Everyone is Here to Help – A healing account of postpartum psychosis and recovery

When her son was only two weeks old, Ruth was sectioned and admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit where she was treated for postpartum psychosis.

While there, she took copious notes, photographs and had lengthy correspondences by text with her family. Ruth’s detailed notes and messages allow for a unique insight into the experience of this complex and often frightening condition.

Published on 30th April, to mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, Ruth has written a memoir which uses these materials to reconstruct her experience alongside insights and reflections from a well perspective.

An extract

One morning in December 2020, just after my son turned one, my mind busied with thoughts and memories: they flooded me. I took a green pack of post-its and started jotting down thoughts and memories, and didn’t stop until a couple of hours later. What I was writing were reflections from after our beautiful baby boy was born. Two weeks into motherhood, I became seriously ill with postpartum psychosis and was admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) two hours away from where we lived. There, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and remained for five weeks and five days.

In a very short space of time I went from the strength and excitement of being a new mum, to the miserable fall of mental instability and unreality. It was terrifying. I felt it unfair and unlucky to have suffered in this way, but blessed that there was a bed available for me so I was not separated from our gorgeous baby boy.

I have referred to the unit fondly and simply as ‘MBU' throughout this book, as that’s the name we used at the time and since. This book was written predominantly for myself. I felt, if I wrote everything down, I could move on more easily and would help the last stages of healing: that it could give me some closure and quieten my mind again. I used my diary, the notes in my phone, photographs, phone messages and hospital paperwork to help me piece together a coherent picture of what I had gone through. 

Even with these to help me, I have found that the great swings in emotion throughout each day, and the new light that hindsight and health have cast on those experiences, has made it hard to keep the story as clean and clear as I might wish it could be. I also strongly believe that I owe it to my ‘ill self' to give her a voice, as even though she was ill, wrong, delusional – she still existed. And so although I have written it mostly retrospectively, from a place of relative health, I have kept the first person notes made at the time, to ensure that her voice is heard and that every version of the events that transpired there is represented. These ramblings are often muddled, confused and nonsensical, and I should warn those of you who are reading this that it is not always a happy place to be. 

I have also chosen to include messages between me and my family, because they were such a crucial element of my experience and recovery, and to whom I am always thankful, ever thankful. These are conversations between myself and my parents, my husband, and my sister – people with whom I was in constant daily contact. Again, they express the raw emotions we experienced, and the help I received during my time there. Writing this book has been highly emotional – embarrassing at times. I also know that witnessing me become so unwell cannot have been easy for any of my family or friends. It pains me to think of my husband waving goodbye to his wife and baby boy - barely three weeks old. The cruelty of false reality: I am not sure who it is more upsetting or frustrating for.

I'd be lying if I said what happened to me was completely behind me, that I feel nothing but positivity from the experience, as that isn't the case. Recovery isn't linear. I still have days where I cry at the drop of a hat, feel that life was unfair, I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t been admitted. At times I still feel that I missed out terribly on Eddie's first few weeks and I just get days where I feel cross and angry and upset, and maybe I can't even put my wild emotions into words.   

I could not, however, have made the swift recovery I did without the dedication of the staff at MBU, their Outreach Team, the Perinatal Mental Health Team and also the unlimited love, support and encouragement from my incredible family and friends. Thank you all for being so strong for me throughout this strange and truly challenging experience. I wish you all peace and hope in your minds, health in your bodies and love in your hearts.

I also wrote this book with the hope that women who have experienced postpartum psychosis, or have had negative experiences with mental illness, may learn something from what I have been through - that some may find focus and strength in my story - and that perhaps healthcare professionals and carers alike might gain insight into this serious illness by reading my story.

Ruth's book about her experience of postpartum psychosis is available to buy now from Foyles, Waterstones and Amazon, with 2% from the sale of each copy going to APP.