Yesterday I experienced what I like to call “intrusive memories”. These stem from when I was wading through the mud of postpartum OCD. When I was struck with this illness, I was working as a school nurse. Each day that I had to go and pick up my children from daycare was so fear provoking. There were some days that I had to ask my husband to meet me there.
I remembered specifically picking my youngest up from the baby room with this big smile on my face masking the churning angst in my chest and abdomen. Intrusive thoughts ran wild the minute I pulled into the parking lot and spiraled me into a pit of despair. As I picked my infant up from the swing, off the play mat, or from the arms of his caregiver, I felt a rush of emotions.
These emotions were so overwhelming that I can only compare them to an early childhood memory of getting caught up into a wave in the ocean and seeing the water spin around me. Fear, predominantly, followed by guilt as I looked into the precious face of my son who smiled at me as I held him. Deep sadness settled with thoughts of “Why is this happening? Why can’t I be a normal mom? What if I don’t really love my children?” I hated myself.
Reflecting upon those early PPOCD days are hard. If I let myself I can still allow room for the deep sadness and feeling of despair to seep in, despite the progress I have made. I felt somehow flawed, a lesser woman and mother.
I am approaching the ninth month of living (knowingly) with OCD and the gratitude I have to my Heavenly Father is overwhelming. He has taken me out of a dark and deserted place and has planted me firmly under His protection and love (a place I have always been, but Satan tried to convince me otherwise). He has pulled me out of the spiraling wave just as my mom or dad did when I was young.
I have accepted that OCD is part of my life and will continue to be. No doubt, some days or moments absolutely suck and I hate them. If you are in the midst of a postpartum mood disorder, just hang on. It sounds so easy and almost insulting for me to say. There were moments where I felt as if I was hanging on the edge of a cliff by my fingernails. God has brought me off that cliff. I think just a leg is dangling now.
I don’t allow the intrusive memories to take over. I can pick up my littlest and breathe him in as he rests his head against my shoulder while I settle him down for the night and be right there in that moment, praising and thanking God for this amazing gift.
At one point, I verbalized to many that I would have gladly accepted a cancer diagnosis rather than postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD. I would never, ever have chosen to willingly walk through the throes of postpartum illness, but I didn’t get to make that choice. If it meant that I wasn’t going to have my littlest, I would rather have gone through it.
Now my heart yearns to share with all women in their childbearing years, and those who may have gone through postpartum mood disorders without the resources available now and had to suffer in silence. I know it hurts, I know it seems like it will never end. I remember being in the fetal position of the couch in my therapist’s office for the very first time sobbing, just “knowing” that I was going to feel this way forever. Praise God I was wrong.