How Postpartum Psychosis made me the stronger person I am today and everything before:
I came in to the world in 1990, I was a pretty out going child, I had a lovely upbringing and have lots of happy memories, nothing too out of the ordinary. However when I hit puberty I began struggling with my feelings, the littlest of things got me stressed out.
I went to the doctors as it was starting to affect my social life, no one wanted me around as I was a moody cow. I was put on the contraceptive pill to try to regulate my hormones. When I was 16 I met the one and only love of my life, Karl.
We fell so in love and all was very good, until my moods started to effect our relationship. I would try to wind him up and start arguments then hate myself for it.
I got super stressed during driving lessons and A levels I ended up getting Alopecia. It wasn’t much fun! I decided to pay another visit to the doctors as Karl could only take so much.
I was put on 20mg of Fluoxetine daily. This did the trick, I felt like me again! There were no major mood swings (other than just before my cycle when everyone knew to avoid me like the plague).
A few years went by and we were happier than ever, Karl was 4 years older than me so the talk of having a family of our own became the main topic of most evenings.
When I was 23 we started trying for a baby, it took 4 months to catch on and we were both so happy at the news.
I stopped taking Fluoxetine the day I found out, which I now know I should have visited the doctors about this. At 13 weeks I wasn’t coping. I was so emotional, hated everyone and felt so low.
I went to the doctors and asked to be put back on Fluoxetine but the stand in doctor felt the cons outweighed the pros for me so refused them. I was offered a counselling session where I was told to take time out and paint my nails! Yeah, big help, thanks.
However the remaining months of pregnancy went pretty well, my moods sort of levelled out and I enjoyed the last few months of freedom, I even painted my nails!
The only thing I can think of looking back what may have seemed odd was the sheer panic of not being able to be a good mum and everyone judging me, or maybe that is normal?
On the 12th November 2013 and after a 14 hour labour Kayden came in to the world. The labour was a little traumatic, I lost a lot of blood and Kayden had to have help to start breathing, but all was fine after an hour or so.
Now this is when it went really tits up, literally! Kayden would not latch on to feed and I was constantly buzzing the nurses for help. I had my breasts pushed and pulled by just about every nurse in the building. It was exhausting and upsetting.
I sent Karl to Toys R Us for an electric breast pump costing £100 because I didn’t want to be a failure and had it drilled in my head that breast is best. it was too hard to try and pump enough though especially while Kayden was screaming.
The nurses suggested me feeding him using a cup so he didn’t get used to the bottle. My head was a mess, I couldn’t do the one thing that was meant to be natural. I felt like a failure from the word go.
We had to stay in hospital for 5 days as Kayden had jaundice. We were in a private room which was nice but Kayden had to stay in a incubator with a bright light. He had to wear a eye mask, which kept falling off. The doctors said it needed to be on as the light could damage his eyes. This made it impossible to get much sleeps as I was constantly checking him. I got a grand total of 10 hours sleep in 5 days.
I can during this 5 days my moods were all over the place, one minute I was on cloud 9, the next I was balling my eyes out. After 5 days we were allowed home,
It was over the next few weeks at home things became a little more serious. From what I can remember is started off slow, I would prioritised all the wrong things, l became obsessed with making lists as I was thinking so fast I was afraid I would forget everything.
Everything was amazing and a great idea. I would take a bath and put a face mask on believing exactly what it said on the packet. By the end of the few weeks at home I had a strong belief in god and thought about death a lot! I wasn’t sleeping at all, I was searching the internet in the middle of the night looking for deals and posting on social media.
I had become a mad woman.
On the 28th of November 2013 I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis after a big mental breakdown through the night. I was sent to Leeds mother and baby unit in an ambulance and sectioned under the mental health act for over 2 months.
I was living the dream at the beginning! I am normally not religious at all but I believed in god, miracles, and thought I was put on this earth to send messages to people from the big man himself, I thought I could save everyone and anyone. All the while my family was terrified and confused. It was a real life nightmare.
This is me in the unit, if I looked drugged up its because I am!
After a few weeks in the unit reality stated to slowly come back. I was on so much medication to sedate me I slept most of the day and night. It hurt me so much having to let the nurses feed my baby as I didn’t wake up to his crying.
On the door there was a window. I can remember looking up and there was someone constantly checking on me to make sure I wasn’t hurting Kayden. Thankfully I never had any thoughts like this as my illness was caught in time.
The ward had 6 bedrooms, all the women were experiencing similar symptoms at different stages , some less, some much much worse than mine. I can remember a lady there was hearing voices telling her to kill her baby! How awful!
New mums would come and go over the 2 months I was there but yet I felt so alone I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. My whole family didn’t know if I would ever get better.
Karl came to see me Everyday for the two months I was in the unit. It was an 80 mile round trip from home, he had to to stop working for a while and keep everything going at home with Lexi our Labrador. He will never know how much that meant to me. He was and is my absolute rock.
I was slowly allowed to leave the unit for short periods after a few weeks, first with a member of staff, then with Karl, then by Christmas I was allowed to stop over at my house for the night. However Christmas morning I was over come with anxiety and still not very well so went back in the unit. I was discharged around new years.
I was told my recovery had been quick. I thought that was it. I can now go home and be a normal mum. How wrong was I.
As soon as I got home my anxiety was through the roof. I was scared that the sodding trees were going to spike Kayden, cars would crash in to him as I walked down the road and many more ridiculous things, but at the time, they were real threats to me. I can remember the first time I went in to town shopping with my mum I had to hold her hand the entire way around, shaking and panicking if she let go.
Time went on and I had a short period of around 3 months of depression. No feelings what so ever. Not a bean. Thankfully this didn’t last too long and the anxiety came flooding back, which unfortunately I did sometimes use alcohol to get through the crippling anxiety in the early days.
As soon as I left the unit I had the amazing support from a lady called Sal, she is worth her weight in gold to the NHS. She saw me at my worst. She taught me the skill of using CBT which helped a hell of a lot. A few months later I was passed over to a lady called Clare . She was a massive help, so down to earth, a great listener, a good laugh and a friend i’ll never forget!
I was discharged 2 years later from the mental health team in Doncaster and lets just say, I cracked on with motherhood like the rest of you do! I still have mild anxiety occasionally, but honestly I had a lucky escape compared to some.
I’m 99% me again! I hope anyone reading this who may have experienced a mental illness after pregnancy, especially postpartum psychosis can get comfort from my blog, knowing its not forever, you are not alone and you are defiantly not to blame.
I was asked by Clare from the mental health team in Doncaster if I would be the main speaker at a NHS conference earlier this year. This was to try to help get funding in Doncaster to provide the services I received in Leeds. It was an honour to speak that day. Here I am 🙂
p.s note to self, if ever hospitalised again Do not, I repeat DO NOT eat a three course meal for each sitting! Or your face will swell like this again!
Please help me spread the word about this unheard of mental illness by sharing this post or talking about it with someone! Its devastating to families and if undetected can end in disaster. It needed to be mentioned in prenatal classes and families need to know the early warning signs.
For further reading, advice and support check out this fantastic website action on postpartum psychosis