It’s not the first time I have pushed it. This time, it was my (new) son.
After being on a number of different medications for different diagnoses for the past 10 years, I went off my medicine two months into my first pregnancy.
I haven’t known life without medication in 10 years. Except that one time. And let’s just say I was put on a medical leave from university, sent 4,000 miles back to my parents — and it wasn’t pretty. And that’s putting it lightly.
Much to my amazement now, I live a pretty normal life. Parts of me wondered how I’d ever do normal things like be in steady relationships, get married and the like, because I always felt really ‘messed up.’ And I couldn’t seem to stay stable for any length of time.
Why do I bring this up? Well, I am married, and life is good. And in order to explain where I am now, my life variables are important.
My husband and I found out I was pregnant in November 2012. I was terrified for two reasons — passing on my own mental illness struggles; what my medication may do to my unborn child; and giving birth. (OK, that’s three things, but who isn’t terrified of the last one?)
Now, I am pro-medication. Sometimes, the meds are medically necessary. Sometimes, your brain is physically lacking, your chemicals are lacking and abnormal and it is harmful to you. Or making you harmful to you — and that is scary. When your own brain and body are acting in ways that are causing you to act in ways harmful or significantly non-beneficial to you? Uh, problem.
My new mom/mom-to-be paranoia over the well-being of my son took over any worry of my own well-being. That may be backward, but the reality is that if I had stayed on medication it would have been a worse choice for me. It was a personal choice. It ended up working out for me and I did well. That said, we were overprotective and prepared for any possibilities. And to be honest, given that it had essentially been 10 years, I didn’t know myself without medicine. My own husband didn’t know me without medicine. (That’s terrifying….)
Here I am, a new mother, and have been pushed since three hours post-birth to get back on medication. I know I am still in my new-mom high and my hormones and endorphins are at their peak. I know my body from my own past — that I crash hard. That my lows are the deepest, most terrifying shade. I hesitate now not out of a sense of personal inadequacy but worry about breastfeeding.
I battle the two sides of the coin. Both are a risk and a choice has to be made, right? I’m going to see how it goes for a few months. At the first sign of anything, my choice likely will change. Ultimately, my choices now all reflect my desire for the well-being of my son. ‘Crazy’ mom, or potential risks of crossover into breastmilk and who-knows-what side effects? My options are not promising either way. So I wait.
For the record, I have long gotten over my feelings of inadequacy regarding meds. You know, being on medicine makes me weak and dependent. Having to be on medicine must mean I am crazy. Which one is really me? On meds or off? I have learned and experienced that accepting medication, if needed, actually makes you incredibly brave and strong. Accepting help isn’t always easy and can feel like a blow to the ego. A blow to your own capabilities.
Because that’s what you tell your diabetic friends on insulin, right? Or your friends on blood pressure medication or pain medicine after that awful car accident. You tell them they should be able to deal with this, that accepting help for what the body can’t do on its own is a weakness and they should probably just deal with it.
No. You probably don’t. So if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, whom I can only assume you love dearly, why would you say it to yourself?
But every person who has struggled with mental illness and had to take medicine has that moment where they wonder if just maybe, it’s all over now. Maybe I am all better now, cured. Maybe I don’t need the meds anymore. I don’t know why we wonder it, but we do. I don’t know why we have the urge to push it, to try it, to risk a few months of misery or whatever may come, but we do.
The right answer varies for every person. You’re the only one who can make the decision that’s right for you. For now, I’ve made the one that’s right for me. It may change; it may not. Just remember whatever you decide for yourself, it’s OK.