For every reason

Last spring, I started taking an antidepressant.

It very literally changed me, saved me, rescued my family, my marriage from a place that no one liked, from a depth so deep I didn’t recognize how far down it was until I was out of it.

I went to the doctor back then under the guise of wanting a physical. Really, I wanted a buoy. I wanted to be brave enough to tell someone who might be able to help how bad things were. I wanted to no longer lay in my bed and cry for no reason. I wanted to be tolerant, patient, calm all the time with my sweet children. I wanted my husband to continue to love me. I no longer wanted to be that thing everyone tiptoed past, in case she lost it. For no reason.

For me, of course, it wasn’t no reason. It was every reason. It was the pancakes I made that didn’t turn out. It was my husband, who is amazingly great, not putting his hand on my knee while we watched TV at night even though I had touched his arm. It was that dream job I used to have but lost because I made a stupid, ego-driven decision. Because I didn’t listen. Because I was dumb. It was everything. It was nothing.

So I talked to the doctor. I was brave. I cried for about half an hour. She listened like a girlfriend. I told her I missed Omaha. I told her about that job. I told her about my kids and my husband and my I’m-not-ever-enough fear. She told me to take the medication.

I didn’t. I filled the prescription and let it sit in our medicine cabinet for about a month and a half. The little things that were nothing things continued to grow in my mind. I continued to not handle life very well.

I continued to feel bad about myself, about my behaviors, about my emotions. I continued to unintentionally damage my marriage and my family.

Finally, I decided: What do I have to lose? Take the pills.

And I did and within three weeks, that hole became shallower, that low became higher. By summer, I felt what I suspected normal must feel like. I no longer fixated on things that didn’t really exist. I suddenly had an ability to let things go that I’d never had before. I still sobbed til the point I couldn’t speak when I dropped my kids off with their dad for his month-long visit last summer. But I recovered quickly. Within 15 minutes, I felt stable. My mind was clear.

Life was good. Even my husband will tell you, the past seven months have been as close to what he hopes our lives will feel like as they’ve ever been.

It’s OK to take medication, if you need it. It’s OK to ask for help. Don’t be a hero, my friend back home reminds me.

But then I got pregnant and then I googled “Celexa and pregnancy” and then I panicked. Cleft lips, cleft palates, withdrawal symptoms in the newborn, persistent pulmonary hypertension (a serious lung condition), heart defects … they’ve all been linked to Celexa use in pregnancy.

I asked my OB, who said, “Yes, those risks exist, but your baby might suffer those birth defects anyway.” I asked my OB, who said, “I’d recommend you stay on the medication.”

Well. I didn’t. I stopped taking those pills that saved my family from myself. And now, about a month later, I’m back down in that hole in the corner of my bedroom in the dark. Those thoughts about things that don’t matter take up too much space in my head. I cry like I used to. I’m a mess. It has not been fair on my husband or my children.

Once again, I miss Omaha, I miss momaha, I miss my friends like I can’t breathe. Kyle says, “Take the medicine. I’m worried about you. This is our affecting our family.”

So today I went back to that doctor, that medical therapist almost, who so kindly listened to me cry in her office last year. She said, “Take the medicine.”

And so this afternoon, on Valentine’s Day, I’m trying to remember how clear it all feels when I’m on the medication, how better our lives are, how it’s OK to accept the help that fixes the chemical imbalance in my brain, the one that isn’t my fault, the one I can’t control on my own no matter how much I tell myself to suck it up and be strong and get through it.

I’m trying to trust in the universe that if I take the pills I need to be who I truly am, my babies will be OK. Please, let them be OK. Let us all.

The doctor gave me a lower dosage of the antidepressants. Those pills are waiting for me at the pharmacy.

I am going to pick them up… probably tomorrow.

As I left the doctor’s office this afternoon, I took off my winter coat. The sun was shining, and though the streets and yards are still muddy and dirty and wet, I can tell spring is coming.

It’s just around the bend.

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6 thoughts on “For every reason

  1. Be kind to yourself. The old saying goes, “treat others like you would like to be treated.” I’d like to modify that for you, my friend. Treat yourself like you would like to be treated. Proud of you for seeking help. You are in my thoughts.

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    • Take care of yourself so you can take care of those you love. I took the meds for 10 years. Was it too long? Maybe but they saved my life. When I made a conscious decision to come off it wasn’t easy, I bounced back and forth a couple of times. But I’ve been medication free for a couple of years now. I know what my triggers are; the things I have to watch for. I also know how I can take care of myself to stay on an even keel. I still have bouts of bad days that bring me to my knees and I have a safety net in place if I ever find the days turning into weeks. But they don’t. No one who hasn’t been down this path can ever really understand it. But those of us who do know that you’re not weak or crazy or anything else. You are wise and brave for doing something very difficult. You’re going to be okay and because of you, your family will be too.

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  2. Veronica- First, you are doing the right thing. Second, I have been almost exactly where you are. I was on Lexapro for years, mild but persistent depression seems to be just part of my genetic make-up, and went off it when I got pregnant. It was not pretty. Part of the reason our two kids are so close together is that I was trying to stay off the meds while pregnant or trying to get pregnant and I knew I would not be able to sustain that for long. Pregnancy was a pretty horrible time for me- I was unbearably sad then inexplicably angry. My husband said he felt like he was walking on eggshells around me for 2 years. By the end of my second pregnancy I was frighteningly close to hurting myself or checking into a psych ward. Sometimes I felt like my body was made of lead and I could not move myself off the kitchen floor where I was sobbing or staring at nothing. I went back on the meds immediately after my daughter was born but in the days before they kicked in I was fairly convinced that my husband and kids would be better off if I just left. He would find a better wife and my kids were doomed with me as their mother- someone else would do a better job. I had read the scary articles about possible birth defects, etc. I have a science background so I read scary things in neuroscience journals. But in the end my midwife had the best perspective on the situation. The science that is available shows there MIGHT be a small affect of the meds on rates of birth defects etc. but there is a LOT MORE evidence that having a depressed mother can negatively affect kids. As my midwife said: “your baby needs a functioning mom most.” In retrospect, I wish I had stayed on or gone back on the meds sooner. I would have been a better mother to my first born in his first year. I would have been a better partner to my husband. I wouldn’t have missed out on so much joy and I wouldn’t have dug myself so deep a pit to climb out of. I am sorry you are having to deal with this, but I think you are doing the right thing. Congrats on the pregnancy, I am so happy for you. Hang in there and if you ever want to get decaf coffee or anything I think you have my e-mail. If not, keep an eye out for me a preschool.

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  3. How did I miss this blog?! Ugh I think I read everyone within moments of you posting it:) Missed this one completely.

    Sending love to you, my friend. See you soon.

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