD about 2 years into living at our first house. I was close with the neighbor girls, but the bond we developed that year has made our relationship unbreakable to this day. I asked my old next door neighbor, Bridget, to write a little bit about my struggle from her point of view. I thought it might be interesting for anyone struggling to see how an outsider saw me struggle.
Some of our old neighbors, Bridget in the middle.


This is what Bridget had to say:

"Watching Chelsea struggle the first few weeks after delivering her second son was hard. Watching her continue to battle herself was confusing, scary, and left me and her other friends feeling helpless. The only thing I could do was continue to reassure her that she wasn’t going to hurt her children, she wasn’t going to go through things alone, and continue to encourage her to ask for help. Did I know what that looked like? No. Did I know where that help was? No. But I knew she needed it.


Almost daily I watched Chelsea haul her two sweet kiddos through my front yard to my front door, all the while tears streaming down her face. She would ask “am I crazy?” My obvious answer was “NO!” Her come back? “Then why am I having these thoughts?” “Why won’t they go away?” “Will I ever be normal again?”

As I watched Chelsea struggle through her journey with postpartum OCD and anxiety, I saw an amazingly strong woman, mother and wife walk through each day like a zombie just trying to make it from one day to the next. I watched a once independent, do-it-yourself mama try to convince herself that she was ok.

As she started her journey through therapy, it wasn’t an overnight fix- it was a LONG journey. She was very distant from her babies. She didn’t want to hold her months-old son in fear that she was going to hurt him. She would walk in the door, I would prepare supper for us and our children and she would proceed to tell me her “thought of the day”. Sometimes it would be a new thought/scenario and some days it would be a repeat of one she had had before. She would continue to ask me if she would really act on those thoughts, desperate for reassurance that they were only thoughts, not something she would ever actually do! She would reassure ME (I think she was actually reassuring herself) that she was doing EVERYTHING she could think of to avoid the negative/intrusive thoughts: pray, read the Bible, avoided ANY sort of violent shows on TV, watched sermons on YouTube…the list goes on.

Now, two years later, I see a mother of THREE beautiful children. A mother that has matured in so many ways and a woman that desires so much to befriend ANYONE who is out there who needs a listening ear. Someone who understands what other mamas are going through. And someone that will support them through the “crazy” thoughts and feelings and help them get the help that they DESERVE!

Postpartum OCD and anxiety is no joke. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to relate to someone going through it if you’ve never dealt with it yourself. But, watching someone you love go through it, and not knowing how to help is painful. As a mother myself, I remember going through a bit of the “baby blues” after my first son was born. It was awful! Looking back at how exhausted I was, how “not myself” I felt. It was something I didn’t even realize was really happening- but reflecting on now, I wish I would have known so much more about it. Never did I realize that I would be walking next to someone dealing with SO MUCH more than I had ever thought was “real-life”.

Chelsea fought through all of this and has come out on the other side so much wiser and someone we can all learn from and lean on in these deep, dark times of need. ANYONE who is struggling or knows someone who is: PLEASE reach out for help. You are NOT alone. There is help. There is HOPE! I’m thankful for Chelsea and the light that she has been to so many already. I am so proud of the steps that she has taken and the energy that she is pouring in to all of us mamas to help us all know that we’re not alone: that there IS someone who will listen to you."


As I read what Bridget wrote the other night, I got tears in my mug of wine. These days I barely ever think about what I was like then. I remember everything, but I'm not stuck in that place anymore. Remembering what it was like and how hard I struggled is tough, but I'm sharing this with all of you to prove a point. Postpartum OCD, anxiety, and depression is hard. It's so important to tell the people around you that love you what is going on. They'll probably surprise you. Instead of thinking your awful or crazy, they'll offer you a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.

My point today is that if you are struggling with anything, let someone know. If you can't find the words, show them my blog. Share my story. Share Lauren's story. Let your friends and family be there for you.

As always, I hope this is helpful for someone out there!

Chels






Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Parenting Through Pain

Happy Hump Day ya'all! We're halfway through the week and you know what that means!...it means nothing, we're parents...we always work. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Today I thought I would share some of my parenting advice with you. Parenting is HARD. At times it can feel like people are lining up to tell you you're doing it wrong. Well, guess what, they don't make the rules so please ignore anyone who is trying to get you down. There is no "right" way to parent. As long as your children are getting their basic needs met (food, clothing, shelter, love) the rest is just personal preference. These are some "parenting cliff notes" that I've picked up over the years. I've parented while running scared. I've worried about people judging how I parent. I'm just here to share a little bit of my style and my point of view. We're going to do some bullet points today, because bullet points rock. Here we go!

