Intrusive thoughts continue to be one of the most challenging symptoms I see people experience in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. It's so easy to misunderstand them, few people talk about them, and these sticky thoughts often center on the very things that most upset us.
I'm going to share more information for partners/family members and for therapists in future posts, but to start with, here are five quick facts that might help you understand what's going on if you're experiencing intrusive thoughts.
If you're experiencing significant distress or worry about your intrusive thoughts, you can feel better. And as scary as it seems, talking to someone who understands perinatal intrusive thoughts is a good place to start. If you're not sure who that is in your life, contact the Postpartum Support International HelpLine at 1-800-944-4773.
If you feel like you're in crisis, you can call 988 to be connected to your local crisis team. There's also the 24/7, confidential Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-943-5746.
I participate in an Affiliate program with Bookshop.org, an online bookstore "with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores." A purchase from my link will pay me a small commission, and gives a matching percentage to independent bookstores. You can view my Bookshop "shop" here: https://bookshop.org/shop/laurieganberglicsw. These recommendations do not constitute medical advice or a therapeutic relationship.
"Being with" is a concept that shows up a lot when you're a therapist, supervisor, and parent; and it's illustrated beautifully in the children's book The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld.
The urge to fix — to provide a solution, to solve a problem, to make your kiddo happy again — is powerful and comes from a place of wanting to help. Yet, this instinct can be the opposite of helpful. You've heard the folks who say, "hey, just relax!" in response to someone's worries, right? It comes across as invalidating, condescending, and definitely unhelpful.
When we're able to be with someone in their experience, we can be curious, we can better understand, and ultimately, we can probably be more helpful. In Doerrfeld's book, the rabbit comes along to provide a compassionate presence and and a listening ear; eventually, the child is able to share their story, their emotions, and figure out what to do next.
In therapy and supervision, I aim to be a compassionate, nonjudgmental presence and I try to notice those urges to fix when they come up. In doing so, I hope I'm also modeling and supporting my clients in learning how to be with their own experiences and emotions. (The opposite of this is mindless social media scrolling, Netflix binges, etc — a fine distraction some of the time, but not very useful as a long-term strategy.)
In the realm of parenting, it can feel even harder. Being with your child in their hurt, sadness, anger, shame, or fear can feel excruciating. When we can do that, we demonstrate that these emotions are tolerable and not something to be feared, avoided, or pushed away. And, when we let go of the responsibility of making our children happy (something we can't really do anyway) there's a sense of relief. All we have to do is be there and listen.
I participate in Bookshop.org's affiliate program. You can see more recommendations at https://bookshop.org/shop/laurieganberglicsw. If you end up buying a book through one of my links, I earn a small commission and they donate the same amount to independent bookstores. Many, if not all, of these books can also be accessed through our amazing public library system, often as physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks!
I find myself often recommending the same few books to clients, colleagues and friends so I thought I'd start sharing them here. And, as a former small, independent bookstore employee in college, I'm excited to participate in Bookshop.org's affiliate program. If you end up buying a book through one of my links, I earn a small commission and they donate the same amount to independent bookstores. Many, if not all, of these books can also be accessed through our amazing public library system, often as physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks!
One of my favorites...