A mother who remained behind her common sense after fighting delusions and hallucinations as a result of postpartum psychosis, eventually banned her demons by pumping iron into the gym.
The mother of two Heather Messenger, 33, first experienced attacks from the terrifying mental illness, who lived as if she had monstrous voices in her head telling her to harm her daughters after welcoming her second child.
The life of the marketing professional based in Sarasota, Florida was torn apart for six months as she faced the traumatic ordeal. Six years later, however, she mentions her physical health and dedication to fitness to help her overcome postnatal disease.
Blooming: mother-of-two Heather Messenger, 33, experienced postpartum psychosis, a frightening and rare mental illness, but changed her life thanks to her love of fitness
Difference: the 33-year-old, pictured left in her 20s, always wanted to be a mother, but never expected he would have such a gripping experience of postpartum psychosis
When it started: Heather, pictured with her then-born Brooke, daughter Nichole and husband Miles in 2013, began fighting the mental disorder a few days after giving birth
Heather said she was convinced that she & # 39; happily ever after & & # 39; would live when she and her husband, Miles, 34, whose company produces golf carts, their eldest daughter, Nichole, now had eight.
But when they started trying for a second child 15 months later, they had a miscarriage after 12 weeks.
What is postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis includes hallucinations, delusions, confusion, an elated or depressed mood, anxiety, and agitated moods
The erratic or unusual behavior of people escalates quickly
Other symptoms include communication problems, increased suspicion and paranoia
It occurs in around 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries
Research suggests that a 5 percent suicide rate and a 4 percent infanticide rate are associated with the disease
When she was pregnant with her second daughter Brooke, now six, Heather also had an extremely difficult pregnancy that led to depression within a few days of welcoming the newborn.
When Miles returned to work the day after Brooke was born and her mother was away in Europe, Heather was left alone with her daughters and her fear soon exploded.
Heather said: & # 39; Postpartum psychosis is a dangerous disease. It started as a deep depression, but it quickly got worse. I had demon-like voices in my head. I could not sleep, I was agitated and I could not be trusted to take care of my children alone. & # 39;
Described by the NHS as a "rare but serious mental disorder that can affect a woman shortly after having a baby," with symptoms ranging from hallucinations and delusions to mania, depression, confusion, and loss of inhibitions. & # 39;
& # 39; I started ignoring people's calls and did not invite any family to meet with Brooke, & # 39; said Heather. & # 39; I was always anxious, I felt alone and started feeling dizzy.
Now: the Florida mother managed to regain control of her life, but she revealed that she barely remembers what happened during the six months she suffered from the disease
Fortunately: Heather praised the support of her family for helping them get through the terrifying illness
& # 39; I couldn't stop crying and I felt like I lost myself and my daughters lost their mother. & # 39;
This experience was in stark contrast to how she felt after having had Nichole when she & # 39; on cloud nine & # 39; sat.
Jokingly the & # 39; giant family & # 39; because Miles is 6 & # 39; 9 and Heather 6 & # 39; 1, the couple enjoyed their first parenting trip with Nichole.
How to treat postpartum psychosis
Dr. Jessica Heron, CEO of Action on Postpartum Psychosis said it should be treated as a & # 39; serious medical emergency & # 39;
The postnatal disease, which normally starts in the days and weeks after the birth, can be life threatening
Dr. Heron added: “Women need immediate care – admission to a psychiatric hospital, ideally with their baby to minimize the impact on adhesion and experienced trauma – although unfortunately not many such units exist in the US. & # 39;
Symptoms last from a few weeks to months
Postpartum psychosis is usually followed by long-term depression
Dr. Heron added: "With proper care, women fully recover from this disease, although the path to recovery can be difficult."
Two months later, when Heather became pregnant with Brooke, she didn't feel as excited as worried.
& # 39; When I was pregnant with Nichole, I wasn't too strict about what I ate or what I did. But with Brooke, I was so careful with everything – I wouldn't even breathe close to soft cheese, & she said.
After nine weeks pregnant, Heather started bleeding, but luckily doctors reassured her and said her unborn baby was fine. But the panic started again when she slipped and fell on her stomach after eight months pregnant.
& # 39; I was so worried that when the doctors told me she was fine and showed me her heartbeat, it felt great, & # 39; she said.
Instead of the & # 39; rush of love & # 39; to feel that she had experienced when Nichole was born, however, when Brooke arrived, she remembers that something did not feel right & # 39;
& # 39; I was scared to go home. I know it's normal, but I think it was a warning sign, & she said.
Yet Heather continued, but she kept spiraling down until, two weeks after the birth, she felt so unstable that she saw her doctor.
She explained that she felt scared and sad all the time, and that's why she was diagnosed with postnatal depression – a common post-natal problem, according to the NHS, which makes women feel depressed, tears and anxious, but usually inside a few lifts for weeks – and prescribed antidepressants.
