New mum suffers post-birth psychosis that made her believe she was Limitless like Bradley Cooper – and went nine DAYS without sleep
A new mum felt she had taken a real-life ‘Limitless’ pill like Bradley Cooper in the hit film when she suffered extreme psychosis after giving birth.
Holly York, 30, barely slept for nine days after little Leo was born and felt like a superhuman who was constantly on cloud nine.
She whizzed around the house at 100mph – changing nappies, feeding the baby and keeping it immaculate – as husband Adam, 31, watched on in amazement.
The first-time mum had developed a severe case of postpartum psychosis but the mania had terrifying consequences.
Holly, a personal trainer, was sleep-deprived and paranoid and suffered vivid hallucinations – including seeing her own dead body on the kitchen floor.
She was eventually sectioned under the Mental Health Act after feeling she wanted to slit her own throat.
Holly’s symptoms mirrored those of Bradley Cooper’s character Eddie Morra in the 2011 thriller Limitless after he takes ‘smart drug’ NZT-48.
The fictitious pills allow him to harness all of his brain’s power, enabling him to learn languages in seconds, solve complex sums and do everything super quickly.
But, like Holly’s illness, which affects one in 1,000 new mums, they have scary side-effects including hallucinations and memory loss.
Holly, of Corsham, Wilts., said: “Every single bit of my personality was exaggerated. I’m very sociable and happy and that was all exacerbated.
“I was running around the house saying, ‘I’m limitless, I’m limitless.’ I literally thought I was Bradley Cooper.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got the best job in the world, everything is coming naturally and instinctively to me, I’m the best mum in the world’.
“I was on the ball and I felt like I had an IQ of 1,000. I felt like I could have language overnight.
“Because I’d so much energy I was running around cleaning the house. I felt like I had taken a drug – like ecstasy, or something.
“I was having these crazy highs and talking at 100mph at my husband. I just didn’t know what was going on.”
Holly said her inability to sleep combined with a lack of support from NHS professionals to make her paranoid.
“I kept referring to myself in the third person. There were two of me in the house – a good one and a bad one.
“On day nine the bad one made the good one slit her throat and I was dead on the kitchen floor.
“I had to step over my dead body – I still get flashbacks. It was a nightmare. It was horrific, but I couldn’t tell anyone.
“On the day before I was diagnosed I got Adam to hide everything sharp, like knives and utensils.”
Holly had little Leo on September 6 – her first wedding anniversary – in a ‘hypnobirth’, where the woman ‘breathes’ their baby out and everything went well.
But things went downhill when a midwife showing visitors around the NHS birthing centre in Chippenham, Wilts. walked in on Holly in the bathroom.
Over-tired and feeling violated, she kicked off and when staff told her she’d be sleeping in a room with another family that night she decided she’d had enough.
Holly and Adam and their baby left the next day but over the next week and a half she said she was displaying all the telltale signs of postpartum psychosis.
But despite numerous appointments with midwives and medics she wasn’t diagnosed until nine days later.
The night before she was sectioned, Holly called the birthing centre and pleaded for help from medics but was told it was out of hours.
Adam dialled 999 and paramedics came but said there was nothing they could do and when police arrived they said the same thing.
Holly, who believes her illness was triggered by the incident at the birthing centre, said: “No one was helping me and I had reached breaking point.
“They left me and Leo and Adam in the house together, alone, overnight.
“Adam also hadn’t slept in days and was sleep deprived. We were two crazy people.
She and Leo spent the following 13 days at Southmead Hospital’s mother and baby unit where she was given anti-psychotic drugs.
Medics deemed Holly well enough to go home last Wednesday.
She is now considering taking legal action over what she says was an “unacceptable” delay in being diagnosed.
Adam, a trader at an energy company, said: “I don’t know how they didn’t pick it up sooner – there were clearly identifiable signs.
“We had never heard of it before. We were lucky that Holly was aware – she knew she needed help and wanted help.
“People in the same situation might not ask for help.”
Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness that can affect a woman after having a baby and can trigger hallucinations and delusional thinking.
Dr Kathryn Bundle, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Southmead’s Mother and Baby Centre, said: “If left untreated, PPP can be very dangerous and it is possible that the woman may harm herself or her baby.
“It is generally regarded as a psychiatric emergency.”
Helen Blanchard, director of Nursing and Midwifery at Royal United Hospitals, said: “We’re very sorry that Holly feels let down by our service at the Chippenham Birthing Centre.
“Our priority is always to give the best possible care to mother and baby.
“We are in contact with Holly to understand and learn from her experiences.”
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust refused to comment specifically on Holly’s case.
But a spokesman said: “We welcome the opportunity to raise the profile and awareness of postpartum psychosis.”