                       (These people eat dinosaur shaped chicken, I'm pretty sure it's organic).      
  • Breastfeed...or don't! My oldest literally never nursed and guess what, he's awesome (and much better at Legos than me). My middle son nursed exclusively for 6 months and he is also awesome. I nursed my youngest for about 2 weeks, then I was just kind of done. It was making me feel overwhelmed and claustrophobic so I quit. She's also doing amazing and I absolutely refuse to let anyone make me feel bad about my choices. Whatever you choose, own it.
  • Leave your kids in pajamas all day if you want. My current plan with my 4 month old is to have her in pajamas as much as possible (and only ones with zippers, why do button up ones even exist!?) The reason is...I have 3 other people including myself to get out the door in the morning, if just one of us can get a pass by wearing pajamas all day, I'm all for it! (And when Ella wants to dress up, she wears a headband with her pajamas).
  • Let your house be messy (my husband is rolling on the floor laughing right now, that's never been my strong suit.) But seriously, it it's between taking care of yourself and your children or doing the dishes, always choose you and them.
  • "Having the laundry done" can be defined as "having clean clothes in a pile."
  • Pack your schedule as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Supposed to go to a birthday party, but you haven't slept in days? Please don't feel guilty saying "no" sometimes. I'm canceling plans as we speak because we have to head to the doctor instead of Bible study. 
  • Cry in public. (Not that you'll want to, but I've done this many times so I just want everyone to know it's totally okay to not always appear to "have it all together.")
  • Let your kids eat microwavable food. Sometimes my 2 year old tries to eat frozen corndogs for breakfast (I don't think his taste buds work). I GET that there are healthier options and I always supply fruit and vegetables with each meal. Sometimes though, you just need a 60 second meal made of questionable meats.
  • If your kids want you to sleep with them, give in. As a mom who has been through absolute hell mentally, I am forever grateful that I was able to keep my relationships with my kids solid. When they call for me, I come. I want them to need me. I know unintentional co-sleeping isn't for everyone, but I've been in a position where I never thought I'd be able to do it again. I cherish being able to be with them, even if it means getting kicked in the face.
  • Compliment your children endlessly. I'm pretty sure Dr. Phil said it takes 1000 "atta boys" to make up for 1 negative comment. I make sure to constantly tell my children how smart, sweet, loving, beautiful, etc. they are. Everyday I tell me 6 year old how proud I am of him, and his face absolutely lights up every time. I also apologize to them when I'm wrong or I lose my temper. I'm trying to raise strong, confident people, so I focus on building up their self-esteem and self-worth as much as I can.
  • Lastly and MOST importantly, trust YOUR instincts. Parenting is hard. Parenting while fighting a postpartum mental illness is darn near impossible. At the end of the day, you gotta do what you feel is right for your family and your children.
Again, this is a little insight into my parenting style, it isn't for everyone. If nothing else, I'm just trying to point out that I'm obviously not a perfect parent, but I try my best every day. When you're in the trenches fighting for your sanity, sometimes you just gotta do your best even though it isn't how you imagined it would be.

Ps, I also recommend eating candy while locked in the pantry/closet and drinking wine out of coffee mugs.

Thanks for reading!

Chels


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Stolen Time

If you're a mom who has ever experienced any type of postpartum OCD, anxiety, or depression, and you're anything like me, you may feel like you've been "robbed." I get that. I get that so much! You have been robbed of happiness, of freedom, of the time to bond following your child's birth. And that isn't fair.

I was able to have that storybook love you always hear about with my first son, Brayden. I went from being a scared 21 year old with a surprise pregnancy, to a mommy who was completely overwhelmed with love. When I had Brayden, I felt my world stop and my heart explode. Nothing that had happened before him mattered, he was now my life.

When we decided to get pregnant with Easton, I was a little nervous about being able to love both equally, but I was also sure I would adjust to being a mom of 2 easily. Once the anxiety/OCD kicked in though, I was terrified to even be near Easton. I could not relax around him. My anxiety was working overtime against my instincts. My instinct was to cuddle and kiss Easton, but my anxiety made me want to keep my distance to "protect" him. The pain of not having that "overwhelming" feeling of love with him was unbearable. Would we ever recover from this? Would he resent me for struggling so much? Was I capable of not being fearful around him?

I obviously love all of my children equally, but my journey with each of them has been different. With Brayden, it was natural and easy, like a fairytale. With Easton, I had to work. NOT work to love him, but work to make my mind stop sabotaging our relationship. Building an unbreakable bond with Easton took a lot of conscious effort. Being near him made me scared, so you know what I did? I wore him. I wore that baby in my Baby K'tan for MONTHS. I refused to let my anxiety dictate whether or not my child developed a secure attachment with me. I also breastfed him. For 6 months, he nursed exclusively. I decided that I would not allow my anxiety to stand in the way of our relationship. My approach isn't for everyone, but that's what worked for me. (Ps, I didn't breastfeed Brayden or Ella, so I totally believe whatever works for you and your family is what is best).

My experience with mental illness included a lot of "fake it til you make it" moments. I went through the motions, I did what I was "supposed" to do. Inside though, my mind was either racing (at the beginning) or completely numb. I chose to push through. I chose to seek help for myself and for my children. Yes, they saw me cry, I'm human. They experienced a mommy who was doing her best, even when her best was laying on the floor in tears. But you know what else, they saw a mom with strength. They saw someone who overcame obstacles and learned from them.

OCD did steal about a year of my life, and that sucks. BUT it wasn't for nothing. I've learned so much walking through that hell. I appreciate my children more. I understand how lucky I am to simply be able to lay with them at night and laugh with them. I'm eternally grateful for each moment I get to spend with them.
                              (This picture sums up my children's love for each other and makes me know we are more than "okay.")

So, are you wondering how this affected Easton? It didn't. I lived in so much fear about how this was ruining our relationship. It stung for a couple months when he was about 1 and seemed to be a "daddy's boy." Was that my fault? Did he love my husband more because I failed to bond with him? Nope. He was just being a silly toddler. Easton comes to me countless times a day to suck his thumb and sit on my lap. He is constantly asking me to cuddle with him on the "chouch." He jumps for joy any time I show up after being away from him for an hour or two. Our relationship has been fully restored. You know what else? I don't hold resentment for that "lost time." No, my postpartum experience with Easton was not what I wanted or expected, but we have come out on the other side stronger.

Healing includes letting go of the past. Please, try to hold on to the lessons, but let go of the pain. I know it's hard. I wouldn't wish postpartum OCD on my worst enemy, but I'm also determined to take my lessons from it and use it to make our lives better going forward. When Ella came along and I wasn't anxious, I can honestly say that I was able to appreciate our time together more. I still lay with her for hours "just because I can." It's like, if you've ever had a really sore throat. All you do is long for it to stop hurting, which makes you realize how much you take a throat that doesn't hurt for granted. I have learned not to take my time with my children for granted.

