As I lay In my bed one night after our latest discharge from hospital my stomach twisted in knots and as I looked around, the colourful walls caved in on me. I felt a sense of an evil presence and remember thinking ‘That’s it, my life is over ‘.
The last few months had been hard. Forrest my 5th child had been born prematurely at 28 weeks at the hospital where I worked as midwife. Seven weeks were spent next to his incubator watching him fight for his life and when he made it home, oxygen tank it tow, he stopped breathing at home and had to be resuscitated on the living room floor. A further 3 weeks in intensive care on full life support followed before we could bring him home and begin life as a complete family but that’s when things tool a turn for the worst.
At home I didn’t have a hospital routine to follow and life eased back into normality, but for me I started to feel very on edge and anxious. I was worried that Forrest would become unwell again and decided that I should probably stay up a little bit later each night to watch him, and so I did. Night upon night I watched his chest rise and fall and I marked down on a card a little tick each time he breathed. I told myself I would stay up just a little bit later but this always turned into an all nighter. I couldn’t switch off. I started to hear a voice, as if someone was behind me telling me that I had failed as a mother, it was my fault my child was so unwell and that the air and environment around us was so polluted we would eventually die anyway. All through the day a derogatory commentary would play in my head, it was exhausting. The voice sounded like when someone calls into a TV show and they wanted to remain anonymous. Panic rose in my chest each time I heard the voice and I was too afraid to tell anyone what was happening for fear what this voice would do?
Red mist started to appear in front on me and swirled around us, coming through the windows and out of the chimney breast. It smelt like rotting meat and I could feel it clogging my lungs and mouth and, In an attempt, to protect Forrest I would always try and breast feed him so he couldn’t swallow the air. I would swipe at the air and bite my tongue so hard it would bleed trying to get rid of the mist.
Life was becoming unbearable and the voices so loud that I decided to follow their instructions thinking it may make it all stop and would keep myself and the baby safe. I got into my car and drove onto a main road in our city, all the time the voice egging me on, congratulating me on my choice and for being a good girl. I pressed the accelerator and crossed onto the wrong side of the road and closed my eyes as I drove onto on coming traffic with my baby in the car seat next to me. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle really, a loud horn from the car I was driving towards blasted and I opened my eyes and swerved ending up on an embankment on the side of the road. The voices started immediately telling me I had failed and they couldn’t help me anymore and I drove home shaking and crying, Once indoors I locked all the windows and doors and taped all the windows up with black bin bags. Petrified the red mist would kill us both for sure now.
When my husband returned to our home, he immediately saw I was very unwell. He knew I hadn’t been right for a while but having no knowledge of mental illness he hadn’t known if I needed to see anyone and wasn’t sure where to turn.
My GP was contacted and I was reviewed at home by A psychiatrist that day and given a place in Winchester mother and baby unit.
Mother and baby units offer inpatient specialised psychiatric care for women suffering from perinatal mental health issues and allow mum and baby to stay together. Once there I was sectioned under the mental health act and diagnosed with Postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health condition that affects 1-2 in every 1000 women.
I was immediately started on strong antipsychotic medication, benzodiazepines to keep me calm and sleeping tablets to help me rest, I became much worse before we saw an improvement but with support from the staff, talking therapy and medication I started to improve. I spent a total of 3 months at the Mother and baby unit and left with a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis, depression and PTSD.
Life took a long time to return to ‘normal’, I have lost friends because of the stigma of my illness, naming me a psychopath, some didn’t want me around their children. I couldn’t return to work and in the end the memories were to much and we moved out of the area.
Now I talk openly about psychosis in the hope to raise awareness and brake down the stigma around this terrible illness. Postpartum psychosis stole the early days with my baby, it stripped me of my identity and controlled my mind to the point of almost suicide, but now I won’t let it control my life.
Follow Emily on Instagram @mum.interrupted
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