Alison Parson: On Discovering Postpartum Psychosis Exists

postpartum depression, mental healthTo the Mother who never knew,

I gave birth to my son in March.  He was my second.  My daughter was only 13-months old.  My husband and I hadn’t planned on having children back-to-back, but, as the stale cliché goes: The show must go on.  And it did.  I tried my hardest to be a better mother than I was the first time.  With my daughter, I cried and slept, cried and slept, cried and slept.  If anyone asked to my hold my sweet beautiful baby girl, I’d jump at the chance to give her away, only fearing the time she’d come back.  I thought I was terrible mother.  But, I never knew.

My infant son, my toddler girl.  I would do right by them.  I would be motherly, I would be nurturing, because we all needed that.  They deserved it, they were babies.  For three months, I was a machine.  I was my own assembly line.  I fed, changed diapers, played, repeat.  I never knew my emotions were running on fumes.  I never knew I was about to have a break down.  I never knew that each day my body gave me clues to the arrival of something spectacularly destructive.

One day, it was racing thoughts.  I tried to “Google” it, but that was no help.  Another day I was hit with mania.  Elaborate and dramatic happiness, untouchable excitement.  Nothing could stop my high.  Then came the talking.  The endless run-on sentences I blurted out one night.  Words flying out erratically—a high speed chase, with no one who catches up with them.

Then the voices.  The horrible, sinister, evil voices.  The ones that scared me so much, I had to leave my house.  I told my husband it wasn’t safe.  The voices warned me—guaranteed me, even.  Death would be my end if I stayed in that house.  We all left.  My husband, my children, me.  Lost, we went to my in-laws and eventually I went to the ER.  The voices scared me so much, that I began to trust them, because I was scared to turn against them.  The whole time I wondered, what is happening to me?  Why am I hearing voices?  What is going on?  Why am I in the ER? How can a doctor stop this?  But, I never knew.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I woke up in a psychiatric hospital (I was suicidal and they feared I might become homicidal) that I was told I had Postpartum Psychosis.  What?  I heard of Postpartum Depression, but psychosis?  I know the word, but all of them put together?  Why wasn’t I ever taught about it?  How come I never knew?

Well, to the mother who never knew, this is for you. Postpartum Psychosis is not your fault.  You are not damaged goods. It’s not a stigma, it’s an illness.  Most books devote one paragraph with four sentences to it.  But that will change.  My job, after five years of dealing with the ups and downs of psychosis and depression, is to teach the public about postpartum mood disorders.  And we all will hold up our heads high and know that we are not just 1 in 1000 women, but we are devoted mothers with names.

My name is Alison. And I am a mother who now knows.

~ Alison

 

Alison Parson is a narrative non-fiction writer and public speaker. Her main job is being a stay-at home-mother to her two children ages 5 and 6. Though a tough New Yorker, she currently lives in the laid back South with her husband and children and loves being known for her quirkiness and humor. Follow her on Twitter at @msmoodymommy.

 

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Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on all things related to emotional health around pregnancy & childbirth, is a service of Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of postpartum depression and similar illnesses. Please consider making a donation today, Mother’s Day, so we can continue and expand our work supporting maternal mental health. Thank you!

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About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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Comments

  1. sarah freeman says:

    I thought I knew about PP problems,,,:-( I didnt know about PPP either, turns out I didnt know what depression was either or anxiety. Didnt know anything, and didnt know I didnt know. My PPP was actually the beginning of knowing. Its hard to teach something about a mind. Hard to use the right words. I am really liking some of the posts on depression I have seen lately, that are comic version, written by the sufferer, they are real eye openers, really good.
    PP problems suck, but I am better than I have ever been in my life. I just didnt know being alive was so much work…all this feeling my emotions and trying to work out what is going on inside!!!

  2. Again, SO grateful people are talking about Postpartum Psychosis in depth. It’s real and no matter how “rare”, even one case that endangers a mama or baby is one too many to risk. Thanks for all you do!

  3. Heather Coleman says:

    Bravo Alison for shedding light on the serious, but not well known issue of Postpartum Psychosis. I love the words you used in this post, “devoted mothers with names”. We are not a statistic. We stand strong together. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Thank you Allison for increasing awareness of postpartum psychosis. So many of us never knew it existed until it struck.