by Rachel Huber
It’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week! We’re partnering with 2020 Mom and TheBlueDotProject to raise awareness about Perinatal OCD through blog and social posts, a Reddit AMA on Thursday at 2pm ET, and a special town hall on Thursday at 7pm ET. Join us! #MMHWeek2021 #MakingOverMotherhood
TW: Suicidal thoughts
I have had OCD for as long as I can remember. It would ebb and flow as the years went on, and different life stressors would trigger me. The earliest memory I have of OCD was when I was 10 years old and in a hotel room with my parents and brother and worrying that I would take the knives from the kitchen when everyone was asleep and stab my brother. I had to have my brother hide all the knives so if I woke up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t find them and stab him to death.
As the years went on, I continued to have weird and scary thoughts such as this, and never understood what was happening to me.
I hit rock bottom during my pregnancy with my second son Henry. At only seven weeks pregnant, I had a little bit of bleeding, which was deemed normal. However, that is not what my mind believed. From that moment on, every day of that pregnancy was like living in hell. I would often spend many hours a day staring at my underwear for any microscopic drop of blood. There was never any blood there, but it did not matter. I was stuck on an OCD merry-go-round and I was not getting off. I was convinced that if I had any bleeding, it meant that my baby was not getting enough oxygen to his brain and therefore would have brain damage. This was my driving fear. Spending hours and hours a day obsessively checking, vigorously Googling, and an endless amount of time crying was extremely difficult when I was also taking care of Jacob who was only one-and-a-half years old.
I used to take walks late at night because I wanted to crawl out of my skin, and I remember thinking how easy it would be to just step into traffic — my pain would simply stop. But then I would think of Jacob and knew that was not an option. I have some post-traumatic stress from it, and even writing this story brings up anxiety for me.
Jacob grew increasingly closer to my husband and mother at this time because it was hard for me to function. This shattered my heart, but OCD did not care. OCD was all encompassing; it was a force to be reckoned with that I did not have the strength to fight. Those with OCD know the feeling of distress it causes. I do not call it distress because I think it is better described as true agony.
My son Henry was born healthy and beautiful, but my OCD did not go away. I knew that my OCD had never been so debilitating, and that I hit below rock bottom right when he was born. I was convinced the nurses took him from me when I was asleep and switched him with another baby. I had never felt so low and helpless in my life. Of course this was just OCD; it was only a thought, but we all know too well how real thoughts feel. It didn’t matter how many doctors or nurses assured me that they would never switch babies; it felt so terrifying and so real to me.
It was during this pivotal moment after Henry was born that I knew I had to fight — I was the only person who could get myself out of this hell. I was the only person who could save me from myself. I shifted my mindset from feeling sorry for myself to feeling powerful and strong. It was then that I began my road to recovery. Am I fully recovered now? Absolutely not. I will always have OCD, but I vowed to never ever go back to that place, and I would do whatever it takes to beat OCD, not only for myself but also for my sons and my husband.
I began this piece by saying to resist is to persist, and it’s a motto I live by. I had to stop resisting the thoughts and resisting the agony and pain. If I continued to resist it by performing my rituals and compulsions, the more the thoughts would persist. OCD is a sly, tricky, conniving, determined monster, but I am stronger. The more I believed that, the harder I would fight. I began accepting my thoughts and saying, “I can live with this feeling of distress. I won’t die. I have lived with much worse.” I would often say out loud, “bring it on.” I might look crazy as I walk around my house saying bring it on, but I do not care. It works. The less I resisted the painful thoughts and feelings, the less it persisted. Once I gave in, the less the monster grew. Once you get a bit of relief, you feel stronger and braver and that will fuel you to continue fighting.
You can hit rock bottom and feel like you will never ever climb out of that deep dark hole. Remember one thing, though. You are stronger than you think; if you fight and stop resisting your thoughts, you will come out the other side. I am living proof. People with OCD are not weak, even though we feel that way often. We are the opposite of weak. We are STRONG, we are brave, we are courageous, we are fighters, and we WILL win.