I left the doctor’s office with a prescription in my hand. A single sheet of paper holding my last thread of hope. I knew other people who had tried it and had success. I knew it was no longer something I could manage on my own and I needed help. And I knew that everything else I had tried just wasn’t enough anymore.
I went to the pharmacy, I read through all the information about possible side effects, and I took my first dose of anti-depression medication. And the results were not at all what I expected.
By the time I left to pick up my son from kindergarten, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I could barely keep my eyes open and the world was spinning. I think the only reason we made it was that I was so afraid of something terrible happening that I worked myself up into a crazy anxious amount of energy. We got inside the house and I nearly passed out. So I laid down “just for a minute,” which turned into hours. Thankfully the two younger kids managed to take care of themselves and watched TV. I was horrified when I realized I had slept away the entire afternoon.
The next day was worse. My husband came home from work so I wouldn’t have to drive anywhere and we re-read the prescription info. All signs pointed to improvement after the first few days, so I continued taking it. I would see the doctor again in a week anyway and she’d know what to do. Thankfully, my parents and siblings took turns helping me for a few days.
We joked that the medicine had given me narcolepsy. I did nothing but sleep for days. And when I was awake I was sick. I didn’t eat, I could barely stand, and worst of all, I was depressed. I had thought I was depressed before, but this was a darkness I couldn’t have even imagined. I didn’t dare stop taking the medicine without talking to the doctor, and when I called they said the same thing as what we’d read. “Give it a week, the symptoms should lessen or go away.”
The day of my appointment, the doctor’s office called and said they needed to push my appointment back a week. I hung up the phone and burst into tears. I didn’t think I could make it. I had never felt so hopeless and discouraged in my entire life.
After the first week, some things did ease up. I was able to eat again and the dizziness mostly stopped. As long as I took a significant nap every afternoon, I was okay to drive.
But I was starting to believe that I just wasn’t meant to be happy and that I never would be again. I was starting to feel bad that my family was stuck with me and convinced myself they deserved someone better. I wallowed. I cried. I hated myself. Then I went numb. I stopped feeling anything and gave in to sleeping even more. I frequently caught myself staring at the wall and wondering how long I had been sitting there.
Why am I telling you this? Am I trying to scare you out of taking medication for depression? Absolutely not.
I’m sharing this because when it happened to me I felt completely and utterly alone. I was sure that I was the only one this had ever happened to. I fell into the “why me?” trap. I wanted desperately for someone to say to me, “I know how hard it is, but I promise it will get better.” I wanted someone to remind me that I am the best mom for my kids and the best wife for my husband and that I really do have a lot to offer them.
I’m also sharing because in the midst of the storm, I had my own little miracle. I hesitated for a while about whether to share this because it is deeply personal to me, but I truly hope it will help someone else. One morning, just before my alarm went off to get the kids ready for school, I heard someone say my name. I sat up and looked around, but no one was there. My husband and kids were sound asleep. I laid back down and suddenly felt a surge of peace. A warmth and comfort so strong, it could only be my Heavenly Father. I know that He was there watching over me and that He was aware of the personal struggles I was enduring. I know that He loves me and that He loves each and every one of you. I know that even in our darkest and most difficult trials, He is there to offer comfort and to strengthen us.
When I was finally able to see my doctor, she told me about a few other options and we decided together which one sounded like the best fit. I was sick for about another week and a half while I waited for the first medicine to get out of my system, but then I started to see positive results with the second medication. And I finally began to feel like it was all worth it.
There was a point near the end of this month of torture when my husband pointed out that I seemed to be rejecting anything that would make me happy. At the same time, I was reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. There is a section where she talks about the things people do to take the edge off when they are feeling pain and that this is dangerous because numbing the bad also numbs the good. We need pain to have joy. We need trials to make us strong.
We are so afraid of pain and sadness and darkness that we are afraid to embrace them. We are missing out on an incredible opportunity for growth. A phrase that often comes to my mind is “the refiner’s fire,” or the idea that it is only through extreme heat and pressure that coal becomes a diamond.
So I started looking for lessons. I changed the meaning of “why me?” to look for ways I may have grown during this experience.
My biggest take away was this: I desperately needed to take care of myself for a while. I needed to put myself first and get some rest. I am terrible at putting myself first. I don’t mean to say that I am amazingly selfless or anything, just that I err on the side of martyrdom. Everyone else’s needs come first even if that means I’m running on empty. But clearly that wasn’t working for any of us.
My kids deserve a mom who is happy. They deserve a mom who knows how to be happy. Not one who puts herself down or never gets to recharge.
Another phrase I love is, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Before this, I might have said, “I hear what you’re saying, but what choice do I have? There just isn’t time for me to do the things that I enjoy, and that is so much less important than my family’s needs anyway.” Well, I was wrong. You really can’t pour from an empty cup. You will get frustrated. You will get angry. You will be resentful and exhausted. And not only does your family deserve better, but so do you. You are worth it.
When I looked back over that month, what I saw was a family who took care of me. I stopped doing so many of the things that I thought were crucial to our happiness, and we survived. I got more cuddles and notes and hand-drawn pictures. I listened to more stories and saw how grown up my kids really are.
In the middle of it all, I wondered if I had made the right choice to take medication or if I should have continued trying to fix it on my own. The important thing is, that I’m trying to fix it. I’m taking better care of myself so I can take better care of everyone else, and it gets easier every day.