I’m the happiest person I know. I’m a radical optimist, lover of life. Even road ragers. I love them too. So when postpartum psychosis hit me after my daughter’s first birthday, I fell very far from my “happy tree”.
First, let me distinguish postpartum depression from postpartum psychosis. Depression is Coke and psychosis is Red Bull. Folks in the psychosis department inject depression with terrorizing, intrusive thoughts. The horrific visions that infiltrate our minds are comparable to symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
For me, it began with two words: What if? What if my sweet daughter fell out of her crib and broke her neck? What if I roll over onto her while we’re taking a nap? What if she falls off the deck?
The terrifying images of what my mind produced rivaled Stephen King’s movies. While driving, I envisioned my daughter’s car seat falling out of the door and tumbling onto the freeway. One morning I sat on the bus, and out of nowhere, wondered if I walked in my sleep and killed someone. It was like being forced to watch gory horror films. And I can’t even stand Chuckie movies.
I didn’t tell anyone because my facade would be ruined. Who would I be if I wasn’t the giggly mom that had her stuff together? I needed an identity, and “psychotic suicidal woman with visions of death” wasn’t quite what I shooting for in life. I was a Type A Champion multitasker before I had a child. And I was a perfectionist. Motherhood to a perfectionist is horrific because there is no such thing as a perfect mom. Years of therapy led me to embrace the imperfect world of motherhood. Mistakes are welcome here now.
My healing began with a note to myself. Every morning I scribbled out five things for which I was grateful and carried the paper in my pocket. Some mornings my list had things like, “I don’t have to get a cavity filled today.” Anything positive would make the list.
Throughout the day, I put my hands in my pocket and I was reminded of why I needed to stay alive. I prayed to whatever, or whomever, would listen. I imagined gold light swirling into my body and clearing out the dark. And that daily list. Five things kept me alive each day. Now that’s what I call “Gratitude With Attitude.”
That was just the beginning of my healing. I never went on medication because I didn’t know they were available. Years later, I was prescribed Prozac, but I was afraid of becoming addicted. I was already addicted to sleeping pills.
Instead, I linked arms with a therapist and exercise regularly. It works for me, but I’m just one in a million. There is no right or wrong way to recover and conquer postpartum depression. Everyone is entitled to their own person and private journey. There are many medications and therapies available, and they should be as individual and specific as each person.
Take care and be well!
For more information on postpartum depression and psychosis:
- Postpartum Depression: Signs, Symptoms, and Help for New Moms
- Conquering Postpartum Depression by Ronald Rosenberg, Deborah Greening, and James Windell. It covers the differences between Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Psychosis and Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
- For more information on Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (note: you do not need to have experienced a one-time horrible thing, to experience PTSD).