So many times I’ve found myself frustrated that my 4 year old daughter is struggling to regulate herself. Spending nearly a decade as a pediatric occupational therapist, I should’ve known to look more closely at myself. Kids that age rely far more on co-regulation than self-regulation. They are looking to us big people to help them navigate the world, identify their emotions, and regulate. If we aren’t keeping ourselves regulated, how in the heck are they supposed to? While I thought I was doing a good job with this (I have gotten so much better at identifying stress, scheduling in self-cares, and generally taking care of myself), I have learned a valuable lesson that came in the form of a pill. The last 1.5 years of my family’s lives have been crazy to say the least. My husband left his job and we bought a second business over 75 minutes away (lots of commuting for both of us), I grew my business and then moved it out of our house into a commercial property, we moved full-time into one RV and then back out (a travel trailer just wasn’t cutting it) into our house, bought a 5th wheel RV and moved into it, sold our house, and then eventually closed my business to stay home with our kids full-time and help focus on our new business. Oh & our daughter developed an auto-immune condition (PANS) that magnified her anxiety and made it too challenging for her to go to daycare or school (which was the nail in the coffin for my business after struggling with the move etc). Needless to say, it has been extremely stressful and almost impossible to maintain my self-cares and health in the midst of chaos. Eventually I decided it was time to consider a prescription for my mental health. I was no stranger to this, but I had prided myself in healing my body and mind enough to be happy and healthy without antidepressants for nearly 6 years. My ego told me I was above medication (ridiculous I know!) and I could continue using herbs and natural remedies and lifestyle. I resisted, but eventually I got tired of being irritable and angry all the time and decided to contact my doctor.
Initially, I tried Zoloft/sertraline as that was the medication that had worked for me for the decade I bounced on and off of antidepressants. However, I quickly realized that it was no longer the right choice for me. I don’t know if it was a change in my hormones after having babies or what, but it made me feel worse and I felt totally out of sync with myself. So I contacted my doctor to try another one. My options were limited at this time because I was still breastfeeding my second child so my doctor recommended Prozac/fluoxetine. This was the magic trick! I can’t say that being on antidepressants made me feel “happy” right off the bat and I can’t say that I felt “depressed” when I wasn’t on them. For me, the biggest change was that I didn’t feel as edgy and uncomfortable. I wasn’t constantly overstimulated and overwhelmed. I had more patience and less anger and irritability. I actually was enjoying motherhood and being with my kids. I was experiencing joy. I wish I had tried medication sooner. Above all else, the best benefit was the fact that my ultra sensitive daughter became so much more regulated, patient, and had fewer meltdowns. I was better equipped to regulate myself so that she could co-regulate with me. I wasn’t in fight or flight and was able to clearly think and problem solve. I was finally able to be an “anchor” of emotional stability for my family.
Please do not let the stigma of mental illness and medication act as a barrier making it harder for you to experience joy in your life. Recognize that there are seasons where you may need an extra boost to help you manage stress. While that may not be medication for you, maybe it’s a babysitter, more self-care activities, better daily rhythms, hiring household help (cooking, cleaning, lawn care, etc), please give yourself permission to ask for help in whatever way you need it. Sometimes we need a ladder to help get us out of the hole we are in. It can be too hard to do the things that we know will create mental wellness and we need a lifeline like a little pill (or whatever healthy helper you need) to give us the jumpstart to start taking better care of ourselves. Maybe it’s a season that you’re in and it’s only a temporary need or maybe it’s something that will be necessary long-term. Nobody can really know how long it will last, but don’t make your todays suck wishing for a better tomorrow without doing something to change your circumstances. Take action. Do the things. Take the pill. Do whatever it is that you need. Once you’re feeling better, then focus on implementing the diet and lifestyle changes that will continue to help you out of the hole. And if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your family and your children. If you feel worse, reach out to your doctor to try something different, don’t just give up. I am generally anti-medication and anti-Western medicine, but there’s a time and a place for both. Realize that sometimes you need to change your opinion and change your mind like I had to in order to feel better.
Motherhood is so hard AND wonderful at the same time. It is an emotional rollercoaster that throws even the most well-regulated person for loops. We have to do whatever we can to get support in any way we can. Most of us are no longer privileged to a village helping us raise our children and are seriously lacking support. Find support in whatever way you need and however you can find it. None of us are superheroes, we gain our strength by leaning on others and asking for help however we need it. I hope that I won’t need Prozac for long to be the ladder out of my hole. Now, I’m able to think more clearly and establish better rhythms and am getting more movement and healthier foods in my body. I’m taking the steps to restore my body’s natural levels of serotonin. Hopefully I will be able to wean off my medication and continue to feel the same peace and joy, but a big lesson I’ve learned is that I would rather lean on Prozac to help me be a better mama than to go back to being irritable and grumpy. Prozac is making me a better mama, wife, and human and I’ll take it as long as that rings true, no matter how much it hurts my ego.