Trigger warning! Mentions extremely upsetting psychosis episodes
Postpartum Psychosis? Oh I had that….

Postpartum Psychosis? Oh I had that….

In the two and a half years since the onset of my wife’s illness I have heard these words many times. I can count on the fingers of a single hand how many times it's been true. Very likely the people saying this did have Postpartum Depression or PPD, which is a beast of a different nature to be sure, though much more common than Postpartum Psychosis, or PPP.

Something like one in five women suffer PPD, while that number for PPP is one in a thousand, most of whom require hospitalisation of some sort during their recovery.

When Tara, my wife, was on the local psychiatric ward being treated, I was looking into this disease. A disease I had never heard of until then, which considering we were having our second child, is a little disturbing...

Why was this not discussed during all those parenting classes we were made sit through the first time around?

Anyway. What I found was almost no information of any real substance. In desperation I turned to social media for help. One person on Facebook advised me to watch a documentary made a few years before called, When the bough breaks. I can only assume the person had never themselves watched it, for if they had I like to believe their advice would have been different.

I unfortunately came to that conclusion after subjecting myself to that documentary and the horror it was drawing attention to. Don't get me wrong, it's an important message they are trying to spread, it just hit home differently to someone in my predicament.

Many stories contained within were about women with postpartum depression, and the program details their trails and struggles, then their eventual recovery. Each appears in a group setting at the conclusion to gratefully declare that life gets better, things improve and with time and the right balance of help and medication everything will be ok. Only everything was not ok. Three of the women mentioned within the show were suffering with Postpartum Psychosis and for them there was no such redemption. One was in prison, one had served her full sentence only to later take her own life and the third had committed suicide before she could do the unspeakable act which the others had to end up in prison. It was a harrowing watch, and even though the story mainly focused on women within the USA, where no legal protection is in place to protect new mothers from the dangers they face after giving birth, it was discomforting to see that the victims of Postpartum Psychosis were not only the mothers, but the children they had struggled to bring in to the world, and the spouses left behind in the tragedy.

It was at that time that I wrote the words below, and having recently found the memoir I thought it was worth sharing.

If I asked you what you know of Postpartum Psychosis what would you say?

If you’re anything like me before a few weeks ago the answer would probably be nothing, never heard of it. Consider yourself lucky if that is the case, though if you’re reading this it’s probably unlikely to be so. If this terrible affliction has or is affecting you, or someone close to you then you have my deepest sympathy. You also have my heart felt hope that you were as lucky as I was that my wifes condition was identified early.

As I write this my wife is in a mental health facility, detained under the mental health act. I’m at home with our two and a half year old son, and 24 day old daughter. This was to be a time of joy and love, and in truth we have still managed to have a little of that, but with a massive undertow of grief, loss, fear, anger, frustration and guilt.

When I read the above its hard for me to admit that we are among the lucky ones, but I also know its true. Those who are not so lucky are the poor unfortunate women we see on the news, and generally slander without ever realising the full measure of their suffering. We can’t fathom how a new mummy could have hurt their baby, or worse, but it happens. The depth of psychosis can be such that a normally balanced, loving and caring woman can do unspeakable things and never once be in control of their actions.

Information blackout

In the early AM, when my wife turned to me and with all sincerity asked if we could go and smother the baby now, I knew something was very wrong. That was the most terrifying night of my life. I sat in front of our bedroom door to keep the woman I love safely away from our children. Having sounded the alarm by calling a crisis team, I spent the hours waiting for them to arrive desperate for someone to help me understand what was happening. I made that call at 4am, and the hours passed slowly until they finally arrived arrived at 11am. I had first heard the words Postpartum psychosis on the call to the crisis team, when the nurse I was talking to basically listed off the list of symptoms my wife was displaying like she had them on a cue card. I spent hours searching in vain for more information about the condition, still, by the time they arrived I still could not have explained to you what it was or why it was making my wife act so strangely.

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

It took time and a lot of help for us to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, a light which had been so glaringly absent from the documentary. We found an entire community of families who had gone through a similar experience and through a charity called Action on Postpartum Psychosis, or APP for short, I found information and peer support. Support provided by people with direct experience with the condition, or from people who had personally cared for someone who had suffered with it.

APP was a god send. I reached out and within hours I was on a call with two of their support members who filled me in on what to expect next. They helped define my expectations on a recovery, which they knew from lived experience could take years. Even now my wife still gets involved in their monthly coffee chat to connect with other survivors and support those who are only now taking their first steps on the long road to discovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with Postpartum psychosis then please don't hesitate to reach out to them via the link below 

Action on Postpartum psychosis 

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