Life with Postpartum OCD
The New York Times published my essay today, Maternal Instinct or OCD?
Ironically, I wrote the first few lines of the essay in the car. I was consumed by the need to check the rear view mirror, and struggling to understand how I'd lost my grip on reality. The subsequent interviews with Dr. Fairbrother and Dr. Leckman helped me come to terms with this new phase of my OCD.
"Unpleasant thoughts are normal," Dr. Fairbrother told me. "They only develop into OCD when we interpret them in a catastrophic way. ... If you believe that you should be able to get rid of the thought, that it means something bad about you, that can increase the frequency and the intensity of the thoughts and develop into a problem. Often the people who go in that direction are more ethical, scrupulous, conscientious, than the people who don’t. They take a lot of responsibility for their behavior."
I found myself checking the rearview mirror again this summer. But the compulsion was much easier to ignore. I'm out of the postpartum period now. Life feels more stable in a lot of ways. Once again, OCD feels like a problem I've solved. Who knows how long that will last.
Regardless, I hope that the essay reaches other moms and moms-to-be who might find themselves in the same predicament. Postpartum OCD is far more common than most people realize, and the lack of understanding often leads to loneliness and self-blame.