Category Archives: Personal Experiences

Lobeh’ s story – It wasn’t until I had my fourth child that I experienced postpartum psychosis

 My first experience of psychosis was back in 2009. I was in my last year of university and really struggling with the pressure of studying, my placement and writing up my dissertation. I stopped sleeping for several consecutive days and I just couldn’t shut my brain down.

I was talking really quickly, and became quite aggressive and reactive, shouting in the workplace because I believed people – and even at one stage a cloud – were following me. It wasn’t long before I was sectioned.

It turned out I had experienced a psychotic episode and I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had treatment and psychotherapy and, for many years, I was fit and well.

I met my husband in 2012 after I’d qualified in my profession. Everything was going really well, we married had our first child, then our second, and I was still really well.

When I had my third child there were some indications that my mood was changing and that I was going through some hormone imbalances, but I didn’t experience another psychotic episode until after I had my fourth child in 2018 – nine years after my previous episode of psychosis.

Because of my bipolar disorder, I always knew I was high risk for postpartum psychosis. However, having had three children with no problems, I really wasn’t expecting it to happen. Sadly, though, there were lots of complications and trauma around the birth of my fourth child and I ended up having an elective c-section.

When my baby daughter was born she wasn’t breathing and needed resuscitation which meant that we had no body contact as she was immediately rushed off to intensive care. I was fit and well at the time so was officially discharged but I didn’t want to leave my baby so they allowed me to stay. Within two weeks we were discharged together.

The problems didn’t end there, however, and after a few days at home I experienced fits and, as these were markers for an infection, I was rushed back to hospital where I had to undergo more surgery. They found that some of my placenta had been left inside which had caused the problems.

Once the physical risks had subsided I returned home. This is when the symptoms of postpartum psychosis hit me.

Three days after coming home I started erratically gathering items from the home to sell at a car boot sale – I felt compelled to do it, even though I had just come home with my baby. My attention was so often diverted away from my baby and, as a result, I wasn’t caring for her properly. Sadly, I had lost all sense of reality and I didn’t really understand what was happening or what I was supposed to be doing.

I believed that people were trying to take my baby away, I was driving around disorientated for hours with no idea why and constantly collecting these items to sell. Every day it was as though I woke up on a mission, it was as though something else had control of my mind. I was completely confused, lost all inhibitions, was over thinking and over talking. I would find myself in places or doing things with no idea how I had got there.

My husband tried to support me and he sought medical help and spoke with other members of the family. But the problem was, it’s hard to detect postpartum psychosis because how can you know what is normal behaviour after having a baby? It’s only when it becomes really erratic that it becomes more apparent – and at that stage you always need emergency care.

Eventually, having travelled out of my area and being filed as a missing person I was found in an apartment and sectioned.

Why MBUs are so important

I was brought straight to a hospital, however, there weren’t enough beds in nearby Mother and Baby Units (MBU) so I ended up on a general psychiatric ward and separated from my baby. Unfortunately, when you’re separated from your child this can really trigger more paranoia and make things worse.

I was also really scared on the ward which I don’t feel was managed very well and I had a particularly difficult time there. I had just had two major surgeries and some of the women on the ward were incredibly unwell. I got into a disagreement and I remember being kicked and punched. I was found unconscious and sent to A&E.

After I had been on the ward for a month a bed in a Mother and Baby Unit came up, but it was so many miles away from my home and family. MBUs are imperative for the safety and welfare of women who have just had children, and if I had been offered a place closer to home I would have accepted. But as this was so far away I petitioned through a tribunal to instead be discharged.

When you’re separated from your child this can really trigger more paranoia and make things worse

How I found recovery

Every woman has a different experience when it comes to treatment and recovery. In my case, I received antipsychotic medication to alleviate some of the psychosis and then, as I started to come round from the confusion, I started talking therapy to explore how I felt and what had happened. It enabled me to talk about the trauma of the birth which had obviously affected me greatly.

Because I wasn’t with my baby I missed out on some of the bonding time during my recovery so lost my confidence as a mother which was really hard. I also fell into a depression which was really challenging too. Recovery is gradual, and having the therapy and my family and friends around me helped a lot – as did my faith.

I also found lots of help through APP. When I first Googled postpartum psychosis and APP came up in the search, I felt as though I was the only woman in the world going through this. But when I was introduced to the peer support forum I realised that there were many women who had experienced this illness. I joined the monthly meet ups and it was fantastic being able to support and be supported by other women. I am especially pleased that APP is proactively encouraging engagement from BAME communities because mental health is such a taboo subject in some of our communities, so having more knowledge, awareness and engagement is key.

And that’s why I’m sharing my story today. I hope it inspires other women to feel confident in coming forward and asking for help.

 

Chloe’s story: I stopped trusting everyone. But now I’m recovered and love being a mum

I had planned for a calming water birth and, throughout my pregnancy, which was for the most part a happy and healthy pregnancy, I saw no reason why this couldn’t happen. However, things didn’t go to plan, and my labour ended up being incredibly exhausting and traumatic.

My little boy, Alfie, was very much wanted and, like all mums, I was excited to meet my baby. Sadly, however, at week 20 of my pregnancy, we suffered an unexpected family bereavement, my pregnancy became high risk due to a fibroid and my blood pressure began to increase. I went into a natural labour at 41 weeks but had pre-eclampsia and, after two hours of pushing, my baby’s heart rate kept dropping due to the cord around his neck. I was quickly prepped for an emergency c section.

The birth

Thankfully, they managed to deliver my little boy via forceps, but I lost a lot of blood and became anaemic and I was hooked up to monitors throughout. Alfie was eventually delivered, a little bruised but thankfully healthy, at 14.15, and, because I’d gone into labour at 23.00 the night before I was completely exhausted. Alfie was extremely sleepy, not waking to feed in the first 24 hours, but I was assured that this was normal for a forceps birth.

I was concerned that I wasn’t making very much milk and Alfie seemed jittery and a bit yellow, but I was discharged anyway after two nights – only to be readmitted the next day. Alfie had jaundice and had lost 11% body weight in just four days.

At this point they acknowledged my poor milk supply may have been due to anaemia, however, to me it felt as though nobody had been listening when I raised my concerns and this led to me not trusting any of the health professionals (despite my husband and I both being health professionals ourselves). Worse still, I didn’t trust my own instincts as a mother.

Three days later I was discharged again and the midwives were coming to check my blood pressure every two days, while the health visitors were coming several times a week. As the home checks mounted up, it felt as though every visit highlighted my incompetence as a mother and my self doubts and anxiety spiralled out of control.

