Recovery from Intrusive Thoughts

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}

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.

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Comments

  1. Rebecca Smith says:

    Completely agree. Recovery is a fading. I have been in recovery for almost 2 years now, and they still creep in. I have a difficult time dealing with “normal parent anxiety” and think the worst when it comes to my babies. But, fewer and fewer of these thoughts are intrusive. It’s hard but recovery is possible! Thank you for writing so honestly about this!

    • I agree as well. It does fade, and fade more and more. My problem is I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, and some days my anticipation gets so bad I almost retraumatize myself. It leaves me feeling broken and hopeless. Other days I feel completely “recovered” i have never been formally diagnosed with post partum OCD. I saw a psychiatrist many times, each time he told me that it’s very common, and I just have to fight. Giving me a dx of anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorder.

      I guess the worst part is the broken feeling it has left me with. The part that some days make me hate myself for being so defective. The first 6 months of my daughters life were great and it hit me out of now where. I am happy to hear it will continue to fade. I’m discouraged to hear it never completely goes away. I always hoped to snap out of it, or wake up one day and be “normal” haha!
      Thank you so much for sharing your story.
      Let’s say 4 years from now I want to have another baby, should I expect this to happen again? Or will I know how to deal with it ?
      Thanks ,
      A- šŸ’œ

  2. beautifully told, Lauren. Thank you.

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  1. […] graphic pictures of accidents that flicker and flash uninvited are what I now know to be intrusive thoughts, in my case caused by postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. They began shortly after the birth […]