An Open Letter From Parents with OCD

One night I went to the hospital to be with a client and her family as they welcomed their tiny tiny baby boy into the world. I visited him over the next few weeks in the NICU and almost fainted when the nurse pulled out a tube or snipped the umbilaca cord or something. I don’t even remember, what it was. I just know I was seeing stars. The parents, both with a long history of anxiety, were a lot steadier at the helm than me, that’s for sure.

img_1496Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many Moms and Dads with OCD. The added bonus of that is I’ve held many newborns in my arms, and watched them grow before my eyes.

Beautiful, happy babies being taught life lessons by parents with OCD. If there is ever any doubt about the human capacity for strength and courage, all you need to do is be part of the journey of a parent who has OCD. Yes, you’ll find astonishing bravery. But, what stands out in my mind is a love so pure it can pulverize OCD.

I asked a few parents who have OCD how they stay so focused and strong. They provided a lot of good insight into what makes them tick. You’ll find they all have something in common:

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eKeep On Keepin’ On and Be Positive

I’m a wife and stay at home mom of two children. I was diagnosed with severe Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first child. I’ve learned over time to:

-Look for the bits of strength you have to reach a few goals each day starting with self care, for example taking a shower, eating small meals, staying hydrated.

– Be kind to yourself and expect to make mistakes along the way. Focus on the bits of light in the darkness without trying to evaluate the bad days.

– This experience is temporary, celebrate the victories you have each day no matter how “small” because each step brings you closer to relief.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eFirst Time Mom: You’re Not Going to Rob Me of All My First Times OCD!

Hi! I am a wife, toddler mama, and homemaker. I like to have fun! Cooking interesting healthful food, reading fiction, and hanging out in nature, are my favorite ways to decompress. In past lives I have been a Starbucks barista and owned my own massage business.

OCD has been a struggle for me since preadolescence. Coming to terms with my OCD has been a slow process, and I am grateful to be in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy now as it is helping me to overcome OCD in far greater ways than I could without it. Despite experiencing setbacks sometimes, I can see improvement in my life.

I have tried other kinds of therapy and a lot of self-help books but nothing compares to CBT for OCD treatment, in my experience. Here are a few CBT tips that have been especially helpful to me as a mom who deals with OCD.

Tip #1: Have a Mantra such as: “Embrace Whatever”

“Embrace whatever” became my mantra, when in December of this past year I was faced with the prospect of a family road trip to go to a friends’ wedding. I was feeling severely frightened to go on this trip and was obsessing about it. Our son was around 11 months old at the time. I just couldn’t conceive of taking this long road trip with the baby, my in-laws and my husband all in the same vehicle. “What if this happens? What if that happens? What if someone says something that makes me feel bad?” If you have OCD, you know the drill.

Offhandedly, during a session, Tammy mentioned the phrase “embrace whatever” to me, and it just clicked. For me, “embrace whatever” means that come what may, good or bad, I am choosing to go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens.

It means that I will survive and it will all be fine! Even if the baby doesn’t get his nap, even if I have no idea what the trip will go down like, it will all be OK. Even if …. WHATEVER! And it was all ok, and even more than that it was a successful trip where our son bonded with his grandparents and we had some good conversation because we were all cozy driving to Lancaster, PA together.

If I had obeyed my fear we would have taken separate vehicles, so that my husband and I would have control of rest-stops etc. Instead, I chose to “embrace whatever”, by and large, throughout the trip. I said “Embrace whatever!” to myself, and probably out loud sometimes too, whenever I got clenched up inside, obsessing over details of how things may or may not work out. I have used this mantra many times since then.

Tip#2: Ask for What You Need

This concept of asking for what you need has been hard for me to remember. I think I should be able to do it all without help, but I absolutely can’t. I need help! It has been said that it “takes a village to raise a child” and I kind of agree with that.

Moms need time off too just for their own well-being. One example of asking for what I need was last year when the baby was really little, I asked my husband to be in charge of the baby monitor at night, and to help me in the middle of the night too, when the baby was waking up to feed.

This night-time partnership gave me a greater degree of sanity during the day because I got a little more sleep (and mental rest) than I would have without that help. Asking for help when I feel like I am burning the candle at both ends is essential for my well-being, and something I need to remember to do.

Tip #3: Take Every Thought Captive

This is a verse from the Bible but goes along great with cognitive behavioral therapy. Don’t let your thoughts dictate anything. Thoughts are just thoughts. Identify them, deal with them and move on.

For whatever reason (maybe “mom brain?”) this concept has been exceptionally difficult for me to grasp. Just recently (like last week) it began to click for me: Thoughts are not truths, they are just thoughts. They don’t define or dictate anything! I can talk to them and treat them like the bullying words that they are and doing this disempowers them.

I have dumb, negative thoughts going through my head all the time. Here’s a few recent ones: “You need to try harder as a mom“ or “You will sound so dumb if you have baby music playing really loud with your car windows open—who DOES that?”, “You haven’t gotten back to that person yet? You are such a bad friend”…

Pretty obnoxious stuff, right? Well, if I take every thought captive, I can put these thoughts in their place—the garbage! Lately I have just been agreeing with the negative thoughts. For example if I have the thought “You are a bad friend” I would say “You’re right I am a bad friend”.

Agreeing with a bullying thought is a way to trick OCD. It seems to have a significant disabling effect on the intense feeling of guilt or shame I was experiencing. I think this is what Tammy means when she talks about “mental kung fu”.   ac41290798310afdf52eccaaf1ba73af

Thanks for reading! I wish all of you my best on this journey we share of overcoming OCD! 