My symptoms of postpartum psychosis

It all began as the worst anxiety I’ve ever experienced and developed into mania. Before long I had lost all concept of time and of what was real and what was not. I stopped sleeping, showering and eating and went to see the GP. By this point I believed that everyone around me was a doll, I was unable to follow storylines on TV, I couldn’t keep up with conversations and I couldn’t retain information. In retrospect the GP was amazing and immediately referred me to the perinatal mental health team. However, at the time, I believed they were trying to put me in prison, I thought everyone at the surgery was a social worker and that nobody trusted me to be around children. I didn’t feel able to tell anyone this as I thought everyone was in on the plot.

When I got home I refused to take the medication I was given as I believed it was poison that they were using to try and knock me out to get me to prison. I was hearing police helicopters outside and thought my house was full of cameras recording my actions. I paced constantly that night as my husband and baby were sleeping in the lounge (to allow me to try and get some sleep), and I kept thinking my husband was planning to leave and take the baby with him.

The perinatal mental health team came the next morning but unfortunately I had a nurse who was new to her role and she wrongly diagnosed me with postnatal depression. Luckily, my husband is a paramedic and he strongly suspected I had been misdiagnosed so he continued to seek more help.

My behaviour spiralled further out of control that day and, while my parents were caring for our baby, I woke my husband up from a nap to tell him that everyone was dead. He called the nurse back and I was sectioned and admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) that night.

My admission to an MBU

When I got to the MBU I thought I’d been locked in prison and I refused to eat, drink, sleep, shower and take medications. I spent all my time pacing the unit trying to find a way out. As I was admitted at night no one was around and I believed they’d locked me up on my own because I was such a bad mum and a danger to others. I thought everyone was an actor and my hallucinations made them appear to have really strange eyes. I also started to believe that my husband was an undercover policeman. I spent hours looking at the photos of the staff on the wall thinking they were somehow linked to my normal life and that they’d all been undercover.

The turning point was two days later when they injected me with antipsychotics. At the time I thought this injection had aborted my baby and sterilised me. I’d also lost 10kg by then as I thought all food and drink smelled and tasted weird and was poison, and I had been told I might need to be moved to a different hospital to be tube fed. I’m a Dietitian by profession so I knew what this meant but at the time I couldn’t take it in. I kept asking the same questions over and over. I swapped between thinking Alfie was a doll and they’d taken away the real baby, to thinking that he wasn’t my baby at all or sometimes even believing that he had died. Because I’d had an epidural when I was in labour I hadn’t felt him be born and this was something I became obsessed with and was talking about as if it was evidence that he wasn’t mine. I thought the TV was talking about me and telling me things like I’d lost my career and would never work again and I believed that the songs on the radio were played especially for me. My husband bought me a magazine and it felt like everyone in it was pregnant and they were taunting me as I could never have a baby (thinking I had been sterilised). I wouldn’t use my phone as I thought it had been intercepted by the police and at first I thought I couldn’t even phone my husband as I wrongly believed he had asked for no contact, despite him visiting and spending most of the day with me every day.

The road to recovery

I eventually started taking medication willingly and began to recover. The first time I was allowed for a walk on the beach with a member of staff and my husband I was so excited but I still had some paranoid thoughts, thinking that everyone was an actor and that if I went into the public toilet they would run away with my son while I was there. But these delusions began to subside.

I was on the MBU for two weeks and think I should have probably been there longer but I was able to convince everyone I was fully recovered -  Coronavirus had made an appearance and I was very aware that lockdown was coming and I wanted to get home before it did. Lockdown in fact happened just a week after I was discharged.

The mental health team reviewed me over the phone and I never disclosed how down I was feeling as I feared they would re-admit me and I wouldn’t be able to have visitors. I really struggled and did not want to get out of bed, leaving my husband doing a lot of the caring for our son. I didn’t feel a connection with Alfie at this point and felt awful that this magical bond hadn’t appeared. I knew I loved him but I was scared that he would never be able to love me.

Another major turning point came six months later when the GP treated me for an under active thyroid and I finally started to feel like me again. It was the final piece in my treatment jigsaw and really made a big difference.

I now have the best bond with my son and he is a complete mummy’s boy! I still feel sad and guilty about the time I feel I missed out on as I felt like I was living in a fog, but I’m so glad what we went through hasn’t seemed to affect him and he is a happy, healthy boy.

 

My recovery story: I thought I was in a computer simulation - now I’m back to being the old me

One mum shares her story of recovery to inspire hope...

If you were to ask my best friend a word to describe me, she will for sure say ‘anxious’. It’s a part of me that I’ve always carried and of course it showed up during my pregnancy too. I kept thinking ‘is the baby ok?’ ‘is the baby moving?’ But overall, everything was going fine…that is until the end of February 2020 when COVID-19 starting spreading across Europe. For me, being pregnant and away from home meant only one thing; there was no way my family would be able to be with me for this amazing moment in my life.

At 41 weeks of pregnancy, on 27th May, my little boy decided to make an appearance. I read a lot about people giving birth after pushing for ten minutes or an hour, but that was not the case for me. I don’t want to go into all the details of my birth, but to summarise we had a fair few complications and I felt completely traumatised by the end of the labour.

The days in the maternity ward proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I was in a foreign country with no knowledge of the standard hospital procedures, and this unfortunately created lots of unnecessary confusion and uncertainty. Nonetheless, the biggest challenge was taking care of the little one as I had never held in my hands such a tiny and precious human being.

My little baby decided to show his character from the beginning: he didn’t want to be forced in doing something he didn’t want to do (like his mum), which sadly included breastfeeding. We tried for a week to get him to latch, but he was crying so much that the whole process made me really really upset. Breastfeeding was not going to work and that left me feeling really guilty - I felt that I was not able to do the one thing I was supposed to do as a mum. I felt like a failure. It was only after months that I realised that a fed baby is a happy baby regardless of how they feed, and that a mum simply needs to be loving. The rest didn’t matter – I was doing my best.

After five days in hospital, it was time to go home. Unfortunately, after five days of very little sleep in hospital, I realised that the situation wasn’t going to improve at home either and I was exhausted.

I had a terrible feeling of doom, and I thought I was dying

On the first day back, the midwife came to check on the little one and, despite assuring me that we were doing everything correctly, my anxiety didn’t leave me. I ended up having a major panic attack and I feel that, looking back, this is when the psychosis also began.

During the panic attack, I had a terrible feeling of doom, and I thought I was dying. It felt as though my entire body was shaking despite my legs remaining completely still as stone when I looked at them. An ambulance came and I was taken to A&E. I spent a few hours there and everything seemed fine; they discharged me and suggested I get in contact with a perinatal mental health team. Little did they know that they would see me again in less than 24 hours…

Once I arrived back home after the first trip to A&E, things started quickly deteriorating. I really wanted to sleep but I wasn’t able to close my eyes. I began feeling that everything around me was unreal. My husband took me on a walk to show me that everything was just as it always had been, nothing outside had changed, but it didn’t convince me. My mind wouldn’t stop racing and at one point I convinced myself that I was in a coma – perhaps from the panic attack or from the birth – I wasn’t sure I just felt as though I was in another state and that the doctors were trying to communicate with me through computer simulation.

My head was spinning and I kept thinking I needed to pass levels – as though I was in a computer simulation - in order to stop certain situations playing over and over in my mind. It was only when a friend came to visit that she realised something was very wrong and a second ambulance was called resulting in another trip to A&E.

We spent 24 hours in A&E but the situation kept worsening. I was highly paranoid and kept repeating: Is the baby fine? Am I fine? Are we going to be ok? Why me? I was also really worried that I could have harmed my baby as I was not able to take care of him properly.

During this time, I truly convinced myself that I was indeed in a computer simulation. It also became clear that I was having hallucinations. It was as though I was projecting my feelings onto other people’s faces and I thought I could see my husband and the doctor crying, but when I asked them about it the tears suddenly vanished and their faces returned to normal.

It was at this point that another doctor came into the room and diagnosed me with postpartum psychosis.

I wasn’t scared of the diagnosis – I hadn’t heard of it so the name of the illness didn’t mean anything to me. But I was terrified by what I was experiencing and I just wanted it to stop. As things continued to deteriorate fast they made the decision to section me in a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) which ultimately saved my life.

I had never heard of an MBU and I am not sure they actually exist in my home country.

MBU’s are psychiatric hospitals for mothers like me experiencing severe mental illness. They are a place you can recover keeping the baby with you the entire time. These are amazing places and the doctors that work in there are fantastic people; I cannot praise them enough.

The first day in the MBU was hard as I was still convinced I needed to reach my next level in the computer simulation, and that to do so would save me from being trapped in a coma. A doctor came to explain to me that I was experiencing psychosis and that I would need to begin taking special medications that same evening.

Both the medicine and the ability to sleep for an entire night helped enormously in my recovery. Indeed, the day after, I had a short psychotic episode but it lasted only 10 minutes…and I’ve never had once since then!

Time flew by in the MBU: I gained confidence with my baby and I also met some lovely mum friends, all of who were clearly experiencing their own battles (I wish them all the luck for the future).

My recovery went so well that I was discharged within three weeks, followed by home support from the perinatal mental health team. Coming home was scary and daunting but my husband and my family where there to support me (luckily my family managed to find a flight to reach me). I had ups and down at the beginning. I felt ashamed, sad about my illness and devastated about not being able to breastfeed. Nonetheless, I had my baby there with me and we had a beautiful bond. Everyday I was showing myself that I was in fact able to take care of that little human being and that really boosted my confidence. He was smiling and happy and that was all mattered to me.

After a few months had passed since my discharge from the MBU, the medication was stopped and I am happy to say that I am back to being the old me (and actually less anxious, which is better than before!) This month is going to be my baby’s 1st birthday and life couldn’t be better!

I wanted to share my story to show that postpartum psychosis is indeed a severe mental illness but you can recover very quickly with the right help. Reach out for help and, although you might think you’ll never be your old self again, that really isn’t the case. You will recover. There is help. Stay strong.

 

 

 

 

 

Jocelyn’s story - I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for peer support

I was living abroad when I became unwell with postpartum psychosis. I had left friends and family behind in the UK and moved to Brazil to get married to a Brazilian I met while teaching there a few years previously. When I became pregnant, however, I did toy with the idea of having the baby in England, but it just wasn’t practical to come back at the time.

Of course, I knew that giving birth and looking after a baby would be hard work, but I had no idea of the scale and intensity of what was to follow...

84% of women in Brazil have C-sections and I was determined to have a natural birth. However, my baby’s heart rate dropped when I was being monitored in hospital and I ended up being rushed for an emergency caesarean.

At that point, everything was fine and I was sent home. However, after about three weeks I developed a fever and had a pain in my stomach. I had it checked out and, through CT scans, they found that they’d left a swab inside me. The language barrier made all of these conversations quite challenging, but one thing I was told by the doctor from the first c-section was that I nearly died due to loss of blood. This added to the confusion and paranoia of who to trust.

This is when things became really confusing for me. I was convinced that, because I’d had two operations, I must have had two babies. In Portuguese, they don’t pronounce Seth, my baby’s name, in the same we that we do in England. Instead they say ‘Sete’ (pronounced ‘Seche’) and it reinforced the idea that I’d given birth twice, that there were two different babies.

I became really anxious and paranoid, and I had a really heightened sense of smell, believing that I could tell which nurse was coming to see me just from the smell in the air.

After leaving hospital for the second time, I kept believing things were happening that weren’t real. We got on the bus in the middle of summer and I was absolutely convinced that I was bleeding everywhere – but I wasn’t bleeding at all. And when one of the drivers came to look at Seth in the pram I was convinced they were staring because I was pushing a pram around with no baby in – I truly believed at that point that Seth had died.

Other delusions included my mistrust of my husband, who I was convinced had installed cameras everywhere, and I stopped eating because I thought that lots of different foods were causing colic. I remember my husband trying to put me in a sleeveless summer dress too and I became really agitated, convinced that he was strapping me into a straitjacket.

I tried to find places or activities that might help to calm me. For example, there’s a saying in Portuguese – banho de sal grosso – which means cleansing yourself in saltwater. So I decided that if I went to the sea it would cleanse me and make me feel better and stop all of the fear and anxiety. So we kept going to the beach one time when I went in the water with my husband I thought I was dying.

I continued to be really concerned about Seth’s wellbeing too. At one point, I thought he was the devil and that he needed to be exorcised to save him – even though I wasn’t actually religious in any way.

As things became worse, we went to see a psychiatrist but, due to the difference in language and my complete confusion, I struggled to get across how I was feeling. They tried to sedate me but then just sent me on my way with six months’ antidepressants in my pocket.

I felt confused, frightened and as though I had no real medical support. To add to that, I was back at work when Seth was just four months old because you only get four months’ maternity leave in Brazil. By that point the psychotic symptoms were petering out (they lasted around two weeks in total), but I had really bad anxiety and depression – in fact, the anxiety stayed with me for over a year after giving birth. Because Seth was so young when I returned to work, I had to have him with me in the classroom where I was teaching English and try to use my hour a day for breastfeeding as effectively as I could.

