Lately, I’ve been getting this question more often than any other question.
“Do the thoughts ever go away?”
A close second is “Does it ever get better?”
Every time I hear these questions, I tense up. I don’t know how to respond more often than not. So I take a deep breath and answer according to my experience. Thing is, not everyone’s experience’s are the same, a point I try to emphasize. With Postpartum, we all drag our own history to the table, our support access, our thoughts, our demons. We don’t all look the same in the mirror at the end of the day.
My youngest child is three years old.
The daughter I had my last Postpartum OCD experience with turns 5 on Monday.
I still have thoughts.
Not so much about harming the children. But “What if this or what if That” or “What if I…”
Many of these thoughts are remnants of my over-extended stay in Postpartumville.
And that’s the key to realizing that I am no longer there… the ability to recognize these thoughts as remnants, not recorded loops intensely playing over and over and over and over and over in my head.
Now? I can stop them before they even get past “What if….” most of the time.
Sometimes they sneak past the “What if…” and I get into what I call the “meat” of the thought. The event, the horror, the THING of which I should not be thinking. The thing which would make a good mom turn ghost white if I were to share this thought with her. This dark thought which, right now, is swirling about in my head, how do I sit next to another mom and try to act as if everything is okay? They spring into my head everywhere. At church, in the car, at home, outside, at the grocery store.. everywhere.
How do I make them stop?
I physically shake my head back and forth and say “NO!” outloud. Seriously. Sometimes I’ll just shake my head back and forth and tell myself NO silently if I were with others.
Some women aren’t able to stop things so easily as that though. Many women find it helpful to start listing state capitols, colors, states, the alphabet, or a list of any sort. Doing a challenging puzzle like Sudoku or a word search has helped some. It’s also interesting to note here that Tetris has been proven to be a valuable resource/therapy for soldiers with PTSD. It may also work for moms struggling with OCD and intrusive thoughts. Others may knit or read a book. But it’s important to really engage your mind and distract it from the negative thoughts flowing through it so if you choose something to distract you, be sure it fully engages your mind rather than just part of it.
It’s hard for me to tell a mom that the thoughts never completely go away. But they get easier to corral, easier to stop before they carry you down to the depths of hell as they once did. When you’re in that very dark place, the thoughts are like a swarm of flies. You can’t make them go away with just one swat. You have to cover yourself in all sorts of things to get them to dissipate. But once you’ve moved even further away, the thoughts get to be like the random housefly. If you ignore it, it’ll go elsewhere and no harm is done.
I sincerely hope this helps some of those who have been asking this question lately. It may not be what you wanted to hear but I sincerely hope you find some solace within my answer.
Take care of you, always.
I just saw this post now and it’s nice to know it gets better. I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts 2 weeks postpartum. It’s been eight months now and my therapist recommended the STOP technique. Right now the thoughts predominately take over my mind. So it’s good to know that staying busy helps also.
Staying busy does help but it’s important to be careful to not use it as a way to avoid dealing with the issue at hand, if you know what I mean. Busy vs. avoidance is such a fine line. The STOP technique works brilliantly for many. I definitely wish you all the best in working through this. I know how tough it is. Feel free to reach out to me personally if you’d like to talk with someone who has been there. (hugs)
All the best,
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Thanks for sharing this! I also had the intrusive thoughts & it was horrible!! It has been about 3 years now since it hit and I agree that it does for sure get better. One thing I have noticed is when I do get a thought now it goes in and out very quickly (for the most part). For a long time they would stick with me all day and I would be petrified of them. Like Katie said, one way I coped was by staying busy. I still always have to be doing something, I can not just relax and it can be exhausting but it helps tremendously and works for me.
Thanks for the reassuring thoughts….I finally went to my doctor a little over a week ago…because I thought I was going “crazy”…..the doctor put me on venlafaxine 4 days ago. I know I have to go through the first few weeks until I start having results. I started trying to come up with songs to sing when I get those “thoughts” in my head…. I have a 6 month old little girl and am busy with a 4 year old. I start seeing a counselor next week; which I am anticipating in a positive way. I don’t know what to say to friends and family though. I’ve only told one friend and one of my sisters. I feel ashamed…like I’m a bad mom or something. Very difficult with juggling work, spending time with my husband and being a good mom. Its nice to hear from other mom’s and that I’m not the only one…
((hugs)) I am so glad you’re getting help. And even happier to hear that you now know you’re not the only one!
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From what I’ve heard, Everyone has “what if” thoughts. But normally (ie. pre postpartum) we barely notice them because our mind just blows them off. With the PP ocd and our brains being so tired and not completely functioning as it can, the brain gets stuck on the thought. It’s like the filter isn’t working. That’s been my experience. I’ve never had the PP ocd obsessions after they were treated with Zoloft during PP. “What if” thoughts though do flit through my mind occasionally, just as they do for most people. Make sense? My pp baby is 17 years old.
Night time is the worst for me when I can’t be busy enough or there isn’t enough distraction to keep those negative thoughts at bay. I do the “No” or “Stop” method and mostly I pound away at my keyboard letting those thoughts release throught my finger tips.
I think the thing to remember is that it does get better. Will they ever go away? Not sure. But they get better and easier to say “Fack you” to.
I have found that I can no longer be still. If I am not reading, I am writing. If I am not writing, I am playing on my phone. I can’t even just sit and watch TV. My hands need to be working.
I know it’s because I don’t want to be still and let thoughts creep in.
If I am still? I sleep.
I work hard constantly to not allow the thoughts in.
And I am exhausted.
I’ve been at this stage more than a few times with the birth of one child. I can honestly say that yes, it does get better. And many PP women want to hear that over and over again. But sometimes, there are the women who are tired of hearing it because they’re losing hope that their day will come when it’s not so cloudy and the thoughts aren’t so heavy. Those women seek out the information but may stand back in the shadows as lurkers. Keep on keeping on Lauren, you’re an inspiration and a hope provider for so many, myself included!
I do find this reassuring. I keep waiting for it all to go away – to feel the same “normal” I used to. But I’m starting to realize that’s not the way it works. It always helps to hear from others who are further down the path that it’s about dealing with the way things are now and being okay with that.