Any tips for a husband/dad in the early stages of PP?

Hello. We had our first child on 10/11/12. Delivery was traumatic (emergency c section, 3 litre loss of blood). But he is a wonder and doing well. However, my wife has had a number of what we now know to be psychotic episodes. Eventually on 19/11/12 she was admitted to a mother and baby unit after a trip to A&E to see a psychiatrist who a few days after our son was born suggested she may have PP (now confirmed). The last two weeks have easily been the toughest of my life. There are silver linings - like our son who is brilliant - but my wife is a huge way from being herself and to say that it is distressing is an understatement.

Obviously i want to visit the MBU as much as possible to see them (only not going if there are work things i can't avoid). But my question is really about how i should behave when i'm there? How much should i be talking to her? What things can i say (if anything) to alleviate her anxiety (the main problem) and the delusions (e.g. her belief that she is hallucinating and i'm not really there in front of her, when in fact of course i am)? When she is becoming concerned/delusional about things (e.g. she has an obsession with our son's "red book" which she believes has been filled in incorrectly, and she worries his details will get mixed up with others etc), what sort of thing should i say? Should i try to reassure her that everything's fine (which she often does not accept) or something else?

I'm still struggling to come to terms with the fact that after probably the happiest 9 months of our lives, we have been hit by a freight train. I miss my wife's normal self terribly and it's truly truly awful seeing her in the state she is in much of the time. Sometimes i struggle to believe that i will survive this with my sanity, let alone her. I know she is in the right place and the doctors are marvellous, but i don't want to miss anything out that i could be doing to help.

Many thanks in advance

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  • Hi Thamesvalleyroyal,

    I'm so sorry you & your wife are having such a horrendous time at the moment, the shock of it all seems to make it so much worse too. Well done for reaching out, there're a lot of people here who've been where you are now & fully understand what you're going through & can hopefully offer you some support. Yes those first few weeks feel like the toughest of your life, (I think they're the worst), but you're through that now & it sounds like you're doing really well!

    As for how to act when you're at the MBU, I'd say just act how you normally would with your wife (try to anyway). Yes, lots of reassurance is key I think. You're wife needs to know that she's not crazy, she's just ill & she will get better & be herself again (something I was never told & I really wish I was!). Also her confidence about being a mother will be at rock bottom so more reassurance about her mothering skills would be very helpful (simple things like pointing out how well she holds your son, changes him etc.), During those first few weeks my husband had to talk to me very slowly or I could process what he was saying & he had to move slowly too, but this might not be the case with you. Also the paranoia was a big thing with me so I had to know my husband still believed in me & he was the only one I could trust.

    It's such a tough thing (understatement!) for husbands to go through too. Make sure that you've got your own support network, friends, family etc. & get enough rest & downtime too. You can't be at the MBU all the time & it'll probably do you good to have a break from it & be at work sometimes (work was a sanctuary for my husband). Have you seen this Carer's Survival Guide written by a husband, it's full of lots of really great advice: app-network.org/wp-content/... Also there's lots of excellent info on the APP website that you can read later when things settle down: app-network.org I'm sure some of the other husbands & partners will be along soon to offer you some tips from their perspective.

    It sounds like you're coping really well & doing everything right, well done!! Yes it's such a tough thing to go through, but it IS temporary & family life will be everything you dreamed it will be & more because of the tough start. Let us know how you & your wife are getting on, we're here for you.

  • Hi,

    Sorry to hear you're going through this and it's as you say just like being hit by a freight train; I too am a husband who went through this and had exactly the same thoughts as you're having now, at times I couldn't see how I would cope, let alone my wife and I desperately missed being able to have our normal chats etc. but it does get better and I would say we're stronger for it.

    For me I found that I tried not to think too far ahead and just dealt with the here and now, I used to visit my wife and little 'un in the MBU every day but I also found that being at work was a life line of normality. Make sure you give yourself time as well, it is draining and the frustrations can build up and it's good to find someway to clear them, I used to get out mountain biking for an hour; sometimes it was as simple as having a shout into the pillow!

    As for what to say, it's very difficult, I was still myself but had to change my approach dependent on how my wife was that day but offering reassurance and support is key. On those things that I just couldn't agree with, I would use someting like "I understand what you're saying but..." My wife says, myself and her brother were the only ones she trusted throughout this illness, even though she was fighting all the other things and thoughts going on. It's an incredibly tough time but it does get better.

  • That's a really good point about not thinking too far ahead & just dealing with the here & now. Good advice, thanks Zapple.

  • p.s. I only have my experiences to go by, but If you wanted to chat, you can send me a private message via this site.

  • Hey there

    Freight train, yes. Terrifying times, yes. But she *will* get better. My wife suffered with PP and postnatal depression after the births of both our daughters and it was just as you describe. Incredibly hard to see her such a long way away from her real self, and so hard to keep hanging on until she got better.

    Lots of reassurance is key, hugs are good, stay with them both for as long as you feel able to cope. I know when my wife was at her most ill I couldn't handle being with her for very long, I just found it so emotionally and physically exhausting. Don't feel bad if this is the case for you - you need to be aware of your own needs in the midst of it is as your wife and child need you very much. Try and do stuff for you as well - like zapple I found mountain biking a great help, and going for walks with the baby in the buggy was great as well.

