Tuesday, September 18, 2012

living through postpartum ocd & intrusive thoughts

*This post talks about intrusive thoughts. Please do not read if you think it may be triggering to you.

If someone told me three years ago that one day I would (willingly) share my experience through Postpartum Anxiety/OCD, I would have never believed it. Writing about some of the darkest times of my life is definitely not easy to share but I understand how important it is. After all, finding blogs from others who write about their experience with a Postpartum Mood Disorder literally changed my life. Without these women who openly share what they have been through, I honestly don't know where I would be today. I hope that by sharing what it was like living with these intrusive thoughts, it will help others who may be struggling know they are not alone & that they can get through it.


That Sunday, just 7 weeks after my little girl arrived, I was suddenly filled with rage. I was so pissed off that we were out of cleaning products that I drove around for hours trying to find what I needed. My life changed during this drive. Scary thoughts popped in my head about violent, horrible things happening to my baby. I sat in my car in a parking lot & cried. I knew that something was seriously wrong. 

While waiting in line to fill my first anti-anxiety medication my eyes focused on the floor, unable to make eye contact with anyone. Feeling a disconnection from my own body that I never felt before, I prayed that I would make it out of there without completely losing it.

I started to read Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields but I had to stop when I came to the part of her having visions of her daughter being thrown against a wall. These were the same types of thoughts that haunted my every waking moment.

Everything in my home seemed unfamiliar, including the person in the mirror. I was different now. I wanted so badly to go back to the week before where I was the “old” me, where everything in my life seemed perfect & where I wasn’t terrified of my own thoughts.

I had to have others around all the time & I had to stay busy. This was the only way I felt safe & the only way I had a break from the disturbing thoughts.

I had myself convinced that I was going to end up with Postpartum Psychosis & constantly had to find articles online to reassure myself that I wasn't going through that. 

Toys had to be thoroughly washed after any other child came to our house. Every single toy. Every single time. I had to do whatever I could to keep my baby healthy.  

Our hardwood floors were mopped if anyone came in our house with shoes on. I was not going to let my baby play on a dirty floor.

The intrusive thoughts that popped into my head whenever I saw a knife were so shocking that I wanted to throw out every single one of them. Thoughts about stabbing my own daughter were too horrifying for me to deal with. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. It felt as if I was living in a horror movie. All I could do was cry & pray for the thoughts to stop. 

I was so afraid to fall asleep at night because of the thoughts that played over & over in my head. What if I don’t wake up in the morning? I love my life, I don’t want to die, I have to live, my daughter needs me.

My eyes filled with tears on the days that I had to work. I was scared that if I left her I would never make it home to see her again. What if I get in a car accident & die? What if I never make it home to my daughter?

On many, many nights our DVD collection of Friends saved me from my disturbing thoughts. The glow & laughter from the TV was my escape from every thought that paralyzed my body. For years, this was the only way I could fall asleep.

The thoughts began again before I even had a chance to open my eyes in the morning. They never gave me a break.

Chilling uncontrollable thoughts revolving around what if scenarios lurked in my mind while bathing my own daughter. What if I drown her? What if I suffocate her with the towel? With every ounce of strength inside of me, I forced a smile to hide the pain & terror I felt. If anyone knew about these thoughts, I would be locked away. I have become a monster.

Watching the news, drama movies, horror movies & even my favorite lifetime movies became a thing of the past. Anything negative was too triggering for me.  

While my daughter was sleeping, I had to check her numerous times to make sure the pillows & blankets weren’t covering her face. I would leave her room & then go back in to check her again to make sure that I didn't cover her face or put the blankets too close to her face. 

A few times at breakfast, I would have thoughts such as what if I poisoned her with something? Or, what if I gave her the wrong vitamin? I had to always make sure she was safe. 

If I went out & my daughter was already asleep by the time I got home, the first thing I had to do was check the video monitor to make sure she was OK. If I didn’t check on her the very second I walked in the door, I began questioning the kind of mother I was.

I was consumed with regret about how we spell Kennadie because of the letters “die” at the end. Suddenly, I couldn’t even spell her name without being triggered & petrified. The thought to change the spelling came across my mind more than once.

Once in a while I would have thoughts & images of her choking or falling down the stairs if I left the room. 

A few weeks postpartum I began bleeding heavily. In my mind, it could only mean one thing-that I was dying. Our tiny bundle of joy slept peacefully in her car seat as my husband rushed me to the ER. Convinced that my baby would catch some disease, I refused to let her anywhere near that waiting room. I made my husband wait with her in the car for 4 hours until I could go home. I had to protect her.

I panicked the night our dog was sprayed by a skunk. I called my mom to take Kennadie. There was no way my daughter was going to stay in the house until that smell was gone. Something awful could happen to her.

Ten months into this horror movie I was at a Zac Brown concert with some friends. I was hoping to have a good time & to escape my thoughts for a little while. Didn’t happen that way. By the time I noticed the blood that was on the bathroom floor at the arena, my sandals had already come in contact with it. My mind was too consumed with what if thoughts for the rest of that night to be able to enjoy the concert. I was convinced I was going to die from AIDS or some disease. The shoes were thrown out the second we reached my car & I drove home barefoot. 

