Postpartum Psychosis – Shedding light on the demon.
My eyes shot open.
There it was again… the rustling… the breathing… the scurrying.
I scanned what I could of the dark room, and glanced at my sleeping husband next to me. Should I wake him? He could not help. He would not understand. It was up to me.
I strained in the dark to see the little basinet that held our sleeping son – only eight weeks old. I prayed that he wouldn’t wake up. If he did, the crying would never stop. I became more and more certain that it was not this mysterious “colic” that was bothering him. I began to know that the crying, the agitation, the wailing for dear life, was because the baby knew… he could feel it.
The devil was after my child.
We didn’t baptize him. Perhaps the devil already had a hold on him. He wasn’t even like a baby – he was always screaming, always red faced, he looked odd and foreign to me.
I gripped the bed sheet tighter.
Something wasn’t right. Was I losing my mind? It’s sleep deprivation… if I just closed my eyes these thoughts would go away. Perhaps I was dreaming that very second…
I closed my eyes and scooted closer to the warmth of my husbands’ body.
Then the baby stirred.
I sat up, ready to soothe, bounce, and sway before the crying got too out of hand.
Before my feet touched the floor, something made a scratching noise.
I glanced toward the dark doorway…
My eyes darted to and fro as I waited for the scratching again.
My breathing sounded heavy and annoying.
Then I jumped as something walked past the doorway. It was a figure, a dwarfish figure – a dark, person-shaped creature that scurried toward the basinet, saw me, and darted away.
My limbs were frozen, my heart drummed in my ears, and I knew…
this wasn’t a dream…
The above words partially describe an evening after the birth of my first child. I did not tell my husband. I did not get help.
There were more dark thoughts, there was crying, despair, and anxiety.
I remember my husband rushing home from work early one day, after I had sent him the following text:
We’ve made a huge mistake. I can’t do this. I’m sorry. I want it to stop. Goodbye.
He burst through the bedroom door to find me asleep on the bed with our son asleep in my arms. I had not hurt the baby. I had not hurt myself. He was furious at me. He did not know that something was so broken in my thinking, that I thought once I closed my eyes… I would just die…
I still did not get help.
I was ashamed. I was anxious. I was exhausted and wired at the same time… and the psychosis came in infrequent waves. It felt real and crazy at the same time. I didn’t want to admit that my world was shredding everywhere I turned.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized (or admitted) I was suffering from severe Postpartum Depression and Psychosis. The psychosis part I only came clean about a few weeks ago, almost four years after our first sons’ birth. My husband and my family never knew. My doctor never asked any mental health questions. I never hurt my child or myself, but I should have gotten help sooner than I did.
I was too scared…
scared of what was happening…
scared they would take my baby away…
scared of being a crazy failure…
Instead I stayed silent… alone balanced atop a sliver thin fence between normal and nightmare.
It could’ve ended badly.
I was lucky it didn’t.
The depression began to creep in again a couple months ago, now that our second son has been born. I wrote about it not too long ago here.
At this moment I am doing well, and so are both my children. Each day gets better and better, and I’m familiar with the sound of my own laughter.
I think back on those first several months after my first baby and it feels like a strange, half watched movie.
It was a smothering, dark time, that I couldn’t see through to ask for help.
I write about it now…
because I was too ashamed to then.
PS – If you feel you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, or Postpartum Psychosis, DON’T REMAIN SILENT LIKE I DID. For a list of support organizations you can go here – Postpartum Progress. If you are seeing/hearing things that no one else is, thinking of harming yourself, your baby, or suspect you may have Postpartum Psychosis, call your doctor right away, or walk yourself into the emergency room.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel – you just may not be able to get there alone.
You shouldn’t have to.