I am so glad I found this website. It's been really good reading other women's stories and realise you're not alone. I thought I should share my story. This is a story about what happens when PP is NOT diagnosed, misdiagnosed and then diagnosed far too late.
I had PP following the birth of my daughter in 2011 but unfortunately, I was not diagnosed for 4 and half months. I had no history of mental illness. When my baby was only 10 days old, I did go to a M&B Unit for a few days after hitting my then-partner but was discharged because it was believed my angry outburst had been "situational" (he had been verbally abusive), therefore due to relationship difficulties and not a consequence of mental illness.
I subsequently left my ex partner's home with my baby when she was only 5 weeks old in really difficult circumstances. The police, social services and the Health Visitor were all involved and my daughter and I were rehomed. It was a very confusing and distressing time and I remember telling services that perhaps I should go back to the M&B Unit as I was very shaken and felt I was "losing my mind". The break-up with my ex was very acrimonious and I became convinced he wanted to hurt me and our baby. I started getting "flash backs" of various things he may have done to her while we were still living together and was terrified. I became fixated with the idea of protecting my daughter against her father and saw my struggle to do this as battle of a good vs. evil. As I wouldn't let him see her, he took me to court for visiting rights.
A week before the hearing was due, my solicitor informed me I did not have enough going on against my ex partner to justify the supervised access I was pushing for. That was the tipping point. The fragile reality I had reconstructed over the last 3 months just collapsed, the world ceased to make sense and I started feeling suicidal. When asked what would become of my baby if I commited suicide, I replied I would take her with me. In my psychotic mind, this was the only way I could protect her from her evil father.
Because I had voiced infanticidal ideas, my daughter and I were separated and I was taken to an acute ward in a general psychiatric hospital. By then, I was seeing and hearing things and became convinced I was there because I had superpowers and a special purpose, although that purpose changed from one hour to the next: world peace, a cure for bipolar disorder, the dismantling of a paedophile ring, a biblical prophecy, a military experiment ordered by the Queen... The TV, newspapers and magazines were all sending me messages about these "missions". The other inpatients - all women - also had a role to play in these missions. One inpatient gave me a bible and a picture of the Queen and treated me like I was the "chosen one". At first I started looking for my daughter on the ward and when I couldn't find her, I rationalised she could not be with me as I was in there for my own protection. Soon, "they" would come and get me and reunite me with her. We would be flown to a super high security island in the middle of the ocean where we would live happily ever after. On one of her visits, one of my friends asked for a list of my closest friends (to get in touch with them via facebook). I took that to mean all the people who mattered to me would also join us on that island.
A social worker came to tell me that my daughter had been given to my ex partner, I did not believe her. The court hearing came. I was not allowed to go and temporary custody was granted to my ex. I was told but I did not register. Instead, I threw away the court hearing papers I was given and fired my solicitor on the phone.
Then amazingly, despite my sleepless, erratic and strange behaviour and despite my friends' concerns that I was clearly not myself (concerns they had voiced to staff), I was diagnosed with "a personality disorder" after 6 days and told to pack my bags and go. I imagined angry crowds were waiting for me outside and did not want to leave. I stood in my room with my back pushing against the door to prevent staff from getting in as they shouted I needed to pack and go home. When a social worker rang me on my mobile, I demanded diplomatic immunity and my baby back "and it better be the right baby!". When my dad rang me, I told him I wanted all the voices to shut up, I had the squeaky toy Sophie the giraffe in my hand and threatened to squeeze her "we all know what that means in the Wendy house". The voices gasped and were quiet for a while. By then, my family, who live abroad, were understandably very worried.
Meanwhile my best friend was at the end of her tether trying to speak to someone on the ward about my discharge. A very close friend of mine - who is a GP - had already spoken to a nurse, saying that in the 11 years she had known me, she had never seen me like this. Nobody listened. Eventually, my best friend gave up, because in her own words, "noone seemed to give a shit", she packed my bags (I was incapable at that point) and took me home where I got much much worse. Within hours I became convinced there were microphones in the flat, I had been watched and followed all along, I had pissed off some pretty important people and the building we were in was going to be knocked down with us still in it.
Because of the way I had been treated in hospital, my best friend did not want me to go back there but at the same time, she could not look after me for ever. She arranged for me to fly home to my mother's. I did as I was told when she got me to phone my family to let them know I was coming. In my mind, I was actually joining them on the remote island where they would be waiting for me along with my deceased relatives (I had heard my dead great grand dad on the phone). At the airport, my friend got staff to take me though security and to my boarding gate. By then, I thought I was being deported for having caused a war between the UK and my home country. I somehow managed to get on the plane and upon landing, squeezed Sophie the giraffe 3 times to ensure we wouldn't crash.
