Six months ago, I stopped taking my antidepressants one day. I was having a sort of mental block with the everyday routine of popping three pills to combat my mental illness and ended up just quitting cold turkey.
In the beginning of this mental block, I told my husband I needed help with accountability. He would text me in the beginning to make sure I took my pills for the day, but soon those texts stopped, and so did the pills. I’m not sure why. I think part of me thought I didn’t need them, and I think another part of me was fed up with the consistent weight gain. I felt completely out of control when it came to my body.
This mental block with my pills wasn’t something new. I have been chronically inconsistent with taking my medications, something that can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. In the beginning, it was simply just forgetfulness. I would sometimes forget my pills for a few days at a time, sometimes up to a week.
When my husband would find out I hadn’t taken my pills, he used to say maybe I didn’t need them and could just stop. Even when I stopped taking my new pills for two weeks because of the headaches they caused, my psychiatrist, too, thought maybe my bout of postpartum depression was over since I was managing well without them.
But shortly after leaving his office without a prescription for my next round of medications, I found myself relapsing. Dark thoughts trickled into my head, often to the point where the only thought I could hear in my head was “I want to die” on repeat for days. After managing to get squeezed into an appointment with my psychiatrist, he agreed I should be medicated again, and we went back to my previous medication that we knew worked.
But shortly after resuming my medication is when the mental block occurred.
This time, when my husband would find out about me skipping pills, he would no longer reply with the same optimistic response that maybe I didn’t need them. He used to be somewhat anti-antidepressants and thought our goal should be to get me off them. However, after seeing me relapse, he realized just how important these pills were to my mental health. So now, instead of looking at me skipping my pills as a positive, he looked at it as a negative, given that he knew the effects it would have on me.
With the recent lifestyle changes that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic, I started to become very overwhelmed with the idea of absolutely having to stay home. Although I am a homebody and spend most of my time in the comfort of my home with my family, I at least always knew that the option of going out was there. Now that this option was stripped away from me, I felt trapped. And not trapped alone, but trapped with a very temperamental toddler. The transition was obviously hard for him too, so we weren’t having the best time adjusting.
In early April, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed with the idea that this whole self-quarantining thing could last much longer than originally predicted. I used to spend some days moping around crying, because I just didn’t know how to handle our toddler indoors all day. Little things would set me off, like even just a sad scene in the show Outlander.
My son had been going through this phase where he would intentionally drink from his cup only to spit it out everywhere. He eventually even moved on to doing this with food. As frustrating as it was, it became even more frustrating when he did this on the carpet. I’d spend every evening after dinner scrubbing and vacuuming the carpet while my husband had the luxury of sitting on the couch on his phone scrolling through social media. On occasions, he would help me when asked, but I didn’t like putting this responsibility on him as I knew his work days were long and stressful.
Eventually, my husband began to take note of my irritability, because I would even get sensitive with him and things he’d say. But what upset me the most was that during this tearful state, I always felt like his first response was “Did you take your pills today?”
This response completely invalidated my emotions. It made me feel like I wasn’t allowed any off days to be sensitive. It made me feel like as a mother, I should always have it together. But we’re literally in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, and not to mention, I have a mental illness. Even if I wasn’t suffering from depression, this isn’t easy for anyone. Even Susan down the street who has homemade cookies baking in the oven every night is suffering. This is not easy.
Granted, I have been horrible about taking my pills, but this shouldn’t be the first thing out of my husband’s mouth when I express my frustrations and stress, especially when they’re justified. I just feel as though this question is a copout of having to actually listen to my feelings and help me work through them. If I weren’t depressed and on medications, my husband wouldn’t have an excuse to disregard my emotions.
I know I asked for help in the beginning with accountability, but this isn’t what I meant. I wanted someone to check in on me to make sure I was doing my part in taking my pills every day, not someone to only bring it up when I’m having a rough day. My husband will never know what it was like for me to carry a child for nine long months while everyone stared because I was the pregnant college senior. He will never know what it was like for me to completely lose my identity to a mental illness and have to slowly rebuild it. I guess I just expected someone to feel sorry for me and listen, even if it is the 586th little breakdown I’ve had this year.
At the end of the day, my husband didn’t sign up to be with someone who has a mental illness. I didn’t ever think I would get postpartum depression that would progress into depression. But there he was, walking through it all with me and holding my hand through every obstacle. He is still the same husband that took care of our newborn baby alone while I was hospitalized for PPD, all the while having to study for finals in order to graduate a few weeks later. He is still the husband that took care of me while trying to transition into new medications that left me nearly bedridden with headaches. He is still the husband that cancels plans for us if I’m not feeling myself so that he can stay with me and make me feel better. I know neither of us are perfect, and because of that, I will never hold this over him. But with effort from both our ends, I think we can truly fight this mental illness with grace and fury at the same time.
I know the pandemic must be stressful for him as well, so maybe from his point of view he feels as though I wasn’t doing everything in my power to maintain my mental health while he went to work every day as an essential worker risking his health and well-being. But that’s the thing about marriage. We are always both constantly learning, about what buttons to avoid pushing and how to correct the situation when we’ve already pushed those buttons. I just refuse to be silent when something hurts me, because it will happen again if it is not addressed.
After talking through my feelings, we’ve decided that I am going to make the best effort possible to take my medications so that my husband no longer feels the need to ask. I am taking hold of this important responsibility so that it can’t be abused by my husband, even though he isn’t consciously trying to abuse it. From now on, my husband will not be asking about my pills when we’re in the middle of an argument or if I’m having a rough day. He’s more than welcome to ask at any other point, but having him refrain from asking this question while I’m struggling will allow me to not feel as though my emotions are being belittled.
I know I’m not alone in my fight against depression, and many others can probably empathize about what it’s like being the one with a mental illness in a relationship. It can be hard on both us and our significant others, but communication is truly the best way through it.
My husband feels it’s his right to know if I’m taking my medications, and I agree. We are a partnership and there should be no secrets. But we were able to reach a healthy compromise to avoid any hurt feelings by communicating. Expressing our feelings every way through it, without being called “sensitive,” is the best way forward.
I will have my ups and I will have my downs, but having someone hold my hand through it all is medication in itself — a medication I will never forget.