“Take one of these a day.”
Two years and two weeks ago my doctor said this as he handed me a blister pack of anti-depressants.
I had told my health visitor how I was feeling a few weeks prior, but despite follow up visits from her and initial sessions with a PND counsellor, I was feeling much much worse.
The session with my doctor was much longer than a standard visit, as he listened to every fear, thought, and feeling that came tumbling out of my mouth. I had the misconceived notion that going on anti-depressants would mean I would have to stop breastfeeding. Despite not really enjoying it, I felt like it was one of the only things I was doing right so was reluctant to give it up. He answered my questions and disproved my concerns. The medication he was prescribing had been around a long time so was tried and tested. I left his office informed and determined.
I couldn’t start taking a full dose all at once. In order to minimize the side effects, I had to gradually build up to the level my doctor had prescribed. Then, once I reached that…nothing happened. We upped the dose again. I hadn’t wanted to turn to drugs in the first place and, with every passing day of feeling not even a tiny bit better, I wondered if I had made the wrong choice. I wondered if I was on the right medication. I wondered if medication was even going to help at all. I wondered if I just needed to snap out of it.
After several weeks on the proper level, I started to see improvement. It was a life altering relief.
There weren’t many peaks and there were numerous valleys, but I slowly began to get better. I was functioning in my daily life and exploring the many other aspects that come with battling postnatal depression. I’d been on them for over a year so even began wondering if the anti-d’s were redundant at that point. I convinced myself that the only reason I was still taking them was because I had been too
busy lazy to discuss with
my doctor the option of cutting down.
We went away for a long weekend to celebrate a family wedding. It was brilliant. I wasn’t anxious like I had been at previous outings so was able to relax and have fun for the first time in a long time.
I was having so much fun, I forgot my medication.
For 24 hours.
That night I ended up with a headache that would put a migraine to shame.
For the next week, I struggled, teetering on the brink of relapse. All from missing one measly day of pills.
I made sure to take my pills everyday but resented it. I felt like a failure. Surely I should have been fine. The “if only” game played in a loop in my head.
(Of only I’d reached out for help sooner. If only I’d worked harder at CBT, if only I’d payed for more therapy, if only I remembered self care)
Despite understanding that PND is an illness, I still felt like I should have been able to beat it without having to resort to pills. When I first reached out for help, I had known that I needed to, but in hindsight I wondered if I had just tried a little harder, or been just a little more prepared, I could have ensured that it had never gotten bad enough to need anti-depressants in the first place.
I worked at trying to forgive myself, to no avail. The #ppdarmy, full of love and guidance, gave me the virtual slap in the face I needed and reminded me, once again that
I DID NOT CAUSE THIS. THIS IS NOT MY FAULT. IT IS NOT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING I DID OR BECAUSE OF SOMETHING I SHOULD HAVE DONE.
I had an “Aha moment” and suddenly my fight changed. I stopped beating myself up. I stopped trying to make my body something it wasn’t or twist my brain to think in a way it didn’t. I accepted what the illness was putting me through, looked for ways to make it through the dark days, and took medication to help my body survive.
Somewhere along the way, recovery happened. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared.
Several weeks ago, I sat in my doctor’s office setting out a plan of action for cutting down my meds. To say I was nervous to start is an understatement. I hadn’t been eating well and insomnia had crept back in. Perhaps now wasn’t the time. My doctor smiled when I outlined all the upcoming life challenges that lie ahead for my husband and I. “How you’re feeling, Sandy.is quite a normal reaction to stress like that.”
Well I’ll be. Normal.
I think it’s pretty poignant to realize I had to accept that I needed the anti-depressants before being able to even contemplate living without them. There is the possibility that I’ll hit a point where I can’t decrease any further and I’ll have to continue to take them. I know that, if that happens, it’s because my body isn’t making something it needs, not because I failed or because I am weak. I know now that I am strong, whether I take a daily pill or not.
I’m six weeks into cutting down and my first week of one a day is almost up. I’ve been paying extra close attention to my sleep patterns and emotions, feeling nervous when I cry or yell or don't feel hungry, still scared of going backwards. I’ve made sure to focus on self-care.
I’ve had a few wobbly moments but the journey is good so far.