Needing Medication is Not a Weakness

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Image-1 (1)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.

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About Cristi Comes

Cristi is a warrior mom, wife and writer at http://www.motherhoodunadorned.com. She blogs about mental health, suicide prevention, self care and style. She's a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety, and fighter of mental illness.

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  1. I also thought it was a sign of personal weakness. I knew it was the right decision for me and my family. This is a great post!

  2. Thank you so much for this article!! I did not want to take medication. In fact when my OB gave me an antidepressant at my 7 week post birth appointment I ended up not taking it because I was breastfeeding & was so afraid of what it would do to my baby. I also did not realize that I was having intrusive thoughts & obsessing about things happening to him right after he was born. When he was 18 months the intrusive thoughts changed to me doing something & my world fell apart. I was either going to end it all or check myself into the nearest hospital. I wish I had started meds at the 7 week visit & maybe it would have never gotten so bad. I also was afraid of what people would think & felt weak for having to take meds. I did not want to depend on a medication. I wanted to be normal & not need meds for a mental health condition. But I was desperate so I started meds & now am thankful I did. I still am reluctant to tell people I am on them & feel there is a stigma attached to it. I am willing to do whatever it takes to spread awareness about this. I am a dental hygienist & applied for disability insurance to cover my wages in the event that I was ever not able to work due to an injury etc. I was told I was denied because I had to take medication for anxiety & that they do not want to cover someone who takes meds for that “type” of condition. Would it be the same if I had diabetes? I also have struggled with not feeling “normal” & still do. The one thing I know is I am so thankful for this site it really has saved me & made me feel that I am not alone. It is amazing how you read other people’s stories & you could have written it yourself because they describe exactly what you are thinking & feeling. Thank you-once again you have described exactly the feeling I have had on my journey with medication.

    • While I’m not glad that you’ve lived through your struggles, I am glad that my post spoke to you. Thank you for reading and for sharing your story. This site also helped me so much as well when I was in the midst of it. Its amazing that knowing you’re not alone, that other women out there really do get it, can make such an impact. You’re right, there is stigma, but there is also so much acceptance too. Things are changing and I feel there’s hope. On a side note, it makes me so angry that your disability insurance denied you! That is unacceptable.

  3. One of the clearest memories I have of my entire experience is sitting in my living room, my med in the palm of my hand and rage in my heart that I had to take it just to be “me.” It was unfair that I had to take a med to function properly. So unfair. I took the pill that day, just as I did every day before and for quite some time after, but that moment, the one in which I saw it as a weakness and allowed it to infuriate me has stuck with me. I think, in a sense, it was a turning point for me as after that, I never saw it as a weakness after that. Thank you for this post, Cristi, and for your tireless advocacy for those who battle their own mental health issues.

    • Its those hard moments that stick with us, don’t they? The times we felt weak or fear or stigma. I try hard to remember the moments I’m strong, and silly as it sounds, taking that pill each day for me is strength. Its something I don’t want to do, but doing it day after day makes me healthier for me and my family. Thanks to you Lauren your all that you do as well. We are all fighters!

  4. Hi Cristi – Beautiful post. Have a beautiful day.

  5. Right on Cristi. Right on.

  6. Seeing others talk about PPD helps. It so very much does. I am thankfully now at a better point in my life – I have weaned myself slowly off my meds, to half the dosage. I am taking it slow, letting my mind adjust. Some days are better than others. Some are still very bad. But I feel genuily happy most of the time once again. Medication can be a lifesaver that I will never be made to feel bad about.

  7. I came to terms pretty easily with the need to take meds for PPD, but I also thought it was going to be a temporary situation, that the meds would help me get better and then I could eventually stop them. 3 years later, I’m still on them, having tried twice to wean off them. I’m still coming to terms with likely needing to take them for the rest of my life.

    • I know that can certainly happen. Our body chemistry changes so much after giving birth. I also know that its hard to accept, but I’m glad you’re doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

  8. This post was referred to me by one of my fellow FB friends in a PPD group and I’m glad I read this. Thank you so much for this, I was so mad at my OB because when I told him about how I felt I felt like he rushed me and just threw the antidepressant at me so I can just leave. So I went to another doc whom I felt just rushed me as we’ll I felt so hopeless because I just didn’t want to take the meds because I felt like if i did or if I do ( because to be honest I haven’t tooken them yet) I was being weak and I felt like it meant I’d never get over this that I’d have to depend on the meds to be me and that was a torturing thought within itself. Then I think it’s even more torture not being able to enjoy your baby and watching everyone else enjoy her in front of you. After reading this I think I will look for a counselor and talk about getting on a medication plan to see what will help me the most. Thank you again for this post,and all these ladies sharing their stories has giving me the push to take the next step to getting better for me and my family. God bless

    • You’re so very welcome Pearl. I know its so common to be leary of medication and to have the feeling that you’re weak somehow. I’m sorry your doctor rushed you. I know that a good supportive doctor is so important to getting the treatment you need at your own pace. I’m proud of you for wanting to take the next step and I hope you find a great doctor to help you. Take care.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Medication, while important for many, really shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all when it comes to treatment of postpartum mood disorders. I’m not a doctor of course, but I’ve learned this lesson over and over throughout the journey of my own mental illness. There are things I’ve discovered that each of us can do, on top of what we’re already doing with our doctors, to further our own treatment. I truly believe, its just as important to be a vigilant advocate for our own mental health care, as it is to have good doctors. […]

  2. […] Please head over to “Beyond Medication: Other Treatments and Self Care” and if you missed Monday’s post you’ll find it here: “Needing Medication is Not a Weakness.” […]

  3. […] head over to “Needing Medication is Not a Weakness” and share it with someone you love. You just might send them hope that they’re not […]