[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post comes from a Warrior Mom who experienced Postpartum OCD. She shares her journey with intrusive thoughts so that other moms might feel less alone—and also so others will understand that side of OCD. Some thoughts might feel triggering for moms in vulnerable places, so please only read if you are feeling safe today. -Jenna]
I’ve found that no one really understands what OCD is in general. I hear a lot of things.
“Oh, so you wash your hands a lot.”
“Oh, you check the locks and stuff.”
“Oh, I used to clean the house all the time, too, but I got over that.”
Do people who suffer from OCD just wash their hands, check the locks, clean? NO. They perform rituals and compulsions like these far more often than the non-sufferer, and there’s always a thought behind it—usually an unpleasant one—fueling what they do. Think: “I’m sure my mom will die if I don’t wash my hands exactly seven times every hour in the same exact order.”
What’s more is people really don’t know about “Pure O” OCD and the intrusive thoughts that plague us. It’s impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t have it or get them.
I’ll be honest: It sounds ridiculous to even try and say it out loud to someone. Throw in the fact that there’s no visual—cracked bleeding hands aren’t evident, someone you can see counting the times they touched the lock to make sure it is in fact really locked—and you have one big misunderstanding of this special kind of torture.
When I try to explain to a non-sufferer, I’ve been told “but that’s just a thought, you won’t do that,” or the opposite, “oh God, so you were like one of those women who wanted to hurt their kid.” So I thought a post about thoughts that were constantly going through my mind when I suffered from Postpartum OCD might shed some insight.
When I say constantly, there is no exaggeration. I had intrusive thoughts and thoughts surrounding them every waking minute. I had them while I was knee deep in reports for work that required concentration. I had them while I was having full blown conversations with someone else. I never not had them.
On a “good day” I had a 10-15 second break in between.
It’s amazing how you can be having a running horror movie in your head at any given time and no one knew or understood how, since you “looked and acted so normal.” It’s much easier to talk about the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy than say, “Sorry my eating my apple is so loud. I couldn’t cut it up this morning before I came because I was at home alone with the baby and what if…”
Who I was wasn’t “normal” around was my husband. He received the full force of my confessing of the intrusive thoughts and reassurance seeking that I was not “crazy” or going to act on my thoughts, because as a person with OCD, you think, “why else would you have them, right?”
So here’s a blip of a very typical night in the mind of my PPOCD experience.
It’s 4:30, 4:30, 4:30. That’s only 15 more minutes until he’s home. 15 minutes. That’s not too long. You can do this. You are fine. 15 minutes.
That’s enough time to hurt him.
Oh God what if I hurt him.
Who thinks that? What’s wrong with me? What if he comes home and he’s dead? Why would he be dead?
Don’t be ridiculous. You’re fine. This is just OCD. You are not your thoughts.
Only 14 minutes. Just start dinner. Just start dinner. Man, it was easier to get dinner ready without a baby around.
Does that mean I don’t want him? Does that mean I want to get rid of him? I know how people do that.
Oh God, I’m going to be one of those people on the news.
Stop it. Just stop it. This is only OCD. Of course, it was easier without kids.
That’s the truth. Your therapist told you to look at the truth. Why isn’t that calming me down? I KNOW that’s the truth but I don’t believe it. Only 13 minutes. I’ll ask him when he gets here if he thought it was easier without a baby too.
He promised to tell me if I scared him with what I said. What if I’m just good at “acting” like I have OCD and I’m really a monster.
Stop it. That’s your OCD talking. Remember what your therapist said.
Only 12 minutes.
What can I make without a knife? I know it’s in the dishwasher. What if I grab it and…
STOP picturing it. STOP.STOP STOP.
Noodles. I can make noodles. If he’s in the other room, I won’t hurt him.
Is he really in the other room. Yes, you see him damn it. Just stir your stupid noodles. Stir. Stirring. Stirrrriiiiing. Keep singing that like a song. If you sing it out loud, it will curb your thoughts.
Shit. It’s not working. Wait, is he still in the other room?
YES, he’s home. 22.214.171.124.
“I swear I put him in the other room while I was cooking so he’s okay. I didn’t really want to hurt him. But I don’t know, maybe I did. Why else would I put him so far away? I also opened the dishwasher just to check but I didn’t touch the knife I swear. I thought it was easier without him but that doesn’t mean I don’t want him right? Does that mean I want to get rid of him? What if he went missing and no one looked for him because they know I’m seeing a therapist. What if he really was taken and ended up really dying because they never looked for him. How would I explain this to the police? They don’t know what OCD is. Maybe my doctors would tell them. What if they really do think I’m crazy and haven’t told me yet? Oh Jesus, do YOU think I’m crazy!? I’m so sorry you have to deal with me.”
“Um. No, you’re not crazy. This is OCD. You know that. You know what your doctors have told you. Yes, it was easier without him. No that doesn’t mean anything other than it was easier without him. I see we’re having noodles, again. Do you need me to unload the dishwasher tonight?”
And this goes on. And on and on and on and on. All night.
“I need you to cut up that watermelon. Actually I need you to take him in the other room while I do it because you can keep him safe from me.”
“I need you to give him a bath. But I can do the diaper first. Wait, what if I touch something accidentally when I’m wiping him.”
“I need to work on my OCD workbook the therapist gave me, but what if someone see’s what I’m writing? They will take him from me. I know you said we can just burn it when I’m done but that also gives me bad thoughts. Actually can we just use the oil furnace while you’re not home? Just in case I flip my shit. I mean I know it’s OCD but still, what if it’s not?”
No matter how many doctors told me the truth, that THIS WAS OCD and I WAS NOT MY THOUGHTS; no matter how many posts I read and Google searches I did; no matter how often I heard EVERYONE has random bizarre thoughts pop in to their head, they just go in one side and out the other not bothering them, it’s just us OCDers that get fixated on them; I had a very hard time accepting I was not a monster. I kept my distance from my son because the “what if’s” plagued me.
But after a long battle, I got help. I got medication that allowed me work on techniques to control my mind and to go from a run on sentence of thoughts to having them every 30 seconds.
Then every minute.
To eventually not even noticing/reacting to them like the “normal” person. I finally believed that this was OCD and that just because I wasn’t familiar with what OCD really was before this blindsided me, didn’t mean it wasn’t true and my actual diagnosis.
So next time you say “I was SO OCD this weekend and cleaned out my closet” remember how lucky you are that cleaning out your closet was only a small chunk of your day with a perfectionist streak—not a horror movie with no commercial breaks in your mind that is OCD.