It’s been over 2 years since I experienced PPP.
Hi, my name is Amy and I am a survivor of PPP. Before my pregnancy, I had only briefly heard of PPP in the news – scary stories that make you wonder, How could someone do that?!
Now, I know the truth. PPP is real, rare and really scary. It’s a tragedy of hormone fluctuations. PPP changed me, honestly for the better. Looking back, it has made me more patient of others who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. I want to help change people's opinions of PPP.
Becoming a mother at 38 was very difficult for me. Being pregnant was easy compared to the postpartum. It was shocking to see how much time this little life depended on me. He was my special needs baby boy, and I had to be the best possible mom in my mind. He needed to be breast-fed solely. That's where it started. I put so much pressure on myself to be a good mom. I started to lose sleep here and there and eventually became sleep deprived. I was literally isolated due to COVID-19 during this time, and there was very little external support.
I wish I had gone to the hospital sooner. I wish my OB-GYN at my postpartum appointment had realized there was something amiss when I yelled down the hallway "Jesus is Lord!” The hospital I went to was very small, and I was told that this is a common diagnosis by the psychiatrist. The little I did know about PPP was that it was very RARE. I wish doctors would not confuse postpartum depression with postpartum psychosis. My therapist is who recommended Lithium (my mind-saving medicine). Unfortunately, my doctor did not listen to her for nearly 3 weeks. After I experienced PPP, I wish someone had connected me with a mentor who had gone through PPP. After my hospital stay, it took me a good year to recover. A good therapist is key, and she continues to help me process what happened.
Find a support group with PPP survivors. There are many on Facebook. Keep a journal. Share your story! The hardest part of recovery was being around people who did not understand. My family believed that if I looked normal, than surely I was normal. I wish my family had been more supportive. I wish they would have made an effort to make my surroundings less stressful and more serene. It's best to stay away from toxic family members. It’s important to protect yourself emotionally – only surround yourself with healthy people. I wish people would talk about PPP and not be so scared of it. I did not hurt my baby. Those cases are rare and publicized to gain viewers. I had Department of Social Services (DSS) called on me and I finally confronted the pediatrician about it when I was better. She gave an answer of “I heard of a scary story in the news.” There's so much fear surrounding this diagnosis, but there doesn't have to be. I wish people could know the overwhelming sense of doom that encompasses PPP when you're in the middle of it. Maybe then, they would have compassion for the mothers who act out of desperation instead of judging them so harshly. I wish people knew how important it is for the survivor to not feel stress. To listen to relaxing music, to take a warm bath, to get a caregiver for your baby.
I was in a hospital setting at my lowest point – thank God, because I was not in my right mind. Every sound, everything overwhelmed me. There were hallucinations. A lot of religiosity. After I left the hospital, I felt overwhelmed at loud sounds for months and months. It took me longer to process things. Just because I look normal, does not mean that I'm not experiencing something very difficult inside. I wish researchers could better determine how stress during a pregnancy can ignite such a condition. I wish they knew why so many of us experience religiosity in our delusions. I did not have bipolar disorder beforehand. My first nurse practitioner was determined to diagnose me with bipolar disorder after having PPP, but the verdict is still out. Be wary of providers who are determined to prove you have a diagnosis. Some providers are great during a crisis like the onset of a postpartum psychosis episode, but as you heal, and you're in a different place emotionally, it may be time to move on. My new psychiatrist listens and helps me feel empowered where I'm at now in my recovery. I choose to be on a very low dose of Lithium to protect my brain and not because I have bipolar disorder. There are many women who experience PPP who are bipolar and that is okay too.
Just listen to your heart. If you're starting to lose sleep, protect your sleep! If you're having unusual thoughts or having suicidal thoughts, seek help. If you're having paranoia, it’s time to get help. That's what I would tell someone about PPP.
For me, it was a slow gradual loss of sleep combined with stress that resulted in unusual thought processes. It's the only time in my life when I felt suicidal. Because of this, I knew I needed to go to the hospital. However, even family did not want me to seek hospitalization because of stereotypes like "Isn't that where crazy people go?" Don't listen to the stereotypes – my PPP did NOT get better until I got on medication in the hospital. Before I got really sick, I looked completely normal and people didn't question me because of the perception that every new mom is stressed. I was told, "Just sleep when the baby sleeps." For me, that was not possible because I'm a light sleeper.
At my 4-week OB-GYN follow-up, I thought my OB-GYN was a demon. I managed to pass under her radar without any question in order to "protect my baby" in my mind. I think there should be more psychiatry in OB-GYN. Maybe then, they would have realized, “maybe we should re-assess her.” Also, my OB-GYN thought going up on my Zoloft was a good idea. It was the perfect mix of sleep loss, an increase in Zoloft, stress, and hormone shifting that [I believe] caused my PPP.
To you, dear mother, be patient with yourself, and please seek help and support. To her family and friends, ask her what she NEEDS, get a caregiver for the baby, and please seek support.
You WILL get through this!!