Wednesday 11 March 2015

The Re(hypno)birth of Mutha Courage

Well hello again,

As if by magic, by which I mean as if by magic(al hard work) and with the contents of this blog firmly beside me and not behind me, I've started yet another new chapter of my life. I have launched my new Hypnobirthing business, called Mutha Courage Hypnobirthing. It wasn't an extensive brainstorming session to get to the name, I'll admit.

Anyway, training as a Hypnobirthing teacher was one of the first things I did for myself in the real world when I was recovered, recovering, recoverding. I really feel like Hypnobirthing helped me. Not only did it give me the absolutely serene and incredible birth of my son (not that I'm smug), but it also taught me so much that really, really helped my recovery. Beyond that it's even impacted on the way I'm parenting. I'm hypno-raising my boy.

So, tell all your friends! Or the pregnant ones at least. If you're curious, even the non-up-the-duff amongst you can check out my marvellous website: 

Love and html coding,

Mutha Courage

Saturday 6 December 2014

Adieu, Adieu, to you and you and you.

Saying goodbye to psychosis has been a very long journey for me. In so many ways I will never be able to say a final farewell, because if nothing more it will always appear as a page of my medical notes, it will always be a consideration if I have another baby and it will remain in my memory like an ex that I am strangely fond of, yet incredibly thankful I don't have to live with anymore.

I can honestly say there is a part of me that is scared that this psychotic episode was just the first of many I could have, but I also hold a lot of blind faith that this was a one-off. I have to remind myself that not knowing is an integral part of the human condition, the part that we all try to buy, work or plan ourselves out of, but coming to terms with what happened to me and what could happen in the future is about releasing the false security of knowing. Stepping into unknowing is something I continue to do all the time, as a mum, woman, artist, human and former-psychotic, so I suppose I just have to keep on keeping on, to quote my incredible 90 year old amps-in-law.

At the risk of this sounding like an award acceptance speech I'm going to do it anyway. The award for the most thankful victim of postpartum psychosis goes to...ME (the crowd goes wild (not mad) and the other nominees clap me with dead eyed stares (probably due to the quetiapine))

Jane - Your patience, commitment and peace. For listening through my            

          incessant ramblings
Lisa - Your knowledge, diagnosis, support and card that helped when I needed it          
Nanna Dee - Your generosity, open heartedness, vinyl and the little St. Patrick's     
                   day outfit for Albert
Dad - For getting us homeward bound and being there
Mum - For facing demons with me and holding me even when you couldn't
Ellie - Your bravery and strength. Laying wars to rest when the battle was done
Peter - For finding parking in the barren wasteland that is the Chatsworth Road
Gretel - My psychosister. You were the breadcrumbs
Nan & Amps - For your unflinching championing of my recovery and blog
Becky - Rose quartz in human form
Katie - For making it possible to have leave in London and visits that cheered            
          my soul
Clare - To remind me that I had a diva within that needed to hold on
You - For reading, caring and following my journey
Val - next door neighbour with love and care on our return
Maggie & Ronnie - next door neighbours with kindness and flowers on our return
Sarah - For always having encouraging words for me on Facebook when the             
           vulnerability hangover is kicking in
The Careys - I remembered my vocal training even in psychosis. That's how    
                   good it is!
Andrew - A regular Facebook liker and sharer. Thank you.
At the Norwich & Norfolk hospital - There aren't enough words.
At the Margaret Oates Mother and Baby unit - There really aren't.
Sarah W - For making the Fine City even finer and getting my talk to the               
               Lunchtime Lectures at the N&N Hospital
My NCT group - For giving me a reason (and deadline) to get back home
Ruth - For taking a punt and having me speak. You got the ball rolling
Rebecca - For writing the Independent article that gave PP just a bit more                   
Albert - Your grace, calmness and adaptability amaze me
Matt - It was on our wedding day we said our vows, it was though all this that 
         we lived them. I carry them within my heart, which is yours

So, it is adieu, adieu, to you and you and you. This blog will be carrying on, but more like the platform I thought it would be when I first set it up. It will become a "person who happens to be a parent" blog and I have no idea what it will include, but if you're only really into psychotic episodes, this may no longer be the place for you, unless you count having a meltdown over weening a baby with an unsuccessful aubergine, lentil and garamasala dish counts.

Well, here we are then. The end of this chapter. What an incredible journey. It's been awful. 

