Well-known writer and Zombiemum podcast star Laura Dockrill - who counts Adele as her childhood best friend and the godmother to her only son, Jet - is working hard to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis, the crippling condition which she suffered first-hand.
READ: Postpartum psychosis - the crippling mental health illness as explained by Laura Dockrill
The author has taken part in HELLO!'s Mental Health Digital Issue guest-edited by Scarlett Moffatt in a bid to encourage fellow mothers to speak out if they have experienced the serious mental illness. Read Laura's searingly honest account here...
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It's not easy to admit that having a baby was the worst time of your life. Especially when there's an expectation to be 'the happiest you've ever been.'
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On Mother's Day, 2018, three weeks after my son was born, I woke up in a psychiatric ward, separated from my new-born. I had no history of mental illness. As you can imagine, this wasn't the 'best time of my life.' (And they said I'd be glowing!) I remember dragging my animal of a body, crawling on hands and knees, leaking blood and breast milk, towards a breakfast that would go down my throat like socks from a Sports Direct bargain bucket. A slither of human face and an eyeball that I didn't recognise at the door; I was on suicide watch.
I'd had a smooth, healthy pregnancy and my partner and I were full of excitement to meet our baby. But after a traumatic and chaotic labour landing in an emergency caesarean, things began to turn sour. An undetected pregnancy complication meant my son was born 'small' and wanted to feed 24/7.
The author shares son Jet with husband Hugo White
Locked in the pressure cooker of the maternity ward, I was a caged tiger- feral, primal- mostly naked- and strange. Time became abstract and I lost all sense of self. I was scared, despite being surrounded by people - desperately lonely and homesick.
But at home, things went from bad to worse; I couldn't eat or sleep. I was wildly anxious. Sparking. I had to stand on guard, look out for danger. Racing thoughts tumbled into dark ones - I can't do this. It's my fault. I'm not a good mum. Avalanching into fear, a lack of instinct and trust in my loved ones. I became delusional, manic and paranoid.
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Overnight, my living room became Glastonbury festival, my family camped out. I thought they were there to take care of the baby - but the baby was fine - they were there to take care of me. The GP was on the phone but meanwhile songs on the radio were leaving me messages, texts and cards from friends were meshing with signs from the TV linking to the olive tree outside, connecting to the CCTV in the teddy bear's eyes. When I heard a voice that wasn't mine, I knew I couldn't ride this out anymore. I was hospitalised with postpartum psychosis.
But that rock bottom turned out to be the best time of my life (although it didn't feel like it at the time); it was the beginning of my recovery. I felt relief. I didn't 'invent it.' I was safe. The only thing worse than suffering with a mental illness is pretending you aren't.
Over time, with medication, support, therapy and love - I recovered. My son's first word was 'mama' and I was there to hear it.
What Have I Done?, £11.99, Amazon
I write from the vantage point of privilege, living in the UK as a 'healthy middle-class white woman' where the care system is exceptional compared to most parts of the world, so I'm not trying to play the violin but here in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in new mothers.
Please ask for help - it's the bravest thing a person can do. I am so thankful to my sur-THRIVE-al. I am thankful to my illness and everything it's given me - I am a better mum, partner, friend and person because of it.
And to my baby boy; to think I thought I made you, when of course, it was you that made me.
For more information on postpartum psychosis, please head to app-network.org.
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