There’s No Stigma in Healing

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?

photo credit: Augustine Press via photo pin cc

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23 Replies to “There’s No Stigma in Healing”

  1. Thank you Kathy for sharing your story. There is a special kind of hope in knowing that you are not alone in your heartache.
    My story is different from yours, yet the same, because of depression and the fear of treatment. I postponed treatment for years, but not because I thought I was alone. I worried about taking antidepressants because EVERYONE is on antidepressants so I thought they didn’t mean anything. It seems like no one understands how serious depression is, because everyone and their cousin has taken antidepressants, and some people didn’t need them anymore. Even my husband had been through therapy and used to take antidepressants, but he stopped taking them after a while and doesn’t need them anymore.
    Some people simply have to accept that we will probably be medicated for the rest of our lives. I’m afraid I am probably one of those people. Thanks to supportive family and friends, I have finally come to realize that it’s ok.

    1. I think life is so intense these days, and the reasons for people’s depression is varied and complicated. The more I talk about it, the more it does seem like everyone and their cousin has taken anti-depressants. Knowing that certainly helped me to feel okay about it. Once I started taking them, I realized how much I needed them before my son was sick. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Depression is not something I talk about much w/ my friends or family because they just don’t quite understand the hurt & frustration I deal w/ every day. I haven’t been on any medication for awhile now because we haven’t had any insurance & life has just been crappy! Like you…all I wanted was a big family & kiddos running around but had I known I would be struggling w/ depression at the same time I would have never had kids because it’s just not fair to them to have to deal w/ such an ugly person every day. I finally got insurance so I’m very excited to start anti-depressants & hope that I find something that works for me quick. Cause I’m exhausted!! But hearing stories like yours & knowing that I’m not alone helps tons & gives me hope! So thanks again!!

  3. Thank you for the refreshing and honest post. I myself have been on antidepressants on and off since I was 17 (I’m 27 now) and will probably continue needing them for the rest of my life. I came to terms with the fact I needed them long time ago, in my case…there is not one event that has brought it on, my brain manages to find different reasons to feel bad about… It’s annoying and very complicated but when when you understand it, it’s easier to deal with. The tabu about mental problems shouldn’t be there anymore and we don’t need to feel bad about needing a pill to treat (not craziness) but a simple chemical imbalance in our brains that is absolutely not our fault. If we have a head ache we’d take paracetamol, depression is an illness like any other and we owe it to ourselves, our children and families to treat it and look after ourselves whether it is with exercise, therapy, medication, wine (just joking) Me, I’m now very very happy someone once discovered SSRIs! And thank them deeeply for helping me feel like I’m supossed to!

  4. Kathy, I always love reading as you share your story and your struggles. As you said, it helps me feel more normal to know I’m not alone and I’m connected. Even without any extra awful (and especially with), it is so easy (again, as you said) to feel as though I’m “drowning”, and to be able to share some of the weight of this with others. A long struggle-er with anti-depressants myself, I felt like you had cracked inside my head and were writing my words for me–thank you, my friend.

  5. Oh Kathy, I’m so glad I found you through JD. I found myself shaking my head in agreement through this whole post. I lost my daughter and fought taking anti-depressants because I thought they would drown out the misery I was “supposed to” feel after her death. Now I know I have to take them and deal with whatever side effects come with my lexapro because they are survival for me. Sending you a million hugs.

  6. Couldn’t agree with you more on your comments. Thank you so much for being honest! Sometimes I feel like I’m the only women in the world that has these probs with motherhood. All of a sudden i dont relate to any of my lifelong friends anymore which makes me more depresses. This blog makes me feel like I’m not alone in a sea of smiley happy cookie cutter mommies that worship their children and never mention the fact that some days it feels like having kids ruined everything. It has even been a rough road with my husband because he doesn’t get why I’m not like all the other women. Why the super women wife he married crumbled when the kids showed up. I have a hard time understanding it myself. We are trying to hold on a talk more in therapy to understand each others perspectives without judgment. One day at a time everybody.

    1. Kids are a game-changer, for sure! Some of those cookie cutter moms are hiding something, too. I know I used to be like that – pretend everything was fine and wonderful. We think that’s how we’re supposed to be, when really it’s okay to admit we need help. Best of luck to you.

  7. Amen! This is a great post…thank you! After I started taking anti-dep last year, I realized I had been living in a fog for almost a decade. I had been the walking dead mom. I was so sad for my kids and my husband. I have no clue how I had made it through each day. I am still on my drugs and battle anxiety too. No plans of trying to get off of them any time soon. My family needs the best version and me and I've finally found it.

  8. Well done! I’m sorry to hear about your personal struggles and trials as well as the death of your son. You have my deepest sympathy.

    But what a great, brave thing to recognize that you need the meds, to keep taking them even when it was difficult to manage the dosing, and to realize that stigmas flourish in silence. We need to talk about our mental health with each other the same way we share our physical troubles.

    Wonderful post!

  9. Yesterday. Yesterday I finally told my doctor I NEEDED something. For years I’ve avoided it, had a vision that someone in the pharmacy was going to scream Prozac script for Herndon is ready. But yesterday I stepped up. I’m glad I did. I don’t know where this journey will take me (and I’m scared as hell at the list of side effects), but I knew it was time to get on board wherever it’s headed. But ssssshhh because I can’t really tell anybody because they’ll judge me and say I should be able to make it through life, it’s just life IT’S JUST LIFE, without the help of drugs. But you know what? Fuck them. They don’t know my life, they don’t know your life, and they damn sure do not know what either of us needs to cope.

    I’m truly sorry about Joey and I’m glad you finally have the right mix of meds. Of course I’m giggling that I would read this today just because of where I was yesterday. Thank you; I needed it.

    1. Hello, sweet lady. How are you feeling?

      I totally, TOTALLY know what you mean. You’re worried people would say (or perhaps you even say to yourself), “Why do you need drugs? Your life is great. Sleep, more, exercise, eat right, you’ll be fine. What’s the problem?”

      And to that I say – “Hey. You’ve got high blood pressure/diabetes/arthritis/thyroid issues/whatever medical condition. Why do you need drugs? Sleep, more, exercise, eat right, you’ll be fine. What’s the problem?”

      See what I mean?

      Depression and anxiety are medical conditions. MEDICAL conditions. And like many other medical conditions, it often needs to be treated with medication. So good for you for taking the leap. And to all the doubters: You got it: Fuck ’em.

      Hugs. Email/FB me anytime you want to chat.

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