    Your wife's anxieties and delusions that you describe sound pretty typical to me. My experience was that being as calm and reassuring as possible helped, and once my wife became aware and recognised how ill she was, I was able to hold her and try and encourage her that how she was feeling was a symptom of the illness and not the reality. And calling a spade a bloody shovel was sometimes appropriate as well, there were certain things she felt to be true that I just had to say no, that's not how it is. But spoken with love and sensitivity of course ...!

    Take care of yourself, spend time with your wife and new baby son as much as you feel able to, and this too will pass. It doesn't feel like it at the time, but she will get better and you will have them both back in your life. It will feel so precious when you get that. Feel free to message me direct if you want to chat.

  • Hi thamesvalleyroyal

    Thoughts going out to you as you ride through this incredibly difficult time. I thought it might be helpful for you to hear how things developed over the weeks from my point of view when I was first unwell and we were brand new to this experience of PP.

    I definitely didn't believe I was suffering from delusions at first, even though in hospital - I look back at some notes I was writing at the time to try and make sense of everything and have written my diagnosis in ''quote marks". However within just a few more weeks I can see that with such patience from my husband and the psychiatrist working on the ward, I am beginning to have more understanding of what each person is saying in my treatment.

    I know it definitely helped my husband that the psychiatrist would often talk to him privately first, before we had our ward rounds together and get his views on how to explain and discuss what was going to happen next.

    Are you able to go out for periods of leave together yet? I know for me it was very reassuring even while still an inpatient to go to a local coffee shop and just do 'normal' things in a non-hospital environment like feeding our daughter there and having a piece of cake.

    I am so sorry that you are going through this experience right now, but many of us here can testify that our marriages survived and even became stronger as we recovered. But undoubtedly it is one of the toughest things that can happen after sharing the joy of pregnancy. Keep talking to us here and we will help as much as we can.

  • Thank you so much for all of your answers. It's still very hard as i know you know, but it is comforting to hear that others have had what sound to me like very similar experiences (although of course knowing what it's like i'm sorry for you too that you had to go through it).

    I have been trying the re-assurance a lot ("the confusion is your illness, but you are getting better even if you don't feel like it" "doesn't he look contended in your arms" "why don't we change his nappy, you made it look easy last time") etc. Although i have to say i find it hard to get the balance right between encouraging her to look after the baby by giving such positive feedback, and also encouraging her not to worry about her "responsibilities"; i.e. the strong advice is for her to sleep at night and not worry about looking after the baby as the nurses will do that - and i repeat that advice to her. But perhaps the answer to that dilemma is (as one of the nurses put it yesterday) for her to be told to rest properly at night so she can do the best she can with the baby during the day.

    Also, when she is in a period of confusion (and i'm learning that these definitely come and go to a degree), i'm not sure whether i should be simply reassuring her ("yes i am here, yes you are getting better, i understand that you are confused as it's part of your illness, no you're not going insane") and sticking with that or trying to distract her ("why don't you go for a shower" "let's go and do the baby's laundry"). Or a bit of both?

    And another dilemma which troubles me a bit: she is obviously worrying about the impact all of this is having on me and the rest of her/my family (who are visiting regularly and offering loads of support etc). On the one hand i don't want to just pretend everything is completely normal and fine and that i'm happy, because that's obviously not true and if i say that it is hardly going to help her grip on reality improve because she won't believe/trust me. However, on the other hand, i don't want her to become concerned about being a burden on the rest of us, because the depressive etc consequences of those sort of thoughts are not good. I'd be really grateful for any insights anyone has on that.

    I am now on my third morning back at work. The first two were not good - i couldn't think straight at all. This morning has been more productive (save for taking time out to post posting on here, but that's productive in another way). Work-wise getting the balance right for me is tricky, as i'm self-employed. i really have to be here some of the time to keep things ticking over. but at the same time i don't have a boss slamming me every time i need to leave (altho clients can be demanding). Of course this will have an impact on our income, but I mustn't complain as i'm sure others have had much worse work/money worries as a result of PP. But i wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience i.e. being self-employed.

    Naomi_at_app - to answer your question, we haven't yet been allowed out for a proper period of leave yet. We did have a short (15 min or so) walk around the grounds the other day. It did make my wife feel anxious but i think it was progress (even if it wasn't quality family time as a nurse came with us and prattled all the time). I'm crossing my fingers that this weekend we can get a bit more time out and even go to a cafe or something. Obviously the big one on the horizon for us is what is going to happen at Christmas but we're still nearly a month away from that.

  • Hi,

    What to say, what not to say, when to say, I found to be a massive learning curve and it is definitely a balancing act, which you are going through now. My wife too went through varying degrees of this illness, but eventually the amounts of good start to outweigh the bad, but there are definitely times when you feel like you’re going round in circles!

    I never found distraction worked a great deal, if she is in a certain frame of mind, the worries, concerns, etc. will be there no matter where she is; I would just support where I could. There was even a balance on how many times I could use “it’s the illness…” because it started to niggle her but you soon gauge that.

    I think you’re right not to pretend everything is completely normal, it isn’t and she likely knows it. I found it important to be the ‘stake in the ground’, the one my wife knew she could trust and believe, although she may not feel that way; in the aftermath my wife talks about how she knew what I was saying was true, even though she was battling with her own thoughts.

