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What Have I Done?: An Honest Memoir About Surviving Post-natal Mental Illness

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This is a raw and honest memoir about being devastated by post-partum psychosis and coming through the other side. Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn't wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery - all these things This is a raw and honest memoir about being devastated by post-partum psychosis and coming through the other side. Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn't wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery - all these things piled up until Laura (like any new mum) felt overwhelmed. As many as 8 out of 10 new mums struggle in the weeks after birth. In Laura's case these feelings escalated scarily quickly into post-partum psychosis. She became paranoid and delusional and had to be institutionalised for a fortnight without her baby. Throughout this time she was haunted by a sense of: 'What have I done?', at first as she wondered if she could cope with her baby, and later because she was trying to grasp at reality as she slipped into nightmarish delusion. Laura's experience was devastating but this is a hopeful book. Not only has Laura slowly recovered she has come out the other side stronger and more assured about parenting on her own terms. Now she is determined to break the silence around post-natal mental health and with her story tell new parents: you are not alone.


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This is a raw and honest memoir about being devastated by post-partum psychosis and coming through the other side. Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn't wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery - all these things This is a raw and honest memoir about being devastated by post-partum psychosis and coming through the other side. Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn't wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery - all these things piled up until Laura (like any new mum) felt overwhelmed. As many as 8 out of 10 new mums struggle in the weeks after birth. In Laura's case these feelings escalated scarily quickly into post-partum psychosis. She became paranoid and delusional and had to be institutionalised for a fortnight without her baby. Throughout this time she was haunted by a sense of: 'What have I done?', at first as she wondered if she could cope with her baby, and later because she was trying to grasp at reality as she slipped into nightmarish delusion. Laura's experience was devastating but this is a hopeful book. Not only has Laura slowly recovered she has come out the other side stronger and more assured about parenting on her own terms. Now she is determined to break the silence around post-natal mental health and with her story tell new parents: you are not alone.

30 review for What Have I Done?: An Honest Memoir About Surviving Post-natal Mental Illness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    ARC received in exchange for an honest review. Please note I don't star rate memoirs/biographies. What Have I Done? feels like it so much more than just a memoir about post partum psychosis and depression. Laura Dockrill bares her heart and soul to tell her story about what happened to her following the birth of her firstborn son. Going from an idyllic pregnancy to spending time on a ward away from all her loved ones, and unable to care for her child. The guilt and agony, the anxiety and hopeless ARC received in exchange for an honest review. Please note I don't star rate memoirs/biographies. What Have I Done? feels like it so much more than just a memoir about post partum psychosis and depression. Laura Dockrill bares her heart and soul to tell her story about what happened to her following the birth of her firstborn son. Going from an idyllic pregnancy to spending time on a ward away from all her loved ones, and unable to care for her child. The guilt and agony, the anxiety and hopelessness are so real and so honest to read about that I couldn’t put this down – no matter how difficult I found it to read. This brought back a lot of emotions and feeling from my own heady days of owning a newborn. And I’ve gone through it three times. The lack of sleep, the anxiety that you’re going to harm your baby (and that anyone has been stupid enough to leave this tiny human in your care), the complete lack of knowledge about what you’re doing. You’re mourning the loss of the woman you were before – and that’s ok to do. I don’t think anyone takes to motherhood easily. It’s a short, sharp shock to the system and this memoir brought it all rushing back. Every last sleepless night and sobbing, hormonal mess of it. Laura’s experiences go beyond this however, with her psychosis leading her to believe that everyone was talking about her, that a giant teddy bear was spying on her. That the world was conspiring to take her baby away from her. A baby she couldn’t bond with. Coupled with intrusive thoughts that told her how awful she was, and convincing her to kill herself. It was heart-breaking to read about, but Laura is brutally honest with every scene she retells, and I found that to be such an incredibly brave thing to do. I felt that she was baring her life story, every awful memory, to a close friend. I felt like I grew to know Laura well, and I desperately wanted her to get better – much like her family do within her memoir. You can see how much they deeply care for Laura, and how desperate they wanted her to recover from her illness. This was such a traumatic yet refreshing read. So often we see these images of the ‘perfect’ mother on social media, or read articles about what mothers ‘should’ be. It all adds to the guilt of being a parent, of feeling inadequate. Laura’s memoir is a reminder that the road to motherhood is not a smooth one, and takes many diversions, but she has come out of the other side as a stronger person. Her experiences with psychosis have not defined who she is. It’s a story that needs to be more widely heard and talked about – it’s a story that could help so many others suffering from mental illness as it shows the power of acceptance and the road to recovery. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet. There were so many moments I could personally relate to (especially with regards to anxiety) and I just want to thank Laura for having the courage to write this, and making me believe in myself and owing my motherhood.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Dockrill is a British children’s author. Her style reminded me of others of her contemporaries who do a good line in light, witty, warts-and-all, here’s-what-it’s-really-like-to-be-a-woman books: Dolly Alderton, Caitlin Moran and the like. From a labor that quickly deviated from her birth plan due to an emergency Caesarean to the usual post-baby blues to full-blown psychosis, Dockrill recreates her experience with fluid dialogue and italicized passages of her paranoid imaginings. Her memoi (3.5) Dockrill is a British children’s author. Her style reminded me of others of her contemporaries who do a good line in light, witty, warts-and-all, here’s-what-it’s-really-like-to-be-a-woman books: Dolly Alderton, Caitlin Moran and the like. From a labor that quickly deviated from her birth plan due to an emergency Caesarean to the usual post-baby blues to full-blown psychosis, Dockrill recreates her experience with fluid dialogue and italicized passages of her paranoid imaginings. Her memoir resembles Catherine Cho’s Inferno (reviewed with this, plus one other memoir of postpartum depression, on my blog) in its broad strokes but also in certain particulars, like imagining surveillance cameras and hearing a voice in her head telling her she is a bad mum. I skimmed this one because of a library deadline and because of an overload on similar content. I had a greater affinity for Cho’s literary style compared to the more between-girlfriends, self-help bent of this memoir. With the glossary and resources at the end, though, I’d say this one would be more useful for someone going through the same thing. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anna Dawson

