A woman who tried to kill her newborn baby and husband by driving their car into a wall has told how postpartum psychosis nearly destroyed their lives.
Laura, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, almost killed herself, her husband Dan and newborn baby daughter Olivia Mae after intrusive thoughts and hallucinations took over.
The 31-year-old had never experienced any mental health issues before being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis 14 days after Olivia was born on June 13 last year.
The office administrator had experienced a long period of no sleep following the birth, struggled to breastfeed and also had a blood clot in her leg, followed by suspected sepsis.
“There wasn’t a lot of sleep going on,” said Laura, who features in a Channel 4 documentary Losing It: Our Mental Health Emergency.
“I started with hallucinations or bad dreams, I’m not sure what it was.
“The first hallucination I had was Olivia being molested and thrown about. I had three of those dreams and it got to the point where I didn’t want to go to bed.
“The lack of sleep got a lot worse and, because Dan was sleeping, I was resenting him because he could fall asleep.
“As time went on, I began to be aggressive towards him, which is not like me.
“This was a Friday night and by Sunday morning, I’d stayed up 40 hours and had spent that time manically cleaning.
“Olivia was asleep and I was literally just cleaning the house. But not like normally, I was taking all the covers off the sofa, and hoovering it and disinfecting it … mania took over.
“It felt normal to me except for the aggressiveness, but we put that down to being tired and being in a bad mood.”
On the Sunday, Dan, 29, a shift supervisor at a warehouse, was driving the family to a friend’s house for lunch when Laura tried to kill herself, him and their daughter.
Laura said: “Dan was driving but in my head he was blinking for longer periods than normal as if he was about to fall asleep, so I asked him to pull over and said I would drive.
“I got in the driver’s seat and cried and explained to him that I was having hallucinations.
“I was really upset and, because he didn’t comfort me, it made me mad and angry and I asked him if I could end it.
“In a split second I just set off in the car. It felt like somebody was trying to take one of us and I just wanted us to be together, so logically the only way to be together was to end it.
“I was going faster and faster and saw a wall. Dan was screaming ‘Please stop, please stop, Olivia needs a mum and a future, please stop’.
“In the end, he pressed the stop/start button which slowed down the car really quickly.
“Dan took Olivia out of the car and then I set off again, driving on my own and thought ‘If I die, then I can wait for them’.
“But then I heard a voice in my head saying ‘What if it’s not real? What if you just need sleep?’”
Laura drove back to Dan and was crying and apologising. But then she became aggressive and started to run into oncoming traffic.
Dan managed to get Laura to A&E.
Laura was sectioned and taken to Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust for treatment, where she spent about six weeks.
The perinatal team worked closely with Laura and Dan to ensure her recovery, and Laura was given the drug haloperidol, an anti-psychotic medication.
She finished the course of drugs last Friday.
She said: “I still feel guilty, that’s not gone away, even though it wasn’t me, it could have ended so differently. I owe my life to the unit.
“It’s made me and Dan stronger, we’ve always been strong but it’s made us unbreakable. To go through that and then come out the other side is unbelievable.
“I’m quite strong-willed but it stripped me, it tipped all of my life upside down. I was like a shell of my former self.”
The couple want more children, although Laura is at higher risk of having postpartum psychosis again.
If she becomes pregnant, Laura will have the support of the perinatal mental health team so they can monitor her for signs of illness.
During the Chanel 4 documentary, Laura also tells how the couple kept a hammer in their room in case of burglars and how she thought about using it against Dan.
As part of her illness, Laura thought she was going to become rich through compensation claims, despite believing she was 100% well at that point.
– Losing It: Our Mental Health Emergency airs on Channel 4 on Tuesday at 10pm.