The Devil on my Shoulder

** Talk of postpartum psychosis, thoughts of self harm, and thoughts of harming others**

I wonder if I’ll ever truly be able to put it into words. I suppose the answer is no. I could never put the pain, demons and isolation into words but I try. I try because putting it on paper helps it to stop spinning around in my head. I am filling my second journal in 9 months. The words just flow because I don’t know how else to let this out. 

I really don’t write for anyone else. My writing is simply for me. It’s just a bonus if others along the way can be helped by reading it. 

I fill my pages with anything that seems to get stuck swirling around my mind. Picking up a pen seems to be a key that unlocks the spinning of the thoughts. Picking up a pen can release the thoughts and emotions that haven’t been able to break free on their own. 

I seem to mostly write in the evenings. When the chaos of the day has come to an end and I’m left to my thoughts as I’m trying to fall asleep and am unable to. 

I’ve never really considered myself as a writer, and still don’t. It’s still strange to me to throw my writing out there for others to read. I do it anyway because I’m passionate about breaking the silence and increasing resources for mothers and their families. I have to prevent another mother from going through my experience.

I really want to be open and raw here with you. The only way to truly make a difference is to be so. So today I’m going to get a bit more vulnerable for lack of better words.

Postpartum Psychosis is a more rare disorder; 1 in 1,000 woman will experience it. The onset is different than postpartum depression, anxiety, or mood disorder. It has a much earlier on set that is typically 2 weeks postpartum. For me personally on set was hard and unexpected. With my knowledge now I can see that I had risk factors for it that should have been discussed with my husband and I so we could have been more prepared and perhaps caught it earlier but unfortunately it was not  diagnosed till many months later.

When it hit me I had never even heard of it, why would I with it being so uncommon. Around 5 weeks postpartum was when I first heard the term. Out of curiosity I looked it up and after reading the symptoms I thought I possibly could be experiencing it. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to be deemed “crazy” but later that was the only word I could use to describe myself and I found myself telling my husband I was crazy all the time with having no other way to describe it. I hid it well to the outside world. My husband didn’t find out everything that was happening in my head for 17 months. None of my family or friends knew I had it, though they all knew I was depressed.

Postpartum Psychosis shares a lot of similar symptoms as postpartum depression/anxiety but in addition to those have a few really scary ones such as but not limited to:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Excessive energy and agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

I hesitate to get this raw with you.. it’s not a topic I really thought I’d ever share outside of my own four walls but I’ve been called to this work and sharing all the ugly is part of that.

I want to prelude this section of the blog by saying in psychosis you are not in your right mind. You have intrusive thoughts that are NOT YOUR OWN! As similar with postpartum depression and anxiety. You have intrusive thoughts of harming yourself or of something terrible that could happen to your baby that seem to come out of nowhere. Such is the case with psychosis just most for the time those intrusive thoughts are much more scary than you’d have with the depression or anxiety.

Now how to put this into words.. This is not something I even wrote in my journal because I was hoping never to share it or that it would never be found. I even lied to those around me because I didn’t want it to be true, and honestly for quite some time I blocked out that I’d ever even had these thoughts. It was only after getting on medication and working through things in therapy that I even remembered I had once had these thoughts and had to break the shame within the safe walls of therapy. It was hard to come to terms with it. I cried a lot and it really showed me just how out of your right mind you really are during psychosis.

My baby had a lot of food allergies/sensitivities. He cried a lot and slept a little. He always had an upset tummy and colic symptoms no matter what we did. All my kids had had colic so I was no newbie there. Even so the constant feeding, hours of screaming, and no time to take care of my toddlers let alone myself drove me to the break of insanity without even piling on the psychosis which was all happening at the same time.

During one of my babes many baths from his constant throwing up he wouldn’t stop crying. My head was SPINNING from the constant screaming and whines from the older ones needing lunch… and then it popped into to my head, like the little 3 inch demon on my shoulder whispered it into my ear.

“Pushing him into the water would bring silence you know.”

In the time of half a heart beat I saw in my head, him going underwater and the silence rang through my mind. I felt petrified in fear at the thought and pulled him out of the tub fast without even considering finishing the bath. I swooped up the towel and wrapped him in it. Holding him to my chest so he could hear my heart beat and calm down. I laid him down on my bed to dry him. As soon as he left my chest the pouty lip started; he’s always had the biggest sad lip out of all my children. I can see that memory so vivid. He was laying in the soft green towel, with my white  bed cover accented by yellow flowers behind him. The window behind me with blinds partly parted and the sun peaking in on us. I looked into his big eyes and my heart shattered into a million pieces that I’d ever have that thought about one of my children.

All I could see in this memory was the awful thought I had. What my therapist saw in this memory was my love for him. That my love and desire to be a good mother and keep him safe was stronger than the psychosis and  I protected him at all costs. How grateful I was to have that perspective.

I believe it was that drive to be a good mother and the love for my children that kept me fighting for so long. What drove me to continually pick myself up off the closet floor and walk out of there to face the next task. I wouldn’t by any means say I wanted to though, or that it wasn’t 100% overwhelming. I’m not saying I coped with psychosis better than the next person. It was a demon that constantly haunted me day and night. I had blackness in my eyes. No joy, no sparkle. It was looking into a black hole. Almost a soulless body. When it came down to it though, when I was really faced with the ugly thoughts somehow I made it through. I believe it was by the grace of God, that he pulled me through. Made my desire to be a good mother stronger than my demon because not all moms and babies are so lucky.

I feel because I was blessed enough to pull through that I need to be a voice for those who can’t be the voice. I have to speak out, break that silence, push through the shame, and demand the help and resources mothers need to get the right screening and treatment. I won’t stop fighting for this. Not until every Doctor is educated, every  facility trained, and every mom has access to the right resources. There needs to be change and I’m here to see it through till the end. Stand with me and break the silence. Break the shame. Demand the resources. The change will only happen as we work together to create it.

2 thoughts on “The Devil on my Shoulder

  1. Such a scary experience, but I agree with your therapist and see it the way they do, you were filled with love and strength to save your baby from your own intrusive thoughts. That’s powerful and meaningful. Thank you for sharing this part of it, I know it could not have been easy.

    Liked by 1 person

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