Medicate Me?

Looking for Life's Rainbow

Looking for Life’s Rainbow

I’m back in the eternal dilemma I’ve struggled with since having my second child. I know I’m (probably) depressed, but I don’t want to go back on anti-depressants. I’ve been on them once in my life, when I had a breakdown after three years in my first grown-up job. I needed them, as I wasn’t sleeping and could barely function. But they put me in a glorious bubble where the world couldn’t touch me. I left my job, my home, my friends, my guide unit, my family, and I barely felt it. No joy, no grief. And, when I came off them, I was introduced to the world of anxiety and panic attacks as an unexpected (as unknown at the time I guess) side effect. Since then I’ve been prescribed the same drug three times and each time I’ve carried the pack of pills home as a lifeline and refused to take them.

But now I’m spending more and more time in the dark place, where I am worthless, where I am a terrible mother who is damaging her children beyond redemption, where it makes perfect sense that they might be better off without me. Where I cry and cry and it never gets better. Or the rage builds, inflating like a balloon in my chest with every petty annoying thing the children do – every time they whine, or refuse to eat, or don’t listen, or ask and ask and ask, until I pop and the shouting starts.

The I Wasn’t a Good Mom letter that I included in The Parent I am and The One I Aspire To Be post has a whole heap of supportive comments underneath. But the one that stood out, when I re-read them this week, was the one which said your poor daughter, you need medication, she will remember these days and be scared for life by them. And it raised the endless debate that wars away in my brain.

Should I medicate?

Will it take away the extremes of temper and grief? Will I lose me or find me? What if the shouty ranting person is me? Or what if I realise I’m a hundred times better on medication, and I’ve been battling all these years – making the children’s life, hubbie’s life, my life awful – for nothing?

Happy Food my Son Refuses to Eat

Happy Food my Son Refuses to Eat

The bit that’s stopped me in the past is the part in the information leaflet that tells you it gets worse before it gets better. I’m not sure there’s any capacity for worse.

I remember, also, that last time I slept and slept. I don’t have that luxury now, who would run the house? Who would take the children to school and pick them up? What would I miss?

And then I realise there are whole chunks of the kids’ lives I don’t remember because of the sleep deprivation (did you know you only write the events of the day to your long term memory if you reach second-stage sleep? Like that ever happens in this house). So what difference would it make?

The biggest challenge is finding someone to talk it through with who understands. The last time I saw my GP she blamed everything tangible, refusing to accept that I might be depressed. She even suggested I send my husband in to ‘fix’ his snoring because clearly that was the cause of everything. A factor, occasionally, possibly, but hardly a major one. Might as well tell me to give up being a wife and mother completely, because husbands and kids cause sleep deprivation and therefore mood swings. That makes about as much sense as my sister’s doctor prescribing her prozac for PMT. my psychiatrist said it sounded like I was overwhelmed, rather than depressed, and I just needed to take more time for me. (I take half the week to do my writing, how much more would it take?)

It’s true that it’s got a lot worse since my daughter started school and I lost both my long nursery days – which gave me time to reset – and my freedom to manage our week as required. Quiet days at home to nurture, days out to recharge. Which terrifies me. I always thought it would get better, as the kids slept better, as my time became my own. The opposite is true: my time is so much more squeezed, my chores have increased, with extra ironing, packed lunches, assemblies, home work, and my self-doubt increases with every day nearer to adulthood my children get.

How many mothers need medication to survive the school run? It makes me feel selfish and pathetic. But every time my daughter sobs hysterically for no reason, I take the blame that she’s learning it from me, and it eats away at me. I remember my own mother battling with depression as I grew up. I read somewhere that children who grow up taking care of their parents end up missing out on their childhood and spend their grown life adrift and unable to connect. I could relate to it and it hurts me each time my son pats my shoulder and asks “Are you okay, Mummy?” as I sit sobbing. He’s three. It should be me comforting him, not the other way around.

