Horror Show in my Mind: Intrusive Thoughts

***Trigger warning: If you are feeling fragile or struggling, this post might be triggering.  I talk about intrusive thoughts. ***

This week I was plunged back into the hell  of my postpartum depression and anxiety, triggered by an infant death in my state that was attributed to postpartum depression based on the information in the media.  This case is currently in the legal system and the medical system, and it is up to the courts to decide.  I cannot pass judgement in a situation like this.  I had those terrible thoughts.  My only saving grace was I never acted on them.   

My husband has been checking in with me several times a day since the news broke.  We both are reminded of the hell that we lived through together.  He reminded me last night of the only intrusive thought that I had verbalized to him.  One day in the throes of sheer and utter exhaustion, my nerves were frayed.  I could not nurse Skeeter, and she would not stop screaming.  I told my husband, “You better take her right now or I am afraid I might hurt her”.  At that point I had not been diagnosed.  I was struggling so much to do anything.  I had this horrible vision of smothering my sweet baby girl or shaking her to make her stop.  I knew that I could not act on these thoughts, so I stepped away to give myself a break. 

My husband confessed to me that he was reluctant to leave me alone with the girls after I said that.  He was formulating a plan in his head to take the girls and leave me if he felt that I was a danger to myself or to the girls.  I had never realized the extent of the burden of pain that he bore those seven months before my diagnosis.  With my diagnosis, I slowly recovered.  Lately I have been talking to him more about my online advocacy and being a proud member of the #ppdchat Army and Mama’s Comfort Camp.  I continue to be more candid about my moods and my feelings, and our relationship is stronger than ever. 

I knew that these intrusive thoughts were not real and that they were not rational.  I could not stop them from replaying over and over in my head.  It took me months of therapy to realize that I had suffered from these thoughts.  In order to protect myself, I stuffed those thoughts way down deep.  I could not bear to bring them to the light of the day because they were just too horrible to contemplate. 

Today I write this to reach anyone who is struggling right now with these thoughts.  If you know that these thoughts are not real and rational, realize that you will not harm your baby.  No one can take away your child because you confess to intrusive thoughts.  Please reach out for help and let someone know that you are suffering from these thoughts.  I know how much you hate yourself for even thinking those horrible thoughts.  It is not you.  It is the illness.  You are not alone.  You will get better.  You just need to get help. To read other moms’ accounts of intrusive thoughts, please see these blog posts from Katherine Stone, my dear friend Frelle, and a fellow Warrior mom, Andrea.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/hope-for-moms-with-postpartum-ocd-intrusive-thoughts

http://mademorebeautiful.com/2012/02/11/keeping-themonster-caged/

http://www.postpartumandpigtails.com/2012/09/living-through-postpartum-ocd-intrusive.html

If you believe that these thoughts are real, then you could be suffering from postpartum psychosis.  You need immediate attention.  Go to your local emergency room.  Postpartum psychosis is a very serious postpartum mood disorder that requires immediate medical attention.  Postpartum psychosis is treatable.  You are not alone.  You will get better.  You need to get help right away.

To the loved ones whose wives, sisters, daughters and friends are struggling with postpartum mood disorders, please know this there is hope.  I know how frustrating and heartbreaking it can be to watch your loved one struggle.  Please take advantage of the resources available for help.  Your loved one will get better; she just needs to get help.

http://www.postpartum.net/ – This is the website of Postpartum Support International. 

http://postpartumprogress.com/ – Katherine Stone writes one of the most widely read blogs about postpartum mood disorders.

About tranquilamama

Juggling parenthood, housework and working outside the home in the corporate world with my wonderful husband. Mom to 2 beautiful girls. PPD and PPA survivor. The title of my blog is after a phrase that was repeated to me in Spain during my semester abroad in college. It roughly translates to relax and calm down. Trying to tame my inner perfectionist and just be a good enough mom.
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23 Responses to Horror Show in my Mind: Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Pingback: Postpartum Voice of the Week: @jenrenpody’s Horror Show in My Mind | My Postpartum Voice

  2. Pingback: Living Through Postpartum OCD & Intrusive Thoughts

    • I am humbled and honored that Katherine linked to my post from Postpartum Progress. Her site helped save my life. I hope that by sharing my story, I can help save other moms.