    My wife had the same concerns about myself and family but I just had to reassure her. She also found visits quite tiring and so we kept the number of those down, although I would still visit every evening.

    It’s hard to write everything down and I’m sure I am forgetting to put down stuff but I’ll keep writing as I remember other bits.

  • Hi again

    Thanks for writing and explaining so eloquently the specific things you are finding challenging when visiting your wife and son in the MBU.

    It might not feel like it but it will mean a lot that you are encouraging your wife in her practical care of baby. This will really help her confidence as she moves towards more independence and coming home. However it's so important as you have said to help her know that it is also OK (and in fact essential) to prioritise her wellbeing and especially sleep at night and rest - I think it can be very difficult for mums to get away from that sense of "I should be doing this, not someone else" Keep on giving her the message that prioritising her body's needs for recovery is actually the best for baby too and the staff won't judge her at all for letting them do the nights.

    The more confused times must be very hard for you. I would say for your own sanity probably a mixture of 'grounding' distraction like looking at or taking photos together, putting together a scrap book, choosing outfits for little one, maybe giving him a bath together - along with the reassurance you have mentioned like 'I am really here, it's just because you are unwell that it feels so confusing' otherwise I imagine you could end up feel like you are just going in circles.

    I was also an inpatient at this time of year so I remember the whole worries of Christmas (and my 30th birthday!) looming - but as much as you can try to take it few days at a time. Antipsychotic medication treatment in PP usually works very effectively in weeks rather than months.

    Keep letting us know if there are other things we can help with.

  • Hello,

    I've just said to my husband that he should log onto this site and answer some of this, as so much of it is resonating with us. I hope things are getting better for you and your family, little by little is the key to it I think. Things will get better, and you can get through this, together as a family.

    From the perspective of my husband visiting me every day when I was in the MBU, I found it invaluable and his support was amazing. We used to bath our son together, chat about our days (walks round the grounds with nurse were the extent of mine really, and that took a while to get to, before time out into town, although strictly limited, before the longer overnights which I used to love and look forward to so much). I too was very anxious after psychosis and mania which the medication and a course of ECT helped to control, and what helped me most in a way was my husband just being his normal self. Being able to sit and watch some rubbish on the TV helped me. I also enjoyed looking at photos and sorting outfits, all the things I did before a baby, and also since leaving hospital. I know things aren't "normal" for you as a family, but your wife will really be valuing the time you spend with her, I'm sure.

    The nurses looked after my baby at night and I was made/ allowed to sleep, which was what I needed. This wasn't really something I battled against to be honest, and was very grateful for it, so I'm not sure if I can help on that area.

    Like others, I was in the MBU at this time of year too. I remember looking forward to Christmas so much, even though it ended up as an overnight stay at home for us, and I got collected on Christmas morning, and we drove home, through snow, had a "turkey in a box" Christmas Dinner, just the 3 of us, before going back for Boxing Day teatime. I strangely treasure those hospital memories though, such as the outfit I dressed my son in and all the staff and other patients on the main ward (which you had to walk through to get out of the hospital) "cooing" over his Christmas Pudding outfit!

    I hope some of this helps and things are improving for you and your family. Hang in there and take care. I'll keep working on getting my husband on here too!

  • Thanks so much again for all your thoughts. We're now just over two weeks since she went into the MBU (and just over three since our little boy was born, who remains wonderful). It's a bit up and down but i think the trend is towards improvement. To my eye the delusional thoughts are beginning to fade - she still has them, but for example yesterday she said something along the lines of "i know i've had a lot of reassurance, but there's a part of my brain which still tells me there is something terribly wrong with [the baby]". I reassured her that that was the ill part - and took comfort from the fact that there is a dawning realisation on her part that there are "real" thoughts and "not real" thoughts, with the latter being caused by the illness, and also from the fact that those thoughts are perhaps not taking over quite in the way that they were.

    Progress is slow, however. they have upped the olanzapine a bit which i think has helped but made her more sleepy. they are talking about anti-depressants because her mood is very low sometimes - but not all the time, which i understand is classic PP. she has had depressive episodes in the past (pre-pregnancy) and these have been rather overwhelming when she had been deep in the pit. however, although she is terribly sad some of the time, she will sometimes still smile and chuckle in a pretty normal way to a normal story or comment.

    they have also mentioned ECT as a possibility further down the line, which frankly i find terrifying.

    because of the low moods, i don't think we are going to be allowed any leave very soon, which is sad for both of us. i understand the medics' position, but i feel like i want to say something like: "with respect, you say that normality is good, but this place frankly is very very weird. you might not think that because it's basically your office. i think she desperately needs more normality to help her get more in touch with reality. a trip out wouldn't hurt." but i don't think they'd agree.

    I have to say that the care is on the whole good so far and some nurses have been outstanding. However, when we are free of the place i will likely have a fairly long list of small areas for improvement e.g. they should paint over the completely weird mural of rabbits dressed as pirates in the nursery area. In a place where people are afraid they are suffering from hallucinations i think it is completely inappropriate. i think i'm hallucinating when i look at it for goodness sake.

    otherwise, keeping fingers crossed but it's slow.

