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When my daughter was born I forgot how to be cheerful and calm.
Formerly upbeat, if a little Type A, my personality took a sharp left turn the minute the doctors pulled her out of me.
I was supposed to take this home? This tiny little thing? And make all the right choices and raise her just perfectly and turn out an ideal little person? Um, I think you chose the wrong woman, here. I can't do it.
But they pushed us out of the hospital anyway, and we took home our baby, and a brand new problem: I was absolutely flooded with anxiety. Awash, floundering, waves and currents of worry washing away my pilings.
Everything scared me. If I went grocery shopping, I worried kidnappers would steal her the moment I took my hands off the cart. If I wheeled her up to the top of a hill, I feared I would accidentally let her stroller go careening into the road. If I fed her she would choke, if I bathed her she would drown, if I let down my guard for one minute, she would stop breathing.
I was a mess, a bona fide, certified, great big old mess, and after years and years of trying to think positively and trying to breathe and trying to calm down and getting sunshine and exercise and healthy food, I still couldn't breathe or eat or sleep.
And so I did what I considered giving in: I went to a psychologist, who put me on a dose of Celexa.
For shame, I thought to myself. For shame. You couldn't cut it. Pathetic. Loser. That is, I thought that stuff for the first two weeks that it took my body to get adjusted. Then? Then I felt great.
Oh! You mean, this is the way I should have been feeling all along? You mean other people enjoy their lives? Enjoy their children? Enjoy being a parent? I didn't realize that. Not until the blessed magic SSRI started doing whatever voodoo that it do to the chemicals in my body.
Life was good again. I could sleep. I could sit at dinner with my family without feeling like I was going to scream or cry or throw up or all three. I didn't fantasize anymore about trains hitting me and planes falling out of the sky. I didn't worry about trucks three blocks up jumping the curb and smashing Violet in her stroller. I could even start working out my daughter's developmental issues; the ones I was paralyzed by just weeks before.
After a few years, though, I felt better. I was calm. The therapist pointed out, hey, you seem to be doing well. Why not give going off a try?
I was terrified the depression and anxiety would come racing back. But she thought it was a good idea, so I gave it a try. And for a while, things were fine. First grade was good for my daughter; our finances were in order; everyone in the family was healthy.
Then I got laid off just before summer; in second grade, my daughter's issues came roaring back and she was having trouble at school, trouble making friends.
The black panic began to engulf me again. I started crying at odd moments again, snapping at my family over minor things. Every day when I'd come back from dropping Violet at school, I'd sit alone in the house, crying hysterically and fantasizing over and over again how wonderful it would be to jump off the roof of my building. Just one little jump, then free in the air, then free forever; no problems, no worries, just blessed blank black.
I didn't do it. I went to my primary care doctor instead.
"Do you prescribe SSRIs?" I asked him.
"Only if they're necessary," he told me, looking over his glasses.
"I think they are," I burbled, unable to get out even a second sentence without bawling. I explained to him what had been going on, what the Celexa did for me before.
"Yes, I think this is a good idea," he told me, his hand warm and reassuring as he palmed off the prescription. I'm accepting hugs, too, doctor.
Went to the drugstore, started taking the Celexa, two weeks later, roof-jumping fantasies fade right away.
Yep. It's just like ABC News put it: "Women Say Antidepressants, Anti-Anxiety Meds Make Them Better Moms," or, as Parenting wrote, "Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom."
That's me. Without Celexa, under stress, when my kid has problems, I am a mess. I cry, I lose my temper, I pick at my cuticles, I generally act like a crazy woman and drive everyone in the house crazy, too.
With the Celexa, I can be smooth. I can be calm. I can see the problems without being engulfed and overwhelmed by them. I can work on things, I can make improvements.
So you know, when people say that taking antidepressants is the easy out, I want to say back: If this is the easy way out, then I effing choose the easy way out.
I don't know if I'll stay on forever. But for now, I'm profoundly grateful there's something that helps. And I'm not one bit ashamed to admit that.
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