**Trigger Warning – contains talk of intrusive, disturbing thoughts**
OCD affected me in my late teens, with therapy I got it under control but after having my baby, I was struck with PND & anxiety and they brought along Maternal OCD for the ride too. I was surprised to see I hadn’t written much about this part of my illness but wanted to share in the hope it helps others.
According Maternal OCD studies propose between 2.5% & 9% of the population suffer postnatally, this is compared to a general population rate of 1.1%. This suggests an increased risk of developing this illness after given birth.
It’s no surprise to me after researching these facts that OCD returned with vengeance after my baby was born.
When my baby was born I was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility, and it scared me. I was responsible for this precious, tiny being. Her very existence depended on me. I became obsessed with protecting her, from everything & everyone. Fears that were somewhat logical, and others that were downright ludicrous and impossible.
Initially my fears centred around her health, was she breathing, was she over heating – fairly common things parents worry about in those first precious weeks, especially with a first baby. However I started to obsess, I didn’t sleep for the first 4 days because, I believed, if I allowed myself to close my eyes for one moment, she would die. I thought if I went to the toilet, or made dinner and didn’t have her in the room with me or someone physically watching her – she would die.
I genuinely believed it would happen and the only way I could protect her was to never leave her side, or take my eyes from her.
Soon things spiralled, I started to obsess about things I would see on the news. I read a story about small children being killed in a tragic accident, by a boa constrictor. They lived above a pet shop and it was an awful thing, but extremely unlikely to ever happen to us. But my brain couldn’t differentiate between reality and imagination and I believed it would happen. So I would constantly check her cot, at night I would get up over and over again until I felt she was ‘safe’ and it was ok to go to bed.
I read a story about a car being hit by a train on a level crossing, so another fear was added to my list. I got a map and check each level crossing near me, phoned my dad to check where they were, and said I’d avoid them, there’s actually very few but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I believed someone would break in and put her in the oven. Now I know, it’s such a strange and now laughable thing but again, at the time I honestly believed this. All reasons to never leave her side.
I started to obsess over numbers, if I counted something I couldn’t stop, because if I did either my baby would die, or I would. So I would count to a number higher than an age we would reach – usually 100, it would need to be even to feel ok – and then I would feel a bit better.
I would peg washing out on the line, but I’d make sure each item if my children’s clothing was next to mine or my husbands to ‘protect’ them.
I was terrified of thoughts I had. ‘What if I threw her down the stairs?’ I felt sick….where were these awful thoughts coming from? I was horrified they even came into my mind, all I ever wanted was to keep her safe. So I would walk with my back to the bannister and took the stairs slowly, or I sat and bumped down…just Incase and to keep her safe.
I was the same with kitchen knives. I didn’t feel comfortable around them. All I wanted to do was keep her safe and now my own thoughts were of awful things I could do.
I was scared to tell anyone about my thoughts, partly because they would think I was “crazy” but mostly I was worried they would think I’d want to hurt my child and take her away. With the gift of hindsight I know, and stress this to you, that they wouldn’t have taken her away but given me the much needed support I deserved.
I truly believed my compulsions would save my family. And so I continued until eventually I couldn’t do it any more. OCD, along with my pnd and anxiety had taken complete control of my life, and the three together combined to create a life I just didn’t want to live anymore.
Everything came to ahead one afternoon when, I nearly ended my life
Eventually with the help of Therapy, and medication I began to overcome my pnd, anxiety and with it my OCD subsided. I’d experienced OCD in my teens, I was obsessed with keeping my parents safe after losing a relative suddenly to cancer. I remembered some of the treatments from before and this helped me to gain control again this time.
Today, I’m well. It was a long journey to recovery- but it’s a journey which can be done. During times of stress I notice my anxiety and small parts of my OCD creep in, mainly through numbers and thoughts around those, but I know how to challenge these and I’m always trying to educate myself on ways to look after my mental health.
If you are struggling, please reach out. These thoughts are not who you are, and therapists know that. They will not rush in and take your baby, they will want to help you get better. There are medications, therapies and peer networks that can help you. You are not alone xx
For more information on Maternal OCD please visit their website