Sigh. I wish life, or at least parenting came with an instruction manual. Or a crystal ball. Something, anything, to give you a hint about the right path to take. Until I find one, I guess I’ll muddle on through, getting it right and wrong and never knowing which is which.

17 thoughts on “Medicate Me?

  1. Amanda, is there someone else in the GP surgery you can talk to? This dark place doesn’t sound good. My husband has Clinical Depression – and there were more than a dozen options on the medication front. Not every tablet suits every person. He takes a combination and I can tell you, life is better ON the tablets than without them. I have always likened his depression to the Dementor’s Kiss – and you being a book person will understand that visual. That’s his dark place. Please, try again, find a different GP if possible. I hope you find a good place to be, and soon. For you, because you’re important too xxxx

    • Thanks, Pat. Yes, I think I need to pick a different GP. I saw a lovely lady once but she was a locum. They have so many, it’s difficult to find someone to stick with (the older GPs are all fairly convinced depression doesn’t exist I think!)
      I’m glad meds work for your husband. I’m definitely swaying to thinking they might be right for me at the moment, to give us all a break.
      x

  2. Amanda,
    First, my mum suffered with bad postnatal depression for 8 years after I was born. I am still here. I still love my mum. I think I gained a lot from those years.
    Having said that its a horrible place to be so I say “take meds” but not the ones from last time. I was on fluoxetine (Prozac) and then a different one when I was breastfeeding. Not been on anything for 6 years now.
    But if I needed to do so I’d happily take pills.
    Why? Because sometimes you need NOT to feel. You need a holiday from the feelings. And after those three to fix months, or however many, of not really feeling, you ARE stronger. Your head is clearer. You see things from a more balanced perspective.
    I liked Prozac. I joke with friends that it was my best friend post divorce. It was! It enabled me to be removed from my life for a bit. I needed that. Sometimes you do.
    Life is tough. I found in London it was bloody hard and you weren’t allowed to admit it. Carry on. Carry on. Carry on.
    But as you carry on, you slowly crumble and break.
    It’s not the way to go.
    Step away. Stop. Get help. The GP will no doubt make you do a test before prescribing, want u to do counselling instead. My view agree to the latter but demand the pills. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Fact. Some people are more prone to it. Fact. They can talk all they want. They can vent and rant and cry , they still need chemical help.
    And with it, they can move forward and eventually on
    I’ve been off and on nothing for six years. Before that six years.
    Go!
    Keep me posted.
    Huge hugs.
    X

    • Thank you, these were exactly the words I needed to hear (even if they made me cry in my daughter’s assembly as I read them just before!) Thank you for saying you still love your mum despite a difficult upbringing. I am constantly amazed by how much my kids love me when I don’t feel I deserve it (and when I don’t have that close a relationship with my own mum).
      I will definitely keep you posted. x

      • My mum is the strongest woman I know. And I love her to the moon and back. Depression is an illness not a figment of ones imagination. Get help. It’s out there and available. X X X

  3. I have no experience with medications. When I went through hell after my daughter was born, I never received any intervention. Depression is something we dont usually seek help for around here and its very sad. We hide it.That’s what I did and it ended up hurting my marriage, my kids were afraid of me and the anger was just building up. Two years of pure hell. I can only wish I sought medical help back then. Will be praying for you. *Hugs

  4. My mother was depressed for most of her life, and understandably since she was physically disabled, poor, and survived serious domestic abuse. I remember it as a child. My two siblings and I have each battled some depression. My choice was always to ignore it and “carry on”. But my younger brother suicided at 33. He definitely should have sought help for manic depressive disorder, but refused to do so. After that Mom was so inconsolable that she was prescribed meds for depression for the last 15 years or so, Prozac and something else combined with it. The meds did make a difference in her outlook, and she was again able to enjoy gardening, music, and painting in her last years. I never want to take meds, but the option is out there as an alternative to dragging my whole family down into my depths, as my brother did, and as my mother did during our childhood. Luckily, my sister has stabilized on meds, and we hope for better for the next generation. Best wishes for whatever you choose.

