Way More Than Baby Blues: Post Partum Psychosis

by Brea Rehder
Originally Published: 

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.

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.

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.

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