Motherhood was a whole new and nasty experience for Laura Chebet, at least for the first few months. Being a first time mum, she did not understand why she felt no connection with her baby girl. She always felt guilty and detached from her bundle of joy – sometimes forgetting her completely.
Interestingly though, the Daystar University alumni knew she was predisposed to mental illnesses like schizophrenia and postpartum depression/psychosis, looking at her family genogram. She just didn’t know when it would happen or how it would feel.
The 27-year-old narrates her struggle with postpartum depression.
“It is after taking a class on the Psychology of Family and Marriage during my Fourth Year in campus that I realised the genetic predisposition comes from my maternal grandmother.
She had several psychotic breaks during her child bearing years and schizophrenia in the mid-80s. So I knew there was a probability of me getting into depression, I just didn’t know it would hit me hard.
I fell into postpartum psychosis a few weeks after delivering my first child in January 2017. The first time I experienced it, I was at home with my family- my in-laws. I was just over a year from graduating but jobless.
DELUSIONS, STRANGE BELIEFS
I felt guilty because my parents provided everything for me and my daughter. I felt like I was a burden to everyone around me. I wanted to die. I had suicidal thoughts. I would go to the kitchen looking for a knife, but every time I tried, something stopped me and I felt powerless.
The in-laws were visiting the baby for the first time. It was a huge party, gifts, food, speeches and all the niceties involved. I am usually a people’s person but on that day and several others later, I was detached from people.
It started with anxiety. I started feeling paranoid and suspicious about everything. I felt like everyone around me had no good intentions. Then I fell into depression…I could not sleep for days. I thought I would die if I closed my eyes. Then I went into psychosis.
I started having delusions and strange beliefs about everything around me. I saw and believed in things that didn’t exist but they were so real to me then.
I saw a dead person’s obituary on the hospital door where it is usually the face of a pretty woman telling you whether the doctor is in or out. I couldn’t take a shower for days because I knew I was going to die anyway.
I couldn’t talk to anyone. I thought they were not believing me regarding the things I could hear and see. I totally forgot about my child. To me, she did not exist. At some point, I believed I had not given birth or perhaps she was not really mine and may have been switched at birth.
I started believing that my family was cursed because my brother had experienced a psychotic break a few weeks before and after I gave birth.
I felt like the world was coming to an end and I would die and go to hell. Everything was upside down. It was the darkest phase of my life, yet I was able to go through it.
My family and a few friends were so supportive and that is why I am here today. I initially refused to take the medication because I thought they would kill me. But after a psychiatrist talked to me and made me understand my situation, I agreed. I also went through several counselling sessions which helped a lot. I was broken, but God’s grace was and still is sufficient.
I’m now a happy mother of two beautiful girls because my support system was on the lookout in case of a relapse. After my second delivery, a few months ago, I almost went back there but my family arrested the situation before it got out of hand. I will forever be grateful to these.
If you plan to be a parent or are already there, make sure you have a strong support system. It helps a great deal. My first time as a mum was not easy, neither is the second, and yes, I know that if I ever get another child, maybe the third time or more, it will not be easy either. It is never easy. But with a strong support system, you can do it.
Postpartum psychosis is temporary and treatable with professional help, but it is an emergency and it is essential that you receive immediate help.
If you feel you or someone you know may be suffering from this illness, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. Call your doctor or an emergency crisis hotline right away so that you can get the help you need.”
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