      • Stacey D says:

        I ment to say 28 of September , what should I do I start to loose hope because the meds are just either making it worse or I can’t seem to find the right med for me

  3. Lisa B says:

    Great post Jen. Tough subject and you nailed it.🙂

  4. Laurie H. says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am currently in therapy for postpartum ocd. It’s been 6 months. I tried to stay on a lower dose of medication against my therapist’s suggestion recently because I thought I had overcome my fear of my intrusive thoughts towards my daughter. I read helpful books and practiced mindfulness & deep breathing techniques. I really felt like I was starting to win the battle on my own- not to the credit of meds. But then it hit me hard again a few days ago. The violent thoughts. The creepy fear that there’s a demon inside of me- because I am “normally” a kind & loving person. I couldn’t shake it. Anxiety feeds on fear and I told myself this in hopes to outsmart it. But the uncertainty and fear of losing control against my will defeated all my efforts and 6 months of progress. I am on the highest dose of my medication now. The “scary” has quieted. For now. I know my thoughts are irrational, but I feel afraid of the possibility of them being real. My therapist assures me that it’s not psychosis, but it feels scary and I constantly worry that it is psychosis, or that it has progressed to psychosis if that’s possible. In your post, you say that it will get better. Did you ever think you were getting better only to get knocked back down again as I have? If so, how do you regain any confidence?

    • Laurie, my heart goes out to you. When I was in the midst of my recovery process, I did suffer setbacks. My recovery plan involved therapy, medication and online social support. Finding Twitter and people like Lauren Hale of My Postpartum Voice and Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress saved my life. There is a closed FB group that is dedicated to #ppdchat support. If you are on Facebook, please e-mail me at jenrenpody@yahoo.com or tranquilamama@gmail.com. If we are friends on Facebook, I can add you. There is a vibrant community of mamas who are still going through their postpartum journeys and a group of Warrior Moms, moms like myself who have survived.

      The fact that your thoughts scare you is proof that you are suffereing from postpartum OCD, not postpartum psychosis. I know that those thoughts are like a horror show that plays over and over again in your brain. Recovery is a process, and it is filled with highs and lows. When I suffer setbacks, I try to assess the situation. I remove myself a little bit and think about what else is going on in my life. Did I get enough sleep? How is my stress level with my job and with my family? Am I eating well? Am I exercising? It took me a while to recognize that last week was so emotional because I was triggered by this event in a way that felt like I was reliving my own experience. Helping to identify my triggers helped me greatly with my recovery. I can plan extra self-care that day. I can take a breath from a large social situation and hang out in the bathroom, doing deep breathing exercises.

      Here are a few posts that I found regarding setbacks. You will get better. When you are in the midst of your recovery, it seems so daunting that you won’t get better. In the #ppdchat community, we use “keep taking baby steps” from What about Bob to build up our confidence and “just keep swimming” from Nemo. For me I tried to regain my confidence in one section of my life. I focused on organizing my day and evening better to help me feel more confident getting my daugthers and I out the door in the morning. Then I moved on to feeling more confident in my work decisions. I started trying new things, like signing up for a 5K obstacle course and singing in front of my team at work. With each new challenge that I met, I slowly regained my confidence. Some days I feel insecure and like a crap mom, but that is normal for all moms. I think those of us who have suffered from perinatal mood disorders are incredibly hard on ourselves. I keep telling myself to treat myself like I would treat my best friend. Be kind to yourself. You have great tools in your toolbox for managing your anxiety. Hang in there. If you want to talk further, please do not hesitate to e-mail me. Hugs.
      http://mypostpartumvoice.com/2011/02/28/every-little-thing/
      http://www.ppdtojoy.com/blog/setbacks/
      After Yael’s post, I wrote my own rainy day letter. http://www.ppdtojoy.com/blog/jenny/
      http://www.postpartumprogress.com/six-things-that-can-affect-how-quickly-youll-recover-from-postpartum-depression
      http://www.postpartumprogress.com/six-things-the-6-stages-of-postpartum-depression