My advice to any mom currently going through any postpartum difficulties is to not be discouraged. I get the disappointment. I understand the need to mourn the loss of that precious time together, but I PROMISE your relationship will be restored. Your baby loves you. Your overwhelming love for your baby is what is making this experience so hard. So please, just keep going, even when it seems impossible.

Thank you everyone for reading!

Chels


Friday, January 13, 2017

Who ya gonna call???

GHOSTBUSTERS! Just kidding, don't call them, they won't take your insurance. So, the blog has been up and running for about a week and a half and the reception has been AMAZING! I want to thank Lauren for taking the plunge with me and sharing the hardest time in her life with thousands of our closest friends. Lauren and I have "known" each other for 2 years now because of OCD and we are both dedicated to helping spread awareness and help other women get healthy again.

Since this is a safe space, I want to share with you all a little bit about my week. I got a "bee in my bonnet" because I read another postpartum depression article from a very popular "mommy blog" in which the writer specifically pointed out she didn't have "harming" thoughts, but some women do. She then urged women with those thoughts to quickly bring their children to a safe place and go to a hospital to get help. Umm, the "fear" approach is not helpful. Since I feel very "mama bear" over women who are scared to get help, let me explain my issue with this.

Women who have thoughts about harming their children that are fueled by anxiety develop OCD. Their brain (body) is having an extreme reaction to a thought that they feel threatened by. All people have scary/inappropriate thoughts (yes, I'm implying that people who point out they've never had a "harming" thought probably have, they were just able to dismiss it because they realized the thought was not a true threat.) Women with OCD are very scared by their thoughts and DO NOT hurt their children. I've done much research on this, though you can never say never, the chance of an OCD mom hurting her children is pretty much 0. (Anxious girls, don't let yourself think you could be the "exception" to that rule. You aren't.)

"But some women DO hurt their children." ...Turn off the news, mamas! There are rare (and highly publicized) incidents where mothers do hurt their children. These are examples of postpartum psychosis. These women are experiencing something other than reality and do need help, just like the rest of us. Women who hurt their children during psychosis do not realize their thoughts are bad, therefore the thought won't give them anxiety. (If right now you're worried about if the "bad" thought gives you anxiety, it does. You're reading this blog because you're worrying about it.)

I hope you can all now see my issue. A mom who has anxiety that is told to "put the kids in a safe place and run to the hospital" will probably close off more and never tell a soul. That's why I'm here, I'm going to point you in the right direction! Girls, I'm NOT saying you don't need to reach out for help, you most certainly do. You don't need to do it in FEAR though. Please, please don't be scared. I get it. I've been there. You don't need help because you're dangerous, you need help because you DESERVE to be well and your child(ren) deserve a mommy who is healthy!

                                                  The boy who changed it all, Easton, 2.5 years old : )

Why is this SO important to me? Because last night I slept in my 2 year old's bed and woke up with my face in his hands. Two years ago I could not even be in the same room with him without fearing him. Being with him now soothes me. Seeing his sweetness is healing. I was convinced I would never be better. I didn't know how, but I was sure this would kill me. It didn't. I clawed my way out of the pit. I fought for me. I fought for us. I'm going to help you fight too!

So, I've spent the week doing research, dialing digits, and taking names. If you are in Minnesota, you can call the Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota helpline number at  612-787-7776 or email at ppsmhelpline@gmail.com. To get in contact with the Mother Baby program at HCMC that I went to, you can call 612-873-MAMA (6262). You can also call to speak with a Mother-Baby staff member for support or other resources, this is the Mother-Baby HopeLine at 612-873-HOPE (4673). I also want to add, my insurance did completely cover the Mother Baby Program (though I would have paid any amount out of pocket by that point).

Postpartum Support International's helpline is available nationwide at 1-800-944-4773. I would also say to click around on their website, there's lots of great information and resources on there. 

Both PPSM and PSI will talk to you and put you in touch with professionals who UNDERSTAND what you're going through (many of them have personal experience). I personally contacted both of these organizations and made sure that the volunteers who are helping you find help understand OCD, scary thoughts, etc. I would never send people to find help where they would be misunderstood. My mission is to help women reach out. If you've been following along, you saw that both Lauren and I reached out for help and our children were never taken away. I understand the fear. If you have anxiety and OCD and you are living in fear, please let someone help you.

Once you find some options for help, I would recommend researching each therapist online so that you can pick one that you think would be the best "fit" for you. I  found my therapist because her story was relatable to mine and I felt like I had found someone who would "get it."

Some therapists will be able to refer you to a psychiatrist or primary care doctor that you can talk to about medication. Sometimes you are able to find ones who work together, which is super nice. I ended up getting medication from a psychiatrist because I never really had a developed relationship with my doctor, but if you have an awesome doctor that you trust, I'd say stick with them for medication. Psychiatry appointments can take a while to get, so you may even want to make an appointment with one, then get medicine to "hold you over" from a primary care doctor until you can be seen.  

I'm hoping this information is helpful. Once again, thank you everyone for taking the time to read about my story, my struggle and my thoughts. Please comment/message with any questions, etc. The goal here is support, which is the first step in self-care when you are struggling.

"like" "share" "follow"

LOVE!

Chels

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Guest Post: Lauren's Story


It's been a great week, thank you everyone for all of your support! Please welcome my friend Lauren to the blog today! She's being so courageous sharing her story with all of us and I want to make sure she feels our support! Please "like", comment, and share, you guys know the drill! ; )
Hey everyone, I’m not a writer, just a mom who has survived Postpartum OCD and wants to help others!

I have always had anxiety and what I now know was what I call, ‘a touch of OCD’. I was first put on anxiety medicine when I was 18 and just chalked it up to nerves about going away to college. (Major life transitions often bring about or make anxiety worse.) I took myself off the meds and had to be put back on a few times. I would always start feeling better and think that I didn’t need them when I was having a good stretch.

My husband and I met at school. I am pretty sure I was off my medicine when I met him, but I was doing well. After we both finished school, we moved to his hometown so that he could pursue a job opportunity. I started having panic attacks and stomach problems. My doctor thought I needed to go back on my anxiety meds. I was so frustrated because I didn’t understand why I needed to take medicine to feel normal.

At some point in all this (this is probably going on 6 years ago now), I went to an overnight church retreat.  At that retreat, I had my first ever intrusive thought. I had a sacrilegious intrusive thought. I don’t even remember exactly what it was but I remember being scared out of my mind and not being able to go back to that church without having a panic attack. I literally switched churches to another one in our diocese. At the time, I didn’t know what an intrusive thought was, let alone that they are common symptoms for people with OCD (or that I had OCD!!!)

Eventually we moved back to my hometown, both started new jobs, and then I lost two grandparents. My maternal grandmother (who I was really close to) died in March and my paternal grandfather died in May. In between their deaths, we found out I was pregnant on April 5th. Needless to say, I was under a lot of stress and in a whirlwind of emotions from the move, new jobs, family losses, and now pregnancy!  It was kind of the perfect storm for someone with a history of anxiety.

We were thrilled about the pregnancy. We had been trying so having a baby was definitely something we were excited about. I weaned off my medicine, I mean duh, I’ve seen the scary commercials about what can happen to babies whose moms takes meds while they’re pregnant …no thank you.

Then, about half way through the pregnancy, I was not ok. I started having the intrusive thoughts again, sacrilegious thoughts and thoughts about wanting bad things happening to the people I loved (mainly my husband and the baby). I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was losing my mind, going crazy, I needed to be locked up. I didn’t tell a soul. I was petrified. I started praying obsessively, compulsively. Then, I started having the intrusive thoughts while I was praying or at church. They were being triggered by religion, my religion that has always been SO important to me. I thought I was some kind of monster. I felt horrible for the thoughts I was having and what was triggering them.

Brian, my husband, started noticing something was off. I couldn’t focus or hold a conversation. I was extremely irritable. I had to repeat or restart my prayers. I was constantly praying. Praying was now my compulsion to fight the obsessive intrusive thoughts, but I had such a hard time praying because it triggered the intrusive thoughts. It was an endless cycle. This consumed me. There were days where I would get to work and I wouldn’t be to start work for an hour or two, just sitting there pretending to work while staring at my computer screen. I was good though at faking it though…faking that I was “ok”, “normal”. No one else knew. Only Brian, because I let him see little parts of it.

(Let me be clear here….this is a disease…it cannot be prayed, exercised, or meditated away….I had a chemical imbalance in my brain that need to be treated with medicine like diabetes is treated with insulin. Many people are often told to pray harder or exercise more or meditate then get worse when those things don’t make it go away or become triggering for them.)

When we went to breastfeeding class at the hospital, the Lactation Consultant mentioned a postpartum adjustment support group. She suggested that moms with a history or anxiety or depression should check out the group. On the way home that night, Brian said I should go to that support group. I said, “I’ll see how I do. If I’m not feeling better in a few weeks, I’ll go.” Not long after, excuse my French, but “shit hit the fan.” I got even worse. The intrusive thoughts were constant. I was literally obsessed. I could barely function. It was all I thought about. If I wasn’t having an intrusive thought, I was thinking about the ones I had had and when the next one would pop up. I would go to work, go to the chapel to pray, and then go to bed. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I tried exercising more to take my mind off of it, but my walks around town did nothing to help me mentally.

Finally, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought “maybe I’m bipolar.” I Googled what was going on in my head. That’s when I first saw the term intrusive thoughts and OCD. I felt so relieved, like “Ok this is a real thing, other people have this too, other people have gotten through this, I am not crazy, there is hope, I can get help, I can treat this.”

I called the Lactation Consultant and asked her about the support group. She gave me the contact info for her co-facilitator. I emailed her and she wrote back that she had OCD and that her OCD came with intrusive thoughts too.  Again, relief, a real person who has also been through this. She suggested I talk to my doctor about getting back on my medicine, get in to see a psychiatrist, start therapy and come to group.

My OB wrote me a script for the same medicine I had just weaned off, over the phone. They didn’t even make me come in to talk. I called my insurance company and got in with the first therapist they said was covered. She was not specialized in perinatal mood disorders. My one and only session with her actually triggered my anxiety even more and made me feel worse. I reached back out to the group leader, now in full panic mode. She gave me the number for her therapist. I called and couldn’t even talk to the receptionist without bawling. She put me on hold and got her right away. She asked me to come in the next day.

It was with them that I learned about what was going on with me….

See, everyone has intrusive (scary) thoughts, “normal” people barely notice them and just ignore them and carry on. For people with OCD, they stick. We obsess over them, they cause debilitating anxiety. The most common types if intrusive thoughts are violent, sexual and blasphemous/sacrilegious. It’s hard to put into words how I felt. OCD attacks what is most sacred to you. For me that is my faith and my loved ones so that’s what my intrusive thoughts were about.

Pregnancy and hormones worsened my anxiety and threw me into the dark scary world of OCD. I soon learned that was not alone, this is VERY common in pregnancy, but no one talks about it. There is so much stigma attached to mental health and women are afraid that if they reach out for help, their babies will be taken away from them.