It was such a challenging time and, feeling alone, I decided to do some of my own research. I started googling postnatal depression but it just didn’t sound at all like my experience. However, luckily, I stumbled across a website about postpartum psychosis and realised that I had all the symptoms. Upon further research, I found the Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) peer support forum which felt as though it was the only knowledgeable support that was out there – after all, my doctors hadn’t mentioned psychosis.

Reaching out to people on the forum was a lifeline – it was here that I found other women who had been through what I had. The first woman who responded to me really helped me and we are still in touch to this day. There was no judgment on the forum, no language barriers and I felt free to speak openly about what had happened to me and what I was going through.

We came back to England when Seth was nine months old and I saw some doctors over here who confirmed my diagnosis. As I started to make sense of my experiences, I decided to train to become a peer support worker with APP because I couldn’t bear the idea of another woman going through what I went through with no knowledgeable support.

I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for the voluntary peer support that I received. There’s a lot of stigma around psychosis, particularly around PP where people have these ideas that mothers want to harm their babies, but it really wasn’t like that. If anything, I was terrified of something happening to my baby. I was over-protective.

Everybody’s experience of PP and subsequent recovery is unique to them, but there are shared similarities between us and that means the world. It stops you feeling so lonely and ashamed.

Through APP I feel that I have found my tribe – these amazing women who have been through such intense struggles, but who are united in joining forces to help others. And while NHS support often has time restrictions placed on it, peer support is there forever. I’m so grateful to benefit from and, today, play a part in that much-needed service.

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Catherine’s story - one day I did remember him, and I felt like a mother again

There’s a Korean tradition that when a baby is born, mother and baby stay home for the first 21 days. The first 100 days are considered a vulnerable time, and so we are meant to be cautious. It’s a belief rooted in keeping mothers and babies safe from harm, but in modern life, it’s a difficult tradition to follow. For me, it felt impractical and unreasonable, and I spent the first days out of the hospital inviting friends to our home and going out to restaurants and parks. We even decided to travel to the US when my son was two months old on an extended trip to visit family and friends. However, in the back of my mind, I would remember this tradition of confinement, and it was a decision I would question when I was eventually diagnosed with stress-induced postpartum psychosis.

I cannot link my postpartum psychosis to tradition or culture, I’ve learned from this experience that postpartum psychosis can happen to anyone, and I can trace the roots of my psychosis to something that started well before my decision to make this trip.

My psychosis started while I was in the United States, I’d wanted to introduce Cato to family on the West and East Coasts, and to celebrate his 100 days with family and friends.

It was towards the end of our trip, while I was staying with my in-laws that the symptoms of psychosis started. I hadn’t been sleeping for weeks, and the stress of travel and concerns from our families had taken its toll. I did not realise that what I was experiencing were symptoms of postpartum psychosis. I’d become paranoid, believing that my mother-in-law was signalling to me in a language separate from the others in the family. The house had Nest cameras installed for security, but I thought I could hear the cameras in the walls, I thought I was being watched. The warnings and concerns expressed kindly by my in-laws took on a darker meaning, I felt increasingly worried, and I could not sleep. It culminated in a moment when I looked at my son’s face, and his face was not his own, but the face of a devil.

I did not know what was happening. The moment felt too surreal to believe, but it felt so real to me. I did not understand. I knew that I needed to leave the family home, I had a sense that something very bad was about to happen, I just didn’t know what. I begged James, my husband to take us to a hotel, and he immediately packed our bags, and we left.

At the hotel, things descended quickly. I thought we were being tracked, and so I deleted all the apps on my phone. I started to see figures in the halls, people with strange faces staring at me, brushing past me. And my son’s eyes were still like the eyes of a devil. In the hotel, my husband tried to get me to sleep, but I couldn’t. I started losing sense of time, each moment was replicated a multitude of times. I thought I heard the voice of God, telling me that I was in hell, that my life had been a simulation, and that my son was going to die.

In some ways, it felt like a relief to hear this, it seemed to make sense, everything I’d been experiencing, all the stories of my past, of my family’s histories, I could see the patterns in them. I didn’t tell my husband what I ‘knew’, because I didn’t want to frighten him. He could tell that I wasn’t well, and so he asked his parents to come take our son, and then he drove me to the emergency room.

At the hospital, I lost all sense of what was real and not real. I started tearing off my clothes in the waiting room, I was attacking the nurses, they looked like demons. I remember hearing my husband shouting for help and being forced onto a gurney.

The next days are fragmented. I was given different medications, but nothing was working, and I still couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep for four days. I lost all sense of who I was, I thought I was my husband, my son, sometimes I was my mother. I remembered different versions of my life, versions that couldn’t be true. My husband would call my parents to come and help take care of me, but I didn’t recognise them. I thought that one of the nurses was the angel Gabriel, and I couldn’t eat because I thought the food I was being given was human flesh. There were times I remembered I had a son, that I knew who I was, but most of the time, I was terrified.

I would experience what I thought was the end of days

After four days, the decision was made that I would be sectioned to a general psychiatric ward. I was transferred via ambulance, and I remember thinking that the medics taking me were taking me to be euthanized. I am still grateful to the medic who held my hand the entire way, while I talked nonsensically and screamed at the animals surrounding us.

At the psychiatric ward, I would experience what I thought was the end of days – it was partly in reaction to the roughness of the staff who were trying to calm me, but it ended with me stripping off my clothes and urinating on the floor. I was sedated, and for the first time, I slept. I do not know how long I slept, I think it was for two days, but I woke up in a blank room with my hair tied in a strange way, with fragmented memories of who I was and what had happened. I spent eight days in the psychiatric ward, following instructions, attending the classes and waiting desperately to be released.

I was released to the care of my husband. I felt like myself, but I know now that I still wasn’t well. My time away from my son had taken its toll – I felt completely separated from him, and I had no memory of my bond with him. It felt physically painful to touch him. When I thought about it later, I would believe that this was my mind’s way of protecting him, of protecting him from a mother who could not be trusted.

We would return to London, where I was referred to the perinatal mental health team. A few weeks after psychosis, I would fall into a deep, clinical depression. It happened suddenly, where one morning I woke up, but I couldn’t move or get out of bed. Those months were some of the most difficult times of the experience. It felt unending, and I felt despair, because I couldn’t imagine being well again.

My husband made the decision to keep me at home instead of admitting me to a mother baby unit. One day when I was feeling too much pain to lift a spoon, my husband called my psychiatrist, and she referred me to the mental health crisis team. The crisis team would visit our flat every morning. Each visit forced me to get out of bed, and they would give me a task for the day. I started keeping lists of simple tasks – making a cup of tea, brushing my hair. They would smile at me, even as I sat unmoving and silent, unable to speak. They promised me that I would feel better, that one day this would be a memory. I tried desperately to believe them.

