Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is a UK charity. We’re here to make sure mums, parents and families are supported through postpartum psychosis – a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby and affects 1400 new mums in the UK each year.
We offer information and peer support, facilitate ground breaking research, raise awareness and campaign for improved services.
Our life changing peer support network helps women and families affected by postpartum psychosis feel understood, supported and less isolated.
Miles for Mums Challenge by Action on Postpartum Psychosis reflects the journey mums, babies, partners and families travel to be together while mums receive care in Mother and Baby Units (MBU).
My challenge is to swim the distance from the MBU in Livingston, where I received treatment, to my house over the number of days I spent in hospital, so 71 miles in 30 days. I will start my challenge on the 22nd of May. My challenge is both for me and my fantastic family and friends who supported me during my time in hospital as well as the long road to recovery.
My son Caelan was born in October 2020 and after a couple of days in hospital we were home and enjoying those first few new-born weeks. Due to covid it was very difficult to see family and friends but fortunately due to the relaxing of rules around meeting outside Caelan was able to meet his grandparents. The first three months went by, and everything was going well. Then in late January I received some news from work that caused me to become quite upset and anxious. Over the next few days, I became more and more anxious, experiencing anxiety that felt like that feeling that there was an oncoming car on the wrong side of the road all the time. I went to the GP and was prescribed some medication, but things continued to go downhill. Over the next few days, I continued to get stranger and stranger, to the point where my husband was frightened to go in the shower and leave me on my own. This culminated in me phoning 999 and there being a concern there was a carbon monoxide leak at the house. While that was not the case, the paramedics that arrived recognised there was something clearly not right and asked my husband if it would help if they phoned the GP. I believe this really helped as my husband had been flagging something wasn’t right with me, but this gave it extra weight. I was seen by the GP later that day and then the local mental health team. Following this assessment, it was recognised I was exhibiting symptoms of postpartum psychosis. However, by this point I was so ill I was sectioned and admitted to the MBU in Livingston.
Once I arrived at the MBU I became distressed and I wasn’t very interested in feeding my son, which the staff had to keep reminding me to do. As we were still in lockdown my husband had to go home however, he had to come back the next morning and collect Caelan as I wasn’t well enough to look after him. I was moved to the general psychiatric ward, where I slept for about three days straight as I hadn’t slept properly in over a week. After a week or so, I was deemed well enough to move back to the MBU and Caelan returned to be with me. We spent another three and a half weeks on the ward, with me slowly getting better and re-establishing breastfeeding. My memory also started to come back as I can’t really remember getting ill at home, I can’t remember anything about being admitted to hospital or the psychiatric ward. Although I had become ill really quickly, I am also fortunate that my recovery back to being ok enough to go home was quick too.
I use the term ‘ok enough’ as I clearly wasn’t myself. I remember when my husband picked me up, he explained to me that when we first left the hospital it would seem like we were going back on ourselves, but this was just the way to get out to the main road. This was related to the fact that I still couldn’t figure out the layout of the hospital in Livingston, as I used to go for a daily walk around the hospital, which had caused some distress early in my recovery. On the journey home we passed over the Forth on the Queensferry Crossing, at this point I knew I was going home as I knew the way home from there and it would make sense. To this day, going over the Queensferry crossing makes me emotional as it brings back that memory.
Over the next few months, I continued to get better with the support of my husband, family and friends. I was on strong medication which I hated, I knew it was making me better, but it made me incredibly tired and lethargic. I would very often go to bed at 8pm having also had a nap when my son did. Come the end of summer I was able to stop my medication which helped me feel a lot better as I was less tired and brain foggy. My family feel it probably took almost a year for me to be back to my usual self, it was a long and difficult road, but I got there.
While this story focuses on me and my recovery, that would not have been possible without the people around me. I am so thankful for my husband and my Mum and Dad for recognising that something wasn’t right with me and raising the alarm. The amazing care packages I received when I was in hospital from my parents, my in-laws, my brother and his fiancé, and my best friend. Then the continued support I received once I had left hospital to ensure I was ok and getting better. However, being so ill did take a toll on those around me and they also needed to take care of themselves, and I know some did reach out for help. So, in summary, although the 71 miles reflects my journey from the MBU in Livingston to home it is for everyone that supported me to complete that journey.