They told me about the organization called Postpartum Progress. Their website put me in contact with thousands of women who had been through what I was going through. Their explanations and stories on the website were so helpful. I needed to know I wasn’t crazy, wasn’t alone, and would get better.

Through therapy, going to a psychiatrist, the support group, and trying a new medicine, I am much healthier. I still have hard days and now understand that I have always had a little OCD that was worsened while I was pregnant and may always be here, but I can live with it now and manage it.

In  May, I had our second baby. I was medicated through the whole pregnancy and had a much better experience. I am on an as needed basis with my therapist and still see my psychiatrist every three months to check in and make any medication adjustments.

I am so thankful for the other women, like Chelsea, who shared their stories. They helped pull me through the hardest thing I have ever dealt with.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Delicate Change's Future Plans

Hey Ya'all! I've tallied the numbers and chatted with the "big wigs" and it's been decided that Delicate Change is here to stay! Less than a week ago I decided to take a chance at blogging for real and in that time, my stories have been read over 4,000 times. That's 4,000 opportunities for people to hear my hard truth. 4,000 sets of eyes who now know it's okay to have "scary thoughts" and feel safe asking for help. I want my blog to be relatable. I want to share my story so that others don't have to struggle as hard or as long as I did. I will say again and again that I'm not a medical or mental health professional, but I'm someone who has a story to tell. My main goal is to encourage anyone struggling to reach out for help, don't be scared or try to get better alone!

When I think of what I want Delicate Change to become, the phrase "Safe Haven" comes to mind. Right now I'm posting some hard stories about my struggle with postpartum OCD, anxiety, and depression, and those stories need to be told. I want people who are currently struggling to know that they aren't alone and I also want to create a safe place for them to rediscover themselves. When I was in therapy, my therapist quite literally told me I needed to get a life. I needed to stop obsessing about my kids 24/7 and rediscover my own identity. At the time, I was like, "excuse me, we are having a crisis, I CANNOT think of anything else!" Well, turns out, she was right. I did need to get a life. I needed to find other passions

I was able to discover tons of things I enjoyed and was passionate about. I love refinishing furniture and decorating houses. I love reading books and hanging out with girlfriends. There are SO many things in life to be excited about, but in the middle of the struggle you can't see that. I want to inspire women to move forward. I want to force them to take their attention off of their problems and show them things in life to be excited about. I've been told that my anxiety skyrocketed after I had Easton because now I had 2 children to take care of. 2 children to protect from danger. 2 children to love unconditionally and I did NOT take that responsibility lightly. Of course being a parent is a huge responsibility and the greatest honor in the world, but you also need to remember who you were first.

Before my husband or my children, I was Chelsea. I was a sarcastic, fun-loving girl who was always looking for a good time. I had a hard time deciding what my "dream job" would be, but I knew for certain being a mom was going to be my greatest calling. The key to life is finding balance. I needed to learn how to balance the responsibility of motherhood, while still remembering to take care of me. That is what my blog is about. Sharing hard stories, demolishing stigmas, and learning how to take care of yourself. You will never be able to be the best mom, friend, wife, girlfriend, daughter, etc. if you do not make a time and a space to "recharge" and take care of you.


A word that has become very important to me in this past year is "gather." This is a sign that I had made by a local woman that hangs in my kitchen (message me if you would like her information, she was very affordable and this sign is amazing). I want women to "gather" together at my blog. To realize they aren't alone and to find hope. I want to be a place where creativity is embraced and women can learn it's okay to put themselves first sometimes.

I've decided that I will be posting new blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Mondays and Wednesdays (for now) will be devoted to postpartum issues and stories. Fridays will be about crafts, recipes, self-care, etc. Saturdays and Sundays I will post on Facebook little "self-care" tips to relax moms throughout the weekend. I also have an amazing mom, Lauren VanDerveer, who is going to be contributing to the blog. We connected through Postpartum Progress over 2 years ago and we share the same vision of helping women through being open and honest about our struggles. I've also been in contact with the therapist who helped me through my struggle and she has some amazing ideas and connections that we will be putting on the blog.

Everyone who has read my blog thus far has seen my struggle. Today I want to share WHY helping other moms is so important to me. 2 years ago I had a "rock bottom" moment. I had gone to Duluth with my husband and the boys. My husband travels for work and I was scared to be at home alone, so sometimes we went with him. On our first morning there, I took my newly prescribed anxiety medication and dabbed lavender on my wrists. By 6:30 I had finished my Joyce Meyer devotional and was already having crushing anxiety. I could not escape the anxiety or ease "the thoughts." I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. With tears rolling down my face I (literally) said, "You are not going to hurt those boys. If you believe that is a possibility, leave this hotel room right now. Call your husband and tell him you've left and never look back. If you are still here at 7, you will fight this and overcome it." I stayed, of course I stayed, but this was when I vowed I wouldn't let the disease steal my life or my joy of being a mom. I also decided when I beat it, I needed to help others beat it too.

*Edit: I want to make it very clear that by this point I KNEW I had OCD and I was I the care of a mental health professional. My children were at no point in any danger, I just had a crippling fear of hurting them and the repetitiveness of OCD made me very scared. OCD thoughts are anxiety based and NOT dangerous. Mom's with OCD do not hurt their children, they take extreme measures to avoid that. Even knowing that does not make the disease easier, which is why medication AND therapy were the right choice for me to use to beat it.  : )

OCD sucks. Postpartum depression and anxiety suck. The lies of mental illness suck. But there's hope, I promise I've been to hell and back with this illness. Give it time, ask for help, and take care of yourself!

