Confession Of A Medicated Mother

August 13, 2008

Julie of Mothergoosemouse – who graces this space today – is one of those amazing, formidable women who ooze strength and confidence and grownupness from every pore. If I didn’t adore her so completely, I might be a little bit afraid of her. Which would be silly, really, because I happen to know that she was as geeky as me in her youth (we bonded early over really obscure industrial goth bands) and that she remains as geeky as me in her adulthood (HELLO? we ar on teh intarwebs!!1!!) Also, that underneath that poise and searing intelligence she’s a big marshmallow. Like me. LOVE HER.

******

I do many things to take care of myself. I exercise frequently. I get regular medical and dental check-ups. I eat my fruits and veggies.

And I take 50 mg of Zoloft every day.

I’ve been taking Zoloft since Tacy was about ten weeks old. She’s in first grade now.

Long before I ever had children, I suspected that I might need outside assistance in managing my inner anxieties. I learned early on to carefully filter the questions I asked, the thoughts I voiced, the worries I admitted.

I tried talking with a few adults, but I never felt comfortable with any of them. I left all such conversations feeling as if I’d been melodramatic. I told myself that when I got older – out on my own, living independently – I would feel better.

And I did feel better. I felt much better.

Even so, I still felt a little off-balance.

But because I was in the Air Force, assigned to the Pentagon, working on nuclear command and control program, and had a security clearance above Top Secret, seeking any sort of psychological help meant risking the possibility that I might be forced to give up that job which I loved. My anxieties didn’t affect my job performance in the least – in fact, I was selected for positions typically held by officers with much more experience, and I was named Company Grade Officer of the Year – and I refused to risk those professional achievements simply for time spent in a therapist’s chair.

After leaving the Air Force and moving to New York with Kyle, I felt more and more off-balance. I did and said things that were irrational. But unlike before, I didn’t feel as if I might need help. On the contrary, I felt invincible.

I had to hit bottom after Tacy was born before I ever sought help.

After all the stressors that occurred during the pregnancy (including 9/11 – which struck the city where I lived and the building where I used to work – and unexpected job changes for both Kyle and me), plus a long and unproductive labor that resulted in an unexpected c-section, I was worn out.

Then I came home to a husband who worked twelve hour days with an hour commute on either end, an apartment that needed to be packed up within a few weeks, and a baby who cried if she wasn’t nursing or sleeping on top of someone.

I felt awful. I was snappish and controlling with Kyle. I cared for my baby, but I didn’t enjoy her. I went back to work and hid in my office. I grew more and more resentful until one day I realized that unless Kyle divorced me and my baby was taken away from me, my life couldn’t get much worse.

I’ve been on Zoloft ever since, except for about six months while pregnant with CJ.

I’ve managed with the help of my obstetricians, my primary care physicians, and a psychiatrist at a women’s clinic in New York.

It was with her that I first voiced my long-held objections to seeking therapy and considering medication. I was even comfortable enough to fully describe my anxieties – the irrational thoughts and worries that were perpetuated by my runaway imagination, which I felt powerless to control. The same anxieties that are muted considerably by even a low dose of Zoloft.

It was she who asserted that I truly didn’t have a need for ongoing therapy, that the medication provided the corrective action my mind required. It did exactly what it was supposed to. She did caution me that I needed to keep in close touch with my primary care physician regarding my dosage and how it was working.

And I have. My primary care physician here in Denver knows my history and takes time to question me each time I see her – at my appointments and when she sees the kids. Likewise, when I got pregnant with Oliver, both she and my obstetrician monitored me closely.

Kyle once asked, “What would I feel if I took one of your pills?” Not a damn thing, I told him.

My dosage is low. It doesn’t do anything more than tip the scales back into balance. My anxieties are still present, but they are muted. They are manageable.

I don’t talk much about my mental health or my medication. When I do, I keep it light. I joke about it a bit. It’s how I stay honest without making a mountain out of a molehill in other people’s minds. It’s also how I head off any well-meaning but unsolicited advice that might be offered.

But I’m glad other people talk about it, whether they joke or speak earnestly of their struggles. Little by little, it helps destigmatize the topic of mental health.

