How Postpartum OCD Made Me Question My Entire Life
A sixth sense.
A gut feeling.
An inexplicable feeling you have when you know something is wrong — very wrong — and you need to keep your children safe from it.
The ability to sense danger even when there is no rational reasoning behind it.
A gift you expect a “good” mother to have perfected.
Something that can be hard to admit when it is temporarily miscalculating.
Something that will correct itself with time. With patience. With grace.
My first OCD thought was powerful — it overwhelmed me. The amount of anxiety the thought of smothering my baby gave me was interpreted by my postpartum brain as an urge. The heart-stopping idea that I had an urge to smother my baby tore me apart. It broke me. It made me question my mother’s intuition. My ability to keep my children safe from danger. My core beliefs, my heart.
I suddenly didn’t trust myself. More than that, I became convinced something bad was going to happen. I felt it in my gut. It consumed me. It consumed all of my thoughts, my time, my life. My intuition had never been wrong before, so there was no way it was wrong now. It took me months to come to terms with the fact that my “intuition” was off. My inability to reconcile this with myself hindered my healing. I didn’t think it was possible that I had spent so much time fighting something that wasn’t real. It was real in the fact that to me it was real, but the actual threat (of myself) wasn’t real.
I was never a threat. I was never a danger to my children. But I thought the strength of the thoughts combined with the relentlessness of them made them real. It made the thoughts a real threat — to me. It made me believe my children were in real danger. I felt like I was in the passenger’s seat in my own brain, with no real power in what I thought. The only power I retained was in my actions and the belief that somehow, someway, we would overcome this together.
I went into auto-pilot. I did and said things I thought the “real” me would say and do. It was torture to carry on like this while the thoughts were constant, but it was almost scarier when I got on medication and felt nothing at all. I wasn’t having the thoughts as much, and when I did I didn’t react. I wasn’t sad or happy, I was just there. I kept “playing” the part of me. Being loving. Being kind. Being strong. But I was still broken inside. For months I feared that the fact that the medicine kept me from reacting to the thoughts would somehow translate into me agreeing with them. I also feared that my brain would begin to agree with them as the months I spent with them went on.
I spent my time chasing freedom. Relief. Respite. But also deep down believing that I would never be free. I slowly came to terms with the fact that life would go on, but my brain would always be broken. I still couldn’t fully accept that all of my fears and worries centered around something that was never at risk of happening.
Perhaps my stubbornness to admit I could ever be wrong about my intuition made full recovery longer and harder. Realizing my “gut feeling” that something was about to go horribly wrong (even though it is something I would never want to happen) wasn’t real was very humbling. It made me second guess myself and my instincts even after I fully recovered.
It took me months to trust my instincts again. It took time for me to gain back the confidence I had before. It was something I was slowly able to believe in again.
Postpartum OCD put my entire life into question. For months, I analyzed every thought, every movement, every reaction. I examined myself inside and out. I felt unsafe in my own body. I felt scared to be in my own head. I had to relearn how to trust myself. How to love myself. How to feel safe.
It’s said that you will never be given more than you can handle, and postpartum OCD challenged my strength in every way possible. Though I would never say I’m “grateful” for the experience, I have learned invaluable lessons from it. I learned the lengths a mother will go through to protect her children. I learned that mental illness is just as important (and debilitating) as physical illness. I learned that sometimes I need to accept less than perfection from myself. I learned that I can be wrong, and admit it. I learned that the human mind and body are resilient. I learned that without hard times, the good are harder to appreciate. Most of all, I’ve learned that, as is true for many things in life, time heals. My heart has healed. My body has healed. My brain has healed. And perhaps more relieving than the others, my “mother’s intuition” is in tact and as sharp as ever. Keep fighting, mamas!
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Getty image via Halfpoint