COMING home from hospital with her bundle of joy, new mum Michelle Bradley should have been ecstatic.
She’d had an easy birth and newborn Alexis was happy and healthy.
But instead Michelle, from Belfast, was riddled with a crippling anxiety which just weeks later would leave her wanting to kill herself.
She had developed post-natal depression which affects one in 10 new mums, according to the NHS.
But it didn’t make it any less scary for Michelle.
“If I had a gun or enough pills I would have have taken my own life,” Michelle, now 35, and a mum of three, confessed.”
She continued: ““Three days after she was born, I started having panic attacks and the first one lasted about four hours. From that moment on, every day I was having panic attacks and anxiety.”
Michelle told how she was surprised the depression hit her so hard as she was really looking forward to being a mum.
“I had a really straightforward birth with my daughter and was really looking forward to having a baby,” she said.
“But after she was born, I went into a state of shock.
“It got so bad that I said to my husband Eoin, ‘look, I really don’t want to die but I can’t go on like this’.
“I told him, ‘If I had a gun [I would shoot myself] or enough pills I would take them. I can’t go on’.”
When Alexis was 18 months old Michelle went to see a counsellor which helped her feelings of anxiety and depression enormously.
Just five months later she felt well enough to try for another baby.
When she fell pregnant with Cooper she admitted she fretted – especially when the panic attacks returned.
“I thought ‘what have I done’ but then realised ‘I got through it once before, I can do it again’.”
After Cooper arrived, Michelle and Eoin tried for another baby and Luna was born in 2018.
Again Michelle became depressed.
“I feared I was going to die,” she said, adding she had once again managed to overcome her feelings.
Michelle has now started her own support group for mums with post-natal depression which has more than 600 members.
She’s written a book called Pangs: Surviving Motherhood and Mental Illness, to help other mums who are going through the same thing as she did.
What is postpartum depression?
POSTPARTUM depression is depression which follows a mum giving birth – it’s more severe than just the ‘baby blues’.
Symptoms include but are not limited to: a persistent feeling of sadness, lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the outside world, as well as your baby, and a lack of energy.
Meanwhile, postpartum psychosis is a mental illness which can affect any new mother – and could cause her to harm herself, or her baby.
The condition is thought to affect one in every 1,000 women who give birth.
It should be treated as a medical emergency – and can get rapidly worse if not treated.
In the worst cases, psychosis could cause a new mum to harm her baby or herself.
The two main symptoms are hallucinations, seeing or hearing things which aren’t there, and delusions, having thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true (e.g. that you’ve won the lottery).
The combination of the two can seriously disrupt someone’s perception, thinking, emotions and behaviour.
A woman experiencing postpartum psychosis will change mood very quickly, while some may experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time.
She may not realise she is ill – but the majority of women do make a full recovery, provided they get the right treatment.
If someone you know if suffering from postpartum psychosis, you should contact your GP, NHS 111 or out-of-hours service immediately.
If you think there’s a danger of her harming herself or others, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
If you’re a new mother, and recognise that you may be having a psychotic episode, visit your GP or local A&E immediately.
For support, visit the Action on Postpartum charity website.
She said: “I’m the kind of person where if I have a problem, I’ll go on Amazon and find a book and read about it.
But there was nothing really there that caught my attention . I wanted somebody to give me hope, not just a sob story of someone else.
“I decided I might as well write the book myself, so for about six weeks I sat at my computer all day every day, and put my story down on paper and I included a lot of the techniques that really helped me.”
- PANGS: Surviving Motherhood and Mental Illness is available on Amazon.
Meanwhile, mum Kelly Murchison revealed how postpartum psychosis made her want to kill her twins and herself.
And EastEnders touched on the subject when the illness made Stacey Fowler convinced her son Arthur was the son of God.