I also somehow got off the plane and went through border control. I did not go to baggage reclaim and wandered aimlessly in the terminal. My mother eventually found me and got my suitcase. When she did, I opened it to see if my baby was in it. The journey home was terrifying. The capital city which I knew well and had traveled through so many times had become completely alien. The country was at war because of me and people stared angrily at me for that reason. I had been stripped off my home nationality as well as my British nationality. I had become stateless, an enemy of both states and I hid my face in my mother's shawl in shame. At the train station, I became aware we were heading East and automatically assumed we were going to concentration camps. When we did get on the train, I was sure the man in front of us was from the Gestapo and would turn round and shoot us. When he didn't, I started thinking he was a priest about to "exorcise" me. I could feel the devil trying to escape through my spine.
At my mum's house, my delusions and hallucinations were less horrific but just as strong. I had brought on world peace, my youngest brother had become "the chosen one" and I was to become a saint. Colours and objects all had special powers and meanings. My mum was scared of taking me to hospital straight away in case I stayed there forever so she got her friend, a doctor, to prescribe some anxiolitics and sleeping tablets. Three days later, my mum took me to A&E and the psychiatrist there diagnosed me with PP. I stayed in hospital for 3 weeks and thanks to antipsychotic medication, I got a lot better, quickly. I got discharged and returned to the UK with my grandmother to face the total collapse of my life.
In my absence, the social flat my daughter and I had been rehomed in had been emptied of my belongings, some of them I managed to retrieve, some of them were lost or destroyed for ever. My grandmother and I had to move in a friend's empty flat. A second hearing had granted my ex partner complete and permanent custody of my daughter. I had no visiting rights and social services would only allow me to see her if I was supervised. Having fired my solicitor, I had no legal representation. Social services were convinced I had a personality disorder and the M&B Unit I had gone to in the early days had allegedly found this diagnosis "probable". I registered with a new GP and was promptly seen by a community psychiatrist who, upon reading my notes, agreed with my home psychiatrist that I had had an episode of PP. He and my CPN could not believe the psychiatrist from the general hospital had got the diagnosis so wrong.
Although I was much better and no longer psychotic, the situation was just too difficult and I became so low that I attempted suicide twice. On the second occasion, my father came to get me to take me home. There, I stayed in hospital for severe depression for 3 months and then attended a day hospital for another 3 months. Being so far away from my daughter was excruciating. For months, I only saw her occasionally on Skype. Then when I was well enough to travel, I flew over a few times to see her for a couple of hours with the social worker. Eventually, I was discharged from the day hospital and decided to move back to the UK to be closer to my daughter. By then, she was almost one. Social services had decided to no longer be involved as long as my ex partner made his own arrangement for supervised access. Which he did. This meant I could only see my daughter for 2 hours, once a month, supervised by him and his mother in a public place. The first few months of being back in the UK were very difficult. It was torture to know that my daughter was out there, in nursery, being looked after by strangers while I could not see her. I had to find accommodation close to the community psychiatrist who had correctly diagnosed me to be in the right catchment area. I then had to wait to be refered by the GP.
I had to rebuild my life slowly but surely, thanks to my GP, my psychiatrist, my CPN and my support worker from the community mental health team. I found a part time job and got myself a dog. Eventually, access to my daughter improved. After reading the community psychiatrist's report (which clearly states the first psychiatrist made a mistake), my ex allowed me to see my daughter for 2 hours once a week, still supervised. After speaking to the community psychiatrist face to face, he allowed me to have her one day a week, on my own this time. I now have her two days a week and hope for overnight stays soon. I love my baby with all my heart but I am worried that the time we spent - and continue to spend - apart will have an impact on our relationship. Having worked as a nanny, I know it is possible to bond with children even if you've not been there from the beginning. Still, I feel really sad and angry that I missed out so much on early motherhood.
I don't think it's an exagerration to say that not getting the right diagnosis for PP ruined my life. 21 months after getting the first symptoms, I am still not back to my former self and I doubt I ever will be. I am no longer on antipsychotic drugs but am still on antidepressants. Regaining a sense of self-worth as a person in general and as a mother in particular has been very very hard and I am still coming to terms with what happened to me. Teasing out the truth from the psychotic fiction about my ex partner and our relationship has also been quite difficult. Would we have broken up had I not been ill? Probably. Obviously he was nowhere near as evil as I made him out to be - he doesn't prevent me from seeing my daughter when he could, theoritically - but I also know for a fact that he was not particularly nice either. It doesn't make things easier.
With the help of the CAB and a mental health advocacy worker, I sent a letter of complaint to the NHS a few weeks ago regarding the misdiagnosis of personality disorder. In the letter, I ask for an explanation, an apology and a retraction from the consultant psychiatrist who misdiagnosed me. They've replied to me and said they'd investigated my complaint. My advocacy worker and I now have a meeting tomorrow with the psychiatrist in question as well the chief clinician. It is going to be very interesting to hear what they have to say. At the same time, it is going to be nerve-wracking to come face to face with the professional whose mistake had a huge impact on my life. Hopefully our questions will be answered and our requests granted. If anyone is interested in how the meeting went, I can update you on here.
Thanks for reading.