Here's the second part of this series. If you haven't read the article and would like to it's here but please read the rest of this blog first - it's got some really important information in it.
Last week a BBC News article came out about my experiences of OCD and my work with Taming Olivia. It's spent a week now on the websites homepage and is still growing from strength to strength - I've been in touch with BBC 4 Women's Hour and an article about my experiences has just appeared in the Italian media. The word is spreading about the realities of OCD!
I'm currently getting wonderful messages in from all over the world - it's an amazing position to be in and I feel very, very grateful. I'll talk more about what I've learnt from this experience in part III of this little mini-series - I want to try to keep these in smaller bite-sized chunks (who am I kidding - I've literally never managed to do that in my life!) 😊
The BBC Article has been brilliant for reach, it's hit thousands but as always, with things like this, a few key concepts that I wish we'd put in, didn't make the final copy. I know, hindsight right? But with the best will in the world from both me and the fabulous journalist I worked with, Lucy Wallis, some things got missed from the article and I'd like to explain them as I understand them now.
I want to point out quickly here that I am by no means an expert - I'm in the same boat as you guys and in absolutely no position to advise - so to learn more about the way OCD works please take a look at these wonderful sites. OCD - UK, OCD Action, Maternal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts.org. It's really important that we get our information from the correct sources 😊.
But, having said that, I'm also aware that I've been put in a very privileged position, people are asking questions about OCD and they are reading my site - so the following is what I feel needs to be highlighted to help fill the gaps left in the article and to do that I'm using what I understand of the condition having worked alongside the above charities for a couple of years.
1) OCD does not cause intrusive thoughts. Pretty much everyone has intrusive thoughts - what OCD does is make us feel anxious about them. It makes us questions the thoughts and what they mean. It makes us have more of the thoughts as a way of checking and assessing their perceived level of risk. Questions like: WHAT do those thoughts mean? WHAT do those thoughts say about me? WHO has thoughts like that? Do you THINK I could do something like that? OCD causes the compulsions - the attempts to lower the anxiety, which in turn makes us have an increased number of obsessions. It's the famous OCD loop!
Just because you have intrusive thoughts, it does not mean you have OCD. I always find it helpful to remember that the D in OCD stands for disorder. If the intrusive thoughts and resulting compulsions cause you distress or interfere with your day-to-day life, then have a word with your GP.
With OCD, the problem is not the thought, it is the reaction to it.
2) Obsessions can be doubts and impulses and urges too. These were the things that nearly pushed me over the edge, symptom wise. Very few people seem to talk about it but urges, but most people again get them - ask someone if they've ever had the urge to jump from somewhere high up - the French even have a name for it ‘L’APPEL DU VIDE’ – 'the call of the void'. The reactions to these intrusive urges and impulses can be translated as a risk by those with OCD and the cycle begins again. See this fact sheet from the Royal College of Psychiatrists
3) Men get perinatal OCD too. The wonderful Ashley Curry is a huge advocate for perinatal OCD in men and here is his amazing Men's Health article written by journalist Natasha Preskey. Also, please check literally anything by Dr Andrew Mayers from Bournemouth University info here or Mark Williams here.
From what I understand, you don't have to be a biological parent to have perinatal OCD. It can effect aunts, uncles, foster and adoptive parents, the list goes on.
4) Perinatal OCD is called such because it starts during the perinatal period (the few months either side of birth) and obsessional fears tend to centre on harm coming to children or babies with the compulsions being aimed to stop that happening. It can manifest in any way that non-perinatal OCD can. Some people wash hands, some check switches, some mentally review memories or moments in time - there are lots of different ways it can show itself.
5) You do not have to have just become a parents to get upsetting intrusive thoughts, doubts, images or urges. There is a whole community out there for people who have OCD involving intrusive thoughts at Intrusivethoughts.org.
I just want to add as well, please be careful around chat rooms and online forums - they can be very triggering and are very tempting to use as a form of reassurance - excessive reassurance seeking is a form of compulsive behaviour that we need to stay away from!
Okay, I think that's it. If I think of anything else I'll add it later, or if you think I've forgotten anything please let me know.
Just a note:
If you would like another, more in depth look at Perinatal OCD please see Part I of this series in my previous post. It contains a discussions around an article I wrote for the British Journal of Midwives (the link is there to read it too) - it stands as a comprehensive guide to the condition, fully edited and checked by the Maternal OCD charity - thank you ladies.
Okay, so I think that's it for the second part of this series. I'll get the third up as soon as possible.
Thanks, as ever, for taking the time to read this...
..and for the wonderful support you've all given me.
It's meant the world to me.