  • Hi tvr

    Thank you so much for taking time to update here on how things are progressing. It does sound very encouraging that your wife is gaining insight about parts of her brain maybe telling her things that aren't quite right.

    V tricky with Olanzapine getting the right balance of enough therapeutic benefit without making the person terribly sleepy. You may find as recovery continues that you both need to advocate quite strongly for the dose to keep being reviewed.

    It does sound like the unit are being very cautious about some short periods of leave. Do you know if this is because they are worried about risk to your wife's safety (sorry to be direct but i.e. self-harm or suicide risk?) If not, I would encourage you that you are well within your rights to press for some leave. You are absolutely right - spending a little time in the 'normality' of the outside world is important in establishing recovery for both of you. It really is OK to advocate for what you feel is right, you know your wife best, even though she is unwell.

    It's interesting that by comparison (probably because I was on a general psychiatric ward) the staff were eager to get us out and about - even when I was so delusional I was convinced I had read that we were going to win the lottery in a magazine with a 'future' date on it - as it meant baby spending less time on the ward.

    Laughed wryly at your description of the mural - it sounds awful! Photos of recovered mums with their partners and babies would be much nicer I think.;

  • p.s. I know there are a variety of experiences of ECT on this site, but for me in our second pregnancy it actually really helped with a severe bout of depression. I agree it is not something to take lightly - but for what it's worth my 10 sessions were handled very sensitively and compassionately. The anaesthetic is very light so you don't get too many side-effects of that and obviously you are not aware of the procedure at all.

    However this is a very personal choice, and it is inevitably a 'clinical' operating-theatre process which was definitely upsetting for both me and my husband. When and if you get to this point, if you or your wife wanted to personal message me about what to expect, that would be fine.

  • Hi Tvr,

    It certainly is a good sign when reality starts to appear again, even in small doses.

    It took a few weeks before my wife and I were able to leave the MBU for a walk up the road and to the shops etc, of course her confidence was absolutely zero, so it was tough for her initially (plus scary for me too) but it was all part of the mending process and therefore took time to build up to more and more time out.

    ECT is certainly a big decision, I suppose the thing here is that you'll both have plenty of time to make an informed decision at a later date. We didn't have the ECT decision but had a different but at the time felt an equally scary decision around lithium, which I had to find out about and had a number of discussions with the consultant, who was very understanding and willing to listen and also allowed a 'let's wait and see' decision, which worked out for us.

    I couldn't help but laugh at the mural comment and it'll probably be one of those things that you look back on in years to come and have a good laugh together at ;o)

  • Hi tvr

    How are things? Just to say hope improvement is continuing - the first week or two of antidepressants can be hard I know. Hope you are still getting time to spend with your wife and lovely son. We are here whenever you need.

    N

  • Hi Naomi - thanks for asking. Things are still improving i think, but it is slow. There is more of the normal Mrs tvr becoming apparent. Sometimes there is some real smiling and chuckling, which is great. That makes me think things are improving a lot, and then of course we have a period (say an afternoon or something) we she is really low and tearful, and some of the old anxieties come back - which is tough.

    We had a bit of a breakthrough (her word!) last week when we saw a child developmental psychologist in the unit who had offered to show us what our little boy could do and how he could react to us. It was absolutely marvellous and was a massive reassurance to mrs tvr about his health (one of the big anxieties/delusions she had right from the beginning).

    They have upped the olanzapine again as they said they might and they have started antidepressants. too early to tell really on the latter front, but hopefully things are changing.

    as normal stuff goes, we have had some longer trips out - still v short though. one day we evaded the nurses and i took her off the hospital premises, up the road to some local shops. we didnt do much - we just went to costcutter and bought some juice and sweets - but it felt like a massive normality breakthrough. we've had more walks around the hospital grounds. i'm going to start pushing for longer trips out now - maybe dinner out. i'm really concerned about the effect the environment has on her state of mind so i want to keep pushing this stuff.

    relatedly, the toughest thing i think i'm facing at the moment is her requests, when she is feeling more confident (her confidence is beginning to come back in flashes), to just leave and go home. there is no section and she's an informal patient. and i want her home as soon as possible more than anything in the world. but i know it is too early, although it is painful to admit that. and so i have to say something like that to her - but it feels like a huge betrayal. i need to find a more helpful way of putting it.

  • Hi TVR

    We can all really relate to what you and your wife are going through when reading your story. My partner has never really opened up about how he felt during my illness but I know he found the whole incident traumatic. I remember everything like it was yesterday.

    I too found the paintings of the rabbits amusing. Yes they do sound ridiculous paintings to have up when patients have all kinds of hallucinations taking place but like Zapple pointed out you will both be able to look back in many years to come in amusement.

    It sounds like you are doing well under the circumstances and to both of you it feels like nothing is ever going to be the same again but believe me it will get better over time. I would constantly ask my partner when I was going home - the same question over and over every time he came to visit me like a child asking 'are we nearly there yet'! I would get very annoyed when he kept saying 'soon, it will be soon'!

    On your last post you were worried about your wife wanting to go home too early. There would be days when I would be so mad with my partner because I wanted to go home so badly and I felt like he was making me stay in the hospital but now I understand why I needed to stay there. Once better and knowing about my illness I completely understand why I had to stay there. When you are poorly you cannot see things clearly and the dramatic ups and downs of the illness definitely don't help. For my partner he found that it was better for some things to come from the psychiatrist and doctors so he wasn't the first point of contact in telling me that it was too soon to go home. I think this made it easier for my partner as then I wasn't angry with him for giving me the news that I needed to stay in hospital longer.

    Hope things are gradually improving.

    E

  • Thanks tvr for taking the time to update.

    It really sounds good and encouraging, flipping heck you are doing an amazing job!

    Think EmmiLou's advice is really helpful - it may be good to place the responsibility for making the final decision about when it is right to come home firmly with the psychiatrist and MBU staff. Very tricky - I too was a voluntary patient after both daughters and put a lot of pressure on my husband to 'let me' come home from hospital.

    When you get towards discharge, a few overnight periods of leave at home first is probably well worth considering. This was very helpful for us just to try out confidence levels on both sides. I guess your psychiatric team will discuss this with you when the time feels right. I really hope this might be something you are all ready for around Christmas time - but even if not you can always delay Christmas until you are together at home!

    The input of the child development psychologist sounds brilliant. Many of us recovering from PP felt we needed reassurance from professionals that our interaction and bonding was OK, and often this aspect is missed. Will Mrs tvr be able to get this kind of support once you are home? Your local Children's Centre could be a good port of call - they often have parenting specialists & family support workers.

  • Good point Naomi.

    When we finally got to the point of home leave, around our area at the time we had 'Homestart' who were able to offer one morning a week support for my wife. They matched the volunteer to my wife and her circumstances and she would come in and just play everything by ear, they might go food shopping or toddler groups for instance but it helped towards building my wife's confidence.

  • Hi Tvr,

    I too used to get asked this question all the time, on one occasion my wife wanted us to make a run for it (she hadn’t been sectioned either) but I persuaded her that this wasn’t the best option! I used to say that it wouldn’t be far off and talk about the amazing progress she’d made so far but that we needed to make sure that we’d really got on top of the illness and ensure a full lasting recovery.

    Like EmmiLou's partner, sometimes that message would come from the consultant or staff but I'd still have to convince my wife that it was for her benefit.

    It's fair to say, there are plenty of us on here that can relate to what you're going through and to hear you are both getting a chance to take trips out is a great step. It was nice to get to that stage with my wife, occasionally one of her closest friends would come in and they'd get out for a drink in the hopsital cafe, it all went some way to helping towards the step of getting home for a couple of nights.

    Keep up the good work ;o)

  • Hi tvr

    I'm guessing this is ahead of the game a little... but just to say as and when Mrs tvr would like the support of others with experience of PP we are here for her too.

    Hope all is continuing to improve.

  • Hi Tvr,

    I haven't posted in a while and have just read your posts. I hope Mrs Tvr is still making good progress and continuing to get better.

    My husband will also be able to relate to so much that you have decribed. I also spent time in an MBU and I was desperate to leave and looking back I feel that I left before I should have.

    Taking one day at a time, worked best for us.

    Thinking of you all.

    Lou

  • Hi all. Thanks for all your thoughts. We are still progressing slowly. There was quite a bit of improvement through last week - much more normal mrs tvr, more active, more looking after the baby etc etc. That built up to a decent weekend where we were allowed to go out for lunch on the sunday the two of us (at a local pizza express) and all seemed to be progressing well, and the nurses and docs were very happy.

    This week has been a little flatter perhaps but we are at least not taking retrograde steps. I think christmas is looming a little over us and mrs tvr would like to get out for the day but doesn't quite feel she is ready. A slight change of attitude from 9 or 10 days ago - the demands to go home have been replaced by a concern that she is not ready to go home (true), but now it is me that wants things to move faster. this is frustrating but at the same time it is much easier for me if she is telling me to slow down than for me to have to tell her that she needs to slow down and stay in hospital. At least i don't feel as if i'm betraying her.

    The docs are clear that she shouldn't be pushed, and should only do things when she is ready. Of course it must be right that she shouldn't be trying to go home even for a day if she won't cope, as otherwise the result could be detrimental to her confidence and could set her back. So i understand that has to be avoided. But at the same time i think there is a balance to be struck (and i plan to say this to the docs tomorrow). Mrs tvr's confidence and mood remains low so sometimes she feels like doing very little - maybe just sleeping sometimes. However if she is encouraged (usually by me - the nurses are supposed to but i fear that they are busy) to deal with the baby, or just go for a walk, or to the shops, then afterwards she almost always says she feels better - both because she has done something positive (like have exercise, which makes here feel better) and because it makes her feel as if she is making progress. On one day this week she told me that she might have spent the whole day in her room if i hadn't visited and made her get up, shower, deal with the baby, go for a walk etc. the trouble is that i can't be there all the time to do this. and the attitude of the staff is not to push, when i think that i can see positive improvement with a bit of light pushing and encouragement (although there is of course a limit - if she says explicitly she doesn't want to do something then i won't persist). as i say, i think i will raise this tomorrow but i'd be grateful for any thoughts of those of you who have been in this situation and how far you felt a little encouragement or pushing was a positive thing?

