What I think of myself
A year ago, I had emerged from a physically and emotionally grueling phase of life called adoption, pregnancy, moving and extended loss of sleep. I was used to feeling tired and spent. It was not an especially unhappy period of life, just hard. But a year ago, we were settled and resting better and our family unit as a whole was doing really well. Except for me. My own emotional trajectory was not following the trend and I often found myself flashing into a hot anger towards the children. This anger was not ok and when it stuck around for a little while, I went into a counselor and subsequently a doctor and learned that the root problem was depression and anxiety.
Since then has been a really beneficial journey. I have learned a lot. I can now accurately identify anxiety when I feel it and multiple flavors of depression (sadness, grief, ache, tearfulness, longing) and I am really good at knowing if those emotions are caused by my physical/clinical condition or if they are reasonable responses to life around me. I also participated in six months of productive counseling with a skilled Christian therapist. I brought with me several tangled strands of emotionally charged thought patterns and emerged with a better understanding about life and faith. Some of the topics were “what it means to be a mother”, “to be successful”, “being be Jordan’s mom”, “God and suffering,” and it culminated in a greater depth of faith.
Very early in the process, I went to a doctor and was prescribed antidepressants. Prozac settled the depressed emotions to the background and the anger no longer flashed. I still had a deep “fog” in my mind, if you will, and some fairly intense anxiety, so we increased the dose several times, but eventually the bizarre dreams and insomnia convinced me it was not the right drug for me. I took a month off medications and discovered that I was not, at that point, at a place where I was ready to be without medications. I tried a few others (sorry, don’t remember their names – one made my extremely anxious and one was almost right, but not quite) and settled on __________. I have been stable for quite a long time now except for short seasons (PMS, for example) and it has been good to be present and healthy.
There are some negative effects of medication, though, that I want to describe. The first thing that comes to mind is its’ sedative effect. My doctor and I worked to find one that helps me retain an even keel but that has as little sedation as possible… but it is not without more sedation than is ideal. It mellows me beyond my natural level of mellow. My emotions feel muffled as well as my physical response to my husband. It’s preferable to being a hurting puddle of tears, but I usually really enjoy most of the day after forgetting a dose of medication, because I feel energetic and engaged and responsive to everything. Two days after, though, it feels more like my emotions are wobbling on ice skates with laughter and tears on either side of the wobble.
The second thing that comes to mind is hard to explain, because I don’t understand it well, but it has to do with what I think about myself when I take medication. I know in my head that it’s wonderful that there are medications to help people struggling through illnesses like this and I am truly grateful. The medication made the mental and spiritual healing possible. Now when I feel depressed, it is very surface, very physical and it does not attack my identity any more. But I don’t like feeling broken and I don’t like taking pills that modify how I feel. I’m frustrated with my body, including the 20 pounds I put on over the first six months after being diagnosed. This is the first time I’ve had something that feels like I can’t overcome it. Call it a midlife crisis, perhaps, but my youth is not beating this for me and I don’t like that.
Since the medication is working right now and our family continues on the upswing, Brian and I have started talking about an exit strategy from the world of antidepressants. Neither of us is sure that I can or should be off antidepressants, but we both know that I want off, so we are going to see what sort of things we can put in place to make it more likely. You know, we should think through and lay out the proactive and reactive responses to a number of situations. Things like exercise, diet, rest and some of those things we forgot about during our time raising babies. Speaking of babies, for the first time in my life, I am feeling some peace about “being done” having children. No firm decisions, just it’s good to feel settled and comfortable and in love with my family right now without that constant longing.
So that’s it! That’s what’s up after a year or so of having depression. Ta da! A blog is written!