How I feel 4 years after Postpartum psychosis – Am I really Recovered?

My baby is now a boy…the sweetest most loving little boy you could meet. Four years ago I had already been in labour for over 24 hours, I was excited and nervous about meeting my first child.

I had a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder so was on a consultant led unit at the UHW (university hospital of Wales) I had been in labour so long that if nothing had happened by the following day I would be induced.

I was sent home to wait, I started to get audio hallucinations (hearing things) at home but thought this was due to lack of sleep.

We went back to the hospital the following day and I was induced. Things started to get scary and before I knew it I was seeing things that were not real…My experience of Postpartum psychosis was scary, real and life changing.

Four years on my bond with my first child is amazing, he is such a loving child. We spend lots of time together and have mummy and E days quite often. I felt a guilt for being ill for so long that I often wonder if I spend so much time with him because I am trying to fill a gap. Then I think to myself…’will you stop’ I’m his mum, I spend time with him because I love him!

Silly thoughts like these are something I still deal with from time to time. I can be perfectly happy and then bang!! Stupid little intrusive thoughts pop into my mind. I mean they are better than before but I often wonder if I will ever completely get rid of them.

Another thing that still hangs around is anxiety and panic. Yes you wouldn’t believe it as I seem quite confident but I have to deal with awful anxiety daily. I have certain triggers and I know what they are, I do try to avoid these certain situations but that is why I am still living with panic.

The mind is a mysterious thing and when I experienced postpartum psychosis I stored the things I hallucinated and the  feelings I felt when scared as real memories. I now have to have help to make new memories of those horrid occasions.

I had my first appointment for panic treatment yesterday (long wait) and it was great. I am feeling really positive that I can get better and hopefully I will be able to battle my panic disorder. One thing I really want to get better with is to be in a room alone…yes you heard right, I can’t at the moment sit alone in a room as it starts off my panic.

I think others who have experienced any form of Perinatal mental health problems will relate to me when I say,  I don’t think I will ever be 100% recovered.

There are things I do to help sustain my recovery of mental health problems but when a day is to0 stressful or when I feel like I am not in control I do get a reminder that I must continue to look after myself.

Recovery Mummy groups are a great way to keep me focused. Even if I am having a down day, I just look at the ladies I am helping,  I see them smiling and its all worth it.

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Miscarriage, My Rainbow Baby & Mental Health

This post has been a long time coming, I have often started writing and stopped. It comes quite easy for me to talk about my struggles with perinatal mental health but when it comes to the subject of miscarriage I become uneasy.

On December 4th 2013 I had a miscarriage, I was around  12 weeks pregnant when it happened. I had only just recovered (as best I could) from postpartum psychosis and the pregnancy itself was unplanned and a big shock…but I accepted it and felt positive.

The day the midwife gave me the sad news that the pregnancy had come to an end hit me like a brick wall. I uncontrollably started to breakdown, I felt low, high, angry and sad. What did I do for this to happen, did I over exercise, was it my medication for bipolar, was it a mix of the both!

I felt myself slip to depression rapidly and I spent the next few days at home in bed not responding to people, not eating, dressing or even washing. I just felt this huge guilt, the pregnancy was unplanned so I had been taking medication unaware of the damage it may have caused. I decided I was not going to take my medication…I wanted another baby and I wanted it now…nothing was going to take this pain I felt away any better than replacing the one I had lost…Or so I thought…

On December 30th 2013 I took a pregnancy test…The symptoms when pregnant hadn’t gone, I felt sick and everyone around me thought  I couldn’t accept that the miscarriage had happened. The test result was positive, I was indeed pregnant with my rainbow baby.

Thought I would start to feel better now that I was pregnant  but sadly that was not the case. The depression slowly started to improve but I found I did not want to think about the pregnancy. I hid it away from family and even though I was very sick with this pregnancy we managed to keep it quite until I was around 14 weeks gone.

Once out in the open family and friends were congratulating us and talking about the new baby that was on its way… everyone was happy.

I on the other hand was worried, not only was I scared about losing another baby I was worried for my mental health. I thought about the postpartum psychosis I had just recovered from and the months of treatment I had endured. I was only just feeling good again, I was only just bonding with my first child. Was this a mistake?

As the months went on I ignored my fast growing bump, concentrated on my first-born and gave him as much love and affection I could ever give. I didn’t want to connect with the bump, had done that first time round and look what happened there. I was not going to accept the bump was a baby until he/she was born.

It was bumps due day, felt good that we had gone the whole way without any major problems. I went into labour that day and whilst in labour bumps heart rate was worrying the midwife. That was the moment I realised just how much I had subconsciously connected with bump. I was so worried, my main focus was delivering a healthy baby who I was going to shower with love.

