Mental Health

Adele speaks out about her best friend’s experience with postpartum psychosis and urges mums to TALK

Postpartum psychosis is described as “a dream but you’re not asleep”, it affects 1 in every 1,000 new mums.

Today, singer Adele has spoken out in support of her childhood best friend, Laura about how she battled with postpartum psychosis and that mums should TALK about how they’re feeling to help others.

What is postpartum psychosis?

Postnatal psychosis can cause a loss of contact with reality, and behaviour that seems out of character. Fortunately postnatal psychosis is temporary and treatable.

Women generally experience a full recovery with time and appropriate treatment and go on to mother their children as they expected to, Panda states on their website.

Beyond Blue lists the symptoms as, usually starting within 48 hours to two weeks after giving birth, but may develop up to 12 weeks after the birth. They can be extremely distressing for both the woman and her family.

Early changes in usual behaviour include:

  • finding it hard to sleep
  • feeling full of energy or restless and irritable
  • feeling strong, powerful, unbeatable
  • having strange beliefs (e.g. people are trying to harm the baby).

This may be followed by a combination of manic or depressive symptoms including:

  • manic symptoms: these may include having lots of energy, hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations), believing things that are not based on reality (delusions), talking quickly, having difficulty concentrating.
  • depressed symptoms: these may include low energy, not sleeping or eating, having thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby, feeling hopeless or helpless as a mother).

Laura’s story

Laura’s story was published on parenting website, Mother of All Lists, and she shares exactly how it affected her life.

Laura writes, “Birth and motherhood is a shock to the system and traumatic and we shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.”

Postpartum psychosis is said to come out of nowhere and this was what happened to Laura.

She writes, “My pregancy was a dream, I was totally prepared to be unprepared and have no history of mental illness and yet this cruel and savage sickness completely and unexpectedly swallowed me smashed me and my family against the rocks.”

Laura did not have a good birthing experience, she underwent an emergency c-section and it is this traumatisation of her birth that Laura’s doctor believes triggered her illness.

“I just remember thinking- what the hell have I done?” Laura says. She goes on to say how the feelings she felt when she got home from the hospital were like the Sunday Scaries times a million! Laura refused to believe it was postpartum depression as she didn’t necessarily feel depressed.

“I felt like I had pushed out my personality as well as a baby”, Laura wrote.

The psychosis

I used to hate this photograph of me and had it hidden away with all the other baby stuff I didn’t want to look at but now I love it because it shows I survived. This week my baby turns 6 months old and I feel like it’s an achievement in more ways than one. I don’t usually do oversharing on social media (I’ve covered over my boobies here rather professionally as you can see for my dignity- not that I have much of that dignity stuff left anyway after the last 6 months and YES my nail varnish is chipped but if you had to change 15 nappies a day and have your arms elbow deep in washing up liquid your nails would be pretty chipped too and who gets a chance to paint their nails with a baby splodging around the place anyway?) but the more I’ve spoken about this experience AKA the WORST TIME OF MY ACTUAL LIFE the more I’ve realised the urgency of writing about it. More women and their partners have opened up with their own experiences that have just felt too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it. It’s not easy to admit that the worst time of your life was when your baby was born. Social media gives a very shiny exterior of life to be frank and it’s not the full picture, so I wanted to unlock some doors and be honest- I’ve been somewhere I can’t unsee and- in case there is anybody out there struggling – to open up a dialogue and say it’s ok. You are not broken… Alrighty… I’m gonna be brave…so here we go… I have teamed up with @clemmie_telford to share my story (link in bio) There are a few thank yous I have to do to those starting with my true love @hugowhitenoise, my one and only spirit sister @adele, my baby love E.T @daisymaydock, my amazing parents and their partners, my partners family, my brother @hdurkle @sioby11 @pennygabriel @victoriabuzzington @el_matthews_ @annekaharry @thesabrinagrant @ssoufian @robertemmsactor @wesleygoode and my publishers @jennyjacoby @tinamories Love you all so much. You saved my life.

A post shared by LauraLeeDockrill (@lauraleedockrill) on

Laura began to go through extreme highs and lows and she disconnected from her world. She said sleepless nights turned into mania and she would be so low she would ignore her sons cries.

The psychosis then took a dark turn when Laura accused her partner, Hugo of kidnapping their son.

She says, “I still can’t exactly work out what exactly happened or what form it took on, all I know is I was completely terrified, lost, confused and scared for myself and my son and that I didn’t trust ANYBODY.”

Intervention

There was then an intervention and Laura was hospitalised for 2 weeks. “I had no idea where I was. I forgot who I was to the point that Hugo would have to send me photos of myself and my friends and family to remind me who I was. My sister would record voice notes on my phone to try and trigger my memories.”

Laura’s partner Hugo cared for their son while she recovered in hospital, giving her daily updates, photos and visits.

“Hugo, who had never even held a newborn, was essentially now a single dad and I was his Zombie girlfriend eating apple crumble with a plastic spoon in a hospital cafeteria yet everyday he bought our son to see me in hospital and only ever smiled and was fun and brilliant with him,” she wrote.

Recovery

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A post shared by LauraLeeDockrill (@lauraleedockrill) on

As Laura began feeling more like herself she said she struggled to find stories like her own and other mums to relate to.

“Birth and motherhood is a shock to the system and traumatic and we shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. It’s not cosy big fluffy jumpers, scrolling through Instagram and tubs of ice cream. 

Pregnancy is like being an oven making the most precious important cake in the world and everybody is looking through the little glass window licking their lips waiting for the cake to come out and once the cake comes out everybody cheers and runs off to eat it and the oven is left and forgotten about, turned off,” Laura writes.

With the support of her family, a psychiatrist, medication and psychotherapy, Laura is healed and recovering more and more each day.

She urges mums to talk about their feelings, with their family, friends or professionals, she writes, “You don’t have to brave it alone. You don’t have to act like a hero, you already are one.”

If you feel depressed or are suffering from depression and or anxiety, we advise you to seek help from your GP or call Lifeline 13 11 14, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia [PANDA] 1300 726 306 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36.

Share Laura’s story to help raise awareness of this frightening condition.

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Katie Fowler

Katie is a yoga loving writer from Sydney's northern beaches. With a flair for healthy baking you can find her scouring Instagram for the latest take on raw brownies and trolling Pinterest for interior design inspiration!

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