by Brittany Bowman
This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”― Brené Brown
I would like to live my life with less filters and be less guarded about my struggles. I tend to choose my favorite pictures and moments to post on social media but leave out the details of what takes place in between those moments.
My journey with motherhood has just begun. My son, Joel, is now six months old. I can barely believe it. Where have the last few months gone? There have been so many exciting firsts in our household: Joel’s first smile, first laugh, first time sitting up unassisted.
There has also been a great struggle. After giving birth to Joel, I struggled immensely with postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It felt as if the postpartum OCD set in gradually and increased in intensity over time. I have lived with OCD for as long as I can remember; I was diagnosed in my early 20s but I struggled with it long before that time. I have received therapy in the past and have been able to keep it at bay with the help of treatment and the support of my family. I hoped that I would be able to manage the OCD after having Joel. But much to my disappointment, OCD came knocking even louder at my door after giving birth.
The OCD manifested itself in different ways: I became constantly fearful of maintaining Joel’s safety. Of course, all mothers want their children to be safe but this level of fear and anxiety was significantly high. I began to doubt my own ability to keep him safe. I became obsessed with the fear that I may harm him. Let me be clear: I had no desire to bring any harm upon him, but I couldn’t get the intrusive images and thoughts out of my head. The more I tried to analyze the thoughts, the stronger the OCD became.
You see, that’s what OCD does: it attacks what you hold most dear.
I tried to tell as few people as possible but as time passed, it became increasingly difficult to hide. Eventually I reached out to loved ones and I am thankful for all the love and support of my family and friends. I have made great improvements over the last few months as a result of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, medication, attending a support group, and the support of loved ones. Through sharing my story with my support group, I became encouraged to share my story with a wider audience. The support group has offered me a sense of community and new friendships with people who understand what it’s like to live with OCD.
It also doesn’t hurt to have an incredibly handsome, dimpled, little babe to help brighten some of your darkest days.
For all those who are struggling with postpartum OCD, please remember:
1) There is nothing to be ashamed about.
2) Reach out to someone you trust. We all need each other!
3) It is important to talk about subjects that are considered to be “taboo.”
4) Seeking therapy and treatment to manage the OCD is important. Healing takes time and sometimes feels out of reach, but it is possible.
On my journey of healing and navigating all the firsts of new motherhood, I am grateful for each moment I feel a little more peace and the OCD becomes a little quieter.
Please always remember, you are not alone. No matter what you are going through, there are people who can support you if you reach out for help.
Brittany Bowman lives in northern West Virginia with her husband Mark, her son Joel, three cats and a beautiful St. Bernard mix, Maggie. She hopes to be an advocate for those struggling with OCD and more specifically postpartum OCD.