Action on Postpartum Psychosis

One step forwards, two steps backwards

Hi everyone, just posting as I hadn't for a while, a bit of an update on my illness. Just a warning this post touches on issues around sex so it could be triggering for some.

I've been having a few really good days, where I don't pressurise myself and I have great fun with my daughter, making her laugh and smile and where I feel very connected to her. Usually though these days then seem to be followed by another dip in energy levels, lethargy and not being as engaged with others including my daughter. It seems like I've ran out of steam.

Is this something that others are familiar with on their roads to recovery?

My relationship with my partner has been suffering a lot lately as I'm finding physical intimacy very difficult. I have been sexually assaulted multiple times by different men in the past but now is when my mind has decided to make it a problem, with my loving supportive partner. I feel like screaming and hitting him whenever he touches me. It's so unfair on him, he wouldn't ever hurt me in that way but for some reason my mind can't see the difference with loving intimacy and sexual assault. Can anyone identify with this, has anyone else experienced anything similar?

Thanks

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Hello Nara1

Thanks for your post and warning about triggers. It's good to hear that you have been having a few good days and I think the title of your post sums up recovery very well. I remember those lovely times of finally feeling connected to my sons and interacting with them after being without them and struggling to find my place.

Like you, I wasn't able to maintain this level of connection every day. There were still days when I didn't have much energy and lacked motivation. I'm not sure whether it was the sedating effect of the medication but some days were better than others.

Thank you for sharing the issues in your relationship and previous assaults which must be awful to recall. I will share with you that I was sexually abused, although as a child, from the age of six onwards.

When we were first married, I did find intimacy with my husband difficult although I never shared the reason of abuse with him until years later. Like you, I was very upset to be so unfair to my husband and went to see my GP in that early stage. We were referred to a specialist counsellor / therapist to whom I didn't disclose my abusive past but he was so helpful. Perhaps this is something you could discuss with your GP and partner as it's such a shame that your future happiness together should be held back by your past, awful though it must have been for you.

Thanks again Nara ..... sending you a hug :)

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Hi Nara 1,

I am also having a lot of trouble with intimacy since my PP in August. I have also been sexually assaulted in the past, and the PP brought back memories of that (which I had partly repressed). I guess psychosis brings up trauma, or perhaps is even connected to the traumas we've experienced in some cases. I feel like I am having a hard time accepting male sexuality in general, because I have connected it to violence.

I don't really have much advice except to take it easy/slow and be patient with yourself. I'm sure that as you heal and get stronger, you will be able to distinguish between your memories and the loving touches in the present moment. That's what I'm hoping will happen with me too...

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Hello Nara,

thank you for sharing your honest and deepest feelings on this forum.

I believe what has happened in the past is in the past, and something we can not change. I read my medical file and understand why I am still struggling with fear and anxiety today. Whether those facts will help me to come to terms with what had happened, I do not know. An art therapist told me to put a lid on the past...In my opinion we need to figure out what works for us. Prioritizing and making choices in how we want to pursue our life after PPP.

However, we can exchange our experiences and learn from each other and try to find ways in order to self-help; I am living also with a yoyo effect (mood swings) and can relate to your low motivation level.

When I have had PPP I was sectioned. Unfortunately my experiences in hospital were traumatising. The first 6 month of recovery were extremely difficult and I can not recall much. Yes, I believe medication affected our life style and I was dependent on my partner, who looked after our baby and me (full time carer).

Between 2012 and 2014 I participated in support groups and I am always grateful for 2 very dynamic and humanistic ladies. I struggled with extreme anxiety, where I could not be in the proximity of people yet alone sitting next to a stranger (especially men), nor communicate or be in a new environment. Those were 10 weeks courses...I could not join the group circle, but sat by the back door as I needed the exit and air. Eventually half way through the support course I came a bit closer to the group and managed to contribute a bit ...Self-management and peer support, but also learning to understand and recognise my triggers using a specific toolkit (alternative therapy) has helped me to live with the hear and now and to plan in stepping stones, subsequently being able to enjoy life at my own pace.

