If you search the internet for real life experiences in taking anti-depressants namely Lexapro you will find reams and reams of forums. Most will have negative points of view.
When my doctor suggested that perhaps I needed to become a statistic and start popping happy pills.
I was loathe to the suggestion. I felt like a failure. I saw this as evidence that I was unable to cope and I worried about what others thought.
I did everything else but agree to taking the pills. I ran until running became my drug. I went to bed earlier, I stopped eating so much sugar, I tried to take some time out for myself away from my young children. I saw a naturopath thinking it was more socially acceptable to take herbal pills than pharmaceutical ones.
I did everything in my power to stop going down what I perceived as a drug dependent rabbit hole.
I worried about putting on weight and looking like a bloated whale past its sell by date.
In the end I realised, despite all my best efforts I was not getting any better. The exercise had helped me with my motivation. However it was my mood that remained consistently low. I was very cranky with my beautiful three year old boy and that made me feel like an even worse person.
The first two weeks of taking the medication was hell. I felt ill and sleepy and more depressed than ever. However three to four weeks later my mind began to become more peaceful. It was the most incredible feeling. When you are tormented by your mind, with irrational thoughts and worries you think there is no end. No matter what you do you cannot escape your own head. You feel powerless to the thick black cloud hanging above you.
I believe I had an excellent doctor whom monitored me every step of the way. I began on 5mg and ended up taking 20mg a day. He explained to me there is no correct dose for anyone it is an individual thing. I was on 15mg for a while and transitioning to 20mg was a little hard, where I experienced some of the same symptoms that I had when I first embarked on the Lexapro journey.
I was extremely lucky I know, the first anti-depressant I tried suited me. While trying to find the right dose I had to visit my doctor every week. I have written before about him. But the analogy he gave me was, I am about to climb a mountain, its going to get tough but he was there to hold my hand every step of the way. I found great strength from his words and he remained absolutely true to every word.
The next 18 months were wonderful
I did put on weight however that was a minor issue in comparison to how well I was feeling. I believed it was a sacrifice worth making. I was able to be the happy loving mother I knew that I could be, that I desperately wanted to be.
In hindsight I now know that the tiredness and lack of sleep that comes with being a mother of young children was a huge contributor to my Post Natal Depression. I was caught in a viscous cycle of sleepless nights, tormented dreams and recurring stressed out thoughts at 3 am.
I would not wish that torture on anyone. All the while I was trying to care for the most beautiful baby boy and his gorgeous three year old brother.
I did have to deal with some negative comments about the fact that I was probably addicted to the medication now and that I needed to get off them as soon as possible.
You know what though?
Anti-depressants are not the whole answer and they never will be.
What they did for me was help relax my mind. Make me feel calmer and clearer. It was only then that I could make changes in my life in order to address the tiredness and enable me to have the confidence to leave my children with others without suffering from crippling mothers guilt.
Taking powerful drugs for my mind was not something I took lightly. I knew I had to put some work into trying to get past this darkness. I continued to see my psychologist, I returned to a regular exercise routine. I found alternative therapies, something that I feel had a massive positive effect on my well-being. I have written about that experience here.
My doctor had discussed with me that while on my medication I was emotionally cushioned from the stresses of life. I think this is true, however I have heard and read many comments that anti-depressants make you numb, unable to feel the highs and lows. I do not believe this was true in my experience. I felt I could definitely feel the ups and downs. However with all the tools I had been able to put in place my coping skills were increased remarkably
I had times that I wanted desperately to not have to take a pill every day just to get me through. However a good friend mentioned to me that if the medication was working for me and I was in a good place well then what was the rush?
How wise he was. It should not matter how long you have to take a medication. As long as your life has improved and in my case it was a dramatic improvement then what is the rush? You do not want to risk it all blowing up in your face again after so much hard work.
I began my weaning process in December 2015. With the help and constant monitoring of my doctor we began dropping 5mg at a time. It was a very slow process. He would leave me at my new reduced dose for a month or so before we began to drop it again. When we first began decreasing I did notice my emotions feel like they were a bit heightened. This was the reason my doctor chose to take it so slowly. However that was when the power of all the other therapies I had put into place really helped.
As I started to decrease my dose my partner did not even notice anything different about my moods. That being the ultimate goal.
Including the weaning I was on ant-depressants for a total of two years and two months If you had told the distraught woman worrying about popping pills two years before, that she would be on them that long she would have left the doctors office and not come back. She would have been scared and ashamed.
My doctor wanted to wait for the right time. When is the right time ? How long is a piece of string? The example he gave me was if he asked me how my life was and if I told him my dog had just died. He might suggest that perhaps we could wait a little longer.
Two years is nothing in my life, However in the life of my beautiful beautiful boys it was everything. To them to have a happy and calm mother the worth is invaluable.
It was critical to their wellbeing that I was myself.
I have been free from anti-depressants for three months now. It is a wonderful feeling to know I am happy all on my own. That I know how to cope and when to act if I feel like things are getting on top of me.
Looking back on my doctors comment of being cushioned emotionally. I believe he was right. I am not quite as calm and patient when it comes to disciplining naughty boys. Like any parent feels they can annoy the crap out of you.
I also cry very easily these days. However thinking back to even before children this is normal for me. I am an emotional being whom feels things deeply.
These days I cannot even go to a school assembly without crying. This week I was in the supermarket alone (how exciting). In the next aisle I could hear the most beautiful hearty giggles of a young child. When I turned the corner I could see three little boys. Two were sitting in the trolley as their mother pushed them and their big brother walking along side was tickling the two little ones and making them laugh so freely. I of course welled up at their cuteness.
While the crying can be embarrassing I just have to embrace it and perhaps maybe be even proud of it.
At least I can now feel and recognise what is important in life.
As a family it was our experience that once the mother is down and out the whole family is affected. It is like a domino affect. Once I began to feel better and cope with life. Mr kangaroo started to slip. My doctor told me that it is very common in families where the mother has been suffering with PND that the father will then begin to fall down a similar hole.
Mr Kangaroo was so strong in my black days. He was loving and caring to both the boys and I. Once the pressure was off him and I could cope with more. I suppose is when the truck hit him and he became tired of holding the literal ceiling up.
It highlights the intricate dynamics of family life. When one falls they can all fall. There is a very delicate balance between family chaos and order.
Life is so hard at times. However you have to hang in there and continue. You have to hold onto the people who matter to you. You have to allow them to help you and believe that the tough times they shall pass, they truly will.
Disclaimer: This was my experience only. Every one is different in how they react to a drug or how they cope. There is not right way to get through tough times. I realise many are not as lucky as I was to have found the right drug and most importantly the right support. It has been my experience that people will suggest many things that can help you such as exercise or diet or talk therapy. However it will be up to you to find the things that resonate with you and that you can stick to.