Postpartum Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Different From Depression and Just as Terrifying

Because I experienced this disorder, I feel an obligation to share it. I’ve never in my life been so terrified and lost as I was when this happened to me – and if speaking out helps just one new mother, I will be happy. Here is my story.

As a teenager I suffered from depression, but I seemed to outgrow it and after the birth of my oldest son when I was 22, it disappeared completely. I did have a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder prior to this. It developed when I was 19. I started checking things 5 times. Before I went to bed, I’d check the oven 5 times to make sure it was off. The door 5 times to make sure it was locked. My alarm 5 times to make sure it was set. Over time I was able to stop these behaviors and all was well until I turned 25 and developed anxiety.

My anxiety presented itself in small panic attacks. I tried a couple of medications but ultimately decided to try to deal with it on my own and with counseling because I didn’t like the side effects of the medication I was taking. As time went on I managed my anxiety fairly well. It, and my OCD which had returned, were an annoyance but I was functioning pretty normally aside from certain things. I didn’t want medication because of my previous experiences with it, but also because I had a (stupid) sense of pride and wanted to “beat it” myself without the medication. I still saw a counselor from time to time to help me deal with it and felt that all was fine.

At 36 I had my son, Maxwell. He was an angel and I loved him more than anything. We were home about a week or so when the strangest thing happened. Someone stopped by to deliver flowers. The flowers had a balloon on them. I took a pair of scissors out of the drawer and cut the string of the balloon and then, suddenly, was paralyzed with fear. The following thought slammed into my mind: Hide the scissors. Someone could come in and find them and stab the baby. At first I was confused. Why in the name of God would I ever think such a thing? But in that moment it was like a floodgate opened and thoughts like that came pouring in. Plastic bag from the grocery store? Throw it away, someone could suffocate the baby. A knife I used to make dinner? Hide it, someone could stab the baby. I was so overwhelmed and horrified that I began crying hysterically. I was so wrapped in fear that I could barely breathe. I called my husband at work and begged him to come home. I told him that something was wrong with me and I didn’t understand what was happening and that I was terrified of being alone. He advised me to call my counselor. She spoke with me over the phone and helped me calm down and we made an appointment.

Leading up to that appointment, things only got worse. I remember sitting at the top of my stairs, petting my cat, and thinking What if you pick him up and throw him down the stairs? I quickly got to a point where I was not functioning. Because I was afraid that I was going to kill my baby. I couldn’t bathe him alone because I was afraid I would drown him.

At first I thought that perhaps I had Postpartum Depression. I searched online and found that the symptoms of PPD didn’t match what was happening to me. But then I found an article about Postpartum Anxiety and OCD. And I had those symptoms. It turns out, most women who have this are afraid someone is going to kill the baby. And sometimes, that someone is you. Imagine the horror that overcomes you when you are having these thoughts. I was a new mom. I was supposed to be wrapped in the bliss of bonding with my baby. But I couldn’t even pick him up because I was terrified of hurting him. But then, reading the article, I found the exact words I needed to hear, and I will share them with you. Women with this disorder DO NOT hurt their babies. You will not hurt your baby. I wept with relief. What was happening to me was real. It wasn’t in my head. I wasn’t insane. It had a name. I wasn’t alone. And it wouldn’t make me hurt my baby.

My counselor explained it to me like this. She said that your maternal instincts kick in when you have a baby, and one of those is your protection instinct. But in women with PPA & OCD, it doesn’t hit the normal threshold. It keeps going. It extends so far that it enters an area of irrationality, believing that anything and everything is a threat to your child – even you. So you are trying to protect your baby so much that you don’t even trust yourself. Here are some of the symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety and OCD:

Symptoms of Perinatal / Postpartum OCD

Symptoms of Perinatal / Postpartum OCD vary widely from mother to mother. Some examples of common obsessions seen in Perinatal / Postpartum OCD are:

  • Horrifying, intrusive thoughts of stabbing or suffocating a newborn child
  • Unwanted images of throwing or dropping a baby
  • Disturbing thoughts of sexually abusing a child
  • Fear of accidentally harming a child through carelessness
  • Intrusive thoughts of accidentally harming the fetus or child by exposure to medications, environmental toxins, germs, chemicals, or certain foods
  • Fear of being responsible for giving a child a serious disease
  • Fear of making a wrong decision (i.e., getting inoculations, feeding certain foods, taking antidepressants) leading to a serious or fatal outcome

Some common examples of compulsions seen in Perinatal / Postpartum OCD include:

  • Hiding or throwing out knives, scissors, and other sharp objects
  • Avoiding changing soiled diapers for fear of sexually abusing a child
  • Avoiding feeding a child for fear of accidental poisoning
  • Repeatedly asking family members for reassurance that no harm or abuse has been committed
  • Avoidance of certain foods, medications, or normal, everyday activities for fear of harming the fetus
  • Monitoring self for perceived inappropriate sexual arousal
  • Avoiding news articles and TV shows related to child abuse or infanticide
  • Repeatedly and excessively checking in on a baby as he/she sleeps
  • Mentally reviewing daily tasks and events in an attempt to get reassurance that one has not harmed a child or been responsible for harm to a child

I copied this list from the following site if you would like more information from there:

https://ocdla.com/postpartum-ocd

You may not have all of these symptoms, I didn’t. But if you recognize any of them in yourself, breathe a sigh of relief honey. You are going to be OK again, and you are not alone.

