Candid Postpartum Psychosis Part 1- Something Isn't Right

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
In the middle of the 2nd trimester of my second pregnancy, I knew something was wrong with me. I was suddenly full of uncontrollable rage & self- hatred. I cried a lot. I was terrified that I would hurt my one year old son. I fought myself daily over whether or not to call my doctor. I was afraid my son would be taken away & afraid my husband would leave me.  I finally worked up the courage to tell my doctor when I realized my fear was not worth my son's life. That day, in the exam room, I told her everything. She listened while I cried tears of fear, relief, & embarrassment. Josh was in the room & he had no idea this had been going on inside my head.

She reassured me that what I was going through was not uncommon, in fact, she even used the word "normal". We talked about starting an antidepressant but I was too scared to start medication while I was still pregnant. We settled on seeing a therapist. I left that day with 4 names & numbers of therapists specializing in antenatal care. I never called a single one. I convinced myself to stick it out. That it would go away on its own. Within about 3 weeks it did, but I wish I had taken this as a sign of things to come instead of believing it was all over.

 I finished my pregnancy on an unbelievable high. I had nested like crazy, had everything ready, & was so excited. The birth of my daughter was incredible.  June Marie was born on November 24th, 2015. We were discharged on the 25th, against medical advice. The on-call pediatrician wanted us to stay until the morning of the 26th, but reluctantly agreed to discharge us on the condition that June would be seen by our pediatrician by Friday, the 27th.

We spent Thanksgiving (the 26th) with our family & it was wonderful ...except June slept the entire time. I couldn't get her to nurse longer than one or two minutes at a time. We started to worry a little but she was still making plenty of wet & dirty diapers so we weren't too concerned. By the time her 10AM appointment came around on Friday, it had been 14 hours since her last wet or dirty diaper. I was concerned, but the doctor told us to give her until noon to make a wet diaper & if she hadn't, to take her to the ER at Dell children's Hospital.

We left & decided to kill some time at Target. I sat on a bench in the Target pharmacy & tried desperately to get her to wake up enough to nurse. She wouldn't respond at all to touch or the sound of my voice. She honestly looked dead. We couldn't wait until noon. We went to Dell immediately. We were seen right away & during her initial exam, she cried! I can't tell you how relieved I was at the sound of that cry. It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. Plus, she had a wet diaper!

Just when we had hope that we were just being overly cautious parents, the doctor came in & said that June would be admitted to the NICU for severe dehydration. They hooked her up to IV fluids & brought me a pump. We spent 3 days there on a 2 hour schedule. I would nurse her on one side for 15 minutes & then josh would give her a bottle of either expressed milk or formula while I pumped on both sides for 25 minutes.  Then we'd take an 80 minute nap & start all over. Sometimes we'd skip the nap & eat. It was tough but it's mostly all a blur. A couple of things stand out in my mind, though. I remember the doctor telling us that June was showing signs of infection & to rule it out she would have to have a spinal tap. I remember sitting in a chair outside her room & holding on to Josh while we listened helplessly to our 3 day old baby scream in pain from the needle in her spine. I remember Josh being completely unable to leave the bed on the 2nd night/3rd day. He was dehydrated & had a horrible headache. I was on my own for about 18 hours. Feeding, changing, pumping, washing bottles & pump parts. The nurses tried to get me to let them take over for a while so I could sleep but I just couldn't do it. I had to be with my baby.

Sleepy Baby

Snuggles with Dad

so many tubes & wires to move when we held her



We were discharged in the afternoon on the 29th. They told us that June was fine. She was just a sleepy baby who didn't want to eat. They sent us home with a list of signs of dehydration just in case. The sign I fixated on was a sunken in soft spot. I couldn't feed, hold, rock, change or touch her without obsessively running my fingers over her soft spot. With all the touching of her soft spot, I became convinced that I was causing her brain damage. Still, I couldn't stop. I had to check. I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. I don't remember being hungry or tired. I cried a lot. I had no control over it. I would sob so hard that I couldn't talk or breathe. I felt like a complete failure. I wasn't taking care of the house. I wasn't showering. I wasn't brushing my teeth.  I couldn't remember the last time my toddler had taken a bath or brushed his teeth. My temper was disturbingly short & my reactions to things were completely unreasonable. I knew my poor babies deserved a better mom & Josh deserved a better wife.

I became suicidal. Ending my life was the only way to save my family from such an awful life with me. As I write this, it seems so bizarre, but it made perfect sense at the time. There was no question in my mind as to what I needed to do. I was saving them. I decided I would leave the kids at home & drive myself into an overpass column or a huge tree. Driving full speed without a seat belt. I would have to do it close to when I knew Josh would be home from work. That way, the kids wouldn't be home alone for too long. I would think about it literally all day long. That idea evolved quickly. I couldn't leave my babies without a mom. I would have to kill them too. But how could I leave Josh without his entire family? I needed to kill him too. I knew I would use a gun. I even knew in what order I would kill everyone. Johnny first, so he wouldn't have to see me kill anyone else, then June. Then Josh when he got home from work. Then myself.

