Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Postpartum Psychosis and Mum

My beautiful Mum suffered from postpartum psychosis following the birth of my brother John.  If it had been 2016 then maybe Mum would have received more support but it was 1972 and people were afraid of mental illness.  No one knew the term 'chemical imbalance' and there were no posters or helplines.

Mum told me of a neighbour and good friend who, on seeing Mum walk towards her on the pavement, looked the other way and crossed the road. There were friends who did help but a lot of people  'left' Mum and Dad to it.

Mum lost touch with her reality.  Following John's birth Mum rapidly spiralled into another world; a place where she was 9 years old, a place where she didn't recognise my Dad or remember that she had a daughter at home.  

Mum's fight to regain her health and return to her family was something we all lived. My Dad was completely devoted to Mum and would visit her daily at the hospital.  Mum says she remembered a man with kind eyes and a lovely smile visiting her and she thought that he was her favourite Uncle Dick (who had passed away by then), but in fact it was the man she'd been married to for 7 years.

I remember worrying as a child if Mum wasn't happy.  The separation anxiety that began when she went into hospital when I was 2 and didn't come home for 6 months didn't leave me until I was an adult.

Mum was taken to Stone Mental hospital in Dartford where she was given ECT treatment for 12 weeks and miraculously she began to regain her memory and make connections with her real life.  She had to re-learn to drive, cook, change nappies, garden (something she loved with a passion all her life) and in a sense re-learn who she was.

Mum was the strongest and most courageous woman I've ever known.  This courage helped her when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012.  She faced everything with a smile and fiercely protected us all from the reality of the situation.  Mum died in September 2013 but not before we were able to share her story : I Know Who I Am by Margaret Rimmer

Mum's book is available for free until the 13th March.

Postpartum psychosis is a condition that the charity Mind have worked hard to draw attention to and educate with the help of an Eastenders storyline and lots of interesting case studies.  I hope that Mum's story will help other families who are going through or who have been through the same experience.

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