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Postpartum Psychosis: I didn't know who I was or where I was

After a long labour and an emergency Cesaerian section, Nina McCallig just wanted to go home with her new-born daughter Heidi. Eight days later she was an inpatient on an acute mental hospital ward with a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.

This gentle Irish woman, with no history of mental illness, had to be restrained by police after punching an officer and destroying the wing mirror of a patrol car. For Nina and her partner Mark it was a terrifying experience.

She recalls:  “I didn’t know who I was or where I was. I was really confused and forgetful. Everything in the house was really dark. I was fading. I took a picture of a shadow – it represented how I was feeling at the time.”

Nina’s midwife recommended a visit to her GP practice but when she was told that she would need to be referred Nina reacted badly.

“I screamed at the doctor and everyone in the waiting room. I kicked the door open and walked out in to this sunny world and went down the street banging on windows, screaming in a pub, knocking on doors. I was screaming at flowers. I was screaming at the sky.”

Nina was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and the following day, after episodes overnight with Mark’s family and her mother (whom Nina didn’t recognise) she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and taken to hospital.

A month after being discharged Nina began taking photographs - initially as a visual record of her recovery, then as a moving, if harrowing, photo-realisation of the psychosis itself - garishly coloured pictures of the GP practice, the fence where was she was held by the police. Most hauntingly, perhaps, is the black and white images of baby clothes dancing on a washing line. Floating, vivid, not really ‘here’.

Today, thanks to professional help from the Early Intervention service in Liverpool and the support of her family, Nina is ‘here’ and Heidi is in her words, ’the happiest baby in the world’.

Getting help early gives someone experiencing psychosis the best chance of getting better more quickly. Our early intervention teams work with young people between the ages of 14 and 35. If you'd like more information on how to contact your local Early Intervention team please click HERE.