Grief Motherhood

Confession: I’m a Mom on Meds

Confession: I'm a Mom on Meds www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Kathy Glow

Written By:  Kathy Glow @ Kissing the Frog

Parenting magazine published an article titled, “Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom.” The crux of the article was that more parents than ever before are taking doctor prescribed medication for conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The article claims that as many as one in ten adults suffers from depression and approximately 40 million people suffer from anxiety. One in five report taking medication.

Debate raged over this article on Parenting’s Facebook page. Many people, including myself, shared their personal stories with depression, anxiety, and medication use.

Still others degraded and judged, saying things like, “If you are clinically diagnosed with depression, why are you having kids?”

I have had some form of depression for most of my life. At times, it was so bad that it was all I could do to get out of bed, only to land on the couch where I stayed in my pajamas all day long.

In my twenties, my doctor suggested that I talk with a therapist, but I resisted thinking that I would just be offered medication. In my mind, only crazy people took medication. And I knew I wasn’t crazy. I just had trouble pulling myself out of a bad funk.

With my marriage to Hubby in 2001, I figured my problems with depression would turn around. What I did not anticipate was the infertility, the bed rest, the child with a birth defect, and certainly not a child with cancer.

Some on Parenting’s Facebook page called this “life” and said, “Deal with it,” suggesting a good book and a glass of wine would make everything better.

Some therapists interviewed for the article all but agreed. There is a general feeling among certain circles that medication is too quickly prescribed to help parents deal with the stresses of daily life and the feelings of fatigue, irritability, and overwhelm that accompany them.

Clinical depression is defined as “a persistent feeling of hopelessness.”

In 2009, I received the cancer news that left me feeling pretty hopeless. I was leaving rooms just so I could cry all of the time. The only way I got through my son’s year-long battle with cancer and his death at age six was with the help of Lexapro, an antidepressant, and an occasional dose of Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.

Through this experience of taking those meds, I realized something about myself: I need them to help me function more effectively.

I have experienced a difference in the way I think and feel and act not only as a parent, but as a person. Things still make me sad, I still feel depressed, but I’m not drowning in it like I once was.

And I know my body and mind better than I ever have.

I know that the doctor prescribed 10 milligrams of Lexapro that I was taking while Joey was sick was too much for me. I felt fuzzy and zombie-like. I know that just a few milligrams a week can still do wonders for me, and I stick to that.

The American Psychological Association strongly recommends talk therapy before medication, but this is time and cost intensive. I know those are two reasons I don’t go to therapy.  I also know that I feel better when I sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food. But right now, that doesn’t happen much either.  I think anything a parent can do to make themselves feel happy, centered, calm, and loving makes them a better parent.

Whether that means unwinding with a glass of wine,

or a hot bath,
or a run,
or talking to someone they trust,
or yes, even taking medication if they feel it’s necessary.

When you’re on an airplane, you’re told to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. You must help yourself before you can help anyone else. There is an entire website, called The Oxygen Mask Project, devoted to the concept of parents helping themselves.

JD Bailey, who blogs at Honest Mom, was one of the parents quoted in the article. After suffering from post-partum depression, she has tried therapy and medication. She is an advocate for moms suffering from depression and writes about it regularly on her blog.

I don’t feel the stigma I once felt about taking medication. Maybe it’s because now I feel like I have a legitimate reason. Maybe it’s because now I understand what it does for me. Either way, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a mom on meds . . .and better for it.

How do you deal with the stresses of parenting? What strategies do you use to make yourself feel like a better parent? Have you ever considered medication or therapy?

 

About the author

Kathy Glow

Kathy Glow is a wife and mom to four lively boys and one beautiful angel in Heaven, lost to cancer. Most days you can find her under a pile of laundry ordering take-out. When she is not driving all over town in her mini-van or wiping “boy stuff” off the walls, she is writing about what life is REALLY like after all your dreams come true. Her writing has been featured on sites such as Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Good Housekeeping, and Mamalode; but Her View From Home is her favorite place to be. Her blog is at www.lifewiththefrog.com. You can follow her on Facebook at Kissing the Frog.

