A heartrendingly honest blog post about a woman’s experience of postpartum psychosis has helped raise awareness of the little-known condition – with a bit of help from a very famous friend.
Laura Dockrill, a performance poet and illustrator from Brixton, has bravely shared her battle and recovery from the rare illness which affects new mothers.
The thirty-two-year-old posted on the Mother of All Lists blog, curated by Peckham-based Clemmie Telford.
She wrote: “Since having my baby boy in February this year I’ve been suffering from and battling against postpartum psychosis.
“A rare and unpublicised illness that affects one in a thousand women and is seen as a medical emergency.”
Laura had no history of mental illness and said her doctors believe a traumatic birth – with an emergency C-section and five day hospital stay – could have triggered the condition.
“The second I got home and into bed I was drenched in this overwhelming sense of fear and dread,” she wrote, “Like that Sunday night before school feeling, times a million.
“I felt like I was dying.
“My breath was short and tight, my heart was pounding out of my chest and my stomach churned.
“I turned to my partner Hugo and said ‘something’s not right with me, I don’t know what it is but I’m not okay.”
She described how well-meaning friends told her to try and relax with Netflix and takeaways, suggesting she had a case of the baby blues.
But her anxiety, mania, and fears her son would die became all-consuming.
“I still can’t exactly work out what exactly happened or what form it took on,” she wrote, “all I know is I was completely terrified, lost, confused, scared for myself and my son and that I didn’t trust anybody – I even accused Hugo of kidnapping our baby.
“After my intervention – which was the worst night of my life – I was hospitalised for two weeks away from my son, bleeding from birth, breasts leaking milk and fully out of my head.
“I had no idea where I was.”
With medication, psychotherapy and support from doctors Laura is now back at home and wants to help raise awareness of the treatable condition and help end the stigma of postnatal depression.
“I tried to hide my illness from my family and friends because I was so full with shame and guilt because there is a huge expectation on women to be perfect, glowing mama queens that are all encompassing wonderbeasts that can manage everything,” she said.
Laura hopes her story will help other women come and seek help: “If this post can relate to anybody that is feeling even a shimmer of this and it resonates with them then please speak to somebody and get help.”
According to the NHS, symptoms of postpartum psychosis usually start within two weeks after giving birth and can include hallucinations, manic mood, depression, confusion and behaving out of character.
Doctors do not know why some people develop the condition, but believe a family history of mental health problems, pre-existing conditions like bipolar disorder, or a traumatic birth or pregnancy could mean some mothers are more at risk.
Most women will make a full recovery.
Laura’s post immediately struck a chord, with readers on Twitter praising her post as ‘brave brutal brilliant and ‘incredibly powerful’.
And Laura’s best friend – who she thanked in her post for her support – was quick to share her support.
Musician Adele posted on Instagram: “This is my best friend. We have been friends for more of our lives than we haven’t.
“She had my beautiful godson six months ago and it was the biggest challenge of her life in more ways than one.
“She has written the most intimate, witty, heart-breaking and articulate piece about her experience of becoming a new mum and being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.
“Mamas talk about how you are feeling because in some cases it could save yours or someone else’s life.”
Her post gained more than one million likes, and quickly went viral online. Clemmie, who published Laura’s story on her blog, told the News she hoped Laura’s story would have a lasting impact.
“Maternal Mental Health needs more airtime,” she told the News. “Having a baby is such a vulnerable and complex time, one which all too often leaves women struggling unsupported.
“Honest (and beautifully written) accounts like Laura’s are a way of opening up the conversation and removing stigma.
“If one person who reads the blog is able to spot the symptoms and seek help then it’s a step in the right direction.”