Thursday, June 1, 2017

5 Small Comforts Amidst the Chaos of Postpartum OCD

Happy Spring (Summer?)
I completely understand how frustrating it may be to follow a blogger who is MIA, and I'm sorry. January-May are the months every year where my family is in "survival mode." My husband is home an average of 1 day a week and this was my first year with all 3. First, I want to say that, although my husband and I are exhausted, this year has been amazing! When I first started writing again I was scared...actually, terrified. I wanted to document my journey past OCD, but was also kind of fearful of it coming back. What if I turned into that girl again. What if I struggled. What if I backslid.

I didn't.

Recently I was telling a friend of mine how much I love Ella (my 9 month old). I couldn't believe how freely I've enjoyed her, because it was the exact opposite of my postpartum experience with my second child. My friend said "you're smitten." Smitten. Yes, I'm EXACTLY that. I've treaded lightly and kept my eyes open for trouble, but it never showed up. I've stayed on medication and am in contact with my therapist. If I were to run into trouble, I would have the tools at my fingertips to get better quickly.



Since this is a safe place and honesty is my policy, my blog doesn't "look" like I want it to. It's like I have things to say, but I haven't yet found the time to make my blog my own, which is something I'm going to focus on before the new year (see how I put a nice long timeline on that ; )). My page will become beautiful and professional, but for now what is most important to me is to have these words written down. Women who need support don't care about what font I use, but they do need somewhere to go for reassurance and encouragement and that's what I'm aiming to accomplish right now.

When I was suffering through OCD and was in the "thick of it" I spent about 95% of my time on Google looking for symptoms, stories, and reassurance. I needed to find someone who had been in my shoes. I needed to know that they had every single symptom that I did, and I needed to know that they had ended up okay. I would sometimes find specific articles or websites that would explain so perfectly what I was going through that I would regularly look them up to calm myself down. The relatability of the words would bring me to tears. Knowing I wasn't alone was comforting.

I regularly get messages from women who are struggling. I'm not a professional, but I'm a woman who has been through something hard and can encourage others who are currently struggling. Many people who contact me have the same questions, so I thought it might be helpful to write out some things about my experience that may be helpful to hear or look at when struggling.

1. When people say "please, reach out for help" or "you must get help" they aren't saying it to scare you or imply that you are dangerous. You deserve help and peace. You deserve to be happy and healthy. You do need to get help, I NEEDED to get help, not because I was a danger to myself or my children, but because I didn't need to struggle. I didn't need to feel isolated and scared. My children needed their fun, vibrant mommy back instead of the shell I had become. So, YES, please get help. It is so important to get help and be diagnosed properly, I would recommend connecting with Postpartum Support International (1.800.944.4773) in order to be matched with skilled professional in your area. Yes, I had scary thoughts. Yes, I got help. No, my children were never taken from me, not for a second.

2. The content of your (intrusive) thoughts have nothing to do with how much you love your baby (babies). When getting help, professionals aren't necessarily looking at the content of the specific thoughts, it is your reaction to them. If you have a scary thought and are terrified by it, you are not psychotic. Having physical reactions (sweating, crying, weight loss, etc) are all possible reactions to scary thoughts. If you are seeing a professional who understands OCD (especially if they're one that I went to haha) they've heard EVERYTHING, I promise : ). Thinking about hurting someone is NOT the same as wanting to hurt them or actually hurting them. The obsessiveness sets in when you try to figure out why you had the thought. You are so disturbed by it that you must examine the thought or examine your entire life to decide whether you agree with the thought or not. OCD forces you to agonize over thoughts that don't deserve it. If you are worrying about hurting someone, it means you love them, please don't dig deeper for meaning, there will never be one.

3. You will not just "snap" someday. People with OCD are very careful with their actions. They drive themselves crazy, but their actions are very calculated. I knew every inch of every movement that I made for over a year, analyzing each move for whether I had touched or done something in a way that I perceived to be dangerous. You will not snap or act out, if anything, when I was suffering I was more gentle and accommodating to my children because I felt that I had to "make up for" all of the terrible things I was constantly thinking.

4. Being unable to stop the thoughts will never translate into you agreeing with them. Ever. I used to think that if I couldn't stop the thoughts, at some point I would begin agreeing with them. I also feared that at some point I would get so fed up with having them that I would act on them as a last resort. Neither of those did or would ever happen. Intrusive thoughts are against everything the sufferer's soul believes in. You are a good person, which is why this affecting you to your core. The repetitiveness of the thoughts will never translate into you believing in them, you will also never become so beat down by them that you will listen to them. This illness is HARD. Intense. Overwhelming. I promise, you can overcome it!

5. Instead of looking for any similarities between yourself and any story you have ever heard of someone hurting another person, look for differences. Or don't look at all. You are not them, you are on your own journey, please focus on that. It can be so easy to be distracted by what someone else did who may "seem" to be on the same journey as you, but they aren't you. You have control over yourself and your destiny, please focus on making the life for you and your children as good as possible.

I hope some of these things are encouraging for women who are currently struggling. These were things that I needed to hear when I was having a hard time, I hope that this article is one that can be looked at during hard times when reassurance is needed.

Thanks for reading!

Chels