First off, let me explain that I have four amazing daughters, and I’m out the other side of postpartum psychosis – I hope that my words will help others to feel less alone. The power of words can be magical.
While I was fine mentally after my first daughter was born, I was faring poorly after giving birth to my second; I’d had a traumatic birth experience coupled with the loss of my relationship with my partner. My ex and I separated, so I blamed the loss of my relationship for my mental health issues. After I went to the doctor, I was given antidepressants, which I thought would help, but they only made me feel seasick, nauseous, and I couldn’t focus on anything.
With side effects like that, I stopped taking the antidepressants; I didn’t detox or stop taking them correctly, but still I felt like a million dollars and I felt a huge relief once I moved away from ex. Now, I adored my girls but I had bonding issues with my second, which is always painfully hard.
Three years later and I met my current husband. I’d never felt so content and adored. I fell pregnant with my third daughter, having once vowed I would never have any more kids – but I didn’t feel right denying my husband the joys of children – I gave him the gift of parenthood! I’d had a perfect pregnancy and labour, and the most beautiful little bundle was born. Four months later, we got married and my baby started to get ill – like really ill – and ended up tube fed in hospital for a week.
I’d stopped breastfeeding her during that week, and guess what?! I’d fallen pregnant with a fourth daughter, and this time my pregnancy was, at best, surreal, and, at worst, heartbreaking to relive. I became psychotic, erratic, forgetful, resentful, and fell completely off the rails.
One day, we were driving to collect my eldest daughters from their dad – 100 miles away – and I tried to stop our car in the middle of the motorway. My husband first thought I was joking but I wasn’t. I’d literally lost the plot. I was screaming and trying to change the gears on the car. I was trying to get out of the car while it was moving. Within a minute, my husband was crying, begging me to calm down.
In the UK it’s illegal to pull over on a motorway, but we got stuck in traffic and our eight-month old baby was screaming from the back of the car. I was 3 1/2 months pregnant and screaming that I was going to jump off a bridge. I was so desperate to get out the car. We couldn’t go anywhere, we were stuck in traffic with me inconsolable. My husband managed to pacify me.
At that point I should have sought help, I know that now, but I continued on with my life because I didn’t want to be prescribed additional shitty antidepressants. I soldiered on, all the while making everyone else around me miserable, scared, and resentful of me and my outbursts. I was vile, but I couldn’t see it or understand why I felt this way.
One morning, my husband went to get his hair cut at the barber and got caught in traffic – no big deal. When he came home, I started launching potatoes at his head – hot jacket potatoes straight from the oven, because I’d thought that if he didn’t have the manners to eat his dinner with his family, he could wear it! I was launching potatoes at his head while he was ducking, trying to reassure and cuddle me. Suddenly, I was convinced he was seeing someone else.
My postpartum psychosis was out of control. I was violent and vulnerable.
I used to go out at 2:00 AM when I couldn’t sleep and drive to the supermarket to do my weekly shop, just so I could drive past the cliff edge and dream of driving off of it. I was volatile and suicidal.
I adored my daughters and husband, but I genuinely believed everyone would be better off without my potato-throwing, car-stopping self in their lives. And quite frankly – at that time – they probably would have been. In the end, my husband rang my family, crying on the phone, begging them to intervene as he was at breaking point himself.
My mum drove me to A and E at 4:00 AM to see the emergency mental health team. It took five hours of me sitting, heavily pregnant, in a waiting room with heroin addicts fighting each other, waiting for their psych consultations before I was seen. I totally broke down. I was exhausted and scared and so, so confused. The mental health treatment team wanted to give me a c-section and sedate me, but it made me more irrational. I promised to stay with my family if I didn’t have to take any antidepressants, as all I could think was whatever I take, the baby takes.
They agreed with my plan, as long as I had a crisis meeting with my whole family and had someone with me at all times. By then, I had eight weeks to go. I was still an emotional train wreck but somehow I got through it. I gave birth to the most stunning little baby girl whom I bonded with immediately, thankfully. The mental health team believed that my symptoms were all related to hormones, as there was such a small age gap between babies and from the moment she was born I was fine. Since then, I have been mentally better.
Now, I have a completely different outlook on life.
At my most significant appointment, when I really was on the brink, the most wonderful psych doc told me this: “Suicide transfers your pain and torment to the ones you leave behind.” I truly believe those words are the reason I didn’t drive off of the cliff. I couldn’t leave my girls and husband.
I now live a normal life with my husband and four girls, and it feels like a lifetime ago. I talk about it a lot with friends and with strangers (and anyone who will listen) because I’m not ashamed of having had postpartum psychosis.
I’m simply proud to be out the other side and when people say they envy my beautiful family and relationship with my husband, I tell them the reality, and how much it took to get to where we are.
Then I tell them I have the best potato throw they will ever see!