Love and keep taking the tablets,

Mutha Courage X

Thursday 27 November 2014

Auf Wiedersehen. Goodbye.

End. Roll credits.
Before life carries on and messes up the ending.
It's all looking complete, tied up neatly. It has closure. Narrative arc. Beauty.

Quick. Finish the story before the baby starts crying and there is the first argument about something minor and insignificant that is made huge and meaningful by its intensity. Before I have have a meltdown about my medication and my husband is hit with a tsunami of post traumatic waves of sorrow.

Turn off the cameras. The show is meant to be over. We're home. 

Over the last 7 months I have continued to recover every day. I don't take it for granted and I stay vigilant and mindful of what is happening to me, emotionally and physically. I know how brilliant it is to be well, because I know how horrifying it is to feel utterly lost to yourself. I have loved and hated this illness and will forever have the remnants of it stained on my knuckles like a survivor of its sentence of imprisonment.

I always said that psychosis picked the wrong Mutha to mess with, because I was always going to shout about it to anyone that would listen, and even people that didn't particularly want to. I have been talking to students, midwives, parents, healthcare professionals and unfortunate passers-by about postpartum psychosis and I will keep doing so to spread the word as far and wide as I can.

The bigger reason why I talk about it, apart from the occasional free lunch, is that it means I can talk about talking. I can share the vital importance of understanding and compassion, for ourselves and for others.

As my blog about psychosis comes to an end ready to be reinvented into something else, like the phoenix rising from the cyber ashes I, too, feel like I am ready to give flying a go. 

I wouldn't change what happened.
This was one of the most troubling, profound, awful, awesome, terrifying, inspiring episodes of my life.

Living with what happened and how to adapt my life accordingly is an ongoing lesson and like the best teachers, it has made a huge impact on my life. I will never be the same for having learned its teachings.

The end is in sight and yet it never is.

Love and cryptic sign offs,
Mutha Courage. X

Saturday 22 November 2014

So long. Farewell.

The adjustment to being back at home feels clumsy and difficult, but it is a glorious discomfort. I have the building blocks around me that I can build a life out of and I know that this is the dawn of a startling new era.

I go back and forth to Hackney another couple of times and every time I go I feel more like a transient lodger than a resident. I come in with one bag. I arrive at the latest moment and leave at the earliest opportunity.

The mood in the ward has altered. New patients are arriving. I see the fear and panic of these illnesses and it touches a nerve deep within me. I sense that terror and understood it physically. My bones remember and my body will never forget. I listen to the fast ramblings of a new mother that's just arrived and at once feel heartened at my recovery and shocked to the core at the horror of it all. 

The women around me have been a family. We have laughed, cried and argued over food together. The final night at the Hackney Holiday Home contains such a mixture of emotions it is a challenge to give voice to them. I could feel my lost self move around me. I saw her desperately ill. Starving hungry, hideously exhausted. I saw her say goodbye to her husband and son every night and cry silent tears of frustration at being held captive by the Thing. I saw her opening gradually, flower-like to staff, other patients and to the treatment. I saw her fight and work and battle with this tyrannical demon that had taken root in her soul.

I saw her seeing me.

I was all set and completely ready for the off. I had collected my bag of medication and had done all my final jobs. My electrical equipment had been gathered from the drawer in the office and it was time to go.

"Oh Jess" I heard one of the staff call out from behind me as I was walking towards the communal area to say my goodbyes. "One of these is for you".I was presented with a large fluffy white teddy bear. "They were from Mother's Day and you didn't get yours". This type of cuddly toy is not my kind of thing at all, but unexpectedly I was deeply moved by it. I looked down at this soft, kind faced bear and experienced a swell in the sea of my heart. Embroidered on the foot in small letters were the words "No. 1 Mum". It didn't matter that I knew everyone had got one of these gifts, or that each teddy had heralded it's owner as number 1, because it was true. We all were. We had all done everything we could in the face of extreme internal adversity. We had all accepted help. We were all focused on recovering. We were all number one to our babies.

I stood in that dining room, holding my bear by the arm, momentarily orphaned in time. Here I stood alone. With others around me. I looked at these women, I looked at the staff. I have never known gratitude to be so huge and yet so silent. I just said thanks so much. See ya. Knowing that I probably wouldn't. 

I walked out to the car, that was waiting in the same place we had been parked on the 15th February at 7am when I finally made it there. I saw myself being helped out of the car and led inside by three nurses to a place of safety. She looked at me as I drove away.