    A searingly honest and brave account of trauma, resilience and recovery. This was very difficult to read at times, but Dockrill’s graphic and unflinching candour is valuable and necessary.

  4. 5 out of 5

    zoe

    The best book I have read this year. So honest, raw, inspiring, insightful and brave. A book everyone needs to read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emma Rowson

    I suffered with PND after the birth of my son in 2013. I’ve tried to talk about it openly, and I’ve found comfort in reading novels which focus on PND. However, I’ve discovered that there is a marked difference between reading a novel, in which a fictionalised character suffers, to reading a memoir. I hadn’t appreciated that there would be a difference. I know that those authors have either suffered themselves, or have ensured that they’ve done intensive research before writing their novels. But I suffered with PND after the birth of my son in 2013. I’ve tried to talk about it openly, and I’ve found comfort in reading novels which focus on PND. However, I’ve discovered that there is a marked difference between reading a novel, in which a fictionalised character suffers, to reading a memoir. I hadn’t appreciated that there would be a difference. I know that those authors have either suffered themselves, or have ensured that they’ve done intensive research before writing their novels. But fictionalisation provides some distance and this was bone achingly raw. I felt every word. It’s without doubt the book I wished I had back then as a first time Mum. Living in Essex at the time, with my husband working demanding London hours, and my family and friends a three hour car journey away, I was so alone. The only people I knew were the other NCT Mums, all of whom seemed to adapt easily (I later discovered that this wasn’t the case) and were living the new baby dream after their picture perfect births. I, on the other hand had suffered a pretty traumatic premature birth which had resulted in my son suffering an injury to the head as they wrestled him out of me in an emergency situation, and requiring a week in an incubator in the NICU. I couldn’t bond with him and although I said the right things and cared for him as I was expected to, I didn’t feel anything for him and I despised myself so intensely, that I think, even to this day, I’ve never really gotten over that feeling of self loathing. It took the most incredible of Health Visitors to encourage me to seek help. But even then I didn’t help myself. I always picture the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in my memories when I think of the male counselor I was assigned to. I used to leave his sessions feeling elated that I’d outsmarted him. That I’d led him to believe I was doing ok. I wasn’t. I refused medication and I lied in every session about how I felt. Playing a role. Why – because I was so ashamed. My life was a constant role-play back then. I didn’t tell my family until months later, my friends until, in some cases years later. I had friends who were desperately trying for a baby, and I beat myself up for being so selfish. I had friends who were incredible parents and so I beat myself up for not being more like them. Hating myself became as normal as breathing. Even now, there’s a residual guilt that nags at me. As I said, I try and be open now and I’m a huge advocate of normalising the realities of motherhood, in fact, it was my experience that first propelled me to go back to university and get my MA. I wanted to write about something that mattered to me. I wanted to help other women, other mothers. This is the book I wish I had written, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I could have written it, just because it has made me realise how, over time, I’ve made my experience fit into a narrative that suits. When I find myself talking about it, I always say that I had PND ‘mildly’. It’s a lie that I almost believed until I read this. How many of Laura’s experiences brought back memories that I had tucked away? How many times did I read and gasp, because I had cut away how I felt at a certain time. I’ve made my experience more palatable for human consumption and it’s only now that I realise how in trying to talk about it in this way, I’m actually part of the problem. I’ve reduced what I lived through in order to make others, and myself feel more comfortable. And so, I applaud, cheer and throw every virtual hug and kiss I can towards Laura Dockrill, because I can appreciate just how hard this must have been to write. And yet, throughout it’s hypnotic to read. She’s warm, witty and just exactly the kind of woman you wished was your friend. She never feels sorry for herself, she owns what happened to her and is so courageous in speaking out about it. Although a tough read emotionally, it’s been an incredibly cathartic read – more so than I think any other book I’ve ever read. It’s helped me realise that I still have so many unresolved emotions and I could benefit from speaking to someone. Most importantly, it’s provided me with a feeling of solidarity and unity. I’ve felt so long feeling alone, that to put a face, a name and an entire memoir to another mother who went through something so terrible at a time which is sold to us as being ‘joyous’, is weirdly comforting. And of course, the author suffered with Post-Partum Psychosis, an illness so severe that it is classed as a medical emergency. The clarity with which she describes her emotions at the height of this illness astounded me. Her recovery process was particularly interesting and I really took heart from it. I bought a ton of books when I was pregnant which preached at me how to be a good mother. They instructed on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, naps, sleep routines, swaddling (or not to swaddle), bathing, massaging. I’ve learned that not one of these books was in any way, shape or form any use to me as a new parent. They made me anxious (even more so), they made me feel inadequate and they made me feel as if I was getting motherhood so screamingly wrong that my son was bound to grow up to be the twenty first century’s answer to Jack the Ripper. If I could go back in time, I’d burn every single one of those books, and replace them with this one. This is the single most important book about being a mother I’ve ever read. Non-judgmental and most importantly, not in the slightest annoying. It’s just one mother talking to countless others and saying that it’s ok not to be ok, and that in fact, the bloom of new motherhood is actually, in most cases, a stinking lie. A book I recommend to all women (and their partners). I loved this book harder than I could ever convey with mere words. Thank you Laura for sharing your story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Agustina Dates

