Searching for a Reason Behind My Postpartum OCD
Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
I had him on purpose. I wanted him. I dreamt of him. I longed for him. I counted down until the minute he was born, and he came out perfect — his eyes a stunning blue, his skin pale olive. His lips perfection. He was calm, easy, sweet. He smelled like lavender and filled me with love, he made our family feel more complete. He was mine.
And then came the thought. The thought shattered me.
It took everything I had ever known about myself and made me question it. All of my energy went into the thought. Nothing else mattered.
I needed a reason; I needed to know why I had a thought about hurting him. Without that knowledge, I didn’t feel like I could go on or let go. I couldn’t let myself be irresponsible with my thoughts — that was too dangerous.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) crept up on me when I wasn’t looking, or perhaps when I was looking too hard.
It took my deepest thoughts and fears and legitimized them. It took my soul and ravaged it. It put my brain into permanent overdrive.
In the mirror, I looked the same, but on the inside, I felt scared. Terrified. I would have given anything to escape my own body.
How did OCD know? How did it find me? How did I let this happen?
OCD found my soft spots; it preyed on the fact that my heart and soul belonged to a brand new 7 pound, 5 ounce being, and it attacked me using my greatest fears as ammunition.
Each thought that I felt put him in danger was mortifying. Unbearable. Unforgivable. Each time I tried to outthink or outmaneuver OCD, I got beat. Each time I thought I was doing my best to find help and recover, I realized I was one step behind and I needed more help than I thought.
I thought obsessing over the thoughts was the right thing. I thought focusing on them kept my children safe. I thought if I kept proving to myself they were safe, my mind would actually believe it. I thought I needed to pay the price for the awful things spinning around in my mind.
What I didn’t know was these thoughts were not mine.
OCD took up space in my mind; it gave me anxious thoughts that were not mine, and it used them to scare me. Conquering OCD meant removing its power over me — removing the fear, the anxiety, the pain; refusing to let it torment me, to persuade me, to lie to me.
I needed to build myself back up, to pick up the pieces, to forgive myself. I needed to be kind, be safe, be loved. To conquer OCD, you need to be kind to yourself. Feel safe with yourself. Love yourself.
Write your strengths down, review them, believe them. I’ll help you start:
1. You love deeply. If you didn’t, “bad” thoughts wouldn’t bother you.
2. You are sensitive. Please don’t confuse sensitive with weak; sensitive means your heart is big and you are very aware of your feelings and the feelings of those around you.
3. You are brave. I know you’re brave because you found this article, you typed words into a search engine that hurt your soul because you knew you needed help.
4. You are strong. You are strong because I’ve been in your shoes. Anyone who endures OCD, depression and anxiety is strong beyond words because they are not only dealing with everyday struggles, but they are doing it while struggling on the inside.
5. You are loved. Your baby loves you, your family loves you … you love you. And if you don’t then you need to, because you deserve it.
Use this list or make your own. Write down things that are true about you, your character, your life. When OCD tries to lie to you, tell it to back off. You are strong. You are loved. You are amazing.
OCD wasn’t something I did. It wasn’t something I asked for or deserved. It was a disease brought on by anxiety and fueled by my overwhelming need to keep my children safe. I wasn’t bad for having the first thought, and I wasn’t bad for not understanding how to fix it. Reaching out for help is hard, but not impossible. Please, be kind to yourself!
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Unsplash image via Alex Pasarelu.