Way More Than Baby Blues: Post Partum Psychosis

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Post Partum Psychosis

Immediately after my son was born, I experienced the ‘normal’ baby blues. With him being in the NICU, it felt slightly worse than I expected mothers of healthy babies might feel, but I accepted it as a normal reaction to my situation. I was weepy, restless, and couldn’t calm myself enough to sleep. In the first few weeks of his life, my guess is that I slept a total of 5 hours. I just couldn’t shut my mind off. I chalked it up to being a new mother, in total awe of my tiny baby.

I was constantly checking his breathing, making sure he was still alive. So much so that I eventually just sat up, holding him in my arms in the dark, while everyone else slept peacefully. I assumed that I was just doing my duty as a mother—ensuring the well-being of my newborn. No one told me that this wasn’t normal. Sure, everyone gave the same generic advice of “sleep when baby sleeps”, but I figured that was the same (though rather odd) thing as saying “welcome to motherhood.”

Fast forward a few months, and I wasn’t feeling any better. In fact, I was worse. I still anxiously checked on him to make sure he hadn’t died in his sleep, and new, irrational fears of very improbable circumstances, in which something terrible happened to my child, would run through my mind like a film strip.

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Again, I brushed it off. I figured my lack of sleep was making me a bit loopy, and all that I needed to rid myself of the crazy thoughts was a solid eight hours—which I knew not to expect for a while. I continued to ignore it.

Eventually, things took a nosedive. I wasn’t just anxious about my son’s life, I became a paranoid wreck. Everything around me was a danger to myself and my baby. Nothing made me happy, and my relationship with my husband went down the shitter because I became incapable of loving two people at once. I was a downright bitch. I figured it was just the stress of being a new mom, and never bothered to educate myself on what might be happening to me.

I mentioned it in passing to my doctor, but I passed both Postpartum Depression screening tests with flying colors, and so I went on feeling like garbage, hoping I’d just wake up happy one day.

Jump ahead to present day: I’ve experienced the birth of one child and the loss of three since 2011. The sadness I felt in the beginning is now at an all time high. My anxiety is through the roof, and I can’t function like a normal human being. My mind has become a torture chamber, full of gruesome images of dead babies and horribly mangled bodies.

Whenever I try to sleep, I am hit with images of my baby getting seriously hurt or dying. Mostly, these ‘visions’ are ridiculous, in that I highly doubt he’ll drown in a swamp or sink in quicksand…but then, more recently, they’ve started getting worse. More vivid, more intense, and more realistic. From getting hit by a car to falling off our balcony..and then, in the few weeks since my latest miscarriage, I’ve closed my eyes, only to see myself stabbing my son or smothering him with a pillow.

When these thoughts enter my head, there is absolutely no desire to fulfill them…only a stab of pure terror at the idea that I could think such horrendous things, and anxiety attacks so ferocious that I’ve often leaned over the side of my bed to vomit.

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I, in no way, want to ever harm my child — even when he’s being nuts. The thoughts I have freeze me with fear and leave me sweating with a racing heart for much of the night. Sleep is still so far out of reach — probably even more so now. I am now so afraid of going to bed. So fearful of the lights being off because I know I’m about to see myself killing my sweet boy.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m trapped in my own head much of the time, and I walk around in a daze. I feel like life is zipping by me, and I feel empty—I watch everyone around me live life to the fullest, but my heart has no desire to join in. My head, though constantly racing with thoughts that I’m unable to focus on, feels like a fuzzy TV channel.

The past week has been the worst for me. I’ve contemplated suicide multiple times because I am not coping well. A lot of it is due to severe exhaustion, but I also want the thoughts to stop. I can’t ever see myself doing something so ridiculous, but I also never thought I’d be the type to succumb to any type of mental illness. I am a zombie for much of the day, and at night, I become manic. I am afraid of myself. My mind has become a very scary place to be.

Yesterday was the first time that I’ve admitted any of this to anyone. I was so afraid of the judgment I would, without a doubt, face. I didn’t want someone to read this and think “Well, she’s gone off the deep-end, what kind of mother is she?!”

