Fiona's story: overcoming postpartum psychosis
My daughter Oona was delivered by C-section at 31 weeks - weighing just 860 grams (less than 2lbs). I saw a glimpse of my tiny child and she was whisked off to intensive care.
When I first held her, I felt overwhelmingly in love...then the euphoria switched off and I wanted her off me. I told a doctor, but she said I just needed to sleep. Instead, I stayed up all night frantically writing about Oona: I stalked the corridors and even shouted "I’m psychotic" to a midwife.
The next day, my best friend Amy visited and I decided to discharge myself. We went home and while Amy was out buying me a breast pump, something in my mind just switched. I can remember shouting, "This is where my story ends."
I was extremely lucky to survive. It was Amy who persuaded me to get into the ambulance. It was her straight-talking, caring attitude, I think, that saved my life.
Back in hospital, it took me a week and a half to recover from my back injuries and, to the outside world, I was also recovering from my mental health crisis - which now had a name: 'postpartum psychosis'. But a week after going home, I had another episode and was placed in the Maudsley Hospital.
That week at the Maudsley, I was out of my mind. But eventually I realised that I was in the right place: that the nurses were there to help me and that I, like the other patients, had a mental health problem.
Then after a week and a half, the Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem had a room free. I was one of the lucky ones - had I been in Northern Ireland, where my mum lives, there would be no provision for me.
Once on the Unit, I was doing well, but the day after my longed-for baby joined me on the ward, the depression that so often follows postpartum psychosis kicked in and all the love I had previously felt for Oona disappeared overnight.
After two dreadful weeks, the medication started to work. My depression and anxiety subsided. I gradually returned home and started to get used to life as a new mum but while my husband Henry was a loving dad, I felt isolated and directionless a lot of the time.
Talking to other local women who were also struggling proved to be a lifeline. It was wonderfully freeing to be able to meet up and talk openly about what happened to us, to laugh together and bask in their wellness. Oona and I now have a wonderful relationship.
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