This is the second of a series of letters recounting my experience with postpartum psychosis. To read the other letters and learn more about my intention behind this series, you can go to this page here.
I ended my first letter with a passage from your first journal entry on August 25, five days after your ER visit:
I am very confused
I do not know what the eff is happening here
I am not sure what actual day it is
I am unclear about who is helpful and who isn't
The things everyone is saying is very confusing to me
And I am not sure who I can trust.
Now here is the rest:
But the bottom line
Is that I love my family very much
And I want to see my beautiful children
When the time is right.
Is it that time now?
Is it all over soon?
Will I make it out
Of these confusing woods?
Or am I still
"On My Own"?
When can I sing?
When can I dance?
What is allowed?
Should I give a crap?
My references to performance particularly stand out because when you were in psychosis you did A LOT of singing. While you were in the hospital, you:
- Collected a bouquet of carnations and sang "I Can Hear the Bells" from Hairspray while marching down the halls;
- Woke up early in the morning and belted "One Day More" from Les Miserables in the activities room, thinking the other patients would join and sing along;
- Sang "Come What May" from Moulin Rouge at a locked door thinking Derek (your husband) would start singing from the other side to "save you";
- Sat in your bedroom singing "On My Own" from Les Miserables at full volume because you thought you were being video recorded for a "show" you're performing in;
- Packed a bag in your room and sang "I'd Give My Life For You" from Miss Saigon, thinking that by acting like a refugee from the show you could somehow "escape" the hospital and be reunited with your kids.
Your children were unsurprisingly top of mind for you while you were in the hospital, even in your psychotic state. For one of the group therapy sessions, you were asked to write a story using various objects that were on little scraps of paper (bolded below):
One day, there was a little panda bear named Robbie.
He really wanted to go fishing with his Daddy but they were caught in the middle of a snowstorm.
Plus, his tooth hurt from too much candy.
So, they walked on over, with their blue snow pants on to a magical Subaru minivan.
The door was locked, but luckily Baby Robbie had magical farts that unlocked the car — SPLAT!
They were saved! And it just so happened that there was a goldfish named Kerri already waiting for them.
You wrote this fairytale while you were in psychosis, which led to one of your delusions — from that point forward, you would look out the window of your hospital room, hoping that a magical Subaru minivan would arrive and take you away from the hospital.
Leaving (or escaping) the hospital was a recurring theme when it came to your hallucinations and delusions. It even started before you were admitted to the hospital — at the ER you thought you were in a play set up by your grad school and theater friends. Everyone there was a friend who volunteered to be an actor.
Then, in the ambulance ride from the ER to Suburban Hospital, you were convinced you were in a escape room. The EMTs were a bit frustrated when you tried to remove your restraints, touch various objects in the ambulance, etc.
By the time you made it to your inpatient stay, you were convinced that the other patients were helping you plot your escape, Ocean's 11 style. Everything was a "sign" or a "signal" that you needed to "solve," such as:
- The way people scratched their nose or looked in a certain direction;
- The Jenga tiles that had "messages" from celebrities written on them;
- The symbols in your hospital room.
One of these symbols was very specific and actually makes sense given the media you were consuming pre-psychosis. For the fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender fans out there, you thought you saw the Order of the White Lotus symbol written on the shelves of your room. The hallucination went as far as you "seeing" Prince Zuko on the metal paper towel dispenser in your bathroom.
From L to R: the Order of the White Lotus symbol; A Canva recreation of what I "saw."
This is fandom on another level.
Other delusions were not as cute, though. On a phone call with Derek, you told him that you didn't know what medications were being given to you at the hospital, making you suspicious. This was heightened when a fellow patient was saying that the staff were poisoning you. At this point, you were spitting out your medications.
Today has been a bit of a fucking rollercoaster of a day.
Still trying to figure things out
but I believe we are getting closer to redemption.
Before you realized you needed to take your meds and started feeling better, the hospital was a very confusing and scary place. You didn't know who to trust. You even thought you were in a cult at one point — another delusion that now seems ridiculous but at the time you believed to be real.
It can be confusing...towing the line between:
>> Being too friendly (suspicious eyes scare me)
>> Being too numb/not myself (to fit in?)
Maybe part of the healing is just being who I want to be in the moment.
Things started getting better about a week into your hospital stay. I started to fade away as you got used to your meds and were able to attend more group therapy sessions. Instead of delusions and hallucinations, you started worrying about things that were actually real.
Here's a journal entry that reflects that:
I'm in this weird middle age group here.
Where I'm not like the 20 somethings but also not an older adult?
Makes it harder to "fit in" though that's not the reason I am here.
I am still an extrovert despite being sick.
Although this feels similar to the last time it's not.
I am a wiser person.
I am a MOTHER.
And a damn good one at that.
It's nice that you starting giving yourself affirmations, right? I certainly put you through a lot.
Another major turning point was when you felt seen by one of the nurses. I was making it hard for you to sleep, causing extreme anxiety, and this nurse was so kind to come up with a game plan:
I haven't been shown such kindness until my nurse, also Filipina, created a plan to get me through my night scaries.
I am overwhelmed with immense gratitude and I truly feel like I will get out of here soon due to how things went today.
From there, things started getting better and better, as shown by your journal entries:
The sun looks gorgeous this morning. I truly feel like this is gonna be the best day, start to finish.
I want to put on makeup. I want to do yoga. I want to feel this good and feel good about myself again.
I am taking all this as a good sign. :)
And it was a good sign, because you were soon discharged! Derek picked you up on September 1, the day before Robbie's one month birthday, and handed him to you. You got to snuggle your baby and hug your toddler after 11 days in the hospital.
Me and Robbie, after I was discharged.
All was well. Or was it?
We'll talk about that in my next letter.
Your Postpartum Psychosis