Postpartum psychosis was the best thing that ever happened to me.
One year after my hospitalization, my son is now walking — well, running actually. As I strolled through the park with a friend last week, I was able to say without an ounce of irony or cynicism, “You know, for the first time in my life, I’m actually a happy person. I used to be an unhappy person who had happy moments. Now, I’m a happy person who sometimes has unhappy moments.”
In this year, I have come to terms with a lot. Postpartum psychosis turned my world upside down. It showed me my deepest shame, my deepest grief, my deepest regret, my deepest self-hatred. By bringing all that pain to the forefront, I was able to face down those fears. Rather than running from them, I looked at them. And when I faced them down, I realized my shame and my fear couldn’t actually kill me.
Postpartum psychosis was a gift.
Postpartum psychosis was the catalyst for my transformation. Postpartum psychosis was my phoenix experience.
When the words “postpartum psychosis” are uttered, images of murderous mothers like Andrea Yates spring to mind. Granted, very few people would actually say such things out loud to a woman in distress, but these thoughts are expressed behind closed doors. The legacy of hysteria sways our thinking toward unconsciously believing that a woman’s reproductive organs must be fragile and her sanity must be flawed.
To be sure, those first months after the baby arrives are a fucking battle. For all of us. However, in modern Western culture, this postpartum battle is viewed as a problem that needs to be muted, subdued, and tucked under the rug.
The battle is turned around onto tired mamas as something that is your fault. A weakness. A failing. A way that you aren’t keeping it together.
But your battle isn’t a problem. It’s a fucking initiation.
We fear wild women because wild women cannot be controlled. Wild women who have faced down demons will not fear you. So we have ostracized them. Shamed them as “crazy”. Taken their legs out from under them. Taken their babies, their homes, their voices. Relegated them to scary witches in the woods and patients to be medicated into submission (or, more accurately, oblivion).
Right now, as a woman who has been labeled, hospitalized, marginalized, ignored, and shamed — I’m calling bullshit on all that.
Through the process of labor, we not only birthed a baby — we re-birthed ourselves.
We aren’t problems to be solved.
We aren’t weakened by our trials.
We aren’t crazy.
We are initiated in ageless wisdom.
We are beautiful fucking warriors.
We are creative powerhouses.
Postpartum psychosis jettisoned me back into the studio and forced me to start painting again. My paintings became the medicine that saved my sanity, my family, and my life.
Postpartum psychosis is a transformative gift, not a burden or a sign of weakness. People fear us — and they should. We have walked through the darkness and survived. At the hardest time for any woman, we faced down demons and refused to succumb to them. We shielded our babies and partners from the darkness, and we still fought.¹
For all the women fighting the battle right now, we honor you. You will make it to the other side stronger, more powerful, more you than you have ever been. You are being forged in the fire and prepared for greatness.²
For all the women who fell in the battle, we honor you. Your sacrifice was not in vain.
For all the women who fought the battle and transformed, we honor you. Share your own story so others do not have to fight alone.
This is not to say I do not approve of medication and therapy. Get all the help you can get! My goal here to let women in the midst of postpartum psychosis know that they are not alone and this experience does not mean they are failing as a mother — or even that they are losing their sanity.
If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or lost within two years of having your baby, please reach out to a postpartum doula or mental health professional who specializes in the postpartum experience for support. You deserve to be seen and supported. You can do this. You can make it to the other side.