    This book is about postpartum psychosis, which is related to postpartum depression, but even if you have not suffered from it, the book is very relatable to anyone who has had mental health issues or knows someone that has. The way she narrates, how she explains how her brain was processing everything that was happening after such a frightening birth, made her reactions and fears make sense, even during the darkest moments of her journey. I appreciated the fact that she says that one of the main This book is about postpartum psychosis, which is related to postpartum depression, but even if you have not suffered from it, the book is very relatable to anyone who has had mental health issues or knows someone that has. The way she narrates, how she explains how her brain was processing everything that was happening after such a frightening birth, made her reactions and fears make sense, even during the darkest moments of her journey. I appreciated the fact that she says that one of the main things leading ultimately to her recovery was reading books about other people's experiences with mental health, as I find myself reading very therapeutical. Loved her family and partner and how much support they all gave to her. I also appreciated the practical advice as well, especially at the end of the book. Highly recommend this book, especially during Mental Health Awareness month!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fabulous Book Fiend

    I feel very lucky to have been able to listen to this book on audio. I pre-ordered the audiobook of this memoir because I knew I wanted to read it in Laura’s own words and having her tell me her story herself was truly a powerful experience. It's definitely the best audiobook experience I have had in a long time. This book is raw and open and honest and tough to read at points but it is so necessary and I am in awe of Laura Dockrill for sharing this story with us. I feel like not enough people t I feel very lucky to have been able to listen to this book on audio. I pre-ordered the audiobook of this memoir because I knew I wanted to read it in Laura’s own words and having her tell me her story herself was truly a powerful experience. It's definitely the best audiobook experience I have had in a long time. This book is raw and open and honest and tough to read at points but it is so necessary and I am in awe of Laura Dockrill for sharing this story with us. I feel like not enough people talk about the mental health surrounding new mothers. People talk about baby blues and that is generally dismissed and yet there is such a need for this to be taken more seriously and for people to speak up about their experiences because this is such an important time in the lives of any family. There are definitely moments in this book that could be triggering for anyone who has been through childbirth, new mothers or anyone who has struggled with mental health in any way so do exercise care when picking this book up. If you are able to though, i highly recommend giving this a read because I learned so much about the way mental health is viewed in new mothers, the way the health service in England deals with concerns of a new or expectant mother as well as very personal thoughts and feelings from this writer during her period of recovery. It almost feels wrong to be ‘reviewing’ this book because this is someone’s personal experience and therefore is valid in every possible way. So this review is basically me recommending this read to anyone who feels able to pick it up. It is an incredibly powerful read and I am sure it will be helpful and definitely a source of comfort to a great many people.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    A few years ago, I attended a course where Laura Dockrill was a guest speaker; promoting her children's book - Darcy Burdock. Playing to a room full of jaded teachers, prepped on reheated morning pastries and instant coffee, we eyed her suspiciously. Who was this whirling dervish of electric blue eyeliner, pink lipstick, waving arms and energy? None of us had signed up for some 20-something drama student to come and 'do-a-turn' in these precious (school-funded) hours away from the classroom. An A few years ago, I attended a course where Laura Dockrill was a guest speaker; promoting her children's book - Darcy Burdock. Playing to a room full of jaded teachers, prepped on reheated morning pastries and instant coffee, we eyed her suspiciously. Who was this whirling dervish of electric blue eyeliner, pink lipstick, waving arms and energy? None of us had signed up for some 20-something drama student to come and 'do-a-turn' in these precious (school-funded) hours away from the classroom. And then, before my very eyes, the mood changed. Charming, vibrant, loveable and so so honest, Laura Dockrill, singlehandedly, transformed the room and the energy within. So, to read this latest contribution to the shelves of all good bookstores, was at once an honour and a heart-break; I can only imagine what that experience must have been like for her husband, family and friends so accustomed to the magnetic colourful chaos she spreads like unicorn poo as she floats through a room. Not 4 weeks after the birth of her son, Laura is cruelly felled by post-partum psychosis and 'What Have I Done?' is a raw and brutally honest, 'not-for-the-faint-hearted' account of her clawing back to the new reality that motherhood presents. In recognising that this 'maternal mountain' is a significant map-marker in any woman's life, whether blighted by mental illness or not, gathers us all towards her in a sweeping embrace; "Many mums feel they pushed their personalities out of their bodies along with their baby, they feel lost, and are trying to somehow put their old selves back together.' And it is not only Laura's honesty that's magnetic: it's the humour; the painful tear-stained guffaw; the heart-in-my-mouth, difficult-to-swallow, eye-stinging grimace that caused me to plough through the pages without coming up for air. Be it as they await Jet's birth; "I felt like 'baby' couldn't be further from budging. It was like he'd been sucked up the chute of my body like a tiny Augustus Gloop in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' or, chimpanzee-like, he was hiding high up in the lofty reaches of my rib-cage, legs clinging to my organs." or the stark heart-wringing acknowledgement in lists of things she feared prior to Jet's birth, including,"roads that wrap around mountains, The dark, Sleeping on my own, Streatham. Touching chalk with my nails or teeth...People not liking me for no reason. Being left out." The book opens with endorsements from various medical experts and fellow post-partum survivors. Fiona Tel writes that Laura "at times is so colloquial that we feel we know her, or we want to know her: for her bravery in writing this book, for her humanity, for her sisterhood." Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Dr Jessica Heron adds that "this book has so much to offer to anyone who reads it, whether they be a pregnant woman, new mother, partner, midwife, or someone recovering from mental illness." Again yes, though I would probably just edit that note to say; "this book has so much to offer to anyone". A final note: At the end of her presentation, Laura revealed that one enamoured child had invited her to her next sleep-over; she regularly wrote personal replies to inquisitive young-writers and was presently working her way through as many titles from classic fiction as she could pull from the shelves. As Laura signed a copy of 'Darcy Burdock' for my book-worm daughter, I both invited her to MY next sleep-over and suggested she read the incomparable 'Anne of Green Gables'. Suffice to say, she is still more than welcome and I have a copy here you can borrow Laura, in case you haven't managed to lay your hands on one yet. :) My thanks to netgalley, the publisher and Laura Dockrill for sharing an advance copy of this book with me in return for my honest opinion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Madeleine Black

    This is such a powerful memoir that at times it felt I was inside the head of the author as she spirals out of control. She paints a very honest picture of what post partum psychosis looks like and so many times I wanted to dive into the pages and hold her. She is hospitalised when her newborn baby Jet, is just a little over three weeks old. What shone through was the love from her family, friends and partner Hugo. I was so grateful she was surrounded by so much love and grateful for Hugo. He's a This is such a powerful memoir that at times it felt I was inside the head of the author as she spirals out of control. She paints a very honest picture of what post partum psychosis looks like and so many times I wanted to dive into the pages and hold her. She is hospitalised when her newborn baby Jet, is just a little over three weeks old. What shone through was the love from her family, friends and partner Hugo. I was so grateful she was surrounded by so much love and grateful for Hugo. He's a keeper! It was so profoundly written, I know this book will stay with me for a long time. "As the comic and activist Hannah Gadsby said, ‘There’s nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.’ I’ve proven to myself that I am the strong and ferocious brave woman I always wanted to be"

  10. 5 out of 5

    Philippa Mckenna

    This was a tough book to read. The author gives an honest and brutal account of her battle with postpartum psychosis, which hit her like a tsunami following the birth of her son, Jet. My heart went out to her, her husband, her son and her wider family who absolutely stood by her with unstinting love and support. It was a real eye opener. I didn't even realise postpartum psychosis existed. How any woman goes through this and then goes on to have other children is beyond me. Women such as Laura Do This was a tough book to read. The author gives an honest and brutal account of her battle with postpartum psychosis, which hit her like a tsunami following the birth of her son, Jet. My heart went out to her, her husband, her son and her wider family who absolutely stood by her with unstinting love and support. It was a real eye opener. I didn't even realise postpartum psychosis existed. How any woman goes through this and then goes on to have other children is beyond me. Women such as Laura Dockrill are lionesses. Thank you, Laura for your story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    SadieReadsAgain

    After an uneventful pregnancy, Laura's labour and birth were not as she had envisaged and she was left shell-shocked and incredibly sleep deprived. Even in this postnatal fog, Laura and those around her started to observe very out-of-character behaviour which was more worrying than the baby blues and which could not even be explained as postnatal depression. What followed was the rapid onset of a mental health crisis which saw Laura becoming so unwell she had to be hospitalised. This deep dive in After an uneventful pregnancy, Laura's labour and birth were not as she had envisaged and she was left shell-shocked and incredibly sleep deprived. Even in this postnatal fog, Laura and those around her started to observe very out-of-character behaviour which was more worrying than the baby blues and which could not even be explained as postnatal depression. What followed was the rapid onset of a mental health crisis which saw Laura becoming so unwell she had to be hospitalised. This deep dive into postnatal psychosis is harrowing and unnerving. Dockrill is searingly honest about her experience, and at times I had to come up for air. As someone who also has mental health issues, I felt how thin the line can often be between good and ill health. Laura's retelling of her time in psychosis and treatment felt almost touchable, and so this was not always a comfortable read. However, she also holds your hand as you walk with her through her memories, reassuring you of her recovery and the light that does exist at the end of the tunnel for any woman going through a similar experience. She is funny and has such a warmth to her writing, that it is almost as if you're sitting with her in her living room, sipping coffee as she talks directly to you. It's a rough ride, but a vitally important story to be shared. I was sent a Netgalley of this title from Random House UK in return for a review. All opinions are my own.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pratiksha

    When I first started reading this I found Laura's writing style really jarring and I couldn't get into it. I was thinking this really isn't the book for me. But I persevered and ended up devouring this in 2 sittings. Wow, I am so glad I read this. It is something that I do not relate to at all! But that didn't impact my enjoyment of the book whatsoever. It is so raw, so vivid, and such an honest portrayal of a traumatic labour and postpartum psychosis. Something I knew nothing about! I knew you When I first started reading this I found Laura's writing style really jarring and I couldn't get into it. I was thinking this really isn't the book for me. But I persevered and ended up devouring this in 2 sittings. Wow, I am so glad I read this. It is something that I do not relate to at all! But that didn't impact my enjoyment of the book whatsoever. It is so raw, so vivid, and such an honest portrayal of a traumatic labour and postpartum psychosis. Something I knew nothing about! I knew you could get post-natal depression but I didn't realise postpartum psychosis was also a condition. At times this was really hard to read and it also made me cry. I really appreciate that Laura wrote it and it was a really eye-opening read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)

    A fascinating first person account of Post Partum Depression and Psychosis. I listened to the audiobook which is an amazing experience. Laura Dockrill's performance really adds to the work. You hear her pressured speech, her emotion all the more in her voice. The last section is a guide to helping yourself, helping others through anxiety, depression and psychosis. And a great A-Z guide to Self Care. Fabulous advice, there's a whole lot of wisdom there. A fascinating first person account of Post Partum Depression and Psychosis. I listened to the audiobook which is an amazing experience. Laura Dockrill's performance really adds to the work. You hear her pressured speech, her emotion all the more in her voice. The last section is a guide to helping yourself, helping others through anxiety, depression and psychosis. And a great A-Z guide to Self Care. Fabulous advice, there's a whole lot of wisdom there.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clair Sharpe

    This is best selling author Laura Dockrill’s story of her experience with postpartum psychosis and I’m so glad to be able to share this review during Mental Health Awareness Week. After having a normal pregnancy, Laura and her partner Hugo were excited to meet their new baby, a boy they named Jet. But after a traumatic birth in February 2018 when Jet was delivered by emergency caesarean section, Laura began to suffer from anxiety. She was worried about Jet, she couldn’t sleep and she took a long This is best selling author Laura Dockrill’s story of her experience with postpartum psychosis and I’m so glad to be able to share this review during Mental Health Awareness Week. After having a normal pregnancy, Laura and her partner Hugo were excited to meet their new baby, a boy they named Jet. But after a traumatic birth in February 2018 when Jet was delivered by emergency caesarean section, Laura began to suffer from anxiety. She was worried about Jet, she couldn’t sleep and she took a long time to physically recover from the birth. These experiences are not unusual in a new mum and are often referred to as the baby blues. But for Laura, these feelings escalated scarily quickly into post-partum psychosis. Within a matter of days, Laura was suffering from paranoia, hallucinations, delusions and suicidal thoughts. When Jet was just three weeks old, on Mother’s Day, Laura was institutionalised. I saw Amanda from Bookish Chat and Clare from Years of Reading Selfishly shouting about this book on Twitter about what a powerful read it was and I wanted to read it right away! But I knew if I bought a physical copy it, it would sit on my shelf for months before I got round to reading it. So I decided instead to listen to the audio version which is narrated by Laura herself, and I think it was an even more powerful story because of it. Laura’s narration is wonderful – how she is able to read out some of the experiences she went through astonished me and it is heart wrenchingly honest. She is a remarkable woman – so very brave to talk about her experiences. There is no sugar coating – the truth about postpartum psychosis is brutal and shocking. Laura details how she felt about her partner and her family, whom were all very supportive, but whom she thought were conspiring against her. She talks about how she was convinced a giant teddy bear that had been gifted to Jet was spying on her. How she was convinced her father in law was trying to hypnotise her. About her distrust of the doctors and health visitors she saw in the lead up to her stay in the psychiatric hospital. She talks in much distressing detail about how she planned her suicide, all with seemingly matter of fact planning. Such an amazing story, it is nonetheless distressing to hear about how what should of been a joyous occasion turned into a nightmare for her and her family. To be able to share her story and her recovery with the world is a remarkable achievement.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vix Standen

