Action on Postpartum Psychosis
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symptoms 4.5 months post PP

Hello all,

As the title says, it's been 4.5 months since I was hospitalized. I'm currently off the antipsychotic (was weaned by my doctor- I realize it's not common treatment in the UK but that's the treatment I've been given) and have been taking an antidepressant for about 3 weeks. The thing is, I feel nowhere near normal but what's "off" is almost impossible to put into words. I'm at a point where I can seemingly function on the outside (I can interact with people as if I'm "normal", I can go grocery shopping, take the public transport, etc.) but all the while I feel totally detached from everything around me and like I don't know who I am. I can "say" who I am, I can tell you my name and my biography and I remember my life and everything that has happened since my daughter was born, but none of it feels like "me" and this life doesn't feel like life if that makes any sense. When I walk by places that I have some memories associated with I feel like I am dead and revisiting places I was while alive. I also have this feeling that all of this that has happened has beens some kind of bad dream, but the thing is.. I still feel like I am in that bad dream even though based on my daily activities and compared to how I was 4 months ago I am "much better". Did anyone feel the same way at the 4-5 month mark? I'm sorry if I keep asking similar questions, I just really wish I could hear what it felt like for others when they were not psychotic but were still not "themselves". At this point it feels like I'll be stuck here forever and I may as well just end it.

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Hi kaktus

I’m so sorry you’re feeling so horrible, detached, not yourself...

It sounds horrible what you’re experiencing.

I wanted to write and reassure you that it sounds so similar to my experience of recovery. For quite a while after the psychosis I felt like a shell of myself, a ghost almost, like you say that you have almost died. I felt huge sadness and grief about what had happened, about the loss of motherhood I expected, about my loss of self, and thought I’d never be the confident, bubbly, happy , competent, passionate Ellie that I was before.

But... I recovered and am completely myself again... and more. Slowly with ups and downs , some better days and some bad days, but with the better days gradually getting more, I recovered. I know it sounds cheesy but time is a great healer... you are going to get there and recover.

I know this maybe doesn’t feel that helpful but four or five months after the episode isn’t long, though I know it feels like it. I was in a mother and baby unit for nearly four months... try to be patient, I know it’s hard because I didn’t feel patient and felt so sad and frustrated by what I thought was my lack of progress... routine , planning small tasks each day to achieve really helped me, to boost my self esteem and confidence.

Thinking of you , Ellie x

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Hi kaktus

I'm so sorry you are feeling so awful. I completely relate to your post, I think at the 4-5 month mark I really felt I would never feel myself again and never get back to myself. I felt like I didn't know who I was and felt I couldn't connect with myself, nor with the people I came across in the day. It's a horrible place and I send you a hug because it's so hard to work out in one's head and heart. Like Ellie says, I too couldn't work out where the happy, bubbly me had gone. I'd had psychotic episodes before but with those, after some months, ranging in time, I'd always bounced back. With PPP I felt I'd lost myself forever and I was terrified. One thing that helped me, sorry if I've mentioned it before, but was writing. I'd write in the morning, and I'd write a list of what I wanted to remember. It might be something my daughter did, or that I made a cup of tea and drank it, or that I had a phone call, it was partly to keep track, it was partly just to write and for the feel of writing. It helped me feel I got some tiny bit of control back because I could reflect back. I wrote messages to myself for me to read on later days. And I did read them back. Some days I'd forget, some days I wouldn't know what to write. Then I would write a message to me. (that's just what was helpful for me though, you will find your own strategies and ways that will help). Going grocery shopping, getting public transport, these are both huge accomplishments. You are going through a process, and it is all the more difficult because the medication we take to help us has side effects. You have done so well to come off the anti-psychotic, a huge well done. It takes so much to come off medication, and to change to a different one, your body will be processing it.

I completely understand the feeling of being a shell of yourself. Please let yourself know that you have been both flung into motherhood and into recovery from a serious mental illness. Motherhood is such a massive change in one's life, and there is no space for processing that change, despite such massive alterations in our life, hearts, minds and bodies and ongoing changes. Psychosis is also a massive change, and a massive experience. It takes time to adapt, adjust, work out what the hell has happened. Traditionally people were given a bit more time to adjust to motherhood, I think, they were given a little more space (I know my mum was in hospital for around 2 weeks learning from nurses how to feed, bathe and look after me and my brother) and also we need alot of space to work out psychosis. But our society doesn't allow for that. We have to 'get on' straight away and live with it and keep walking no matter what's just occurred. With PPP there is absolutely no time in the every day world to work it out because there is so much and everything's moving around us. So you are processing 2 massive shifts with absolutely no space to do it in. But somehow, weirdly, over time, the processing happens. I think it just happens in a different way. We do so much hard work. But it sort of happens gradually. It will happen, incrementally at first. As Ellie says you are going to get there and recover. Thinking of you and sending every best wish to you, Jen Xx

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Oooph.. thank you both. Those are amazing replies. I really appreciate you taking the time to write them out. It's nice to know it's "normal" that I'm still feeling like this when it feels anything but "normal" to feel like this. I guess I just couldn't imagine that there's this grey area between psychosis and "normality", I thought it would be more cut-and-dry, black-and-white... I'll try to keep marching on I guess... Thank you again..

