Post partum madness and me - technically post partum psychosis - Normal - what an ambiguous word - I think I'm normal but by who's standards? Im a Perfectly functional dysfunctional mum - raising my children, 2 girls and our blue eyed boy - (plus two step daughters) - for the purposes of this blog I will be referring to the children as (xxl, xl), big medium and small (aged (13,13),5,2 and 1).
I grew up in the centre of town, raised by my grandparents - occasionally my asbergers bipolar mother came on the scene. (I will at some point get round to telling you about her - but I need a lot of energy to do so, it's quite unbelievable the things I will tell you, but for now we'll just leave it be)
Had an affair with a married man at the age of 17, ended up marrying that man at the age of 25 - followed by the birth of big, medium and small by the time I was 30.
Now I live in a busy diverse city with my wonderful little unit. They are my world and everything I do - I do for them. They are at the forefront of my thoughts constantly. Without them, my life would seem worthless.
I have battled with depression my whole life - stemming from childhood - my father died suddenly when I was turning 11 - my mother has asbergers and bipolar - she didn't deal with his death very well at all - she ended up getting hooked on Prozac and our relationship subsequently disintegrated - I left home at 18 - ran away in fact - got my first flat with my darling husband in Brixton , London - we lived there for a couple of years -had some amazing parties - in fact our lives revolved around getting as fucked as possible - we where complete wreck heads - best years of my life my early twenties - eventually left London when I was 24 - got married - had kids - and went mad. Quite literally.
Psychosis and me
Postpartum psychosis is a real taboo of pregnancy and birth - almost never spoken about - by writing this I hope I can raise awareness and help others out there, who like me have also been diagnosed with the condition shortly after giving birth. The stigma attached to mental health and parenting needs to end. I hope some of you gain something from this post - by writing it and relaying it to you I am In fact using it as self therapy.
I'd literally lost the plot. Gone mad. Was talking in riddles and rhymes quoting dr Seuss, Alice in wonderland and all sorts of stuff - some I remember , some I've been told by other people. The first few days of hospital was a Bleur - I have amnesia for most of it. By about day 4 I was nearly out the fog that I was lost in - and slowly merged into a more normal sense of madness if you like. It actually in parts was quite fun. We'd watch tv cuddled up in our lounge wear - eating and sharing junk , having a laugh - sharing stories / discussing previous mental health problems - most of the girls also had bipolar and previous mental health problems. I don't have bipolar - unlike my mother - but that's a different story entirely.
I don't want to scare anyone who's currently going through this - instead I want to reassure you - you will 99.9% recover from this illness through the care of your doctors and a good support network- my psychosis and time spent in a mother and baby unit lasted 4.5 weeks - obviously it's down to the individual how quickly recovery time is - for example I have a close alliance who was in the unit for 6 months - another one there for 3 months - we all got there in the end though. As long as you take the prescribed medication, recovery will be imminent.
What led to my psychosis? As previously mentioned I've battled with depression my whole life -stemming from childhood. This particular episode occurred after having a very difficult pregnancy - I was diagnosed with hyperemisis with small - trying to look after my eldest children whilst constantly feeling nauseous and throwing up - numerous times I would literally throw up on the street whilst big watched medium in her buggy - I christened most of the local trees in my area with my puke. Was awful. Goodness knows what passers by thought. I was prescribed anti-sickness meds - but unfortunately sometimes they wouldn't work as I'd throw up the actual pills. I used to set my alarm for 3am to take the anti-sickness meds to cover me for the morning madness - a couple of times I turned my alarm off and boy did I pay for it - literally hours sat on my bathroom floor retching over the loo whilst my kids popped in every now and then to show me something - I'd like to say they where coming in to comfort me - wishful thinking. But no, No such luck.
During my pregnancy we lost my darling grandma - suddenly - I cannot even put into words how close we where and how much I loved her. Losing her I lost a little bit of myself too. She was my guardian in all sense of the word. I looked up and admired her. She also showed me love that no one other than my husband has ever shown me, her love for me was unconditional. Grandma left me in charge of her will - much to the dismay of the birth mother - who subsequently contested the will - to little joy - (ha - up yours bitch) - I wrote grandmas eulogy whilst pregnant - this in itself was traumatic - throw in a load of pregnancy hormones too - you can imagine I'm sure. Even writing this now brings tears to my eyes.
