Postpartum Psychosis

I’ve had one major fear since getting pregnant: postpartum psychosis. I’ve been doing so well with keeping communication open about my stress and learning to walk away when my frustration reaches max capacity. Sometimes I get sucked in to things that I shouldn’t, external stressors cause me a huge issue and one of those is television.

Today I was watching Identification Discoveries show Deadly Women and the story of Andrea Yates began. In 2001 her psychosis lead her to believe that she was the devil, she and her husband were very religious so this was horrifying. She believed her children would go to hell if she raised them, in the ultimate sacrifice she drowned them to give them eternity in heaven. There were a number of things that happened with her, not the least of which involved sub-par mental health care from the hospitals, but the saddest part was what happened after. In the aftermath, instead of getting her help, the police and judicial system wanted to put her on trial with the death penalty. Obviously the show had a really short synopsis of this crime, I found a longer account on TruTV‘s website, but she wanted the death penalty. She felt like she would be sparing the world of the devil by no longer existing in this plane. I remember seeing this story on the news when it happened. I remember thinking “what the hell kind of monster does that to their kids?” Now I better understand that mindset.

I like to call my illness “full on crazy”, it’s not easy to deal with and I have cancelled plans with friends if their kids would be present because of it. It’s really unsettling to have my own son, knowing that at any time I may need to pass him off and walk away to keep my own brain in check. The Andrea Yates story hits me in a different place now. I have had those types of psychotic thoughts. Before Edgar was born I fully believed that I would have the baby and within a month I would be able to die. I gave my husband the progeny he wanted, what more would be needed? My child would clearly be better off without my presence. While any husband would have trouble hearing this it hits Terry in a different place entirely. His first memory is his mothers funeral when he was barely 3 years old. She died in a horrific accident and he feels the loss regularly. Fortunately, he understood the origin of those thoughts was fear and inadequacy. We dealt with it, but every day I still fear the return of psychosis. The belief that the world would be better off without you, or that a child would be saved through drowning, that is an indescribable pain. No one sees it, few can sense it, and it’s impossible to know how close the resulting action is until it happens.

Watching the Andrea Yates story today was a huge trigger. My whole body hurts fighting back awful thoughts. I have a number of things going in my favor though, first there are people willing to listen and believe when I say how terrible this can become. Second, Edgar has safe places to stay if the situation escalates. I have half a deep freeze full of breast milk “in case shit” as Terry would say. My son is happy and healthy. I recognize my emotions and share them quickly. If something starts to feel really off I am capable of walking away for an hour, a day, a week if needed. Last, and most important, I have coping skills to bring myself back to reality and so do the people around me.

So, while my thoughts started to drift to the fear of the possible today, I hugged my beautiful baby and connected with him the best way I know how. We piled in the car and went to the zoo to take pictures. People told me how beautiful he is, I played with him in the polar bear tunnel, watched how bright and fun he is, and thanked my lucky stars that I am able to ask for help if I need it.

polar_bear_retake backseat_napper

One thought on “Postpartum Psychosis

  1. I’m so glad you shared this on my page, and I’m sorry seeing the Yates story was triggering. But you did such a great job using your coping skills and dealing with the thoughts. You took away their power by sharing, and by enjoying the day with your sweet baby. Good for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *