It was the day after Christmas, 2010. I was sitting shotgun as we barreled down a Texas country road, heading to San Antonio for a week with my in-laws. That’s when it hit me. I made an awful sound – part squeal, part moan, part gasp – that nearly drove Brad off the road. “I forgot to pack my pills,” I urgently whispered to him, hoping the boys in the backseat wouldn’t hear. He knew right away what I meant: we were suddenly driving straight into the unknown. While I stared wild-eyed out the window, Brad remained calm, quietly assuring me I’d make it through the week. I tried to believe him, but he didn’t know if that was really true – and neither did I. Could I make it?
I had resisted medication throughout my treatment for postpartum depression and PTSD resulting from the birth trauma I experienced with our first-born in 2003. I tried everything else – talk therapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, play therapy, you name it – and slowly but surely got better. I started this blog in 2006, finally able to see the beauty in every day and eager to help others climb out of the darkness. I was so darn proud of myself for doing the “hard work” and not covering up my pain with a pharmaceutical band-aid. Kinda cocky and snooty about it, in fact. I thought I had this thing licked.
And then I got pregnant. Holy crap.
My therapist nearly fell over when she found out, having assumed I’d never put myself through a delivery again. Once she regained her composure, she told me everything would be fine. And it was, for a while. But by my third trimester, the writing was on the wall: I was starting to spiral down fast, triggered by every reminder of my impending delivery. Panic attacks, flashbacks, and horrible thoughts I’d rather not repeat here. I was so annoyed with my brain for not sticking with the plan. What about all that hard work I’d done??
My therapist, my OBGYN, my psychiatrist and hubby held a pep-talk-pow-wow, encouraging me to help myself and my baby with some tactics designed to avoid a full-on meltdown, including meditation, aromatherapy, and some happy pills. I was on board with the first two, but feared that drugs would numb me out, making me just as emotionally absent for my second son as I had been with my first. But I wholeheartedly trusted them, so I begrudgingly agreed. But first, I had to leave that cocky girl in the dust – the one who was so proud of conquering her mental health issues without medicine. And I’m so glad I did. The drugs took the edge off and helped me feel capable and connected during the minutes, days and months after my delivery. I still felt like myself. Same passions, same drive, same energy. Less panicking, fewer flashbacks and no nightmares. It was an enormous relief.
But deep down, shame and fear were also lurking. During the three years I was on antidepressants, I only told a handful of loved ones, scared they would judge me or question my motives. I have lots of friends who believe natural is the only way or are up in arms over the rise in antidepressant prescriptions in the U.S.; I didn’t want to continuously have to defend my decision to them. And I didn’t tell my blog readers, either; I worried you’d consider me a fraud for promoting the healing power of everyday beauty when I also needed drugs to stave off my own demons.
I never did go back to my little orange pill bottle after that fateful Texas trip. I realized I was ready to move forward without the medicinal mood booster. Much to my surprise, drugs had helped me feel calm and collected at a critical time. And I’ve realized all that secrecy was so silly.
I’m no longer ashamed, and I’m no longer keeping silent.
I believe in natural remedies and holistic approaches to healing. I also believe the right drugs can move mountains. That’s been a shift in perspective for me and a good lesson to learn: what one person needs to find stability and sanity is not necessarily what will work for the next person. You must do only what’s right for you…and let everyone else decide what’s right for them.
Today’s post is part of a brave blogging link-up I’m hosting for the courageous students in my How To Build a Blog You Truly Love e-course. Hope you’ll visit them to see and support what they’re sharing – and feel free to jump in, too!