I did not lie, I just choose not to talk about it, but I never thought that it would haunt me.
It was the best day of my life, the day I gave birth to Aleya. I never thought that my nightmares would start haunting me that very same day. I began to feel fearful and suspicious people around me, even with my own husband at times. I thought it was just typical for a new mom to worry about her firstborn. I never thought that what I was experiencing was paranoia.
“There’s so much stigma about postpartum depression,” says Susan Hatters Friedman, MD, a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “As a society, we expect it to be the happiest time of a woman’s life. A lot of women don’t report if they’re having symptoms.”
What Is Paranoia?
Paranoia is the intense anxiety due to fearful thoughts caused by lack of trust to people surrounding you. It can be associated with many mental disorders. Paranoia can turn into a delusion. And once the person becomes too fixated with these irrational thoughts, it is hard to convince her that what she feels or think is not true.
Signs Of My Paranoia
As a new mom, I often fear that somebody will get my baby to the point that I would not allow anyone to carry her or let her out of my sight. I even, at one point, would not allow my own husband to bring her out to get some sunlight. At night, I would have nightmares that I was being separated from her, and I would wake up screaming or shouting. One most vivid dream I had is when we were walking on a highway and suddenly I saw her and myself at both ends of the road and I could not get to her no matter how fast I run towards her.
Cindy‐Lee Dennis RN, PhD, and Leinic Chung‐Lee RN, MN’s study recognized this “lack of knowledge about postpartum depression or the acceptance of myths [as] a significant help‐seeking barrier and rendered mothers unable to recognize the symptoms of depression.”
This dreaming and feeling paranoid went on for weeks and so my husband and I decided to see my doctor.
- I Easily Freak out. I often spend some minutes checking my baby every now and then especially when she is asleep. I want to make sure that she is still breathing, that she is not choking, making sure that nothing would go wrong.
- I’m Terrified When She’s Bottle feeding. When she’s bottle feeding, I fear that the nipple would come out and that she’ll drown in her milk.
- I Sense Negativity In Whatever My In-Laws Do. My parents-in-law were very supportive and helpful of us since they knew it is our first time, and I know very less about taking care of the baby. Despite being helpful, I would not like them always visiting us in our home, especially when they bring in foods. I can’t take certain thoughts out of my mind, the thought that they will poison me so that they can have my baby.
- I Get Intensely Jealous. Whenever my husband got home and would play with my daughter, I don’t feel good when she smiles and giggles at him. She should love me more because we are together the whole day.
- I Locked Ourselves In The Bedroom. I feel jealous every time I saw my husband and our baby so happy together. I will get her and will isolate ourselves in the sanctuary of our bedroom.
The sad part of my paranoia is that I really think that what I was thinking was right to the point that I almost put my daughter’s life in danger because of my trust issues.
All of these red flags is proof that “[p]ostpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health problem. It is prevalent, and offspring are at risk for disturbances in development,” Dr. Michael O’hara, PhD, explains in his study.
What Caused My Paranoia?
Mental health issues are difficult to talk about, so I did not tell my husband about my mother’s schizophrenia. I thought forgetting about it is enough for me not to suffer the same fate as my mom. But now that this is happening to me, should I blame my mom for passing it on to me?
It was when I almost lost my daughter after keeping her in our closet that I came to my senses. Something is wrong with me, and I want to be treated. I don’t want to be like my mom who suffered by herself, and when she could not take it anymore, she took her own life.
My husband has been supportive of my psychotherapy. My in-laws would look after our daughter whenever I do not feel confident coming near her. There are times when I would feel paranoid about their being kind and helpful, but I was just so grateful that they understand my situation.
With a supportive husband, continued psychotherapy sessions, and medications, I felt much better after months of therapy.
My evil thoughts, jealousy, feeling unsafe, depression, and keeping the secret of mental issues have almost put the life of my daughter in danger. Awareness of different mental health condition and recognizing the possibility that you might inherit such condition from one of your parents is crucial especially when planning on building a happy and healthy family.