Still pretty messed up, but perhaps not quite as bad as I had assumed.
Lately, my reality has been facing and admitting to a lot of things I would have preferred to keep in the deep, dark closet where I have become accustomed to keeping them. I have had to readjust my thinking and accept that it is not only in the best interest of myself, but most importantly my family, for me to finally unpack this baggage and have a good 'ol dig through. Translation: It is time to seriously deal with my shit.
So, in the spirit of shit dealing, I have been seeing a psychologist and after only a handful of appointments to date… mind. blown. I haven't really touched on this side of things before on here, so it may seem a little like I am jumping right in... and in a way, I guess I am. Trust me though, these are NOT new issues. This is something I have been dealing with, actually... scratch that... something I have NOT been dealing with for a very, very long time.
So, to jump in to the thick of it… I had horrific, and I mean horrific PND after the birth of my first child, Jackson. I became reclusive, obsessive, paranoid, I struggled with suicidal and homicidal thoughts and self-harming. All of this was compounded by the unwavering importance I put on keeping my struggle and the truth of what was going on a secret.
My life, my son, my husband, my body and my marriage all suffered immensely and largely unnecessarily, due to my inability to find the help that I needed. And it was not that I didn’t try. I asked my husband for help. I asked a lot of other family members for help. Apparently nobody knew how to help me, and I certainly wasn’t in the best place to help myself. Somehow I clawed my way back from that place. Maybe not completely, but enough to get by.
When Annabel was born, everything started going downhill in a similar way that it had with Jackson's birth. I knew I couldn't do that again. I knew I couldn't survive that again, so this time I asked for help. Hell, I begged, pleaded and demanded help. I saw a GP who I was blatantly truthful with (something new and different for me) and she immediately referred me to a great psychologist.
One of the discoveries that have been made in my sessions so far, that has been so enlightening and mind blowing to me, is that I am apparently a text book sufferer of an anxiety disorder called OCD. Now, I am ashamed to admit that I thought this just referred to people who washed their hands a lot. Apparently not.
My OCD centres on intrusive thoughts. Extremely intrusive, graphic and unpleasant thoughts. Thoughts that grip me in terror and completely fuck with my mind. Now, apparently around four out of every five people experience intrusive thoughts and it only really becomes an issue when people do not know how to process them effectively and they focus on and even obsess over them. Like I do.
The harder I try to erase the thoughts or prevent them from happening, the harder
and faster they seem to come. The more I try to identify triggers and avoid them, the more obsessed I become. The truth is, it is not even possible to avoid triggers. It probably isn’t too much of a stretch to wrap your head around being affected by stories and images of abused, hurt or sad children… but what if I told you that my dog Barney, a seemingly innocuous black Lab, has triggered thoughts in my head that have reduced me to a hysterical mess. That when organising how to collect a family member from the airport, the mere mention of me travelling in a car separate to my children filled my head with visions of them crashing, watching their mangled bodies burn as I scream and helplessly watch. I can hear it. I can see it. I can even smell it. The pain, anguish and terror is all real. I am sorry for the vivid image, but welcome to my life. This is my every day.
Do you want to know the real kicker though? When I sat down with my GP and finally told the truth, there was a large part of me convinced that I had some serious mental problem and that just having these thoughts clearly meant that I was capable of doing some pretty horrific things, to myself… to those I loved. I was not only convinced that I was going to either need to be strongly drugged or maybe even hospitalised… I also felt there was a strong likelihood that my kids would be taken away. I mean, I clearly wasn’t a good Mum and maybe the best I could do for them was to allow someone, saner than myself, to determine if I was even fit to mother them. When none of this happened, when instead I was almost instantly diagnosed with OCD, I felt elated. I felt relieved, grateful and very hopeful that it could be treated and managed. I also felt furious. So fucking furious, and you know what, I call bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit that this isn’t talked about. Bullshit that I looked for help when I was suffering after my first child and I didn’t get it. Bullshit that I wasn’t ‘suicidal enough’ at the time to warrant psychiatric help. Bullshit that members of my own family failed me and just turned a blind eye me when they didn’t know what to do to help. Bullshit that this isn’t something that people have heard enough of and bullshit that I suffered in silence because I was so afraid of the stigma and the consequences of having a mental health issue. This is NOT OK. It is not OK for Mums out there to be suffering like I have been, thinking that they are freaks, that they are inherently bad and that their kids will be taken away. It is not OK for Mums to be too scared to ask for help because there is not enough information about these kinds of problems. They are not uncommon problems, so why aren’t we being honest about this?!
I have turned a page in my own life. I am all about honestly and being real with my struggles. I challenge anyone who happens to read this, to do the same. Instead of distancing ourselves from one another through pretence and putting significant importance on appearing fine, instead how about we unite through being open and honest about the shit stuff, the hard stuff and the ugly stuff? Doesn’t that just make more sense?
My kids are my life and I don’t want them to be raised in an environment where they feel the need to be afraid of their own feelings or thoughts. I want my kids to know that they can be real. They can think and feel without being worried about judgement and stigma. So that is what I am fighting for. Care to join me?