    In-law management continues to be an issue too. They want to visit all the time. I don't think it is sensible for a variety of reasons. And mrs tvr doesn't want them to be troubled (they don't live nearby). Any tips for telling family that they should stay away because a visit far from being beneficial may even be detrimental (tiring mrs tvr out, making her worry, making her sad about missing family christmas activity etc...)?

  • Hi Tvr,

    I found that my wife's recovery was variable, some weeks I used to be surprised at the change, then others would be a much slower afair; for me it's a great step to hear that your wife is saying she doesn't feel ready, when the same happened for my wife it felt a real point of positivity, that she understood her true feelings. I used to check with staff about offering to go for a walk or a drink, etc. and some days my wife would be really up for it, others not at all and I really played it by ear, in our case I went very much with the not pushing route, however, that didn't stop me from having meetings with the staff and doc about their view of where my wife was and when did they see plans for longer trips out etc. they were very open to hearing any concerns/questions. For us, the ramping up of a couple of hours out, then a few more, then a day out at a time, then a weekend at home, then the week took a long time but then when we finally came home for good it had given my wife a solid foundation to build on; her confidence was still shattered and that takes a lot longer but that initial foundation is all important.

    For the parents and family visitors, I was just honest with them but I also talked to my wife's brother who was able to speak to his mum and reinforce the reasons. I told them it was tiring for her, it was a fragile time and important not for my wife (her daughter) to be overly worried by having too many visitors, plus even that staff had said to keep visitor numbers right down to minimise any added stress. I came to visit one day to find the mother-in-law already there and my wife, who at that moment had no inhibitions, was telling her mum what she really thought of past issues that she'd previously kept to herself!!! I then had an upset M-in-law plus 2 or 3 hours of listening to my wife afterwards and me trying to calm her down. I felt exactly the same as you and certain times did prove detrimental.

    It sounds as if you're doing really well by you and your wife and that's what counts.

  • Just to add extra info, my wife some days just wanted to stay in bed but the staff on the ward were very much there to encourage her to get up and washed, plus the involvement with little 'un.

  • Hi TVR,

    Your updates are really good to hear. I find myself remembering my experience at this time of year and how Christmas was looming over us too. You're not alone and things will get better, I promise. It might seem like the worst thing that you don't have the Christmas you imagined, but as others have said, it's just one day and you can have it whenever it suits you. I remember that we just had a quiet time at home with a "turkey in a box" lunch - that my husband would have every year if he could get away with it! I ended up having an overnight at home but also (perhaps strangely) treasure the memory of the morning in hospital and waiting for my husband to collect me. My little boy had a daft Christmas Pudding outfit, all the staff were cooing over him, and we were cheered out of the general ward (the MBU was attached to it and you had to walk though) by all the other patients! I'd been in the MBU since early October and didn't make it home til the 2nd week in January - I was also an informal patient, although I was initially under a section, probably til the end of October or so (this was 2009, my memory is hazy in parts, although very sharp on other areas of my illness).

    ECT is a hard choice. Like others have said, if you want to get in touch with me via message on here, please do so, as I had a course whilst an in-patient. In my case, it started whilst I was under the section and was a bit of a "last ditch attempt" as nothing else appeared to be pulling me out of it. So it actually wasn't a choice, but a required course for me - although when my section expired and I was asked/ strongly recommended to stay, I agreed to continue it as we could see it was helping. I was severely manic and psychotic, not particularly depressed, but I honestly believe it gave the kickstart that I needed in my recovery. It's a very personal thing though. The treatment suite was within the same hospital and it was an odd experience going under the general and then waking up shortly after, with a dry mouth and feeling a bit dazed. It's a slightly mythical treatment in some respects and does seem old-fashioned and scary but I also got a good patient information leaflet on it. There's some info on this site too I think, through other Question threads and blogs.

    I also had Lithium; I was initially on some medication on my local psych ward that did nothing for me and actually made me worse (apparently). On transferring to the MBU 25/30 miles away, they changed me onto Olanzapine. I can't remember my exact dose but it was pretty high I think, twice a day, which only reduced to once and then finally stopped Dec 2010. It's a tough medication, made me very tired and "hazy" but equally did what was needed. The Lithium was added to the mix shortly before my discharge from hospital, and was again a choice but a strong recommendation as other options were not working out. My anxiety was preventing me moving forward I think. Again it's a tough medication and requires a fair bit of monitoring - both for therapeutic levels and to check thyroid, liver and some other functions I think. This was done by my GP on a regular basis, with feedback to my psychiatrist, until I stopped taking it earlier this summer. The way it was explained to me (and this might be different for you and your wife) is that it is a long-term drug, 2-3 years. I did find this daunting but it was such a breakthrough to get it reduced and then stopped. Again, I think it helped me and there's some good information out there.

    As for the family members query, it's a difficult one. Unfortunately my parents were overpowering in some respects, visiting me every day and actually adding to my stress. I know I said things to them that I can never take back, and although I was ill, are still there between us. But I also realise they were just trying to do what they thought was best - even if some of it was for them, not me. My in-laws deliberately stayed away so that I could spend time with my husband, which was just what I needed. As others have suggested, can you get the staff "on side" to help with this and other areas? My consultant in the MBU was slightly scary in some ways but a fantastic resource to keep me quite "protected", and to tell me, quite rightly, what needed to be done. It was always the staff's decision what happened, who saw me when (apart from my husband) and when I was allowed on leave. That also took any pressure off my husband. Whilst I know we all know our partners best, the professionals do have a part to play in this.

