The Spiritual Side of Postpartum Psyc... - Action on Postpar...

Action on Postpartum Psychosis
2,376 members1,649 posts

The Spiritual Side of Postpartum Psychosis

It most cases of postpartum psychosis, there are symptoms of a spiritual nature. Why do symptoms that are not tangible or material present themselves when experiencing postpartum psychosis or psychosis, in general?

Read more: jennifermoyer.com/2013/the-...

18 Replies
oldestnewest

Hi Jen

I too am interested in how our own spirituality might shape the way in which we experience symptoms of postpartum psychosis. I think it's also really important that women and their families are given a chance to explore how PP affected their faith/spirituality during recovery. For me personally, it was a long time until my husband felt able to talk about the religious content of my delusions - as really for him it was a symptom that needed treating and then forgetting about. He found it difficult to understand why I would want to question where God was in the midst of all my confusion and 'prophetic' insights - and if there was any truth in what I believed at the time.

I know for some people, their faith community is able to really help with recovery in both practical and spiritual ways. Sadly for others the experience is much less positive. My church were great in the crisis, but struggled to let me find my own path to recovery and eventually we left to join a less 'strict' community. I really feel that faith communities need training, and a lot of sensitivity in helping people recovering from psychotic experiences.

It's also interesting that not all women do experience religious or spiritual delusions. For some women the focus of delusions is around other 'insights', such as being a spy or winning the lottery.

Looking forward to reading your blog!

N

Reply

Just finished reading your blog. I hadn't really acknowledged my 'spiritual beliefs' until after the birth of my son. But when I tried to explain my thoughts to medical professional they just asked in disbelief what my religion was......so I stopped speaking about it. Then I found this book "Journey of the Soul: Awakening Ourselves to the Enduring Cycle of Life" written by

Dr Brenda Davies and she kind of confirmed what I had been trying to explain.

Reply

Is this book on Amazon do you know? Really looking forward to reading it...

Reply

It certainly was, I so assume it still is......it is really interesting.

Reply

Thank you for reading my blog and for your comment. Sad that when you mentioned your thoughts to professionals, they just focused on what "religion" you were. I believe religion is man-made but the spirit is God-breathed. So regardless of your religion, you should have been given the opportunity to share your thoughts and experiences. Sadly, many people feel more uncomfortable talking about things of a spiritual nature than things of a sexual nature. I am glad you found the book you referenced. I will definitely look-up the book you mention. I, too, was helped by the written word, specifically, the writings of Dr. Scott Peck.

I hope you are at a place of peace and healing. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Reply

That is an interesting question. I am still trying to come to terms with the nature of the delusions/religious insights that I experienced when I was psychotic over eight years ago. The hormonal/chemical imbalances which occur at the onset of PP must surely affect the release of perhaps latent spiritual reserves or experiences/beliefs that might otherwise remain untapped. Disinhibition, as experienced by sufferers of PP, can also release spiritual responses.

I am curious about the perceived contrast between mental-health sufferers of the 21st century and the visionaries of the early centuries.

One of the fundamental problems in untangling these valid experiences in terms of delusion or insight is the lack of a common appreciation of spirituality. But maybe this is one of the eternal human problems.

There was something beautifully simple to the nature of my spiritual "delusions" and it has been an immense shock to reconcile my recovered self to the world in which those delusions have become unfocussed.

Does anyone else agree with this experience?

Reply

Hi Virginia

I can really identify with your struggle to reconcile your intense spiritual experiences during PP with a 'recovered' world without such simplicity. I am now 7 years from my first experience of PP where my belief was that I would help to herald the end of the world. It seemed it would be so beautiful, and healing, and all tears would be wiped away. It was a tough thing at the time to let go of that 'reality' and come back to being a real mum in the real world... Not to mention a year of gruellling postnatal depression to deal with.

It's only now, 7 years later, that I have given myself permission to think about the hopes & dreams that were expressed in my spiritual delusions. Also some of the spiritual tensions I was experiencing at the time around feminism and a very male hierarchy in our local church. It's interesting to me that this perhaps manifested in my delusional sense of being a 'female messiah' who would complete the circle, and bring humanity back to heaven and women & men back to true equality. Grandiose, for sure, but perhaps rooted in my worries and fears about bringing up a baby girl in a church who seemed to be missing the point.

