Off Her Meds: Leaving PPD Medication Behind
Like all tax accountants, I’ve got a big deadline looming. For me, this deadline comes with additional anxiety as it marks the day I will wean from the anti-depressants I have taken since the arrival of my first child four and a half years ago. Both deadlines bring with it a feeling that I want tax day to arrive so life can get back to normal, but where I also feel like I just need more time (perfectly acceptable if you just pictured Jessie Spano).
From the Beginning
The emotions I felt after the arrival of my daughter in November of 2011 were so incredibly deep and challenging. They ranged from the purest love I’ve ever felt to a sadness and loneliness that I couldn’t explain but could feel physically. Each day as the sun began to set, my chest would tingle and my breathing would tighten. The uncertainty of what was to come that night made me feel both out of control and helpless for the first time in my life. I shed tears uncontrollably for no reason at all and then cried for being sad during what society told me was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I was so overwhelmed by guilt and depression that it was clear something had to be done. I was prescribed a 20 mg dose of Celexa and from the moment the doctor tore the sheet from his pad, I felt like things would get better. I felt like this wouldn’t be my eternity.
Life on an Antidepressant
As the Celexa entered my system so did the darkness exit. I began to feel like myself again. I was still tired and uncertain about how to be a mom, but I felt less on edge and less breakable. Life felt manageable. My plan was to go off of the medicine when I went back to work, but as that day approached I realized that the timing would be better after I made the transition to “working mom.”
While I was working long hours when I returned in a very stressful environment, I felt calm and measured. I didn’t let things like where we should order take out become a decision that rivaled in stress to where we would send our children to school. I could handle bad news and change of plans with the ease of my Type B friends. And I liked it. I liked being easy-going. I mean, we were the family who took their five month old to Jazzfest and had no cares or concerns as we danced to Florence and the Machine. I felt light for the first time in my life.
Things that I once found fretful and filled me with anxiety I no longer worried over. I no longer stayed up late into the night trying to solve the world’s problems. I SLEPT!!! I slept without waking up panicky over something I’d forgotten or needed to accomplish or was worried about.
Was I Depressed Before My PPD Diagnosis?
Feeling this good on an SSRI (the category of the drug that Celexa falls under) was great, but it led to the question I have kept hidden until now “have I always been depressed?” I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know where to start looking for it. When I think back to high school, I remember feeling emotional but generally happy. I loved college and didn’t spend a single day sad. Entering the working world was challenging but not overwhelming. Soon after we got married, Katrina arrived on our doorstep but we survived it like everyone else. So I don’t think I was depressed. But why do I like myself so much more on this medicine? And, is it the medicine or am I just older and wiser and have a greater sense of the value of time and living in each and every moment?
Why Stop Now?
I want to feel again. I want to feel everything – the good and the bad. I want to come out of the fog that I fear has formed around me. As time and space has separated me from those early days of motherhood, it becomes harder and harder to empathize with the new mom who needed this drug. I want to know if it is me who changed or if it the drug who changed me. I don’t know if I will like the answer, but I have this deep desire to have the answer.
What Lies Ahead?
When we began trying for a second child, I stopped taking my medicine in one day. I would not recommend this to my worst enemy. Coming off of Celexa without weaning made me nauseous, terribly dizzy, incredibly irritable, and very moody. It was awful. The symptoms lasted about two weeks, but for my poor husband, I’m sure it seemed like a lifetime. I worry about the process of weaning. I don’t have any desire to experience these symptoms again. But they are the short-term fears. What I worry about most is that I will not like who I am without my medicine to soften my rougher edges.
For my children I want to be a strong, resilient, and confident mother. For my husband, I want to be a kind and thoughtful and patient spouse. For myself, I want to worry less and appreciate life more. For all of us, I want to be happy. Genuinely happy. I know in my heart that it is my family, and not my medicine, that has made me feel the greatest depth of happiness. I can only trust that this is the answer I will get when this test of character is complete.