I don’t suck at motherhood because I take antidepressants

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I don’t suck at motherhood because I take antidepressants

To my dear readers: When I first starting writing, most of my material was adoption-specific because it was the biggest thing going on in my life. I would read all kinds of blog posts and Facebook status updates about what a miracle adoption was and how families felt “so blessed” by adoption. The same parents who posted these things would whisper behind the scenes about struggling to bond, feeling inadequate and depressed. I wanted to write an adoption blog that told the real story: sometimes adoption is a blessing but sometimes it’s messy and scary. Just like the rest of life, right?

Here’s a little peek behind the curtain:

In life, I try to strike a balance between transparency and over-sharing. Motherhood is a blessing and a joy but it’s messy and scary, too.  Life is messy and scary.

I don’t try to pass myself off as a parenting expert or a front-runner for mother of the year. Puhleeze. I try to be a good mom…sometimes I succeed but like all of us, I have days where I suck at it. My kids occasionally watch too much TV (and by occasionally I mean every week).  Sometimes they sass and I have to get my husband to talk to them in his “man voice.” They hear me drop the F-bomb more than I’d like and sometimes, I open wine before 5 O’clock.  I suspect I’m really no different than most moms out there…maybe more willing to publicly admit my imperfections, but not different.

I am struggling with life, parenthood, and change. I’ve always been a high-stress, high-anxiety person. Some of that is probably genetic and some of it has been shaped by various life experiences.

Not a good week. #getmeoutofthiscar
Not a good week. #getmeoutofthiscar

My anxiety went in to high gear in 2002 when I was a front seat passenger in a car accident. My ex-husband was driving. We rear-ended a semi-truck going about 80 mph. We got out of the car just in time to see a second semi-truck crash in to the back end of my car. My full-sized sedan turned into a shredded metal cube before my eyes. I’d probably gotten out less than 30 seconds before impact. I walked away with minor injuries – broken bones –  but that began my journey with therapy and various lifestyle changes to help me manage my anxiety.

I’m anxious. Tightly wound. For the most part I’ve managed it by being self-aware and living a reasonably healthy life. Running helps immensely and I have a breathing app on my phone that helps chill me out when I get too keyed up. I’m not a big fan of medication and I was always quick to say no every time my doctor suggested it.

And then menopause happened.

For those of the penised persuasion and those woman whose time hasn’t come yet: I wouldn’t wish how I feel on my worst enemy. Mood swings are kicking my butt. I have about six hot flashes a day and the best way to describe them is a body temperature spike of about 800 degrees. Okay, I know not really 800 degrees, but that’s what it feels like. How anyone can be expected to act like a normal human when their brain and internal organs are boiling…well, I’m not really sure.

I've got fancy mascara.

And then there are the crying jags and the rages. Sometimes I scare myself. It’s like puberty, pregnancy hormones and the very worst case of PMS imaginable all rolled into one – on steroids. For a control freak who normally keeps a close hold on her emotions, this is hard to handle.  Rational me knows crying in the grocery store because they’ve moved the yogurt isn’t cool…but I’ve been feeling like I’m losing rational me. I get angry without too much of a trigger, like not being able to find a parking space or a toy being left in the middle of the living room floor.

I hurt and I’m not really sure why.

I’m not sure if I can blame menopause, pre-disposition or adjustment problems.  Blame is unnecessary.

A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my kids because they couldn’t find their shoes. We were about to go somewhere and sometimes, it’s a struggle to take them places by myself. Two 5-year-old boys: need I say more?  I told them to get their shoes on and they each showed up ready to board the van with one shoe on…on the wrong foot. Not their shoes.

I lost it. I yelled, I raged. After tearing apart their room, I found their missing shoes at the bottom of the laundry hamper. I let them know just how upset I was using a few four letter words.

They cried. Of course they cried.

I apologized, because naturally, I felt like shit. There was no need to lose my temper over shoes.  But I did.

And then the kicker: one of my boys looked me straight in the eye as tears ran down his face.

I don’t want you to be in our family anymore, mommy. You always have a mad face.”

You could punch me in the gut a thousand times and never hurt me as badly as those words did.

I took the meds, feeling like I was admitting defeat. It’s not a miracle drug and my body is getting used to it…slowly. At first I felt dull and foggy, like I was moving underwater. The mood swings are less severe because my senses aren’t as sharp. My brain is active but it’s hard to get words out. My speech is slower and I have to think really hard, to concentrate on what words I’m going to say.

This cup of coffee is brought to you by 5AM hot flashes on the day I thought I'd sleep in a little. Thanks universe. #menopause
This cup of coffee is brought to you by 5AM hot flashes on the day I thought I’d sleep in a little. Thanks universe.
#menopause

I’d feel like a failure each time I swallowed that pill. I felt like I sucked at parenthood and life in general because I needed medication to feel level and normal. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling. I felt deflated because I couldn’t cope.

Today, I feel better. Not perfect and still a little uncomfortable with the way the meds make me feel, physically. I have no expectation that drugs will solve my problems but for now, I am going to take them without being ashamed, without unproductive self-talk such as “you’re weak and you suck at life because you’re taking anti-depressants.