So... for me now I guess I'm beginning to reconcile those hopes that I do still have for a perfected world some day at the end of time. But for now I want to focus on being here in the everyday world and bringing up daughters who know that they are equal, and fully loved - and that God doesn't value men more highly (!)

N

Reply

Interesting question. I had some religious delusions during my psychosis including thinking I was so enlightened that I was just about to disappear into Nirvana, that I finally understood all religions in the world. A lot of my mad scribbles were God related too. My husband and I are not remotely religious so this was one of the things that he found really hard as it was so out of character.

Reply

Really interesting hackneygirl. I'd often wondered if my 'religious' delusions stemmed from a church upbringing so it's good to hear from people who don't necessarily have that. Did you have any lingering sense of wondering about God/spirituality when you recovered or did it feel a relief once those symptoms had gone away?

My husband too really struggled to talk about any of the 'God' stuff afterwards as the way I'd behaved & things I'd believed were v out of character. I think it knocked his faith for a very long time.

Reply

Hi Naomi,

In answer to your question, I don't have any lingering thoughts, but my attitude towards religion has changed subtly. I find it quite hard to put into words.

I studied environmental science at uni and was fascinated with the concept of Gaia. And the first (and only) time I saw a dead body it was totally obvious that there was something fundamental to being a human being that was just gone. That spark of life, soul or whatever you want to call it is real even though we don't understand (or at least us non religious people) what it is.

Even though I don't believe in God, I was never one of those atheists who think religious people are stupid. As a scientist I know there is much about the way the world and our bodies work that science can't explain (yet!) To me that is the essence of science - an endless quest for knowledge. But I have to admit that I never really 'got' how someone who had a good grasp of science could really believe in god. I just never really understood it. But now I do.

I can't really explain it but I just get it.

Anyway, hope that answers your question. Jen aka Hackney Girl

Reply

Check out alwaysamother.tripod.com Post Partum E-Press by D.A. Gray There is a write-up on the Spiritual Side of Motherhood; Past abuse and trauma in childhood that breaks the spirit, et al. God bless all!

Reply

I have just discovered this website and forum...its amazing just to hear people's experiences, and how similar they are to mine. I just wish I'd discovered it a year ago.

This topic is really interesting.

I suffered PP after the birth of my son in August 2011. I am 'religious' / spiritual and a lot of my psychotic 'delusions' were related to that. I thought I was in hell, (which had a lot of truth in it as in some ways I was) and that the staff in the mother and baby unit were also in hell / pergutory. I also thought I had to choose which of my family I needed to 'save' and I could only save a certain amount.

As I think I was coming out of psychosis I had this realisation that heaven was actually here on earth and I was calling my family to wait for me and that I was coming. I felt like I was on a train going upwards to the light.

After 6 weeks recovering from the psychosis very well, I was about to be discharged and ready to come home, and I started to panic / become anxious about going home then I went into a deep depression, I lay in bed going through in my head all the psychotic experiences and came to the conclusion that I was actually evil / the devil. For a while I felt that maybe I kind of 'chose' the depression in some way, that I was tempted by 'the devil' (in the broadest sense: negative things etc, rather than positive things) and that I paid by months of depression. This is a really negative thought I think and not helpful, I know that depression is part of PP and that it was just part of the illness but it has stayed with me for a long time and is maybe still with me a bit now (Catholic guilt?)

Its only really now, that I feel I am more or less recovered, that I am starting to look back on the experiences and think actually there was some great truth in them, and maybe some good / insights can come out of them. its interesting to hear other people saying something similar.

Also before I got ill (though it was probably starting) I had this strong feeling that God had spoken to me saying that me, my partner and baby would be alright, that everything will be alright. I didn't tell any of the mental health workers this but I still now actually believe that was God speaking to me, it felt very significant at the time, and it is something I have held onto.

Anyway I think that's enough waffle for now.:)

1 like
Reply

You waffle all you want gal ... and, get all other moms with like feelings, thoughts and the like to waffle right along with you... It is only through women's "waffling" (love this term), being the largest percentage of medical consumers, that society will sit up, take notice and demand answers on behalf of all women - who are among their sisters, daughters and friends - that will finally warrant enough media attention to make positive strides surrounding maternal health care. Note: As a young girl, age seven, I experienced three traumas within days of each other; two within seconds of one another and what happened nearly 57 years ago still effect me today, and were, in essence, the reasons for why I nearly crossed over the line into "maternal infanticide" and/or "suicide". Luckily, we both listened to the "Voice Within". Join the women's health movement in whatever ways you can to demand from society the prevention that needs to begin in childhood ... so that one day all women can enjoy motherhood the way it was meant to be: Without any of what moms like you and I had to endure, that hellish state of 'spiritual deprivation'. Thankfully, 'For the Grace of God Go We'.

