I remember each part of my postpartum OCD clearly. It began one night as I was nursing my son, Easton. I was home alone with the kids because my husband travels for work. I was looking at him and this random thought popped into my head– “What if I smothered him?” I was instantly crippled by what I now know was intense anxiety, not part of my character.
In the month that followed, my postpartum OCD became out of control.
I was constantly on guard, needing to check and recheck my thoughts to make sure that I was not dangerous. It consumed me. I couldn’t eat, I had no appetite. I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts were constantly racing. Then one morning, a new thought came. “What if I hurt both of my boys and no one was around to save them?” This thought scared me so much that I wouldn’t stay at my house alone with them anymore. I stayed on my dad’s couch for two weeks. I stared at the kids all night to make sure they were still safe. I felt like I had to constantly check myself to make sure I didn’t go crazy. I believed I had to stay alert at all times and if I thought I was going to hurt my children, I would go get my dad to save them.
It was all-consuming.
My friends and neighbors noticed something was wrong. I couldn’t go to social gatherings because all I wanted to do was cry. I cried all the time. Every day. I endlessly went through different “what if” scenarios in my head, terrorizing myself to no end. I remembered every Dateline episode I had ever seen and I was scared of becoming each of those evil people.
It is a special kind of hell to not be able to stop racing thoughts that completely contradict who you fundamentally believe yourself to be.
One night, I was putting my son Brayden to bed and thought, “At least I’m not one of those people who is attracted to their kids.” Guess what happened after that thought? That’s right, I was now fearful of becoming a pedophile. That is how quickly my thoughts would terrorize me. It was as if the mere fact that I was capable of having a thought suddenly meant that it could become a reality. This was endless.
By this time I had a therapist, but that wasn’t enough. Because of the grace of neighborhood friends who were able to care for my children, I ended up going to an outpatient program for new mothers with perinatal mood disorders and got on medication.
The medication caused my anxiety to lower, which in turn eased the thoughts. In therapy, I learned that anxiety takes what you care about most and puts it in the worst case scenario. What I care about most in the world is my boys, and them getting hurt in any way is my worst case scenario. This is by far the most crippling thing that has ever happened to me and it is nearly impossible for me to paint an accurate word picture that correctly illustrates how hard this has been.
Once I began to feel better, I began to do crafts and DIY projects, and I started to fully rely on help from my friends. I started by painting a table and chairs. Every new project meant something to me. If I could make it through just one more craft, we would be okay. I’m able to use my mind and creativeness to create beautiful projects instead of using my mind to scare myself. These are skills that came through time, medication and therapy. Today I am able to steer my thoughts from the worst, to gratitude for friends who have come along side me, to support my family. In the darkest moments, I would not have believed I would be working my way through to another side, but I am.
I’m Chelsea Elker, a stay at home mother of two who has been fighting postpartum OCD for 8 months. I’ve begun documenting my journey through OCD as well as the crafts that keep my mind occupied on my blog delicatechange.blogspot.com. I feel that sharing my story not only helps others who may face the same obstacles, but also loosens the hold that the OCD has on me. I look forward to completely conquering postpartum OCD and being able to fully enjoy my family and motherhood.