First-time mother tells of her postpartum psychosis ordeal
First-time mother who didn’t sleep for eight days after her son was born was SECTIONED for three months with postpartum psychosis that made her believe her vicar husband was trying to run off with her ‘pretty’ nurse
- Ele Cushing did not sleep for eight days after her son Joshua was born
- The 31-year-old says she became obsessed with keeping her home spotless
- After a visit from a mental health team, she was diagnosed and sectioned
- By this point, she was convinced her husband and a nurse wanted to be together
A first-time mother was sectioned for three months after she developed postpartum psychosis (PP).
Ele Cushing, 31, claims she did not sleep for eight days after her son Joshua, now three, was born due to her becoming obsessed with keeping her home immaculate.
Her vicar husband Greg, 34, became concerned when he woke to find his wife’s Bible notes erratically scrawled over in red pen.
After a visit from a mental health crisis team, Mrs Cushing, from Loxwood, West Sussex, was sectioned.
By this point, Mrs Cushing’s psychosis had left her so distrustful she was convinced her husband and a ‘pretty’ nurse wanted to ‘lock her up’ so they could be together.
Once hospitalised, Mrs Cushing descended into ‘absolute mania’, believing she was in The Hunger Games waiting to be ‘sent into the arena to be sacrificed’.
After three months away from her family, Mrs Cushing was finally discharged and feels ‘stronger and braver’ than ever.
Ele Cushing, 31, claims she did not sleep for eight days after her son Joshua was born due to her becoming obsessed with keeping her home immaculate. The new mother had a traumatic labour, which saw her being rushed to surgery for stitches immediately after the newborn arrived. She is pictured cuddling him for the first time at Kingston Hospital in January 2016
Once home, Mrs Cushing’s loved ones knew something was wrong but were unsure how to help. Her vicar husband Greg, 34, (pictured with their son) became seriously concerned when he woke to find his wife’s Bible notes erratically scrawled over in red pen
Speaking of the start of the ordeal, Mrs Cushing said: ‘I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t switch off.
‘Even when Josh was slept I would incessantly go around making sure everything was clean and tidy instead of resting.
‘When I did try to rest, I had so many thoughts racing through my head at a hundred miles an hour. My speech was like verbal diarrhoea.
‘The illness was mainly characterised by paranoia, suspicion and insecurity.’
Postpartum psychosis (PP) affects one in every 1,000 new mothers.
It most commonly occurs during the first few weeks after having a baby.
The four main symptoms associated with a psychotic episode are:
- confused and disturbed thoughts
- lack of insight and self-awareness
Symptoms of postnatal psychosis can also include: a high mood (mania) – for example, talking and thinking too much or too quickly or a low mood – for example, depression, lack of energy, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.
Postnatal psychosis is more likely to affect women who already have a mental health condition, such as bipolar
Source: NHS England
When the crisis team visited, Mrs Cushing became wary of the ‘pretty younger’ nurse.
‘I remember thinking she was sending me off to be locked up so she could be with my husband – they were in this together,’ she said.
‘At the hospital, they put me in a room with a window onto the staff room so they could observe me and I thought I was in The Hunger Games.
‘I remember pounding on the glass, terrified I would soon be sent off into the arena to be sacrificed.
‘I felt like I had superhuman strength and it did take several members of staff to restrain me.
‘I would charge up the corridor trying to make a break for it. I had to be tranquilised. It was total and utter mayhem.’
Mrs Cushing claims being take to hospital is ‘one of her most traumatic flashbacks’.
‘I was marched in line past my parents and husband into the back of a van, barefoot in a short-sleeved pyjama top in the middle of winter,’ she said.
‘I was alone in what felt like a cage with no knowledge of where I was going. I thought I was being trafficked away, shipped off.
‘I even remember thinking my loved ones were clinging to the back of the van as we drove and fell off one-by-one to their deaths. I genuinely had no hope and was so scared.’
After a visit from a mental health crisis team, Mrs Cushing, from Loxwood, West Sussex, was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and sectioned (pictured with Joshua after he was born in January 2016)
By this point, Mrs Cushing’s psychosis had left her so distrustful she was convinced her husband and a ‘pretty’ nurse from the crisis team wanted to ‘lock her up’ so they could be together (pictured with Joshua in 2016)
Mrs Cushing and her husband were over the moon when they discovered they were expecting in March 2015.
She enjoyed her pregnancy until her final trimester, when the full-time mother became anxious at the thought of giving birth.
An abnormality with Joshua’s umbilical cord was picked up at her 20 week scan and meant Mrs Cushing had to be induced on January 6 2016 at 40 weeks.
Mrs Cushing reacted quickly to the pessary that kickstarted her labour, leading to a third-degree tear with no time for an epidural.
Joshua was born healthy on January 7, weighing 8lbs 13oz (3.9kg), however, his mother had to rushed straight to surgery for stitches.
