Welcome back to the Mums and Mental Health post series on Mumsy Midwife, this week’s post is by Katy from It’s me Katy C. She is discussing her experience of postpartum psychosis. You can find her on Twitter, go and take a look! If you want to see the other posts in the series click here.
“There is still in our society a massive amount of stigma around mental health. In my opinion, this is intensified when mental health issues coincide with motherhood. I’ll confess that I had my own stereotypically negative ideas about it before I gave birth and all my opinions were blown out of the water by a diagnosis of Postpartum Psychosis.
New motherhood should be the happiest time of your life, right? Everything is glowing, warm and wonderful, right? Wrong. For many mothers, new motherhood is absolutely nothing like it is portrayed. In fact, I’d go as far as to say for the majority it’s a pretty tough time. Then you get people like me, just your average 30-something, sensible, logical, life planned out meticulously and wham, childbirth equals broken brain. We’ve all heard stories of traumatic births, physical complications and prematurity, and all these things are met with understanding, sympathy and compassion. But how many of us are aware of mental health difficulties after childbirth? I certainly wasn’t, sure I’d heard of baby blues and post-natal depression but not a single person I knew had talked about anything like this happening to them. So when it happened to me, I was ashamed, I couldn’t bear the thought that I might be the subject of gossip and rumours.
Postpartum Psychosis can happen to ANY woman after childbirth. I had no risk factors for becoming unwell but yet 4 days in, I was under the care of the local crisis team. I suffered hallucinations, religious delusions, hyper-sensitivity, paranoia, confusion, elevated mood, depressive symptoms, insomnia. I had absolutely no clue what was happening to me but my biggest fear? That I was going to lose my baby. Now I’m pretty certain that had I suffered any physical complications, that would not have been my biggest worry.
Luckily, my fears were unfounded, nobody tried to take my baby. In fact, the opposite happened and I was transferred to an MBU in order to keep us together. I ended up having two stays on the MBU as after my initial discharge I was hit with the intense depression that often follows PP. Recovery has been long and winding and technically is still continuing. I have had to smash apart my own stigma around mental health and although I am compassionate and understanding with other sufferers, sometimes I do still apply my previous negative thinking to myself.
I’m now open about my illness and I’m met with a variety of responses. Some people just gloss over it, others show an almost morbid fascination. My favourite response is one of interest, I have no qualms about answering questions and I love it when someone stops to tell me that they’ve seen or heard an article or feature on it. These people also share with others their interest and that’s exactly what I want to happen. It is time to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness and motherhood. We are normal, it’s not our fault, and none of us are immune to mental illness. I now know, both in reality and online lots of mothers who have suffered mental illness and I have to say, we are pretty awesome!”
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