    Sorry for the long and slightly waffly response - I hope things continue to improve and remember there's people to support you (and your wife if and when she wants) on here. Take care.

  • Hi again tvr

    Thanks so much for the update. SO glad you got out to Pizza Express, funnily enough that was my first meal out too from the unit back in 2005.

    Olanzapine can be a total bugger for motivation. I'm inclined to encourage you to go with your gut feeling and keep going with the 'why don't we try this...' activity approach. Do you think staff would be comfortable doing this too, or are they prioritising rest etc?

    I would say from my experience that most community mental health support workers recognise that small daily goals are really important. They give some structure to work towards, help you to push through demotivation and then give positive rewards in terms of successfully meeting a goal. At the start it might be just taking a shower and having some breakfast, taking some baby photos, writing in a journal. Sometimes this seems to get a bit 'lost' in inpatient settings (I have no personal MBU experience though). Is there any OT on the ward at all - cooking, gentle exercise or artwork etc?

    In my disinhibited early illness, I actually told my poor mum I didn't want her to visit any more as she was looking too anxious. Recently though, she told me that although my manner was awful and she felt guilty, it was actually a huge release and relief that she didn't have to be there when she knew she couldn't make it better. How does Mrs tvr feel about their visits?

    Hope you are able to have some family time at Christmas - many of us on here know how horrible it is facing being an inpatient at this time of year. But you will honestly still look back and there will memories of your baby's first Christmas to treasure.

  • Christmas wishes going out to you Mr, Mrs & mini-tvr!

    Let us know anything we can do to help out in 2013

    N

  • Thanks Naomi - i'm touched that you thought of us yesterday.

    In truth, we had an absolutely wonderful if unconventional day. Mrs tvr had been unsure about getting out of the unit on Christmas day (which we agreed to refer to as "Tuesday" rather than "Christmas day") until the last minute, because she wasn't sure that she was ready, but in the end i arrived at the unit at about 9:45 yesterday morning to find her packed and ready. All three of us drove home and had 4 or 5 hours at home before going back to the unit at teatime. Mini tvr was as good as gold in the car. It was the first trip home since mrs tvr went into the unit on 19 Nov.

    Mrs tvr had a shower, packed some different clothes, we bathed mini tvr in our own bathroom, fed him and changed him, took some photos - and mrs tvr and I ate Heinz tomato soup and cheese on toast for lunch. It was brilliant. We are both still high on it a bit (even if i'm a bit sad today that i need to stay at home and do some work) as it was such a big step. I will absolutely treasure the memories of yesterday for a long time. After everything that has happened, it was incredibly special. I'm sure you will all understand how big a deal it was yesterday, even if others might find it a bit difficult (even the nurses - when we got back, one of them said "did you eat lots and lots?" to which mrs tvr said "we just had heinz tomato soup.... but it was brilliant").

    We've still a way to go, i'm sure there will be bumps on the road, i continue to miss them terribly, and January is going to be tricky as i've got some difficult work commitments which will curtail my ability to visit the unit a bit (although who knows where we will be then). And there's still some recovery to go (and the in-laws are still being rather persistent). But it was a fabulous day.

  • excellent, what a great day :o) so glad you were all able to get back home for a few hours; I was hoping you'd be able to and what a great memory to treasure.

  • Brilliant, this made me smile

    I imagine "Heinz tomato soup" will be your one of those classic phrases you look back on together and have a wry giggle, along with the awful bunny mural ;)

    What a brilliant day to have the first trip home. Good on you both!

    N

  • What a wonderful story, glad you had a memorable Christmas/ Tuesday! Hope things continue to improve for you both, and the little one is continuing to make you smile. All the best for the coming weeks.

  • Happy new year tvr family

    Hope January continues the great progress you have made and there's more home leave on the agenda soon.

    N

  • Not sure where you are geographically, but i'm planning a family project for 3 mothers with their baby and with dad. Anxious in-laws are kind of par for the course, and supporting the family unit together at these times can be very useful, if it can be done. It helps the family feel stronger together. My question is highlighted on this website earlier today 14 jan 13; i'd welcome comments/suggestions. warm wishes, Leigh4

  • Hello tvr family

    Just checking in and hoping that the balance of visiting the MBU and self-employed work isn't too hard this month?

    Wishing Mrs tvr continued recovery, and a return to life together at home for you all soon. Still smiling about your lovely Christmas :)

    Naomi

  • Hi Naomi and all. The work thing is a bit of a nightmare but that's another story. However on the (much much more important) mother abd baby front it's all good news. We've had soem great home leave, and they should be (subject to the snow today) coming home for 2 weeks leave. We had four nights across last weekend and it went really well - it helps that mini tvr is an excellent sleeper (8 hours a night at the moment - altho that could change after he's had his jabs today). Best of all is that they have set a provisional discharge date in 2 weeks time. Hopefully things will go to plan. I will be busy at work still for the next week or two, but we've some family support to keep an eye while i'm not at home. And importantly from my perspective it means i won't have to go to the MBU and i will be able to see them at home in the evening. And then hopefully i'll take a week or two off after this little crunch, coinciding hopefully with discharge. It really feels like the end is in sight - we'll all have to be vigilant over the next few weeks, but it feels like we'v emade so much progress.

