Gemma's Story

My OCD began around six and a half years ago. I went travelling around the world and towards the end of my trip, I started experiencing unwanted highly distressing intrusive thoughts. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I didn’t know I had OCD, or what’s medically known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Over the past six and a half years I have experienced many different OCD obsessional themes. My obsessions have included intrusive thoughts, obsessions about harm, contamination, checking and relationships.

 

Not long after returning home from my travels I went to see a GP as the OCD was becoming severe. He said you have OCD, prescribed me an antidepressant and told me to see a psychologist. Over the course of three years I saw four psychologists who said they treated OCD but didn’t. After I got married my OCD started to become quite sever. I was desperate for help and googled OCD therapists. I found a wonderful OCD therapist from the USA who could do skype therapy. I started the proper treatment of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) for OCD. I had treatment on and off for a few years and was managing my obsessions to a point where I could function well.

 

My husband and I wanted to start a family and I was so thrilled to become a Mum. Becoming pregnant was the most exciting thing for me and my OCD knew that. My baby was the most important thing to me and my OCD knew that. Once my baby was born that’s when it attacked me and that’s when my life fell apart. As soon as my baby was born I had horrific thoughts that I would and that I did harm him. I left the hospital with nasty OCD obsessions about all the things I had done to hurt him. Slowly the thoughts became louder, very frequent and more horrific. By the time my baby was around two months old my OCD was very sever and I was completely wrecked from having the thoughts that I had harmed him every single minute of every day.

 

I was caught in compulsive cycles all the time. After every thought I would ruminate over the thought, replaying the events in my mind to check whether or not the thought was true. I would avoid being alone with my baby, avoid holding him and taking care of him. I would talk to my husband, mother or anyone who would listen and tell them my thoughts. From doing these compulsions my OCD grew and became much worse. It convinced me numerous times that I had done something to harm my baby and no amount of logical and arguing would satisfy it. This made me so distressed I couldn’t eat or sleep.

 

I would call my Mum who lived in Australia during the nights in panic. After a few weeks my husband and Mum were extremely worried about me and were discussing treatment options. My Mum flew to Thailand where we live to take care of me. Thankfully my mother in law was also staying with us to take care of my baby. This time I truly had hit rock bottom. I remember one day I just screamed, cried and sat on the floor for seven hours. We went to numerous hospitals and saw numerous psychiatrists in Bangkok to discuss medication options.

 

I started therapy again with another OCD specialist from the USA. We started ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and I did numerous exposures with and without my baby. Unfortunately I was also diagnosed with major depression which meant the ERP was ineffective. I had to recover from the depression first. This took a few weeks. I had to wait for the medication to work and I had to start behavioral therapy which included walking, eating and looking after myself. I had never ever experienced depression like this before. I had suicidal thoughts and couldn’t function. My family went through so much and were extremely worried about my health. They thought about admitting me to a psychiatric hospital in Australia or flying to the USA for treatment, but I didn’t want to go anywhere without my husband and baby. It was truly awful.

 

Thankfully the medication began to kick in and I could start daily ERP therapy again. My treatment consisted of daily skype therapy, two sessions a day for a number of weeks. Over the course of several months the sessions became less frequent. The medication saved me. It got me out of the depression and I was able to function better and return back to work. I am now very much in the maintenance phase. I see my therapist once a month for thirty minutes and we do the Yale-Brown OCD scale test (an indicator of OCD severity). We chat about my progress and what I am doing to help my recovery. I still need to do exposures and my focus always has to be stopping all compulsions.

 

OCD targets what’s most dearest to you in your life. For me this was my baby. My OCD convinced me daily that I had harmed my baby, that I would go to prison and that my life was over. The unconditional family support I received, medication, my OCD therapist and extremely hard work was what got me through. I still have thoughts but the difference is now I do my best to stop all compulsions which has allowed me to continue to work, function well and beat OCD more than I lose.

 

There is no magic cure for OCD but ERP is proven to be a highly effective treatment. To gain freedom from the tortuous thoughts we must accept them and embrace all the uncertainty around them. We don’t choose or control our thoughts and anxiety, but we can choose our responses and we have complete control over our compulsions. For all the Mum’s out there experiencing Postpartum OCD you are not alone. There is support and with hard work, motivation and dedication you can live your best life.

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