I survived 3 years of postpartum hell

My husband and I fell in love with our little girl from the moment we first saw her. The first few months flew by and I gave very little thought about how I was coping emotionally. It was at a three month checkup for my daughter that my doctor first asked me if I was doing alright. This question unhinged my “normal” life and I burst into tears but had no idea why. My doctor told me she had been worried for some time about me and thought I had postnatal depression. It was later that evening talking to my mother that I realised I was completely and utterly numb. I couldn’t answer any of the questions about how I was feeling as I didn’t feel anything at all. It was like my perfect bubble popped in and a constant flood of intrusive thoughts about myself and my daughter began. I had no idea how to stop this flood as it took over my life.

This feeling of emotional numbness led me to self harm for the first time in many years in order to try and feel something. When my husband came home he realised that I was seriously unwell and took me to the hospital who quickly recommended that I be admitted to a private psychiatric hospital that had a mother-baby ward.

Within a few days of being admitted my hospital psychiatrist annouced that I was the sickest patient he had seen and recommended that I have an acute course of ECT as well as medication changes. At this hospital it was essential that all ECT candidates undergo a routine MRI prior to starting. I thought nothing of this and mentally prepared myself to undergo the treatment. However the MRI detected a slight abnormality in the structure of my brain and the psychiatric hospital did not want to proceed with the treatment. What followed was 12 weeks of rapid medication trials and group therapy as I battled my serve depression, anxiety and self harm behaviours. I was eventually discharged from the hospital only to be readmitted a month later. It was during my first admission that my two best friends gave up on me and abruptly cut contact without so much as an explanation.

Little did I know this was only just the beginning of my long string of admissions some of which were involuntary under a treatment authority order. During this time my hospital psychiatrist refused to admit what was really going on including several episodes of drug withdrawal psychosis that was caused by him changing some medications too quickly. I was quickly labelled the difficult patient due to my continuing self harming behaviours, the treatment resistant nature of my depression and the fact I absconded once while in a state of psychosis and almost attempted suicide again before my husband caught me. My psychiatrist was starting to get annoyed with me as my depression wasn’t responding the way he wanted it to and once told me that it was all in my head and I was simply choosing to act this way After my first suicide attempt I was admitted to a high dependency psych ward at the private hospital, where I stayed for 5 weeks before being returned to the mother baby ward. During this time I underwent a treatment called TMS which ultimately did nothing for me. It was at the 8 week point of this admission that they finally decided they couldn’t put off ECT any longer and I was transferred to large University Hospital where they thought I would be safe to undergo ECT.

It was after that first course of ECT that I began to hope my never ending negative thoughts may be coming to an end. I wasn’t cured but I was the best I had been in a year and was discharged again. However less than 2 months later things had declined rapidly and I had a very serious attempt at ending my life as I just wanted the suffering to end. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family any longer and wholeheartedly believed that my daughter would be better off if I died. It was only the fact my neighbour had an odd feeling something was off and decided to poke her head in and ultimately found me. Unknown to me I was in a state of psychosis and was adamant that I should die. I remember screaming and lashing out at anyone who tried to get close to me but eventually my mum, husband, a kind police officer and serveral ambulance officers calmed down enough to be transferred to hospital. I was quickly treated for my physical aliments while in a high dependency hospital ward and placed under a treatment authority order again. During this time I now understand that I was not a very nice person to be around as all I wanted was an end to my suffering.

After being medically stabilised I was transferred to the high dependency psych ward at the hospital for about 2 weeks. After I had began to calm down and started returning to reality I was transferred to the normal psychiatric ward. I tried several times to get myself transferred to the private hospital however I was ultimately told that my psychiatrist at the private hospital I had frequented had given up on me and I was refused admission. This only caused my depression to spiral however 6 weeks later I was released from the public hospital as I seemed to be doing better.

The scary thoughts and feelings returned not long after and we began our search to find a private psychiatric hospital that would accept me and provide the help I so desperately needed. We eventually found one and I was admitted under a new psychiatrist who quickly arranged for me to undergo another acute course of ECT stating that the issue with my brain will be monitored but ultimately won’t affect the treatment. I finally started to feel hope after almost 2 years. While I would love to say my journey got magically better this was not exactly the case. I battled my deamons for another year where I seemed to be needing an admission every 6-8 weeks. During this time I connected with a new psychologist who I now know as my saviour and underwent a lot of therapy and ECT treatments.

With the help of my treatment team, unwavering support and love from my support network and husband I am feeling like I am getting my old self back. I still battle intrusive thoughts though I now have extensive knowledge and skills to help fight them off. They no longer rule my life and I am finally beginning to love parenthood. During my 3 year battle with postnatal depression and anxiety I felt like I was not worthy of being a parent but I now know that my mind was severely unwell.

I’m not “fixed” but I am very happy to report it has been four and a half months since an admission and I’m returning to a somewhat normal life. Which I think is a huge accomplishment seeing as I have spent more time in hospital that I have out in the last 3 years. I still experience occasional negative emotions and thoughts about my daughter but I’m beginning to realise this is a normal part of parenthood. I guess through my rambling I am hoping to give you the courage to reach out and support people who are struggling with postnatal depression and anxiety as it can be a truly debilitating illness. It is not an easy journey but you never know, your love and support could be their turning point.

To put it simply I would not be here today without my husband, my family and my friends that feel like family. To them I owe my life and my happiness. I am so proud to be a “good enough” mum to my beautiful little girl.

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A mother of the most amazing little person anyone could ask for. The wife of a wonderful man whose love knows no boundaries. The daughter of two incredibly strong and devoted parents. A survivor.