Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Postpartum Depression Isn't Shattered Glass, It's a Puzzle Whose Pieces Will Fit Back Together


That's how I felt, that's what I had become. Postpartum depression wasn't just being sad. The anxiety I developed didn't revolve around small fears. OCD didn't present itself in a funny way. It was raw, all of it.

The overwhelming sadness I felt took my breath away. At times I thought would never be able to inhale deeply again. The anxiety was crippling. Small fears I had never even recognized suddenly became unscalable mountains. The obsessiveness attached to my fears was beyond my control. I couldn't stop the thoughts. My need to obsess over the thoughts and search for meaning behind them became automatic and unrelenting.

I didn't have a "safe space." When your mind is sick, there isn't anywhere to run. There's no refuge from the storm. There's no quiet place to assess and recharge. There's only deafening thoughts. Constant chaos. Debilitating fear.

I felt broken. Shattered. Ruined.

There was no escape. I felt like nothing could ever fix me. I physically couldn't stop the thoughts, so how would I ever overcome them?

I was so scared. What if the only way to stop the thoughts was to act on them? At one point, the only way I could calm down enough to go to sleep was to tell myself I would hurt myself before I ever hurt my kids. That isn't a healthy way to think or behave, but it's where I was. It was my reality.

I wasn't shattered though, I was just an incomplete puzzle. I had to seek out the pieces and help that I needed in order to be whole again. Recovery was a lot of trial and error. I tried things that didn't work and became discouraged. I found things that did work and had hope. I became impatient with recovery and backslid. I saw how far I'd come and vowed to keep going.

When my life hit the fan, I was brought to my knees. I would have given anything to make it stop, but the exact thing that I felt would somehow kill me gave me an amazing amount of strength once I overcame it. Not only did postpartum depression not shatter me, it made me better. The thing that I didn't believe I would ever recover from is the very thing that made me a better person today. I wasn't a bad person before, but the amount I have grown and changed since experiencing it is only something that would have happened if I went through it.

Without the dark times, it is hard to see the brightness of the good times. If I hadn't suffered so long and hard, I would have never understood others who do. I couldn't have developed the compassion for those with mental illness unless I had experienced it. I would never have believed so strongly in breaking down stigmas attached to mental illness and medications/therapy needed to treat people with them.

Before postpartum depression, I thought I "wasn't the type of person" who would ever need therapy. I was fine. I didn't need medication, I had a brain with complete control over my thoughts and emotions. None of that was true though. We are all flawed. Everyone has their own "Everest" in life. There are all things we don't think we are strong enough to overcome, only to come out the other side with greater understanding and the courage to help others.

To those that much is given, much is expected. I have been given the gift of healing from postpartum depression. I promised myself and God that if I made it through, I would help others. It took more work than I ever realized and greater faith than I knew I had, but I did come out the other side. I want other people to see how far my rock bottom was, not to discourage them, but to show how completely hopeless I was (and how far I've come).

I don't want others to let postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD shatter them. All is not lost. There is help and hope. Once you heal and the puzzle is complete, you will see that the new, complete person you've become outshines the person that you were before.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The 1 Thing I Needed in Order to Let Go of My OCD

My mental illness.
My disorder.
My greatest enemy.
My constant companion.

How could I let go of the thoughts? They were dangerous, out of control.
I needed to control them, I needed to continue having them in order to make sure my kids were okay. At first, I kind of had the thoughts knowingly, consciously. I would read blogs and find new fears. I began to develop the fears of other women I read about. The fact that bad things still gave me anxiety meant, in a twisted way, that I would be okay. If the thoughts still scared me, I wasn't psychotic. Eventually however, I had the thoughts automatically, it was completely out of my control.

Every minute of the day was consumed with thoughts and worry. I had gone from never having a threatening thought in my life, to having them constantly...about my children.

I was scared. Terrified. Within 1 month I had completely forgotten my former self.

What did I used to think about?
How did I used to act?
Did I really I love motherhood?
What if this was permanent?

I hung onto the thoughts for a long time, or rather, I hung on to the anxiety that propelled them. For months, I felt the need to keep worrying about the thoughts. It felt like some sort of moral requirement that I needed to spend the rest of my life remembering and repaying for the thoughts. For me, thought=action. I saw no difference. If I could think it, I obviously was capable of doing it. More than that, if I could think it, I wanted to do it.

I couldn't figure out how it was possible to have completely zero control over my thoughts. If I kept thinking about something, I must want to, there was no other answer.

Therapists told me over and over that analyzing the thoughts only furthered my illness, but I just couldn't seem to let go of it all.

In order for me to let go of  OCD, I needed to know that the thoughts weren't the real me. Until I became completely convinced that they were 100% a symptom of a disease, I (felt) that I couldn't risk letting them go.

Letting them go meant letting them do what they wanted, without reaction. I had to let them say what they wanted without letting myself get beat down by them. I needed to take my power back from them. When I thought something awful about my kids, I wanted to fight it. I wanted to fight the thought, find the cause of it, then make myself pay an emotional price for having it. But to overcome it, I had to stop.

In order to conquer it, you have to understand that it is all based on a lie. Anxiety lies to you, it finds threats in the mundane. OCD turns these lies into obsessions. The obsessiveness is exhausting. The exhaustion eats away at rationality. The sadness it causes dims the soul.

So, you may be asking, how does someone let their OCD go? Set it free.

I understand that "setting it free" sounds simple, but feels impossible. I get it. It's like saying "dunking a basketball is simple, just jump high." Letting go of anxiety and OCD takes dedication and determination. Some days you won't feel strong enough, that's okay. Other days you will feel like you can conquer the world, that's awesome. Though emotions differ from day to day, one thing needs to stay the same: your goal.

The goal is wellness, not perfection. No one is perfect, everyone has good and bad days. Recovery doesn't happen overnight, but that doesn't mean it is unachievable. The same energy that once went in to deciphering and dissecting the thoughts now needs to go into self-care and rebuilding self-esteem.

In order to recover, I needed to start believing in myself again. I needed to believe what my friends and family were telling me. I needed to stop fearing the future and take control of my present. I needed to rediscover myself and trust in me again.

OCD and anxiety lie. The thoughts they put in my head weren't the true "me" and they aren't true for others who suffer either. We aren't a collection of sinister people who are flying under the radar, putting those in our presence in danger. We are highly sensitive individuals who gave a bad thought too much power. That's it, I promise.

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