They asked me to spend time with Cato each day, to help rebuild our bond. I would do this as a practice, and I didn’t understand how I couldn’t feel a connection to my own son.

I would remain on an antipsychotic and antidepressant for a year. It was several months before I could start noticing moments of light. I would be sitting and realise I wasn’t feeling pain, that I was noticing the colours around me, and I would know that I was getting better. Those moments would be temporary, and then the darkness would come again, but eventually the darkness would come less frequently, and I would feel I’d reclaimed myself.

The bond with my son took longer to build. I approached it with intention. I went through the steps, and I hoped he would understand that I was working to come back to him, that I was trying to remember.

And one day I did remember him. I was holding him and feeling his weight against my body, and it felt familiar. And I felt like a mother again.

For more of Catherine’s story, you can read her memoir, Inferno, which is out now in hardback and paperback from Bloomsbury. You can also watch this moving film that Catherine recorded in March for the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.

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Claire’s story - If there was more awareness of postpartum psychosis, I believe my second episode could have been prevented

When I was 30, I experienced a frightening psychotic episode that came completely out of the blue. I think it may have been linked to what was, at that point, an undiagnosed under active thyroid problem – but I don’t know for sure. Regardless, I took a year out of university but was, thankfully, able to return the following year.

Four years later, when I was pregnant with my little boy, I enjoyed a fairly smooth pregnancy until I reached labour. At that point, my contractions were all over the place and I ended up being in labour for four days – initially being sent home from the birthing centre and then admitted to a local hospital for the delivery.

After six or seven hours at the hospital, I was given an epidural and emergency C-section because my baby became stuck. This was incredibly traumatic and frightening, and because the labour lasted so long, the epidural was ineffective during the C-section, so the pain was seriously bad! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything for four days, and hadn’t slept a wink either.

Looking back, I’m convinced that the psychosis started there and then on the operating table.

As I was being wheeled out of theatre, I honestly believed that I had died and they were wheeling me through the gates of heaven! I was put into a recovery room but, because of the trauma and shock that you would probably expect following such a difficult labour, it took a while for anyone to notice that there was something else going on.

However, when my husband left my side briefly to collect a change of clothes, he noticed a change in me when he came back to the hospital. He said I was incredibly distressed and anxious – far more than he would have expected. From there on, the distress escalated significantly.

Sadly, because there wasn’t much awareness of postpartum psychosis at the time, it took a while for us to receive the diagnosis. In the meantime, I was placed on a renal unit – a ward for people with kidney problems – the theory being that, because there were older people on that ward who also experienced memory loss and distress, that would be the most suitable place for me.

But it really wasn’t.

I was so anxious at this point that I regularly tried to abscond and ended up having two security guards on the door which made things even more intimidating. As the psychosis became worse, I was given the anti-psychotic, haloperidol, which I don’t think I responded well to, as it made me almost zombie-like! Shortly after, I was sectioned.

However, even after the section the psychiatrists refused to take me to the mental health unit until all other possible physical causes had been ruled out. These investigations took a long time, and it was only after seven days that I was admitted to the general psychiatric ward. At this point, my psychosis had gotten much, much worse, and, due to the separation from my baby, I was so scared about what had happened to him. I even thought he might have died.

Of course, full recovery took some time...but things settled down and we got on with life as a family

Eventually, I was given a bed at a Mother and Baby Unit and, once reunited with my little boy, my recovery was really swift. After one month, I was enjoying leave and eventually moved back into our family home.

Of course, full recovery took some time, and I was incredibly anxious looking after my little boy. I was scared that something might happen unless I focused literally all my energy on him all of the time. But things settled down and we got on with life as a family.

Three years later, I had my daughter and, knowing that there was a 50/50 chance of developing postpartum psychosis again, I planned every detail of the birthing experience really carefully. Because of the risks, I had an appointment with a psychiatrist prior to giving birth, and I was advised that the psychiatrist would visit the maternity unit the day after the planned C-section.  However, the psychiatrist didn’t show up, so I ended up with no mental health support at all and no specialist treatment when the psychosis did start to creep in.

Because the feelings were familiar the second time around and I was able to recognise them, I quickly shared my concerns with the doctors and requested to see a psychiatrist - but it became clear that nobody was coming. Because I wasn’t getting the right help and because I was so uncomfortable in the maternity ward, I decided that going home and trying to manage my illness and reach out for the right treatment myself was going to be best. So I went home and, in desperation, dialled 111 and requested a walk-in appointment. We then had to wait over five hours while I was actively psychotic, hearing voices and feeling really frightened and anxious, whilst we were also trying  to cope with a newborn baby and a three year old. Eventually, I approached the nurse and explained what postpartum psychosis was and that I needed emergency help. I was then seen quite quickly but the doctor would only prescribe sleeping tablets, rather than the required antipsychotics. Even though I knew immediately after giving birth what was happening, it was seven days after leaving the hospital that I eventually received any support from psychiatric services.

Following this, I stayed in the MBU over the Christmas period and, although I wish I could have been admitted right at the beginning, the care within the MBU was outstanding. I even managed to enjoy a short but sweet Christmas dinner with my husband and our children.

Given the insight I had following two previous episodes of psychosis, I truly believe that my second experience was entirely preventable – if only there was more awareness of postpartum psychosis.

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Danielle’s story: As a midwife, I was shocked that this thing I’d learned about in my career had actually happened to me

Danielle had been a midwife for over four years when she and her partner decided to try for their own family. Sadly, Danielle experienced a miscarriage before she was able to carry to full term, which meant that she was quite anxious while carrying her daughter. However, other than the worries and her morning sickness, Danielle’s pregnancy was relatively trouble free.

The birth, however, wasn’t the low lights, birthing pool experience that Danielle had hoped for and she had to undergo an emergency C-section after her induced labour didn’t go to plan. Add to that problems with an ineffective epidural, a haemorrhage and the fact that her baby became stuck resulted in a very painful and traumatic birth.

When Danielle got into the post op area she knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t put her finger on it. She felt emotionally and physically battered by the whole experience, and, instead of focusing on her baby, all she could talk about to her family, friends and colleagues was the trauma of the birth itself.

On day three, Danielle and her new baby daughter were able to go home which was both an anxious and an incredibly exciting time. As she walked in through the door and saw her pet husky, she immediately felt frightened that her beloved pet was evil and wondered why she was staring at her baby. She asked for her dog to be locked in another room.