The thing is, though, as scary as it was to open up, it’s like a weight has been lifted because the people I shared it with are now carrying some of it for me. In telling my story, I was able to find the strength to call my doctor—which I should have done a very long time ago.

My doctor saw me immediately, and diagnosed me with Postpartum Psychosis and began treatment immediately. Though I won’t be cured right away, I am now on the road to a brighter place. I have suffered for almost two years, and today – for the very first time in what seems like forever – I took a deep breath and thought that maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay.

Comments

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  1. Abigail says

    Thank you for sharing.

    We are not alone in this although it is hard to remember. It is a truly frightening place to be. I still struggle with it… Some days are worse than others, but generally there is more light each day that goes by.

    My heart goes out to you.

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    • Christina says

      Keep hanging on. It will pass and things do get better. My heart goes out to YOU. Remember, sometimes, the best thing we can do is go from minute to minute, hour to hour… you will get through it. Just call on those who have extended their hand and genuinely mean it. They will pull you through.

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  2. Mary Salter Straub says

    Brene Brown says that shame cannot stand in the light. And she is right. Secrets cannot hold up once spoken. It is ESSENTIAL that you talk and keep talking. Keep talking whenever you need to, find that village of people – the friend(s) you can call at 2 am, the one you can interrupt at work, whenever, to talk when you need to. As you said, when you speak your burden with ones who truly care, you share it so you don't carry it alone. In the dark of the night and the light of the day…speak your truth. Your honesty here may just save someone else by giving them the courage to speak up. Truth is powerful stuff, even when we think it's pretty ugly. THANK YOU for sharing this.

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  3. meghan says

    I have never experienced what you are going thru but your story made me cry for you, both in pain for what you had gone thru and for the utter relief I could feel from your words at the thought of being ok.

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  4. Leslie says

    You are so very brave to write this article and your words so accurately describe what postpartum can be like. I suffered with the same “visions” and couldn’t even tell my husband or closest friends because of what they would think. Turns out my best friend has the exact same issues.

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  5. Lindsay says

    This is exactly why my husband left me. It went undiagnosed for so long and he figured I was just being a bitch. I’ve been getting help for almost a year now and I feel like a brand new (single) person. It gets better. Hang in there <3

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  6. Heather says

    Thank you for raising awareness. I have felt the fear of my own mind. The reality my head is capable of creating is far more terrifying than any reality I’ve ever experienced. Add in the overwhelming inability to breathe while having these fears and you just described me. I’m so sorry that you have felt this I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Keep your head up this feeling isn’t you, it’s a sickness.

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  7. says

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing. I suffered from terrible post partum depression with my 3rd child & didn't get treatment for too long. It was like being in a deep dark hole with no hope for escape. When I found out I was pregnant with my 4th, I was TERRIFIED of feeling that again. My dr assured me we would keep a close eye & treat right away. It was much better. Hang in there and know you are not alone in this!

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  8. Alaina says

    Thanks for sharing, needs to be talked about way more often. I think i may have ended up there, but my husband was proactive and got me help within weeks. Very thankful for him!

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  9. Julie says

    You just described the first two years of my child’s life. I would lock myself in my bedroom and scream/cry into my pillow because I could not understand why I was visualizing my husband throwing our tiny newborn up against a wall and her head exploding. Or why I constantly checked our car (repeatedly) to make sure our baby wasn’t in there, when I knew full well she was peacefully sleeping in her crib. Or why I would have a full blown panic attack whenever I had to leave her. Or why I still cannot leave her with a babysitter (even for an hour just to get out on a date with my husband) because I’m convinced that the babysitter will kill her. It is ridiculous and I know that it is, but I was terrified that if I told anyone what I was feeling, they would lock me up in the closest padded room and take my baby away from me forever. When I did finally break, I wasn’t met with police and a social worker like I expected. I was embraced with love and support and understanding. A hefty dose of medication made all the difference in the world. It can be fixed. You can feel better. Don’t make light of it, lay it all out there. I am so glad that I did. Thank you for bringing such a scary and REAL subject to light. Your post will help many a mother realize that she is not alone.

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