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Mom Opens Up About The Terrifying Postpartum Psychosis That Left Her Fearing She'd Kill Her Baby

Christina and Keelan in September 2019, when she was on holiday in Cyprus after being discharged from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

People are more open to talking about the toll pregnancy can have on mental health. We hear about cases of postpartum depression often. But, this mom wants to open up about her experience with postpartum psychosis.


Christina Royapen spoke candidly of “shutting down emotionally" as she battled to deliver her son, triggering postpartum psychosis.

In the days after Keelan was born on April, 2019, she told her husband Craig that she feared she would harm herself or their baby, after being plagued by vivid hallucinations and hearing voices.

Eventually, she was admitted to a specialist mother and baby unit, where she stayed for four months. Royapen experienced alarming delusions in which she believed God was talking to her, that she had been levitated, and was hypnotized by TV illusionist Derren Brown.

“You know that feeling where you know you're dreaming but can't wake up? That's what psychosis feels like," she said.

“After giving birth I'd expected to feel this uncontrollable wave of love and happiness. Instead, I felt afraid, like I just wanted to turn the clock back. That then put this huge cloud of guilt over me."

One of the first ever pictures taken of Christina and Keelan (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“Not knowing what's a dream and what's real is terrifying, but I am feeling much more like myself again and now want to help others who go through this, and to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis," she added.

Royapen was overjoyed when she discovered she was expecting in August 2018, just a month after she and Craig started trying for a family.

Enjoying a textbook pregnancy, it was not until she went into labour on that the nightmare began.

Christina at her baby shower (PA Real Life/Collect)

Planning to give birth without pain relief, 20 hours into labour she finally asked for an epidural to ease her discomfort.

But her labour did not progress, so after 40 long hours, the doctors at Queen's Hospital decided that the safest course of action was an emergency c-section to deliver her baby.

“By that point, I was almost delirious with tiredness," she recalled.

“All of a sudden, I was having all these papers put in front of me about the surgery and what would happen."

Christina, Craig and Keelan whilst she was on home leave from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“Looking back, I think that was the point that I emotionally shut down. I was so exhausted. I just wanted my baby there," she added.

Fortunately, Keelan was delivered weighing 7lb. For Royapen, however, it was a very different story.

“As soon as Keelan was born, I felt scared. I almost didn't want to see him. I believe that's when the postpartum psychosis began," she said.

Christina and Craig with Keelan on their first outing as a family whilst she was in the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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After two days recovering, Royapen was discharged – but, back home, things went from bad to worse.

First she experienced auditory hallucinations, she was convinced she could hear a baby crying even when Keelan was fast asleep.

“Everyone kept telling me it was just tiredness, but I knew there was something more serious going on," she said.

“Still, I didn't want to tell anyone how I was really feeling, as I worried that my baby would be taken away from me."

Christina and Keelan after she had been discharged from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“I genuinely thought I was going crazy, but put on this brave face to the rest of the world," she added.

Royapen also started having panic attacks, which went on for around a week before she broke down to a friend.

“I told her, 'If this is motherhood, I don't want it.' I felt so guilty. You're supposed to feel all this love and happiness. Instead, I was having harmful thoughts towards myself and my baby," she continued.

“Finally saying it out loud sparked this huge panic attack that I just couldn't calm down from. It lasted all night and I was hysterical, telling Craig I was terrified I'd kill the baby," she said.

“My loved ones stayed with me all night, but I couldn't sleep. Physically I was exhausted – but my mind was wired."

Royapen's loved ones encouraged her to go to hospital.

Christina in the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

The next morning, she returned to Queen's and was admitted with suspected postpartum psychosis.

Kept in overnight, she started having terrifying visual hallucinations, believing that she was levitating, that the walls were changing color, that she could hear God talking, and that she had been hypnotized by Derren Brown.

The following day, she was transferred to a specialist mother and baby unit in Beckenham, where her diagnosis was made official.

Christina, Craig and Keelan when she was in the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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Considered a medical emergency by the NHS, postpartum psychosis can include hallucinations, delusions, a manic or low mood, the loss of inhibitions, feeling suspicious or fearful and confusion.

Placed on anti-psychotic medication, things got worse before they improved.

“I continued suffering with delusions," she said.

“I was convinced that I had been in the mother and baby unit for years and that people were conspiring to poison me or take my baby."

“I also became paranoid that Craig was cheating on me with the staff and that I needed to catch him red-handed. It was like someone else was in my head, talking to me and taking over my thoughts," she added.

Royapen had round-the-clock one-on-one care to ensure she did not harm herself or Keelan. And, after three weeks, she started to improve as the medication finally kicked in. Still far from well, she could at least differentiate between hallucinations and reality.

“Being able to see Keelan really helped, too," she said.

“He was in the unit with me, but slept in a different room. Being able to go and hold him helped ease my fears that people were trying to take him."

Christina and Keelan after she had been discharged from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“Even as I began to get better, my confidence was hugely knocked. I'd been so sure the things I was seeing and hearing were real, so to find out they weren't made me doubt myself," she added.

By the time she was discharged at the end of August 2019, she felt it was the right time to leave. But, she still struggled with depression.

Christina and Keelan after she had been discharged from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“All I wanted to do was lie in bed and forget the world, but I couldn't – I had a child," she said.

“At first, I put a lot of pressure on myself to bounce straight back to how I used to be, but eventually I realized recovery takes time. Even things like my social skills and ability to hold a proper conversation had been stripped away. I had to rebuild myself, bit by bit."

She is feeling far stronger now the worst of her ordeal is over and little Keelan is a thriving one year old.

Christina and Keelan after she had been discharged from the mother and baby unit (PA Real Life/Collect)

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Keen to speak out, hoping to raise awareness of the condition and show fellow mothers that they will recover, Royapen recorded a video discussing her experiences.

“People have been so supportive and I find it very therapeutic to talk," she said.

“When I first became unwell, I'd never heard of postpartum psychosis, so had no idea what was happening. My family was frantically searching online for answers, but there isn't much out there, so I want to speak out now to save anybody else going through that."

Christina with Craig and Keelan in December 2019, when she was recovered (PA Real Life/Collect)

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“It's so important not to put pressure on yourself to be the perfect mum, or to go back to the old you right away after an experience like mine. You have to take it day by day and rebuild yourself to the person you want to be over time," she concluded.

Her husband, Craig, also opened up about the journey through his perspective.

“The four months that Christina and Keelan were in hospital were very tough emotionally. I struggled myself with my own mental health at the time," he said.

"A lot of worrying, and not knowing if or when they would both be coming home, and also seeing Christina being ill, was very hard for me."

“The hardest part was having to leave them overnight and then having to wait until the next day just to spend a couple of hours with both of them. Luckily we have a lot of great family and friends that helped me through it all. Without their support, I know things would have been a lot harder."