Writing Therapy

Having just attended the brilliant volunteers day in Birmingham I thought it was about time I put pen to paper and tell my story.

I gave birth to my gorgeous son, Freddie, nearly 9 months ago. Labour was long. 3 days of contractions and a back to back birth meant a tiring and painful ordeal. I forgot it all though as soon as he arrived and spent my days in a state of euphoria. I thought total sleep deprivation was all part of the joy and spent the nights feeding Freddie and snacking on toast and decaf tea with my husband! It wasn't until 5 days in that I felt unable to function properly and so asked my husband to ask his parents round to look after Freddie while we slept. They arrived at 9pm and by now I was feeling hot and restless. They told us to go to bed, that they would be fine and we did. Only I didn't sleep. I couldn't. I started to think my in-laws would think I couldn't cope and tried to prove my worth by nipping back downstairs to show them how to work the tv. Thoughts of inadequacy started racing through my head and I resented my husband for being able to sleep. I went to feed Freddie again and made a point of telling the in-laws I couldn't sleep but that their son went out like a light (how dare he!)

It was then that the paranoid thoughts and delusions started. I thought I heard my in-laws arguing about us, that my father in law was just as disappointed in his sleeping son. At this point I woke my husband and told him what I thought and from that point on things get a bit hazy. I started thinking my in-laws were there to take Freddie off me and suddenly believed my husband was in on it too. Time suddenly became a real feature of the paranoia, with me thinking they were trying to trick me by telling me the wrong time. I had terrifying delusions that Freddie wasn't breathing and couldn't hear him crying even though I was on the phone to my mum telling me she could hear him and I should trust my mother in law and husband. They tried to keep me away from him, which exacerbated the paranoia. They told me to go to sleep but this made it worse still, believing I would wake up and Freddie would be gone. This went on for a few hours before I collapsed in my dining room, believing I had died.

I remember the police and ambulance arriving but not really what happened next. I woke up in A&E and thought I must be dead as people seemed off duty around me, ignoring me in the room. I vividly recall a man going passed using a floor washer looking in on me with sad eyes. I had a monitor on my thumb but there was a flat line on the monitor screen. I must be dead. My limbs felt exceptionally heavy due to the sedatives I'd been given. Somewhere along the way I thought my father in law had attacked me and in hospital anyone that came in I thought was him in disguise. If they tried to give me medication I'd refuse or kick out if they tried particularly hard. My parents had by now arrived, travelling through the night from Sheffield. The fact that they looked so upset confirmed that I was dead. However, I also felt like I'd faked my death and so would pay the price and be buried alive. I felt that because I'd somehow cheated death and messed with the natural order of things, those I loved around me were dropping dead. I could even hear them dropping to the floor around me. Nothing made sense and everything made sense, all at the same time. I heard the voices of friends and relatives, people I hadn't seen for years. They'd all come to the hospital to pay their respects.

After 12 hours of torment in A&E the team from the adjoining MBU arrived. When I was transferred I remember looking up to the clear blue sky and thinking I must be in heaven. After arriving, the doctor tried again to give me medication and again I thought he was trying to kill me. I was in purgatory and so decided I'd rather be dead than live through this, so took the pill. It sent me to sleep.

I'd been sectioned when I woke up the next morning in the MBU and was under constant supervision for 72 hours. That was the saddest day of my life, realising what had happened and what lay ahead for my family. There were many bridges to be built and that started with my husband. I'd lost trust in him. I'd concocted a story in my head about my in-laws and I needed to understand that wasn't real. Something I struggled with for a while. For the first day at least I thought Freddie had in fact died and the baby in the cot was a doll the unit had given me to lessen the trauma. I humoured them by looking after the doll until I was able to see that was just another trick the psychosis had played on me.

The need to get better was overwhelming when I woke up from the psychosis and one of the hardest parts for me was the constant surveillance. I saw one temporary member of staff judge the way I was holding Freddie and I could've wept. It's hard enough being a new mum without the watchful, judgemental eyes of everyone around you. I now realise I was one of the lucky ones in that my recovery was almost as quick as the onset. I spent a week in the MBU being cared for by the most amazing team of professionals before I was allowed home during the day. I was on quetiapine at night to help me sleep although I often had flashbacks due to the heaviness of my limbs as a result of the meds. Following a week of home visits I was discharged. I stopped my medication immediately and things slowly got back to normal.