Smalls birth too was traumatic. He came 6 weeks early - so was 3 weeks premature - I fell down the stairs with medium - this brought on early labour - I went to bed - woke up because I thought my waters had gone - once the light was switched on quickly realised I was in a pool of blood - husband immediately called the ambulance - took me to hospital - after an examination realised that yes I was in labour - husband quickly drops off girls to their grandma - makes it back just in time for the birth. The birth itself was horrific - my 3rd Caesarian- small was so engaged they had to use forceps in me - this was the first section I actually felt - I pleaded with the anaesthetist for more pain relief - the only thing she could offer me was to put me out entirely - something I wasn't prepared to do as I was desperate to meet my boy - he was then placed immediately in my arms - still with all the gunk on him - it was the most natural section I've had. Was amazing. I was truly blessed that my small didn't need any help with his breathing - he was perfect - all 5lbs of him. I was completely in love. We spent the whole time in recovery cuddling and breast feeding. Small had jaundice so we spent 8 days in hospital whilst he got better. During the 8 days I literally had no sleep. Had complete insomnia in fact. Because of my brutal section I was taking a lot of morphine - 10ml every 2 hours, then 5ml every 2 hours, gradually reducing down to 5ml 2-3 a day. This I was told by a lovely mid wife was an awful lot - they where trying to work out how someone of my stature could tolerate so much. This I was told by my lovely midwife had a lot to do with the fact I used to be a wreck head. Apparently if you've taken recreational drugs to include e's and heroin - you need a lot more pain relief after operations - and a caesarean, let's not forget, is a major abdominal operation. Whilst on the morphine I had very vivid thoughts rushing through my mind. My emotions where heightened. I was having major highs and lows. I became obsessed with small and his wellbeing - I started thinking he was going to be taken away, and became quite irrational about it. I was convinced social services where coming. I started thinking everyone was after me.
Once home - my thoughts about smalls' well being and the well being of my girls and family in general - started to become even more obsessive as such - I can't remember everything but my husband has since told me about my strange behaviour and obsessions around the house just before I was finally sectioned. I was writing text messages in code - it made perfect sense to me at the time - this really freaked my husband out. I had 1001 thoughts racing through my mind - the voices in my head where telling me to do things - I literally couldn't switch off - I used small as an excuse not to sleep - the voices in my head where telling me something bad was going to happen to him - id watch him sleep between feeds. The insomnia played a massive part in my psychosis. As part of my recovery plan it was decided that all feeds after 10pm would be done by the nurses in the unit. Reluctantly I agreed to them giving him formular. Finally I could switch off and started getting roughly 6 hours sleep a night - a vast improvement on the no sleep I was living off prior to this. Once home, the husband continued the night feeds.
It all started a year ago. I found myself standing by my window screaming out "husbands name".... That was a dark night. I vaguely remember my neighbour coming upstairs and clutching to husband as I thought she was after me. Looking in the mirror I didn't see myself I saw the devil - a skinny dark haired version of my self with a thick black beard. I'll never forget what I saw that night.
I'd only been home 48 hours from hospital. I'd been behaving out of character according to my nearest and dearest , doing strange things, watching strange things, analysing adverts on tv - random thoughts going through my head constantly, thinking everything was a calculated game, and everything I did and thought had innuendos.
After screaming out for help the ambulance arrived in 2 hours and took me to a mother and baby unit couple of hours away. Whilst waiting for the ambulance I lied on the bed with my husband - the longest most surreal wait of my life - I literally thought I was dying - I thought my heart was slowing down - I also couldn't hear properly - all I could hear where the voices inside my head.
I have no recollection of my first night there - apparently I bit a member of staff because I thought she was after me and going to harm my baby and me. I arrived in the unit about 1am - I vaguely remember sitting in (the tv) a quiet room - a man greeted me (later discovered he was a senior doctor) I remember saying out loud 'you know what's wrong with me? Thank you thank you' at this point I was so confused and the voices in my head where telling me I was dying - also when I spoke I heard a deep mans voice instead of my normal voice. I was hallucinating too - seeing and hearing things that weren't there.