31 Comments

  • Great article Kathy!

    I’m also a mom on meds. 😉 I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and waited much longer than I should have to seek help. Once I did finally go to a therapist she explained to me that many people have anxiety or get depressed, but there is a group of us that just talk therapy is not enough. It is a chemical imbalance that sometimes can’t be made better with just taking time for yourself or talking about your problems.

    I also function better as a parent and a person when I take medication. I find it so sad that so many insurance companies don’t cover mental health or don’t cover it well enough for people to seek help, and there are so many people not getting the help they need.

    It is so hard to understand if you don’t have these issues. Just reading the mean spirited comments you quoted makes me so mad. I think comments like this keep people from getting help. Having someone tell you, “it’s in your head or all you need is a good book and a glass of wine” diminishes the problem and puts a stigma on getting help. As though if you just tried hard enough you could get out of your funk, when it’s so much more than a funk.

    The more those of us who suffer and have found help speak out hopefully more people will gain the courage to get help themselves!

  • Thanks for the heads up on meds! I was situationally depressed when the father of my children left me after 23 years of marriage. My kids were 17, 14, and 5. The docs and I experimented until we found the right anti-depressant to work with my body. I was also suicidal..That was 16 years ago. I’ve changed brands a couple times over the years. I was also very depressed after a long bout with breast cancer six years ago, even though i was still taking my meds. So we increased them for a while. Now I take an itty bitty dose…5 mg of Lexapro twice a week. When I go off, I’m very weepy, so I’ve elected to stay with my itty bitt dose! I function just fine, even though I’m not depressed situationally anymore, but evidently my body just needs that itty bitty dose. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some anti-depressants work better than others. Work with your doctors. Your mental health is important when you’re raising children!

    • Mary, thank you for sharing your experiences, too. I think this is what most of the haters do not realize. We are the result of our cummulative experiences, not just one bad day. And you are so right that children raised by depressed parents grow to be depressed themselves. I need to find a balance for my kids’ sake as well.

  • Great post, Kathy! You really make some excellent points.

    I am absolutely a believer in doing whatever helps you be a peaceful, happy, present parent. I have tried many ways to manage my depression – including being med-free – but what works best for me right now is a small dose of an SSRI.

    As you mentioned, I have gone to therapy (and will again if I need it) – and I too, try to eat well, sleep, and exercise. But the fact is, that doesn’t always happen. And even when I was med-free and was making a huge effort to do all those things, it wasn’t enough. That’s how I knew I still needed the assistance of medication.

    Also, I believe that we all need to be our own advocates for our health care. I have heard many moms say their doctors were quick to offer an antidepressant without talking to them about other options. The docs also did not ask many questions to diagnose if the mom was depressed or was having a tough time as a parent, and therefore maybe a non-med option would be better to try first.

    The fact is, doctors are rushed. They have 15 minutes max with each patient. My doctor talked through all options with me, but I am lucky. As the patients, we have to know what our options are and ask the right questions when we meet with our doctors.

    Are we overmedicating ourselves as a country? I don’t know. I only know my experience and those of my friends who confide in me. And I know that every single one of my friends who take meds need those meds to be happy, present, peaceful moms. And to me, that’s reason enough for taking meds.

    • Thanks, JD, for jumping in here! I think the more we talk about our experiences, the more people will begin to try to understand at least. Everyone is different, everyone handles their challenges differently. The most important thing we can do is know ourselves and to NOT BE AFRAID to speak up. You are helping so many people to do that!

