3 years ago I gave birth to my beautiful daughter and was hit by crippling postnatal psychosis.
Only now am I starting to be comfortable talking about her first year; quite possibly the worst year of my life. That shouldn’t be the case. We shouldn’t have to hide in shame.
This is my story, one that is frighteningly common.
I’d wanted to have a baby for years. My husband and I were so happy when we found out I was pregnant. Throughout the labor, I was so excited to meet my daughter, I couldn’t wait. But when they placed her on my chest, all I could think was – “I don’t want this. Take it away.”
I didn’t know what it was, and I was so frightened and ashamed. I’d never experienced mental health issues before and suddenly here I was, breaking a fundamental law of biology: I didn’t love my child – I hated her.
I felt like I’d betrayed evolution. The most basic of our instincts is to care for our young but I couldn’t manage even that.
We were released after 5 days (scumbag uterus tried to kill me and my baby). I remember leaving and the midwife saying “She’s so beautiful” and all I could think was “Please don’t make me take her.” When we got home I realized just how little we knew about looking after a baby.
She wouldn’t sleep. She would just scream and scream and it made everything so much worse. And when she did sleep…
I had no idea that what I had was a mental health problem. I knew only 2 things: 1) I was an embarrassment to the human species; and 2) for the first time in my life, I didn’t want to be here anymore.
I also lived on the 13th floor of a tower block, which presented a very quick and easy exit.
After those thoughts, I decided that I had to get out of the flat. My first solo outing with my daughter was a disaster.
I had two large, circular wet patches around each nipple where I’d soaked through breast pads, a bra, a t-shirt and my jumper.
Word of warning, ladies: there’s some serious pressure behind the flow.
My husband started suspecting something was wrong as I was spending ages in the loo (crying) and coming out with red, swollen eyes. There was no way I was going to admit how awful of a human I was, but he knew something was up and started helping out in small ways, and that made all the difference. But then…
I started hallucinating. Her eyes went black and her head turned into this odd alien shape.
Scared the sh*t out of me. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, as it snapped me back to reality: I was ill.
I called the doctors and they said they could see me in 10 minutes. I love the NHS.
They gave me a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a mental health nurse, a health visitor who came round at least once a week, and 2 nurses who would randomly come round to make sure that I hadn’t committed suicide. More importantly, they showed me all the many ways I’d been taking good care of my baby without realizing.
I should never have doubted my husband. Ladies, men (it can affect men, too), talk to your partners, don’t be ashamed. Don’t do this alone.
I would’ve gotten better a lot faster if I’d just confided in people. Why didn’t I? Because I was too ashamed.
One year after my daughter’s birth I was discharged!
Seriously guys, go get help. Talk to your loved ones. I never even told my mother. She only found out recently and was really hurt that I didn’t confide in her back then. We need to start talking about this. We don’t talk about it because it’s taboo, and it’s taboo because we don’t talk about it. There are some really good helplines dedicated to people who are suffering from postnatal depression and psychosis. They can answer all of your questions and worries, and help you get through the mess your mind has created.
Please don’t let this put you off having kids. Children are wonderful and they make up for whatever hell your mind might put you through. Here’s solid proof – had a second child two and a half years after my first daughter was born. No mental health issues this time!
Much love, Juno and Oliver’s Mum.