On Monday, August 13th, Adele posted a touching message of support for her best friend, Laura Dockrill, on Instagram. Writing hat her BFF had given birth to Adele’s “beautiful godson” six months earlier, she also called the birth the “biggest challenge” of Dockrill’s life in “more ways than one.” It’s no secret that being a new mom is hard, but in addition to the usual sleepless nights and challenges of adjusting to motherhood, Dockrill was also facing an internal battle with postpartum psychosis.
“It’s not easy to admit that the worst time of your life was when your baby was born,” Dockrill wrote in a post on Mother of all Lists. “Social media gives a very shiny exterior of life to be frank and it’s not the full picture. I wanted to unlock some doors and be honest…to open up a dialogue and say it’s ok.”
Unlike postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis isn’t something you often hear about. Dockrill noted that she’d never heard of it either—until it tried to ruin her life.
Postpartum psychosis is considered a rare illness affecting just one or two out of every 1,000 women.
It’s a “severe mental condition,” according to women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider, and it usually begins in the first few days to weeks post-birth.
Symptoms include difficulty responding to the baby, irritability, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, hallucinations, disorganized behaviors, and delusional thinking. “In severe cases, mothers can have thoughts about harming their baby or themselves,” Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, a psychiatrist with Doctor on Demand, explained to HG.
Postpartum psychosis can occur in women with no known mental health issues. However, women with a history of bipolar disorder are at a much higher risk for psychotic symptoms in the postpartum period, Dr. Benders-Hadi said.
For Dockrill, her postpartum psychosis turned her into a “ticking time bomb waiting to explode.” She shared how sleepless nights turned into mania, how she felt constantly “dazed” and couldn’t process the simplest bits of information, and how wanting to do everything for her son turned to completely ignoring his cries. She couldn’t eat or sleep, and started having severe anxiety attacks, believing that her baby was going to die if she didn’t feed him 24/7.
At one point, she even accused her partner, Hugo, of kidnapping their baby. If that sounds scary and intense, it is. Rest assured, though, doctors do take this condition very seriously.
If there’s one thing doctors want you to know, it’s that postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms, Dr. Wider said help should be sought immediately. Treatment usually involves hospitalization, medication, and counseling. The mother and baby will be separated at this time. The good news is, if you’re willing, postpartum psychosis is very treatable.
Take Dockrill, for example. With the support of family, friends, medication, and psychotherapy, she wrote that she’s recovering more and more each day.
Her post reminds us all that mental health issues may be a personal battle, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many sources of love, support, and compassion that you can turn to when you don’t feel those things for yourself. The more open we are about mental health, the easier it is for people to get the help they truly need.