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.