However, instead of seeing her mood lifted, Heather began to have terrifying psychotic thoughts when she heard voices saying she should hurt herself or her daughters.
Fearing what would happen if she were left alone with her children, she and Miles went to live with her mother for a while eight weeks after the birth of Brooke.
She saw her doctor again, and even though she still felt afraid to confess her fears, Heather described the visions she had and this time she was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and prescribed Paxil – an antidepressant used to treat anxiety and treat anxiety disorders.
She was allowed to go back home because she had great family support and her mother was there to take care of the children. Yet her mental health continued to deteriorate.
& # 39; Giant family & # 39 ;: Heather joked that the Messengers are the & # 39; giant family & # 39; because Miles is 6 & # 39; 9 and they are 6 & # 39; 1
She said: & # 39; I couldn't sleep longer than 45 minutes in a row. My body felt that I had been drinking hundreds of cups of coffee. I became very separated from my daughters and always tried to take a nap.
& # 39; I started blaming Brooke and wish she was never born. Everything had been perfect before she came. I thought it was all her fault.
& # 39; I constantly heard voices in my head. I would walk through the room as if I was possessed. I slammed the door and shouted, "Let them stop."
Strong: Heather started training toward the bikini body competitions to prove herself that she & # 39; strong & # 39; was after the mental illness took over her life
& # 39; Once Miles was so worried about my behavior that he took the girls out of the house so they couldn't see me in that condition. & # 39;
Fortunately, Heather & # 39; s mother took over and persuaded her daughter to sit in the back while she took care of the girls. Heather has a blurry memory of this period of her life, but believes that her psychosis lasted about six months.
& # 39; I not only heard voices, but also started to hallucinate, & # 39; she said. & # 39; Once I thought my tongue was swelling up and I couldn't breathe anymore.
& # 39; I would see this purple smoke and a demon would appear. I would just close my eyes and pray that it would disappear.
& # 39; Miles and my family were so worried that they told me I should never be alone. I knew I needed more help. & # 39;
Eventually, Heather began to visit a psychiatrist and a therapist twice a week – until she began to feel better and the sessions decreased once a week.
For a period of four months she shared what she thought with the therapist, and luckily her dark thoughts and voices disappeared in her head.
Finally, six months after her terrible visions began, they stopped and Heather could finally leave her mother and resume the family life she had always wanted in her own home.
Fitness: Heather pictured in June 2019 after placing second in the Fitness Universe show
Winner: Heather regularly takes part in competitions in bikini bodies, routinely taking first and second place
& # 39; I felt that I would be stuck so forever when it happened. But talking about what I went through helped me a lot & # 39 ;, Heather said. & # 39; I don't know what caused my psychosis, but I have had such a stressful pregnancy and that may have contributed to that. & # 39;
About eight months after it started, Heather was also diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder as she tried to handle the gruesome thoughts that had obscured her.
& # 39; I felt so guilty that I had thought bad things about my daughters, & # 39; said Heather. & # 39; It took me about a year to feel at ease alone. I was afraid of sleep because I was afraid of being alone with my own thoughts. & # 39;
Determined to become healthy again after her postpartum psychosis, which can see the most serious symptoms lasting two to 12 weeks, while it can take six to 12 months or more to recover from the condition, Heather also began a carefully constructed exercise and meal plan.
& # 39; I realized that taking care of myself could become a better mother. I started healing my body inside and out, & she said.
Girls: Heather said she was struggling to connect with her daughters Nichole, left, and Brooke, when she fought postpartum psychosis, but now the family is incredibly close
Family: The Messengers, who live in Sarasota, Florida, during a trip to Disney Land
And in 2015, by that time the image of health, Heather – who is positive about her physical condition to control her mental health – joined Fitness Universe, a competition for bikini bodies in Miami, and won first place.
She recently finished second in the Bikini Pro category at the Fitness Universe show.
& # 39; For me, the competition was not about winning, it was about realizing that I was a strong woman and what I had managed to overcome, & # 39; said Heather.
& # 39; I was shaking and crying on stage. But to be honest, I felt like I was bulletproof and like I was 30 meters tall – it was great.
& # 39; Fitness and healthy eating did wonders for my mind and now it has allowed me to become a better mother.
& # 39; Brooke and I now have a very special bond. We are really a close-knit family. I am grateful for what I experienced, because on the other hand I have come to be a stronger, better mother.
& # 39; I am so grateful for the support of my husband and my family – I would not have experienced this if they had not been there.
& # 39; By talking about what happened, I was able to process the psychosis and move on. Although I was scared, it was the best thing I could have done, and I would encourage any woman in a similar situation to do the same.
& # 39; And I now know that I also need a healthy body to stay healthy. & # 39;
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