So I am a 30 year old mom of two beautiful children; a four-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son. I wanted to share my story to help raise awareness and help others out there that are suffering.
Most people have heard of postnatal depression, but no one talks about postnatal anxiety or OCD. I, for one, had never heard of these postnatal illnesses or how common they actually are. These debilitating mental illnesses are scary and hard to talk about, especially when you’ve never heard about them before.
The intrusive thoughts are the worst. It’s like being tortured by your own mind. Thoughts so distressing and disturbing, they send you into a panic and make you believe you are the worst of people. Those thoughts are scary, hard to talk about, and make you feel ashamed that you can even think these things.
Intrusive thoughts: I’d never heard of them, add the OCD, depression, and anxiety, you fall so fast you don’t even know where to go.
My first intrusive thought was when my baby was 4 weeks old. He had a slight runny nose, and that was it. That was the moment my downward spiral begin: from having a runny nose, to getting a chest infection, to needing a hospital, to needing intensive care, and eventually my baby dying. The anxiety and panic was unbearable. I never slept that night with worry — and this is how it began. How that one thought, from ‘my baby just having a runny nose’, which of course was never any more than that! But this was just the beginning. The intrusive thoughts got worse. From bathing my baby, to him accidentally drowning, to me actually drowning him. From changing his nappy, to thinking I would touch him inappropriately. They were horrendous. The worst things you could imagine happening to your baby were in my head.
For days, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I barely functioned. I was so scared of what was going on in my head and scared to tell people in case they thought I was some crazy monster. The problem is, once you have those thoughts, you become obsessed with them. It starts as an innocent thought and quickly turns into an intrusive thought. And all the different scenarios come racing through your head. This is where the panic sets in because the thoughts are so horrible, you believe you are an awful person for even thinking these thoughts. You become scared thinking that because you had these horrid thoughts, you may actually do these terrible things. I was so terrified that I would actually harm my children or something bad would happen to them, I went to live between my mother and mother-in-law. They took care of my two children whilst I was unwell. Unfortunately because of these horrid thoughts, I distanced myself from my kids. I was so scared that these unthinkable thoughts would become a reality and I could actually harm my children. This made me feel so guilty that I couldn’t look at them. I felt like I was protecting them from me. It’s hard to understand that they are just thoughts and that they won’t become a reality. I needed, and still do at times, constant reassurance that I was not some vile human, that I was not going to do these disgusting things that kept popping into my head, or that it was very unlikely my baby was going to die.
I felt so ashamed and embarrassed of what was happening and that I wasn’t managing or happy like other moms. I thought my family deserved a better person, a better mom, and that I had failed them for being this way. I became extremely low with everything that was going on in my head. I started to have dark thoughts that maybe I needed to be put down, being such a horrible person with these disgusting thoughts. I felt like I was never going to be normal again and that everyone would hate me. I thought if anyone knew what thoughts were running through my head, they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near me and they would want me locked up.
I only managed to calm down by taking diazepam regularly, which just made me so sleepy. I started to Google some of my symptoms and was surprised to find out that what was actually happening to me was an illness and I wasn’t the first, or the only person, that had suffered with this terrifying illness. I plucked up the courage to go to the doctor. Initially, I told them I was having really bad general anxiety because I was too scared to actually say what was happening in my head. After having a few days of getting worse and realizing what my actual illness was, I went back. My mother-in-law came with me as I was in such a state.
Telling my husband, my mom, and mother-in-law who take care of me was one of the hardest things that I had to do. Letting them know about the sick thoughts I was having seemed an impossible task without them thinking I was going to harm the children and that I was some kind of monster mom. It was so hard that instead of speaking out loud, I showed them the stories and descriptions of the illness I found on Google and said, “That is what I have.” This is where my recovery began and was beginning to feel some kind of hope of getting better.
I had started on antidepressants, but I knew those first few weeks of getting them in my system we’re going to be hard. I begin to see the perinatal mental health team, who’ve been amazing. They were quick, thorough, and they helped me understand my illness better. Regular meetings with the mental health nurse have been an essential piece to my treatment and my recovery. Being able to talk to a neutral person who understands the illness has helped me get through. I also wouldn’t have managed without the amazing people in my life: my husband, my mom, and mother-in-law were my rocks through my toughest and lowest times. Without them, I honestly don’t know how things would have turned out. I have three amazing sisters and extended family who all helped out one way or another, and wonderful friends. Even my best friend, all the way in Australia, helped me in more ways than she will ever know.
As well as taking medication, I was advised that CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) was the treatment for my illness. I had done a course of CBT a few years ago after suffering with anxiety the past four years. CBT so far has been a major eye-opener for me. To start with we have focused on the intrusive thoughts and the OCD. Through therapy I have begun to realize that I have suffered from OCD for a long time and did not realize that some of my habits were actually not normal.
I am still in the early stages of my recovery and know that I have a long road ahead of me. I’m finally realizing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there is hope.
To anyone out there who is suffering with these terrible illnesses, please realize that you are not alone, that it is an illness, you are not some horrible, disgusting person. Read people’s stories and please go get help.
Listen on: https://anchor.fm/thegreymatters/episodes/19-Guest-Submission-My-Story-So-Far—Amys-Story-e3ub6c