Tuesday Jul 15, 2014 - BY Stacey
As if all the unknown isn’t anxiety provoking enough when we women are pregnant – we now know that we may actually lose our minds a bit after we give birth.
Of late, there have been many articles about postpartum depression, shedding new light on what can happen to many of us, how, and why.
Thankfully, women have been sharing their stories so that others may feel less afraid and ashamed of their own postpartum “craziness” should it occur.
I am now going to be added to the growing number of women who share their story.
I suffered from what is known as post –partum OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
It was only diagnosed one evening during a dinner my husband and I shared with a very astute psychiatrist friend and his colleagues.
A few months after the birth of my daughter, I began having horrific visions of myself harming her. I would find myself getting lost in a trance – for what seemed like an eternity but probably only lasted for 20 seconds or so.
I envisioned myself throwing her out of the window, throwing her in front of a passing car, putting her into the oven…
To say that these “nightmares” were profoundly disturbing is an understatement. I wanted nothing more in the world than to be the mother of this gorgeous child and nurture her – and yet, my mind became filled with these homicidal thoughts. I was so afraid I would harm her, I actually found myself backing away from the crosswalk when cars would pass by – as to ensure that I wouldn’t step in front of a car with her strapped into her Baby Bjorn on my chest.
Walking by any window became a frightening and anxious making moment – as my mind would become flooded by the vision of me throwing her out of it.
I lived with these terrifying thoughts and never shared my distress with my husband. He was – and to this day remains – my best friend – but I was too ashamed to reveal what my “sick” mind was experiencing. And I didn’t feel the need to seek out psychiatric help because I was truly in a state of bliss being a mother – with the exception of those scary thoughts. They were never so bad that I couldn’t function – and they never kept me from going through my day – as is the case with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) whereby those afflicted sometimes cannot even get out of the house as their repetitive behavior (like washing hands 50 times) can make simple tasks extremely time consuming and difficult.
I can’t remember when the hormones and my crazy thoughts quelled – sometime when my daughter was around ten months old.
Much to my horror, I experienced the same thing, but to a lesser degree, when my son was born two years later.
I knew about postpartum depression – but I wasn’t depressed. I felt like the luckiest woman on the planet to have both of these amazing and healthy children. Brook Shields very courageously “came out “ about her postpartum depression around the same time my first two were very small, but it didn’t seem relevant to me. (She did a tremendous service to countless woman everywhere by sharing her experience!)
And so, I suffered in silence, until that dinner that occurred sometime when my son was around a year old. I can’t remember exactly how the subject arose, but I was discussing our young children with the female psychiatrist sitting next to me and when she told me about postpartum OCD – it was as if the great waters of the sea had parted. She assured me that women that suffer with it are the LEAST likely to harm their children, because they usually are so afraid that they will that they overcompensate and keep as far away from danger as humanly possible.
I spent many, many years of my life in therapy and considered myself to be psychologically aware – but I had never heard of post partum OCD until that evening. A sense of relief washed over me as never before. I really did think something was wrong with me (who doesn’t sometimes??) and I kept it hidden.
No woman should live with that sense of shame and anxiety – we know too much now to suffer needlessly.
New motherhood is fraught with joy and fear and those of us that get to experience it are truly blessed. But it can also be a time of unusual hormonal fluxes that can greatly affect our thinking.
It is by sharing our deepest, darkest secrets that we can experience the light – and I feel a whole lot brighter now.