I don’t know other people’s back stories. I don’t pass judgment on their courses of treatment. I’ve given a brief snapshot here of my own back story, and I hope that no judgment will be passed against me.

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    { 46 comments }

    Anonymous August 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    thank you so much for posting this- I read it no less than ten minutes after I took my first dose of Zoloft in a long long time. I thought I was “fine,” but in the wake of major cutbacks at my job and a budget than can’t be whittled down anymore than it already has…I had begun to take it out on my family. I really needed this one. Thanks!!

    Issas Crazy World August 13, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Although I never judged (my mom being a therapist most of my life) I never understood the need for medication until last year. I didn’t know what it felt like to not feel in control of my emotions or moods. I hadn’t ever been in a place where I needed it. But I needed it last year and I need it now, for my well being; for my children’s well being. I hope to one day get off of it, but if I don’t I’m okay with that, because I know it’s whats best. My family and certain friends just think I should get over it, like getting over depression is so easy. I wish it was as easy as switching off the kitchen lights, but it’s just not.

    I applaud you Julie for talking about this and HBM for letting you use this space. Maybe if we keep talking about it (whether it’s depression, PPD, Anxiety or otherwise), our kids will find that it’s okay to talk about it, should they need to.

    Maia August 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing. This stuff needs to be talked about and de-stigmatized.

    Mayberry August 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Love you both. Love that you’re OK (awesome and amazing) and that you’ve found what you need.

    smiles4u August 13, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing so honestly from your heart. I am glad that you found something that balances life out for you. The most important thing is doing what you need to do for you and your loved ones. Yes, people can choose to judge you and yeah maybe some will, but who are those people? In my mind, they are ignorant and judge out of not knowing a damn thing about what it means to be in your shoes.

    I would like to think more people would support you because if people are truly honest, no one likes to feel like shit, and will do whatever it is that will help…weather it be medication to help balance the hormones, therepy, talking about things…and those that don’t do anything about it…those are the sad stories we see on the news…or they are the ones that use food, alcohol, recreational drugs, work…whatever is their fix, to deal with life. You are taking the smart road…for yourself, your husband and your children. Great post!

    Don Mills Diva August 13, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    I judge that you are a brave woman. I believe anti-depressants saved the lives of a few of my immediate family members – thanking for easing the stigma surrounding them and mental illness.

    Heather August 14, 2008 at 12:11 am

    No judging, just support!

    feefifoto August 14, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I fought persistent depression most of my life through many hours of therapy and repeating: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” I refused all offers of medication and took pride in the knowledge that any progress I’d made resulted from my hard work and not pharmaceuticals. Then, when my son was 5 and my daughter 2, I called my doctor for a prescription after canceling my wedding a month before it was to occur; my fiance had issued an ultimatum that I allow him to adopt my kids and change their names, and I felt that this would be the time for medical help if there ever was one. Six years later Zoloft takes the edge off my anxiety and helps me achieve a balance between calm and not-so-calm that I can live with. Knowing that I fought depression on my own for so long gives me a feeling of strength I wouldn’t have if I’d taken meds earlier.

    merlotmom August 14, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Absolutely no judgment. Just sympathy. I have been on meds since my second was born in 2000 (probably should have been before that but who knew?). I didn’t know what hit me and it took awhile to find the right pill and dosage but I KNOW it has helped me be who I’m really supposed to be. And I am grateful for them.

    ScientistMother August 14, 2008 at 1:24 am

    thanks for sharing. stories like yours help others to find the courage to seek help

    lildb August 14, 2008 at 4:32 am

    you KNOW I get it, Julie.

    all of it.

    Marinka August 14, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I understand and I’m right there with you. What I don’t understand is passing judgment on something like this. Do people pass judgment on people taking blood pressure medication? Why is our mental health some sort of a second citizen to physical well-being?

    Good for you for getting the help that you needed. And good for your family, too.

    Avalon August 14, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I don’t have any personal experience with what you speak of, but now I feel that I have a little bit more understanding.

    Thank you for that.