Love and nothing witty to say,Mutha Courage X

Friday 14 November 2014

Post. Partum.

Over the last few months I have given regular talks and interviews about postpartum psychosis as part of my mission to get the word out there about this illness. I was approached by a woman whose sister-in-law has recently been struck by it, and they are all still struggling to pick up the pieces that this explosive disease has left scattered throughout their lives.

As I listened and heard what they had been going through, and were still dealing with, I was reminded of the pain and fragility that this disease creates. One of the most fragile parts of recovery is when you are beginning to resemble yourself again, but are still feeling far from home. You are no longer inside a house that's on fire, trying to survive, you are no longer fighting the fire, trying to save what belongs to you. The fire is out, the fire engines have gone back to the station, and you are just left looking at the burnt embers that remain wondering what the hell happens next.

I can see my front door.
I am here.
I am home.

I'm desperate to get inside and don't want to go in.
I do.
Post. So much post. Of course. It's been weeks. 
It annoys me. Post didn't feature in my idealistic view of my home coming.
I feel out of control. Lost. Anxious.
I have my family.
I'm home.
I need to take this slow. 

I tell Albert we are home. His little eyes open. We place him in his rocker, in the room he was born in. He smiles. This wouldn't be as note worthy if he had smiled before, but he hadn't. This was his first smile. We burst out laughing.
We had made it. As a family.

I feel like I'm playing a role, going through the motions of normality to look like I know how it all works. I have a strong sense that I'm trying to play catch up with my self that didn't have psychosis. What would I be doing if I hadn't been psychotic? How would she behave in this situation? It was unsustainable and unnecessary. I had to just be what I was. Someone who was recovering from the equivalent of a devastating accident. There was no reason why I should be completely "better" and yet because I had no wounds I felt like a fraud. 

All of these emotions and feelings were very difficult to handle, but what they couldn't disrupt was the fact that I was home. That we had done it and no matter how uncomfortable the transition back to "reality" was I was going to keep leaning into that discomfort, and learn how to live again. 

It was rehabilitation that no-one knew was happening.
It was incredible.
It was a triumph.
It was brilliant.
It was horrible.

Love and mixed messages,
Mutha Courage X

Saturday 1 November 2014

Homeward Bound

I'm so bored of the whole process. I'm bored of recovery. I'm bored of medication. I'm bored of being told what I can and can't do and, you've guessed it, I'm bored about what feels like the longest wait EVER to get home. While I'm at it, I'm bored of being around other ill people, I'm bored of the classes, the food, the staff and my F@#*ing shower that still doesn't work. I'm so fucked off.  Sorry, here are the @#* to put in. I can't be arsed.

I try to reassure myself that anger and resentment are part of the process. That it means I'm coming back, that I'm returning. I am beginning to feel like I don't fit in here any more, which is difficult while I am, but possibly means I'm nearly ready to get out.

The drug levels are going down, the leave times are going up and still I'm caught in psychotic purgatory where I'm not at home anywhere. I just want to be in my house, with my belongings around me, with my clothes and shoes and post and my own space and cups without my name plastered all over them.

I'm ready to go home.

I'm also not ready at all.

I'm so scared.

I've been fighting so hard to get home for the last two months that I hadn't had a chance to think about what it would actually be like to go home, back to the scene of the crime where it all started. Where the unraveling began.

This was all home represented at the moment. I had become so engulfed in the horror of what had happened that I had forgotten that we were also going back to a place of unfathomable joy, empowerment, love and strength. The place where Albert swam into our lives and I would revisit the rooms where I lost and found myself completely. 

The plans were in place. The ward round had spoken. I was going home. We were going home. 

My dad had arranged to collect us and all my stuff, which had somehow managed to accumulate. That is the only issue about having a Primark near a psychiatric ward. The lure is too great, I was repeatedly drawn in like a crazed moth to a particularly cheap flame. 

Albert had grown, I had shrunk. We were both different people to the two that came through the unit doors all those weeks ago.

There was a mixed atmosphere in the ward as I left for my first home leave; happiness that I was on the next step out of there, sadness that we wouldn't be around for much longer, envy as other mothers at different stages looked on longingly, as I had once gazed at Lucky. I was becoming increasingly absent, my presence leaving ghostly trails of the madwoman that wouldn't be confined to the attic. 

