We went back to our Mother and Baby Unit to take part in a follow-up research study. We had been discharged over a year earlier - and life now just couldn't be any different to life then, and my psychotic self.
The emotions and memories were stirred even on the drive down. As the strangely-familiar place signs rolled past -Crystal Palace, Elmers End, West Wickham - my heart began to race. This was the same journey my little family had made shortly after the boy's birth - baby screaming with hunger, daddy beyond worried he was committing his wife to a life of psychiatric institutions, me sleep-deprived and slowly losing my mind. Now here we were - baby content and fast asleep, daddy happy to leave us to it, me driving - confident, happy, sane and in control.
I'm not sure exactly what I hoped to get out of the afternoon. Sure, I am always keen to take part in research, particularly anything to do with postpartum psychosis, but there was more to it than that. I was looking for a happy ending, catharsis.
We spent an interesting few hours with the child psychology team doing the actual research (videoing the boy and I playing, then exploring his attachment to me with a variety of situations. Judging by his hysterics when I had to leave the room, I think we passed the bonding test!). More importantly, for me who had no idea who might be on duty, we also saw a number of staff members from my time on the unit. I saw the lovely young nurse who helped me take my first proper shower on the unit (passing me my towel from behind the shower wall as there were no hooks or rails in sight!). She really understood how weird a place the unit could be, and always had time for a chat or a hug. I saw the kindly nurse who made me feel a little bit human again by showing me photos of her beautiful granddaughter. I saw several of the nursery nurses who had been there for the boy right from the start, while mummy was battling her psychosis. They had fed him, changed him, lulled him to sleep, played with him, took him to the doctors. I saw the same contract cleaner who mopped the nursery floor every day, who recognised me and had always been so friendly.
I didn't cry, but I think I could have done. Everyone was so pleased to see us both looking so well and happy. I probably looked a tad different to back then. My hair was washed, blow-dried and straightened for a start! I was wearing proper clothes. And shoes! They seemed genuinely proud when I told them I was keen to help break down the stigma of mental illness, and was getting involved with a couple of charities. I left with a promise to keep in touch, and send regular photos of the boy as he grows up further.
A good day, for both of us.