Back in December, I decided to go off my anxiety and depression medication. It was partly due to a change in insurance and doctor, and partially due to thinking I had a grip on life. When I was prescribed the meds, it was during a time when, as I told my doctor, I was going batshit bonkers. I was tense all the time. I was depressed all the time. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t coping well with life. I needed help.
Had I been single, or even just married, I may have chosen to “tough it out,” but at the time, I had a 2-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter and they needed a mom who was present. They needed a mom who wasn’t mentally wandering away as she thought about how terrible her life was or who was constantly fearing make-believe tragedies. They needed the best mom they could have — and what I was giving them while unmedicated was not what they deserved.
But after a year or so on the meds, things seemed to be looking up. I felt like I could handle life better. I felt like I had grown, like I could be that mom my kids needed, the friends those in my life needed, the wife my husband needed, without the necessity of medication. I thought I was ready to live life without my medications.
I was wrong.
For five months, I tried hard to be the person those in my life needed me to be — the person I wanted to be. Someone who saw things for how they were, instead of through a haze of sadness and worry. I had some good days, some minor victories, but as the days turned into weeks and months, I felt myself being pulled back under the crashing waves of anxiety and depression. I could no longer tough it out. I needed medication. Again.
I felt like a failure, like there was something wrong with me. Like I just should’ve tried harder, or gotten more sleep, or done x, y, and z, and then I would be okay. I felt like I was weak and hopeless and would never be the person those in my life needed me to be.
And now I’m here, after several weeks of being back on medication, to announce that all of those thoughts are absolutely false.
The only thing “wrong” with me is that my mental health is skewed. My brain doesn’t operate the same way it does for other people, which leaves me with palpable anxiety and depression. But it’s not “wrong,” it’s just who I am. Just like I have blue eyes and blond hair, I also have anxiety and depression — and that’s okay.
With so many people feeling stigmatized by the fact they’re on medication, I’m here to say that being on medication makes me a better mom. It just does. It keeps my emotions in check. I can see my kids and how I’m raising them with a clear mind instead of one weighed down by insecurity.
I can be present with them instead of ignoring them while I worry. I can get out of bed every day and interact with them, teach them, love them fiercely. I don’t lose my temper at the drop of a hat because I’m on edge all the time. I can breathe deeply. I can take it all in — the good times and bad — and know that I’m the best mom my kids could ever have.
I don’t wish anxiety or depression on anyone. It’s ugly and uncomfortable and potentially devastating. But if you’re suffering from it, get some help. People may judge you. People may express some type of disappointment in you. Those people and their opinions don’t matter one iota.
What matters is that medication for mental illness can help you be the person you fervently desire to be. It can make you whole. My medications are an absolute gift to me and my kids, and I will be on them for as long as I need to in order to be the best mom I can be.
My kids deserve it.
I deserve it.
You do, too.