Better living through chemistry

I have always been resistant to the idea of pharmaceutical intervention for mental health problems (for myself, not others). There are a great deal of reasons that run the gamut from not liking to take medications to believing that a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise) can overcome mental health issues to just a stubborn streak that says I can get by on my own without medication.

My eyes have been opened.

I have been existing in a fog of post-partum hormones (normal ones compounded by everything else including major sleep deprivation and now a raging cold), depression, anxiety, fear, and many other emotions for the past 3 weeks. While there are moments of wild elation, joy, restfulness with my son on my chest, and other respites, I would say that the overwhelming feeling has been one of being, well…overwhelmed emotionally. It culminated in a 24+ hour panic attack.

I knew I needed help. I was unable to cope with the emotions and the panic. I was unable to enjoy my time with James, with my daughters, and with my husband.

So I asked for help.

I started taking Zoloft and very occasional doses of lorazepam (Ativan) to help manage the breakthrough panic. I have been able to cope for the last 72 hours. Supposedly, Zoloft takes a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels, but I already feel better and more able to function. I’ve been able to take the Ativan only 3 times in 5 days (at dose of 2.5mg – which is pretty low)- and that’s to break the cycle of panic if I feel it starting.

Since then, I have figured out ways to cope. One thing that helps me enormously is stopping, taking a deep breath, and reminding myself that this is a season in my life, and like all things, this will pass, and one day, everything will be different. I don’t know how it will be different, I don’t know if James will be with us, but it will be different. Maybe not easier, but it won’t always be like this.

Another thing that has caused the spiral of panic is the fear of something happening to someone else in my family – my mom, my dad, one of my in-laws, or one of my children. I panic because I can’t imagine how I would be able to cope if something else happened to someone I loved. I also selfishly worry that if something happened to one of the pillars of our support network, how could we possibly get by?

Now, I am able to let my worries go a little more easily and realize that I can’t control anything. I can only take the day as it comes – enjoy my time with my family – especially baby  James, and hope for the best.

A friend from vet school recently messaged me, and I wanted to share it, because I think it’s relevant and true, and it makes me feel better to know that my blog is helping others.

In response to you latest blog post “Thankful”: I am thankful for you. For you being brave enough to share your trials with the world. This world that can be so harsh, so unloving, so judgmental.

A few weeks ago I meant to send you a message to tell you how refreshing and empowering it is to see you ask for help. This is something I have been working on in therapy for almost 2 years. People don’t know what you need unless you ask for it (at least that’s what my psychiatrist is trying to get me to understand). In becoming a woman I was lead to believe that I had to “do it all” and if I couldn’t I somehow wasn’t good enough. This lead to years of anxiety and panic and eventually depression. It’s still a struggle for me to always ask for help or tell people what I need but it’s something I work on every day. When I saw your post asking for help it helped me see that that is what we are here for, to help each other. Life is unbearable of we can’t share our struggles. So, I am thankful for your example to me of how to be a such a strong woman.

Secondly, I am thankful that someone is talking about the anxiety and depression that can come along with pregnancy, postpartum, and just life in general. We all know that mental illness needs to be talked about more, that’s the only way to break down the stigma, yet no one is doing it. Or if they are brave enough to do it it’s always relaying a story from a time before, or made to seem not as harsh as not really is. You only know this if you’ve lived through it. But you are real. You are honest. You don’t make apologies for what you’re talking about. And you just do it, raw, right as you are living through it. That is real. That is what is going to help other people. I can’t even begin to imagine what you and your family are going through right now, so I won’t pretend to. Just know, that way down here in –, my heart aches for you, cheers for you, and heals because of you. I am thankful for you.”


One thought on “Better living through chemistry

  1. I admire you so. Sharing your grief with others can be helpful to you and to others. Your story has encouraged me, and I’m a mother of three grown children, a grandmother to four, and a great- grandmother. My sister had ten pregnancies, and gave birth to four live healthy children. She has never shared her losses with me or anyone that I know of, and I believe that it is healthy to share what you’re feeling in order to heal. I will be praying for you and your whole family,Catherine, as you have requested in an earlier blog.


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