Now, at that time I started going back to my counselor regularly and working through it. I still refused medication because I thought I could handle it on my own. And I did, but not as well as I was convincing myself that I was. Fast forward 2 years to the birth of my now 2-year-old son, Bennett. The same thoughts came flooding back. Now what I didn’t want to admit to myself at the time is that they had never really left. I’d have good days and bad days, but I wasn’t healed. And after I had Bennett, it escalated again. This time was much easier to deal with because I knew what was happening. It’s like my husband says – it’s not as scary when the monster has a name.

I went through life and went to counseling for about 6 months. What I didn’t know was that an avalanche was forming. As I dealt with my PPA & OCD in my own way, I was also not dealing with it completely and it was escalating in new ways. My anxiety got so bad that I was having problems sleeping. It snowballed to the point that I went to my doctor for help. I remember sitting in his office, crying, feeling embarrassed and afraid. He handled it so well. I’ll never forget what he said. Megan, you’re one of the most self aware patients I have. If you say something is wrong, I believe you. I will help you. It will be OK. At this point I was so desperate that I said I wanted medication. He prescribed some for me. Zoloft for the anxiety and a sleeping pill to help me sleep for the first week until the Zoloft took effect.

Now, this transition had it’s own difficulties. For me, I was very – very – sensitive to the medication. It made my anxiety so much worse at first. But with my counselor and my doctor and lots of online chatrooms full of people going through the same thing, I came out the other side.

It’s been a year since I started taking Zoloft. In that time I’ve adjusted my dose up a couple of times. It’s been at it’s current dose for about 6 months now and I’m pretty comfortable with it. I still sometimes have anxiety, but the PPA & OCD symptoms are gone. I sleep well at night (well, as well as a mother of 4 – with 3 under 4 – can) and my normal OCD symptoms are gone as well. For example, my best friend and I got food the other day at a drive thru and she opened my straw and put it in my drink. Immediately she apologized because, before, I couldn’t have handled her touching my straw. But now, I don’t care. I drank from it, no issue. My anxiety is still there. I still have moments where I am anxious. In these moments I consider upping my medication. But then they pass and I keep moving forward.

I can tell you this. I am happier and more relaxed than I have been in years. So my advice to you as someone who has been through it is this: Don’t be afraid to get help. Because this IS treatable. And there are counselors and therapists and doctors and support groups who can help you. So if you find that you are going through this, don’t be afraid – but get help. You can’t do it alone, and you shouldn’t feel the need to. There is no shame in the game, baby. You get what you need to move forward and be the best Mommy you can be. You’re a good mother, and everything will be alright.

FabFitFun Winter Box 2017!

My box has arrived! I unpack it here in this video, along with some great add-ons – and freebies! Don’t forget to enter to win the bag shown in my last review video! There’s still time! Follow my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thanks for watching!

FabFitFun Post-Fall 2017 Editor’s Box REVIEW and GIVEAWAY!

Hey there! Erica and I have used the products we received and we review them here. We also have a giveaway at the end of the video! To enter the giveaway, subscribe to my youtube channel, follow my blog, and follow the instructions at the end of my video. Thanks for watching!

*Winners of the previous giveaway will not be eligible.

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Us, in our Purlisse masks.

The Love of an Animal

It’s hard to explain the love we have for our pets. Some people don’t understand it. They think animals are just animals – their worth not equal to that of a person. I disagree. Sometimes I think they may be worth more. They have the capacity to love and yet retain an innocence that people typically leave behind once they enter adulthood. I once had an idea – perhaps pets are angels. They are sent down to live with us, to comfort us, and help us in difficult times. To show us unconditional love and to remind us to be kind and to care for those who are unable to care for themselves.

When my husband and I moved in together, we decided to get a dog. We already had a couple of cats at the time. My cat Sadie, and his cat, Larry. I saw Bruno on Petfinder. His big, smiling, happy face made me smile when I saw it. He had been rescued by a couple who tried to rescue dogs who would be euthanized. Bruno was a Bernese Mountain dog/Rottweiler Mix. His foster parents had rescued him from the pound and gotten him up-to-date on everything and microchipped. We went through the adoption process for him and then we brought him home. They believed him to be about 3 years old. When we took him to the vet for  the first time, however, the vet thought he may be older than that.

