I recently gave birth to our daughter, and while I love her more than I can explain, I haven’t loved the intrusive thoughts that have flooded my mind since. I’m used to having intrusive thoughts about myself. Sometimes I’ve even had them about my husband—fretting over the awful things that could happen—but now having them about my baby is too much. And I’ve had to find ways to reimagine them.
My intrusive thoughts started about five days postpartum. I will be blissfully nursing her or changing her diaper and then WHAM! an intrusive thought will hit me, sending me into a downward spiral.
At first, my thoughts made me hate myself. Upset for their mere existence, I blamed myself and nothing could soothe me. Then I noticed the affects my self-hatred was having on my baby—I would sob and so would she—and I realized I had to stop. My self-loathing ways were no longer going to work. For she could sense my pain.
Luckily, I had my placenta encapsulated, and I received the pills the same day I was at my lowest. The pills allowed my hormones to stabilize and some clarity set in: I am not my thoughts. My thoughts are just that, thoughts. Nothing more. And I don’t have to punish myself for them.
I knew I needed to find new ways to handle my thoughts, so I started figuring out how to reimagine them. And I found some things that work. So if you suffer with intrusive thoughts, here are some ways to help combat them:
- Erase them. As soon as the thought pops into your head, imagine a white board erasing the thought. Then, replace the image the intrusive thought conjured with a joyful image.
- Distract yourself from them. As soon as the thought crosses your mind, shift to doing something else—find a new task—and let the intrusive thought go as you transition.
- Be present. Stay present with everything you do, and if an intrusive thought hits you, let it dissolve into the past.
- Get help. If you don’t have someone to talk to about your thoughts and your mental health, find someone. It may take a few people to find the right one, so don’t give up. Working with a professional can do wonders for your mental health and can help you reframe your intrusive thoughts.
- Journal. Every time you find yourself experiencing intrusive thoughts, write down your feelings about them. You don’t have to write down the thought, unless you feel the need to, but try to focus on how you feel when it comes up. Acknowledging our feelings helps us work through them.
Whatever ways you find to manage your intrusive thoughts, may you feel empowered by the control you have over them and live your life freely despite them. I know it’s tough, but you’ve got this.
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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán