To Medicate or not to medicate….

What a question? I have lots of mixed feelings about the use of anti depressants. I tried so hard to avoid taking them. I thought taking them would feel like I was giving up on myself. The feeling that I could not cope with this alone and needed additional help was crushing.

I have read a lot of blogs and listened to mental health podcasts where people have talked about overcoming depression without medication with a great deal of pride, wearing it as a badge of honour even. This is great for them, but these stories did not help me.

I was listening to Susan Calman on the radio and she equated how severe her depression was with how many box sets she got through. At my lowest I managed to watch every single episode of the West Wing – all 156! Whenever Joseph was asleep I would have one eye on the iPad watching the show and one eye on the baby monitor. I carried these devices around the house with me as I did jobs. I could not turn it off, most of the time I was not even watching it I just needed to have the noise, the conversation. I could not cope with being alone with my thoughts. I spoke to the psychologist about this and she asked me what would happen if the battery ran out – I nearly had a panic attack.

This wasn’t even the first time I had watched the West Wing – it was the third! I knew the storylines and the characters and it was not going to surprise me. At a time when I didn’t really know my own mind or what emergency was going to happen that day I didn’t need any more surprises. I needed my West Wing comfort blanket.

I returned to work in the January after Joseph’s third heart operation and a full years’ maternity leave. I was suddenly back in front of a classroom again, doing my best to think and act normal. I was even trying to plan for the future…I couldn’t even plan for the future in my own life. I was not ready for this; acting ‘normal’ was exhausting. I felt like and probably appeared like a very strange robot. After a couple of weeks of this I gave in, I mentally released the tight grip I had on my life, I wanted to stop, I wanted to start again.

I went to the GP. I couldn’t talk to her; I was too ashamed about the state I was in. I wrote her a letter that she read in front of me. She was wonderful. After a few appointments and lots of talking I was given a prescription. They warn you that anti depressants will make you feel nauseous. This is a complete understatement – I felt terrible for about three weeks. After this time I felt the tight knot that was my mind and body start to loosen. I had been relying massively on to do lists to get me through the day and I found I needed these less. I was no longer starting 50 tasks and finishing none, I could complete something. I could eat something; I could sit and read a few pages of a book. The medication is not a fix, but it has helped me to relax and fully engage in the therapies that were eventually going to fix me.

I congratulate the people that have managed to overcome depression without the use of medication. Focusing instead on diet and exercise is fantastic but that was not an option that my mental state made plausible.

The all natural way is seen as the healthiest and the safest option. This is true as well in pregnancy and childbirth. I did not have a natural delivery; I had to have a C-section. I only breastfed Joseph for 3 weeks. Similarly in my battle with depression, we had to use alternatives. I can see now after a lot of work that this does not make me a bad mother; this is just my journey.

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