My baby was screaming in his crib. I was pacing in my room with hot, wet tears flooding down my cheeks. My husband stood by trying to console me as I felt the rising anxiety and helplessness fill my chest and strangle my words until I could only mutter and sob. My infant son would not go to sleep and I had reached my limit.
“Honey, I really think you need to talk to a doctor. This isn’t normal. We need to get some help.”
My husband was doing his best to contain my episode and pull me up to normal again. But the overwhelming anxiety I felt had engulfed me like a stick in hot tar and as much as we tried, I couldn’t escape. I agreed that night to get help.
Why is it so taboo to talk about taking medication to handle depression and anxiety? Moms talk with their friends in hushed tones revealing their struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. They carry the boulder of shame and embarrassment on their shoulders, trying to disguise the fact that they are human and need help.
But, then again, I wasn’t much different. I grew up with my mom on her “happy pills.” I always saw it as a weakness. I didn’t want to be controlled by a drug. I was stronger than that.
I sat on the table in the examination room, looking at my hands, wondering how I would put into words how I felt, worried that my doctor wouldn’t understand or believe me. She listened to my broken sentences through muffled sobs as I detailed the anxiety and sadness I’ve been feeling since my son was born. She prescribed an antidepressant and therapy.
It took everything I had to swallow my pride and seek help, and even more to start my medication. As soon as I did, however, I felt an immediate change. I felt a physical weight lifted off my chest. I was so worried that this would be like an anchor around my feet when in reality it set me free.
This medicine was like the knife that cut the ropes that engulfed my body.
What I thought would be the death of me, saved my life. And my sanity. Now, I am a believer. I talk about it with friends. “I felt that way too. I had to get on medication,” they say. You too? It wasn’t until I opened up about this that I realized just how many other people share my experience. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates 31% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder in their lives. Over 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode.
We are not broken or weak. We care about ourselves and our loved ones enough to get help. And if we want to help moms and those struggling to handle their anxiety and depression, we need to open up about it and take away the stigma surrounding mental health
“I wonder if moms before dealt with this. I wonder if they had this anxiety,” I ponder with my mom friends, sitting on the sofa with half-filled wine glasses as our littles run past.
Is this something new to modern society? Is this an indictment of current life? Is the pressure to lead a successful career, manage a home seamlessly, and raise well-adjusted happy kids, all on our own, too much? Did our grandmothers and their mothers experience this? Were women just labeled crazy and sent out of the examination room and to the asylum?
The only thing I know is the dialogue has to continue. If you are feeling overwhelmed, unable to control the anxiety, sadness, or fear you feel, please reach out and get help. You can find more information here.