My husband, Alan, is the most wonderful man I have ever known (that is one of the reasons I married him). Yet in my postpartum confusion (I had PPD, PPP, OCD and more) I thought he was plotting to divorce me and take our child. I was convinced he was sabotaging our efforts to get help. I even thought he was only taking pictures of me when I looked really bad in order to have “proof” of what a bad mother I was. Meanwhile, he was doing everything he thought that he could given the circumstances. However, I have no doubt that if he knew the severity of the situation at the time he would have done a lot more. But he didn’t know because I didn’t tell him. Why didn’t I tell him? I was paranoid. If I told him I was delusional I thought he would use that information to have me involuntarily committed for life and would also use it to get sole custody of our daughter. In essence, he was both my lifeline and my enemy. Often times my behavior irritated him. He would (understandably) lose his patience with me. That reaction only provided further “proof” to my irrational mind that my paranoia was truly reality.
Today I am recovered and my relationship with my husband is back to being a very positive one. I don’t know that we could have reached this stage of recovery had I not chosen to share with him what had happened to me. (At one point I had decided I would never tell anyone, not even him.) I am humbled when Alan talks of his experience of my PPMDs (postpartum mood disorders) and how overcome with emotion he is. None of it was his fault. He was as ignorant as I about what was going on with me.
I now thank God that I have a healthy family and a solid marriage. I consider myself lucky that Alan stuck with me thought two years of postpartum illness. And although I often wish that I could simply erase that portion of my past – or more accurately – change it to an ideal experience, I do think it has cemented our relationship. I think overcoming adversity and crisis together often does that.
So my advice as a woman who has been there: 1) Love your wife. Be tender, be supportive. Marinade her in your love. 2) Believe her and believe in her. Do not assume she is “over-reacting” or being “unreasonable.” 3) Be her lifeline. You may be the one who needs to make the call about whether she needs medical attention. She may not be able to ask for it herself. 4) Ask questions. My husband says that if he knew then what he knows now he would have asked many more questions — Can you read? Can you follow a TV plot? Are you hearing things? Etc. — Those are things that apply to psychosis, and even if you asked these it would not guarantee that you would be able to determine if your wife were psychotic because experiences range so much. However, asking questions is a good idea. Educate yourself on the symptoms and ask your wife about them – or ask your doctor to do it. Perhaps get a copy of a depression inventory and go over it with her. Be sure you do this in a loving, supportive, understanding way. There is no such thing as too much love or reassurance for a woman with a PPMD.