      • Laurie H. says:

        Wow. Thank you so much, Jen! I would love to join the FB chat group. I, too, find comfort in Katherine Stone’s website and other forums. To hear other mother’s confess to their experiences helps me to feel that I’m not alone. I am grateful for your response and recommendations. Thank you for shining light on my morning and giving me some extra perspective & inspiration. I feel like today will be a better day already.❤

      • Laurie, I am so glad that I could provide you with inspiration and that I shined some light on your day. That makes my heart so happy. I am working on adding you as a friend on Facebook. It is a wonderfully, supportive community.

  5. las artes says:

    I knew I had Postpartum Depression (PPD) after Milo was born, but I felt like it was manageable. I didn’t think I needed a support group,therapy or medication. And then, four months postpartum, I had a panic attack and began to have intrusive thoughts .

    • Huge hugs. I knew from the start as well that something was not right, but I could not articulate what was really going on. It wasn’t until I had been back to work and began suffering from panic attacks and intrusive thoughts. That combination is just debilitating. Please feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk further. Did you get help for your panic attacks and intrusive thoughts? Hugs

  6. You’re an amazing warrior mom, Jenny. Thank you for putting so much of yourself out there to help others, and for all the support you provide every day.

    I’m honestly glad that I haven’t paid much attention to local news lately, because this would have triggered me as well. I also experienced intrusive thoughts. They’re so terrifying, and it’s horrifying to think about possibly acting on them even though you know you never could.

    *hugs*

    • Kristin,

      Thank you so much. You are an amazing warrior mom as well. I am so glad that you are starting to take more chances as you get acclimated to teh new city. I hope that the news hasn’t traveled yet into your area. Initially I changed the channel as well. I found out more information from a friend. Intrusive thoughts are just so terrifying and so awful. It is difficult to even convey the disgust and self-loathing that I felt when I had those thoughts. I need to keep reminding myself that I am no longer that woman who was suffering so greatly. I got better, and I survived.

  7. redrose856 says:

    Hi Jen – What a powerful post. It must be very hard to hear what your husband was thinking back then. What a strain mental illness puts on a family, in all phases of life. Scary thoughts are so frightening! I applaud you for getting the help you needed. I think, though, there is a push to say that ALL women who have scary thoughts related to PP Bipolar Disorder or PP OCD or PP Anxiety are NEVER a danger to their children. As a clinician who worked extensively with persons with severe & persistent mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, etc, I would be careful about using any blanket statements. A severe stressor (poverty, domestic violence, caring for other children, caring for an elder at the same time, etc) may be a trigger for a unfortunate self-harm or other-harm. (I’m not saying you personally did that. I’m just saying I’ve noticed that trend). Powerful post and reveals the strain on the family system.

    • Thank you so much Kathy. I was in shock at first when my husband started telling me about the plans that he had made. He hadn’t felt comfortable sharing them with me until now. I think he was waiting until I was strong enough to understand some of the decisions and the choices he made. He sacrificed a lot of his self-care time to make sure that I was okay.

      Thank you for the caution as well, Kathy. I am not a clinician like Kathy. This is just my story. I would encourage anyone who has self-harmed or other-harmed to get help immediately. Please call the crisis line at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).

  8. katery says:

    yes, when i saw this post i wanted to leave you a comment but wasn’t able to. when my daughter was a baby we thought she had colic, she cried for a week straight before we realized she actually had reflux. thankfully her discomfort was alleviated by medication, but not before i found myself understanding why some people shake their babies, you just think, if i could make him/her stop crying for just a second maybe he/she would calm down. luckily i have that thing in my brain that says, it may SEEM like a good idea, but it’s NOT, unfortunately, not everyone has it, or, they’re in completely different circumstances than me without any help or support.