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Our Bruno, in his youth.

Bruno would follow me around everywhere. He would just stare at me. He had come from a home with other dogs, so I though maybe he was lonely. So we rescued a puppy from the pound and named him Brautigan. They quickly became best friends. But Bruno still followed me. Still stared at me. I realized that I was his person.

Bruno was incredible. He loved other dogs, all people, cats, and children. Good lord, he especially loved children. We’d have to hold him back whenever kids were around. He’d knock them over trying to lick their faces. When we got him we were trying to figure out a name for him but ended up keeping the one he already had. I did give him an official name, however, as I do with all of our pets. He was HRH Prince Bruno Roth of Switzerland. Over the years he received many nicknames. Brune-Brune, gentle giant, baby bear and pupper. We had him 10 years, which means he was at least 13. That’s a nice long life for a dog whose breeds average a 9-year lifespan. But still, it was hard to let him go.

I think one of the hardest things in life is deciding to put a pet to sleep. Sometimes it’s obvious. A terminal illness or a vet recommendation. But sometimes, it sneaks up on you. A few years ago Bruno developed a tumor on his side. The vet said it was a fatty tumor, probably not cancerous. He lived with it for years. As he got older it started to interfere with his ability to turn around on that side. And then he started falling down. At first it was down steps. So we tore the outside stairs down and my husband built wider, less steep stairs that Bruno could use much more easily. And when those started to be hard again, we added non-slip coverage. The he started falling on the hardwood floors from time to time. Then he started falling everywhere. Now by this time he was practically deaf and partially blind. And he started to spend most of his time sleeping. But he still went wherever I was.

At night, after my kids were in bed and my husband went to sleep, I would do the dishes. Bruno would always join me. Sometimes he would lay right at my feet and I’d trip over him and say things like, “Dammit Bruno, do you have to lay right under me?” But even then I knew the day was coming when I’d miss tripping over him. I’d turn on some music and in the quiet of the evening, load up the dishwasher while my big old dog snored. It was a relaxing way to end every day.

Then Bruno started refusing to leave his kennel in the morning. I started reading articles about knowing when it was time to put a pet to sleep. No one really seemed to have the answer. Some said you’d just know. But I didn’t know. He was having good days and bad days. But then I read something that talked about pets having accidents in the house. And Bruno never had accidents. So then I thought, “That’s how I’ll know. If he’s going to the bathroom inside, I’ll know it’s time.” A couple of weeks later, he started to have accidents. It was a couple a day and it was like he didn’t even know it was happening. And even though I said that if that happened I would know, I was still unsure. But then I remembered an article that said something along the lines of it being better to be two weeks early than a day late. We have the ability to let them pass before they are in agony, so why wait until then. I had already made that mistake with my cats. Tony and Sadie. I waited longer than I should have and they suffered. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

I called the vet and I set everything up. I prayed that he would have an awesome last day. And he did! He had more energy and seemed more like himself than he had in quite awhile. He seemed happy and full of life again. It made me second guess my decision. But that night, as I was doing the dishes, and crying, I looked over at him and he was looking at me. I said, “I just wish I could know that I’m doing the right thing. I wish you could tell me that it was OK.” And I swear to God the most incredible thing happened. My dog responded. He made 3 little growly sounds at me, and then laid down. He’s never done that. Not ever. So I decided he understood me and he told me it was time.

The next morning we took him in. I brought his blanket so he’d be comfortable and it would smell like home. He was laying in the waiting room and when it came time for us to go back he couldn’t stand up and the vet tech had to help us get him up. He’d lost weight, but he was still a big guy. We went back and he laid down. They gave him a shot and my husband and I petted him. I was laying on the floor with him, crying, but trying not to. We told him what an amazing dog he was. How much we loved him, and how much we were going to miss him. He fell asleep. We continued to pet him until the second shot stopped his heart. We left. I had made arrangements for the funeral home to pick him up and cremate him. He was too big to bury in the yard but we wanted to bring him home. The funeral home dropped his ashes off to us the next day.

It’s been several weeks since he’s been gone. I had to wait that long to write this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I’m crying now but not sobbing hysterically as I would have been if I’d tried to write this any earlier. I find solace in him being home. I find solace in knowing, in retrospect, that it was definitely time and that we did the right thing. But boy do I miss him. My big gentle giant. He was such a lovely soul. I wonder if I’ll ever have a day when I don’t think of him. For now, I keep his collar in my dresser drawer, and I do the dishes in the daytime – when the kitchen is filled with distractions.

