Harm OCD

Postpartum OCD and Faith

Let me be clear: I believe that OCD will probably always be a part of my life here on earth, but it will not be a part of my life in heaven.

OCD has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.

As a kid, I was terrified of a burglar breaking in to our house or of a person close to me hurting me in some horrible way.  Both of these fears (as with most OCD obsessions) had absolutely zero ground to stand on.

My first bout of depression happened when I was 10 years old.  I remember thinking that I didn’t like myself much at all.  My mom, who has been a huge support to me through my journey, noticed that I was down and asked if I wanted to make sure that I was a Christian.  I did, and even though I’d said the sinner’s prayer as a preschooler, this was a significant part of my journey as a Christ-follower.

Compulsive checking became a major problem in middle school.  I was obsessed with the thought that maybe someone was hiding in my closet or under my bed.  Or maybe there was a bomb behind the bedroom door and it was up to me to make sure that everyone was safe.  What if I turned the light switch off with wet hands and that started an electrical fire?  Or maybe I’d sinned and hadn’t asked God for forgiveness.

Stress can trigger OCD lapses, and when I was 16, I went on a trip with a friend that I didn’t know very well to her dad and stepmom’s house in a different state.  The environment in this house was very different than what I was used to (alcohol, her stepbrother partied and later came out as gay, we were stuck at the house without a vehicle, etc.).  This trip did trigger a lot of OCD.

Things became more intense as I grew older.  In college, I had a very difficult season of OCD which caused me to move home (I lived on campus at a local Christian college) for three weeks.  It was during this time that my mom took me to our family doctor who was also a friend.  He prescribed medication for me, and he also prayed for me with tears in his eyes.

It was soon after this that I met my husband at a Bible study.  We started dating very soon after we met, and I remember wondering before I met him if I would ever meet anyone who would want to untangle the mess that I was on the inside.  When I told him that I was taking medication for depression and anxiety, his response was to tell me something that he was struggling with as well.  What a relief it was that he wasn’t repulsed by me!

My 24th birthday was a low point.  Again, my mom helped me, this time by getting me in to see a Christian counselor.  This is the same one that I’m still seeing over ten years later.  He encouraged me to adjust my medication, and we eventually found that Zoloft (which I’m still on) works very, very well for me.

After my first son was born, I had a very difficult time postpartum.  He was born 3 1/2 weeks early and aspirated during birth.  This put him in the NICU for 10 days, and that time was extremely stressful.  I took a 14-week maternity leave from teaching in which I felt very lost.  The shock of going from no kids to suddenly having a son was a big one.  I was completely responsible (at least while my husband was at work) for this new little life.  It was overwhelming.  We got through it, but the first 8 months or so of his life were difficult for me.

I went off of medication while trying to get pregnant with baby #2, but I had a very, very difficult time.  I was in lots of distress but still managed to get pregnant.  This son was also born prematurely at 34 weeks.  Surprisingly I did okay after that kid.  He was in the NICU for 8 days, and soon after we left the hospital I felt my thoughts starting to slide toward depression and anxiety.  We immediately upped my medication, and that seemed to do the trick.  I felt pretty much completely fine until a couple of months after my daughter was born in August.

On the morning of Monday, October 26, I started praying compulsively (again) for God’s forgiveness, and what had been manageable not long before quickly became unmanageable and spiraled into many other obsessions and compulsions.  I was terrified of so many things.  I returned to an intrusive obsession from several years before about the existential meaning of time and how it works.  It sounds so weird as I write that, but it truly became paralyzing.

My treatment included increasing my medication and implementing ERP.  I stopped writing down prayers.  I strove to replace false thoughts with true ones.  I determined that trying to figure out time was not focusing on what was lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8-9), so I forced my brain to refocus on something else.  Eventually the OCD started to fade, but not without lots of discomfort on my part.  In fact, it felt like it got louder before it got quieter.  But it did get quieter after I pushed through the noise without giving in to the overwhelming anxiety.  And those times when I just gave in?  It got louder.  And louder, and louder, and louder, until the OCD became unbearable once again.

Eventually, I had the first time in weeks where more of the day was positive than negative.  And I was able to climb back out of the hole.

OCD is a daily – and I do mean daily – battle for me.  Intrusive thoughts pop in to my head all the time, and I’d love to say that I always resist every compulsion.  But that’s not realistic.

Let me be clear: I believe that OCD will probably always be a part of my life here on earth, but it will not be a part of my life in heaven.  God’s sustaining grace pulls me through those days when the OCD is so loud that I can’t hear much of anything else.

My prayer is to be fully delivered by God in this life.  But even if He chooses not to do that, He is still good.  And sovereign.  And loving.  And, I believe, He is helping me manage the OCD.

Thanks,

A.J.

My blog: www.mindbeautiful89.blogspot.com

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4 Comments

  • Reply Ashley April 13, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I love your story, AJ. I love how you hold on to special people and moments that were significant on your journey thus far. It’s beautiful.
    And I really appreciate your insight into the ERP process. Knowing that it is supposed to feel worse before it feels better is helpful for me as I am just getting started in ERP.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph April 14, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for your comment Ashley. Yep I loved the ERP part too!

  • Reply AJ Michaels May 7, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Thanks, guys! So great to be able to connect with you. Good is coming from our struggles. 🙂

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