Every mother’s journey through postpartum mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum OCD is her own. And it is a journey, for sure, complete with struggle, setbacks, joy and triumph. Today, Warrior Mom Andrea tells her about her journey from fear and pain to healing, and reminds us how important it is to reach out for support and to have above all, HOPE.
Thank you so much, Andrea, for sharing your story here.
In an instant, that once perfectly put together puzzle shattered in a million pieces on the ground all around me. Alone, I grabbed the pieces and tried to make sense of how I was ever going to put them back together; the millions of tiny pieces surrounding me were overwhelming. It took a long time to put that puzzle together again-from the missing pieces and not asking for help because I thought I should be able to do it alone, to paralyzing thoughts that maybe I would never put the puzzle back together.
Seven weeks after my daughter was born, terrifying intrusive thoughts took over my mind. Suddenly, I was terrified of the knives in the house, afraid to give my daughter a bath, shocked at what my mind was capable of thinking, unsafe in my own body. The harder I tried to push these thoughts away, the stronger they fought back. I was suffocating and wanted so desperately to go back to the week before where everything in my world was perfect, where I was elated with only happiness, where my dreams had come true, back to that life where intrusive thoughts didn’t exist. Overnight, I became someone that I didn’t know and didn’t want to know. My entire world changed.
That evening, I called my mom to bring me to the Emergency Room. I didn’t know what I needed but I needed something to make the horrible thoughts disappear. Arriving in the parking lot of the hospital that night I was filled with fear of being locked up if I told a doctor about the thoughts I was having, so I convinced my mom that I was fine and we turned around to go home. For the next few years I would search alone for answers and for a quick fix: a vitamin, alternative medicine, an appointment where I would walk in and come back out me again.
Healing doesn’t happen this quickly though. Healing is gradual. Healing is a process. And throughout the process we will have to search for missing pieces; we will have to pick up the pieces one by one. Setbacks come just as you think you have a good rhythm going. After working hard at this puzzle, the pieces may smash to the ground again. But this time it’s only half of the puzzle that shattered and, yes you are frustrated but you remember how far you have come, so this time you reach out and ask for help. You begin to see how much easier it is to put these million pieces back together when you have others working with you.
My journey in healing from Postpartum Anxiety and Postpartum OCD began the moment I reached out for support. I found Postpartum Progress, other women who have experienced postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and I found a therapist. This support changed my life. The healing process wasn’t easy though, it was long and painful and there were many bumps along the way. There were setbacks and moments where I felt like I would never heal. There was so much waiting, my strength and faith were tested, and there was a lot of kicking and screaming for the nightmare to be over. But the days turned into months and somehow I got to the day where I noticed the pain was still there but it didn’t hurt as bad. I noticed growth in myself and in my life. I learned a new way of living. There were still some missing pieces here and there, but I began to see glimpses of beauty that came from a once terrifying time of my life.
When I held my daughter for the first time that day in March I had no idea that terror, fear, and pain were waiting around the corner for me. I didn’t expect to be tested and knocked down so hard by postpartum OCD that I would become unsure if I would ever get back up. But I also didn’t know all of the blessings and good that were waiting for me. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I do now. I have reached a place where the puzzle may not be the same, but it is who I am now, and I am so much stronger because of what I went through. Support was crucial in my healing and I encourage you to use the support systems that exist. You too, with time, will find the strength and courage to pick up the pieces and get back the life you deserve.
Andrea lives in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and four animals. She enjoys being a mom, writing, photography, and volunteering as a co-Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. She shares her writings and photographs about her everyday life, overcoming postpartum OCD, and her adoption journey on her personal blog Little Moments Big Memories.