I’m happy to welcome Warrior Mom Becky G., who didn’t realize she had a telltale sign of postpartum OCD, those horrible “what if” thoughts called intrusive thoughts. Today is part 1 of her story. (Please note: If you are currently vulnerable, you may want to skip this story because sometimes reading about other people’s intrusive thoughts can cause you to have them.)
My daughter Hannah was born on October 21, 2010, and has been a pure joy since that day. So why am I here? Well I thought I might be able to offer some support to those of you who are suffering through postpartum OCD during a time that should be a joyous one. Trust me, I know what it feels like.
I have always been an anxious person. I worry about lots of things that are out of my control. Before I had Hannah it was always about my own health and well being. I am a self-proclaimed hypochrondriac, no doubt about it, however since I’ve had Hannah all of my fears of getting sick or something bad happening in my life have shifted to worrying about the well being of my daughter.
I miscarried shortly before becoming pregnant with Hannah, and so I was pretty worried throughout my pregnancy. I constantly worried that I was going to miscarry again, that I was going to go into premature labor, that I was going to deliver stillborn … you name it, I worried about it in one way or another. My thoughts always centered around, and still do, keeping Hannah safe, which is why it seemed so strange when horrible intrusive thoughts started to invade my mind.
I remember the first time I had a terrible thought. I was sitting in my hospital bed after having delivered Hannah and my mom was rocking her in her arms next to me. I had this horrible vision of my mother purposely smashing my baby to the floor. It was like an alarm sounded inside of me, but I was quickly able to shrug it off. When my husband and I brought her home however, the thoughts started coming back. What if Hannah drowned in the bathtub? What if she flipped to her stomach at night or during a nap and smothered herself? I didn’t know these were intrusive thoughts or that they could be a sign of postpartum OCD.
The scariest part was that the thoughts of accidentally hurting her transformed into worries of intentionally hurting her. I was afraid to be alone with my baby because I constantly had these “what if” scenarios that would play out in my mind, particularly relating to the bath tub. I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t right, so immediately sought help from my OBGYN. I didn’t tell him the extent of the anxiety that I was feeling (I should have), but I did tell him that I recognized that I was under anxiety that was leading to depression. He prescribed me a low dose of Zoloft, which was very effective, and I was able to get myself back to reality and realize how irrational my fears were.
Because I began feeling so much better, I stupidly and without thinking, stopped my medication on my own when Hannah was about six months old. I continued to feel fine for the next few months, and then summer hit. Over the 4th of July holiday, we went out to spend the weekend at my parents’ lake house. I remember being very wary when I saw the expanse of the water. Again, it was as if an alarm was sounding in my head. What if I dropped Hannah while walking down the dock and couldn’t save her? The danger of the water scared me to no end. Again, out of nowhere, thoughts of accidental harm morphed into, “What if I…?” I tossed and turned at night and I felt like a complete monster. I wondered whether I was actually capable of causing harm or even death to my most loved baby. This turned into a total nightmare. While some people experience intrusive thoughts now and again, it was as if mine just wouldn’t let go. It was like my worst fears were playing over and over again in my mind like a horror film. I had no idea I had postpartum OCD.
There were two times in these horrendous weeks of fear that will haunt me forever. [tune in tomorrow for part 2 of Becky’s story]
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