As a Warrior Mama who is in recovery, I receive emails from fellow mamas who are struggling with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. The letters are unique to each mama, but the theme remains the same. How do I get rid of my intrusive thoughts? Do they ever go away? Will I ever get better?
I know how much pain you are in. It is like your mind is a record player, and you are stuck in this same groove. The same horrendous images keep flashing in your mind on repeat. I know that you hate yourself for having those thoughts. I struggled with those same thoughts. Seven years later, I am telling you that it does get better. Of course those thoughts creep back from time to time. Now I am recovered, and I have muted that critical voice and those images in my mind. Setbacks do occur, but I have found them easier to manage now.
I did experience another setback five years ago which prompted the unwelcome return of intrusive thoughts to the forefront of my mind with a vengeance. Just after Labor Day 2012, I was involved in a car accident. This accident triggered the return of my intrusive thoughts as well as a spike in my overall anxiety level. In the height of my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety the thoughts involved me willingly steering my car into oncoming traffic. I wanted so desperately to sleep, but I was plagued by horrible insomnia. All I did was worry about my girls, my husband, my family, work, bills, daycare, etc. I wanted to get into an accident so that I could rest. The insomnia and anxiety were so severe that I would have traded anything for a month of rest.
I walked away from this accident with minor injuries, a totaled car, and a shaken psyche. It took me a few months and the use of my anti-anxiety medication before I could drive in heavy traffic again without intrusive thoughts or panic attacks. I knew that I would get better because I had climbed out of that pit before. I knew that this was another bump in my journey of motherhood. With the help of my therapist, the support of my family and friends, and my medication, I worked through this debilitating anxiety.
Throughout my recovery, I had always used the mantra that “I am not my feelings.” I did not internalize that mantra fully until a meeting with my therapist after my car accident. When I told her the story, she stopped me in mid-sentence. She reminded me that I had done the exact opposite of my intrusive thoughts. I did everything in my power to avoid a head on crash that day in September. I slammed on the brakes, and I cut the wheel so sharply to avoid the impending crash. In that moment, I realized that my thoughts are just my thoughts. I controlled my action and my reaction in those split seconds. My thoughts were just thoughts. At that moment, I felt victorious and relieved. I had proven my mind wrong. I did not give in to that thought. I had the power to choose my own action in that moment, and I chose to fight. I did not hesitate, and my actions were swift and sure.
Remember that you have the power to choose your actions and your reactions. You are not your intrusive thoughts. You have power over them.