‘The birth was a blur,’ Mrs Cushing said. ‘I had to close my eyes for a lot of it as a way of coping with the agony. It was excruciating. I needed to zone out.
‘Badly damaged, I was taken to surgery to be stitched up and by the time I could cuddle our son properly, I felt physically numb.
‘I felt like there were these secrets between women who’d had babies and women who hadn’t because there’s so much people don’t tell you.
‘I felt like men had conspired against women – like we were just pawns in their game, expected to produce the babies and go through all this horrific pain while they were off having affairs. I became quite distrustful of men in general.’
Once hospitalised, Mrs Cushing descended into ‘absolute mania’, believing she was in The Hunger Games waiting to be ‘sent into the arena to be sacrificed’. After three months away from her family, Mrs Cushing was finally discharged (pictured with Joshua left and right)
Once home, Mrs Cushing’s friends and family could tell something was wrong but did not know how to help.
After a particularly bad night, Mr Cushing took his wife to her parents’ home, where they met with a crisis team. She was later taken to Hackney Mother and Baby unit (MBU).
On the MBU, it became clear Mrs Cushing was unable to care for Joshua in her current state.
‘Joshua had to be taken by the nurses so they could look after him because I wasn’t,’ she said. ‘I was just paralysed. I didn’t know where to begin.
‘I don’t feel I struggled to bond with Joshua. We bonded from the moment he was born and I had that first skin-to-skin contact with him.
‘But in my illness, there was a point at which I became detached from him. Suddenly there was a barrier of illness between us.’
Over the next two months, she was moved between psychiatric wards across Greater London, where her husband was training to be a vicar.
The new mother was treated with a range of antipsychotics and mood stabilisers, including lithium and olanzapine, but did not respond as quickly as doctors hoped.
‘I was moved to Newham psychiatric unit and that’s where I reached my most frantic,’ Mrs Cushing said.
‘They were trying all these different medications and nothing was working.
‘Eventually, I was put in an isolation room while they arranged my transfer to Roehampton.
‘That was another traumatic flashback for me once I was out – the bare room with just a blue gym mat in it, cameras up high watching you, a plate of food on the floor.’
Speaking of the ordeal, Mrs Cushing said: ‘I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t switch off. ‘Even when Josh was slept I would incessantly go around making sure everything was clean and tidy instead of resting’ (pictured with Greg and Joshua in 2016)
Friends and family visited Mrs Cushing frequently, bringing gifts, which she hid under her clothes out of fear other patients would steal them.
She also battled with the guilt of her husband having to raise their son alone.
‘Greg was so lonely,’ Mrs Cushing said. ‘It was really tough for both of us. He came to see me every day but seeing me in there was depressing for him
‘Psychiatric wards are terrifying places when you’re in your right mind and when you’re in your wrong mind.
‘I felt guilty about how much time I had missed with Joshua and all the moments I’d missed.’
After eight weeks in psychiatric wards, Mrs Cushing was moved to Winchester MBU, where she spent the next month rebuilding her bond with Joshua.
The new mother was treated with quetiapine, a psychotropic medication used in schizophrenia, and finally started to ’emerge from the fog’.
Since being discharged on April 15 2016 and moving straight to a new area, Mrs Cushing has battled depression, anxiety and OCD.
Even the sound of newborns crying would trigger traumatic memories and send her into a panic.
‘After I was discharged, I felt like I was learning to be a new mother with a three-month-old,’ she said.
‘When I went to mum and baby groups, mothers with babies the same age as Joshua seemed like old hands but everything was new for me.
‘I felt very watched like nobody trusted me to be alone with Josh.’
Over the next two months, she was moved between psychiatric wards across Greater London, where her husband was training to be a vicar (pictured as a family, with their dog immediately after Mrs Cushing was released from hospital in April 2016)
With the support of her loved ones and the charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), Mrs Cushing is ‘stronger and braver’ than ever.
‘At first, I wanted to get back to the old me again but I have come to accept I’m never going to be the same,’ she said. ‘I’m actually stronger and braver than I ever was before.
‘I never want to go back to that terrifying time in my life but overcoming it has given me much more of a fighting approach to life.
‘I feel like if I’ve managed to battle PP, I can battle anything. Bring it on.
‘And my relationship with Joshua is incredibly special. He’s a bundle of energy. He wakes up every day ready to perform. It’s great fun. He’s brilliant – everything I wanted and more.’
Despite a fear of heights, she even did a skydive in August to raise money for APP.
She is speaking out to raise awareness of PP in new mothers.
‘Now I feel like I’m ready to support and help others,’ Mrs Cushing said. ‘I had never heard of PP and that’s true for so many people.
‘I want to share my story to raise awareness of it but also to let other mums out there know they’re not alone and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.’
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