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OCD in a New Mother

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Nothing prepares you for motherhood.

Imagine yourself, right. Now imagine your mind literally transforming through pregnancy. All
the worries and preoccupations flowing into this other being and entity.

Most of your focus attaches to the role of a parent. Despite having other heavy obligations on
your plate, your children take over your focus.

Motherhood as well as parenthood is the most beautiful thing that can happen to those who
dream of it, yet it is also exhausting and a real job.

You are the guardian, protector, teacher, friend, doctor, and more. Hence, if there ever is a
life-changing event that truly and biologically transforms you, becoming a mother is it.
When you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, depression, and other chronic mental
health issues, however, motherhood can become difficult.

You are always doubting if you are capable, if you are doing things “the right way,” and if your
imperfections may impact your children or the worries that they experience.
You have moments where you feel on top of the world and think that you can accomplish
anything in parenthood.

Your children consider you their heroes but internally there is self-doubt. Your mind is always
forcing you to scrutinize and analyze what you are doing; right or wrong.
I have struggled with Just right OCD, relationship OCD (ROCD), sexual orientation-OCD
(HOCD), and more in the course of my OCD diagnosis. However, having been through
treatment and am in the process of becoming a therapist myself, I have a more analytical and
insightful mind that can pick apart exactly what kind of obsessions and compulsions are chiming
in my brain.

The OCD community, consisting of doctors, patients, and advocates, tends to group obsessions
into categories, which aids in addressing what theme the person is suffering from. However, as
time has passed, I have realized that this is more of a formality than anything else.
Obsessions are unique, in the sense that if you have Relationship OCD you know that this type of
OCD consists in the constant preoccupation with flaws and value of the relationship, whether it
be romantic or familial. However, compulsions and obsessions can fluctuate between various
obsessional groups.

Indeed, you may find obsessions of just right nature in relationship OCD. Just right OCD is a
form of OCD in which the patient is preoccupied with things being or “feeling,” right; to the
point of avoiding that which falls short of this nearly unachievable standard.
In addition to this, you will find yourself juggling and managing these obsessions and
compulsions in various areas of your life.

There are days in which my daughter and I have such a great time, but then I will get a text and
feel obligated to question whether I am doing that thing “just right.” I will check my bodily
sensations to see if “I am feeling just right,” doing an activity in that moment. I will ruminate
over my choices while smiling and never allowing my OCD to take over my mood and ruin the
fun. Other times it takes over the fun as I make lists in my head of things to do and my brain
gives me ROCD obsessions mixed with just right ones” Are you feeling like you are a good
enough mother in this moment?”

This connects to ROCD as just the simple thought of not doing things the “right way,” then
spirals and becomes “why are you doubting yourself , maybe you’re not a good enough mother
or want to be one.”

In addition, whenever you need even just five minutes to yourself , the thoughts coupled with
stress, make you doubt if you want to even be a mother; which for a mother who loves their
children like I do, is a nightmare of a thought.

“If you didn’t play an extra thirty minutes, maybe that makes you a bad mother?”

Even being a very loving mother, these and similar thoughts can intrude into my mind. OCD is
known to attack what you love the most.

Imagine the common mother’s guilt, the one that pushes us to be perfect, and couple it with OCD
and anxiety. It is the feeling of never being good enough even when you know that you are doing
a great job. I definitely have the tools garnered in exposure and response prevention (ERP)
treatment to overcome these moments and use them to master the moment and be focused on my
daughter. Our relationship is golden and I will never let anything harm it.

To overcome the intrusive questioning of my parenting practices, I use mindfulness and try my
best to refrain from checking when it asks me to. If I have to cry, I cry it out but I don’t

I think the only way to navigate what OCD throws at you as a parent is to have the right tools.
These include awareness OCD presentation, the nature of self-stigma, your personal identity and
values, and your ability to transcend adversity.

The second thing is the awareness related to Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and
mindfulness. While I may still battle OCD, I can stop myself from compulsions taking over my
life and that’s why they won’t destroy the mother I am, despite and in embracing doubt.

Epifania Rita Gallina is Emma’s mom, an adjunct lecturer of psychology at Brooklyn College,
graduate student in mental health counseling at Hunter College, writer, reader, and art lover.

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