I’ve known many mamas out there who have lived through postpartum depression with treatment that included medication. I’ve also known others who were hesitant to take them, or chose not to for many many reasons. Its such a personal choice and I would never ever judge either approach.
But I can say with absolute certainty that the need for medication — choosing to take medication for your illness — is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t make you a bad mom, or a mom who just can’t pull herself up by her bootstraps, and in the immortal words of Tim Gunn “make it work.” Trust me.
I was blessed to have taken antidepressant medication before postpartum depression. Yes, I just said “blessed.” It was a hard thing to accept early in my adulthood when I realized that I had the need for medication. Its a nerve wracking thing. How will it change me? What side effects might I suffer? What will people think of me?
I wished for a long time that I didn’t need the meds. But they helped me, and I started to feel like myself again after figuring out–with the help of my doctor–which medications worked for me. So I started to feel ok with the need for medication. I started to realize that if I had a physical illness, like say diabetes, insulin would be a given. There would be no shame. The would be no questions of what others would think of me.
So when I was hit with postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter almost 4 years ago, I was ok with upping my meds, changing them a bit to balance things out. I was breastfeeding, so we found medications that were deemed ok. Not everything is full proof, but it worked out well for us, thankfully.
At this moment, you may be hit with postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD or other postpartum mood disorders. Mental illness may not be something you’re familiar with in your own life. And that’s scary. And it sucks. And its hard to come to terms with. You might in your heart feel shame, like you’re not a strong person or normal like everyone else. Or if you could just hope more or wish more or pray more, you’d get better. I get it. Too many of us get it. Its OK to feel that way, but try to understand that its the illness talking to you. Depression is a big fat liar who lies deep inside your heart.
You are not weak, or less than normal. Truly, what you are experiencing is a medical condition. Its real, and just like diabetes or thyroid disease or bad eyesight or even a broken leg, it should not be shameful. None of those physical conditions are shameful, so why should your illness be?
But I know its still hard to accept the “mental” part, especially when you don’t know what’s going on at the start. Its not something as easily seen or understood as a broken leg. But if you reach out, find a doctor who will listen, things can change. You can be the mother you want to be with the right treatment.
So I want you to repeat after me. Needing medication is not a weakness. Again. Needing Medication is Not a Weakness. Try to say it as many times as it takes until it sinks in. Because it is the truth.
Later this week, I’ll be discussing additional therapies and alternative ways of helping postpartum depression outside of medication. Things that you can add to your treatment plan at home to be an active participant in your care. Things your family members can do to help you. But know that if your doctor suggests it, and you choose medication, its OK. You’re not weak or bad or hopeless. You’re going to get better, and there is true strength in the journey.