To help those of you that struggle with pre- or postpartum depression, or just everyday suck-the-will-to-live-out-of-you depression, I wanted to write about my overall experience with depression and, moreover, my experience with antidepressants. Why? Because, quiet frankly, there is not a lot of real information out there from real people. (But if you Google antidepressants, there is a HELL of a lot of misinformation out there from cray crays.)
So, why did I go on antidepressants in the first place?
Well, first of all, I was depressed. Second of all, I had the balls to do something about it. Needing treatment for depression doesn't mean that you are weak. It shows that you are strong enough to ask for help when you need it. I have had bouts of depression all of my life, even before I had children. Nothing huge or life-changing, just an overall dark-cloud-following-you-around feeling. Then I had kids...
After I had The Quiet Contemplator, postpartum depression hit me like a pile driver to the vagina. I went down and went down hard. Que the after-effects of having a baby in an already depressed person, take away all things that resemble sleep and add an infant that cried from about 3 pm to 8 pm, and you had me: one hot fucking mess of a mama. I lost friends, alienated the ones I loved, lost all sense of self-worth, etc. The only thing I managed to do right was to be a good mom. But that is all that I was. Outside of being a mom, I was a shadow of my former self.
Things got better after a while, but never got great. Then I got pregnant again. This time, I decided to take control before The Crazy Train of postpartum depression even left the station. I started antidepressants in the hospital right after I had The Cool Cucumber and had a prescription filled for when I got home. How did it go? Best. Decision. I. Have. Ever. Made. I was able to be the mom I wanted to be, and though there were hurdles (fuck you, colic and acid reflux), I was able to jump over them and land on my feet.
Well if antidepressants are so fantastic, why did I go off of them?
Many reasons. Money, wanting to be able to feel more grief over my brother's death, etc. But the biggest one was: I just felt like it was time. If it went horribly, I could go back on them, but I wanted to give myself a chance at being good enough again without the medication. I also felt like I couldn't really "feel" any severe emotions. I couldn't cry, whether it be for joy or pain and I needed some emotional relief to deal with my brother's death. Being on antidepressants is kind of like having emotional blue balls: you feel on the verge of an explosion, but the release never comes, and then you just feel annoyed and exhausted.
How is it going now that I am off the smack?
So far, so good. I don't feel the overwhelming dark cloud anymore, so the overall storm must have passed. Now, I just have to deal with the normal up and downs that are everyday life. I cried the other day when my daughter told me I was her best friend. On antidepressants, it would have just made me really happy. I feel a lot more of everything now, both good and bad. It is nice. If it gets to be too much, I will just go back on the smack for a while.
Now, let's talk about withdrawal.
Oh, no one told you about withdrawal when they gave you your shiny new prescription for happy pills? Yeah. Me neither. Most antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). WTF does that mean? Fuck if I know, all I know is that getting off of them causes withdrawal symptoms that suck donkey balls. Some of the wonderful parting prizes you may receive for playing? Nausea (yep, got it), headache (nope, sidestepped that landmine), dizziness (is that what they call it? I thought I was just FALLING OFF THE EARTH), lethargy (zzzzzzzzz…), flu-like symptoms (I was actually taking my temperature to make sure I wasn't really sick). I also was unable to sleep and when I could actually sleep I got horrible nightmares. BONUS! Withdrawal sucked BAD but it only took me about two weeks (though the fear-mongers on the internets told me it could take MONTHS). It is bearable knowing there is an end in sight.
What antidepressant(s) did I take?
I have taken Celexa before. It was ok. I liked it but never really felt it was doing all I needed it to do. I am sure it works wonders for others, it just wasn't the perfect fit for me.
When I wanted an antidepressant for after The Cool Cucumber was born, my Dr suggested Lexapro because it had less side effects than some other antidepressants. So, for seven months following his birth, I was on Lexapro. It was really a good fit for me. It did what I needed it to do and I didn't have any side effects.
So, knowing what I know now, would I do it all again?
Hell yes I would. Even with the emotional blue balls and withdrawal symptoms, going on antidepressants for my postpartum depression is still one of the best decisions I have ever made. They helped prop me up when I was really down and gave me the strength to make it through a really dark period. They also left me with the wherewithal to know it was time to go off of them and give myself a chance to be me on my own.
It is hard to be strong enough to take care of yourself when you really need it, but you can do it. The first step is to admit you need help. The next step is to find it. If anyone, I mean ANYONE has any questions about depression or antidepressants, PLEASE contact me. You don't have to go through it alone. I am here and ready to help in any way that I can.