Yet, there are triggers, which will recall memories for me. Sometimes they do not make sense and probably go as far back as my childhood. Those triggers affect my well being in a unique way. The question is how do we cope with shame, guilt, lack of confidence, frustration, low dips and lots more?

As human being we come as a full package and our make-up and life experience is reflecting who we are today. Lilybeth has given you her encounter of events, which may help you on your journey of recovery such as trying to communicate about the problems of intimacy with your GP.

Traumatising experiences such as sexual, physical, mental abuse, negligence can affect our relationship with our partner/husbands tremendously. Both parties have to be ready for wanting to change in order to strengthen their love. Often one needs to have professional help. PTS needs time to heal, too.

Yep, recovery comes in many ways and I seek all the help I can get in order to try and enjoy the happy moments...

Thinking of you.

x

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Thank you all for your replies.

My partner is very understanding and we do occasionally have a bit of a breakthrough with this side of things but I always seem to go backwards again. It would be nice if I could just open up to him and stay open with him but I always seem to revert back to being quite tense and closed with him.

I think it's feeling connected in general that I have a problem with. In any sense, not just my relationship with my partner. But I'm hoping that it's improving.

Do you think there is a link between pp and sexual abuse/assault? I wondered this before as I read a few things that might suggest that.

Thank you all again, it helps so much to hear your replies and to not feel so alone in this horrible isolating illness.

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Hello Nara1

Thanks for your update. Is this something you can talk to your care co-ordinator about to remove the extra stress you're carrying? I'm not sure if there is a link between PP and abuse although, like you, I have read that it can impact on mental health in general but I'm not a medic :)

I know you're struggling with feeling connected but I think you're doing well so early into your recovery. Try to be kind to yourself and lean on all the support of your loving family.

Take good care of yourself .... we are all here to listen.

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Hello Nara

Thank you (and those who have replied) for sharing so honestly here.

I wouldn’t have thought there is a direct link between PP and sexual abuse/assault but I don’t know. I imagine there must be a link between abuse/assault/trauma and mental health in general, depending on the psychological impact, and your risk of PP may be higher if you have existing mental health problems, but this in itself doesn’t ‘cause’ PP. I think there needs to be a combination of things at play, and it is thought there needs to be some kind of genetic factor involved.

My psychosis seemed to delve into my deepest and earliest memories, finding significance in them all - I can well imagine PP brings up any trauma and traumatic memories from the past as it seems to probe and dissect every corner of your mind (or it did in my case anyway). Also, after months of being examined and the trauma and intimacy of childbirth, I think it’s unsurprising our psychotic minds would ‘go there’ and then sadly there is so much more to process during recovery.

This is just my view.

I hope everything will improve in time for you, I’m sure it will. As lilybeth says, be kind to yourself and keep talking here if it helps.

Look after yourself.

Best wishes, Jenny x

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Hello Nara,

Thank you for such a brave post. It can be very difficult voicing experiences of sexual abuse.

My own experience of recovery from PP has led me to accept that my energy levels are changeable. As Jasa shared I think after PP we all have to be kind to ourselves & enjoy the special, connected moments with family & friends & accept our low energy days as down time & the bodies signal for rest & recuperation.

As far as a link between PPP & sexual abuse, I agree with others here & feel that there is a link between traumatic childbirth experiences which can trigger deeply rooted trauma stored in the body from sexual abuse. This was certainly my own experience anyway.

I encountered sexual abuse as a child & had a very traumatic episiotomy followed by a ventouse delivery during childbirth as my son was delivered in occipital position (back to back). For me my body was not my own during this time & the intrusion & lack of control stirred up feelings & trauma of my past sexual abuse. Consequently, I have struggled with intimacy & sexual relations with my husband & feel saddened at the coldness I feel towards him sometimes.

I am finally after 3 years getting some therapeutic support & councelling for this & am hoping to get specialist help after my initial assessment with my Community Psychiatric Nurse. In my case, I was advised not to delve into my sexual abuse issues during my early recovery & in hindsight this makes sense to me. Everyone is different however, your support services can advise you further.

Well done for coming so far already & I send you love & support on your journey.