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Us, on Bruno’s last day.

 

 

Little Fall Project – Faux Mums!

Hey all! I have been decorating for fall and typically I put fall mums outside of our home. Unfortunately, I always forget to water them, and eventually they die. I thought that perhaps in order to save future mums from certain death, I’d try my hand at a crafty little faux flower arrangement. I’ve never worked with faux flowers before, and it was fun – and I’m happy with the turnout!

I made this little video showing the process. Sorry, the sound isn’t great because I was outside.

 

 

 

Marry A Man Who…

Not all relationships are perfect – or even good. The relationships I’ve been in have all ended, including my first marriage. All of them have ended – until now. My husband and I have been together for 12 years. Sometimes when people see us together they ask how long we’ve been married. I think they expect us to say a year or something so that they can say we’re in the “Honeymoon Phase” – and when we say how long, they look surprised. We’re the couple who makes our friends pretend to gag over our love. Here is what I can tell you about my marriage, in hopes that it helps you find the right man, or woman, for you.

We met all those years ago on Match.com. After my father convinced me to try it out, I did. I saw his profile and he wasn’t the kind of man I would have picked out of a crowd in terms of his looks. He’s a great looking man, don’t get me wrong – but I wouldn’t say he was my “type.” But I had learned a few things by that point, one of them being that choosing men based on a type had gotten me nowhere, so I read his profile and he was so funny and clearly intelligent that I was interested, so I winked at him. He winked back and then we spent a couple of weeks emailing before finally meeting. And when we met, I got butterflies in my stomach and my breath caught for just a second. That’s never happened to me before. Years later when we talked about how we met, I asked him why he didn’t wink at me first and he said that he thought I was too pretty and that he didn’t stand a chance. He proposed to me while we were out at our local bar. My friend was bartending and we were discussing our future. We’d been together about a year and a half and my lease was about to be up on my apartment. I was thinking about moving but I didn’t want to sign a new lease if our future was together. I jokingly asked him how much he loved me and he said, “Enough to forget about the perfect moment,” got down on his knee right there and proposed to me with a ring he’d made out of the foil of a cigarette pack. He told me later that he’d been looking at rings and planning some elaborate proposal, but that in that moment he just wanted to do it, so he did. I still have that ring. It’s in my jewelry box and is my most prized possession. A few months later he replaced it with a real one, that we picked out together. A year later, we were married.

The last 12 years have put our relationship through many trials. We’ve moved 3 times. We lost my grandmother, his father, his grandfather and both of his grandmothers. We’ve renovated 3 homes. When we tried to get pregnant we were unsuccessful and struggled with infertility for years before having our children. We went through the process of adoption to get our daughter. And throughout it all, we’ve never really had a fight. We’ve had discussions and been irritated but we’ve never raised our voices at each other or said anything regrettable. The last 12 years haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been damn close and here is why I think that is. When he gets home I ask him about his day and I really care about his answer. I listen and try to help him problem solve. I regularly let him know how damn much I love him and that I’m attracted to him and that I find him to be charming, intelligent, funny and kind. I never allow myself to take him for granted. I treat him the same way today as I did when we were dating. I care about him and I always make sure that he knows that. I don’t get angry over little things. I see him for who he is, and that includes his flaws. And I accept him as that person and love him regardless of those little flaws. That doesn’t mean I never say anything, or that I just ignore it. But I don’t expect him to change who he is. After all, I love him just the way he is, and to quote Sex in the City, “Be careful trying to change a man. They’re like sweaters. Pull the wrong string and the whole damn thing falls apart.”

And here’s what he does for me, and how I know he’s the one for me. I suggest you marry a man who comes home from work and always gives you a kiss. Who never hangs up the phone without saying “I love you.” Who comes home to a house that looks like a tornado went through it, doesn’t say a word about the mess, and buys you shrimp and grits for dinner. Marry a man who tells you that you look better without makeup, who tells you you’re sexy even after you’re still carrying 15 pounds of baby weight on you. A man who pushes you behind him when you encounter a dog if you’re out on a walk. A man who supports your dreams and your endeavors. A man who listens and accepts you and your little, weird issues. That’s the man who will give you a happy life.

Put each other’s needs either before your own, or equal to them. If you both do that then you can’t go wrong. Never raise your voice. If you’re angry, try to take time and think about how you want to express yourself before you speak. This is especially hard for passionate people, I think. Passionate people are led by feelings and emotions and it’s harder for them to stay quiet and not express what they are feeling. But if you can do that, then you never run the risk of saying something you’ll regret. And each day, look at your love and try to remember how you felt when you first fell in love. Then hold on to that and let that feeling, let that place, be the one from which all of your actions and words are coming from.

Us, on our wedding day.

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