Moms Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study

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Mom Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study

Becoming a mother should be one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, many women suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders beginning in pregnancy through the first year postpartum.

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is becoming more widely studied because of the potential ethical and legal consequences. Some women have intrusive thoughts of harming their child, which may result in increased and unintended contacts with the legal system. These women fear that if they discuss these thoughts with a health provider, they will be reported to Child Protective Services as they may be at risk of harming their child.

However, in reality, women with postpartum OCD are not at increased risk of harming their newborn because these women tend to avoid physical contact with their child or engage in rituals in order to prevent acting upon their intrusive thoughts. Nevertheless, these fears may decrease the likelihood that women with postpartum OCD will seek treatment when they most need it.

Moms Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study

To date, there is limited knowledge of this potential intersection among consumers, health providers, and policy makers in addressing postpartum OCD. The purpose of our study is to understand mothers’ experiences with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, especially postpartum OCD. Our long term goal is to create more awareness and educate health practitioners and policy makers in how to address postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The study is conducted by a student researcher and a psychologist/associate professor from The George Washington University.

If you’re interested in participating, you will be asked to complete an online survey about your experiences, and possibly participate in a follow-up phone interview. As a thank you for your time, you will receive a $10 gift card for your participation.

To participate, take the survey now. They are looking for approximately 100(+/-) moms, so don’t delay!

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Moms with Postpartum OCD Discuss Target’s Obsessive Christmas Disorder Shirt

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Yesterday, public scrutiny switched from Starbucks to Target when the retailer was accused of trivializing mental illness with a Christmas shirt. The shirt reads: OCD – Obsessive Christmas Disorder. Get it? Instead of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder! Because loving Christmas as much as Buddy the Elf is the same thing as a mental illness.

Before we got all worked up, we decided to ask our Warrior Mom Ambassadors who either dealt with postpartum OCD or live with OCD daily how they felt about the shirt. 14 warrior moms agreed to join the conversation and shared their opinions on the holiday sweater.

You should know, before we delve further into this subject, that we’re all feeling a little bit of outrage exhaustion. Between the Red Cuptastrophe of 2015 and whatever billion others came before, the women I spoke with all said that they’re just so tired of everything being turned into a gigantic uproar. Melissa Levy Jacobowitz even stated that if it wasn’t for all the other nonsense, it’s possible the shirt would bother her more.

With that said, let’s look at this from a calm, smart point of view.

Our group of moms as a whole didn’t take offense, though a couple of women did. Some women understood why the shirt might appeal to some, make others laugh, or even hit the nail right on the head. Amber Swinford Dunn said,

“I could understand how it might appeal to some. If I think about it, I could also think of some people for whom this would actually be an accurate descriptor. You know, those people who, the minute Halloween is out the door, break out the Christmas decorations and start listening to Christmas music.”

(Or before Halloween. You know who you are.)

While those women who didn’t like the shirt didn’t take straight to Twitter to yell at someone, they also felt some reservations about the message. They questioned the use of mental illness terminology as the butt of a joke.

Jessica Wilkinson LaBonte pointed out that the marketers likely wouldn’t use another non-mental illness medical condition.

“I understand the marketing scheme. But, knowing so many who suffer from severe debilitating OCD, I do not find it amusing at all. You wouldn’t create a shirt like this using cancer terminology. So why mental disorder terminology? It’s just tacky.”

Of course, with the trend of ugly Christmas sweaters, maybe they were going for tacky. Rebecca Smith, agreeing with the medical terminology point, stated that they should “be smart with their marketing.” Hard to argue that point, really.

Tabitha Grassmind chimed in with how she’d feel if they chose another mental illness acronym.

“I’m annoyed by the sweater. I think its distasteful, but mostly because if they used the PPD acronym, I would be outraged. I think mental illness should be off limits.”

What would PPD mean on a Christmas shirt? Potentially Pretty Decorations. I can see it now. We’ll make millions!

Joking aside, OCD, whether postpartum or not, is a serious mental illness. It’s not just being obsessed with Christmas decorations, turning carols on in September, or wearing jingle bell earrings until mid-February. 1 in 100 adults has OCD, and 1 in 10 new moms may have postpartum OCD. That’s a lot of people, too many of whom still go undiagnosed. Even with raised awareness of the illness, some still choose to hide their symptoms because of the stigma.

You know, like the kind of stigma that makes fun of a mental illness with a tacky Christmas sweater.

The holidays feel hard enough for new moms struggling with postpartum mood disorders. Making fun of potential postpartum OCD symptoms might keep some moms from seeking treatment at all, let alone immediately. The intrusive thoughts that accompany OCD can feel downright terrifying, so please know that there is hope for you. You are not alone, and you can beat postpartum OCD. We’re here for you.

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Recovery from Intrusive Thoughts

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girl-925548_640After my recent pieces about intrusive thoughts here at Postpartum Progress (which you can find here and hereplease use caution in clicking over as these are both potentially triggering posts), I have received a number of emails from several women. While these are of course, private in nature, what I want to share about them is the theme echoing in all of them – when will I get better? Does this go away? What does recovery mean for us? While these exact words may not have been used, the questions still hang in the ether of the Internet, guarded by hearts fearful of the answer, whispered by the souls of women afloat in their worlds. We feel alone, lost, and as if we cannot discuss this with anyone else. But once we find someone who has been where we are, we are ripped open and everything comes spilling out as we seek answers and hope.

