So, it came about. The first day I started treatment for my mental health. I had previously had panic attacks throughout my teens and twenties but I didn’t know what they were. I thought they were just a part of my personality.
It was a day I will never forget. It was a day that would change my life forever.
It started like any other day and, I thought it was just going to be any other day. I didn’t know how sick I was. I didn’t know that I desperately needed help. This day could have ended in disaster. This day could have ended tragically.
I put the kids (Charlotte 4 years and Liam nearly 6 months) in the car. That morning I had been tapping away at my computer. I then had a thought. Was my husband really working where he said he was. I started to doubt what people had been telling me.
I drove to the city with the kids in the back of the car. I rang my husband to come out of his workplace and we talked. Everything seemed ok. I told my husband everything was ok and drove off.
Charlotte needed lunch so I drove into a drive through McDonalds and we ordered a Happy Meal. When the order was given to me I drove off thinking…. what is the McDonalds worker trying to say? Is she trying to say I am not happy! I am happy, I am ok! Then I had another paranoid thought (paranoid, but oh so real). I started to believe someone was listening to me through the blue tooth speaker in my car. I pulled this speaker out and put it in the bin when I arrived home.
The paranoia continued. I believed our house had been broken into, that my sister and my niece and nephew had come into our house that morning and had a party without me (party poppers had been let off by my 4 year old earlier that morning, I hadn’t even noticed she had done this).
I believed all the food in the house was poison. Thankfully I managed to call mum. I didn’t make much sense during this phone call to mum but she worked out that things weren’t right thank goodness! She told me to wait for her to come, and she told me she would bring me chicken soup. I waited for the soup.
The kids and I sat on our lounge in the loungeroom waiting for my mum. She arrived quickly. She came inside. I told her not to eat anything in our house as all the food was poison. I looked out my front window and saw an ambulance pull up across my car. I was now furious with mum for calling for this help. I went outside with bub on my hip and daughter by my side. I told the paramedics that everything was ok. I told them that I had worked before the kids, that I went to playgroup every Thursday and that I was ok. I struggled to think of any way I could articulate to them that I was normal person.
They told me I had to get in the ambulance and my neighbour across the road had come over (retired, caring lady) and offered to get in the ambulance with me. I agreed to this with the only condition being that my children had to come with me. The paramedics agreed.
The ambulance then drove to emergency at Concord Hospital, that night I was scheduled (involuntarily admitted) to the female acute care psychiatric women’s only ward at Concord Centre for Mental Health. I have never felt fear like I felt that night. I didn’t know where I was, what had happened to me and the only thought I had was that that people in psychiatric wards were very dangerous.
I spent five long awful days and nights in that ward. I was then released to go home and was handed over to the acute care mental health nursing team. This was a service that I would come to rely on heavily. This was a service that I believe helped saved my life. The nurses were kind and caring people who not only looked after me but also cared for my husband and children over the years.
I thought after my first admission that my illness was over. I learned it was Post Natal Psychosis (it has been described to me as the big bad cousin of Post Natal Depression and Anxiety). I tried to hide my illness and my hospital admission, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know I had been in a psychiatric ward.
Little did I know that this was the start of my illness and over the next seven years I would go on to have seven further psychiatric admissions. Some of these were scheduled/involuntarily admissions to Concord Centre for Mental Health and others were voluntary admissions to St John of God in Burwood. I was on a rollercoaster that I just wanted to get off.
The diagnoses varied; Post Natal Psychosis, Post Natal Depression, Anxiety initially, and then Generalised Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (from the first episode). Some years later came the diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder.
Many different medications were tried and tested. I didn’t seem to be getting any better through the years of this turbulent time. It was in 2017 (I was very unwell and unable to leave the house without severe panic attacks) when I walked into the Black Dog Institute. I was re-diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and weaned off my current medication and introduced to a medication for OCD.
In the coming weeks I began to feel better.
As I write this recount now (late 2019) I have not had another hospital admission since walking into The Black Dog Institute. I continue to take medication and see a psychologist when I need to. I have returned to the workforce once again and life for our family has returned to some normality. Post Natal Mental Illness is so very cruel but you can come back from it….. you can return from hell.