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Emma's Story

On Wednesday February 22, 2023, I had a moment of awakening. I am still unsure of how long I survived without sleep. It had been weeks. Weeks of severe anxiety, auditory and visual hallucinations, muscle spasms and manic episodes. For the months following my first episode of postpartum psychosis, I was attempting to piece together the complete timeline leading up to that day of awakening and exactly what occurred in the weeks following. I’d reached a crisis point, and no one, including myself, could comprehend what was happening. I do know that the days of misperception and severe paranoia led me down a very dark hole. During my recovery from postpartum psychosis, I spent a lot of my time researching and seeking support from those who could truly understand my experience with this illness. It’s not an easy thing to talk about at all, and until then, I was left completely alone in search of my own answers. I was forced to discover the repercussions, consequences, and long recovery of inadequate perinatal care and lack of understanding of PP. My own personal knowledge and lived experience in the medical field were my own worst enemies, and almost every health professional I spoke with completely dismissed the fact that I was still a patient. No matter how often I spoke of past trauma, family mood disorders, and other family medical history, I was always diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Even during the perinatal period, it was only ever anxiety.  


My first child was born in 2021. At 5 months postpartum, we decided we wanted to try for another baby. I fell pregnant almost immediately, and I gave birth again in November 2022. I had my birth plan in place. I kept on top of my emotional well-being and nourished myself so much more this pregnancy. But I was also depleting myself because I had another infant. Postpartum depression and anxiety hit hard, so we increased my antidepressants, and I began to feel more stable and supported. I’ve since learnt that postpartum depression and anxiety can be SO misunderstood by many mental health specialists. I was DEFEATED, EXHAUSTED, RUN DOWN, but not depressed. I had COVID-19 when I was in my second trimester with my second child, which was the first time I really utilized the support service, PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia). I was isolating at my Mum’s while she was interstate and spent an entire week alone. I was relaxing sure, but I felt like death, and I was grieving for my support system. I had daily check-ins, which were an incredible help, and then I was finally back with my eldest child who was just shy of 1. I can’t remember much from there. The birth of my second was empowering, peaceful, and exactly how I’d always wanted it. Running off days without sleep again, naturally I did not “sleep when the baby slept.” I breastfed both of my children and developed an instinctual attachment, so I was not giving up on that. But my second child was obviously a different baby, and I was becoming a whole new version of myself again. My family and friends showered us all with love and support, which was overwhelming for me. My insomnia began when I was around 6 months pregnant with my second child. My memory and functionality quickly became scrambled. The only way I could piece together those early memories was by reflecting on photos and videos. Just over 12 months after, I’m beginning to feel like myself again.  


I’ve chosen to share my journey and personal experiences with postpartum mental illness in the hope of helping others. Let me tell you, it does get better. You won’t hear that it gets harder before it gets easier, but sadly it does. I wish I was told the truth about recovery and that I would have to lose myself a little before shining bright again. I have learnt that the ones closest to you may become angry, worried, and frustrated because they don’t understand. This was the hardest part of my recovery, explaining what I was experiencing and feeling as though no one was listening. I found the easiest thing for me was to print and laminate fact sheets and hand them out to my family. I also gave them copies of my crisis plan, so that if needed they had my GP’s, psychiatrist’s, and psychologist’s contact details. Sometimes no matter how hard you try and how far you reach, people may struggle to understand. But with the right support, you WILL overcome this, and you’ll do it so much better than you thought. 


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