Thursday is national Time To Talk day, run by Time to Change – who aim to end the stigma surrounding people with mental health issues:
So in light of this I’m going to tell you what post partum psychosis is like. This is still technically cancer related because it was the Zoladex triggering the psychosis, and if I hadn’t had to have it so close after Ava’s birth, I may not have experienced post natal depression as severely as I did.
If you watch Eastenders you’ll know they’re currently running a storyline involving a mother with puerperal psychosis (NICE explain it as psychosis often with mania and/or depressive symptoms in the immediate postnatal period, which can become very severe extremely quickly). I don’t watch Eastenders but I happened to watch the episode that she was sectioned and oh my god was it ever a trigger. I ended up in tears and almost called the Crisis Team for the first time since July. All the memories that get lost in every day life came spewing forth. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been revisiting that time, often involuntarily, and been close to a panic attack at what sort of a state I was in this time last year.
So maybe it’s #timetotalk about what it’s like to have post partum psychosis. I experienced physical problems as well as mental ones; I could smell things no one else could, I was terrified to be out of the house, I got lost in the middle of Southsea (twice, totally lost on familiar ground), my vision was affected. I was on the edge of a panic attack or actually having a panic attack pretty much all the time. My adrenaline was constantly pumping.
That’s before you get to my mind. I was absolutely convinced Ava was going to die. I couldn’t sleep at night even though by 7 weeks she was sleeping through. The day I realised she will definitely die one day anyway, and there’s nothing I could do about it, I became suicidal and began obsessively plotting the most effective way to kill myself. At one point, devastated by the grief I felt at all my children one day dying, I even wondered whether I should drive them all off the quay so they wouldn’t have to spend the rest of their lives waiting for the moment of death. Don’t worry, it was short lived, even in that state my maternal instinct kicked in.
But the point is I was sick. Very sick. And it was terrifying being that out of control of my own mind. The day in hospital when I finally realised I was mentally ill was pretty much the hardest day of my life so far, aside from “I’m afraid your lump is a cancer”. It meant I had to face up to being in hospital and work with them to get me back out again. It meant I had to trust the staff and my friends were all right and I was wrong. It meant the staff weren’t really trying to drive me insane but were trying to help me. My reality wasn’t any one else’s reality even though it was very real to me. I wasn’t ‘normal’. I was ‘mental’. I was in hospital surrounded by other people with all manner of conditions and it was scary.
But what’s so wrong with being mental? Why is there so much stigma around it? There doesn’t need to be, not in this day and age when we understand so much better how the mind works. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Am I ashamed I thought about killing myself and my kids? Very. Am I ashamed I was ill? No. That was out of my control. Guess what… I’m still ill. I still have bad days when I am jumpy and nothing I’m learning in therapy works. Am I ashamed I’m still ill a year on? Am I fuck. Talk about it. Talk to others if you don’t feel right. Don’t keep it in because you’re worried about what other people might think. We all need to be more open, and more open minded.