Monday, 11 January 2016

How I Lived With Post Natal Psychosis

When I heard that Eastenders was writing a story line where one of the characters 'Stacey' would suffer from postnatal psychosis, I actually knew they would portray the illness really well. I don't watch Eastenders (or any other soaps) - I am the mother of a five year old, do you think I ever get to watch what I want to? As I deliberated for a couple of days, whether or not to watch it as I knew it would stir some memories that I thought might be left buried in the past. You see I also suffered from Post Natal Psychosis! Not to the extent of the character on the programme but here is my story.
photo credit
I had Tilly at 37 years old and I thought I was a really experienced mum with her being my fourth child, but nothing prepared me for how my life was going to spiral out of control and I would need two years of Psychiatric help underneath the mental health unit at my local hospital. 

Everyone tells you how wonderful you will feel after you have a baby, your expected to be supermum and deal with your emotions as well as bringing up a baby you have all these mixed feelings about. When you have a baby, people comment that you have nothing to be sad/depressed/unhappy about and that you have a whole future with your child ahead of you. Thing is ...... you can't see a future, you can see the here and now - and it is some scary shit!

As soon as I had Tilly, I felt that I had made a mistake by having another child. She cried a lot (colic) I missed work, I missed my independence and I felt like I couldn't breathe. I told my health visitor and she did the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is like a test to see how you're feeling and she booked me into the doctors straight away. I saw the Doctor, who asked if I needed counselling and of course I said 'No' after all I couldn't be seen to be failing with my child. I was quite honest about the depression with friends and they helped out a fair bit with Tilly.

But when some of them found out the extent of my depression, they laughed at me or simply walked away calling me 'nuts' or 'psycho'. One girl in particular played with my depression and convinced me that I had to do things and then she would turn it against me. She would feed my disillusions and then when I had done the things she asked, she would then tell people I had done it off my own back. She made me out to be a lunatic that had escaped an asylum.... maybe in her eyes that is what I was. It all came to a head when one day she convinced me to invite Tilly's dad round to her house as she wanted to meet him. She knew we weren't together and that he wasn't a nice man, yet she had convinced me to get him to come to her house. When he was there, she phoned a friend and told him that I had bought him to her house and that he was being a danger to her child. We had an arguement and I left. Tilly's dad took me home and I took an overdose in front of him. He reslised in horror what I had done and he walked away, told me that he couldn't be found in my house by his girlfriend. He just left me, confused, scared and wanting to die.

I got taken to hospital and treated like a second class citizen, but it was my own fault wasn't it? I had text messages from this friend telling me as much, that I was selfish and should never of done it, but when you get to the point that you don't know whats real and what isn't - you just want to get out of the situation. Thoughts are so confusing that you don't know whats real.

After I came out of hospital I made the choice to fight, but I had a real battle on my hand. I tried to bond with my baby more and closed my whole family down to anyone outside. Nobody was going to hurt us again! I started to get disillusion and thinking that people were talking about me everywhere. As I walked in town, all I could hear was people talking about me and still I denied I had a problem, because I wasn't going to let anybody close to us. I read the local paper every week scouring for articles about me, and I would buy a few copies and read them all thinking that there would be a different story in one of them. I really thought I was the centre of peoples lives.

Still I was denying there was a problem. It all came to a head one day when Tilly was ill with a chest infection that turned into secondary pneumonia, no fault of anybodies but I actually thought the childminder was poisoning her. Of course she wasn't but that's how it was. The thought festered inside me and it got to the point where I couldn't leave the house without Kim, the thought of it made me shake with fear. I had to make a list of the day, I had to wake up at the time on the list, I had to be out of bed and ready to go out of the door by the time on the list (I mean to the minute) otherwise my whole day was ruined and I couldn't function.

I knew I needed help and went to my boss and told her I needed to leave my job. She said and did something that I will never forget for as long as I live, because she understood and she told me she wouldn't let me leave because it would be the worst thing. So my shifts got dropped to 4 hours a week and I worked in the warehouse doing delivery. That mean't I was off the shop floor, I knew what I was doing and I had a plan that I stuck with. It was a way of coping with the job and meaning I didn't have to give up, I could keep fighting. I went to the doctor, who got me in with a Psychiatrist. It had been 10 months since I had my child and it was the loneliest 10 months of my life.

I would like to say that everything improved and I made a miraculous recovery, but I didn't! its not that easy and it took me a further 16 months before I started to feel better. I could start being more honest with people about how I was feeling and one person laughed in my face - I never spoke to her again. Other friends joked about it, which was a way that I dealt with it. Others just didn't know what to say or do and they walked away. The thoughts of people talking about me and pointing in the street, they didn't stop for a long time and as long as I had Kim with me, I could cope with them doing it. Of course none of it was real, but to me it was. We live on the coast and I was convinced that we were going to be caught up in a tidal wave and die. I had action plans set in place and made sure I knew where my kids were at all times. I would be pushing the pram and I would grip it so hard that my hands hurt, I was convinced she was going to be swept away in the sea, or she would be dragged along the path and onto the road. I could see all this happening so visually in my head. It took a lot of therapy to get me to even start being normal again. I even phoned a friend at 3am one morning as i was convinced I had taken the wrong baby home from baby group, It sounds unbelievable but it happened. I was diagnosed with Bipolar and sent on my way. I refuse to take medication because I feel med's are used to much to cover illnesses and they don't help them. I learn't to deal with my illness in my own way and I am still learning now.

I have a lot of regret and guilt with the way I was with Tilly. I lost two years of her life and there are only snippets that I actually remember. I made sure that I wrote things down and took loads of photo's. I had to create memories for myself. One thing that i will never forget though is the month after I took my overdose, the Health Visitor left my house after a session one week and said to me 'I can't deal with this, I am not trained for it' (or something along those lines) and she walked away and I never saw her again, I never saw another HV since that day.  Tilly attended no health checks or development checks, I knew her better than any HV, so I knew she was meeting all her targets. But not once did a HV make a safety check on my family. We were left to deal with it ourselves. Having this illness made me a completely different person to the way I was. It tore me apart and kind of rebuilt me as a different person. I love this person and I embrace her. YES I have anger issues, but only if you piss me off but I deal with them.

Bringing PND/PNP to the surface in a soap watched by millions of people every week is going to bring awareness to the people of the country. People like my HV, who should of known how to deal with it will learn more about the illness. More training is needed by professionals and the government need to give more money to the NHS for mental health to get these people trained up. More recently a social worker told me that she would be worried about me taking in my grand daughter because of the mental health. Just because people have Bipolar or other mental health problems, they are not going to harm a child. Why can't the professionals see this? A mother with mental health problems will protect her children from the world. So I say well done to all the researchers on Eastenders, to the charities involved and to the actors. You have portrayed the story line in a sensitive and realistic way that will leave an impact on many peoples lives.

blogging mummy

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