  5. I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a big hug!

    Life with small kids and sleep deprivation is exhausting. I think it’s really easy to underestimate the difference a decent amount of sleep can make, as you get so used to doing without it. Is there any way you can prioritise sleep for a while, and see if you can catch up? Do your kids still wake through the night, or is it staying up too long after they go to sleep that’s your downfall? I go to sleep when DD does now, and if I’m awake, I can get up early and have my me time then. (I usually don’t thought,)

    Is there anyone you can call and talk to when you feel like crying? I remember sitting in the bedroom howling on the phone to my mum when my daughter was little, while she watched TV in the other room. (Or just as often, howled and screamed back at me.)

    Can you talk to a psychologist (very different to a psychiatrist!)? Find a new doctor? If you’re feeling that bad, I think you should probably consider medication as a short term solution. The trick with coming off it is to pull it back very slowly, and this should avoid the rebound effects. A doctor should be able to advise you how to do this.

    I’m also going to recommend two books. “The Explosive Child” by Ross Greene is a life changing parenting book. Well worth it. Reading it and implementing the strategies in it, even just a few of them, changed the way I parented, and thus how my daughter reacted. In fact, I think I should go dig it out again. 😉 He has a website too (http://www.livesinthebalance.org/) which could have some useful info (I haven’t read it though.)

    I’d also recommend Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen (http://www.playfulparenting.com/), if you’re anything like me, and really struggle with being fun and just playing with your kids. It not only talks about how important play is, and how it helps kids, but he offers some great suggestions on HOW to play (one I struggle with). You can get it as an ebook too. And I should probably re-read this one too!

    If you ever need to chat, shoot me an email. I’ve been there. I remember how hard it is. And it DOES get better. Things improved DRAMATICALLY once my daughter turned 7. No idea if it was the age, me changing, or what, but things are so much better now!

    • Thank you for your supportive comments. Sleep is down to a variety of things – illness, work, kids’ nightmares, snoring, the dog. Just life. I think mostly I’m run down after ten weeks of being ill, but it’s finding the capacity to get back on my feet that is hard.
      Thanks for the book suggestions, I will definitely look them up.

      • Yeah, illness can really get you down. And being winter there now too can have a huge effect.

        I find it really hard to balance work and sleep. I was getting so much writing done when I got up early and worked before the rest of my family was awake. But the toll it took on me in terms of lack of sleep and then being grumpy at everyone around me wasn’t worth it. I don’t have any magic answers though. There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day!

  6. OK, look. You know if you’re in that dark place. And if you’re starting to think the people you love will be better off without you then yes, you need medication and you need help.

    For what it’s worth, I still believe, wholeheartedly, that so long as your children know they’re loved – and they clearly do – everything will be OK. I was talking to a friend’s Mum the other day. She said that she was taking anti-depressants all through his teens. I mentioned it to him and do you know what? He never knew. His mum thought she was depressed and beating up on her kids and guess what, they didn’t notice. Depression distorts things. It magnifies the weird stuff. If you need help, if you need to take some antidepressants to stabilise things, do it. It’s no different to a dose of the flu. Do what you need to get well. Just doing something about it will make you feel more in control, more positive, that you’re doing something. Explain your situation, you may find you can sort it out with cognitive behavioural therapy, or counselling.

    Good luck and god bless.

    cheers

    MTM

  7. I’m so sorry you are going through this…I think you are being very hard on yourself. The morning run is hard enough, but when you aren’t feeling good? Definitely a whole other ball game.

    Have you read the blog, “A Lady in France?” What you write here reminds me so much of Jennie…I think you would really be able to relate. Hope that you are able to reach out and / or read her blog when you get some time.

    Feel better soon Amanda.

    • Thank you for the recommendation, will check it out. One of the downsides of depression is loss of perspective. Hubbie tells me I’m not a monster all the time but in my head it seems I am. At least it’s half term, so no school run for a week (just two high-maintenance kids at home! Haha)

  8. Pingback: Depression is an Illness Not a State of Mind | writermummy

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