I have been dreading writing this post for as long as I have been blogging. In fact, I am terrified to put this all down on paper and share it publicly with the world. It is uncomfortable and scary. It makes me feel guilty and shrouded in shame. Anytime we delve into the worst part of our symptoms we tend to clam up and not openly talk about the bad ones. The ones no one wants to admit to because it feels awful, gross, unsettling, disturbing, and horrifying. We want to pretend they didn't occur and we want to sweep them under the rug because we are fundamentally scared. Scared of not only the judgment others may wield in our direction but also the judgment we have placed on ourselves. The blame we lay at our own feet for having them in the first place. No one likes to talk about the horrible details when you are in the complete bottom depths of your mental illness. Where the water is so dark, murky, treacherous, and deep no one dares tread in it. Lest, the insanity of it all swallow you whole and you are never seen or heard from again.
This post will be hard for some to read and even harder for some to understand but I can't talk about my symptoms and OCD and just gloss over or minimize the worst symptoms I ever had and the ones that almost killed me, literally.
Surely this was punishment for being a horrible monster in a past life. Stalin or Hitler maybe. Surely, this was my penance for anything wrong I may have ever done, or maybe even anything wrong every person on the face of the planet had ever done and I was the one paying for it. Surely, this was hell because nothing else could be this horrible, this torturous, this depraved.
I had gotten divorced and was learning to understand myself again both as a person and as a person with OCD. Again I thought I had the disease of my mind figured out, I really have to stop doing that...I went on and life went on and things got much better. I met a man and fell in love. When he wanted to have a child I kind of laughed a bit. I wanted one but I believed that since I had been with my ex for four years and never conceived except for the miscarriage, that he might be wasting his time on me. Still, I agreed to try and see what would become of it. A month later I was pregnant and very surprised. I was happy and ecstatic. I was finally going to get to be the one thing I had always wanted to be, a mother.
My OCD kicked in as I had to get off the medication. Instead of the fears I was used to, it changed into a more controlling role. I ate only healthy foods for the baby, I drank nothing but water, I walked a mile a day to make it easier to give birth. Not only did I revel in the pregnancy but looking back I realize I also obsessed about it. Afraid that if I didn't do everything just right I might lose this child too, I made sure that anything the doctor advised, I did. I read all of the "What to Expect When You Are Expecting" books twice. Had my birthing bag ready two months before I was due. I even took the time to wash all of the baby bedding, and clothes, and buy as many packs of newborn sized diapers I could fit in the closet...Busying myself with the chores of getting ready for a newborn seemed to take away the punishment of the waiting game. As anyone with OCD knows, anticipation and waiting are truly the OCD playground. The expression "idle hands are the devil's workshop", spring to mind. So I busied myself and obsessed on exactly what I could control. After all, I was going to do my damnedest to give this child the best start I could. I couldn't save the one I lost, I was going to give my all to save this one. I put headphones with soft music on my belly, because I read somewhere that babies can hear in the womb. I talked to him while gently rubbing my tummy. I said sweet murmurs and softly sang him lullabies. I made sure to take luke warm showers, even though I hated them because the scalding hot water like I prefer, wasn't good for pregnancy. When I was diagnosed as having borderline gestational diabetes I checked my blood sugar three times a day like the doctor suggested religiously and did the diet without any complaints, even though I felt like I was starving to death. In short, I did everything I could think of to protect my son and to make him grow healthy and strong. After all, I not only was stubborn but I have OCD and OCD can make you be extremely rigid in your behaviors.
Then he was born. My beautiful amazing little boy. I fell in love at first sight. He was tiny and precious and perfect in every way. I doted on him like he was a miracle because all children are miracles and they deserve that kind of treatment. I took hundreds pictures of him in every outfit we had bought for him. Pictures of his first smile. Pictures of him sleeping. Pictures of his first bath. I spent nights awake just listening to the soft whisper of his breaths while he slumbered. I checked on him to make sure he was comfortable and safe. I held him way more than I should and spoiled him relentlessly. I took to being a mother like ducks take to water and I finally felt like I was doing something I was always meant to do. I had finally found my purpose, my calling. And then it happened....
I remember while being pregnant I told my doctor about having severe OCD. He had informed me that it put me at a higher risk for postpartum depression and that we would need to keep an eye out for signs of me getting depressed. I didn't really worry about it because I had no idea how Postpartum anything really worked but I did remember seeing something on t.v. about it and I thought I would just inform everybody it was a possibility and we would be alert but not petrified of the possibility.
It was two weeks after giving birth and I was walking with my precious baby in my arms into the living room when I had this strong clear image of putting him in a lit fireplace. I froze with fear. I was unable to move as I processed what had just went through my mind. It terrified me. It shook me to my core. I quickly put him in his bassinet and called my mom. This had to be what the doctor warned me about and I needed to make sure that I was going to get help right away. I remember being relieved to some extent because we didn't have a fireplace, so maybe it was just a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg, the edge of the cliff around the dark pit of insanity and I was teetering over it. Soon the images became louder and faster and more vile. Me putting him in the microwave or drowning him in the tub. Me throwing him down a flight of stairs we didn't even have or slamming him against the wall. Each time I had one I would break down crying in hysteria...There was something wrong with me. There was something seriously wrong with me... I was terrified of myself and was terrified that if I had these images then I might be able to do them, so we all made a pact that I would never be alone with the baby until I was able to get help from a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist who, oddly enough, was dragging his feet on seeing me. Even though I had made several calls freaking out about what was going on.
Then the images turned into not just harming my son but also my husband, my friends, my family. Everything became a trigger. A spoon for the coffee creamer became a eye gouger, a fork became a weapon to stab a loved one in the throat, a pot of boiling water for spaghetti became an image of severely burning my husband. I started to not only avoid my baby but also everything else and everyone else as well. Trying so desperately to avoid the triggers that made me have the gut wrenchingly painful thoughts and the overwhelming guilt that followed them. I was unable to sleep from them, unable to eat because of them, unable to function in any real way accept to cry and agonize over the unwanted thoughts and images.
Again they turned into even more disturbing and disgusting thoughts. The smiling baby on the similac can turned into pedophilia images....the sight of my neighbors Chihuahua turned into bestiality images...anything sexual became a mental horror show that I could not stop. I started to refuse to bathe my son or go near his diaper in fear that somehow I would turn into my grandfather and be a predator. It terrified me to my very core. I refused to walk down the baby isle because the images were so strong that they would make me physically flinch like someone was slapping me full force in the face. They made me physically ill and yet the voice in my head told me I liked them. I avoided contact with animals refusing to even look at them let alone pet them. So I could avoid the animal torture and bestiality images that were waiting to jump out and torture me.
I called my therapist in a panic....." I need help, Oh God please help me....Please help me I have gone insane...completely insane."
She refused to treat me and thought about calling the authorities on me. It wasn't Postpartum Depression she thought. She said she couldn't be responsible for what I might do. I was now even more terrified. I was insane and now I had no one to help me. And if she abandoned me then maybe it meant I was capable of actually doing these horrid things. She obviously thought so.
Finally after a day of the really bad sexual images running non stop through my mind, I made a decision. I was going to kill myself. I couldn't take it any longer. I couldn't take one more nasty, disgusting, vile, fucked up thought.. I just couldn't...I couldn't do it anymore. No one would help me, my therapist left, the doctor was stone walling me, and I was petrified I might end up being all of these things these images were portraying. If I wasn't then why were they there plaguing me? Surely, this was hell and I was burning. No, not surely, this was definitely hell and I was Satan himself for thinking these putrid thoughts. I had to do it. What if this was my mind warning me I was going to be just like my grandfather and I might hurt someone? Like an advanced child molester warning? Or an advanced serial killer warning? Like it was showing who I truly was deep down and I just didn't know it? I couldn't accept that. I would never allow myself to be that kind of a monster, I had to protect my family. I had to protect my son. I am his mother, it is my one job. The one job you are given as a parent, to protect your child. Anything else was unacceptable. I knew suicide was a sin but I had wrestled with the idea that if I did it to protect my son , then maybe God could find a way to forgive me for it. Or at least maybe he would have mercy on my soul. Either way going to hell couldn't possibly be as bad as this. The constant images and thoughts....Anything had to be an improvement.
I called my mother and asked her to take my son for the day after his dad went to work. They were going to stay with me anyway but I wanted some time to myself, I told them. I didn't think of who would find my body or how I was going to actually do it, just that I was and I would be doing the right thing because I wasn't going to allow myself to become a monster and the things in my head were definitely monstrous.