Putting all of these thoughts into words now is so completely disturbing, but at the time it all made sense. I was suicidal/homicidal for six weeks & didn't tell anyone. Fighting that "logic" was beyond difficult, and the fact that it was difficult not to murder my entire family just completely blows my mind now. But, man, when I was in it, everything made perfect sense. I told Josh that I thought something "might be wrong", but I didn't give him any details. I was certain he would have me admitted to a hospital & he would leave me & take the kids if I told him the truth. In six weeks, I lost over 35 pounds. I still wasn't eating or sleeping. I still wasn't hungry & I couldn't sleep even when I tried. I stopped almost all communication with my group of mom friends. I knew things were bad, & I couldn't imagine things getting any worse.

Then the hallucinations started.

I could hear people whispering in my house. They sounded just far away enough that I couldn't understand them, but I knew they were talking about me. I knew "they" were going to take my babies away. That was probably the scariest thing I have ever experienced. I could hear people in my house but I could not find/see them. I would spend hours on edge. Alone in the house with my kids, pacing through the house, repeatedly checking every room & closet, almost hoping for proof that the voices were real. I didn't know what was happening to me, but I knew it wasn't good. I heard babies crying constantly. Even when I could see both of my babies sleeping peacefully, I heard crying babies. I couldn't relax. I was restless & constantly checking on them if they were out of sight. The paranoia & depression weren't getting any better, either. I knew I needed help.

When it was time for my 6 week check up, I told josh that I planned to talk to my doctor about possibly having postpartum depression. I texted my mom telling her that I would probably need a lot of help after my doctors appointment, but that I didn't want to talk about it right away. She insisted on coming with me to my appointment. I'm so glad she did.

A little over one year ago, on January 6, 2016, I walked into my doctors office & told the physician assistant everything. I told her about the voices, the uncontrollable sobbing, the suicidal/homicidal thoughts, the feelings of complete worthlessness & the irrational thoughts that my husband was planning leave & that my children would be taken from me. As soon as the words were all out, I felt a rush of relief & fear that I can't even describe. I was so glad I wasn't carrying the burden alone anymore, but I was terrified of what would happen next. The PA left me with a nurse & went to get my doctor even though she was in the middle of an appointment with someone else. Apparently, my situation was that serious. The doctor came in & asked if she could call my  mom into the room. I begged her not to, but she convinced me to let her in & told me that she (the doctor) would do all the talking if I didn't feel like I could.

My mom came into the room & the doctor told her I had postpartum depression, that I was suicidal & that I needed to be supervised 24/7. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere or do anything alone until I could be seen by a psychiatrist. She prescribed an antidepressant and Ambien to make me sleep.

At home, the medications weren't working. I was still miserable, hallucinating & suicidal & I still wasn't sleeping. I'm not sure how long it took to get an appointment with the psychiatrist, but I know it took A LOT of phone calls & eventually a call directly from my doctor to the psychiatrist saying that my situation was emergent.

When I finally saw the psychiatrist, we told her everything that had been happening & she immediately diagnosed me with postpartum psychosis & underlying bipolar disorder. She put me on a mood stabilizer & an anti psychotic in addition to the antidepressant & Ambien. Basically, the plan was to keep me sedated until the psychosis passed. I was still to be under 24/7 supervision until the suicidal/homicidal thoughts were gone & if things worsened or did not get better, or if my family felt they could no longer keep me safe, we were to call 911 & have me hospitalized immediately. Josh was strongly against having me admitted & he was adamant that I would be safe at home. I, on the other hand, would have been relieved to be admitted. There was no way I could hurt my family if I did not have access to them.

My sister flew back home from North Carolina to help & between Josh, my mom, my sister, Josh's sisters, & my group of mom friends, I was never alone. They all made sure I was safe in my own home & I will be forever grateful for them all. My fridge & freezer stayed full of meals, my son had friends to play with, & I was surrounded by ears to listen & shoulders to lean on.

There is no shame in having a mental illness. This is something that I had no control over. Although postpartum psychosis is extremely rare (occurring in 1 in 500-1000 new mothers), it could happen to anyone. The sickness made me believe, for so long, that caring for me was a huge burden & that everyone would be relieved if I just died. Now, I know that I would do the same for anyone else in my life without hesitation because that's what friends & family do. We love each other through all the hard things.


I have so much more to share, but I think this is a good stopping place for this post. I plan to share more in my next post about the treatment, medications ( & their side effects) & self care that have helped me heal this past year. If you've read this far, thank you so much. Please, share this story with all of your friends. You never know who is suffering in silence. It's such a lonely illness & I hope that my story reaches at least one person who feels like it will never end. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please seek help. If you have questions for me, please feel free to ask!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255
Postpartum Progress
Postpartum Psychosis Signs & Symptoms


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