  • Hi Tvr,

    Glad things have come on so much, it's great to get the discharge date. Is the unit able to organise further outside help/contacts for when you're all finally discharged? Along with the CPNs, we got in touch with a charity called 'Homestart' who organised a volunteer to pop round for 3 hours a week to help build my wife's confidence.

    Continued best wishes

  • Brilliant, brilliant news tvr family

    V glad you have a good sleeper in mini tvr - that was one of our blessings too with both girls. It sounds like fantastic progress has been made for you all in 2013. V helpful that zapple has flagged up both support from community mental health team (hoping this is in place for mrs tvr and that she will get on well with her care co-ordinator) and the voluntary sector.

    home-start.org.uk/findsuppo...

    Hope you continue to have a lovely time together at home, and that being reunited for good in 2 weeks is the beginning of a fresh start in family life. We will be here as and when you need us for any bumps along the way.

    Will let people know when a nice glossy version of the Recovery Guide is available, but here's the plain text. app-network.org/wp-content/...

    :)

  • Discharged last week (!!!). All seems to be going ok at home. Mini tvr continues to be a delight. Mrs tvr is aware of this site now, and may well pop up at some point (i've mentioned it, and indeed the consultant did too at our discharge meeting).

    Thanks so much for everything. This may not be the end of the road, but we're beginning to get back to normality, and even had a lovely weekend out of town visiting family and friends with mini tvr.

  • Hi tvr, wow that's such excellent news, I'm really pleased for you!! It's great that your consultant mentioned this site too. Feeling like you're getting back to normal & beginning your new life together as a family is amazing. I found it a fragile time but yet a very positive time. Remember to take it steadily & not expect too much (you've both been through such a lot) & carry on enjoying the delights of Mini tvr! :-)

  • Welcome home Mrs tvr. You 3 have all done an amazing job

    :)

  • Fantastic news family Tvr and echo Andrea's / Naomi's comments.

  • Hi tvr,

    How's everything going now, 8 months on from your last post? No news is hopefully good news...?!

  • Hi there App13. Yes no news is basically good news - thanks for asking though. After discharge at the end of Jan, Mrs tvr continued to improve and was fairly rapidly back to normal. All the outpatient appts with the consultant went fine, they gradually reduced the meds and then eventually took her off olanzapine altogether about 3 weeks ago or so.

    It took us both some months to get over it. I remained quite anxious and nervy for a while, and quite upset when i thought about what had happened. But this has got better over time. And we're not scared (too much) about having another baby some day as we're reasonably happy with the stuff that would be put in place to help; e.g. for medical reasons anyway (rather than psychiatric) it looks as if next time mrs tvr would have to have an elective c-section anyway, which should reduce trauma etc.

    Interestingly, mrs tvr has decided that she wanted to be quite open about what happened (to the extent that she remembers it, which is limited to a degree). Obviously our families know in detail, but also some friends and others - and especially her mummy contemporaries (friends from pre-natal classes etc). We talked about it and we were both firmly of the view that if the potential stigma is ever going to go away then these things need to be out in the open. I would say the response has been universally positive. I mean ultimately i suppose it's possible that we've scared some people off with talking about it and maybe they don't want to have so much to do with us - but i've seen no signs of that, and if anyone's doing that then frankly i couldn't give a monkeys as i don't really want to have anything to do with them.

    Otherwise we're doing really well. Mini tvr is an absolute delight - he'll be 1 year old next month, is crawling around and is generally pretty cheerful, and it seems unbelievable that he spent a good portion of the first 3 months of his life in an MBU.

    Anyway, i hope all the above information and help i got from everyone (for which both i and mrs tvr are truly grateful) can continue to exist and sit here on this site as a reference for any other husbands / partners having this kind of trouble. And also evidence of the fact that it will get better even if it seems awful at the time.

    tvr

  • Very heartening to hear your update, thanks tvr. And may you all enjoy very happy first birthday celebrations next month.

    N x

  • Just re-reading this thread... If I am ever cross at TVR I just think of this and know how much he loves me, and what he went through at the time.

    Thanks all for the amazing advice and support.

    Kat (Mrs TVR!)

  • Hi Kat

    What a lovely happy ending for you and Mr TVR at the end of your PP journey.

    I recently read my medical notes following my PP when I was 23 and 29. I wish now I had the opportunity to thank my husband for all he did for me but circumstances have changed and this is not possible.

    Due to the stigma, my episodes were not mentioned or discussed so I had no idea how ill I had been until I read my notes. Thankfully I eventually fully recovered and we had many happy family memories over the years that followed. My parents are not comfortable discussing this time in my life, so it isn’t a topic of conversation even now and I don’t wish to distress them as they also cared for me.

    My ‘happy ending’ is that my sons are very loving and caring towards me and their hugs priceless. They have families of their own, including my treasured grandchildren. Recently they voted for APP in the Lottery Awards and asked their friends to do the same, which made me very proud.

    I really hope everything works out well for you and Mr TVR in the future.

    Take care. x

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