    Ms. Moon August 14, 2008 at 8:43 am

    At the age of 54, I have recently found myself suffering from a depth of depression and anxiety which no amount of self-talk, exercise, good food, etc., could touch.
    I put on my big girl panties and went to the doctor and begged for help. I am currently on the thirteenth day of an antidepressant and the anxiety has (blessedly) abated to a degree in which I can handle it.
    There are times when asking for needed help is the strongest and bravest thing we can do and we should be proud of that. Not ashamed in any way.

    Jerri Ann August 14, 2008 at 9:02 am

    I a big proponent of knowing the difference in a couple months of “feeling off” and a couple of years of depressive behaviors and anxiety. I loved this. You do such a good job of keeping it light as you said. Every time I get started on this subject I end up deep into it and wishing I knew where to cut it off. I’m passionate as I know you are, I just have busy fingers it seems.

    whensheworeponytails August 14, 2008 at 9:32 am

    That brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing that.

    I swear I could have written that with the exception of seeking help years ago. (and probably not quite as eloquently) It’s new for me and lately I find myself thinking “Wow, here she is. The girl (albeit older now) who isn’t so afraid of dealing with the world that she turns her phones off. I feel so much better. Not high. Not zombie. Completely like me. I haven’t ruled out therapy if my doctor wants me to do it but I honestly, at this point, don’t see a point. I feel alive again. No longer afraid to watch the news because of the anxiety attacks. No longer sitting in a pile of rubble in my house just wishing I could find the strength to care it was there. No more need for everyone to please just go away and stop yelling at my brain. And now I actually care if I eat healthy. I care if I exercise. I care! And I always did but shutting down felt so much easier. Just pretend not to care and then punish myself endlessly for my inability to function because obviously it was all my fault. I was just being weak.

    Thank you for speaking about your struggles honestly. It really DOES help. In the beginning I felt some “did I take the easy way out” type feelings. But today? I feel so much better that I don’t care if it’s the “easy way”. You bet it’s “easy”. Compared to the hell I felt I couldn’t escape prior? Totally easy. And I am so thankful.

    Again, thank you.

    'That Girl' August 14, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Sounds like you got the help you needed. HOw would we judge that?

    Kim/2 Kids August 14, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for sharing. I went on meds after the birth of my second daughter and I remember thinking “this is what it is like to feel normal!” I think I had been depressed my whole life. Nine years later it has become a part of my life and helps me deal with two busy girls and a terminally ill husband.

    Anonymous August 14, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Wow, thank you for posting this. The timing is eerie — I have an appointment with a psychiatrist today to get a prescription. Despite having nearly everything I always hoped for in life – a loving spouse and two beautiful children and a comfortable home and a secure profession — at 40, I still can’t keep my anxieties and sadness at bay, and it dampens my joy in everything. I’ve been depressed my whole life, afraid that meds wouldn’t help and that I would just be this way forever, which would be so unfair to my family and to myself. It’s so reassuring to read about your experience. Thank you.

    Suburban Turmoil August 14, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Very nice counterpoint- I am truly glad your life is back in order and your anxiety is under control.

    I’m also glad we can discuss our opinions with passion and politeness. :) This is truly “mommyblogging” at its best.

    Little Monkies August 14, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I was just thinking about this this morning as I called my doc to up my dose of Wellbutrin.

    Thanks to medication I am finally, after at least 20 years, living the life that I want without the constant burden of sadness and distress.

    I’ve written about it here:
    http://tinyurl.com/5l8khf

    And I feel strongly that I need to talk about depression and medication more with people I know. It’s been a remarkable addition to my life.

    I’m also reading Ghost in the House (or actually, finally reading it because it’s not so painful to read now that I am in better depression management). It’s a good book and makes you feel like you are not alone.

    Motherhood Uncensored August 14, 2008 at 10:58 am

    No one talks about the anxieties, the once fleeting thoughts that take over — what happens if someone breaks into the house, where will I run, where will the kids hide, can I climb out her window…

    It’s cycles around and around for me.

    I’ve mastered stopping them in their tracks, but the hormones and the spouse being away and the crazy kids — well, they jack things up.

    You sharing this gives people hope — whether meds are the right way, or therapy or a combo of the both, it needs to be out in the open.

    Motherhood is rewarding, but it’s damn scary. And sometimes that something extra is what gets us through into the next day.

    lavandula August 14, 2008 at 11:06 am

    mothergoosemouse you are awesome.what an honest and soul baring post. thank you for talking about this. and you right we need to destigmatize mental health issues. anyone passing judgement on you would just be so wrong. be proud that you were intelligent enough to get help where a lot of others would never do so.

    Tulipsanticipation August 14, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Since high school I have struggled with depression/anxiety issues off and on.
    My biological mother suffered heavily from postpartum depression and eventually committed suicide.
    Because of that I’m somewhat petrified to have children since it seems to run in the family (my aunt suffered from it as well).
    I’ve always dealt with my issues on my own, saw a counselor for a while, thought about going on something.
    I used to think I would be weak if I decided to take medication, but have since realized that if one day I decide it’s something I need, that is simply not the case.

    Laura August 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I’ve always believed that women judge other women, because, well, it makes them feel better about themselves! And we all want nothing more than to be in control. And so, if we can not do it on our own, and need something to help us cope, well, then, we have failed in some way. And people love to point out other peoples failures. Again…makes THEM feel better. I believe this, because I used to judge. Because I needed help.

    Thanks for your story. Everyone has one…a story. And we are all different. And we simply need to do what is best for us, and our families. Enough of us needing to feel like we have to take it all on, and all on our own.

    So good for you.No, GREAT for you.

    Irene August 14, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I take antidepressants, an anti psychotic, a mood stabilizer and 2 kinds of tranquilizers. You can’t tell by looking at me that I am on these medications, nor can you tell by talking to me or interacting with me in any other way. That is good. It means the medications are doing their job. I would be in bad shape without them. Thank goodness for them, that’s all I can say.

    Redneck Mommy August 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I’m applauding you Julie. Well written and frank.

    Thanks for sharing. The voices in my head also thank you.

    (Might be a sign I need to up my meds, but hey, they keep me company.)

    Wink.

    verybadcat August 14, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I have Panic Disorder. I used to take Zoloft and Xanax for it. Thought I sometimes still rely on the xanax to keep the worst of the panic at bay, I’ve figured out how to deal with it without the daily meds. How did I do it?

    Therapy. Lots and lots and lots of therapy. I just got back, in fact, from a therapy session.

    No one above me at work has any idea. I don’t need them thinking that I can’t handle pressure. Sometimes I wonder, though, if they wouldn’t understand me and my reactions to things a lot better if I told them. No one asks about my weekly 1.5 hour lunch break, though so I leave it be.

    I hope I see the day where the people who insist they aren’t crazy are the crazy ones we stigmatize.

    Britt August 14, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    me too

    ML August 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Anything I try to compose here sounds self-indulgent. 5 mg of Lexapro a day and reading a wonderful, thoughtful, generous post like this makes life so beautiful. Thanks!!

    Haley-O August 14, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Good for you for talking about it and contributing to destigmatizing mental illness — particularly as it affects women and mothers, etc…. Thanks for that. I definitely struggled with it — similar to yours (anxiety and runaway horrific imagination) during my first pregnancy — so I really relate to what you wrote. Thanks…. :)

    Trenches of Mommyhood August 14, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Certainly no judging here, as taking a low dosage of Celexa was exactly what I needed after the birth of my third (he’s now 3 and I still take it.) For me, it’s about managing that feeling of being SO OVERWHELMED and helpless to do anything about it.

    I never really speak of this on my own blog, for fear of being stigmatized. Silly, yes. But also realistic? Yes.

    kittenpie August 14, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve said it before and I say it again – if help is what you need to save yourself and your family from going to a bad place, it makes you a strong woman to admit that, move past the stigma about mental health, and get yourself back on track. Bravo, and I’m glad you have found the help that works for you.

    CaraBee August 14, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Well said, mothergoosemouse. I have struggled with these same issues, as have many women I know. Every time someone talks about it, it becomes easier for the next woman, wife, mother to seek out what she needs. Thank you.

    Wendy August 15, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Thanks for this post. I deleted my old posts about depression and medication because I was worried who might find the blog, what they would think.

    I guess I should be more open. I appreciate your honesty! It is very encouraging.

    What I say is, “I will do whatever it takes to be the best mom possible. I can’t be the best mom possible without this medication, so… gulp!” (that was me swallowing my pill)

    Magpie August 15, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Julie – I know of what you speak. I’m in the same boat – that 50mg is a life-saver.

    Izzy August 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I’ve blogged about about my mental health and need for antidepressants numerous times over the years and until recently, I thought I was the only one going through these things. I was never ashamed of what I couldn’t control but there was always a stigma. It seems that stigma is, indeed, starting to fade as more of us pull back the curtain. Finally! And thank you, Julie :)

    Lotta August 20, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Humor helps us diffuse what overwhelms us. Gives us a voice to vocalize what we are insecure about. Sometimes being innapropriately funny is all that keeps us from going over the edge. Laugh or perish.

    Though I think Sub. Turm. was insightful, I’m wary of any writing that might insinuate that joking about your med experience is the “wrong” way to talk about it.

    That hypothetical mom that joked about taking Xanax could very well be the same mom that wanted to stick her head in the oven a month ago. But somehow talking about her meds with a group of peers, even in the guise of a joke, helps her to feel not so alone in it all.

    We need to be be aware that casting any scorn around the “right” way to talk about depression/anxiety is dangerous. And can be just as powerful in driving people back under their rocks.

    Lotta August 20, 2008 at 1:50 am

    PS – Mother guilt is a STEAMROLLER. Mother guilt when you’ve had (or have) periods of “poor” parenting due to depression/anxiety can feel insurmountable.

    Some of the nervous “ha ha” around meds comes from a fearful place for me. I know someday it’s going to be me, a rocking chair, and a mental scrapbook of all my pre-medicated parenting. I’ve got to pace myself with laughter on this one.

    Jenny, the Bloggess August 20, 2008 at 6:49 am

    I’ve been on a variety of different meds for many years and I’m not sure if I’d be alive right now without them. If it keeps me living, I’m okay with it. And I’m more than okay with posts like this that destigmatize what so many of us deal with.

    You rock, Julie.

    caramama August 20, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Thank you, Julie, for sharing this. For helping to lessen the stigma of these issues. And good for you getting the treatment you need! It’s been vital to me to find the treatment (including therapy) I have needed and to recognize that my treatments might need to be changed.

    Anonymous September 2, 2008 at 11:56 am

    my whole life has been shrouded by depression and the tremendous guilt of why should I feel so bad when I am so blessed? I am currently pursuing the help i need and trying very hard to be truthful about it. People don’t always understand and yes the stigma is there. Thanks for this post. You have given me hope.

    Amanda September 2, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    No different than diabetes, simply putting in balance that which has fallen out of balance.

    Strong, strong woman.

    erin September 3, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    I have tried so many different things in the last 20 years to battle that looming black cloud. Finally after the birth of my second child (6+ months ago)I found the right happy pill combo for me…lexapro accompanied by welbutrin. Thank you for writing this post. I feel less lonely… You are a strong lady and a fantastic writer.

    Happy pills and help are gooood.

    Cathy September 7, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I needed it. I am almost five months pregnant and I am stressed beyond belief and I truly do not know how to relax and stop this constant frustrating anger. The dr put me on Zoloft even while pregnant with the hopes that I can function. I’m scared to death of having the “baby blues” once this baby is born…….

    Zoloft Prescription Medication February 19, 2009 at 4:16 am

    My name is Thomas Kane and i would like to show you my personal experience with Zoloft.

    I am 57 years old. Have been on Zocor for 3 months now. My experience is that there is a minimal dose required to be effective, and that there is a maximum dose above which the effectiveness wears off. At the proper dose, the effect is darned near magic. Whoever said that the generic is not as good as the real Zoloft is exactly right. There is a profound difference, and it’s not made up by increasing the dose. The drug acts very quickly, and the loss of sexual desire is almost immediate. I haven’t gained weight yet, but I can see how it would be possible. I have a yearning for donuts and recommend an aggressive program. Also, the combination with alcohol is seductive…watch out.

    I have experienced some of these side effects -
    difficulty maintaining a quality diet; difficulty getting up in the morning

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Thomas Kane

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