I’m not weak. I had the guts to help myself and I’m finding a way through this, to the place where I don’t lose my ever-loving crap when my kids lose their shoes. I’ll get there.

And while I’m not mother of the year, I don’t need to be. I’m a damn good mom. I have good days and bad days. If you have more bad days than good…don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. Taking that step is hard…all of this is hard…but so, so worth it.

 

I don't suck as a mom because I take anti-depressants|Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
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47 Comments

  1. I love this blog post because it makes me feel like I am not alone. After a bad car accident, an emotionally hurtful relationship, and trying to be strong for my daughter through all her surgeries and therapy sessions I broke down and started taking antidepressants too. I hate taking them everyday but they make me a better person and mom.

  2. life can get hard. i’m so glad you took care of yourself and in turn took care of your family. brave piece. thanks for writing it.

  3. Loved your honesty and the casual sincere style of writing. Thank you for sharing your experience. Not sure where I am at regarding peri/meno/psycho pause but my mood swings and instant rage are pretty intense sometimes. I also agree that it is hard to determine the root cause because really who gets to almost 50 without some collateral damage (not me). I also would like a flow chart that clearly charts out whatever monster flaw/situation/life experience/zodiac distress I can place blame on. Blame and it’s BFF justified anger like to hang around sometimes.

  4. Good for you Mama! Seriously. Last year, I told my doc that I might be a little depressed. She replied “that’s totally normal with what you’re going through.” and that was the end of it. Huh? This year, I think I’m gonna get her to help me explore my options a little better than that. Sending you cool breezes and lots of love, Friend!! xxoo

  5. Thank you for posting this. I have been on antidepressants for a few years now. At first, I felt horrible about it. But slowly, I began to enjoy life more. Today, I’m not really ashamed of taking them anymore. They’re not an answer to a problem, but a tool to use. I didn’t ask for asthma, or to need an inhaler, and I certainly didn’t ask for depression. But now I see the medicine as the same as my inhaler – a treatment for a condition. The antidepressants don’t define me anymore.

  6. You literally took the words out of my mouth! The same exact words I said to my doctor this week… Crying in his office. The doctor who told me my hormone levels were normal and that I am not in Peri-menopause even though I KNOW I am. I skipped 4 periods this year. I am almost 47. My PMS is now anyday of the month is feels like raging! I am crying or being an angry, irrational monster ALL the time! Newsflash Doc: maybe “normal” is not MY normal…

  7. This is so common. I gave up worrying or even caring about this a long time ago. I have dealt with mental illness for over 20 years. It is part of me, take it or leave it. In some ways I think it makes me a better person. Life is easier when we don’t feel ashamed about asking for help. Mental illness is an illness and needs medical attention like any other disease. Taking meds to get through life isn’t usually part of your life goals, but it will help you achieve them. Be proud of getting help.

    http://blog.cocoandtwins.com/2015/06/makes-you-think-monday-relationships.html?m=0

    http://blog.cocoandtwins.com/2015/04/depression-makesyouthinkmonday.html?m=0

    I hope you take a chance to look at my posts. It would mean a lot. Plus we have even more in common: I also have two 5 year old boys. One big difference, I am a single mom.

  8. “I’m not weak. I had the guts to help myself” <– Yes! It takes a very strong person to realize something is not working in themselves and to do something about it. I often have moments where I feel like a shitty mom, but I apologize and then work to make myself better. There are setbacks and I'm not perfect — and I can't imagine doing this while going through menopause (I'm already anxious and reactive on a normal day). Thanks for having the courage to both address this and to share it with us. Big hugs!

  9. This was a really brave piece of writing, I admire you so much for your honesty. And to be honest – you scared the shit out of me:)! I’m not quite there yet, but definitely beginning to experience perimenopause. When Barrett was diagnosed with autism, I took antidepressant for a year – and it made me a better mother. I couldn’t have gotten up in the morning and done all that was required without it. There is no shame it getting help only freedom.

    1. I don’t think it’s this bad for everyone. To be honest, I didn’t link it to menopause until I talked to someone else about what was going on and she connected the dots for me. I think this was something we didn’t talk about in my mother’s day. I am glad you found something that helped you, too.

  10. Each one of us has our weakness. That you so openly shared yours will be a help and soothing balm to many. Go, you! Now, about that wine being opened before 5…I can be there by 4:45!

  11. My oldest son has watched me go through three pregnancies and watched Mommy as a crazy person. I often wished I could have been medicated because during pregnancy my mood swings often made me crazy. I totally understand. I think if the pill helps, you aren’t giving in…you are doing what you have to in order to be the best mom for your boys. Don’t feeling guilty for losing it either, it happens to all of us.