As always, thanks for reading! "Like", "Share", do ALL the things!!!

Chels




Friday, January 6, 2017

OCD 1 Minute Challenge (potentially triggering topics)

Happy Friday everyone! I would like to thank my loyal readers of 5 days for coming back for more, and as always, encourage "shares," comments, and "likes." I ended up posting about 4 more times than expected this week because of the overwhelming views. I thought, well as long as people are reading, I'm going to write, because this stuff NEEDS to be heard. Now that I feel like some of you are starting to grasp how scary postpartum OCD, depression, anxiety can be for some, I kind of want to give you a first hand idea of what it is like inside of the brain of people with OCD.

So, here on the blog today we're going to do an activity. And by activity I mean hell challenge. By now you've read about my struggle. I've said that I "couldn't stop the thoughts" or "the thoughts made me physically ill." These are all true, but for just 1 minute I want to challenge you to pretend to see what it was like being in my brain. I want to remind you, these were my thoughts, this was real for me and it is real for others. I'm challenging you to 1 minute, this was EVERY minute of my day and it was uncontrollable.

I've written out different thoughts or different ways new fears would surface. I quite literally challenge you to start a stop watch and time yourself reading through these phrases. Once you're done, reread those phrases. Let them sink in. Allow yourself to imagine this happening to you alone, uncontrollably, and about the person you love most in life.

*Goes to get the baby ready for bed, begins changing baby's diaper*
  • "He's so beautiful and perfect"
  • "Omg, I think he's beautiful, that means I think he's attractive"
  • "Why am I attracted to him"
  • "Does that mean I'd molest him"
  • "Now I saw his privates"
  • "Why did I look at those"
  • "Did I look because I wanted to look"
  •  "Does this mean I want to be a pedophile"
  • "I don't want to wipe him because I don't want to accidently "touch" him"
  • "If I wipe him now does it mean I WANT to "touch" him"
  • "Do real pedophiles worry about touching children"
*Feverishly covers baby up and holds him tight*
  • "I hate diaper changes, think something else, think something else"
  • "He's so sweet and delicate in my arms"
  • "Delicate like a bird"
  • "One time I read a story about a kid who snapped a bird's neck"
  • "What if I snapped his neck"
  • "Why am I thinking about snapping his neck"
  • "Do I want to snap his neck"
  • "No"
  • "Then why would I think it"
  • "Don't think it again"
  • "What if I snapped his neck"
  • "You wouldn't"
  • "Don't think it again"
  • "What if I snapped his neck"
  • "You wouldn't"
  • "Don't think it again"
*Quickly puts baby in crib and goes to vomit, then lays on floor in a cold sweat*
  • "Why do I want to hurt him, I had him on purpose"
  • "What if this means I don't love him"
  • "Why don't I love him, I wanted him so badly"
  • "He deserves a mom who knows how to love him"
  • "I wish he had a mom who wasn't so broken"
  • "I'm going to close my eyes and try to relax"
*Closes eyes and sees:
  • "Image of being a pedophile"
  • "Image of baby's neck snapping"
*Opens eyes, visuals are worse*
  • "I'm so glad he's safe now in his crib"
  • "Maybe I should shut his door to make sure I stay out"
  • "Maybe I should shut my door too"
  • "I don't want to sleep walk and hurt him"
  • "Who thinks these things"
  • "I'm so awful"
  • "I'm worse than parents who hit their kids"
  • "I'm worse than parents who starve their kids"
  • "I think these are the worst thoughts anyone has ever had"
  • "I'm so scared"
  • "I can't tell anyone"
  • "Would I hurt him"
  • "No"
  • "Am I sure"
  • "Yes"
  • "Then why did I think it"
Did you get through all of the thoughts in 1 minute? Were you disturbed by them? Well my friends, welcome to the brain of a woman struggling with OCD and anxiety. For my sake I hope this helps you understand my pain and for your sake I hope you never experience it.

Please do this challenge and comment, either on my blog or on the fb page "Challenge Accepted." I'm trying to raise awareness and understanding. I'm also trying to help women feel supported. My friends ALWAYS tell me they saw me struggling, but couldn't understand what was going on. THIS was going on. Thank you for reading.

Chels 



Thursday, January 5, 2017

Medication: A Personal Decision

Hey guys! You know what they say, another day another dollar! Kidding, I'm here for free. Though, it's hard to believe the sponsorships for my new and improved 3 day old blog haven't come rolling in yet...there's always next week. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I again want to THANK everyone for reading! Because of all of your support, 2,000 of my closest friends know my deepest, darkest secrets...and I couldn't be happier! I've been in contact with the moms struggling who inspired me to keep writing, and the posts have brought them to tears. That is why I'm doing this. I used to Google OCD symptoms with tears streaming down my face, so relieved to have found an answer. I hadn't found a PERSON to connect with, but I had found a list of symptoms that described me to a "T" and that gave me the glimmer of hope I needed to keep going and keep fighting. Once you are able to see through the fear and recognize the problem, you will feel safe reaching out and getting help.

Please note: I LOVE the views, I APPRECIATE the shares, and I'm asking from the bottom of my heart for you to keep reading and keep sharing. Please, please "follow" my blog, "like" Delicate Change on Facebook. Please also comment or personal message me, if you have something to say about past or present struggles, this forum is a safe place for you! Help me get the message out. Admittedly, I've been stalking every possible "parenting" outlet on social media for the past few days trying to see if they'd be interested in doing a story about postpartum mental illness. I think a BIG problem is simply the wording here. Women may hear about postpartum depression and not know its them, because they aren't depressed. They're scared shitless, but not depressed. About a year ago, Hayden Panettiere was on Live! With Kelly talking about postpartum depression, I was so excited to hear someone like her talking about it, but then she said "I didn't have thoughts about hurting the baby or anything." And just like that, I was disappointed. NOT disappointed that her struggle was different, disappointed that I again felt like I had the BAD kind of mental illness. Like somehow on the postpartum mental illness totem pole I was at the bottom because I had "those" thoughts. So here I am, the black sheep of postpartum depression and I had those thoughts. I'm not trying to split hairs here, but they were really anxious thoughts, brought on by fear, anxiety, and the overwhelming need to protect, but whatever...

