I write about OCD because I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know that soul-crushing anxiety and scary as hell thoughts didn’t make me a monster.
I didn’t realize that I could think scary things while simultaneously fighting against them. I didn’t know that obsessive compulsive disorder could hijack my mind and break my heart.
I had never heard of OCD referred to in any other way than a “cleaning” disorder.
I looked at my dirty dishes, piles of clothes, and mismatched socks and knew OCD couldn’t be what was wrong with me. I took my very limited knowledge of postpartum mental illness and concluded that since I wasn’t depressed, I was psychotic.
I equated scary thoughts to scary actions. I thought that since the thoughts came from my mind, I wanted them. I threw away all the characteristics I had spent decades believing about myself with one thought. It took less than a second for me to second guess my entire life.
During the day, I timidly took care of my kids, feverishly researching my symptoms. At night, I was filled with dread, afraid of what would happen when the kids woke up.
I was never rested because I never slept.
I could never think clearly because my mind was a mess.
I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on because of the paralyzing fear. I had to overachieve on the outside to compensate for the broken woman I was on the inside.
I had to stay alert at all times so that I could be prepared for when I eventually “snapped.” I needed to keep careful watch over all my actions and thoughts, analyzing them to no end in order to find truth in them. I slowly wilted away like a flower in the shade.
My spirit didn’t diminish overnight, it was eaten away slowly by the crushing guilt.
At first I had a fighting chance against it. At first, the thoughts weren’t constant. At first, I wasn’t depressed. Eventually, however, I saw no way out. I was in a trench so deep that no rope was long enough to save me.
The only proof I had as evidence to myself that I had a soul were the tears that flowed at the drop of a hat.
I was convinced that there was no hope for me. No way out of the darkness or the pain.
No way to forgive the thoughts or urges. I didn’t think anyone truly understood what I was going through, or the depths to which it affected me. While in my torturous despair, I promised God that if I made it out, I would make a difference in this world.
I swore that if I could heal and recover, I would go back and help others. I had made it to shore from the sinking ship, but instead of running away, I was going to get a lifeboat and come back for the others.
I came back because my story is needed.
Women need to hear that having a scary thought about hurting their baby, on purpose or accident, is a sign of anxiety, not psychosis. I came back because OCD isn’t about being organized, perfection manifests in all of us differently.
I didn’t need the cleanest house, but I did need to be the best mom, it was my only job, my life.
I came back because women need to know that postpartum depression is a blanket statement for so much more. There is anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and psychosis (which is also very misunderstood).
Women can feel energetic, scared, anxious, sad, angry, or indifferent. All of these feelings are “normal.” All of these emotions are relevant. ALL women experiencing these emotions deserve help and relief.
Women need to know the symptoms of postpartum mood disorders.
It’s not a “one size fits all” problem, but there is a solution to each of these disorders. Women should’t feel scared to speak up or reach out. They shouldn’t be made to believe that they can either reach out and lose their kids, or stay silent to keep them.
I’ll be the first to admit that I would’ve sooner driven myself completely crazy than to ever lose my kids, and I know I’m not the only one.
I don’t write about OCD because I’m brave or because my story is unique to me, I write because I believe that my story is relatable and needs to be heard.
I believe that there are many, MANY unreported cases of postpartum OCD due to women being too scared to reach out and not understanding it themselves. I was almost one of them.
I write because I want women to be able to find the same relief, security, and healing that I was thankfully able to find.
I’m so grateful to Chelsea for her openness and talking about this. I too had postpartum OCD and I wish more people talked about it when I struggled. Thanks for posting this ??
I can relate……..I was 20 when I first had a baby. This was in 1979. I couldn’t pick up dirty diapers, do laundry and I thought I was just lazy. I had terrible thoughts going through my head. Bouts of depression and anger that I took out on my daughter. I thought I was nuts. Of course, it was the late 70’s, who was going to help or even believe me when I thought I couldn’t be helped. What was this ‘thing’ that I had? I’m a terrible mother! Over the years, I came to realize that I wasn’t ‘abnormal’. My 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with depression/anxiety after I saw some ‘signs’. We both found out at the same time with had OCD, which causes depression, and I guess we kinda got a good giggle out of it because we realized why we were clashing all the time. So, I get it. I talk myself out of my OCD now, I treat it like a part of me, but I am the ‘boss’ of it. Would love to chat or communicate. Great article, but needs some ideas for how to deal and seek out a professional.
Hey Stephanie, it’s Chelsea! I’m so sorry you dealt with this (especially back then). I can’t even imagine how scared you were and how isolating it must’ve felt. I actually do write about how I got help on my personal blog (this article is on there too). I ended up on medication and in therapy. I also went to an outpatient program for more help. I wanted to get through it without medicine, but honestly I’m glad I finally decided to give medication a chance. Since mine happened postpartum a lot of new moms ask me where to look for help and I tell them to get in contact with Postpartum Support International. There are also online therapists now, I believe. When I started looking for help, I Googled “OCD specialists” in my area and found a therapist who had gone through the same thing as me. I went to therapy every week for about a year and a half, haven’t had to go back for a couple years, but it was life-changing for me.
Thank you for commenting Chelsea…….it’s a ‘relieving’ feeling to know there’s a name and a reason. I’ve sought therapy every now and then, but when you hit menopause (why do they always say ‘hit’) LOL, depression set in, and so did the OCD. I’ve been on medication for decades and it keeps ‘it’ at bey, but I do a lot of self-talk. ‘My body, my brain, I AM IN CHARGE!’…..BUT, it sneaks it’s sneaky head in there from time to time. Sometimes I challenge ‘it’. ‘No, I won’t pick that lint and nothing will happen, so there!’……I’m just happy it is now recognized, seems since ‘it’ came out of the closet, everybody has a bit of it to one extent or the other.
I relate to this so hard. Endlessly researching my symptoms, being on guard about my every thought and action around my son. I thought I was going crazy and that I was the only one. Thank you for writing this.