*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.