These questions about thoughts going away, recovery, and getting better are ones I struggle with mightily because there is no definitive answer for any of us to any of the questions which crop up as we move through Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am a very logic-minded person and I prefer things to be cut and dry. When they are not, I find myself frustrated and confused, hence, my attitude toward these questions. I do my best to answer them but I still find myself reaching to find the right words in order to strike a balance between hope and truth. It is a very, very fine line.

In the most basic sense, the following two sentences strike the simplest answers:

Yes. The thoughts fade.

No, they don’t ever completely go away.

But a longer response is below:

The thoughts fade into the background as you heal and grow stronger. What stays, and what is difficult for those of us who have OCD to differentiate, are typical parental fears – the nagging fear something might happen to your child when you’re not watching. THAT stays forever. It’s not intrusive, it’s a normal heightened awareness which comes with parenting. When you have survived Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, however, it is a never-ending battle to keep these normal heightened awareness type thoughts from spiraling into intrusive thoughts. We constantly battle to keep them from growing into giant monsters, renewing the fight every single day.

So then, what does recovery from an episode of Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorders look like? Here’s my take:

Recovery, for me, is a constant involvement in awareness of my feelings, reactions, and coping methods in regard to the ever changing world around me. It’s ensuring that in addition to my daily requirements, I’m taking care of myself as well.

Recovery is not a discharge notice from a hospital, nor is it the last pill swallowed at the end of a prescription. It’s not the final therapist visit nor is it uttering the words, “I’m okay.”

This is how the dictionary defines recovery:

Recovery Definition

What is recovery in the living world?

Recovery is life.

It’s ebbing and flowing with a tenacity learned in the depths of hell, a grip on enjoying all the little things and a determination to not go back to the dark depths. It’s knowing that even if I do go back, I have a road map tucked safely away which will lead me back out again. (see also: Netflix & chocolate)

Recovery is self-care, self-compassion, and self-respect.

It is knowing it is okay to not be okay. Recovery is navigating the ups and the downs. It’s getting to know yourself SO well that you recognize the difference between yourself and depression/mental illness. Recovery is knowing exactly how to soothe the ugly beast  when it rouses – how to rock it back to a deep slumber. It is about arming yourself with a cadre of weapons guaranteed to slay the succubus.

Recovery is acceptance.

It’s being okay with the tough days and providing a soft (guilt-free) place to land when they happen. It’s having a support system in place for the bleak days, one that will also be there for the good days. It’s understanding that sometimes, you are gonna feel angry about your mental health and that’s okay. It’s learning the range of healthy and unhealthy emotions. It’s knowing when you have hit your wall and need to lean on others for support.

Recovery is being imperfectly perfectly you.

According to Alexander Pope, “To err is human.” Perfection is a fallacy. Control, an illusion. They are impossibilities we set up in our minds, standards most of us will not reach. Do the best you can with what you have. There’s a special kind of joy (and peace) to be found when you let go of any expectations you, life, or anyone else may have forced upon you. When you are truly yourself, you shine. Be your own patronus.

Recovery is personal.

We cannot compare our journey to that of others. There are similarities, sure, but we each carry our own luggage and travel our own road. Our stories are as vastly different as we are from one another. Knowing someone else who has traveled a similar road helps. But it is absolutely important to remember that just because someone was at point X by a certain point on their Y timeline does not mean you will also be at point X at the same time. There are SO many variables to every story. It is impossible to compare so stop doing just that.

Recovery is…..

Your turn. What is recovery to you? Share below.


{photo credit: Girl, Sunset, Ocean, Waves via pixabay}

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grapes-690230_640Today, I did something for myself. I went to a salon and had my hair done. Not just a simple trim, wash, and go. Nope. I had a full hair color session complete with highlights. It was a huge deal for me to walk into somewhere completely new, trust someone I never met before with my hair, and not feel an ounce of anxiety over any of it.

As I sat down in the salon and waited for the stylist, Fight Song by Rachel Platten came on over the radio. I shared, in the conference Alumni group, that it was a sign I was precisely where I needed to be at that moment. I sighed, sank into the chair, and let my mind wander away until it was time for me to move over into the chair. Once I was seated in front of the mirror and saw my reflection, a funny thing happened. It was the first time, while at a salon, that I didn’t hate my reflection. I finally, finally looked like ME.

Back when I was experiencing Postpartum OCD, there is no way I would have done something like I did today. Nope. For me, back then, pushing my boundaries was as big as managing a trip to the grocery store with an infant strapped to my chest or sometimes, just making it through the day without a panic or rage attack. My world was so small then. So dark. So scary. So…hopeless.

But now?

It’s bright.

It’s filled with self-care.

It’s filled with warm people who know where I have been because they have been there as well. They get me.

It’s a lovely place to be, to be honest.

For that, I am grateful. But not in the way you would think.

In college, one of my favourite professors would often babble on about how one had to taste the sour grapes life offered in order to fully appreciate the sweet ones.

Postpartum OCD (and friends depression, PTSD, and antenatal depression) was my big ole’ bunch of stinking sour grapes.

This life now? The happy full one filled with amazing strong women, genuine happiness, personal strength, and boundaries larger than I ever thought I would see? My sweet, sweet, sweet grape.

If you’re in the midst of a bunch of sour grapes right now? Know that your sweet grapes are waiting for you. They are.

{photo credit: pixabay Grapes, bunch, fruit, person holding}

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