I was trying to think of what I could write my first proper blog about and I thought I wanted to pick something that has been a heavy weight to carry and something I guess I have carried through the whole OCD process.
I have chosen the title because of the well known phrase, ‘Mother knows best’. I have learned that my husband knows best and in needing to hand over the reigns of our life, he has known best as my husband, and father to our four children.
When I started getting really unwell, I could feel my mind beginning to break. I was becoming really forgetful which isn’t like me. I started to feel stress seeping in. We had some life stressors at the time this happened and I had a lot of hormones as I was one month postpartum. I could feel something was becoming really off. When the first initial intrusive thoughts started, I very quickly feel apart. I could no longer function. I had no idea what was happening to me. I couldn’t get out of bed. I have never experienced that before. To mentally, feel so defeated that I can’t even lift my head to sip water. My husband became everything. Literally, everything. He became a mother, father, carer, cleaner, washer, accountant…everything I needed, he was.
Even basic functions like going to the toilet, showering, drinking water, taking medication became impossible. At one point I had managed to sit up on the bed with my husbands help, but I couldn’t move. I was having back to back panic attacks. My health visitor arrived and came up to my bedroom. I couldn’t speak, I just sat there not able to catch my breath, crying uncontrollably, not knowing what was happening. The guilt, the shame, the fear consumed me. She propped my pillows up and pulled back the duvet and helped me into bed, she laid me back and reassured me I would be okay. I could not do anything except pray this would stop and I would go back to the old me. The me before Christmas where I was happy, where everything was normal and everything made sense.
During that time I didn’t feel like I was living, I was just existing, praying for the day to end but then panicking because it meant a new day would soon arrive and this would start all over again. I would pray that the medications to sedate me would last longer so I didn’t have to be awake. I just wanted time to fast forward to when I would feel better. I felt crushed that I couldn’t be the mother I was. I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t hold my children. My purpose in life is to be a mother, and OCD was taking that away from me. It took a bulldozer to my confidence and it mocked the remains.
I was in counselling before this happened because I was so worried that if I didn’t do everything perfectly that I would somehow lose my children. I had a fear that if someone saw toys out, or saw I had left the laundry out or a beaker out that they would think I was unfit. I have physical health issues and had a fear, if people knew that I had health issues they would judge me or say ‘Why have children, if you are sick?’ and this fear led me to counselling. I saw a drama series once that I thought said it was based on a true story where a lady with disabilities was being questioned during her pregnancy and I think they were saying she would lose her baby because she wouldn’t be able to care for her baby and that stuck with me. I thought what if I’m seen as not able because of my health conditions which then became what if I get wrongly accused, what if…what if…what if…so I would go into over drive to prove I was perfect and have to have things a certain way and if they weren’t done how I needed them done I would get so agitated and panicky. We now know this was all part of my OCD. I would get so upset if someone came around unannounced or family came in when it wasn’t to my standard of tidy that I would have to leave the room and go upstairs because I felt so angry that they would be seeing my house less than perfect. I couldn’t cope so I would leave and not come down until they had left and then be so distraught that they would be judging me, thinking I was a bad mother. I am not so surprised now that my OCD theme has manifested in this way, because it’s my worst fear so of course it will feed off of that. It made me question everything. Disgusting doubt would circle my mind. It still does. It pushed me into a hole so deep, I didn’t even recognise myself as a person, let alone, as a mother.
I remember at one point my husband helped me from the bed and into the shower. He stood by the glass doors so I could see him and he could be there if I needed him. After a few minutes I opened the doors and said I couldn’t breathe, and he helped me out and I collapsed in tears onto the toilet lid. He helped wrap a towel around me and he knelt in front of me and held me. I sobbed and had a panic attack. I poured my heart and soul out to him. I went over everything that was happening and as always told him everything. He knelt on the bathroom floor close to me for nearly an hour, just listening. Undivided attention. He had been caring for our four young boys including our newborn, running the house, doing school runs, coming to all my appointments, talking to all my doctors every day on the phone, taking over all my medications and correspondences, doing all the chores, the cooking, washing, doing everything. Yet still at around midnight, when I was to unwell to even shower, he gave me his undivided attention. He gave me his all, even when he was so exhausted, and knew he would soon be up doing a night feed, he still gave me his time. I will forever remember that moment.
As I have stepped onto the path to recovery, I have been able to transition back into the daily running of the home. I have been able to be around my children without crying and haven’t had a panic attack in nearly two weeks. Yes it is still extremely difficult, and I have anxiety and my OCD monster on my back every day but I have made steps. We have needed to take our newborn to some appointments and I have found the doctors always ask the same questions such as, ‘Is he feeding ok? How is he sleeping? How much is he having?’ etc but they always look to me for the answers and this is something I never really noticed before. There is an assumption, I have found, that the mother will know all the answers, that the mother will be carrying out the majority of the care and will know all the answers. But not this time. Not for me. I was no longer doing the majority of the care. Each time, with a sense of failure, I looked over to my husband and would say, ‘You’ll need to ask my husband because he’s been caring for our son’. I don’ know how our newborn sleeps, or what he feeds or how many poops he has. I avoided everything to do with my children and found even looking at their pictures difficult. With the intrusive thoughts I had suffered with, it made being around my children impossible in the beginning. Although I have seen big improvement in both my understanding of OCD and my recovery, I still am not caring for my children on the level I once did. I have lost all confidence and rely heavily on my husband’s support. He’s become an emotional crutch for me, and I honestly thought that must be because I’m lazy or a bad mother. It wasn’t until my counsellor explained that the OCD has shattered my confidence that I realised that I still need to re-build, that I lost my confidence and it will take time and work to build it back up again. I am still learning to be okay without his support. If he goes for a shower I still struggle without him being on the same floor level in the house, and I can’t go to sleep without my husband being in bed to, and school runs are a daily struggle and often we take all the boys and all go so I can stay with my husband (I can’t drive due to medical reasons so rely on my husband to drive for the school runs).
Our boys are thriving, and I know through what my husband has done and continues to do they are learning valuable lessons that I wonder, without this, if we could have taught them to the same degree. They are learning resilience, nurturing, support and what a marriage is made of.
I wanted to say, that if you are a parent, and your OCD has knocked your confidence as a parent, or like me you couldn’t care for your children while being so unwell, that it’s okay. It’s okay to need time out, to need to heal, to need to recover. It’s okay that you can’t carry it all, and it’s okay that you had to spend all your focus on just breathing. You are not weak, you are not a failure, you are not defeated.
My husband has become sole carer for me, giving our vows ‘in sickness and in health’ more meaning than I ever thought possible. I have trusted him with my life and while I am still healing, I continue to rely on him. I still have a huge way to go but I know I am doing the absolute best I can, and I will get back to being the mother I was. But for now I can continue recovering, trusting that for me husband knows best and for our children, father knows best.