What I Will Tell My Kids About My Postpartum OCD
Recently, in an interview about my postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) I was asked what I was going to tell my kids about my experience. How would I explain my (now public) struggle to the people who I care about most, the people who my OCD revolved around, my children. What do you say to someone who you once feared hurting? How do you explain the thoughts, the fears, the anxiety? Well for me, I’ll tell them the truth.
At an appropriate age, I’ll show them my writings. I’ll share with them my experiences, my thoughts, my heart. I’ll explain to them the anxiety, the pain, the anguish. I’ll show them that none of this would have ever happened if I didn’t care for them. If I didn’t love them. If I wouldn’t risk everything to save them. I’ll recount the minutes, hours and days of anguish that I spent obsessing over every thought, every word, every action. I’ll show them how a single thought of harm toward them caused me to spiral into a dark hole of obsession and fear.
I’ll teach them the importance of outside support and self-care. I’ll teach my boys to support their significant others as they navigate the waves of new parenthood. I’ll share with my daughter the reality of postpartum motherhood. I’ll tell her to have high expectations, because her life will surely be eternally altered from the moment she meets those new eyes, but also to be keenly aware of any thought or feeling that may feel “off” or “wrong.” I’ll tell her to embrace the journey, but also be open to whatever detours this new road may take.
When I finally tell my children about my postpartum OCD experience, I will do it in a way that takes the darkest, most horrific, most traumatic part of my life and turns it into a life-changing learning experience for them. I want my children to learn from my pain. To grow from my hurt. I want them to understand what can happen and learn how to avoid it in their own lives. I want them to see the unshakable love I have for them and understand that love was never in danger. I was never going to falter from that love. I was never going to give that up. I was never going to risk us, I was never going to risk them.
Postpartum OCD took every aspect of my motherhood and life and called it into question. It made me closely examine myself and my character relentlessly. It stole months of happiness and peace with my children from me. It took the purity of a newborn with his mother and turned it into a nightmare, but it didn’t prevail.
I didn’t let OCD overtake us. I didn’t let it define me. My identity. My motherhood.
There was a point where I was ashamed to tell my best friends that I was seeing a therapist, but now I’ve shared my story with tens of thousands of people without shame. I’m not ashamed to tell people my deepest thoughts and fears, and when the times comes, my children will also hear my story and my journey.
I hope my children will be proud of me. I hope they understand the depths of the pain I went through and recognize how hard it has been to be so open about it. I hope they join me in fighting stigmas about all mental health issues and see me and my story as raw and inspirational. I hope my intrusive thoughts and fears make my children more aware of the feelings of those around them. I want them to recognize a struggling face and make it their mission to help others out. I want them to understand that no one is ever “too broken” or “too far gone.” All people have souls and all people matter. I hope my children are able to take whatever impact I make on the world and multiply that by infinity with all of their talents and ambitions.
I’m of the belief that everything happens for a reason. Every single struggle in life contains a greater meaning. Every obstacle has made me stronger. Every setback has grown my character. Postpartum OCD, specifically, gave me an entirely new focus in my life. It took my heart and soul and changed them in ways I could never have imagined. It matured me in ways that nothing else ever had. It gave me a perspective on mental illness in a way that I would have never understood without going through it.
So when the time comes, I will be telling my children all of these things. I’m sure I will be apprehensive about it, but my prayer and earnest belief is that they will understand and be empathetic toward me about it. My goal is not for my children to see me as a perfect being; the goal is for them to see my flaws, but know my heart has and will always be in the right place.
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