Defining Recovery from Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Defining Recovery from Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

The biggest question I am asked about Postpartum OCD on a regular basis is also the one I dread the most: “Do intrusive thoughts go away?”

My heart breaks when I am asked if the thoughts go away because I know where they are, how they’re feeling. How FRUSTRATING it is to want to be with your child and not have any intrusive thoughts flit through your head as you drink in that sweet angelic baby smell in the dusk of the evening.

I know it goes away.

I know it fades.

Those asking, however, are still rocking the thoughts right along with their precious little one, and that beats me up inside.

What stays, and what is difficult for those of us who live with OCD to differentiate, are typical parental fears: the nagging fear that 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 or struggle with OCD, however, it is extremely difficult to keep these normal heightened awareness type thoughts from spiraling into intrusive thoughts. We constantly battle to keep them from growing into giant monsters. For some of us, it turns into a Boy Scout motto type life: Always be prepared for EVERY LITTLE THING.

Recovery, at least for me, is not a cut-off date. It’s 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:

Defining Recovery from Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

What is recovery in the living world?

Recovery is life.

It’s living, it is moving forward with a tenacity learned in the depths of hell, a grip on enjoying all the little things and a determination to not go back into the abyss. It’s knowing that even if you do go back, you have a road map to lead you back out again.

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

It is knowing it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Recovery is living with ups and the downs. It’s getting to know yourself SO well you recognize the difference between yourself and depression/mental illness. Recovery is knowing exactly what to do when the ugly beast stirs to keep it from waking completely. It is about arming yourself with a cadre of weapons guaranteed to slay the succubus. Recovery is having a plan in place in case you start to slide down and a plan in place to celebrate even the smallest sign of progression. Recovery is seizing the day and any sliver of joy within. 

Recovery is acceptance.

It’s being okay with the tough days and providing yourself a soft 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’re gonna feel angry about your mental health and that’s okay. It’s learning the range of healthy and unhealthy emotions and knowing when to reach out for help as well as celebrating milestones indicating progress.

Recovery is being imperfectly perfectly you.

According to Alexander Pope, “To err is human.” Perfection is a fallacy (so is control). It is an impossibility we set up in our minds, a standard 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.

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 different as we are from each other. Knowing someone else 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.

About Lauren Hale

Lauren Hale tells it like it is about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders over at My Postpartum Voice. She is also the founder of #PPDChat, an online Twitter & FB Community dedicated to supporting moms on their journey by harnessing the power of the Internet. You can find her on Twitter @unxpctdblessing.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. Recovery is knowing that I have control, not my thoughts. Recovery is being able to keep them from spiraling out of control. Recovery is having self confidence.

  2. Recovery is realizing that thoughts can be scary but I DON’T have to be afraid of them.

    • YES! It’s about taking the power back for yourself. This will sound a bit ridiculous (or maybe not) but your comment kind of makes me think of Monsters Inc, when the little girl finally realizes that she has the power to keep Randall from scaring her. Realizing that kind of thing is huge!


  3. Lauren – 1st this post is wonderful! I have asked this question and was probably the 1st that I asked when everything started. Now that I am recovering, i still ask myself this sometimes.

    Recovery to me is a process. Its not a final destination. It’s the process I go through everyday to be better. It is knowing that even if there are bad days, tomorrow can still be a good day. Or even if there are bad hours, the next hours may not be. It is the process of taking control of my life back.

  4. Recovery for me is a process. It’s not a final destination. It is knowing that there may be bad days, but that doesn’t mean that tomorrow has to be bad. There may be bad hours, but next hour might bring happiness. It is going through the process everyday to know that I am in control and that, no matter what my silly brain says, my heart knows who I really am. It is staying in control.

    I am so glad to have gotten to this point. Lauren – thank you so much for this post.

    • I’m glad this post spoke to you – I really am. You make an excellent point – recovery is staying in “control” but it is also acknowledging that there are things out of your control and choosing to respond to them with the strength you know you have inside of you, and therefore staying in control. that said, it is still okay to fall apart during the hard stuff.

      All the best for you and may your future be full of good days and good hours!


  5. Thank you for this, Lauren. Your words really speak to me because the questions of “when will I be me again? When will I recover and everything go back to normal?” are the ones that haunt me the most and have done for a while. Normalising your thoughts and emotions after experiencing something so faith-shattering is so, SO difficult for me.

    I know I’m fine. My mood is fine, and I enjoy life again. But those nagging fears, those dark, scary thoughts are always scratching and pressing at the door, waiting to be let in.

    Living in fear is the most exhausting thing I ever could have imagined but as time passes and my confidence grows I’m very slowly able to feel stronger, and less afraid, and I’m buffing and shining all the weapons you mentioned above, just in case.

    You said mine above – recovery is acceptance for me. 100%. Acceptance that this happened. Acceptance that I’m never going to quite the same as I was, and that that’s OKAY (I struggle with that one!) and acceptance that I am not my thoughts. Acceptance that that innocent girl from my past may be gone but that doesbt mean that someone stronger and BETTER isn’t waiting to take her place. Acceptance is hard, but I’m getting there.

    L x

    • Lots of hugs to you. So many hugs. Normalizing thoughts and emotions after something like PPD/A is a battle and it’s not an easy one. This, figuring out the ins and outs of “recovery” is a tremendous questions all of us face as soon as we are diagnosed. It’s the first question we ask after any diagnosis but unlike physical ailments, there is not a typical time-frame for mental issues because each case is so different.

  6. Oh and what you touched on re control is so very true. I’ve spent my entire life striving to gain control over all aspects, but it’s impossible. Life isn’t like that. You can only affect a certain portion and the rest is out of your hands.

    This utterly terrifying revelation is one of the key things that led to my PPD/A but I’m slowing learning to accept that too, and there is something very freeing about it

  7. Recovery is knowing that I have survived before and I will survive again. Recovery is the present; it will never be entirely in the past. Recovery is being able to say “it’s okay” and believe it…most of the time.

    Thank you for this post. My bleak days are much fewer and far less frequent, but still, I find myself wondering if they will ever just go away. Not entirely. I’m in recovery. And this is an okay place to be.

    • Yes, yes, and YES.

      I think it is difficult for many to come to this conclusion, that recovery is the present and it will never be entirely in the past. This experience, it changes us, and therefore is something we will always carry with us.

      I’m glad your bleak days are much fewer and far less frequent. (hugs) to you.


  8. I actually just copied the paragraph under “recover is life” into my journal.
    It’s comforting to hear you talk about generally unsaid things so openly.

  9. I have ppocd and the recovery is SO hard. Mine was intense and my husband travels…I’ve been on this rollercoaster for a year now and sometimes beat myself up for not being all the way “normal” yet…just have to take each day one step at a time. Great post : )