Tag Archives: Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum Psychosis: My Recovery

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.

Postpartum Psychosis: A Living Hell

My husband and I were prepared for the birth of our son and we felt that we knew what to expect during the first few days of his life. We read the books, took the classes, went to all of our prenatal appointments, and typed out a birth plan.  I don’t think a couple could have prepared any better than we did.  We are Type A personalities after all.  However, the classes, books, and appointments did not in any way prepare us for postpartum psychosis.  The evil illness took us by surprise and almost cost me my life.

The first night I was home from the hospital, I had an awful dream.  It was so vivid that it almost seemed real.  I dreamed that my son disappeared and someone took him from me.  Every time I would go to pick him up, he would vanish and would reappear somewhere different.  I was terrified.  I woke up with tears streaming down my face.  I was hysterical and frightened.  I was so scared to sleep for the rest of the night.  I just watched my new baby sleep and I started writing out lots of schedules.  I create feeding schedules, medication schedules, schedules concerning my son’s dirty diapers and the frequency of his urination and bowel movements, and friend and family visiting schedules.  I was obsessed with charting everything.  My mind was constantly racing.  I would go from one thing to the next not being able to focus on any one thing for too long.  When I finally slept again, I had another terrible nightmare.  It involved my niece being raped and murdered.  It was extremely graphic and gory.  After that, I was afraid to sleep and refused to sleep. 

I started to think that I was dying.  I was so afraid that I was going to die and that I was going to leave my husband to raise our son by himself.  I finally told my mom that I thought I was going to die and that I was just so scared.  I told her I needed to be by myself for awhile and I just lay on my bed and cried and cried.  I couldn’t stop.  I cried myself to sleep and had another terrible nightmare.  

I continued writing out my schedules, which I know now is part of the mania of postpartum psychosis.  I started to become withdrawn and I would just stare into space.  The fear that I was dying was still profound, but I kept it to myself.  I was also so afraid someone was going to take our baby.  I told my husband that he needed to put an alarm system in and that he needed to teach me how to use a gun.  I started to believe that my husband and I were being tested and that every new parent is tested in order to keep their child.  If the parents failed the test, their baby was taken away from them.  I was so scared of “failing the test.”  We went to my son’s first pediatrician’s appointment when he was five days old and I remember hearing voices.  The voices were telling me that my husband was always right and to do whatever he told me to.  I remember the doctor asking me when to feed the baby and I could not answer him.  I was afraid I would give the wrong answer and that they would not let us leave with our baby.  It was terrifying.

The next day, when our son was six days old, we went to the doctor so I could have my staples removed.  I grabbed onto my husband like my life depended on it and screamed as each of the staples was taken out.  In actuality, the staples being removed did not hurt at all.  My behavior was bizarre.  The nurse practitioner asked me questions.  I only remember one…”What would you do if your husband took your son away from you for a few days?”  I answered, “That would be fine.  Whatever he wants to do is fine with me.”  My voice was empty and monotone.  We left that appointment and went home.  We did not learn until much later that they had an emergency meeting about me that day and came to the conclusion that I was suffering from postpartum psychosis.  I was only the second patient in 26 years of practicing that the doctor had served who had postpartum psychosis.  By the time they placed the call to speak to my husband, I was already admitted to another hospital.

I do not recall everything from that time period today.  I recall being left alone with my son and pacing back and forth while the voices in my head were telling me to run out the door naked.  I didn’t listen to the voices that time.  I called my mom and told her to come over right away.  I handed over my infant son to her as soon as she arrived.

I remember being taken to the emergency room the first time.  I would pull myself together and act like everything was OK when the medical staff was in the room and the minute they would leave and I was alone with my mom, I would start talking about how God has chosen us and that God was talking to me.  That went on for 8 hours.  The hospital eventually released me and said it was postpartum anxiety.  I had fooled them all.

Things continued to escalate at home.  I took a short nap and when I awoke I was hysterical.  I thought someone I loved was going to die.  I made everyone promise me that they would be alive and that they would be present when I woke up from sleeping.  My family tried then to get me to the car to take me to a different hospital.  I started to go willingly and then I started to fight my husband.  I told him to get his hands off of me.  I threw his hands away.  He was so surprised by the way I was acting.  An ambulance had to be called.  I was talking crazy and I was an absolute danger to myself.  It was as if all of my deepest fears were coming true and I could not escape them.  It was a living hell.  Thank God my husband called 911 and signed me involuntarily into a behavioral health unit.  I tremble to think what would have happened if he hadn’t. 

