I was taken by ambulance to an acute psychiatric mixed ward without my baby. I’d been having delusions since a couple of days after giving birth and at home things had got much worse. It was only when I was taken to Bethlem MBU and reunited with my baby that I finally started to trust people and get on the road to recovery.
My pregnancy was straightforward, a very lovely pregnancy. But I was overdue so things didn’t exactly go as planned and I ended up having an emergency c section. Unfortunately, both my baby and I had an infection so we ended up being on the postnatal ward for a week rather than the couple of days I was expecting. I had severe insomnia and I was taking strong pain medication and I think this might have all played a part in me getting unwell.
So I was in pain, medicated, emotional and exhausted. But I think the turning point was when I received a message from a friend with some bad news about another close friend of ours, which triggered some strange thoughts and symptoms in me and some extreme paranoia.
For example, I noticed that when someone sent me a message, my response wanted to say happy new year or happy Christmas and I couldn’t understand why I wanted to write it. I also believed that I was being tested as to whether or not I was a good enough mum. And every time there was a bleeping sound on the ward I thought it was because I had done something wrong.
I filled in a form to say that I wasn’t feeling great mentally, but as my paranoia got worse, I retracted the letter. I asked for it back and ripped it up. And then, even though I wasn’t well, at times I appeared, on the outside, to be fine. So it was decided that I was going home with my baby.
When I finally got home, all the paranoia ramped up and I never slept. I was stuck in the house and there were people coming and going – midwives, health visitors, family members.
It got to a point where I was really confused. I couldn’t give the midwife the correct information, and when my family visited from America I was confused about who was who and started imagining that my niece was my long lost daughter. Then I started going through phases believing that my son had died – so much so that when I went to register the birth I was convinced they were going to hand me a death certificate.
I just questioned everyone and everything felt really trippy, and I became obsessed with things like clocks, so my mum removed all the clocks from the house.
My family, realising there was something very wrong, tried to work together to get me some help. Eventually I was visited by paramedics and then a doctor who I think prescribed me an antipsychotic – they were trying to treat me at home at that point.
Meanwhile, my mum was doing her own research and found out about postpartum psychosis – so, in a way, it was my mum who diagnosed me! But I became quite aggressive and frightened, so they had to call the police and the paramedics, and I even had to be handcuffed in order to be taken to hospital.
They took me by ambulance to an acute psychiatric mixed ward without my baby.
The ambulance ride was frightening because I was convinced I was in grave danger and I thought all the medical professionals were fake – I thought they were really all terrorists.
So when I finally got into hospital I refused to eat or sleep or take medication. I was paranoid about everyone and everything.
Nothing was working and I was in full-blown psychosis, at the peak of my illness, and without my baby. Everything seemed crazy to me - but I was the one being crazy. I started doing morse code on the window, and became paranoid about different colours – anyone who had a pen or who was wearing anything in the colour blue I simply couldn’t trust.
As I wasn’t getting any better, they decided to take me by private ambulance to Bethlem Royal to the MBU there.
Thankfully, not long after getting to the MBU, things started to change.
I don’t know if I felt more comfortable because there were more women there, and because my son was able to come and stay with me, but I started trusting the staff and taking my medication.
I think it was also because there was more of a normal kind of atmosphere in the MBU and there was a really good programme with specialists who knew all about mums and babies. I had lots of help learning how to make a bottle up and how to change my baby’s nappy – something that was invaluable because, with PP, everything seems ten times harder. Plus, knowing my son was safe and close by meant I was able to start sleeping. I started getting a good eight hours sleep!
I stayed in the MBU for nine weeks.
I 100% believe that if I had gone in the MBU straight away I would have started my recovery straight away.
I think my parents and my husband were given the option of an MBU at the start, but they didn’t really understand what it all meant so I really wish there was more awareness about specialist services and why they’re so important.
Now I feel I’ve fully recovered. Since my son turned seven months I’ve been so active with him, visiting friends, going to baby groups. I love being a mum and I feel like I’ve been making up for lost time – doing all the normal things new mums do.
I’ve also gone back to work and I now work with a charity that helps people with learning disabilities and mental health problems. And I’ve started a mother and baby group to help provide peer support and a place for mums to be able to talk freely with other mums.
While the whole experience of having postpartum psychosis – and the anxiety and postnatal depression that followed - was frightening, in some ways I’m glad I experienced it. It’s helped me to relate to people, and to provide support to others because of my lived experience which is really valuable in my job, too.
I feel that its so important for me to be able to share that there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope - even when you’re seriously unwell like I was.