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"The illness made me believe I wasn’t ill"

Lacey shares how powerful account of experiencing Postnatal Psychosis.

Trigger warning: Reference to psychosis, hallucinations, being sectioned and suicide. 

It is a dark cloud that has spread across the base of my mind. I have been lucky enough in my 30 years not to experience anything like this before. Nor have any of my family or friends been hit by this darkness. But it is here now, and it has made itself well and truly known.

The dark cloud creates an enormous divide between me and the baby. It makes it agonising to look in my baby’s eyes, I cannot face being in the same room as him, which makes it impossible to love this baby.

It terrifies me, it flings unspeakable thoughts around my mind, just like they are normal regular thoughts. It laughs at me, it is pleased with itself, because it has taken over yet another woman.

Four days was all it took. Four days, alone with my perfect daughter and the screaming devil, which was apparently my baby. Four days to go from postnatal depression, to postnatal psychosis.

We walked the same everyday route to drop my daughter to school. But something is different. The pretty blonde lady that jogs passed me every morning glares at me, not in an inquisitive way, but in an investigating way. After we cross paths, I look back, she places her finger into her ear and mutters something to a hidden microphone. I quickly realise that every other person we pass does the same. They hold their ear’s and make their reports. They are communicating with social services, they are secret investigators, giving my exact location and my actions. The routine walk turns to a run. The grip I have on the pram is the only thing that is keeping my legs from crumbling underneath me. My innocent daughter thinks that we are playing a new game, she eventually catches up with me at the school gate, in excitement. I can’t breathe, I am a wreck and absolutely terrified. I wave goodbye as she cheerfully and obliviously skips into her classroom.

I race home with my head fixed down to the ground. The baby screamed the entire time, adding to the horrifying crisis that I was deeply in. I repeatably told myself, it will be okay, as I double locked the door and fell into the fetal position. I did not dare move, for what felt like hours, the baby screamed, and time passed.

Suddenly an instant hit of energy hit me, I raced around the house checking all the doors and windows were locked. I ran through the living room something caught my eye my head span to double take, my ultimate fear was confirmed. There was about fifty of them, standing shoulder to shoulder dressed in suits and holding suitcases. Social services had the house surrounded, waiting for the right time to invade. I froze with fear. They are going to see me, and they will kill me.

Quickly I knew what I needed to do. I had to end my life. They are not going to leave until they have announced me dead. The baby is to blame for all of this, he is the reason they are watching me, he is the reason I am about to end my life, the reason that I am about to leave my perfect daughter without a mother. It is all his fault.

I stayed in that same painful, hidden position for hours, my body was unable to move. Eventually I plucked up the courage to reach for my phone to call my husband. Hysterically I tried to explain what was happening and muttered my goodbyes. He raced home from work with utter confusion and fear. The door flew open, I let out an immense scream, as my husband scooped into his arms and carried me directly to the GP surgery. He demanded that I was seen immediately by a doctor. The waiting room is full of loving mum’s cradling their baby’s. I march intensely up and down, staring at all the loving mothers with absolute hatred.

My frantic march carries me into the doctor’s room. A muffled concerned convocation goes ahead while I rock in the chair and manically scratch my wrist. The doctor tried desperately to make eye contact with me, she asked me to explain what was happening? Finally, words start to exit my mouth, without my approval. I begin to tell her about the undercover people on the walk to school, the social workers watching the house, their plan to invade and kill me and my plan to take my life.

She nods along with empathy, as if she believed what I was telling her was actually true. She turned to my husband and they exchange more muffled words. She told him, that I may have postnatal psychosis, and explained it was a serious mental illness that needed to be treated as a matter of emergency. 

The doctor rang the emergency mental health team and expressed her concerns. We arrive home, I am empty, exhausted, and terrified. I stare blankly as my husband begins packing mine and the baby’s clothes into a suitcase. He is throwing me out, with that baby! I turn hysterical and cry, ‘what is going on?’ He gently puts his arms around me and explains that I am very unwell, and I need to go to hospital, but I cannot comprehend his words. Then, we were in the car, baby in back screaming, as usual, heading to an acute mother and baby mental health unit.

A small gentle nurse meets us at the door and leads us to ‘my’ room, I float behind with nothingness. The small room consists of a single bed, a set of draws and a cot. Fear took over. The baby is not sleeping in the same room as me, I cannot take care of him, I will not take care of him. My husband explained my fears to the nurse. The cot quickly vanished and the nurse explained to me and my husband that the baby will be looked after. With no emotion, I begged my husband not to leave. When he left, I dropped on the little bed, uncontrollably crying with no tears.

A placid nurse tried to comfort me, she told me, I am safe, and I will get help. But I did not need help. My husband is at home with the house surrounded my them! Or have they followed me? Are they here now? I shot up and to the window frantically investigating the darkness. She routinely informed me that I will be checked on every 15 minutes, as I deemed as a high-risk patient. Her words flew over me as I stare in fear. I took the pills she gave me and eventually laid down on the bed. She tucked me like a child in and whispered, ‘good night.’

I laid wide awake, despite the medication, staring at the ceiling for hours upon hours. No thoughts, no emotions, nothing, just waiting for time to pass. When the morning light poured in the empty room, I remained in the same position, with no intention of moving. Why would I? I didn’t want to see anyone, especially the baby the reason I am here, it is his fault.

A loud knock at the door shot my body up in fear. Another warm face appeared and sat on the edge on the bed. She introduced herself, as I throw the duvet around me. She at last got to the point, and asked if I had ever thought about harming the baby? I immediately shouted “no!” Perhaps I was trying to convince myself that this idea hadn’t consumed my mind. Little did I know that I would have to get used to being asked that question, almost daily. I felt her scrutiny like ants on my skin. The next few days pass with a blur. My family visit, being with them was the only thing that could unlocked my exhausted, terrified, confused body. I tried to act normal around my daughter, and tried my best to play with her, but the exhaustion takes over. We spend most of the time cuddling in bed. I constantly drown my husband with my dark disturbing thoughts, and he would repeatedly say, “this is the illness, and not you.” The illness made me believe I wasn’t ill, so these words would just infuriate me.

I soon began to consider that I may be possessed, by an evil demon. The voices started not long after confirming it. This evil demon was using my body as a host. I must not tell anyone, because they will think I’m crazy. But they already knew. To the outsider, I was just staring into space, but on the inside, I was captivated by the demon. I used all the strength I had left to ignore it. But this just fuelled it. I would constantly repeat the same words in my head: YOU ARE NOT REAL. YOU ARE NOT REAL. Since found out that I was often found rocking in the corner of my room, shouting these words. The voice shoved into insanity and I lost all control. It took over and became me. I was certain this is how I was going to die.

I have always been brought up to take care of myself, and up to this point that is exactly what I had done. I had leapt out of the nest from a young age. Travelled the world and made my own life. But now ‘psychosis’ had made me a child again, I was unable to care for myself. All joy and happiness was poured out of me. Each hour feels like weeks, only made worse by the evil voice within, creating new ideas and plans on how to end it all. There is only one thing that is clear, it is the baby’s fault, and I needed to eliminate it.

The next 7 weeks have vanished from my memory. But, during this time the evil spirit began to dwindle, I begin to face the baby. With love, care, and support, with no recognition I began to embark on the road to recovery. 

I returned home a week before Christmas, and slowly my mind allows me to take control again. I still have ongoing support at home and recovery has been a roller coaster of a ride. But, one year on and I am doing okay, I am learning to love my baby and he is growing into a loving young boy. I am so thankful to my wonderful family and the amazing support I am given.

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