Kalamunda: Even Keel CEO recalls ‘personal hell’ of post-natal manic psychosis

Even Keel Support Association chief executive Corrine Maslin holding a picture of her son James, aged 8 weeks. Corrine suffered from post natal manic psychosis. Picture: David Baylis.
Even Keel Support Association chief executive Corrine Maslin holding a picture of her son James, aged 8 weeks. Corrine suffered from post natal manic psychosis. Picture: David Baylis.

INVOLUNTARILY detained at a psychiatric hospital just 48 hours after the birth of her son, Corrine Maslin was living in a personal hell.

The Kalamunda mother was suffering from a rare event that affects just one in 1000 women after childbirth.

This is her story.

“At 27 I fell pregnant for the first time and I was truly happy to be pregnant,” she said.

“It was a normal pregnancy until close to my due date when I started having problems sleeping which I dismissed as a symptom of pregnancy.

“A week before my due date doctors induced me because of high blood pressure and after an exhausting 28 hours I gave birth to a healthy boy weighing 4kg.

“Completely drained my husband left the hospital to let me sleep. Truth is I didn’t sleep. I could not sleep. I had so many thoughts rushing through my head.”

After a day and night of no sleep, doctors and nurses became concerned.

“I started to do things a mother wouldn’t normally do,” she said.

“I pushed the crib away from me. I became reckless. I was confused and emotionally disconnected with my baby. It was at this point I knew something was wrong.”

A resident psychiatrist sent the new mum to Graylands for an intensive medical assessment.

“I suddenly went from being in a swish private hospital in Subiaco to a locked ward at Graylands without my son,” she said.

“I thought I had killed him.

“I had given birth just two days ago and no one, not one staff member told me what was happening to me. I felt nothing made sense and that nobody understood my distress. I was disorientated, isolated and alone.”

Ms Maslin fell deeper into psychosis and became delusional believing she had to pass a series of tests in order to escape Graylands.

“I felt like a wild animal running around trying to find a way to escape,” she said.

“I went to the big door in the common room and patted around the edges trying to find the secret exit button. In my mind, this was the way out of the locked ward. It was the most confusing night of my life and unsurprisingly I still did not sleep.”

Ms Maslin said Graylands was like a prison.

“The windows had bars on them and were locked shut,” she said.

“Patients were restricted from moving around, staff were behind a big windowed cubicle and patients had to wait their turn even to make a phone call.”

In the morning a psychiatrist recommended Ms Maslin be immediately transferred to the mother baby unit at Graylands.

“Nothing can describe the happiness I felt when I realised I had not hurt my son,” she said.

“But in my eyes I was fine and did not need to be hospitalised. However there were radical changes in my personality and a non-existent sense of reality.”

Two more days of manic behaviour followed and while in a deep psychotic state the doctor sat Ms Maslin down and delivered her diagnosis.

Post-natal manic psychosis. A severe, rare and little-understood condition that can cause a loss of reality, delusions and hallucinations. Left untreated or misdiagnosed it can prove fatal to mother and baby.

Over the next three weeks Ms Maslin slept for just one hour a night.

“The doctors and nurses were worried I was falling deeper into a delusional state,” she said.

“They tried to have me on the ward with my son so I could bond with him but I was too unwell. I was transferred back to a secure locked ward. I refused to take the medication that would bring me from the depths of mania back to reality. I was worried it would kill me. I just wanted to be home. Graylands is no place for a woman, let alone a new mother.”

Slowly the new mum started to emerge from her haze of manic psychosis.

“I had to be held down by four nurses in order to be given an injection to help me sleep,” she said.

“I did start to sleep. Four hours, six hours and then eight hours until doctors moved me back to the mother baby unit.

“Once again I was reunited with my son but I felt like a failure. I was heartbroken and ashamed and too frightened to hold him.”

Ms Maslin spent four months in the mother baby unit and with constant reassurance realised she was a good mother with a mental illness and medication and therapy was the only way to help control her bipolar disorder.

“It’s now been 13 years since the birth of my child,” she said.

“I have been well for 10 years and my son is my pride and joy. We have a close emotional bond and I love him unconditionally.”

Ms Maslin said she talks openly about mental illness to reduce stigma in the community.

“I now know that bipolar disorder is not a life sentence, it is manageable just like diabetes,” she said.

“Thankfully the mental health system has changed and new laws are in place to prevent what happened to me, happening to anyone else.”

In 2006 after another stay in hospital, Corrine was introduced to the Even Keel Bipolar Disorder Support Association.

“The team at Even Keel saved my life,” she said.

“They helped me develop and maintain the skills I need for daily living that enabled me to finally regain a sense of belonging. For many people, joining a support group is a major turning point in coming to terms with their mental illness.”

After three years of group support, Ms Maslin joined the not-for-profit as the office manager and in June 2017, was promoted to chief executive of the organisation.

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