As the days went by and visitors dropped in, Danielle could only talk of her traumatic birth and was able to focus on little else. She became unable to sleep and would stay awake all night for the feeds, rather than setting her alarm. Danielle also became obsessed with expressing milk however, because her mind was racing and she wasn’t eating or sleeping, she became unable to supply the breast milk her baby needed.

As the days wore on, Danielle became argumentative with her partner and everything became a huge issue. At this point, she convinced herself that she was suffering from postnatal depression. However, she also became convinced that her partner was suffering from post traumatic stress too and was preoccupied with finding him some help.

On day fourteen, after more arguments, Danielle told her partner to pack his bags, convinced that he was the problem. With this behaviour being so out of character, Danielle’s partner confided in both his mum and Danielle’s mum and both came to speak with her. On arrival, they found Danielle had locked all the doors and shut all the blinds and was unwilling to speak to anyone, getting angry and aggressive.

On that night, a GP visited Danielle and made her an appointment for a psychiatric assessment the following morning. At the appointment, Danielle couldn’t even read the papers in front of her that she was asked to sign - all the words had become blurry and back to front. At this stage she was sectioned.

While on the ward, Danielle had even forgotten that she’d given birth, having to check her caesarean scar to see if it had really happened. She became paranoid and was reluctant to take the prescribed drugs, thinking that the doctors and nurses were trying to kill her.

After a visit from her mum and her partner she eventually took her meds and slept for twenty hours straight. On waking, Danielle still felt incredibly confused, but she could feel parts of her old self coming back. She was given a leaflet on postpartum psychosis and was shocked that this thing she had learnt about during her career had actually happened to her.

Once the antipsychotics started to take effect, Danielle was moved to a mother and baby unit (MBU) to be reunited with her daughter. The MBU was brilliant and Danielle was able to meet other mothers going through the same thing and get the dedicated support she so needed. However, the MBU was three and a half hours away from home so it was a struggle for family to visit.

After less than ten nights in the MBU, Danielle was ready to go home. This is when the postnatal depression (PND) kicked in. Danielle says that the PND was so much worse than the psychosis because, with the psychosis, you don’t really understand how you feel or what is happening. She spent weeks continuing with her antipsychotic medication as well as antidepressants, but the depression persisted for around eight months and she really struggled. However, after eight challenging months, Danielle felt ready to return to work and started to feel like herself again.

Today, Danielle is feeling happy and confident as a mum and midwife and has a much greater understanding of postpartum psychosis having been there herself. She hopes to raise awareness to help other new mums who might be experiencing similar challenges.

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Charlotte’s story: I began campaigning so other mums didn’t have to go through what I did

Charlotte had never heard of postpartum psychosis (PP) when she gave birth to her first child in 2012. However, it was when she was still in labour that she first experienced the hallucinations, delusions and intense anxiety that comes with PP. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness at the time, it was wrongly assumed that Charlotte was suffering from PND (postnatal depression) and it would be another six months until the real nature of her illness was ever confirmed.

Having lived with extreme anxiety disorders, an eating disorder and alcoholism from a young age, mental health had always been of concern. So when Charlotte fell pregnant with her first child, her midwife referred her to the Cardiff perinatal mental health team – just to be safe. She was able to speak at length with a psychiatrist about the risks and was assured that, with Cardiff’s MBU in operation, there was a clear pathway to care should she need it.

Funding cuts, however, soon took away this much-needed safety net resulting in an extensive period of acute mental ill health for Charlotte.

25 years of age and overjoyed to be pregnant, Charlotte was looking forward to welcoming her first child into the world. However, things became difficult after 33 hours of labour, when Charlotte began hallucinating. She was convinced that there were men in white coats walking in and out of the labour suite, but when Charlotte asked her husband and midwife why they were there, they had to tell her that there was nobody there. The midwife assumed that Charlotte’s hallucinations were the result of confusion from extreme tiredness and the gas and air she was given.

The labour continued and was long and traumatic. Charlotte had had little to no sleep for a week and suffered a postpartum haemorrhage – further adding to her distress. Her husband was sent home three hours after the baby was born, and she was transferred to the maternity ward.

Left feeling alone and scared, coping with frightening delusions and hallucinations as well as learning how to hold and feed a baby for the first time, Charlotte was plunged into a world of paranoia and fear. Her head spinning, all she could hear was whispering coming from the cubicles around her, as if everybody was talking about her behind her back. Even though her baby was crying, she desperately wanted to run away and, at one point, sat on the wall outside of the hospital feeling detached from reality. Charlotte even believed at this point that she might be dead and looking down on herself from above.

The next morning, Charlotte was too terrified to tell her psychiatrist about the whispers and the hallucinations. She was already paranoid that people were trying to take her baby away, and so believed that confiding in them about the strange sensations she was experiencing would only strengthen their case for removing her child.

Instead, Charlotte assured her psychiatrist that all was well and that she just wanted to get home to sleep.

As the weeks went by, however, Charlotte’s mental health got much worse and her husband took her to see the doctor. Charlotte was still too afraid to tell anyone about the voices and whispers – as well as the new delusions she was experiencing – where she believed that her husband was drugging her. The doctors diagnosed her with PND.

At this point, Charlotte was seeing and hearing things that weren’t real on a daily basis – whether it was something small like a mouse running across the floor, or something big and traumatic, like her husband jumping through a closed window. Eventually, six months after giving birth, the mental health crisis team were called and came to see Charlotte in her home. She had been talking to the radio and her husband had witnessed this and been really taken aback – it was the first time he had seen first hand the extent of Charlotte’s symptoms. She was immediately diagnosed with PP.

But just when she needed the MBU in Cardiff for emergency care, she discovered it was due to close. Other than travelling hundreds of miles away from home, a general adult psychiatric ward was the only option for inpatient treatment. However, because Charlotte was unable to take her baby with her, and because she was already so terrified that people were trying to take her baby away from her, it simply would have made matters ten times worse.

Instead, Charlotte received home treatment which involved a combination of medications and lots of support from her husband, who had to dedicate his time to looking after her.

Eventually, Charlotte found herself responding positively to the treatment and, when her baby turned one, she was back to full health. But knowing what she knows now, that other women experiencing PP can often recover within weeks when they have access to specialist care at an MBU, Charlotte is determined to raise awareness and campaign for more of these services so that other mums don’t have to endure the year-long illness like she did.

Charlotte believes that, had the MBU been available to her in 2012, she would have If the MBU had been available to her in 2012, Charlotte

Knowing that increased awareness and having the right specialist support services close by would have given her back the year of her life that was lost to psychosis, Charlotte began campaigning to stop other mums having to go through what she did.

