I have walked you all through loving a child through postpartum psychosis and the living hell of going through postpartum psychosis. Now I want to walk you through my journey of healing. I wonder to myself quite often if I will ever reach the milestone of being fully recovered? Having a child for anyone changes your life and changes you as a person. That is a given. But I also think that living through and surviving postpartum psychosis is life changing as well and I think my recovery will always be a work-in-progress.
My recovery began in a hospital in St. Louis after I reached a tremendous crisis point with the psychosis. I was so combative when I arrived at the hospital that I had to be sedated. I woke up in a padded room and that was the beginning of me trying to put the pieces of my life back together. I was still in psychosis mode…hearing things, being delusional, and it was so scary. I was so sick that I couldn’t even use the telephone. I remember trying to call my mother and my husband and being unable to remember even their phone numbers. I would sit at the phone and just press all kinds of numbers. The behavioral unit staff watched me like a hawk for the first few days. I had to even eat in front of them. I had to teach myself how to live again. I spent my time journaling, writing letters to my husband, reading religious materials, and praying. I also slept a lot. I participated in the group sessions after several days and that helped some. I connected to many people that were staying in the psychiatric ward. I felt at home there because I was surrounded by people who were also sick and that was very comforting.
My first psychiatrist was very lacking in the bedside manner department. She would give me 10 minutes each day. She always made me feel like a burden and that I was taking up her time. I stayed in the hospital for 7 days I believe and toward the end of my stay I was desperate to get out and get back to my family. I would write in my spare time things that I needed to talk to the psychiatrist about going home and getting back to my baby. I carried my son’s picture around with me and a small bottle of baby shampoo so that I could have his smell with me. I was just aching to hold my son again. Eventually they released me, but looking back now, I can see that it was too soon.
I remember leaving the hospital and feeling so fragile and vulnerable. I was a ball of anxiety. I was not to be left alone with the baby for two weeks. That is what I preferred anyway because I was so unsure of myself as a mother and I was at the bottom of the barrel when it came to having self esteem. My baby was two weeks old by this time and I had very little experience in taking care of him. I had convinced myself that I just couldn’t take care of him by myself. I was so scared and anxiety took over my life.
I started sinking into a deep depression and the medication I was on at the time was not doing the trick. I continued to feel depressed, extremely anxious, and unsure of myself as a mother. I told myself all of the time that Landon didn’t need a mother like me. He had all kinds of people that could take better care of him that I could. It was such a dark time. I was still seeing the same psychiatrist from the hospital and I would communicate with her that the medication was not working. Eventually, she put the blame on me and told me that medication wasn’t the only thing that would make me better. I had to do some of the work on my own. I felt like such a failure and such a burden. Deeper and deeper I sunk into clinical depression. I became suicidal. I could not stop thinking about dying and stopping the pain. Everything I looked at would be an idea of how to kill myself – whether it was overdosing on pills, driving my car off the road, throwing myself down the stairs, or starting the car in the garage and going to sleep. I was lucky enough that I told my husband and my mother about my thoughts. I ended up back in St. Louis in the Behavioral Health Unit. Again, I did not stay long enough. And I can honestly say that I don’t recall much from that hospital stay. It was a rather short one, maybe three or four days. I remember going to group sessions, calling to check on Landon ALL of the time, and writing my husband letters. In the letters I would always speak to the fact that I just wanted to get better so I could take care of him and our baby. That is all I ever wanted.
After that hospital stay, I returned to work. I soon became extremely overwhelmed and I think I was over medicated. I would sleep all of the time. I would fight so hard to not fall asleep while driving to work. I can’t tell you how many times I did dose off for a few seconds. How dangerous and how lucky I am that I never had an accident! I slept in the car when I got to work for a few minutes, I would sleep through my lunch break in the lounge, and I would fall asleep super early at home. I would even sleep in my closet while trying to get ready in the morning for work. I didn’t even want to shower. I was trying to exercise because that was supposed to help with depression. It didn’t work. I tried taking vitamins, it didn’t work. I tried changing my diet, it didn’t work. It was so hard to do anything. I could not concentrate at work. It just all became too much and the suicidal thoughts came back. I told my mom and my husband about them and we decided that this time I would go to a local hospital. That was the best decision that we ever made. I stayed the longest I had stayed in any hospital – 8 days. I received a change in my medication and was on a cocktail of drugs that seemed to improve my mood and brought me to a stable condition.
I had stopped seeing the psychiatrist from St. Louis before my third and last hospital stay. I started seeing a local psychiatrist and that is the person I see today. I began therapy and that helped. I began to get the confidence I needed to take care of my baby on my own. My husband was so supportive the entire time. He never left my side. He always pushed me to be active and always helped me with the housework so I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Life started to become enjoyable again.
I always pictured myself with a car full of kids. Another part of my recovery has been coming to terms with the fact that future children are just not a possibility for me. It is too risky. I am not willing to put myself, my son, or my husband at risk or in harm’s way. We have received three medical opinions and all three have told me that they are against us having another child for that reason. It is just too dangerous. I am getting a tubal ligation done at the end of the month and that will bring closure to this issue for me. I believe that will be a tremendous help and will unburden me greatly.
I must tell you that it has taken two years for me to start finding myself again. The fight to feel better has not been an easy one. I believe I have changed, but I feel strong and I am starting to feel confident again. I am also beginning to feel less numb. Just yesterday, a love song came on the radio, and I started to finally cry. I have not really cried in 1 ½ years. It all came out yesterday. The song just made me think of my husband and everything we have weathered together. It made me think of the psychosis and how I didn’t let it win. I continue to fight to become myself again every day. I think that the postpartum psychosis will always be with me. It is just something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was a life changing event; a traumatic experience. Looking back now, I would go through it all again if it meant leading me to my son. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I am glad that it happened, but I am at peace with what happened to me. I am at peace with having an only child. I am starting to feel like me again. What a good feeling that is. I am so thankful and so blessed. Just remember that there is no exact time table for recovery. If you feel discouraged, keep trying. Don’t give up! You CAN feel better and you WILL feel better. I know now that things are going to be ok.
About the Author:
Christina Duepner is an accountant in St. Louis, Missouri. She lives in the country with her husband of five years, “almost” two year old Landon, and Golden Retriever, Murphy. She enjoys scrapbooking, reading, shopping, blogging, cooking, and zumba. Please visit her blog at http://theduepners.blogspot.com.