I’ve been told I’m an inspiration, should be so proud of myself for getting through my postpartum psychosis – but my husband has lived through and overcome this too.
(Originally published on Huffington Post UK)
“It’s so terrifying what you have been through.”
“I don’t know how you’ve managed to get through it.”
“You should be so proud of yourself.”
“You are an inspiration.”
All comments said to me during my recovery from postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis. All comments I was incredibly grateful to receive (after hearing nothing but negative abuse from the demons in my mind). And all comments that, even if I felt uncomfortable hearing, were all true in some shape or form.
It’s true. It was terrifying seeing demons around my home threatening to kill my baby girl as a result of my postpartum psychosis. Looking back at the darkness I went through, from the debilitating depression to the terrifying visions, I also sometimes wonder how I managed to get through it. It’s taken a long time, however, it’s true that I am now proud of myself for doing so. And even though I’m still uncomfortable with the idea that I’m an “inspiration”. If sharing what I’ve been through can inspire others going through it, to know that they can make it through and reclaim their lives, then, it’s true that I am now feeling more comfortable with this also.
However, amongst all the supportive comments, praise and acknowledgements there is one thing missing and one thing I am not comfortable with. You see, there is one person that missed out on the help and recognition, despite this person also suffering at the hands of the illness. This someone took care of me through the darkest of days and kept our little family together, therefore this someone, also needs to be recognised, as what he witnessed, lived through and overcame is an inspiration. This someone is my husband.
Unfortunately, like the majority of partners, male and female, living with and supporting a loved one through a mental health illness, they and their experiences go unnoticed and unrecognised. Their stories are left unspoken and unheard. And the support they, like their partners, so desperately need, to help get them through the most difficult time of their lives goes un-administered.
The knock-on effect of partners supporting partners through a maternal mental health illness and not getting the right support and advice can be devastating. I know from personal experience and through talking to other couples with experience of a mental health illness, that the negative effect the experience can have on the partners mental health and general day-to-day quality of life is one that we all need to be aware of. Is one that we all need to acknowledge and treat with the importance it deserves.
Living with and overcoming a maternal mental health illness takes an army of support. I know for me it was the mix and balance of the right help from my Doctor, medication, regular therapy and the continued support of my husband. However, when I think back to the lack of support my husband received right through to lack of thought that he needed any to begin with, is truly terrifying. It chills my very soul when I think of the effect my illness had on him. The toll it took on his own mental well being and how if he had received the right support and advice from the moment I was diagnosed, then maybe the aftereffects of the illness and all the dark times we went through in the aftermath of it, would not have been so dark. Would not have lasted for so long. And our quality of life as individuals, as a couple and as a family would have been better, sooner.
It’s hard to acknowledge that your illness can have a knock on effect to someone you love so dearly. To acknowledge that the person who helped you overcome your demons is now struggling with their own as a result of it all. However, as bitter a pill as this is to swallow, it is something we all need to be aware of to ensure that everyone fighting a battle with any type mental health illness (those diagnosed with an illness and those supporting them through it) all get the acknowledgement, help and support they need and the recognition that they deserve.
Olivia Siegl is the author of best-selling book “Bonkers – A Real Mum’s Hilariously Honest Tales of Motherhood, Mayhem and Mental Health” and founder of The Every Mum Movement. To join the movement you can find out more on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.