“Life can be normal again after post-partum illness” – Lani’s story


Lani reflects on the warning signs of her post-partum psychosis, with extreme sleep deprivation, compulsive behaviours and panic attacks leading to an episode. With crisis and family support, Lani has regained hope for the future.

When I found out I was expecting twins, my biggest concern was ‘how could I possibly share my love between them and my 3 year old son?’ I was assured that my love would grow with our family, so I awaited the adjustment to our lives with optimism.

Due to my history of mental illness, I met regularly with my psychiatrist during my pregnancy. We discussed my increased risks for post-partum illness and came up with a plan just in case I became unwell. Making decisions about medication and treatment can be difficult when I’m not mentally well, so this plan was ready to go if I started to decline.

The birth of my twins was complication free - we soon settled back at home to adapt to the huge life change. When I look back at these early weeks, I can see the warning signs of my illness beginning, which I didn’t notice at the time. 

  • I started to believe that one of my babies wasn’t really mine; that she belonged to somebody else.

Things were almost too perfect in our home. The house was spotless, nothing was out of place. My preexisting OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) had taken hold very quickly and I never stopped working to keep our home perfect. I didn’t rest during the day and once the children were asleep for the night, I would begin a four-hour cleaning ritual. I was also breastfeeding my babies every 2 hours, getting very little sleep.

People were calling me superwoman, but life with a newborn shouldn’t be perfect and some level of chaos should be expected. For us, the chaos arrived a little too late. After a few weeks, extreme sleep deprivation started to affect me and I shut down. I had panic attacks at the thought of picking up my babies. I didn’t know why but I’d freeze up and their father would have to come home from work to help me.

Then paranoia crept in. I believed I could hear somebody walking around our house, and searched the house over and over again to find nobody there. I was terrified that somebody was planning to hurt us; that my partner and his family were scheming to take my children away from me. I started to believe that one of my babies wasn’t really mine; that she belonged to somebody else. I believed she missed her ’real mother’ and was communicating with her spiritually.

  • I couldn’t eat or speak properly, was really confused all the time.

I started to lose function. I couldn’t eat or speak properly, was really confused all the time. When my family and friends expressed concern, I didn’t understand their worries. I knew I wasn’t coping perfectly, but didn’t realise I was unwell. 

I started receiving help from the crisis team. They helped me to feel grounded when things got out of control. My mental health team had been visiting me and eventually arranged an emergency appointment with my psychiatrist. 

This is where our plan saved me. I was prescribed medication and began taking it immediately. After a couple of weeks, I started to feel more stable. Although I improved quickly, things were still really difficult for a while. My body and mind had become completely exhausted. One year later and I feel I’m still processing what happened. 

  • Post-partum psychosis doesn’t present exactly the same for everybody.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why my illness wasn’t diagnosed sooner. The more personal experiences I hear, the more I realise that post-partum psychosis doesn’t present exactly the same for everybody. Some people become severely unwell overnight, but for others like me, it creeps in, initially disguised as anxiety or OCD. It doesn’t always look like the online checklist of symptoms and that’s why I’m sharing my story, because real stories helped me.

I think anybody who is pregnant, or knows somebody who is, should learn about all post-partum illnesses because those closest to you will often be the first to realise that something is wrong. 

I’m okay now and our children are thriving. We’ve figured out our new routine and enjoy spending our days muddling through milestones. I hope my story gives hope that life can be normal again after post-partum illness.

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