  • Kathy
    Thanks for the insightfulness of your bought with depression. I have gone through my ups and downs as well especially when all in a blink of an eye I became a single mother with the girls father all but fell off the far of the earth. I did the therapy thing but I found myself feeling worse and it seems that I can never find a therapist that I can really connect with. I am better able to function with lexapro as well however now that I am 40 and expecting girl #3 I find myself very weepy and paranoid that I am going to be diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension a disease which is all but fatal and that took my sister’s life and has also plagued my brother . My doctors think I am crazy and it does not help my situation at all. I also so scared of postpartum depression… I never realized how much I need exercise and my me time which has all but home out the door… Thanks for listening to my ramble!!

    • Thanks for sharing your story!! When I was pregnant with Baby E, after Joey’s death, I was so scared about everything. I was sure something would be wrong with him, and that I would not be strong enough to handle it. My doctor encouraged me to stay on Lexapro for the benefit of not only me, but the baby. I think the reason I have not gone to talk to someone is because honestly, I don’t want to sit there and cry the whole time, which I feel I would do. We talk a lot about Joey at home, and of course my blogging helps as well. It’s all about finding something that makes us feel better that we are able to handle.

  • Wonderful article! As a psychology major & mother with generalized anxiety disorder, I fault the system that refuses to help more women. The stigma of having depression or seeking therapy has lessened over the years. I’m currently 9 months pregnant & stopped taking my anxiety medication once I found out. This has been a tough pregnancy for me especially with the weight gain. I was told I could go on an antidepressant but I chose not to. It’s a struggle & my therapist has got me through these last few months when I just wanted to give up. I commend anyone who is brave enough to confront their own problems & seek help when needed. We are never alone & can offer each other support & guidance. I pray these next few months bring me relief & strength post-partum scares me but I’m not alone. Thank you again for your words of wisdom & encouragement.

  • I honestly don’t even understand all the debate about this. You are taking care of yourself and that is FANTASTIC. I didn’t jump in on the Xanax discussion because it’s beyond me why there even NEEDS to be a discussion. People with arthritis take medication to manage their symptoms. People with migraine headaches take medication to manage their symptoms. This is no different. Good for you for taking care of yourself. Your whole family is benefiting from your health and well-being. Yay!

  • Kathy, as always you are the voice of reason and I thank you for once again sharing your story and a bit more of yourself here with us. You truly said a mouthful here and can’t tell you enough how you really always just say it quite perfectly.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Kathy.

    I had a rough time for the first year or so after my daughter was born. I just didn’t know where I fit in anymore. I was used to having a job and being productive, and all of a sudden the only thing I did day after day was nurse my child to sleep. I also became really anxious about things, mainly the idea of her getting sick. A close friend of mine lost her son to a common virus when he was 4 months old, and I became obsessed with keeping my child from getting sick. It was so bad my husband actually checked himself into a hotel when he came down with a Man Cold a few months ago. He was sweet enough to know it would make me feel better if he did that, but looking back, that’s pretty ridiculous (but I love him for doing that).

    I’ve never spoken to anyone about the way I’ve felt. For the most part, I feel like myself again, with the exception of still feeling really anxious about germs. But I’m getting better about it, and my goal (once flu season ends!) is to enroll my child and me into a bunch of mom-and-tot classes to try and purge myself of my fears. And I know that once she starts school, I won’t be able to control anything anyway. 😉

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never thought people who take medication for depression and anxiety are weak. Quite the contrary, actually. If you know that is going to make you a better person and mother, why WOULDN’T you take it?

    xo

  • Kathy, I love this. I especially love when you talked about how you know that eating well and sleeping, etc. makes you feel better, but realistically, as a parent of young kids, we just aren’t always able to take care of ourselves as well as we would like. I also completely agree that you do what you can to enable yourself to feel better. I’m now 3 weeks into starting a new med, and I have hopes that this will work. I’m a better parent when I’m not miserable, and I’m tired of feeling that way…thanks, Kathy.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Meredith. There are things I know I should be doing in terms of working out and sleeping and eating well, but doing those would cause me to neglect other things that cause me stress. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

  • There’s nothing wrong with taking prescription meds to fix what ails you. Whether it’s a chemical imbalance or whatever, if it can be fixed, why not? Ditto with infertility drugs. I got a lot of push back from people when I took those. But my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing, so I helped it along. Don’t let anybody tell you how your life should be run. They’re not living it.

