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?