A few months ago I would have given anything to be able to say that I was happy. Now, a week before Mother’s Day, I finally can. I remember during one of my meditations a random thought bubbled up about how on this Mother’s Day, I didn’t want anything else in the world other than to experience a true sense of contentment within my heart. A card, flowers, candy or even a special meal prepared by my loving husband just wouldn’t do. In that moment of clarity I experienced while meditating, I decided that for this Mother’s day I was going to love myself and do something that I probably should have done months ago.
On a particularly stressful day at work, I began to get very dizzy and experience chest pain. In college, I had a heart arrhythmia that would randomly trigger and I thought that, perhaps, complications from my past were beginning to surface again. I blew it off and decided to try to make it through the rest of my work day. As I was trying to hold it together while talking to a colleague, she began to give me a very worried look as all of the coloring left my face. I became extremely dizzy and almost passed out. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to see a doctor just to make sure I wasn’t having heart complications.
When I showed up at my doctor’s office, they assigned me to a someone new to make sure I was seen immediately. This was a blessing because it was this doctor who finally asked the questions that no medical provider ever had before.
She asked me about my labor and delivery, how I felt after having the the baby and how I felt today. I broke into tears when I told her about what I had gone through after having Winter and what it was like to live with intrusive thoughts. After she had ruled out that I wasn’t having any heart complications (thank goodness) she teased me in the most loving way and said, “A lot of my friends are psychologists and think they can just mindful their way out of depression, when sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, the depression will persist because it has to do with a chemical imbalance. I know you have said you have done so much work thus far, but have you ever thought about medication?”
The world went into slow motion as the words MEDICATION dripped from her mouth. I thought, “But I am a psychologist. I teach people all day long how to use coping skills. Why aren’t they working fully for me? If I start will I ever be able to get off? Will I gain or lose weight? What if we did decide to get pregnant. Is it safe?” The list went on and on and she answered everyone of my questions with a high-level of empathy and concern.
She told me that many of her patients who have experienced as bad of postpartum depression as I had become pregnant, deliver and even breastfeed, all while taking medication. I know that there may be some people reading this who think, “If she does have baby number two, would it be wise or responsible for her to continue doing this? Couldn’t she suck it up for the time that she is pregnant and breastfeeding?” If this is you, don’t fret or feel badly that you thought it, as I had this misconception too. Even as a mental health practitioner I have my own biases about medications that I am desperately trying to squash in my own head.
See, the reality is and the real question I had to ask myself is, “What is worse? Having a mother on medication or living with a mother who is depressed?” I think this is a really heavy question that I had to face head on-one that I mulled over for months, when, really, it was a lot easier to answer than I had initially thought.
Winter deserves a mother who loves herself and who doesn’t feel angry or have thoughts of suicide. She deserves a mother who can show up for her, that loves life and can lead by example that she is not above asking for help when she needs it. And moreover, I deserve this too. I deserve to wake up and not feel that sense of lingering agitation that used to live beneath my skin. I deserve to laugh without reservation and NOT fear that the laugh was just a fluke and the impending doom will soon return. I deserve to love myself and if taking five milligrams of medication is the trick to experiencing honest-to-god happiness, which in my opinion is a basic human need, then screw it, I am all in.
So, I am not ashamed to say it. My name is Terra and I take an antidepressant. I may get pregnant, or I may not, and I may or may not still be taking them.
It’s been about five weeks since I started and I can say that I FINALLY feel like a normal human should. I still do mindfulness, I still journal, I still talk to others including a counselor and I still breath a lot. I still have bad days and I still have many doubts and insecurities. I still get intrusive thoughts every now and then but damnit, I am alive. I am living and I am here; and most of the time I am fully present and enjoying the beautiful gift I have been given, the chance at a happy life with my family.
I will close with this quote:
NOTE TO MY READERS: It’s been a few months since I posted the article I wrote about my battle with intrusive thoughts and PPD. I had an overwhelming amount of responses. It was an honor to have so many people reflect and relate to my story, but I am still having a difficult time responding. Sometimes when I read the messages, I feel the pain behind the words that I am reading and when go to respond, I am triggered by my own experience and I get anxiety. I apologize if you are still waiting on me. I did read it. I do hear you and I hope to connect soon.
Photography By Brittany Renee'
**Disclosure: Please talk to your primary doctor about your specific experiences as I can only offer what I have been through and am not an expert on depression or medication.