The morning after my admission I had an assessment with a senior doctor , his assistant and a team of nurses, occupational therapists and some students. They told me I had post partum psychosis - also kept telling me I would recover 100% from this episode as long as I took the medication they prescribed me. As I was ebf small , they had to be slightly careful. I was prescribed olanzipine / the exact dose I am unsure of. Within a few days the medication started to work, and I was starting to get better. At this point I also started getting a few hours sleep.
I was in a real state - all alone with my 9 day old baby in a room with 5 other girls who'd also gone mad - I had little comfort but knowing I was in a safe place and knowing they where helping me allowed me to feel slightly better.
For some reason I'd become obsessed with the alphabet - all 26 letters of it - I believed that somehow by repeating the alphabet - it was saving me from my last breath. I'd also started listening to music lyrics and tv adverts and thought everything I heard and saw had a direct message to me personally - I had feelings of being lost and felt somewhat homeless at times - petrified of authority and trusting only a few doctors and nurses.
My mind set was somewhat all over the shop - I kept repeating random Alice in wonderland quotes to everyone - soon we built alliances and actually felt like a family - though we resided in a secure mother and baby unit aka borstal, boarding school, at times was eastenders and at times downtown. We put the world to rights many a time. I adored the girls i cohabited with - lots of ot- cooking , painting, knitting, yoga and the gym.
The unit itself had a nursery, laundry room , kitchen , communal room with an arts and crafts corner , round tables and chairs - a corridor with all the en suite bedrooms , a tv room with sofas and magazines, a medicine room, doctors rooms and a large room (the room I had my initial assessment in the morning after the night before), plus the office. Oh and the courtyard! I spent a lot of time out there having f a g's (said letter by letter) with the other girls under the 'bus shelter'. There was a large evergreen plant in the centre of the courtyard, I found myself muttering the words 'going round the bend' as I literally skipped round the mulberry bush on many a f a g occasion. I took pride in my little bedroom, tried to keep it neat and tidy, I found it was the little things which brought me comfort over the 4.5 weeks I resided in the unit. I occupied my days with laundry, cooking (I didn't eat one hospital meal, instead I cooked the most delicious meals for myself, this was all part of my recovery, I found cooking was so therapeutic and would recommend to anyone in a similar position ). I bonded with my boy, ordinarily if I would have been discharged home after the birth, I wouldn't have had the quality time I had with small - I have 2 other children. So wouldn't have been able to dedicate the amount of time I did to small. In a way it was a blessing in disguise.
By the second week the doctors could see a drastic change in my behaviour and general well being. The medication was working. At this point I felt like I was back at school (I went to an all girls day school ) and could only imagine this is what boarding school would have been like. We had made strong alliances with one another - I had nick names for all the girls - they gravitated themselves towards me I found - mainly because I'm a very happy go lucky type of person at heart - a ring leader at school - without blowing my own trumpet I was popular at school - and found I was also popular in the unit. My alliances said I bought the best out in them - made them feel alive again, and quite frankly we are all mad to a certain degree even if not going through a psychotic episode.
The hardest thing about being in the unit was being separated from my eldest children and my husband.
We had many a drama and excitement in the unit - the Spider incident - Trips to primarnie - Sneaky gnts. Daily gnts in fact. Well towards the end when they started letting me out for a couple of hours a day so I could meet up with friends. It was actually quite relaxing and good for me to bond with small. We would spend most of the day cuddling watching tv and breast feeding whilst chatting to the other girls. Normally I'm a very busy hands on full time mum to two crazy emotional girls. Life's full on. So the unit was like a recluse.
I amazed the doctors by recovering so quickly - and that's what happened - I had a couple of over night stays called 'leave' at home - then would go back get reassessed by doctors and so on until I got discharged at 4.5 weeks from being sectioned earlier on in the month - I was so happy to be home - but readjusting was hard - the husband took the kids and i away for a week in the isle of white - it was great - we where on holiday mode so where having gnt's for breakfast and you name it. We had fun and you know what we deserved it. Against all the odds we had a little boy to cherish and introduce to our darling daughters. And we lived happily ever after. Joking. We are a completely functional dysfunctional family - full of love and screaming and early starts and sometimes very late nights with friends. You know who you are. Going through my experiences has made me a stronger and better mum. I've learnt to be more patient and to really try and cherish my children's lives. Their lives go by so quickly, I can remember the birth of my first daughter like it was yesterday.
I've become a lot more hands on. Thanks for reading