Hmmmm… back in January I shared my list of resolutions and buried in the end was a mention of going to see my doctor to figure out if perhaps my brain chemistry could use a little assistance. Two months later I have a little update for you.
Disclaimer: Every person is different. Every journey is different. This recounting is my experience thus far and I share it with you in case you are looking for answers for yourself and this could resonate with you or help you feel not so alone. We don’t always have the conversations we need to when it comes to mental health and not talking about something doesn’t make it go away. And talking about it doesn’t make it the only thing that defines you or boxes you in and it certainly doesn’t make it the thing that limits you. I am so many things, but I happen to be a person who takes Zoloft. It works for me. Maybe something else works for you. There is strength to be found in sharing our stories and our truths. This is my story – at least a chapter of it.
I don’t remember at exactly what point I started noticing a difference in myself… I think it crept up on me gradually over time as things often do. I wasn’t quite myself but then, I also had quite a bit on my plate with running a business, raising kids, volunteering, keeping up with friends and family and the parenting/work schedule we’ve been handling the last four years (oh how that number makes me laugh when I consider they initially said it would be two years until Simon moved to first shift and back then I would pass the months thinking, “Oh, we’re 1/24th of the way there and then 1/6th, etc…” and those two years have come and gone more than twice now with no end in sight). Still, if you had asked me if I was depressed, I would have told you no, absolutely not. We bought our “forever” home last year and moved into a wonderful neighborhood where our kids will grow up that is close to church, work and many, many friends. Work was the same, my business partner had named me president but it was mostly business as usual with a new title that made me feel all grown up and proud. I had started the book club and was seeing friends regularly, having semi-regular date nights with my hubby and hosting many gatherings at our new house. Who would be depressed about all that? Or how could you be depressed? Depression is a funny thing, well, mental health is a funny thing – it doesn’t care who you are, it can just show up and cause problems, sometimes you don’t even realize that your “normal” doesn’t have to be normal.
For me, everything should have added up to being all right, and yet… I felt it, that niggling feeling that something wasn’t right. That I was drowning in my life but I didn’t have a clue what could be changed or done differently. My kids were just kids, a little hyper at times, not always the best listeners but still just kids and pretty darn good ones at that and yet I was short tempered and sometimes downright mean to them, quick to yell and frustrated as all get out. My husband has his annoying habits as all husbands do – the joy of marriage and living with someone day-in-day out is that you learn all their little “things” and you love them because of and in spite of those things – and yet EVERYTHING he did drove me crazy, made me annoyed and made me so I was constantly reminding myself that marriage is work and that it is a choice to be made daily because divorce isn’t an option – I would find myself muttering with scary regularity, “I’ve had enough, I’m done.” I’m sure I was a real joy to live with. And the new title at work didn’t change my responsibilities or add more stress to my life – and yet if I thought about work in the evenings I would feel my pulse start to race and the anxiety rise to where I couldn’t breathe – 13 years in the business and I was unsure of everything, kept awake at night with thoughts of what the next day held in store (this anxiety was what finally made me realize something wasn’t right). I felt loved, knew I was loved, was actually usually happy and not mopey or depressed feeling and yet I found myself after MOPS one Thursday morning wrapped up in the arms of a wonderful mentor mom, sobbing and feeling so very tired, so very much at the end of my rope.
So I asked for help. I met with two women from church – the mentor mom who first comforted me and another woman who is on staff at church who had led my calm parenting class last spring – I talked, they listened and shared their own experiences, asking questions and giving advice. I prayed, I read and I talked with others about what was going on. I made an appointment with my doctor and after explaining to her how I had been feeling, she asked, “Have you heard of Zoloft?” Her question made me laugh because after talking to other friends who had been on it, it was exactly what I thought I would be asking for, the mommy’s drug of choice.
I started it two months ago and I feel like myself again. I didn’t even realize how “down” I was until I started waking up in the morning, feeling like I wanted to jump out of bed, instead of only wanting to roll over and go back to sleep. I still feel frustrated and annoyed by my children and husband at times (not all the time) but I can react more appropriately and with grace and love instead of anger and desperation. Instead of being my worst self and feeling guilty and anxious, I feel like a better version, I feel like me. I feel like telling everyone that they, too, should be on Zoloft. I don’t know that I will always need it but for where I am right now, it’s exactly what I needed to help get me through. I also need to to keep talking, to keep praying and to keep reading things that help give me insight into my marriage, my children and my life.
The funny thing is, now that my mental health is more stable, I can see how out of whack it was, how I was in a constant state of extreme PMS. Three weeks in to taking my little blue pill, I started feeling that anger boiling up and threatening to overflow, I thought that perhaps I needed to up my Zoloft dosage or worse, that it had stopped working but that time happened to coincide with a little hormonal imbalance that happens monthly in all women (if you catch my drift). It hit me, for the last year what I had been experiencing as my normal baseline emotional state on a day-to-day basis, was the same as what should happen only a few days a month and I had just come to accept it, to think that was just how life was.
I’m very thankful that so far, Zoloft has worked for me without any horrible side effects – I have found that I think I might be allergic to it as the skin on my arms started itching horribly after I started it but after adding a daily allergy tablet to my pill popping, the itching has gone away. And I am so appreciative of the people in my life who have supported me and been praying for me. Special thanks to my husband but just being himself – our marriage certainly isn’t perfect, but at least again I know it is good and worth it.
It scares me a little to be honest about all this for fear that someone will think I can’t do something because I’m unstable or that it will add stress to my life that I don’t need and that simply isn’t the case. I think you could make my life absolutely stress free and I would still have the brain that I have and need some readjusting. If anything, I’m more stable on Zoloft with the knowledge that I’m not perfect or able to do it all on my own. We all need help of some kind and we’re all on the journey of life together. God puts people in our lives to help us, God gives us his word to guide us and God made people smart enough to invent drugs to rewire us in a way that makes us shine more true to ourselves.