  12. Your blog was suggested to me via Bloglovin and I’m glad it was 🙂 I am a 35 year old mom to two boys ages 7 and 4. After my first son was born, I knew I was experiencing PPD but I was ashamed and never told anyone. I finally got help when my son was six months old. I went back to work when he was three months old, and that just exacerbated my feelings. I felt like I couldn’t handle life. And I was ashamed of that because I had a supportive husband, helpful family, an understanding boss…what was my problem??? My doctor prescribed an antidepressant which I’ve been taking ever since. Going off the med for my second pregnancy was HARD, but I went back on as soon as I delivered him. And since then I’ve had to add a mood stabilizer med…I was diagnosed with chronic depression. At first I was embarrassed, but I have to look at it like this – if I had any other illness I would treat it…this is no different. I am a thousand times better at being a mom, wife, friend and employee now than I was before I got help. I’ve learned to open up about it because the reality is that so many moms are dealing with this, or trying to, and they don’t know how to take that first step. Knowing that someone else is in their shoes could be just what they need to take that first step.

  13. A fantastic, brave post. I’m a mum who struggled with PND and who now struggles with Anxiety, and I take anti-depressants. I struggle with that too but I’m slowly accepting it. Thank you for posting.

  14. This is such a brave and honest piece Jill! Thank you for sharing and for helping all of us to feel OK about reaching out and getting help when it’s needed. Your children are so lucky to have you as their mama and in their family. And we’re all so lucky to have your wonderful words.

  15. Well well well, I empathize with you and all of the responders. My 12-year-old suffered in-utero-trauma. He was a super ball ( Best metaphor I can think of ) for the first 11 years of his life. At 46 I had both hips replaced, at 47 I had one period, I guess menopause all at one time.
    Doctors heaped on more and more drugs month after month. I had to move out of my house. My son’s schools were abusive.
    A friend saved my life by helping me get off 70% of the drugs I’d been over prescribed. My computer addicted husband had a quadruple bypass and my son moved from his house to mine in a moment. My child with five diagnoses four of which are baloney is the apple of my eye and my reason d’être. Seemingly raising him as a full-time/separated mother, and helping friends with adopted minority children with special needs is all I’m good for. That should be enough, but since I don’t bring in a paycheck my feelings of inadequacy are constant.
    So yes I take meds, I’m angry when I have to tie my sons shoes, daily, so that I can get him to school by 9:30, and I’m told I’m coddling him by putting on the shoes so that we can actually get to school by 9:30!
    Yep sounds like a book, I’m pretty sure given I was a schoolteacher in Oakland California who became a full-time, 41-year-old mom of a newborn African-American baby with needs, I should write one! It seems inappropriate to me that we all live in a world that causes us to need these drugs. I’m quite sure mothers in Paris and the Hague and London and Hong Kong do not use or need them. Hmmm so many questions, so few answers.
    Yours was the first blog I’ve ever read Yep i’m 53 and behind the times. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading it very regularly.
    Very best greetings, Kim

    1. Thank you so much for reading my blog and sharing a bit of your story with me. It sounds like you’ve been on quite the journey and I’m honored by your comment.

  16. I so loved reading this on so many levels. I applaud you for speaking out about your Bout with depression. You did it with your usual quick wit and humor, and since my depression is more of the “woe is me” variety I could stand to take a few pages from your book. Bravo for speaking out and taking us once step further towards accept mental illness.

  17. Wow, great post, you really tell it like it is, thank you for that. You do what you have to do, some people will never understand. I take antidepressants too. My doctor put me on them after my third miscarriage at age 44. I then conceived twins, who are now wonderful teenagers. You are a wonderful Mom for taking the steps to help yourself. And I can relate to having two five year olds, it’s maddening, as it is to have two 14 year olds.

  18. i could have written this article. raised by intensely anxious mother with major mood issues. but i was doing ok and holding it together, mostly. then my world fell apart with my husband’s cancer diagnosis. five kids. he died. i felt like i had been slammed into a cement wall and left in a heap that would never be able to function or breathe again. and then…. perimenopause. oh my gosh. major anxiety. frequent panic attacks. (these were new to me – yes, thot i was going to die. major respect to sufferers!) and so…. prozac. every day. for six years now. it has saved my life. it has saved my family. i can breathe. i can sleep. i can love and parent and laugh again. #noshame

  19. Love your candour and humour through the shame you’ve felt. It had me wondering what parenting would have been like if I hadn’t taken the “medication plunge” before starting my family. I did have one pregnancy where I tapered off my meds and it wasn’t pretty. It was teenage rage combined with pregnancy hormones on steroids (as you put). Admitting defeat, or at least agreeing to take meds, is no easy feet. The side effects aren’t my favourite but feeling more sane is worth the cost. Absolutely loved this post! Thanks for bringing it out of your archives!

  20. I’ve recently found your site and love everything your write! But this…this is me! I would struggle through my recently found pea soup of anxiety if it weren’t for the sweet faces who say things like “you weren’t a good mommy today because you yelled at us.” I started taking the meds for my kids. Now, well, now I’m still taking the meds for my kids. I’d rather not. I’d rather find a natural way. I’d rather do eight million other things. But I can’t be horrible to my kids for two years while I’m trying to pull my shit together. Thank you for this 🙂

  21. I am not a mom ( being from Australia it is “mum”) but I do suffer from depression. You are a wonderful example of accepting what is, and getting on with it. Thank you for being so honest. X.

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