Trigger Warning: Postpartum Psychosis
This morning my husband texted me a picture of our kids. My daughter was a touch over three, and my son eleven months. This seems commonplace, right? A simple text between husband and wife—father and mother to two beautiful babies.
But this wasn’t normal for me. Seeing that photo of my infant son, my heart raced. It broke. It clawed at reality. My throat closed up. It choked. My body struggled for air. My breasts surged, despite the fact that I stopped breastfeeding years ago.
I was caught in a tug-of-war between past and present. Images of my son—of what might have been—struggled to surface while simultaneously being crushed downward by my psyche.
I can’t think of it. I can’t remember—the countless months I wasn’t allowed to be with them, the CPS cases, the innumerable medications and therapies and inpatient stays that did nothing. I don’t want to recall the last days of my drinking. The last months, really. The days that were blacked out by substances and trauma.
I can’t think of the voices that spoke to me, the monster that controlled me. I just can’t. I have to keep it in the past.
Now, two and a half years after the day that picture was taken, I’m home. I’m safe. My son is alive and well. He came in and sat on my lap when I began typing this. I hugged him with gentle strength. I kissed his beautiful blonde head, smelled his sweet hair and looked into those limitless eyes, the eyes that have no idea what his mother went through. That hopefully never will.
He’ll never know how close his life came to ending, just weeks before that picture was taken. And for months before, and months after. Hopefully, he’ll never know what postpartum psychosis does to a previously normal brain, how it thrust me into horrors I never dreamed were possible.
I was one of the lucky ones. We were all lucky, because we made it through. We’re all alive. We’re all safe. That little baby is now a mischievous three-year-old in the kitchen getting into God knows what. And I’m here typing—not locked away somewhere—or worse.
I was not prepared for that picture today, and there’s no way to explain to my husband how it affected me.
There’s no way to explain this darkness that still lives inside my head years later, these memories, intrusive thoughts, and images. But there’s hope. There’s hope in the struggle if you know where to look. There are doctors, therapists, psychiatrists. They can help. They helped me.
Postpartum Support International saved my life, and I’m so thankful for them today. A woman named Anne reached out to me after I posted something to the group’s Facebook wall and pressed me to be assertive, to push my doctors, to find someone to take me seriously. It took time, and it took work, but it was worth it. So if you’re a mother struggling with a PMAD (Postpartum Mood/Anxiety Disorder), don’t sit quietly in your illness. Stand up. Prepare to stand among those of us who fought and won. Speak out. Get help.
And I’m here. I’m always here.