As EastEnders prepares to tackle the delicate subject of postnatal psychosis, a Maidstone mental health worker has spoken of her experience of the condition.
When Tracey Robinson watches Stacey Branning in the BBC soap this Christmas it will bring back memories of the terrifying hallucinations and confusion she experienced after the birth of her first child 11 years ago.
In a similar vein to bipolar disorder, Tracey swung between a manic phase where she felt extremely happy, confident and “high”, and a psychotic one where she hallucinated and experienced delusions.
The 43-year-old said: “I saw my baby’s head on passersby and on my husband. It was terrifying, but I was having problems breastfeeding so wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and I put it down to that.
“I developed the belief that we had an awful lot of money we didn’t have. I booked holidays and bought things we couldn’t afford. It got to the stage where I couldn’t sleep. I would wait until my husband was asleep then get up, go downstairs and buy things online.
“Even though I worked in mental health, I hadn’t heard of postnatal psychosis. I knew about postnatal depression, but I didn’t feel low. It was my family, friends and colleagues who expressed concern. I didn’t realise anything was wrong.”
A programme manager for Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust at Farm Villa, Hermitage Lane, Tracey started exhibiting signs of postnatal or postpartum psychosis a few days after her son was born.
Two weeks later a team of mental health professionals, contacted by worried loved ones, knocked on her door.
She continued: “I felt terrible inside all the time. I just didn’t feel the things you’re supposed to feel. I looked after him physically but emotionally I just couldn’t build that bond.”
It took nine months and a bout of severe depression before she felt well enough to work.
Thanks to preventative medicine and mental health support, Tracey, who lives in Sittingbourne, had a daughter four years later with no postnatal psychosis and now feels close to both her children.
She added: “It’s really sad but lots of women who experience it with their first child don’t go on to have a second. It’s really important women get the right care and aren’t afraid to speak out about mental health issues after having a baby.”
Charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis provides information for sufferers.