    • Kate, I felt the same way with my daughter’s screams. I thought the same thing. “not before i found myself understanding why some people shake their babies, you just think, if i could make him/her stop crying for just a second maybe he/she would calm down”. I realized that it was not a rational thought. So glad that the medication helped her reflux. It’s so gut wrenching when you cannot comfort your baby even though sometimes babies just cry. Logically I know that, but my mama heart did not understand.

  9. Tracy says:

    Websites and threads like these give me so much hope. I struggle with bipolar disorder and panic/sever anxiety. I am 26 weeks pregnant with my first child and at first in was happy. I was ways told I couldn’t have kids without IVF, (I’m 35) so I was happy to learn I was pregnant. I weaned myself off of the Klonopin in was taking and stopped taking the Celexa and Trazadone. At about 11 weeks along, I started experiencing horrible intrusive/OCD type thoughts. I have had intrusive thoughts before, but this is and has been the most scared I’ve ever been, and I guess it’s because I’m off the Klonopin, and the hormones of being pregnant. I am taking seroquel and buspar and trazadone to help me sleep because the anxiety is overwhelming. I am fearful that I will have or experience PPA/OCD/PPS, and so I am going to make preparations with my OB GYN and my psychiatrist, as well as set up therapy sessions. This does make me feel better, but I am still quite scared. I want to be a good mommy and bond with him the way a mother should with her son, and I want that peace and comfort that so many “normal” mommies have. I know, what’s a normal mommy? Anyway? Keep these posts coming, and keep up the good fight. God bless you all! Xoxo.

    • Congratulations on your pregnancy Tracy! I am so glad that my post gave you hope. There is no such thing as a normal mommy in my opinion. We are all trying to do the best that we can. Because you are already experiencing anxiety during pregnancy, make sure that you have a postpartum plan in place with your OB/GYN and your psychiatrist. Having a plan on what to do postpartum will help diminish some of the anxiety. Keep talking and keep reaching out. Do you have specific coping mechanisms that you use when you are anxious? I use yoga, deep breathing, music, reading and running as ways to manage my anxiety. I still struggle with anxiety now, but it is so much more manageable. I would make appointments now to help you talk with a therapist about your anxieties during pregnancy. I spent my entire pregnancy incredibly anxious, and that contributed to my severe postpartum anxiety. Please continue to talk to your family, friends and therapist about your anxiety. My fears lose some of their power when I verbalize them. Take care. I hope that the rest of your pregnancy is healthy and uneventful. xoxo

  10. Stacey D says:

    I have suffered from postpartum OCD for a while now , I just gave birth two my second baby the 28 of dec, I have been hospitalized 4 times for my illness ! It was worse with my two year old ! I’m a stay at home mom and I’m having anxiety really bad and the anxiety plays mind games with me I start to have horrible thoughts , that I know I would never act on , but also feeling so sick in my stomach and getting hot flashes and shaking all the time is really hard ! I’m on Latuda at night and seroquel and I have Ativan or they gave me Xanax the Xanax doesn’t seem to work and I’m also taking Wellbutrin ! I’m still angry for no reason my head is killing me I have severe anxiety and sometimes I get in the moment where I feel hopeless

    • Stacey, I am so glad that you posted. You are still in the first three months postpartum, and your hormones are still leveling out. I would continue talking with your dcotor. You are your own best advocate. I had to adjust my medication dosage several times. What helped me recover was a combination of medication, therapy, online support, and support from my family and friends. The transition from one to two is so hard. I can add you to a private group on Facebook called #ppdchat. There are a number of moms who have suffered from PPOCD. Keep remembering this: you are not your thoughts. Use that as your mantra when those thoughts come up. Never give up hope. You will be well. I know it.

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