I have been on antidepressants for about four or five years now.
They saved me from myself.
I was not suicidal, or ready to harm my kids (well, any more than every other parent on their worst day). But somewhere between college and giving birth the first time, I completely lost "Christine." She was still in there. She surfaced regularly, but I had to fight for her. Giving birth just tanked her, and she became a memory to my husband and I.
Things improved at one point (or should I say, they weren't as MAJORLY SUCKISH as they had been - perhaps that's a better perspective). I remember Michael making a joke, and I laughed. He just stared at me for a moment, smiled and said, "Your smile." I knew what he meant, because my face felt weird. I didn't smile much for two years, especially not a genuine smile - all the way up to my eyes. I felt sad and embarrassed and helpless. I didn't want to lose me again.
When Presh was about two, I had another dip. This one was a bit different. I started to have much more social anxiety. It made no sense. Well, in "normal" world, NOTHING of our depression/anxiety makes sense. That is what makes it so debilitating. The little things in life haunt us. At the same time, Mac's Tourettes became painfully obvious. It was her neurologist that opened my eyes to so much.
I got stuff.
I have always had tics. I can think of two isolated events when they completely took over, but every other time I could hide them. I didn't know the "why." I just figured I was a nerd, and being the good American kid, I fought hard to be as normal as possible. I have also always had depression and anxiety (hind sight). Neurological disorders of every kind are kinda like a pile of pantyhose that runs through the dryer. You know they are separate, but you have no idea where to start to even BEGIN to sort them out.
So, I got in on a study of Cymbalta in the very beginning (had long been an approved med, but they were trying to determine just how well it improved cognitive abilities). I was under the care and guidance of some of the best doctors in the state. Oh, AND my meds were free during the study. So, it was kinda' a win-win as far as starting to find help. Unfortunately, one of the side effects was very clear and vivid dreams. So much so, that I spent much of my day trying to determine things I had dreamt and things which had actually occurred. I weaned down at one point, and simply could not handle the withdrawal and a new move and the kids. I was getting brain zaps and all sorts of crazy stuff. Spent hours curled up on the sofa, or a walking zombie on meclizine. So, I started on some generic Zoloft, at a much lower dose. Steadied me out neurologically and stopped the effects of withdrawal.
Fast forward to a time when I have set myself up for success. My life is simple. We are not over-programmed (who am I kidding - there is barely ANYTHING programmed). We are rocking our diets. I did a very slow wean, while supplementing with lots of flax and niacin. I took my time, but the withdrawals from this particular med have been night and day different from the Cymbalta.
And here I am. I have been off RX antidepressants for just over two months.
Not only that, but I am actually letting my food be my medicine. The hormonal wave just before my cycle? I supplement with Niacin. I flood my food with flax. When I'm feeling lethargic, I whip up a massive green smoothie. If I have to get some work done, I sit by the window for a minute, listen to the birds and soak up some sunshine. I do simply wonderful things like ... just walk and look at the flowers and the grass and the bugs. I embraced the heart of therapeutic parenting - which is to choose what kind of day I will have. Cause - you can't make anybody do anything, really. You can't. But you can choose how their choices will or won't affect you. You can choose to listen to the birds. You can choose to smile.
Do I have any withdrawal? Sure. I feel like Charlie in "Flowers for Algernon." I am doing type-o's phonetically much more than ever before (I also blame my years as a shorthand guru for triggering this while my brain is self-correcting). My neurological system is trying to fill these gaps on its own, now. I get stuck on words much more than ever ... not just the I'm-almost-40 kind of forgetfulness. I have moments where I stop myself to concentrate on something, and it does. not. help. at. all. Moments where I simply cannot make my brain do what I'm wanting it to do. It sometimes feels as though I'm going backward developmentally. So, in taking back control of my brain functions, I'm having to be patient and understanding of ... myself.
Again, though, this is worse if things are moving too quickly and I have too much going on. It's my red flag to give my whole body, mind and soul a rest.
It was actually going on the meds which caused me to look harder at my lifestyle and diet. For me, it was putting the horse before the cart. I could not find the strength to make these changes until I received some extra help. Then, I was able to take it into my own hands. It took me years, but here I am.
Christine. The way she was meant to be.
(photo by Marko Mihajlovic, used with permission)