The weekend we moved into the house we are living in now, my parents took Kennadie so we could paint without worrying about entertaining an almost one year old. A horrible thought popped into my mind out of nowhere- maybe I don’t even want my baby back. I wanted to throw up. 


I hid all of these thoughts in fear that my daughter would be taken from me & that I would be locked up. I let it go on for way longer than I should have & over two years later I was diagnosed with Anxiety, OCD & PTSD. I truly believe that if I told my doctor right away & received the help that I desperately needed at the time, this wouldn't have gone on for as long as it did.   

If you struggle with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, remember that you are not alone & this is very treatable & more common than you may think. I got through this & you can too. Please don’t wait to tell someone. This is nothing to be ashamed about & you deserve to be well.

Find out more information on PPMD at Postpartum Progress or Postpartum Support International. You can find more information on OCD at the International OCD Foundation.

*There is a difference between Postpartum OCD & Postpartum Psychosis. I knew that the thoughts I was having were irrational-they were not me. These thoughts terrified me & I was aware that they were not normal. In Postpartum Psychosis these thoughts are actually delusional & the person believes the thoughts are real. If at any point you feel as if you or your baby are not safe, if you feel as if your thoughts are real or make sense to you, please tell someone how you are feeling & call 911 or go to your emergency room. Postpartum Psychosis is a very serious but treatable condition.


awriterelief said...

This is such a wonderful an honest blog... Thank you so much! I can relate to so much of how you've felt, and I too was diagnosed later when my son was 8 months old. Two years is an incredibly long time to deal with all you've dealt with, as Kristin said above... You are an awesome, brave lady! x

Andrea said...

Thank you! I remember searching for so long to find someone who had these types of thoughts & couldn't find anything in the beginning. I hope that if someone is struggling with these thoughts & they end up seeing this post that it helps them feel less alone. Once I started to find others who were having these thoughts it was so comforting to hear them tell me "I had that thought too!!"

tranquilamama said...

Andrea, thank you so much for sharing your story. Intrusive thoughts are so horrifying. I described them to a friend as like a bizzare horror movie that keeps replaying over and over in your mind. Your courage and honesty are amazing, and now you're reaching out to help others. Hugs.

kris said...

Yes, thanks for sharing. Although I wish no one else had to have these thoughts and struggle with OCD, it is somewhat comforting to know we are not alone. At least for me, it was a relief to know that there was a diagnosis for my feelings and I was not going insane. I did not have thoughts that I would purposely injure my baby but I felt like I was going to somehow inadvertently hurt her, I especially worried that I wasn't feeding her enough and she would starve. It saddens me that what should have been a time of joy spent with my newborn was so full of anxiety. I hope that someone who may be struggling now with a similar experience can find the help that they need, there are resources out there now that, if they existed back then, I didn't know about.

ocdtalk said...

Those who are struggling now will find your blog and realize they are not alone, and there is help out there. What a wonderful way to help others. Thank you for sharing.

Kimberly said...

You are amazingly brave for sharing your story. I have been going through postpartum anxiety/OCD and it has terrified me. I had become a stranger to myself, but knew that something was wrong and needed help.

Robin @ Farewell, Stranger said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this because people need to hear things like this so they know they're not alone. Proud of you for opening up.

Andrea said...

They are for sure like a horror movie-one that never shuts off!! As much as I don't ever want to see others go through them, to know that you have had them too helps with not feeling so alone :)

Andrea said...

It is extremely comforting knowing others go through the OCD & thoughts. We are definitely not alone. It was a relief for me as well-having that diagnosis, knowing it was something real & others experienced it too. Same with me-if there were resources out there a few years ago I never found them either. So glad they are out there now & so many women share their stories with PPMD :)

Andrea said...

Thanks so much Robin. Definitely not easy to let all that out for anyone to see but I know back then if I saw someone else having the same types of thoughts, it would have changed everything for me & I would have never struggled for so long & I would have never kept quiet about it, so hopefully I can give that to someone else.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. My daughter is two & only just realised that what I suffered from was ocd. What help did u receive?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply. I have emailed you, hope this is ok. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi ladies ....I was dignosed with anxiety with aspects of Ocd after 8 monthes of given birth.... I'm so scare that I won't be able to love my son. I'm not crying like the first month of the intrusive thoughts so I feel like I'm going thru the recovery . I feel like I'm a cold person and see my son and ifeel like I don't like him ....please help ....is this part of recovery ????

Anonymous said...

I am in my my 13th month of postpartum OCD. Meds always made me worse, so I've given up trying to take them and have to live with the intrusive thoughts as they come. I'm a little embittered when I read or hear people say that once they got diagnosed, and found the med that worked for them, that they were okay from then on. Not all of us are so lucky. I see a psychiatrist weekly, and I have a good support system, for which I am so grateful. I am also thankful to hear that others go through these horrifying thoughts, and it's not just me. When I have PMDD each month, it is worse. So I'm just waiting for this hell to be finally over.

Andrea Balcunas said...

I am so sorry that I am only responding to this now, for some reason I never saw this comment earlier. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this & there are so many of us that have been there, you are not alone at all. I can give you some resources & some great groups to check out to connect with others who have or are going through a PPMD. Please let me know if you would like me to send these to you.

felicia said...

Could I please get your email?