  • I’m just SO overwhelmed @ the type of responses/tone in comments this article has received. Maybe because only 15 yrs. ago when I became a mother…or 45 yrs. ago when MY mother became a mother…or FOR SURE when my grandmother became a mother; unfortunately the response wasn’t as supportive (esp. in the ’40’s). KUDOS to all you ‘stong ladies’ for having the insight to realize you possibly needed to seek assistance (in whatever form worked for you) to improve your mental mindset; that therefore improved your parenting skills. Then, most importantly, you were ACTUALLY able to ‘go out & get help’! Achieving that ‘last step’ of actually going out for help; it’s easier said than done. But educating articles like this help give strength to many! Luckily, I never felt much shame from society for taking meds or therapy. Possibly because I’ve seen how not receiving mental assistance has affected my mother her entire life. But, she had no other example of parenting to learning from, as my grandmother didn’t receive mental health assistance either. It all became a cycle, until the my husband & I changed up the generational habits! I’ve made myself forgive, as Mother knew no different what many of her actions were at times. But it’s been more challenging to be able to automatically regain trust for the future. I continue to work on that & I know I’m not alone in what I’ve gone through. I pray because OUR generation is more willing to seek help/assistance, now our children won’t ever question their need for assistance; if the time comes that they find themselves needing it! Hopefully, our society is breaking the social stigma of acceptance. This article & comments are showing positive gains in the right direction. Thanks so much for posting it!

    • I think you are so right about our mothers’ generation verses ours. My mother never sought any outlet for troubles or feelings. At first, neither did I. But it certainly does help to hear other people’s experiences. Hopefully we can go a long way toward making openness and understanding socially acceptable.

  • Thank you Kathy! I don’t know how this article popped up on my news feed this morning but glad it did. I have taken meds for the past 15 years on and off for anxiety and depression. I had been off of them for a year while trying to conceive our second child. After a difficult pregnancy and 2 weeks of bed rest, a beautiful healthy little boy was added to our family of 3. After 6 weeks I went back to work for 5 hours and had the biggest break down that night that I have ever had. The doctors told me I had Post Pardom. So back on meds I went. And I’m ok with that. I know my body now. I know when I need to be on them and when I can get off them. I know I will have to do this the rest of my life, and I’m ok with that. Thank you for your article. I hope more women know it’s ok and not a shameful thing. And I hope men will be there to support their women like my husband does.

    • However you found it, I’m glad you did! I think understanding our bodies has a lot to do with experimenting with different methods to make ourselves feel better. I have just started changing my eating habits and noticing how much better I feel – physically. Now, I still feel sad, so the meds stay for me for a while. Maybe someday I will get to a place where I won’t have to take them, but for now I do. Thanks for your comment and sharing your story with us!

  • I wish more people could understand that depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are real; they are just as real as other medical disorders. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life; I also struggled with self-medication for many years because (I think) it is seen as more acceptable to use illicit drugs and alcohol than it is to use anti-depressants. At this point, I don’t care what other people think about my disorders or my medication! I hope to be a professional mental health advocate (of some kind 🙂 ) when I am finished with my schooling. If we keep speaking out it will become more socially acceptable, and other people might be willing to get the help they need! Thanks for the article!!

    • [email protected] says:

      Davina, thank you for your comment. I think it’s great that you want to use your experience to help others. That’s part of the problem, I think. People who maybe have not struggled at all are the ones treating women who struggle, and they have little to no real-life understanding of how depression and anxiety work. Sometimes real life is better than any kind of textbook case analysis.