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Sally’s story: I believe that ECT and peer support saved my life

When I was separated from my baby daughter for hospital treatment I became convinced that something terrible had happened to her. For a time, I even believed that she might have died. For a woman experiencing postpartum psychosis (PP), the trauma, separation and anxiety was unbearable.

You have these ideas of starting family life in a bubble of happiness. Of course, we know that labour is painful and that sleepless nights are to be expected. But my experience was wildly different to what I was expecting.

Immediately following the birth of my gorgeous baby girl, Ella, was one of the most terrifying, inescapable nightmares I could ever have imagined. I was in such utter pain and despair day after day that I constantly thought of walking into the sea near our home in North Wales.

I’d had a relatively smooth pregnancy – nothing out of the ordinary. However, I was a week overdue and I was showing some signs of preeclampsia, so I was induced. The labour was difficult and Ella’s heart rate kept dropping and she was in distress, so eventually, she was born by Caesarean Section. But as I came round from the anaesthetic my confusion was off the scale.

I didn’t understand what was happening and, as such, I had a brain scan for a suspected stroke, which thankfully came back negative. I was simultaneously pleading with the nurses to sit with me as I was so scared about what was happening, and paranoid that they were talking about me. A few days later I got up to go to the toilet and collapsed, sobbing and refusing to get up.

In my mind, I believed that I'd died.

Everything was frightening and intense. The sound of babies crying was deafening, the whirr of the air conditioning unit overwhelmed me and the canteen trolleys sounded like trains crashing through the ward; lights being switched on were like explosions and I could see shadows on the wall. I saw a midwife take Ella away, and immediately believed she was being resuscitated because something awful had happened or perhaps I'd harmed her.

All throughout, I remained convinced that I'd hurt my baby and that I had died and was now living in the 'after life', a kind of hell. The nurses brought Ella to see me, to reassure me she was ok, but I was convinced they'd swapped her and that she really wasn’t OK.

I now know that I was having a psychotic episode.

My husband, Jamie, was informed that I was suffering from PP and I was transferred to a general psychiatric ward. I was prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medication. I was also separated from my baby which made me constantly anxious and reinforced some of the beliefs I had about her being swapped or coming to harm.

A week later, I had a review with the consultant and I told him things were better than they were just to be allowed out of there. A home treatment team was arranged to visit me every day but things didn't improve much. I'd manage to help meet Ella's basic needs, change and feed her. But I was going through the motions.

I then hit an extreme low, a bleak depression punctuated with psychotic symptoms.

Ten months after coming home, I told Jamie that I couldn't go on. My husband, who'd done so much to help me, was distraught. Determined to help, Jamie did a literature review on PP treatments and  electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) came up a lot. We found and asked to be referred to a world-renowned expert in PP. He agreed that ECT might help me.

There’s a lot of stigma around ECT – and you immediately think it's a barbaric, horrible treatment, involving being strapped to a chair and electrocuted. To be fair, it is fairly dramatic - you're anaesthetised and electrical currents are passed through your brain to trigger a seizure. But for someone like me, who was so acutely and chronically unwell, it was something that really helped.

Half way through the ten sessions, there was a shift in my thinking. Something terrible was being lifted from me. I believe ECT, along with the amazing peer support I received from other women who had experienced what I had, saved my life.

Gradually, I've grown stronger and my bond with Ella has become stronger too. It's sad to think about what I've missed out on but now I look at her and get excited that everything's ok and that we're here - happy and healthy.

Once you've suffered from PP there's a high chance of it recurring with subsequent pregnancies. It's a very personal choice, but even if there was only a slight risk of going through that again, for us, it's just not worth it.

But it's very important to me to give hope to others going through the horrors of PP. You'll be convinced it will never, ever end. I was convinced too. But today, I am recovered and living a happy and fulfilling life.

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Rachel's Story

2018_RachelHolliday_DSC_0466bRachel experienced Postpartum Psychosis twice, in 2000 & 2011, after the birth of both her children. Some of her story contains mention of her thoughts when she was acutely ill that some readers may find upsetting, especially as these included about her baby. If you are not feeling 100%, please be aware that Rachel’s story may not be for you at this time. There are other accounts of Postpartum Psychosis on this page which could be more helpful for you if you are looking for stories about the illness. Rachel has fully recovered and now volunteers with APP as a Regional Rep. She runs a hostel for the homeless in West Cumbria and has a great relationship with her children.

"This is my story of my experience of Postpartum Psychosis (PP) following the birth of my children.

So! like a lot of women out there, I got pregnant! And was thoroughly miserable. I was physically ill throughout the whole time. Never did I imagine that I would be probed, injected, examined and scrutinised on such a level that I wondered who my body actually belonged to.

The staff were always fantastic and lovely but it wasn't something I enjoyed. Not one bit! At 6 months pregnant when I threw up all over myself in a taxi and fainted I found myself at the maternity unit “threatening labour”. I was stabbed in each leg with steroid injections, strapped to a machine to monitor baby and after several attempts of taking a blood sample, they succeeded! They then...pricked my finger and to top it all off…inserted a pessary...

Labour managed to subside and I went home. I had pelvic arthropathy (where the tendons in my pelvis were strained) low blood pressure, Group Strep B...yet I digress. I was encouraged to attend the antenatal class but the problem with low blood pressure is you can't stand up for long before you pass out. So when I arrived a noticed a long queue of pregnant women...I joined the queue and eventually we slowly walked into the room but it was too late for me, I fainted and wet myself...!

Self respect, body and mind in shreds, my baby refused to turn. I could barely breath as he was stuck firmly under my ribs. Luckily my consultant had a great idea. He would turn him himself...! How would he do this you may ask? I’ll tell you. He put both his hands on my stomach, and wrenched him round. The pain was just unbearable. I went home and I just thought I can't go on. I sobbed and sobbed, my partner tried to phone my midwife for help but the Doctors Surgery were closed.

I opened my eyes. The LED light displayed 5.58am. At 6.00am there was a loud bang, like a gun shot, I thought I had been shot. I then realised my waters had broke. My partner rushed to the phone to call the hospital as I doubled over screaming with agony. They wanted to speak to me but the phone was attached to the wall downstairs...!! I crawled down the stairs.

"Help me!" I begged.
"Listen to me Rachel, you need to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea." I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing!! Had he called the wrong number???

Soon my parents arrived and drove me screaming and crying up to the hospital. I saw the light inside the hospital but when we got to the door...it was locked!!! We knocked and rang the bell. Eventually the door opened but the lift was broken. Pain searing through me with god only knows what running down my leg, we got to the ward and I got on to a bed.