    An incredibly important book; one which I feel everyone should read. I had no idea about the existence of post partum psychosis until Laura’s essay last year, and was incredibly interested to learn more about it. I’m so grateful to Laura for writing this gut-kicker of a book and hopefully educating many more people about this horrible, horrible illness.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alyce Hunt

    Wow. The word 'honest' really is the perfect descriptor for Laura Dockrill's What Have I Done?. In fact it's pretty impossible to review, because it's filled with raw emotion and is an extremely candid look at the way that post-natal mental illness (particularly postpartum psychosis) can completely destroy what should be the happiest time of your life. As a mother of two, I found myself thanking my lucky stars that both of my births were (comparatively) easy to Dockrill's experience, and that I w Wow. The word 'honest' really is the perfect descriptor for Laura Dockrill's What Have I Done?. In fact it's pretty impossible to review, because it's filled with raw emotion and is an extremely candid look at the way that post-natal mental illness (particularly postpartum psychosis) can completely destroy what should be the happiest time of your life. As a mother of two, I found myself thanking my lucky stars that both of my births were (comparatively) easy to Dockrill's experience, and that I was able to enjoy the first few months with both of my chunkos. Post-natal depression was one of my biggest fears during pregnancy - I've always suffered with anxiety and suffered with depression when I was younger - so to see the way that it impacted someone who came from a background with no mental health struggles was eye-opening and filled me with so much sympathy for anyone experiencing any mental health issues following a birth. I read the first half of this book in one sitting, wincing and flinching as Dockrill described the birth of her son Jet, but the second half of the book is so hard to get through because Dockrill's desperation, pain and paranoia seeps from the page straight into your soul. If you've experienced post-natal mental illness and want to read the experiences of someone who is in the same boat as you, I highly recommend this one, but alternately if you just want to learn more about this misunderstood aspect of motherhood then I'd recommend it too. Dockrill does a brilliant job of raising awareness of the differences between post-natal depression and postpartum psychosis, and her honest recounting of her experiences with therapy and medication shows that it is possible to get better, and there are cures out there - no matter how impossible a return to 'normality' might feel at the time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayleigh Hills

    I’ve needed a few days since finishing this book to gather my thoughts; it has resonated so deeply with me and I want to do it justice. I first encountered Laura’s experience in the article she wrote for Clemmie Telford’s Mother of All Lists’ blog; her experience of trauma (and the process of identifying it as such) struck me as an area of parenting that needs to be taken notice of. Often, books are described as “raw”, “honest” or “important”. This book is all of those, but so much more. It give I’ve needed a few days since finishing this book to gather my thoughts; it has resonated so deeply with me and I want to do it justice. I first encountered Laura’s experience in the article she wrote for Clemmie Telford’s Mother of All Lists’ blog; her experience of trauma (and the process of identifying it as such) struck me as an area of parenting that needs to be taken notice of. Often, books are described as “raw”, “honest” or “important”. This book is all of those, but so much more. It gives colour to the blur of new motherhood and explores the darkness and isolation of Post Natal Depression and Post Partum Psychosis. It includes insight from those around her and how these particular illnesses affected them as individuals and in their relationships. This book is unlike any other about motherhood, parenting, mental health or antenatal care that I’ve read, and her story needs to be known. Laura writes with honesty and without regret - instead, her acceptance of what happened (and the understanding of why it might have taken its grip) is strengthening . Her account is brutal at times and there were moments that I connected so deeply with that it brought me to tears. Her writing shows that she completely owns what happened to her, despite her not being responsible for it; I think that is an incredibly important lesson for anyone who has experienced challenges in their own mental health. This book is so necessary and needs to be read by women, partners, those involved in antenatal and postpartum care and those in a position to shape the future of these areas of healthcare. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to review this ARC. Bigger thanks to the author for sharing her story, the impact on her family and their recovery from it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    I’m in awe of Laura and this masterpiece of a memoir. Laura is the definition of authentic. This book is so raw, truthful, terrifying, and powerful. Laura says that writing this book helped save her life and I’ve no doubt that this book will save many others. I’m so glad I listened to the audiobook version and heard her story exactly as she intended to tell it. Like most people, I’d never heard of postpartum psychosis before until I read Laura’s blog post that went viral a couple of years ago. T I’m in awe of Laura and this masterpiece of a memoir. Laura is the definition of authentic. This book is so raw, truthful, terrifying, and powerful. Laura says that writing this book helped save her life and I’ve no doubt that this book will save many others. I’m so glad I listened to the audiobook version and heard her story exactly as she intended to tell it. Like most people, I’d never heard of postpartum psychosis before until I read Laura’s blog post that went viral a couple of years ago. The illness is still so misunderstood and not a great deal is known about whether it has a cause but since reading Laura’s book I now understand what can happen and how I could potentially help someone or recognise symptoms in myself. The book is scary to read but it is also hopeful. Laura was seriously ill but she got better. I feel very emotional having finished it! Not only does Laura have an important story to tell but she’s an amazing writer with such a unique voice. It’s hard to imagine that she actually wrote this on her phone whilst recovering from a near-death experience and taking care of a newborn baby. HERO! Congratulations Laura on an amazing book and thank you for sharing your story with the world. Even the parts that were extremely hard for you to remember let alone write down. You are making a massive mark on the world. When Jet is old enough to read this he will be so ridiculously proud.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Woods

