Adele shares the story of her best friend’s recovery from postpartum psychosis
While some moms still feel they’re not able to talk about their experiences with postpartum depression, even fewer feel they can speak up about being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.
Adele’s best friend, Laura Dockrill, wrote an unsparing account of her experience with postpartum psychosis. Adele shared her best friend’s post along with a note about how proud she is of her, calling the essay the most “witty, heartbreaking and articulate piece about her experience of becoming a new mum and being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.”
“This week my baby turns 6 months old and I feel like it’s an achievement in more ways than one,” Dockrill writes.
She explains that it’s not normally her thing to get personal on social media, but after talking about her experience, she realized how important it was to write about it.
And write about it she did. Dockrill shared the very intimate details of the onset of her postpartum psychosis (PP) — and how she came out the other side. She speaks of the shame and sadness that commonly accompany PP saying, “It’s not easy to admit that the worst time of your life was when your baby was born.”
Dockrill notes that only 1 in 1000 moms are affected by PP, and that until it almost ruined her life, she didn’t know about it either. “In my case it was built upon post natal depression and exhaustion and escalated into a phase of what I can only describe as hell; mania, mood swings, insomnia, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, severe depression with a lovely side order of psychosis.”
She says her pregnancy was a breeze and she was completely unprepared for this illness that would rock her and her family’s world. She detailed her difficult labor and subsequent emergency c-section. After he was born, doctors discovered that despite Dockrill going two weeks past her due date, her son was underweight due to issues with her placenta. Her doctors now believe this all contributed to the onset of PP.
The next several days were a blur of constant nursing as Dockrill “sobbed and ached,” grateful she was able to breastfeed but feeling the full weight of her new life as a mother. “I just remember thinking- what the hell have I done?” she writes.
Once she was finally allowed to go home, the mom was gripped with crushing feelings of anxiety and panic. Her heart pounding, stomach churning, she knew something was wrong.
But even though she knew something was wrong, she didn’t quite know what it was. Dockrill says she didn’t think she was depressed because some things still made her happy. Then, she realized she had no idea what depression actually looked like. “My ignorance and denial encouraged me to stridently continue even though I knew I was struggling.”
As Dockrill slogged through the first weeks of motherhood, she tried telling herself this was all normal. Friends even backed her up, reassuring her and telling her to catch some Netflix and order takeout. “…and I was like I DONT KNOW WHO THE F**K I AM how am I going to use the deliveroo app?!”
Some did suggest she had the “baby blues,” but by then, she suspected something much worse was at play. “I’ll just put it bluntly- I was suicidal, I would lie in bed begging my mum to let me go, I don’t even know how she dealt with that.”
Dockrill says she was a ticking time bomb, experiencing bouts of mania during the night along with extreme lows and strange behaviors. “I would write weird scraps of stuff down on odd bits of paper about my sons routine to try and remind myself but they meant nothing,” she writes.
By then, her family was moving into her living room in an effort to support her recovery, bringing food and trying to help, but she could barely understand why they were there.
Severe anxiety attacks set in where Dockrill became convinced she was starving her baby and that she was a horrible mother. Despite family trying to assure her, she says her illness took a “dark” turn. Dockrill didn’t trust anyone and even accused her partner of kidnapping the baby. Finally, her family staged an intervention that led to two weeks of hospitalization.
It was there that Dockrill realized how far gone she was. “I forgot who I was to the point that Hugo would have to send me photos of myself and my friends and family to remind me who I was,” she writes. The mom struggled to believe anyone who told her she was loved and supported. She deeply felt that although her doctors said she would recover completely, that she would somehow be the exception.
As she spent time in the hospital, Hugo brought their son to visit. Although she grappled with feelings of inadequacy, slowly, Dockrill began to feel more like herself. And she says talking about it now, knowing her story might help others going through the same thing, is helping even more.
“Now with the support of my family, an incredible psychiatrist, medication (which I really hated the idea of taking but now recognise them, for me, as necessary and I am grateful to whoever invented them) and psychotherapy I am healed and recovering more and more each day,” she says. Dockrill quips that this was nothing a yoga or art class could’ve fixed, alluding to the things so many well-meaning people tell new mothers they should do to feel better. That they need to take time for themselves. But Dockrill now knows what she experienced was far beyond that.
She emphasizes that she was not “struggling” with motherhood. She just got sick. And even though she’s since recovered, she’s discovered that she may deal with the fallout of her illness the rest of her life. After celebrating recently that she was able to stop taking her meds, Dockrill’s period came due, the hormones sending her back to feeling anxious that her psychosis may return. This time, she knew what had to happen.
“Since, I’ve had to go back on medication again to feel secure and will admit that I felt like a failure at first, it was a massive set back for me, but this is a journey- it doesn’t have a definite ending and could leave me fighting anxiety about not sleeping my whole life or ringing my doctor in a panic once a week, who knows maybe I’ll be boomeranging on and off meds forever?”
But now, she’s accepting the reality of her illness. “But this is where I am now.”
Dockrill thanks Adele for her unending support throughout her illness and emphasizes that all women going through PP need to know that asking for help is the best thing they can do.
“You don’t have to brave it alone. You don’t have to act like a hero, you already are one.”
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