I can’t tell you what happened for the next 2 hours and 28 minutes as it's rated 18 as it literally scarred me for life... I gave birth "naturally". I felt like I was lying in a torture chamber screaming and begging for someone (anyone) to help me.

My son was born, it was finally all over...the midwife walked over to me, pulled out my breast and began squeezing it with all her might with what can only be described as a blue / green / blood covered "thing" in her arms. He was placed in an incubator, he was 3 weeks early and blue and cold. Alarms sounded, the baby, staff and family rushed out and I was left. Like a slaughtered animal on a bed covered in my own bodily fluids. I didn’t care. I lay still in the silence.

"Rachel, its time to come and see your son". I knew he had died. He was in the morgue. I couldn’t lie there with my son in the morgue, alone. I got off the bed as the blood ran from me onto the floor. "That’s perfectly normal" the lady said. I think I had a bath, then I was in a wheelchair going to see my dead son.

She wheeled me into the SCBU and I asked, "where are we going?"
"We are going to see your son" she replied.
"He's alive?" I said.
"Of course he is!" she said.

And there he was; battered bruised, wires and tubes coming out of him...but alive.

I was put in a dark side room on my own with no clock or anyway of knowing what time or day it was. I was scared, I could hear the repeated screams of terror coming from my mouth but they were in my head. Every 5 minutes there was a knock.

"It's time for his feed". I had stitches inside and out where I had torn. Seven in total, walking back and forth to SCBU I just thought...you have to do this. He needs you. I sat next to him and prayed "God, if you let him live I will go to church every week, please just move him into the big boys cot." He had jaundice, 6 Lb 10 but was loosing weight.

The next morning he was in a big boys cot. As an atheist I was quite surprised that God had intervened.

Eventually we went home. I felt dead inside. At home the patterns on the curtains swirled as did the carpets. I couldn’t look at it too long it made me feel sick. There was a large dark shadow figure who stood in the corner of my bedroom, could it be the grim reaper... Night times were worst. Vivid nightmares which I couldn’t work out if I was awake or asleep. My son was decapitated, his limbs had been pulled off. Then I would look and he had his head, but I’d look closer and he had no eye balls, he had large pointed teeth like a wild animal. We were in the depths of hell.

I had to breast feed him with no eyes, just large black eye sockets. I would hear voices through the baby monitors. They were coming for me...they were watching and they knew... Knew what? I don’t know.

Darkness continued and people would come and go. I learned to hide it really well. My CPN at a later date said it was impossible to tell, we were always "well presented".

I begged my partner not to leave me alone. Sleep wasn’t an option, the screams of torture, the sight of my son with ripped off limbs. I could see germs, I went through hundreds of packets of anti bacterial wipes, I was convinced visitors were trying to spread germs to kill me and my son.

I was advised to get a "routine". This comprised of me getting ready and putting baby in the pram, walking to town, and trying to beat the notion to push the pram in front of the oncoming traffic. I would stand at the harbour knowing the water was warm and soothing and my son wanted to be in there with the peace and safety where he belonged. Then I would jolt out of it and walk back, trying to keep away from the main roads and traffic but then I would have to walk through the woods where dark shadows chased us hunting us down. Every now and then I would have a realisation of what I had done. I was capable of harm. I was the evil one.

A very clever sure start visitor recognised something was wrong. She got me to the doctors. I told them I couldn’t sleep or stop crying, but I couldn’t tell them the real truth... I had to protect the dark evil hell we were experiencing. They would lock me up and take away the baby...they would know our secret. So, they put me on anti-depressants. This made things a lot worse. Another encounter where the trees were trying to strangle me and the lamp posts were all on fire as we descended into hell, saw me taken to the local hospital for an assessment. I was placed on anti psychotic medication.

I had been suffering from Postpartum Psychosis. For four very long months.

So the hallucinations stopped and the reality of what I had been thinking hit me. One night when my friend was staying over, I put together all of my medication and took the lot and got into bed for one final time. I woke up in a hospital bed with a tube of charcoal forced down my throat. The nurses looked at my with disgust. Depression hit, big time. I couldn’t feel love, happiness, anger or sadness. Just nothingness and emptiness. Another suicide attempt followed and it seemed apparent I wasn’t going to die. Which seemed unfortunate at the time. Yet, things started to improve.

At this point I contacted APP. They had a "pen friend" project where you can speak to other mums who had been through what I had. She was a life-line, I never got to meet her but I can honestly say she got me through some of the darkest days of my life.

It took around 2 & ½ years to recover from PP. But I never recovered from the birth. Many many years later I was diagnosed with PTSD. I attended CBT therapy and finally, 10 years after the birth I was finally free.

So my life moved on, I got into work, Dylan went to school and things were great! I met my husband and he asked the question..."should we have a baby?"

I honestly thought I couldn’t put myself through that again but once again I got in touch with APP to ask for their advice and they were amazing. They managed to arrange a consultation with a perinatal psychiatrist consultant and he diagnosed me with Cyclothymia, a type three bi-polar and explained that it was highly likely I would have PP again so I needed to go to my GP and ask for them to put a care plan in place. Without this essential advice things could have been very different.

I struggled with the pregnancy, but with a fantastic care plan, mental health team, wonderful husband, friends and family I got through it!!

Anti psychotic medication was ready to be administered at 38 weeks to prevent PP rearing its ugly head...so of course I went into labour at 35 weeks! However, a great birth experience. WCH Maternity team were faultless. My daughter was in special care for a week... And yes I developed PP again as the medication takes a few days to kick in and get the levels correct. I was wrapped in love and care by everyone. The result? I was back in work and off medication within 6 months.

2018_RachelHolliday_DSC_0784aaa

When I recovered APP invited me to a meeting where survivors from all over the country were joining together to look at new ways of working. I was unsure about going as PP is such an emotive subject for me, but I went and it felt so great to be part of a community of women who understand. APP were looking for Regional Reps across the UK to help women just like me in my community who were suffering from PP. I agreed and I have got to say it’s the most rewarding work. PP is very taboo, but unless women like me and the other reps take a stand and raise awareness, more will suffer in silence.

I survived PP...twice. There are many that don’t. Which is why the new Mother and Baby Unit opening in September 2018 in Chorley, will be vital for the women of Cumbria and Lancashire.

I didn’t know PP, my partner and family didn’t know PP either, and because of that, we nearly all lost so much...

But there is good news!! We can and will recover from PP with the right help!!

Action on Postpartum Psychosis are an organisation built up with women just like me and the resources they offer are vital in the support to survivors of PP and their families.

Postpartum Psychosis has made me a stronger, more resilient person. I am alive and I love my children now more than ever! With the help and support of APP... I survived the battle and PP lost...Twice."