My name is Jessica Ekhoff and I am the author of Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania. I wrote this book because I wanted to share my experience with postpartum-onset bipolar disorder, mania, and psychosis, rare - and even more rarely discussed - complications of having a baby.
Before I had my son, Wells, in February 2021, I read every book about pregnancy and early parenthood I could get my hands on. I thought I was fully prepared to handle anything I might face in the postpartum period. But nothing prepared me for what ultimately happened.
Within a few days of having my son, I began experiencing a slew of bizarre and unexpected symptoms. I became paranoid that my husband, Dane, was trying to have DCFS take Wells away from me. I went through bouts of rage so intense that I blacked out afterward. My thoughts were so confused and disjointed that I started having trouble speaking, and I felt like I never needed to sleep.
The symptoms culminated in me locking myself in a closet at 2:00 a.m. and calling a friend to come and pick me up because I thought Dane was having a mental health crisis and I felt unsafe. Instead, an ambulance took me to the psychiatric ward, where I stayed for six days. I was ultimately diagnosed with postpartum-onset bipolar disorder and psychosis. What I had experienced was a severe manic episode, catalyzed by the combination of postpartum hormones and the lack of sleep that comes with parenting a newborn.
When I came home from the psychiatric ward, I desperately searched for firsthand accounts from other mothers who had gone through what I was going through and survived, but I found almost nothing. Experiencing extreme mental health struggles during what was supposed to be a joyful time was incredibly isolating. I felt like no one would ever truly understand my experience or be able to relate to me.
Six months after giving birth to Wells, and two months after being discharged from an intensive outpatient group therapy program for pregnant and postpartum women, I started putting my story on paper. What started as journaling meant to help me process my experience slowly turned into a memoir. I decided I wanted to write the story I wish I could have read during the hardest, loneliest time in my life.
My hope for the book is that it will give readers a broader understanding of the full range of mental health challenges that can result from having a baby. I want readers to come away with an extra layer of empathy for the new mothers in their lives. Most importantly, I hope other women who have experienced postpartum-onset bipolar disorder or psychosis feel seen and less alone, and that they understand there is a path to recovery.
"With this pioneering memoir, Jessica Ekhoff bravely shines a searching and unsparing light on postpartum-onset bipolar disorder. With page-turning prose and zippy dialogue, this book reaches far beyond its source material, raising the big questions: How do we help a loved one in crisis? And how do we pick up the pieces and help ourselves when life has dealt us an insidious hand?"
"In Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania, Jessica Ekhoff gives readers a front-row seat to the mental illness that gripped her right after her son was born. In her harrowing story, Ekhoff must come to grips with the mania and psychosis that intruded on what should have been the happiest, if most tiring, days of her young family's life. Ekhoff's memoir delivers readers, not only a hell of a story, chock full of loving and memorable characters, but also a hefty dose of hope."
"With skillful writing and sometimes devastating candor, Jessica Ekhoff provides something that has always been in short supply: a perspective from inside a mental health crisis, full of the high stakes and internal logic that can be baffling to the uninitiated. It's one thing to intellectually know what mental illness is, but it's quite another to learn what it feels like to live within it and that's what this book does. Super Sad Unicorn is a valuable resource toward a deeper and better understanding of a profoundly human experience that is more common than most people realize."
"A brave piece of writing written by the most loving of advocates."
"Jessica Ekhoff skillfully explores a rarely discussed phenomenon - how pregnancy and childbirth can spark a mental health crisis. Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania is an unflinching and fast-paced account of a new mother's struggle to care for her child while grappling with her own unexpected mania. Harrowing and heroic."
"Much has been written about postpartum depression. But in clear and lucid prose, Jessica Ekhoff shines a light on the rarely-discussed opposing phenomenon: postpartum mania and psychosis. Super Sad Unicorn is sure to enthrall anyone interested in mental health, motherhood, or recovery from life's unexpected challenges."
"This is a must-read for parents, mental health professionals, and any medical provider that works with pregnant and postpartum families."
"Jessica Ekhoff's story is fascinating, important, and covers a topic rarely discussed publicly. In bravely vivid detail she recounts her terrible descent into postpartum bipolar/psychosis with depth, precision and a dark sense of humor. There are moments where you don't know whether to laugh, cry or both."