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Christine's Story

I experienced postpartum psychosis after being hospitalized for a month. I had been hospitalized before with manic episodes due to my bipolar disorder, but it was never this severe. I was told I didn't sleep for 11 days, and I was probably better off not remembering it. I felt like I knew where I was one day, then I was watching the nurse write the date 17 days later on the board in the psych ward as if I had time traveled. Where had all those days gone?

I remember snippets, like feeling hunted, as if the nurses were out to get me, trying to escape from the quiet room, and the need to cover any blemish on the floor with torn pieces of paper. There was a turning point when a nurse squatted down and just talked to me about what was going on, accepting whatever I said, nodding along and I suddenly felt like I had an ally. Throughout this painful process, I thought I was being experimented on by aliens. That's what it felt like when they poked and prodded me with instruments. I wish someone would have told me that I wasn't crazy, and that I was truly an amazing mom.

Leading up to the hospitalization, I was on cloud nine, as it was a transition which is always difficult for me. I was going back to work and was super excited about using my hands again. I had been haunted by this intrusive thought my whole maternity of dropping my baby down the stairs. Apparently even good mothers have scary thoughts. I couldn't shake it, and that's what popped out of my mouth when my psychiatrist tackled me to the ground after I threw some papers in his office. I leaped through the office window and shouted, "I want to throw my baby down the stairs!" Of course, I didn't mean it. I love my baby, but that was my worst fear, and it came out when I felt out of control. As if to say, keep me away from my baby right now, because I am not in control. I then went outside and started dancing with the geese, which gets you a ride in an ambulance apparently.

I kept looking back after being hospitalized and feeling regret. I knew instinctually I needed a break, but it felt like those in my life closest to me didn't understand. Why didn't I just stay at the doctor's office, where they could help me. It's taken a lot of self-reflection to realize it may have played out exactly how it should have. How it had to for me to get the help I needed. I wish someone would have told me not to worry about breastfeeding and to just take care of my mental health, and that the baby would be good on formula. We shouldn't be pushing “breast is best” quite so hard as a society. My partner and I believed it, and because of that, I had gotten off nearly all my medications and was doing just fine until I wasn't. It felt like it came out of nowhere and even now I have trouble trusting myself to not go too far again.

I believe that it all comes down to how much sleep I get. One good thing to come out of my experience is that my partner now takes overnights so I can sleep. I'm so grateful for such an understanding partner. I know not all couples are so lucky after an episode of psychosis. You need people in your life who understand, who have faced adversity. It builds empathy, and your ability to relate to others who are suffering. It helps me hearing stories of others who have struggled and who have said and done things that they regret. Most importantly, I had to forgive myself for what I said and did in that state, and it helps knowing it was an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. I didn't do anything on purpose. I wish someone would have told me to go to the hospital sooner, that the hospital is not to be avoided at all costs but a resource to be utilized before it's too late. I wish I had the perinatal psychiatrist that I have now instead of a doctor who didn’t understand pregnancy and how it affects the brain. Gathering your resources is the most important takeaway from this hard life lesson I've had to learn. You can get through it, but not alone. Protect yourself from prying ears and eyes, but let some people in.

- Christine


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