It was the night before I left for home. It was just a couple of nights leave, but it was the biggest step into the known unknown I had ever taken. I had packed everything up in anticipation of leaving. I wanted it to feel like I was going home for good with just a few more overnight stays on the ward left. This was the home straight of a long lonely marathon. I couldn't see any finishing lines, but my faithful supporters were still cheering me on. I saw their faces in the darkness as I forced myself to sleep through the turbulence of my emotions.

Everything blurs past in the morning in a wave of busyness, appointments and checks, until the moment I am sitting in dad's truck. Ready to go. My two boys with me, just like when we made the longest journey into night. The hum of the ignition soothes us all. We've made it. We're here. It's a moment we weren't certain we'd see, that felt too far away to hope for just a couple of weeks ago. The radio blasts out and calms my fractious heart. We pull out of the hospital car park and a familiar tune begins to play. Homeward Bound.

I look out out of the window and experience the strangest mixture of safety and fear I've ever known. The soundtrack makes me feel fleetingly like I'm the off-beat lead in an indie film of my life. Although in that neatly packaged piece of storytelling this moment would probably be where the credits rolled. The end. Neat. Complete. I wish it was.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Love and bridges over troubled waters,
Mutha Courage X

Saturday 25 October 2014

To Pimlico, to Pimlico, to Pimlico

I was desperate to get home. I longed for the comfort of my own surroundings and to be able to come and go as I pleased, without constant supervision, a chaperone, and time restrictions. At this stage in my recovery I wasn't sure if that was weeks or months away. I was caught in time. Frozen in my state of "unknowing". All I knew was that the next big step had arrived. I had overnight leave and I was going to make the most of it.

Just to give it some context, by making the most of it I mean enjoying a cosy night in with my family, not downing j├Ągerbombs until dawn. I wouldn't like to see what a medication and shots cocktail would look like. I'm guessing it wouldn't be pretty. One thing that my psychosis taught me, and there were a staggering amount, was to savour and value the mundane, the everyday, even the down right boring. After experiencing hyper-reality, I realised that plain old reality is a beautiful place to be. 

Coming back to Earth after visiting planet Insania is a scary trip. It requires a very slow and steady approach. I had been desperate to get overnight leave and now that I had it, it was a prospect so daunting I was almost prepared to stay on the ward so that I didn't have to face it. It was an existential lurch and it felt deeply unsafe to my fragile psyche. Each of these hurdles to the finish line of normality seemed too high to jump.  I had to coach myself over each one. I had to believe I could, take off, and hope that a lagging back foot wouldn't trip me up. 
"I just need to get to Pimlico. I have to get to Pimlico. Will they give me overnight leave, because I can only use the flat in Pimlico this week" Pimlico dominated my thoughts and feelings. It was my Mecca, my Nirvana, and my Moscow. 

We were very very lucky to have a friend who had a flat there, who said we could stay there anytime in the week, as they were away. We didn't have anywhere else to do an overnight stay in London that could fit me, my husband, my mother-in-law and our baby boy, so it was Pimlico or bust.

I fought so hard for that leave. I knew that, in order for it to be granted, I had to demonstrate that I could take care of Albert overnight, even though I would have the help of my husband on leave. So for the week leading up to ward round I pushed through my very zombie-like state; I forced myself to stand to soothe him in the early hours, even though my legs were numbed, and I prepared bottles while the dressing gown of sedation hung heavy on my shoulders.

The staff could see my struggle. But they could see the effort, the will, and the desire I had to do all of my motherly nigh-time tasks despite the huge obstacles I faced. 

I struggled when I was on leave. How could anything live up to the image I'd created in my head? It was freedom and a step closer to home. But it was a home that wasn't mine, in a bed I didn't know, surrounded by things I didn't recognise. It made me feel further from home than ever. If I found this hard, how would I ever get back to my house, with my bed and my things?

I had to pause. To re-evaluate. To congratulate myself on this monumental and minuscule step. We cooked a meal and sat together in front of the tv. There was no negotiation with other patients about what to watch and it was delightful to have a meal that wasn't cooked in a plastic bag. This was all strangely normal. Here we all were together, and there was no-one calling time on visiting hours. I didn't have to hand Albert over to anyone apart from his dad, and I could be beside my husband tonight, all night, for the first time in weeks. 

We watched Frozen. We laughed, sang and held each other on the sofa. Tears silently fell down my cheeks as Let It Go blasted out of the speakers and I knew that that was what I needed to do.

Love and lovely boring little things,Mutha Courage x