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My experience of postpartum psychosis

Monday, 25 January 2016 Eve Canavan

Eve blogs about her experience of postpartum psychosis and how, like Stacey on EastEnders, the support of her partner helped her to get treatment.

When I was asked by mind to help EastEnders with their postpartum psychosis storyline, I admit I was pensive. Mental health is so often portrayed in a negative light that I thought, what if I get involved as someone who suffered and it goes horribly wrong. The character kills her baby and a week later everyone is in The Vic drinking a gin and tonic. Thankfully, EastEnders, with the support of Mind have created a storyline that is so realistic in its portrayal, within a couple of weeks, postpartum psychosis is at the forefront of everyone's mind.

"Stacey's road to accessing treatment will be a long and winding one."

I became ill almost as soon as Joe was born. I had a C-section and when he was pulled out of me I saw a jet stream of wee fly into the air; my child baptising the surgeon in a sea of urine. He was crying and looked as though he was surrounded by light like Jesus in a flash of gold and it was in that moment that my brain started its journey into meltdown mode. An hour after he was born my mum's first words were "Evelyn, what's wrong with you? You look like a zombie." She says now she can't bear to think about the look on my face - glazed over, staring through her, staring at the wall unable to speak.

"I am overwhelmed with its accuracy."

Lacey Turner, who plays Stacey, and James Bye who plays Martin, are playing the parts so well. My friend Kathryn (who also had postpartum psychosis) and I met with them and talked at length about the reality of having psychosis. There was a day when I woke up, put an apron on and caked my face in makeup. My husband John came into the kitchen to find me on my hands and knees scrubbing the oven rambling incoherent sentences, writing long lists. And then I went to the window and tried to climb out of it to get nearer to the outside world, away from the walls of the house I felt trapped in. I would claw at my mouth trying to remove the imaginary cling film that was on it and then felt like I was floating in the corner of the room looking down on myself. I then started visualising myself being buried alive in a coffin and couldn't get out.

"Desperate, John decided to take the lead to get me treatment."

Reading the script made me emotional and now it's on screen, it's so powerful that I am overwhelmed with its accuracy. Stacey looks to the sky as if she is searching for an answer she can't find anywhere else which I would also do at my lowest. As she paces the square, her eyes look sunken with fear as she looks for something or someone she can trust. The scene on top of the Vic with Martin when he told Stacey he would look after her resonated me with me so much - I remember telling the researchers how I only felt safe with John. John held me, told me I wasn't in danger and that he would always look after me. That episode resembled that fear, the idea that something was about to happen and Martin's attempt to gain Stacey's trust so he could keep her and Arthur.

"I was admitted to start my recovery in a safe place with my baby."

My psychosis troubled health care professionals and no one knew quite what to do with me and one health care professional said if I hadn't planned my own suicide I was low risk. Desperate, John decided to take the lead to get me treatment. He had read that mums with postpartum psychosis should be in a psychiatric mother and baby unit and he made it his mission to get me in one.  John piled our little family on the train and we went from London to Nottingham where his parents lived and where he had found out there was one. 

It took a week of dramatic phone calls, him having to hold the phone up so the psychiatrists could hear my hysterical screams but I was admitted to start my recovery in a safe place with my baby. Just a shame we had to move nearly 200 miles across the UK to get into one. 

Stacey's road to accessing treatment will be a long and winding one. As seen, Martin is key to her accessing treatment and his passion to get her help is a mirror to John's sheer tenacity to get me the right support. And without giving anything away, there are some scenes in the not so distant future that seem so close to home, it will almost feel like I'm watching myself on screen.

Keep watching as Eastenders. Mind have worked so hard to get this right.

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