    This is a horror story. Unfortunately it is true. Thankfully my days of childbirth and early newborns are over, but I can fully emphasise with Laura’s account of her pregnancy which had gone so well, up until her overdue date. Not only was her son’s birth traumatic, but Laura's sleep deprived state and feelings of being detached and horrified at leaving behind her pre-motherhood self was also distressing and brutal. This is an area few Mothers feel they can own up to. You have a healthy baby, you This is a horror story. Unfortunately it is true. Thankfully my days of childbirth and early newborns are over, but I can fully emphasise with Laura’s account of her pregnancy which had gone so well, up until her overdue date. Not only was her son’s birth traumatic, but Laura's sleep deprived state and feelings of being detached and horrified at leaving behind her pre-motherhood self was also distressing and brutal. This is an area few Mothers feel they can own up to. You have a healthy baby, you are in one piece. Why should you complain? But Laura didn’t complain, knowing she had to live up to the expected ideal. In her head however, the damage was being done. Post-partum psychosis is a rare and debilitating illness. Within days Laura became paranoid, delusional and suicidal. What helped Laura through this was not just medical intervention, but love and support from her whole family. Laura’s own attitude of acknowledging what was happening and eventually acceptance she need not feel guilty as she’d done nothing wrong. This experience shatters the romanticised expectations of perfect motherhood, and says to parents ‘you are not alone’. It can only help everyone in this position, of being close to others in this situation, and to the health staff who care for patients who suffer, often silently.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    Laura sent me a proof copy and there is no way I could keep quiet about it until then! This book will change lives. This book will save lives. Laura speaks completely openly and without filter about her experiences with postnatal depression and the terrors of postnatal psychosis. It allows such an incredible insight and she has managed to put into words thoughts and feelings I can only begin to imagine the complexity of. Not only honestly broaching the topic of her own illness, Laura offers help an Laura sent me a proof copy and there is no way I could keep quiet about it until then! This book will change lives. This book will save lives. Laura speaks completely openly and without filter about her experiences with postnatal depression and the terrors of postnatal psychosis. It allows such an incredible insight and she has managed to put into words thoughts and feelings I can only begin to imagine the complexity of. Not only honestly broaching the topic of her own illness, Laura offers help and advice to those who are supporting their loved ones through their own struggles with mental illness. Which is something I personally don’t think is spoken about enough, the description of just how incredible her husband was (although not without a huge impact on his own mental health) made me cry. What Have I Done is a must-read for absolutely everybody. Seriously. You can pre-order now and you definitely should. Trigger warnings for suicide, psychosis, and severe mental illness. #20SecondBookReview

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Flood

    Laura is a fantastic writer and frankly this book is so unbelievably amazing, I shed tears at times. The basis of the book is on how she was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis - she tells her experience so fully and doesn’t hold back, that is so commendable and open as I’ve never read someone be so honest and frank with no holds barred. It touches on the subject of depression, anxiety and depersonalisation, something I myself have experienced since I was 12. Laura never had any depression or an Laura is a fantastic writer and frankly this book is so unbelievably amazing, I shed tears at times. The basis of the book is on how she was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis - she tells her experience so fully and doesn’t hold back, that is so commendable and open as I’ve never read someone be so honest and frank with no holds barred. It touches on the subject of depression, anxiety and depersonalisation, something I myself have experienced since I was 12. Laura never had any depression or anxiety before the birth, but it explains through her therapy how trauma in a humans life can set that off - it really can affect anyone at any time, talking about this is so important and this book is so so important. I loved the A-Z of self care at the end. Some very good food for thought on coping mechanisms and where to get help. Such a honest memoir, Laura’s an admiration.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Stubbs

