A guest post from Kathy at Kissing the Frog
My blogging friend, Kathy, and I seem to share a brain at times. This post that she generously wrote to share with you all on Honest Mom is one of the many reasons I adore her and her blog. She’s an amazing, honest, wonderful writer. Please do visit her blog – Kissing the Frog – where she blogs about what life is *really* like after all your dreams come true: The good, the bad, the sad, and the funny.
Today, Kathy is giving us her perspective on managing depression and her decision to take antidepressants when facing the type of loss all parents fear so deeply – and how she found peace with her choices.
If you have ever taken anti-depressants in your life, you know it’s not a decision to be entered into lightly. From cost and side effects to fear of addiction and social stigma, there’s always something to consider.
For me, struggling with depression in my twenties, it was the social stigma. Only crazy people took anti-depressants. And I wasn’t crazy. Sure, there were days on end when I didn’t get off my parents’ couch, make an effort to look for work, or change out of my pajamas, but that didn’t make me crazy.
I actually had a paralyzing fear of life itself. A fear that none of my dreams would be realized, a fear that nothing would work out as I had planned, a fear that I would never be happy.
A fear that told me I wasn’t good enough anyway, so why even try? I felt . . . hopeless.
I wouldn’t consider therapy, either, even though my doctor urged me to go and gave me some therapists’ names. Crazy people also sat on couches.
Apparently depressed people lie on their own couches all day.
Eventually things did work out for me – I got a job, was accepted into a prestigious Master’s Degree program, and eventually met the wonderful man who would be my husband. I thought things were finally looking up. See, I didn’t need that therapist after all.
But a year into my marriage, everything snowballed at once – infertility, bed rest, a baby with a birth defect, an unexpected move across the country. A rapid-fire succession of events was coming at me, but I was determined to knock them out of the park and not let depression get its hold on me again. I had a family now; they needed me.
Fast forward to April of 2009. We were back in our hometown. We had four little boys under the age of five, and I was drowning. Their energy, their activity, their sheer presence every time I had a moment to myself was driving me crazy.
But again, I thought I couldn’t talk to anyone. I had wanted this life with a houseful of kids, and I had it. Only horrible moms resent their children, yell at them, and pray for something to change.
But then, something did change for me. One of my five-year-old twins was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Someone actually looked me in the eyes and said, “Your son will die.”
Even then, oh my gosh, even then, I thought I could get through it myself. Everyone asked me what I needed, gave me cards with support groups and grief counselors’ names.
They even suggested I go on some sort of medication to get me through the tragedy that lie before me.
And, still, I refused. What would people think?
It wasn’t until my sister-in-law, a nurse, handed me the bottle of Lexapro, that I finally began taking an anti-depressant.
After all, I had a good excuse now.
Slowly, I gained more strength, more energy for the journey ahead of me. I was no longer dragged down by this wet blanket of grief that sent me running from the room to cry every time Joey’s cancer was mentioned.
Instead, I was surrounded by a wall of comfort that cushioned my feelings. They were still there, but they were softer and fuzzier.
Perhaps a bit too dull, actually. I found that, taking the recommended ten milligrams per day, I couldn’t cry even when I wanted to. I barely cried at Joey’s funeral. I still wonder if that was from the Lexapro (and Xanax) I was taking, or if it was from the months of anticipation readying myself for the inevitable.
I stayed on the medication after Joey’s death, with the thought of weaning myself off. But every time I missed too many pills, I would collapse into either a crying or yelling mess.
I realized that the medication was also helping with that feeling I was having before Joey’s diagnosis – that feeling of drowning in my own life. Every time I felt like the walls were closing in, I would lash out at my sons. Only now it was worse. There was the feeling of: Why are they here and Joey is not?
I obviously didn’t want to feel that way. I didn’t want to keep taking the meds, but I didn’t want to mistreat my family either. So I played with doses, listened to my body, talked to my doctor, and found a dose that works for me.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go off Lexapro. I certainly don’t like gaining weight, having a low sex drive, and feeling hot All. The. Time. But I also don’t like the darkness that fills my mind and makes me feel hopeless and angry and sad either.
I know there are some people who would say, “Why don’t you just exercise more/sleep more/eat better/find a hobby?”
But anyone who struggles with depression knows it’s not that simple. Because depression is not that simple. Some people know exactly why they feel the way they do. Some people have no clue why. Some people know what makes them feel better. Some have yet to discover their salve.
Once I thought it was okay to talk about taking meds (because, remember, I had an excuse), I was surprised to learn how many women were taking them and their varying reasons.
One had horrible post-partum depression. One was dealing with a traumatizing childhood incident. One, my own sister, was just dealing with life. She told me, “I would look at a hand towel in my bathroom and start crying because it was blue, and I didn’t want it to be blue.”
Talking about it and writing about it helps me. It helps me to know that other women struggle, too, for the same reasons I do and for different reasons. I know it’s okay to talk now. I know I am not “crazy” for feeling the way I feel and for taking medication.
None of us are. We are women and moms dealing with a whole new ball game. So many responsibilities, so much social media pressure to be perfect and do it all. But we know, in our smart heads and our beautiful hearts that that’s just silly. Nothing is perfect, and it doesn’t have to be.
So we do whatever we have to in order to be okay with that – let some house work go, drop a commitment, go back to work, stay at home, get healthier, end a relationship, take medication, refuse medication, talk to our friends, blog about it.
There should be no stigma in healing, no matter how we choose to do it.
Thank you so much, Kathy, for your beautiful post.
Like Kathy, I recoiled at the thought of antidepressants and therapy in college when I was struggling with depression. It wasn’t until I was slammed with PPD after Gracie that I took the plunge into taking SSRIs and going to therapy.
Have you hesitated to take antidepressants or go to therapy when you’ve struggled with depression? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum?