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.