I counted to seven. I counted to seven and looked at the clock one more time. This time, though, it was right. This time I could fall asleep because it was safe. I counted to seven as I pressed my fingers to my closed eyes.
What was wrong with me?
The thoughts that sped through my head faster than I could think weren’t mine—yet, here we were. It was 2:00AM, and I had been counting for an hour, staring at the baby monitor. I was convinced that as soon as I fell asleep, my baby would somehow suffocate. It was going to be my fault. Surely, I forgot a blanket. What if she still had that necklace on? I would continue this ritual until I finally fell asleep exhausted, often waking my husband up multiple times during the process. This little snippet is just a fraction of a day spent lost in obsessions and compulsions.
I didn’t know I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
I don’t wash my hands relentlessly, my house isn’t clean, and I am far from organized. Yet the crippling fear that froze me as the thoughts repeated themselves through my head began to consume me. I was convinced everything I did was somehow laced with malice. OCD stole away over a year of my life a little at a time—ending with me feeling nothing but intense anxiety around the clock. It was like an itch I couldn’t reach, a fear I couldn’t calm, unless I repeated things exactly the way I was supposed to.
Checked things in the correct order.
Walked the right path.
Thought the good thoughts and completed all the mental rituals, the one’s OCD told me I had to in order to no longer be bad.
By the time I sought treatment, OCD’s compulsions were taking up 6-8 hours of my day. I was a shell of who I once was. Family, friendships, work… all of it took a toll. While on the outside I remained the same, inside was a wheel that couldn’t stop spinning with thoughts that weren’t mine. The question “what if?” beckoned to me every hour of every day. See, OCD has a funny way of finding the exact trigger you can’t let go of. As soon as I would calm one fear, another would come rushing in, strengthening the doubt inside my mind.
“Don’t believe everything you think.”
Before, I would have merely glanced over that sentence. “Sure, I can think untrue things,” I would have shrugged. But, today, I know what it means to have intrusive thoughts. Today, I know what it means to have thoughts in your head that are so far removed from who you are as a person, they threaten to take away everything. Not because of them ever becoming true, but because of everything I would do to keep that from ever happening. But today, I open up about my battle with OCD. It has taken a long time, and a lot of work, to slowly get to where I am today.
Why do I share this? I want to spread awareness. I want my story to be heard, so that others around us can learn about what OCD really is, not what we see in mainstream media today. I want to answer questions. I want to give hope. But most of all, I want those who suffer in silence to seek help. Postpartum OCD can be extremely alienating, but you are not alone. Those thoughts do not make you a bad mother, wife, or person. They are not you, and you are not your thoughts.
For assistance in seeking help, you can visit the International OCD Foundation’s website at https://iocdf.org/find-help/ for a list of resources, reach out to your doctor, or consult with a therapist or psychiatrist in the area.
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