I became severely unwell following the birth of my son Liam in 2012. I’d had a dreadful pregnancy after doctors discovered potentially life-threatening cysts on his lungs around 20 weeks. My husband and I spent the next 10 weeks thinking we would lose him. Incredibly, Liam survived and thrived as we clung to hope all the while continuing my stressful TV producer job on auto-pilot.
Liam’s arrival should have been the end of a horrific chapter but, unbeknown to us, the worst was yet to come. From the first day or so I stopped sleeping. I literally couldn’t sleep even when I had the chance. My brain raced and I became increasingly irritable and erratic. I fixated on my post-natal treatment and ranted over the hospital’s lack of care and the state of the WA health system.
Once home, I obsessed over breastfeeding and lashed out at everyone close to me. Yet, somehow, I had some insight. I clearly remember thinking something’s not right and saying over and over I “need help”. So I doctor shopped over the space of several days and took medication I knew was wrong for me. The medication sent me over the edge and full blown mania and psychosis followed. My speech became pressured, I heard phantom crying and I couldn’t sit still.
Roughly three weeks after delivering my very much wanted baby boy, I admitted myself to hospital. I spent four days in Royal Perth’s psychiatric unit. I was then transferred to Perth’s Mother Baby Unit (MBU) and salvation began. I spent months under the care of a psychiatrist who delivered the devastating diagnosis (post-natal bipolar, psychosis and shades of post-traumatic stress) and opened the door to my recovery. I spent four months in the MBU: 2.5 months for the mania; 5 weeks for the depression.
What came next? The hardest but most rewarding years of my life. I’ve learnt to live and parent with Bipolar, I’ve learnt to accept and take pride in my diagnosis, I’ve blogged about my experience and I’m now working towards a career in mental health. There’s no one thing that got me well. Medication, peer support, respite, psychiatric care, mindfulness and WRAP(Wellness Recovery Action Plan). All of these things helped. But most of all it was down to ME. I did it.
“Breaking down nearly broke me but I’m living proof that recovery is possible and that a breakdown can be a breakthrough.” Keryn, Perth (October, 2016)
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