Something in my voice must have struck my mother as off. She agreed to come get the baby but she wasn't agreeing to leaving me alone. She called some more doctors to see if they could schedule me in. I think, looking back, because she had tried to commit suicide when I was younger, she recognized something in my voice. She saw it coming. We hung up and I got my son's stuff ready to leave as his dad got ready for work. I was sad but I felt I was doing the only thing I could to protect my family, and then the phone rang. It was my mother. She had been so worried about me that she got tired of all of the doctors blowing us off and started researching my symptoms on the internet. And she found it. I wasn't crazy or insane. I wasn't even dangerous. I had Postpartum OCD. My hormones dipping after two weeks of giving birth had spiraled my already severe OCD into a postpartum OCD. Those images weren't because I was sick or depraved, they were intrusive thoughts. Much like I had before but more violent because I now had Harm OCD symptoms. I was in no danger of being my grandfather, or a serial killer, or a dog abuser, or someone who stabs their husband in the eye with the coffee creamer spoon. She had found a brave, courageous lady who had written a book about postpartum OCD and had done an interview on television about it. Her description of her symptoms mimicked mine so greatly it sounded as if she too had been living in my head with all of these sick and twisted images. It clicked. I knew how OCD worked but I had no idea the images could be so disturbing and so horrible let alone so violent....
I finally was seen at a doctor's office and they tried to schedule me in for two months away. My mother stood up in the middle of the waiting room and yelled that I had waited long enough. That I needed help and if anything should happen to me or her grandson that they would be held solely responsible. She has always been my biggest support but that day she was my hero, my champion. I was seen right away and I was properly diagnosed as suffering from Postpartum OCD. I was medicated and finally the images started to cease.
I was never told that Postpartum OCD even existed. We had no idea that it would even be a possibility. We were unprepared and I suffered greatly because of it. My therapist should have helped me find a doctor. She should have supported me and helped me find treatment. Instead she abandoned me and I almost gave up my life believing that what I was suffering from made me a danger. In fact Postpartum OCD is remarkable in the fact that unlike Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Psychosis women that suffer from Postpartum OCD are not dangerous. The statistics are so minuscule that there aren't any... They are so terrified of the images that they encounter that they will go out of their way to avoid anything that gives them these images. Often times avoiding being around their newborns and or family members or like me making sure someone is with them at all times to protect the baby. They are not dangerous but they are tortured by their thoughts. They deserve to know that this is out there and it is real. They deserve to know and not have to find a diagnoses on a google search. They deserve to know there is treatment and they can hold their babies and not be afraid that they are secretly monsters. That suicide is not the answer. They are not dangerous or sick or vile. It's just OCD doing what it does best, causing fear and torment. Turning everything you fear into illusions, smoke, fog, and circus mirrors. Showing you things you would never do because you are not that kind of a person. You are not a monster.
Postpartum OCD changed me in a way I never thought I could be changed. It made me stronger and it made me understand this illness in a way I never thought possible. It taught me that OCD is complex because our minds are complex. It taught me that what our mental illness says we are or shows us we are, is all false perception. OCD sufferers are nonviolent and will go out of their way to avoid these images because we are non violent. It scares us. It haunts us. We are tortured by these images and thoughts. We are haunted by them. I have no other way to describe it but pure emotional hell....but it doesn't last forever. You do come out of it. You do learn to move on and to fight it. You do learn that OCD is not indicative of who you are as a person in any way. You learn that you are not what these images say you are. You never were. You are just person that deals with unwanted thoughts and images. They are just that UNWANTED. They are NOT who we are or what we are capable of....
Although these were the worst and most scariest symptoms I endured over my thirty years of OCD suffering, they weren't my last. My next post is the last installment of my life's journey through severe OCD symptoms so far, where I suffer random harm fears, germ fears, contamination fears, and health fears.
If you would like to know more about Postpartum OCD you can find out more information at these websites:
Next Installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2014/01/it-was-and-is-daily-process.html
Third Installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2014/01/i-was-unaware-and-unprepared.html
Second Installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2014/01/what-it-became.html
First Installment :http://neurtoicnellyocd.blogspot.com/2013/12/and-so-it-begins.html