    What a brave book. As one of the reviews says, full of “guts and humour that breaks a conspiracy of silence”. I loved this book and read it in two sittings. Although pregnant with my second baby, it didn’t scare me but made me feel more empowered. I definitely related to some of the things Laura listed in one of the early chapters - things that might happen to you after the birth that no-one tells you about - when I had my first daughter and it felt good reading about those feelings. Laura’s sto What a brave book. As one of the reviews says, full of “guts and humour that breaks a conspiracy of silence”. I loved this book and read it in two sittings. Although pregnant with my second baby, it didn’t scare me but made me feel more empowered. I definitely related to some of the things Laura listed in one of the early chapters - things that might happen to you after the birth that no-one tells you about - when I had my first daughter and it felt good reading about those feelings. Laura’s story went different to my own but I enjoyed the book regardless and would highly recommend it to other mums-to-be.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sanja

    I’ve not read anything as true and as insightful as this since giving birth 8 months ago. The experience of childbirth, which I retrospectively view as a trauma - both for the baby and for the mother - is so often trivialised, with ‘you must be the happiest you’ve ever been’ and ‘is this the nicest time in your life?’ type comments. And this is not entirely benign, as this idealised notion of what it’s like to be a new mom makes actual new moms feel even weirder and more alone, if they’re experi I’ve not read anything as true and as insightful as this since giving birth 8 months ago. The experience of childbirth, which I retrospectively view as a trauma - both for the baby and for the mother - is so often trivialised, with ‘you must be the happiest you’ve ever been’ and ‘is this the nicest time in your life?’ type comments. And this is not entirely benign, as this idealised notion of what it’s like to be a new mom makes actual new moms feel even weirder and more alone, if they’re experiencing difficulties. We need many, many more books like this, and a complete shift in culture when it comes to how we treat the postpartum period.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I received this book from Netgalley I read this book in one night. It's a powerful, at times triggering and important read. I suffered from PND and PTSD after a traumatic birth nine years ago, and I'll be honest, parts of this book brought it all rushing back. I cried at the part with Jet's BCG and had to put it down for a bit. But it's such an important book, postpartum mental health needs to be talked about more, having a baby is such a monumental thing to happen to a woman, physically and mentall I received this book from Netgalley I read this book in one night. It's a powerful, at times triggering and important read. I suffered from PND and PTSD after a traumatic birth nine years ago, and I'll be honest, parts of this book brought it all rushing back. I cried at the part with Jet's BCG and had to put it down for a bit. But it's such an important book, postpartum mental health needs to be talked about more, having a baby is such a monumental thing to happen to a woman, physically and mentally. I'm glad I read it and I'm so glad Laura recovered.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Tusinski

    This is as honest as honest can be. Laura gives us a first hand view of her postpartum psychosis. Raw, unflinching and unapologetic. Sheds light on mental illness, she takes it out of the darkness because that is where it likes to live. At times I found myself heartbroken for her and her family. This book isn’t sugar coated to make it go down easy. It is a story of the unexpected appearance of mental illness and the fight to claim her life back. Well worth the time to read and share with friends This is as honest as honest can be. Laura gives us a first hand view of her postpartum psychosis. Raw, unflinching and unapologetic. Sheds light on mental illness, she takes it out of the darkness because that is where it likes to live. At times I found myself heartbroken for her and her family. This book isn’t sugar coated to make it go down easy. It is a story of the unexpected appearance of mental illness and the fight to claim her life back. Well worth the time to read and share with friends.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gabby Reynolds

    A totally honest, raw and eye-opening first-hand experience of postpartum psychosis. Post-natal mental health is a subject that is not talked about enough, nor are we able to recognise the symptoms of it. Laura Dockrill has documented her personal experience with postpartum psychosis and how it affected every aspect of her life. It is a totally gripping and intriguing memoir that I could not put down.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Laura Dockrill speaks candidly about her experience of postnatal depression. She writes in such an honest and expressive manner. I think this should be required reading for all, as most people have encountered or will encounter a woman who has recently given birth. Thank you Laura Dockrill for educating me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    Holy hell. Devoured in a day. Half a box of tissues later. Everyone involved in maternal mental health should read this. I thought I had battled my demons from my PND, but wow this bought some stuff up. Am absolutely exhausted from the soul shaking sobs. I absolutely saw myself in some of Laura's thoughts. Searing writing. Amazing. Holy hell. Devoured in a day. Half a box of tissues later. Everyone involved in maternal mental health should read this. I thought I had battled my demons from my PND, but wow this bought some stuff up. Am absolutely exhausted from the soul shaking sobs. I absolutely saw myself in some of Laura's thoughts. Searing writing. Amazing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tara O'sullivan

    Raw and brave and powerful, this memoir of postpartum psychosis is compelling and vivid. The writing is fluid and bold, shining an important light on an often misunderstood condition. Really strong and powerful stuff.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    It’s raw, and honest and brave, brutal in places and filled with fear and hope and love. I sped through it, wishing Laura better. It’s incredibly brave of her to share this experience, so thank you Laura.

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