‘What have you done to me?’ Paloma Faith shares her experience of postpartum psychosis
Posted by Nicole Highet on 3rd December 2021
When I saw singer/songwriter, Paloma Faith’s comments yesterday about her experience of postpartum psychosis, I admit I read the sentences once, twice, three times – because how often do you hear celebrities talking about motherhood and psychosis.
We’ve heard Adele (and so many others) speak about depression and anxiety, but, Paloma, talking about her psychotic break, seems particularly brave and raw.
It was really bad mentally,” Faith admits. “I had 22 hours of postpartum psychosis on day three. I was so tired that I completely lost track of what was going on. I was having a hallucination. I thought they’d sewn my head to the body of someone else. I had made up my mind. It sounds funny now, but I was crying and asking, ‘What have you done to me?’ when I pressed the nurse button.”
“Calm down, what are you talking about?’ my partner said, and I said, ‘You’re in on it!’ Fortunately, the midwife came and said, ‘I think you need to sleep; I’m taking this baby.’ She let me sleep for seven hours, and when I awoke, I was like, ‘I’m so sorry…’”
Like Paloma I, too, experienced hallucinations and delusions in those early months of becoming a mum. Some days I couldn’t really make out the features of my son’s face at all and other days he looked like a tiny dragon.
Some days I thought I had already died (“passive thoughts of non-existing” the hospital discharge summary said). I took hundreds of photos of my feet to prove I was real, to prove I was still alive.
Other days I waited for child protection workers to knock on the door and take my baby into care. It didn’t matter that I had worked in frontline child protection at both the Helpline and in the field. I was convinced they were building my file, one that simply read BAD MOTHER and were coming to remove him.
For that’s what delusions do – they make you believe things that simply aren’t real.
I am so grateful to Paloma for speaking out about an issue that’s still taboo – even as we become more comfortable talking about perinatal mental health.
While postnatal psychosis is rare, (affecting around 1-2 in 1000 mums) it’s so important to be mindful of the signs and symptoms:
- finding it hard to sleep
- feeling full of energy or restless and irritable
- feeling invincible – strong, powerful and unbeatable
- having strange and irrational beliefs such as that someone is trying to harm the baby
Symptoms typically begin to emerge from within 2 days of giving birth to two weeks after birth. In some cases, they can develop later (up to twelve weeks after the baby’s birth).
Seeking urgent professional help from a GP, mental health service or hospital emergency department is vital. Delays in identification and treatment can mean that treatment becomes longer and more complex, and there can be significant safety risks for both the mother and her baby.
But treatment is effective and recovery is possible.
You’re not alone.
While the trauma of those early months isn’t nearly as painful as it used to be, it’s nestled there inside my skin and my heart and my brain – part of my story, of who I am and who I’m yet to be.
And there’s no shame in that.