[Mental Health Awareness Week] To Medicate Or Not To Medicate?

Jessica Atkinson

Jessica Atkinson

Jessica writes mainly about her struggles with post-natal depression and anxiety. She has two children, aged 2.5 and 1. You can find her at That Mummy Blog.
Jessica Atkinson

I had never been keen to take antidepressants. I had always been of the opinion that they would only mask the problem, not fix it. I thought they would take away all emotions, or I would be so happy I wouldn’t be able to control them.

My step dad once told me about a time when he had just split from his first wife and a Dr (who since has become my favourite Dr!) called him and offered him some antidepressants. He said that antidepressants were for the weak, and they definitely wouldn’t work. I don’t even remember why he told me, however it has always stuck with me.
After having Alfred, within a few weeks I was being offered every medication going. I refused, sure that I would fix whatever was wrong myself, because antidepressants were for the weak. Months passed and nothing got better. I went to the Drs, where they handed me the Depression and Anxiety leaflet and a prescription for antidepressants. Both stayed in my purse, before eventually finding their way to the bin.

My anxiety levels increased as more and more health professionals tried to convince me to take medication. I was having panic and anxiety attacks over the thought of taking medication to stop my panic and anxiety attacks. I can’t remember how many times I went to the pharmacy, one of many prescriptions crumpled in my hand, heart racing, then rushing home to throw it in the bin.

At 8 months post partum, I finally admitted to my psychologist that maybe I wasn’t doing as well as I was making out. She had not been pressuring me to take medication like everyone else had and we had formed a trusting relationship. I spoke with a friend who had been taking medication for a while and she suggested I see her doctor. My psychologist contacted that doctor so she would know my full history, just in case I masked my worries, one of which were the side effects. I knew the medication could make me feel nauseous, which with my experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (read more here) I was terrified of.

The doctor was amazing. She prescribed a medication that the others hadn’t suggested, along with anti sickness medication to ease my nausea fears. I trusted both my new doctor and my psychologist, so finally I went along to the pharmacy and handed in the script. I took the first pill and obviously expected an immediate change, despite my doctor telling me they could take weeks to work.

A week passed and I went for drinks with friends. I knew the medication could make me more sad when mixed with alcohol, however no one ever told me it would also make me more drunk. Two glasses of wine into the night and I was absolutely trollied. The room was spinning and I admitted this to my friends, we all laughed and confided with each other. I was starting to feel confident that I had made the right decision.

As the weeks went on, I became increasingly exhausted. I was plagued with an intense insomnia, alongside an increased anxiety and paranoia. I would walk around the house, ensuring all windows and doors were locked. Looking inside wardrobes and behind doors to check for I don’t know what. Twitching curtains so they lay just right. I had to sleep in a particular position, with each pillow and the duvet laid in a certain way. Then after half an hour, would convince myself I needed to pee, which resulted in checking all the doors again, running back to bed and then faffing with all of the covers and pillows again.

By morning I would be exhausted, if I had any sleep it was broken and full of bizarre nightmares and constant night sweats. I dreaded the moment my daughter would run into our bedroom, ready to start the day. My husband started taking her upstairs with him, giving her breakfast and putting the telly on before leaving, with the assumption I would go upstairs and take over.

What he didn’t know is that I would then go back to sleep. Leaving my daughter to look after herself for a few more hours. She would come and check on me every now and then, asking for another snack or to change the channel. My son is a sleepaholic, so continues to sleep until woken, sometimes until 11am or noon! This became my routine, and still happens now on my bad days, however my husband is now aware that I do it.

My doctor increased my dosage on a few occasions, each time feeling it wasn’t quite right yet. Each time my insomnia increased, along with my nausea. My anti sickness tablets became habit, I would take them each day for fear that not taking them would cause me to vomit.

A few weeks ago my doctor finally decided that this medication wasn’t working, and it was time for a change. By now I had developed a trusting relationship with my doctor and agreed to the change. Although I hadn’t realised in order to change medication, you first had to wean yourself off the current one. I was nervous. Despite my paranoia and depression worsening, my sleep had improved and I had become reliant on my meds. The thought of taking less terrified me.

And it was a bloody rough few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time in bed, with most days having to be coaxed out by a very dear friend, helping to make sure my children were fed and dressed. I’ve felt very low, all my hard work became unwound, I spent hours comparing my children to others. I started to doubt myself and my writing. I came very close to deleting this blog altogether. I drank. A lot. Luckily with friends who understand and were able to look after me. I’ve eaten way too much cake, and probably 4 or 5 tubs of Haagan Dazs.

For the first time since my depression arrived, I thought about what life would be like without me in it. I started to plan how I could run away. If I left enough bottles around the house, maybe a couple of packed lunches, my daughter would make sure the baby was fed, I was sure. I found myself cuddling my husband each night, asking him if I should be taken to a PND rehab unit. Paranoid that I was going insane, that I would be locked away, or that my children would be taken from me.

Then I was able to start taking the new medication and within days the fog lifted. I felt re energized. I slept! I laughed so much my face hurt. I’m not ‘better’ by any means, but I feel like I’m back on track again. It’s been terrifying. But, the only way is up, eh?

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