Once postpartum psychosis starts, it unfolds so very quickly.  It is imperative that you know the signs and symptoms.  I reached a crisis situation.  But you or your friend or loved one doesn’t have to.  No one told me that if my immediate family members had bipolar, that it would increase my chance of becoming ill with postpartum psychosis.  My mom is bipolar and she experienced postpartum psychosis with the birth of her youngest child.  Had I been asked that question and prepped for postpartum psychosis, maybe things would have unraveled a little less traumatic for me.  I also had suffered a miscarriage before I became pregnant with my son and I experienced a difficult pregnancy with my son.  I was under grave stress before the birth of my son, including bed rest and my husband being laid off from his job.  I then planned for a normal labor and delivery, which turned into a long labor that ended in a surprise and unplanned cesarean.  Combine all of that with total sleep deprivation and it was a perfect recipe for postpartum psychosis.

My doctor said that he would have never thought that I would be one to get postpartum psychosis.  I was an incredibly happy expectant mother.  If it can happen to me, it could in fact happen to anyone.  Please don’t think it can’t happen to you.  Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis.  It could save you or your loved one’s life.

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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.

Loving Your Child Through Postpartum Psychosis and Postpartum Depression

“How old is your son,” asked the patient sitting next to me.  “He is a week old,” I replied as I handed over a picture that I carried around of my only son, Landon.  “I also carry this miniature bottle of baby shampoo around so I can smell Landon whenever I want.  It is comforting to me.  I just miss him so much.” 

That is one of the many conversations I had while I was being treated for postpartum psychosis six days after my first and only child was born.  At the time, the psychosis had its tight hold on me.  In the midst of my mind breaking into a million pieces, my son remained to be a priority and on the forefront of my shattered mind.  My love for Landon had no bounds.  Even postpartum psychosis and the severe postpartum depression that followed could not take that love from my heart.

I believe a misconception people have about mothers suffering from a postpartum mood disorder is that the suffering mother doesn’t have a bond with their child or that they don’t feel a love for their child.  I can honestly say that I was able to bond with my son despite having the illness and that I loved him very much through my illnesses.

I started displaying symptoms of psychosis almost immediately after my son was born.  I was so afraid that something was going to happen to my new baby.  I was desperate to protect him from kidnappers, germs…everything.  I remember when I started losing touch with reality; I still wanted to protect my new baby.  I was home alone with my son and I was pacing with him in the kitchen.  I did not know what to do.  The voices were telling me that my son was going to be taken away from me.  Even though my mind was shattering, I was able to pull out of it long enough to call my mom and tell her to come over right away.  As soon as she entered the house, I handed over my son knowing that he would be safe.  That was the last time I held him in my arms before I was admitted to the hospital.

While I was in the hospital, I was frantic to continue breastfeeding.  I was unaware that my husband had made the decision a day before to switch Landon to formula because it was too stressful for me.  I ran up to the hospital staff and told them I was a new mother and I needed to pump so my baby could receive the nourishment he needed.  The staff knew I was no longer breastfeeding, but because of my fragile condition, they offered to allow me to pump in the hospital.  I remember when my husband told me the truth, that I was not going to breastfeed anymore due to the hospitalization and the medication I was taking.  It devastated me.  I felt like the one thing that I was doing right, the one thing that made me feel close to my baby, was being taken from me.  I cried so much.  It broke my heart.  I am so grateful that I was able to breastfeed at all, even if it was just for five days.  I believe that because of that, I was able to bond with Landon.  It was such a special time that I will always treasure.

After I recovered from the postpartum psychosis, I went into severe depression almost immediately.  Four to five weeks after I was released from being treated for postpartum psychosis, I was readmitted for having suicidal thoughts as a result of my postpartum depression.  It would be twice that I would be hospitalized for being suicidal.  Both times, I checked myself into the behavioral health unit of the hospital and had to make the choice to leave my son to seek out treatment.  I recall picking up my things to leave for the hospital and kissing my son one last time before I went.  I looked at my sweet little bundle and just thought I don’t know if I can leave him.  I knew I had to though because I needed to get better so I could be the mommy that he needed me to be.  Leaving my son was so hard, but loving him is what saved my life. 

I spent much of my time in the hospital writing letters to my husband.  The theme of all of the letters was that, 1) I wanted to get well and 2) I wanted to get well so that I could be the very best wife and mommy to my husband and my son.  I would call and check on Landon just so I could hear him in the background.  I remember how good I felt when my husband called me at the hospital because he could not figure out how to stop the baby from crying.  I gave instructions over the phone, I don’t recall exactly what I said now, but you could hear Landon’s cries stop and it was because of me.  I was still loving and mothering my son from the walls of the hospital.

I am still recovering from depression.  I try each and every day to do better than I did the day before.  I loved that little boy before he was here, I loved him through my postpartum mood disorders, and I will love him through this depression.   Landon is my heart and he deserves the best that I can give.  I know now that I deserve the best, too.

About the Author:

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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.