Reply

Jennifer,

I read your blog and really appreciate you writing about this topic. I realize I am coming late to this conversation, but it is one I can really relate to, and I only recently found this site! I too, experienced postpartum psychosis after the births of my children, and found those experiences very spiritually significant. I also struggled (and still struggle!) to understand the meaning of those experiences.

Though I had been raised Catholic, I had fallen away from that religion and had lost my faith in God. My experiences with postpartum psychosis started me on a spiritual journey that has made me feel close to God again, though I now consider myself spiritual, rather than religious. I wrote about my experiences, and discuss many of the same questions you raise in your blog. I have recently published this as a book entitled, "When I Heard God Speak: A Memoir of Spiritual Awakening Through Mental Illness."

The website is wheniheardgodspeakbook.com

I would love to hear more about other people's spiritual experiences of psychosis, how they found them meaningful, and how they have come to understand them (if they have).

I will check out your recommendation for Dr. Peck's book. I really admire your advocacy work raising awareness about postpartum psychosis, and am following you on twitter! Take care.

Reply

Thank you so much for sharing. I encourage and praise you for being willing to share your story with others. So much is still unknown and misunderstood about psychosis. I believe we are all spiritual beings and it is impossible to separate this element from treatment and recovery. My personal experience has revealed to me the importance of spiritual support.

I will be sure to check out your book and website.

Blessings!

~Jennifer~

Reply

Thanks! Congratulations on your book as well! I will be very interested to read it. It really helps to hear about other women's experiences.

Reply

Hello All...I went through post partum after my fourth child. The onset and majority of my experience involved..you guessed it... spiritual thoughts which for years after recovery caused me to wonder about the significance of these thoughts. I think out of all my symptoms the spiritual aspect of my experience give me hope but also seem to cause me to doubt my sanity. I mean my thoughts were way out there. I called my psychiatrist God and my husband Adam. Guess who I was? Yep, Eve.

Going through such an experience takes work from both sides of the coin. On the one side family and friends support (understanding) and the other our acceptance of our condition and the need to ground ourselves. With my condition, I was seemingly obsessive about cleaning and would spend hours and hours trying to remove stains from the carpet, keep dust off furniture, etc. I did not get the right amount of sleep.

Remember, our need to get the right amount of sleep, quieting our thoughts, and eating right seems what helped me get through the ordeal. My overwhelming spiritual thoughts must have come from too much on my plate trying to be the perfect mother and wife. I was also hundreds of miles away from anyone I knew except my husband and my children.

Listen, you have to reach out to others and let them know you cannot do it all and that you need help. You must learn to have confidence in who you are as a person. Remind yourself of the good qualities you have as a person. Also, some things we feel needs doing can wait or someone else can do. People are generous and willing to help you have to let them know how they can help. Tell them you want someone to dust for you!

Take some personal time without the television or devices while someone helps watch the babies in another room and quiet your mind and fears. I had to tell myself over and over and over again WE will make it through this situation but I have to make sure to also take care of myself. We are no help to our babies if we do not also take care of ourselves. We are capable of many things but our body can only stand so much. I say this because this is what helped me gain control over my anxiety. I did not overcome my anxiety without medication either. Also, I believe we need to know we are not alone because OH I felt so open and vulnerable all the time! Hug a pillow; it helped me.

I believe that the spiritual side of my experience was there because I did not want to lose control and I did not want to be estranged from my newborn (my biggest fear)---my innate survival mode taking over. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit yet I feel I was grasping at anything that could help me keep control even though I was not capable of control---I needed someone to help me know everything I was worried about is taken care of and I will be alright. My feelings of guilt was (I believe) not being able to do everything I normally could do. Hey, you can put superwoman on hold; you just had a baby! You are a member of a church? Great! Tell them you need someone to come by and dust for you if that will help you feel better; I bet they will do it! I would! If no-one will do it for you; keep asking---remember to ask, ask, ask. By the way, my baby just turned 21---everything worked out just fine!

2 likes
Reply

I first became religious during a PPP episode 9 years . I turned to God in prayer. then after recovery began research and am still religious today. It has helped a lot . No relapse since then despite v hard times

Reply

You may also like...