The moment I set eyes on my blue-eyed boy my heart melted…had never felt as much love as I did right then. Was this how it felt for other mothers who had given birth? I had been robbed of this feeling the first time round due to postpartum psychosis and  belive this  feeling could have triggered the  postnatal anxiety I was going to suffer. I felt anxious and guilty for not feeling this way first time round.I have previously wrote about my struggles with postnatal anxiety it can be found here https://recoverymummycardiff.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/perinatal-mental-health-a-partners-role/

It is not only me who has experianced this sad situation, women worldwide are facing this everyday. More needs to be done, more awarnessnes and more support.

 

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Perinatal Mental Health – A Partners Role

Becoming a mother is a beautiful and life changing experience…you go from thinking about one person to thinking about a tiny, new little life. You know things are going to be tough, you think you are ready… you have watched read ‘what to expect when you are expecting’ and even bought and flicked through Conception, Pregnancy and Birth: The Childbirth Bible for Today’s Parents by Miriam Stoppard, yet nothing prepared you for perinatal mental health difficulties.

By perinatal mental health difficulties I mean pregnancy or postnatal depression, anxiety or postpartum psychosis. Although I developed postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child, for the purposes of this blog I am relating the my experience of postnatal anxiety.

After the birth  of my second child I felt pretty good all things considered. The birth of my child was quick and straight forward, I felt an instant bond and I was not experiencing psychosis…bonus!!

However, I was to experience perinatal mental health difficulties once again…

Postnatal anxiety is crippling, it can take someone who is happy, outgoing and turn them into a nervous wreck…it can makes the simplest of tasks almost impossible to achieve but to those around you, you look fine and capable so all must be good.

For me the anxiety was intense, I had suffered with agoraphobia for sometime as an adolescent so I felt I was back to square one. I could not take a foot outside my front door alone for fear that I would have a panic attack and die. I could not be left alone either as for the same fear that I would have a dizzy spell…faint and my children would be alone in the home.

The anxiety had its hold of me from the day I arrived home from hospital and within two weeks of giving birth I weighed less in body weight than I did before I fell pregnant! This rapid weight loss from extreme anxiety was so bad that the doctors were concerned and sent me for all kinds of tests…this only added to my anxiety and then I found I was now scared and anxious that I was seriously ill and I wouldn’t be around for my boys.

In all this was my husband…my rock and my voice of reason.

Dads/partners play a vital role in a mothers recovery from perinatal mental health difficulties. When feeling lost, alone and anxious a partner can be the calm that is needed to help a mother see things differently. A partners role in a mums recovery is top of the agenda, they can be more beneficial to mum than professionals at times.

My husband had to stop working when I had postnatal anxiety, I was so nervous that even something simple like him going to our local shop would start me off.  I would hang around our front door or by our living room window waiting for him. I would pace back and fourth from window to door waiting anxiously. If he was taking a little longer than usual I would start to cry…my head would start spinning and I would hyperventilate, I would then be violently sick.

This behaviour of mine was awful and I would feel guilty that I was making him stay home with me, he never made me feel bad for it. My partner would try to help in anyway he could. He would take the bus with me to meet my friend in a coffee shop and then hang around the local shops just so I would feel a little independence. i would feel safe knowing that he was close enough if I needed him. Some might say I depended on him to much but when you are feeling this anxious who else but a partner are you to lean upon.

Although my husband had to give up his work he still continued with his university night course and we would get family members to babysit keep an eye on me when he was not home.

When I felt this way my husband would remind me daily that it would pass, that I was a good mum, wife and that we had been though worse. He didn’t once make me feel guilty that he had to stop work to take care of me and that it was impossible for him to have any sort of social life. He was there to care for me and even when our finances become strained he didn’t want to worry me further so took it upon himself to deal with it all. I feel this affected his mood and although he would disagree with me I believe he became depressed for a while.

I look back now and I know that my recovery would not have been possible without the support of my caring partner, the way he would rationalise every crazy thought I’d have or be there when I felt like giving up.

I often think back to our appointments and home visits from professionals and I think once someone asked how my husband was coping. Now that’s crazy when you consider everything my partner had to give up to support a nervous wreck of a wife and with no professional training either. I believe partners are key to a mums recovery and they need support just as much as mothers do. When will people see that…food for thought eh…

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Easter and Eating Disorders

Its that time of year again…Easter

Everybody over indulges on chocolate and anyone not eating an Easter egg at Easter is odd. They even sell lactose free and free from versions so there is no excuse.

I have been over my eating disorder for more than 5 years now however, there is something about the holidays that make me uneasy.

Chocolate on any other day of the year (except Christmas) don’t bother me, I will happily eat a milky bar without the feeling of guilt.

I think because of my past, Easter and Christmas will always be a little tough for me, not to say I wont eat sweets on Easter as I do but its still tough. It does get easier year after year though.

I have spoken to a few people today who are struggling with eating disorders and Easter, I just want to let them know that it doesn’t last forever, learn to love who you are and find support…there are many organisations and charities out there that can help.

I have had a lovely day out with family and although Easter is still a hard day for me I get through it and I have beat it.

For information on Eating Disorders  – https://b-eat.co.uk/

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