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.