PP memory triggers

Hi all

My sister just had her second baby and I went to visit her on the postnatal ward, most of the psychotic phase of my illness happened here when I was ill 2 years ago.

I wasn't anticipating anything or even nervous, I hadn't really considered that this would be the first time going back there since I was ill. Everything was fine and then I used the toilet, they must use a particular type of cleaner but the smell triggered memories back to when I was ill (its quiet specific, even my sister noted it and I had forgotten that I hated it at the time). After this then I noted lots of other things that I thought had particular meanings when I was psychotic. It was very unsettling, I could remember what it felt like and I had forgotten how powerful those feelings were - it made me feel quite anxious, even a bit paranoid.

I am back home now and feel much better but it's quite a shock, maybe in hindsight I should have anticipated it. Being well for so long it was not pleasant to have an unexpected reminder of those feelings.

Just wondered if anyone else has experienced similar xx

7 Replies

  • Hello Helen_84

    I'm glad you're back home now and feeling much better after your unexpected experience. Although you are two years post PP, I think you will still be vulnerable to the impact of flashbacks.

    As you might know from the forum I had PP twice years ago. I can't remember specific triggers although I did relapse during my second PP recovery. Even today I'm aware of something I see or hear which can take me back, for example, with Stacey's storyline in 'Eastenders' last year I had to switch off during some scenes of her psychosis. Also a moth featured heavily in my delusions and if I see one around it also reminds me of those days.

    I think it gets easier with time as we can remind ourselves that we are in the present moment. We can all be proud that we fought so hard to be well for our children in the most difficult circumstances.

    Sending you a virtual hug here :) and congratulations to your sister.

    Take care. xx

  • Thank you Lilybeth, this was my first experience of a flashback, it was quite unnerving, and I was shocked how anxiety inducing it was.

    It is definitely something I am going to be more mindful of when I am faced with a similar situation ( hopefully rare). I think the fact that it caught me off guard made it doubly worse.

    Time is a great healer, even now I can see how far I have come in 2yrs - and you are right, we should be proud. Enduring PP and its after effects is so difficult, personally it is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do - this experience really highlighted that.

    I am really proud of my sister, it was really tough for her and she did brilliantly. Hugs to you too Lilybeth, thank you for your reply xxx

  • Hi Helen and thanks for your question,

    I think flashbacks are a common thing for many of us affected by PP - I feel quite lucky in that I don't remember the worst of my illness and the 2 weeks I spent on a general ward. When I was at my local hospital and seeing a psychiatrist in his office, in my 2nd pregnancy 4 years after my PP episode, I remember walking up the stairs and realising I was walking the same route as I must have gone to that general ward - luckily nothing came back to me, but it is good to be forewarned and forearmed of any potential triggers. Unfortunately I wasn't until I was there, and the person walking with me, who obviously hadn't thought of it, was more concerned about me walking up stairs and being heavily pregnant, so I just took a deep breath and kept going!

    I'm sorry to hear that you feel shaken by the events at what should be a happy time in visiting your sister and her new baby. PP seems so unfair that it can taint things like this doesn't it? A healthcare professional once said to me that trauma can be linked to psychosis and I think there are some interesting links there. I certainly had a traumatic time and like I say I feel lucky, nearly 8 years on now and after having a 2nd child and remaining well, to be moving further and further away from my PP experience. As Lilybeth says, time can be a great healer and although there are some things that will always be potential triggers, they are usually things we can avoid or take measures to protect ourselves against. For my 2nd child, I went to a different hospital in an effort to make everything as different as possible, for example.

    Take care and big hugs from here too, we are all absolutely strong and resilient Mums for having been through PP and come out the other side. All the best, xx

  • When I was at my most poorly stage just before being sectioned it was Bonfire night and still 5 years on I get flashbacks. X

  • Hi, I hope you and your sister are faring well now. I am also a sister to 3, two of whom have children. I know what you mean about smell being a trigger for memories and some people are ultra sensitive to the fragrance used in domestic cleaners. I just wonder, knowing how my sisters' births have altered our relationships, whether perhaps it was your empathy for your sister's birth experience that caused these strong memories to come back.

    Be Happy!

  • I also had an experience really similar to this, and it was also triggered by a smell memory.

    Traumatic memories can feel extra potent when they are recalled, and it can be a really uncomfortable experience. I hope it helps to know others have been in the same situation <3

  • Hi helen_84

    It's early days for my recovery but I have actually experienced something similar the other week. It wasn't the same place but being in a clinical looking environment gave me a bit of a flashback to when I was really unwell and it made me quiet and panicky.

    Maybe when we feel better after experiencing these kinds of things we can appreciate how far we've come. I feel like I have even though it's only been 15 weeks for me.

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