This post follows from My Decision, which is about my experience with postnatal psychosis, admission into a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital, and having to stop breastfeeding. Below, are entries are from my diary that I wrote, at the time of my hospitalisation in the mothers and baby unit. While I sound obviously excited to be reunited with my tiny daughter you will notice that I sound high and psychotic.
Becoming hyper-religious is not unusual for those during mental illness episodes. I’m not a religious person, but I will leave my words largely unedited so that you may get an insight into my unbalanced mind as a new mother. I was in my own reality where others couldn’t reach. The chaplains and Christian volunteers, who seem to be available at all hospitals I’ve been to, fed my delusions and I turned to incessantly read the bibles they supplied me with.
28th August: I have been transferred to the mother and baby unit at the private hospital for postnatal depression. I am excited as this means Gracie will be joining me soon!! I can have one or two nights sleeping on my own. I do feel safe here – with the element of discomfort that makes me feel I’m still on the right scent.
But how easily I return to the deadening normality that suffocates. I want the best for my daughter – as every mother does. It’s time to believe the best in others as well as myself… If I have to go through the rest of my life in and out of hospitals to reach the final complete truth or knowledge of good or – whatever it is I am seeking – so be it.
It is worth more than life itself. It is my desire to be so completely good and to be in God’s welcoming arms and deserving of his love. Live as if I can be perfect – then I will do as God tells me, not the rules of Man. We are all servants of God… I remember praying on a falling star. The last star, brightest star under the curved moon. I don’t believe that was a coincidence. Just believe. Believe you are in God’s safe hands… Thinking of Gracie makes me strong.
29th August: I am so excited to have Gracie with me!! She’s sleeping atm. But we’ve had cuddles, watching TV and playing. I don’t want to forget how awe-inspiring the miracle of a child is. And me to have the fortune of her spirit.
31st August: The power of hope and faith. It’s a journey I don’t understand and I give into its waves. Each moment passes and I don’t know where it will take me. The journey can’t be rushed through – in its own time – I embrace serenity!! I embrace a journey of discovery. Another world is possible. Matthew 5:48 You must be perfect – just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
1st September: First day of spring. So wonderful is my Baby Girl! Feeling pretty chillaxed atm. Gracie is sleeping beside me. Feeling confused. Realising what a crutch food has become for me… So many wonderful and terrifying thoughts. I draw my strength from being a mum. Feeling confused about all the people in my life. Just have to have faith in God – and I do. All the people helping, who want Gracie and me to be looked after and safe.
2nd September: Feeling very small as if something ginormous is taking place!
3rd September: Feeling tired and scared. What’s happening with Blackie? Am I losing my mind for real? (What do I mean by that?)
Having my daughter stay with me while admitted to hospital allowed me to bond with her more comfortably than having a formal visit in a family room. I cherished being able to mother Gracie and tend to her needs. However the close attendance of the nurses ensured this was not overwhelming and that Gracie was safe and appropriately cared for.
Keryn Bradbury talks in her blog about her experience in Western Australia. There she was able to be admitted to public mum and bub hospital ward. NSW has one inpatient hospital for new mothers suffering mental illness.
During my postnatal psychosis, as in previous psychotic episodes, a religious perspective became all pervasive in my understanding of daily life. It was exhausting, particularly at the public psychiatric hospital. I ‘read’ anything I could lay my hands on that would help me discover the truth and bring me closer to God. Books, pamphlets, words on the blackboard, seemingly inconsequential coincidences became imbued with meaning.
Looking after Gracie and being involved in a study program on mindfulness and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy helped to redirect my energies at the private hospital.
I was interested to read Chris Coles’s article ‘Is Mania a Spiritual Experience?’ as he argues there is some meaning in our psychotic experience.