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Thanks so much for writing back kaktus, you’re doing brilliantly for 4-5 months, though I know it won’t feel like it. I couldn’t have written about it all as coherently as you at 4-5 months. I’m so glad you’re reaching out on the Forum, please do write whenever is helpful, be very, very kind to yourself and give yourself credit for what you’re doing and achieving every day. Very very best wishes to you, Jen xx

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I’d like to echo Ellie’s wise words and brilliant advice ...... I also felt the same at the 4/5 month mark, I’d just come off anti-psychotics and it seemed to me as if I was having withdrawal symptoms from the anti-psychotics, ie very low / flat, feeling that my whole soul and personality, the ‘old me ‘ had been stripped away, I also believed I woud never feel ‘normal’ again and enjoy things, laugh, have normal emotions ... but please do have faith, this is the ‘grey’ area or transitional period, you are recovering but it’s not recognisable as that because you can feel so stuck. I got better quite soon after that ‘grey’ period.... I tried to find small things that gave me a sense of enjoyment (simple things like watching cookery programmes on tv!) and with time, my mood gradually lifted. I hope things feel better for you soon, I’m sure they will, take care xx

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Hello Kaktus,

at the end we all survived PPP and throughout the path of recovery we will have to re-discover ourselves in a new light. We are learning to adjust in order to cope with challenges. We tune into our bodies and trying to recognise triggers. Triggers are like signposts telling us to stop or slow down!

After I was sectioned in the Summer of 2010 and struggling/suffering on end in hospital (continuous episodes and without sleep for weeks including seclusion), because of unreasonable treatment, my partner challenged the members of staff on a daily basis. MBU was in Manchester and we were in the South West. Once I was discharged from the Psychiatric hospital, after convincing an external team not to section me from 2-3, my real recovery begun with the help of my partner and a professional team.

Yes, we all have a story to tell as evidenced on this thread. We all have come out of that dark tunnel somehow. Every experience is unique and can be exchanged, but not competed with. There is no deadline or time limit, when one is fully recovered. It is a very personal pace and in stepping stones. You will be recovering, too. Women/mums on this forum are pretty amazing.

Ups and downs are also part of my life, but I want to be cheesy like Ellie :-) and say it gets better and you will see life from a different angle, because you acquire and/or strengthen humanistic skills, such as sensitivity and kindness...

Look after yourself.

x

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Dear Kaktus , your description struck a chord with me and Im sorry you are going through a bewildering time after a period of illness which has required great strength and perseverance and belief in yourself even when wavering and losing confidence .

I found very similar reactions within myself when I functioned “ normally “ almost like acting a role but the real me was hidden away somewhere . Much later I learned that the severe trauma of what I’d been through led to this weird numbness as if I was observing what was going on but also within the actions .

In time it gradually went away but in subsequent traumatic events in my life the same thing happened . It too in time went away , as I feel your experiences will fade . You will have been very fearful suffering as you did .

After having a baby the ideal thing is that a new mother should rest but these days you are discharged and left to cope, which I think should change to having the option of admission to a mid way unit where baby is fed at night at least so you can rest mind and body . Please try to believe that you will get better as time goes on . You are a courageous and sensitive person . Look after yourself and please keep writing and let us know how you are .

Denise x

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Katkus, I can sympathise completely. I think I am at a very similar place in my recovery although a little further down the line. I too am now only on escitalopram but suffer from depression and depersonalisation on a daily basis, it’s like living in a real nightmare. I am noticing subtle changes though, I am laughing more and getting more enjoyment out of the world. I think what has helped me the most in the past couple of weeks is finally accepting I may not ‘get back to being myself’ and instead I am on a new journey to a new better me. Sending you warm wishes. X

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I saw the new psychiatrist today and it was such a relief. She was the first person to give me a proper diagnosis (severe postpartum depression with psychotic features), she upped my meds, will see me in two weeks and increase them again if I'm not feeling better (and eventually switch me to a different antidepressant if this one doesn't do the trick). When I asked her about my current severe dissociation which I was scared is to do with the psychosis, she said she believes it's more likely now "neurotic", meaning I'm dissociating because my brain can't deal with the depression anymore. I still don't feel well, but at least I finally have someone who I feel will really help me get out of this hell. Feeling somewhat hopeful... love to you all on this forum which has been my guiding light through all this..

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Hi kaktus that’s so good to hear that you’ve found a psychiatrist who you feel understands and can help you. I hope you will start to feel the affects of the increase in meds and that your mood will lift.

Take care x

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