As part of the Health Activist Writer’s Month (#HAWMC) 2013 challenge, my task is to introduce my condition (postpartum psychosis) to you and share five things I would like you to know about it. So here we go:
1. Postpartum Psychosis is not the same as Postpartum Depression. Although I personally identify with the postpartum depression community (because it is a larger group of women and they are very understanding), the two health conditions are separate and different. Approximately 15-20% of new mothers can experience postpartum depression, and you can find the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety (in Plain Mama English) on the Postpartum Progress website.
Postpartum psychosis is far more uncommon, occurring in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 births or .1% of births. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis can be found through Postpartum Support International.
2. Every story is different, but we share a common thread. Remember, there are far more positive outcomes than negative outcomes. The negative outcomes just seem to get more media attention. Don’t automatically think the worst will happen to you, just start talking to someone about what you are experiencing and reach out for help if you sense something is “not quite right”. Postpartum psychosis is a serious condition and should be treated immediately, but people should know that infantcide and suicide only occur in approximately 4-5% of cases.
3. You are not “crazy”. Personally, I hate that label and the stigma associated with it, because it keeps people from getting help. You have an illness. When you are ill, you go to the doctor. Something that seems so simple when it is a physical health condition, suddenly becomes so complicated when it is a mental health condition. It shouldn’t be. It should be just as clear. If you get medical help, you will get better. And you have every right to take the time you need to get the help you need. If you aren’t satisfied with the help you are getting, educate yourself, advocate for your rights as a patient, and make necessary changes, until you ARE satisfied.
4. Recovery is extremely possible. It will be a journey that will test your strength, but you will come out the other side, more resilient than ever before. Always keep your focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Know what your version of “healthy” looks like and reach for it, until you realize it. Call upon your entire support system and every resource available to you in order to make recovery possible. You can do it!
5. You are a good mom! Don’t even think about telling yourself otherwise. Just because you may need to take some time away from your family to get healthy, doesn’t make you any less of a good mother. It makes you the best kind of mother. One that knows you can’t fully take care of others until you take care of yourself.
And one more thing…you are not alone! Not everyone that experiences postpartum psychosis is going to be willing to share their story publicly, but we’re certainly out there and we understand what you are going through. Seek out support groups (i.e., private Facebook groups like the Postpartum Psychosis Forum, public Twitter chats like #ppdchat, and Postpartum Support International). It has been extremely helpful during my recovery process to talk to other women who experienced postpartum psychosis and to share my story with them. I am more than willing to talk to anyone who wants to learn more about postpartum psychosis or wants to share their experience with me (reach out to me at heathermariecoleman[at]gmail.com).
What else would you like to know?