The Spiritual Side of Postpartum Psychosis

April 14, 2013

In most cases of postpartum psychosis, there are symptoms of a spiritual nature.  Why do symptoms that are not tangible or material present themselves when experiencing postpartum psychosis or psychosis, in general?

I wish I had a concrete, definite answer to this question.  Instead, I will share my personal experience and opinion relating to the spiritual side of postpartum psychosis.

I believe that each of us are created and designed with a mind, body and spirit.  I also believe that we are all on a spiritual journey.  Each of us is at a different point in that journey based on our own personal experiences and beliefs.  When I was suddenly struck with postpartum psychosis, I had a strong faith and belief in God.  I believe, in my case, that my strong faith and belief as well as the faith of my family and friends, was a big factor in enabling me and my baby to survive the illness.

When my son was eight weeks old and the sudden fear entered my life, I did not even know postpartum psychosis existed.  I was sure it was an evil being or force trying to kill me and take my baby.  I had never experienced such intense fear previously so I did not understand why I had such fear or where the fear was coming from. As a result I turned to my inner spiritual strength to fight the evil force that I was certain was going to kill me and take my baby.

In my opinion when someone experiences such intense fear, the “fight or flight” response occurs.  For me, I felt I could protect my son and I by shouting a bible verse over and over again.  I felt I had no other resources to draw on as I was terrified and exhausted from lack of sleep. I began to distrust everyone, even those closest to me.  Why?  I did not know so I felt I could not ask for help.

It was not until a second hospitalization and a second opinion from another doctor (the first doctor I saw when hospitalized at eight weeks told me I had postpartum depression) that I learned of postpartum psychosis.  Once I learned the symptoms of the illness, I could better understand the illness and what had happened to me.

Thankfully, receiving the diagnosis of postpartum psychosis, enabled me to come to the realization that what I experienced was an illness.  However, at that time, I never had the opportunity to discuss or come to an understanding of the spiritual symptoms of my illness.  It would take several more hospitalizations before I had the opportunity to address the spiritual side of my illness.  It was almost three years after I was struck with postpartum psychosis before I had a professional discuss with me some of the aspects of how my personal spiritual journey impacted my illness.  It is unfortunate that it took so long for it to be addressed.

It has been a long process and journey but I am finally in a place of peace and comfort with the illness and all I have been through.  It has been critical for me to get spiritual support from others, who share my beliefs, in order to understand my journey.  One of the resources that helped me better understand the spiritual journey of my illness was the book Further Along the Road Less Traveled by the well-known psychiatrist Scott Peck.  I highly recommend the book to anyone that wants to gain insight into the role of spirituality in mental health.

In my opinion, anyone experiencing mental health issues or health issues, in general, should receive treatment not only physically and mentally but also spiritually.  Once I began receiving treatment in all three areas, I was able to move further along in my journey of recovery and wellness.

Spirituality is personal and uniquely affects each of us.  I welcome the thoughts and opinion of others.  Better understanding comes through discussion and communication.

Here are a few links to resources related to this topic.

Living Beyond Postpartum Depression

The Book Further Along the Road Less Traveled

Spirituality and Mental Health