Moving on, I've got some big plans in the works! And by that I mean like 2 ideas I had during naptime yesterday (I wonder if some people plan out blogs before they go live). I'm gonna pull in some of the girls I've gotten to know over the years and have them share their struggles too. What's better than finding a blog about 1 lady who had postpartum OCD? Finding MANY moms who struggled hard and different. So, we're gonna try to work some stuff out and really reach as many women as possible.

As you all know by now, pictures make blogs better, so here's my favorite "throwback Thursday" picture of when my oldest son, Brayden, found out my third baby was going to be a girl. This picture has literally nothing to do with my message today, but it's SOO funny!

Now, down to business, I know you are all dying to know how I feel about medication so here it is! Again, these are my personal opinions and experiences. I have no professional training unless a Cosmetology License, Communications Degree, and almost two solid years of therapy count. I won't name specifics (feel free to message me if you want to know, I get it) because everyone is different so what works for me wont work for you necessarily. I will however share WHAT each particular medicine I took/take does for a point of reference (and in case you see a psychiatrist and want to mention trying something different.)

Alright, so obviously I DO take medication, and I went through some of that experience in my "Getting Help" post, but now I'll start from the beginning as far as medicine goes. I DIDN'T want to take medication. Until that point in my life, no one I knew had ever mentioned taking anxiety or depression medication. On top of that, I was breastfeeding. I thought, nah, I'll get through this naturally. Guys, I chugged gallons of water, lathered myself in essential oils, journaled, read the Bible, prayed (begged God for help), took melatonin, repeated positive mantras, watched/listened to pastors...the list goes on and on. I was in panic mode and literally tried EVERYTHING I could think of to get my mind to relax. I just couldn't do it. By this time, I had already worked myself up so much by convincing myself there was a problem and that I was the problem, that my mind would not simply "relax." After all, my children were in constant danger as long as I was near them, so around them I NEEDED to have crippling anxiety in order to make sure I kept my guard up and kept them safe.

I finally reached out and got a  low dose of a common depression medication. Now, it can be difficult to begin medications and I'm pretty sure they don't go into full effect for 6 weeks. By my second day of taking this medicine, I was in SHAMBLES. We had gone to the Mall of America with the kids that day and my anxiety was worse than ever. I wouldn't even eat at my favorite restaurant. When we got home, I went into my bathroom and had a full blown panic attack. Now, this has never happened to me before or since, but I honestly felt like I was going to die. I was crying on my bathroom floor, convinced no one else in the world had ever cried so hard or felt so low. I was honestly at a loss of what to do. I felt like I was in an impossible situation with no solution. My neighbors set up an outdoor movie for our kids that night, I stayed out until about 5 minutes past the previews then couldn't handle anymore social interaction. I then went  home to enjoy another night of hell-like insomnia.

I'm not sure if I took the pill again on Sunday. It was like choosing between bad and worse. What I do know though is that my husband had to leave town for work that night. I BEGGED him not to leave me. I cried and cried, asking him to stay. What kind of woman would beg the family's only breadwinner to never leave her alone with the children, you ask? A desperate one. The reason I really wanted him to stay was because I wanted to run to a hospital and stay there until I had some relief, but he had to go to work and I had to parent, so I did.

By Monday I had stopped the meds and was told my OB would no longer help me with this problem, so I spent some more time struggling (a week?) until I could not take it anymore. I actually did end up getting a small dose of a different depression medication from a family practice doctor a few days before my interview with the Mother Baby Program.

Now, let's talk The Mother Baby Program. It was a 3 week long outpatient program that me and Easton went to 4 days a week. I was VERY reluctant to do this program. I don't even remember why. I think it was a cross between "looking bad" and not having faith that it would work for me. Luckily, I had great neighbors (turned some of my best friends) who put their foot down and told me I NEEDED to go. They were right. I got offers to help with Brayden and was able to attend the program with my husband still able to work out of town.

At my first meeting with my psychiatrist, she upped the dose of the depression meds I was on. Over the course of the next 3 weeks she continued to increase it until we felt I was stabilizing. About 3 days into the program when I told them the intrusive thoughts were still overwhelming, they prescribed an additional "bump" medication that helped get rid of the thoughts more quickly while the depression medication had time to work into my system. During this time I was also given a third medication for "sudden panic." I finished the program and guess what, by the end my personality was coming back and my therapists agreed that I was indeed funny. ๐Ÿ˜„

It's important for me to add a couple extra things about the medication. I probably went through about 6 months of feeling "numb" emotionally, but that did eventually wear off. It also took time to retrain my brain to not NEED the thoughts. I had become so used to them I felt like I had to have them to keep my kids safe. Once the medication started making them go away and I was less affected by them, I got kind of upset because I thought that meant the thoughts didn't bother me anymore and if they didn't bother me anymore I must "agree" with them or think they're "good" now. I would take both of those adjustments over the hell of anxiety though. My only other "side effect" was about a 30 pound weight gain. Now I'm not sure if I gained the weight because I actually had an appetite again, like a normal person, or if the medicine actually does something that causes the body to gain weight.