Despite everything, the whole episode has made me appreciate just how precious life is and how wonderful my family are. It hasn't put me off having other children, if I'm lucky enough. I want to tell the world about the illness as I knew nothing about it beforehand. The more who know, the better armed families will be should it happen. That is why I joined APP and I hope telling my story goes a little way to help.

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7 Replies

  • Hello there and thank you for writing up your account. I will be forever fascinated by the accounts and some of the amazing similarity in the thinking. If you get to read other accounts you see that we all have very similar thought patterns. So delighted that you are well and have been to the volunteers day. I keep meaning to write up my own story which is now 26 years old! Thank you again for posting. Helen

  • Thanks for sharing your story. Many parts of it reminded me of my own experience. Well done for getting through it and coming out the other end with such a positive attitude. It is an admirable aim to educate others. I also like to share my experience with others in an effort to help others become aware.

  • Hi JoLou80

    It was lovely to meet you in Birmingham. You write so eloquently about your experience and I'm sure your story will have many other mums like me nodding in recognition. It's a very powerful thing when we tell our stories to break down the shame and isolation women so often feel after PP.

    I'm so pleased you made such a quick recovery with the help of medication and the skilled team around you at the MBU. At APP we want to keep on raising awareness and campaigning until every family receive quick diagnosis and the best treatment for PP.

    Warm wishes


  • Hi JoLou80

    It was great meeting you too. Sorry we didn't get to chat properly, the day went so fast and I feel I didn't get the opportunity to talk to everyone and hear about their experiences.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. My partner goes on the forum too and we read your story last nite together which was nice. There were so many similarities with your story with what we experienced.

    When you talk of being in hospital and the man washing the floor was looking in on you with sad eyes, I experienced that too. It was strange as I felt when everyone looked at me they looked sad but they said it was because I was so poorly.

    I'm so glad you have recovered and joined APP. It's great you have posted your story on the forum as it gives others so much hope and comfort that they will get better.

    Best wishes

    Emma x

  • Hi

    It was so lovely to meet you all on the volunteers day too. And it was so good to read your story JoLou. It's funny I had thoughts after that day of writing down my story too! Not quite in the right frame of mind yet I don't think, and feel there's so much to write don't know where to start!

    The similarities with our stories are amazing... I too had paranoid thoughts, I thought I had killed my baby by breastfeeding in bed and squashing him. That is terrifying thinking they were giving you a doll though. I also had thoughts that i had to choose which of my family could live or die. I thought I had died too and was in hell etc.

    Amazing the recovery you've made, and sounds like you got such brilliant support.

    Take care

  • Thank you so much for all your replies and lovely comments, the support on here is overwhelming. It really was lovely to meet you all and know we all went through such similar things. It gave me the strength to write my story, something I'd wanted to do for a while but also didn't know where to start. Some of the delusions were too difficult to write and I try my hardest to forget them, which I figure is ok. It does make you feel a bit of a release to have it written down in some order though, so would recommend it if you want to write your stories Helen and Sunnyandwild!

    Let's all be proud of ourselves for coming out the other side of what is a terrifying illness. I wish anyone going through it lots of luck. It does get better and you will be yourself again!

    Take care

    Jo x

  • Hi - it really was great to meet you and all the others in person! I will always be grateful to APP for the amazing support it gave my husband, in particular, but now this support group of ladies who have all gone through it - well, it's just fantastic!

    Your story is so beautifully written. I'm so impressed with how quickly you recovered from the utter hell of your initial psychosis. As S&W said, I too recognise many similarities - the feeling of being in purgatory, for one. I also have a vivid memory of thinking everyone in A&E were actors trying to trick me!!

    For me my recovery journey took a little longer, but the main thing is we all do recover!

    Thanks again for sharing,

    Kathryn xx

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