Take care

Em x

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Hi all,

It has been very moving to read the support we have all been giving each other on this thread.

I just wanted to write to signpost, and give some information.

I thought you all may be interested to know that, from research, there doesn't seem to be a particular link between PP and experiencing sexual abuse in your past. Of course, some people who have PP also have this experience, but in terms of it making mum's more susceptible / at risk of PP than the general population, this doesn't seem to be the case. PP seems to be completely indiscriminate, in terms of any social / psychological factors. This indicates that other factors such as biological (hormones), genetic factors, and lack of sleep seem to cause PP, but more research is needed.

PND is very different. Research shows that people who have adverse experiences in their past and stress in their lives (for example neglect or abuse in their past, experience of domestic violence etc), are more at risk of PND than the general population. There is no doubt though (as many of you have shared) that in the psychosis many things seem to come out that were buried, and then we are left with the trauma of dealing with it afterwards.

I also wanted to let you know there are many organisations that support survivors of sexual abuse. One example is The Survivors Trust, who you may find helpful to contact:

thesurvivorstrust.org

Take care all, and I hope this information and links are helpful.

Ellie

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Hello Nara1

Just wondering how you are? I hope you have been having better days in your recovery and your care co-ordinator has been supportive.

Take care. We are all here for you.

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Hi lilybeth, thank you for messaging. Yes things are on the up, I've started driving lessons and have found my symptoms are low as long as I don't drink alcohol after I've taken my tablets (which took me a while to figure out but better late than never!)

My care coordinator has been great, although I'm still waiting for therapy 10 months on. But he's done everything in his power to get the ball rolling so it's not his fault it's taking ages.

My little one is growing fast and developing daily, which is hard to keep up with and wears me out but luckily my pp symptoms are lessening all the time and I feel much clearer in my head. Keeping the house clean and tidy is a struggle but that is mostly to do with having a 10 month old as when I have the chance to catch up on cleaning I can and do.

Thank you for prompting an update from me, I hope you are well.

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Hello Nara1

So good to hear your positive update :) I'm glad your care co-ordinator is supporting you but it's a shame you are still waiting for therapy. Is it possible your GP can intervene to prioritise your place in the 'queue'?

Toddlers have so much energy don't they but are such lovely company? It's very hard to keep a tidy house too so it's probably best to make a cup of tea and breathe a sigh of relief that your symptoms are lessening all the time and you feel clearer in your head ...... the dust can wait a while :) I hope you can find space in your day to rest, perhaps when your little one takes a nap? It's great that you're having driving lessons and a good way to build confidence and self esteem.

I'm well thank you ......It's only ever when you feel like updating but in a way I think when it's written down you can see how far you have come and be very proud of yourself.

Lovely to hear from you. Take care.

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Hi Nara,

This sounds very similar to me. I too have been sexually assaulted by a number of men in my past so can relate some what.

In terms of the ups and downs, it's super natural. You will have good days and bad days. How old is your daughter? I felt immense pressure before and after PP to be the perfect mum and it was exhausting. Over time I've allowed myself to be 'good enough' and it's made a massive difference to me and my daughter. It's so tough and exhausting looking after a little one. My daughter has just turned 2 and now really enjoys playing by herself with her dolls or her kitchen. I guess I feel less pressure to make her happy as she has lots of things she can do herself and happily plays. When they're really little they're totally reliant on you for everything, including fun stimulation. I'm sure the times when you can make her laugh feel really good. Just don't put too much pressure on yourself and remember it's completely natural to be a bit up and down.

In terms of sex I've found it very difficult. My partner put a lot of pressure on me and made me feel really guilty when we didn't have sex. I just needed him to comfort me and cuddle me and wasn't ready for sex. When we did have sex I rarely enjoyed it and felt horrible about myself afterwards. I don't think he even noticed how much I wasn't enjoying it. We have since split up, not just because of sex but for a lot of reasons. I think after going through something as traumatic as PP you're going to be feeling sensitive and sex is the last thing you really feel like doing.

Do you talk to your partner about how you're feeling?

Wishing you all the best and glad you've opened up through the site.

Lots of love,

Natalie

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