I'm explaining my medication journey because, like everything else I went through that year, it was HARD. I went from not ever wanting medication to being on 3 different ones at once. Not everyone needs medication. Not everyone wants medication. But for me, I had no other choice. I'm not sure if you CAN actually die from anxiety, but I really felt like that was a definite possibility at the time. I don't regret the medication, I'm kind of bummed out I didn't find relief sooner. And, as long as we're all being honest here, I'm STILL on medication. I had my depression/anxiety medication switched when I decided I wanted to become pregnant again, but stayed on throughout pregnancy until now. I also have pills for sudden anxiety. A lot of people wean off medication at some point, but with an extensive family history of anxiety on both sides of my family (that I had no prior knowledge of) I think I'm going to stick with it for a while.

Once again, thanks for reading! Share my story, learn from my lessons! Feel free to comment, just so I'm not talkin to myself ; )

Chels

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Not Your Momma's OCD (potentially triggering topics)

Okay okay, so it IS your momma's OCD, but it's not necessarily the type that you automatically think of when you hear the term. I'm admittedly under the weather, so I'm working from home today (jk, I'm a SAHM...I never leave my house). Anyways, I wasn't going to post today because I'm working on a medication piece and have strep throat, but with over 600 views on my post yesterday, I want to keep the momentum going in case anyone reading knows someone who is suffering from the fear of their own thoughts.

First, the steps I took toward beginning a blog were:
1. Create blog with no idea what you're doing, but you just lived through hell on earth and you must help others.
2. Post while still struggling, but eventually stop because you aren't sure if anyone's reading.
3. Completely heal and have another baby.
4. Realize you are still getting contacted regularly by women searching for help even though you haven't touched you blog in a year.
5. Do the blog, and do it ALL the way. (Also, try to learn how to actually do a blog.)

I'm pretty sure blogs are 99% more popular if they have pictures, so here's a picture with me and the boys : )...I wanted to jump out of my skin here and run away in case you were wondering.

So here I am, doing the blog. Now, unless my dad visited this page over 600 times yesterday (hey Pat Suiter, love you!) there's a lot of you who are reading that don't know me personally. I want to tell you a little bit about my background and then get down to the dirty truth of OCD. I'm a regular Midwestern girl from a Christian home. We were always middle class growing up. I went to church weekly and went to private school. At no point in my life was I ever abused in any way (sexually, verbally, physically, etc). I'm not violent, don't have a "hot" temper, and definitely have never hurt anyone or been in a fight. I've always believed in being totally honest, I'm a HORRIBLE liar, and try to never break rules because I'm such a fierce believe in karma. I'm writing this small synopsis of some of my characteristics to illustrate the fact that mental illness can affect ANYONE. Intrusive thoughts or "bad" thoughts happen to everyone.

Now, back to the topic of the hour, OCD. We all hear it everyday, someone likes to have their house clean so they say that have OCD. I WISH that was all it was or could be. There are types of OCD where people have rituals and do need to obsessively clean, and I'm not downplaying their pain. I experienced OCD differently though. My OCD began with anxiety. I was overly anxious about my children's safety. At one point, my brain began to see danger everywhere. When I had my first intrusive thought about smothering Easton, my anxiety shot THROUGH THE ROOF. Now, I don't know any other way to describe it than that I could FEEL the thought. It was that strong. In my mind, I didn't know what that feeling meant. I became scared because I thought that feeling was an urge, meaning I WANTED to hurt Easton. Now I know that it meant the exact opposite, my body had gone into "fight or flight" mode because it misinterpreted the thought as being harmful to Easton, so it raised my anxiety more and more.

Here I am, I had "the thought"...so I should just be able to let it go, right? NOPE. My mind had to find a reason for having such a thought. I had to obsess over the thought. Why did I have it? Am I capable of hurting him? Does this mean I don't love him? Seriously, the horror was unbearable. Once I began to question his safety around me, I started to see danger in almost every object or situation I was in with him. I was so scared to even hold him because he was "safer" when he was away from me. I'm about to get real REAL with you all. I don't like sharing this with people, because honestly it's hard. That is why I need to share it. Women are feverishly Googling symptoms right now because they believe they are going mad from their thoughts. They are scared. I need to write these things down so that they recognize their symptoms and reach out for help. It's a mental illness, its powered by anxiety and fear stemming from the need to PROTECT your children, and its treatable.

Here is a comprehensive list of the items I hated/would avoid if my baby was anywhere near me:
  • Knives
  • Scissors
  • Sharp objects
  • Dull objects
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Plastic bags
  • Cords
  • Rope
  • Changing diapers
  • Seeing my kids without clothes on
  • Baths
  • Pools
  • Lakes
  • Being alone together
I also wouldn't watch the news or any channel other than Hallmark and HGTV. I didn't read articles or books. My list of fears would grow greater by the day because of outside influences or things I heard. I would constantly scour lists of OCD obsessions, but if I happened to have a fear that wasn't on the list I would freak out because maybe THAT fear was actually dangerous and not a symptom of the disease. Maybe THAT fear was legitimate.

By now I know what you're thinking: THAT girl is a mess! Well, I was. I was a scared, depressed, hopeless mess. OCD happened to me. An illness happened to me. I didn't ask for it, I wasn't expecting it, but it came. I also made it through. I'm a better person today than I was 2 years ago. I feel like OCD has given me a mission. I began this blog because I was still struggling and I wanted other women to know they weren't alone, now I've conquered it and have the strength to be the hope to others that I so desperately needed during that time.

Ps, me and Easton are super tight now. I lay in his bed with him every night before bed (blankets and pillows included).

Thanks for reading and please share!

Chels