Postpartum Psychosis – My story
At 25 I became pregnant with my first child. I was overjoyed, this baby was much wanted.
On my first appointment the booking midwife noticed that I had a history of an eating disorder, anxiety and alcoholism (although sober 2 years at this point). The midwife referred me to the Cardiff perinatal mental health team just to be safe.
The midwife said that I had an increased risk of suffering from mental health difficulties after the birth of my baby.
During the pregnancy I was fine, mentally I was excited and balanced.
During labour is when things started to happen. After 33 hours in labour I started to hallucinate. I was seeing men in white doctors coats walk in and out of the labour suite. I asked my husband and midwife to get them out of the room; they told me no one was there and it must have been a mix of being over tired and the gas and air making me act strange.
My labour was long and traumatic. I had no sleep for a week and suffered a postpartum haemorrhage. My husband was sent home 3 hours after the baby was born and I was moved to the maternity ward.
I was alone and scared, I had never really held a baby before, let alone change a nappy! My head was spinning and all I could hear was whispering coming from the cubicles around me.
I needed to get out, I felt like running away. My baby was crying and although I felt I loved him I needed to leave the hospital.
I sat on the wall outside the hospital, it was like looking at someone else’s life. I felt like a character in a movie…this was not real. I didn’t feel real…I thought I was dead, looking at myself from above.
The morning came and I was due to be discharged. My perinatal psychiatrist come to visit me and see if I was okay. I lied I said I was fine I just wanted to go home and sleep.
I was afraid if I told anyone about the strange sensations I was feeling then they would take my baby away from me.
As weeks went by my mental health got worse. My husband took me to the doctors who then told me I was suffering from postnatal depression (PND).
I didn’t tell anyone that I was hearing voices and odd sounds around me. I didn’t speak up when I thought everyone was whispering behind my back saying I was a bad mum. The paranoia was intense, I quickly become delusional and I convinced myself that my husband was drugging me.
I was seeing and hearing things daily, whether it was something small like a mouse running across the floor or something big like my husband jumping though a closed window. The hallucinations were so real.
The day I was diagnosed with officially with postpartum psychosis was when the mental health crisis team were called to my home. I was talking to the radio and my husband caught me doing this. I tried to explain that the women on the radio was talking to me, she was telling me to get everyone out of my home. The lady on the radio was protecting me and my baby.
By the time I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis Cardiff’s mother and baby unit was due for closure. An acute adult psychiatrist hospital was an option for treatment but I was not able to take my baby with me.
Being taken away from my baby would only confirm my delusional mind that ‘they’ were taking my baby away from me. This option would have been counterproductive. We all decided I was to be treated at home.
At home, treatment began and it took almost a year for me to recover. I was on a mix of sedating medication and relied on my partner for everything.
Whilst I was recovering I did try to mingle with other mothers but it was impossible. I was not able to breast feed like other mums, I did not make my own food and blend it like other mums. I was such a mess from the medication that I barely recall my sons first year, only that I loved him and wanted to protect him.
Postpartum psychosis is rare, it affects around 2 in 1,000 but it is very real and it can happen to anyone! I have survived it but sadly many don’t.
My love for my son was never an issue
Another postnatal related illness is grief that is linked to miscarriage or loss. I recently read an article that may be of use to someone reading this blog. The article wrote about doll therapy, a healing process that makes use of realistic Kiss Reborn dolls. I haven’t tried this but i have spoken to women who have and it helped them, so this may be of use to someone reading this post.
I have heard about doll therapy, a healing process that makes use of realistic Kiss Reborn dolls. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’d leave this info as it might be useful to someone reading this blog right now.
What I do now
I campaign for a psychiatric mother and baby unit in Wales and I am on the All Wales Perinatal Steering committee. I volunteer with the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) and Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP)
Perinatal mental health is close to my heart.