Psychosis. What sort of images come into your mind when you think about that word? My guess is that you didn’t immediately think of a new mum with a tiny baby. Postpartum Psychosis happened to me, and happens to around 1400 new mums every year in the UK. When my first baby was just ten days old I needed to be admitted to psychiatric hospital. I had become very high and energetic after her birth, and by day ten I believed that the end of the world was coming.
I wonder if this is the first time you have heard of Postpartum Psychosis? If it’s not, what kind of news stories or internet stories have you read about this illness? In the ten years since I had my first baby, I have only ever read one positive story about a mum who recovered from her experience. I have come across countless tragic stories, many of which paint mums who do have psychosis as evil and deranged.
Conversations with peers who have ‘been in your shoes’ are incredibly valuable
In my experience of meeting other mums who have had Postpartum Psychosis the media images of mothers who have been through psychotic episodes couldn’t be further from the truth. The women I have met come from all walks of life, and have tremendous stories of strength and resilience to share. A common thread is our passionate love for our children. I have been on a long journey to recover my confidence as a mum. Many mums who have been through Postpartum Psychosis feel forever changed by our experience of psychosis. Conversations with peers who have ‘been in your shoes’ are incredibly valuable. There is something deeply reassuring about speaking to another mum who has taken that long journey from the fear and confusion of psychosis to recovering at home, to rebuilding her confidence as a mother. I’ve had the privilege of meeting other mums affected by Postpartum Psychosis through my work as a trustee with Action on Postpartum Psychosis. I’ve also worked for Rethink Mental Illness as a trainer of GPs and medical students, so it has felt really positive to be able to change their perceptions of what a mother who has had psychosis is really like.
It’s time for postnatal mental illnesses like Postpartum Psychosis to come out of the shadows
Speaking to friends and colleagues about my experience hasn’t always been as easy. There are so many expectations of the emotions you will feel as a new mum. How do you tell another mum at a toddler group that you lost your grip on reality while she was worrying about the night feeds or nappy changing? In my small town for a few years I was gossiped about as “that mum who got sectioned” and whilst my close friends took time to really hear about my experiences, I definitely felt there was stigma lurking in the shadows.
Some women still feel they can’t tell their friends or co-workers about their episode of Postpartum Psychosis for fear of judgement. This is why Time to Change’s message of open, honest, real conversations about mental health is so important. It’s time for postnatal mental illnesses like Postpartum Psychosis to come out of the shadows. It’s time for the media to take notice of real women, like me, who can show people that it is possible to recover and rebuild a family life after mental illness.
Naomi’s charity, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, has been nominated for a National Lottery Award in the Health category. You can visit the Lottery Good causes website to vote and to find out more about supporting the mission to bust the stigma surrounding postnatal mental illness.