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eJoyful Mama Warrior

I am a mom of 3 kids (2 boys, 1 girl). I had my first son in May 2008- I was on Zoloft (50 mg) for depression/anxiety and was able to wean off about a month or so before he was born and able to go back on without issue; did not have any issues OCD wise, some baby blues and I would say normal new Mom anxiety. 

My second son (surprise pregnancy) was born in November 2010- I was again able to wean off Zoloft and actually did so sooner than my first (approximately 2-3 months), feeling fine up until 1-2 weeks before his birth- then weird thoughts/anxiety that I had not experienced before but brushed it off as I was under a lot of stress.

I had a somewhat traumatic birth as his cord was wrapped around his neck and he wasn’t crying right away. The next day I was having intrusive thoughts that just got worse.  I didn’t really understand what was going on, crying uncontrollably. The hospital staff I don’t believe knew how to help me properly, placed me on a bunch of heavy antipsychotic meds and I was sent to my parents without my baby (CPS got involved when I told staff I was having scary thoughts.)

I found Tammy who taught me about OCDs mechanism and how to do exposures and found a psychiatrist to help with meds (had to increase Zoloft for awhile).  It was at least 2-3 months of constant intrusive thoughts and I slowly improved.

After a year and a half or so I felt I had returned to a good place where my husband and I felt we were open to having another baby– unfortunately lost 2 babies in 2013 and then had our daughter August of 2014- able to wean off Zoloft again and felt good soon after birth.

Then had issues with breastfeeding and became highly anxious and intrusive thoughts dominated my mind (different than last time) again.  I seemed to recover quicker overall however had more mini storms than with my second son. 
 
Tips that have helped me I can break down into different categories:

  • Regular exercise/eating well (Physical)
  • Prayer/practicing my faith (Spiritual)
  • Spending time with family and friends/helping others (Social emotional)
  • Focus exercises/ exposures (although I do not do these enough especially when I am in a good place) (Mental)

And one of the biggest reminders I have to give myself is that OCD is a trickster and it can sneak back in when I am doing really good and it can wreak havoc. So I need to most especially confront it at those times; also taking things day by day especially when I am in a storm.  

The thing is although having my kids, most especially my second son and daughter, seemed to heighten my intrusive thoughts, my kids bring more joy and purpose than I could imagine- I fight OCD so it doesn’t get to rob me of that.   

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eDad Keeps an Open Mind

I have had OCD for 55 years based on what I remember of my behavior, thoughts and actions during that time.  I am currently 60.

Open to Being Reasonable

What helped me the most in parenting while dealing with OCD was listening to my spouse when we discussed how to parent.  Not for reassurance but for her non tunnel vision approach.  She would not think black and white like I did.  I knew my thinking wasn’t considerate of the whole picture of the circumstances.   So essentially listen to spouse, listen to the children and then take some deep breaths and just give parenting a try.  

Open to Spending Time Together

Having fun with the family by doing things together was a great help.  In later years as my daughters reached teenage years I would take each one out to lunch separately and just talk about anything and sometimes nothing. That helped me to understand where they were in life and helped me to be more effective at parenting.

Trusting each one until they proved with solid evidence that they had been untrustworthy.  Even then giving them some slack for being human was helpful.  

Open to Imperfection

With OCD you may feel like you should be this or that to be a perfect parent, but the kids won’t notice if you don’t buy into that self image yourself.  They just want to know you’re proud of them and love them unconditionally.

Remember it is not what you advise that matters but what you do what they remember. I learned that later on.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eGive Yourself a Break!

Be Open With Your Kids

There are going to be situations where you have to do things differently, and your kids will notice. When they are old enough, explain that you have OCD the same way you would explain if you had a broken arm. Later, you’ll appreciate how much easier it is to just say you’re having anxiety about something instead of making an excuse to your child. In my experience, they’re actually pretty cool about it.

Try Not to Talk Yourself Down

Kids soak up everything we do in front of them. You’ll notice your young children will mimic your movements and talk like you. The other day, I was doing yoga and my 2-year-old niece randomly walked over and went into downward dog next to my mat. Kids are the great imitators. A lot of those of us who have OCD and related disorders aren’t happy with ourselves. We’ll say things like “I can’t do that,” “I’m such a burden,” “I’m weak,” and other statements in the same vein. You’ll teach your kid that having a mental illness is weakness. It makes a person a burden. Try to refer to your illness as something that happens to you, not something you are and see if that makes an impact on how your child feels about his or her own mental health.

Take a Break

You want to be the best mom in the world? Tough. That distinction does not exist. Everyone has different standards, and some amazing moms wind up with terrible kids and vice versa. You can’t be on all the time. You can’t do every bake sale, swim meet, football booster and parent conference. Sometimes you have to say no and just take that time for yourself. Give yourself a break, both figuratively and literally.

Contributed byMichelle at: Living With Intrusive Thoughts.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eMom of Five: I Ain’t Got No Time for That (Shame)

It wasn’t long after my baby was born, that I started developing fears….Not just fears over things that you would expect somebody to be afraid of, like dogs or spiders or airplanes…… although there were plenty of those…

For the rest of this story go to: theworrygames.com  

Commonality

By now you’ve probably noticed what these six people have in common. I can’t wait to hear what you think it is! Leave a comment!

 

8 thoughts on “An Open Letter From Parents with OCD”

  1. Oh my this was awesome to read! Each person has such a unique perspective– each of us walking our journey to happier, more purposeful life.

  2. Thank you for sharing. So proud of the people that have the determination to fight OCD so they don’t have to miss out on life!

  3. Wow.
    “Always keep in mind that those of us with anxiety are so analytical and such HUGE over-thinkers that we can turn pretty much anything into a phobia and any phobia can become an intrusive thought if the “atmosphere” in our mind is just right. “

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