I’m not a crier. In fact, my family has jokingly referred to me as a robot for my lack of tears. I cry during funerals of close family/friends, have been known to weep in quiet moments over how quickly my kids are growing, but it takes something pretty substantial to make more then a few tears flow from my eyes.
At least that’s how it used to be. Today alone I’ve cried about 5 times. About things that make my own eyes roll. This new me is hard to live with. She isn’t someone I recognize. Some days she isn’t someone I actually like. Some days I hate her. This is unmedicated me. I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and some depression. Diagnosed shortly after the birth of my triplets, I’ve been taking medication for the last 7 years. It’s likely I needed it before then but having 4 kids under 3 for awhile apparently makes the symptoms more dramatic. Well not perfect, medicated me feels like the normal me.
Almost 3 years ago, we celebrated the birth of our 5th child, a daughter, who was absolutely perfect. However, during her exam 24 hours later our midwife noted that her breathing was too fast. This condition, called tachypnea, in infants its a signal of possible infection. So we rushed from our home to the ER so that our daughter could be poked, prodded, x-rayed and treated. Within a few hours, however, we learned that tachypnea is also a side affect infants can have from withdrawals from my anxiety medication. Like most moms, I felt relief but so much guilt. MY medication.
Now pregnant with my 6th child, my husband and I carefully and prayerfully decided (with my OB/Gyn’s approval and recommendations) that I would wean off my medication to prevent this baby from suffering the same affects. This was accomplished at the end of the 2nd trimester and I am now into week 7 medication free.
At first, things felt good. I thought, “I can do this!” and “Maybe I don’t need medication anymore!” Then my brain began to wage war. First is the crying. I’d like to blame it on pregnancy, and maybe some of it is. Maybe some of the crying is because I tend to naturally hold in this type of emotion and let my mother and sisters be the criers. However, I cry at the drop of a hat. During dumb movies, at the end of books that aren’t sad, and because I’m frustrated. Next is crabbiness and a harshness to my tone that seems to always be boiling beneath the surface. Unfortunately, this is my worst symptom along with the yelling (a condition I refer to as being “screamy”). The worst part of my symptoms is that it’s usually at the people I love the most…my kids. A lot of this is from feeling overwhelmed and some is just because my brain seems to think that my world (and therefore my kids and husband) is my enemy.
Sometimes I can control my “ugly” (that’s my personal nickname for my brains reaction to life) but most of the time it is a battle to control my emotions and the physical response to my anxiety. It’s much like trying to control a 2 year old toddler who is hungry, over-tired and in the middle of the tantrum to end all tantrums. With 5 more weeks (give or take) here is my encouragement and advice to you and definitely to me:
- Warn everyone that matters. Luckily (or unfortunately depending on how you view it) most of us with anxiety/depression can “keep up with the Jones.” in public. I can manage to not be screamy or start sobbing in Target or at church but that only lasts until we are in the home or even in the car. Before I weaned off my medication and even today I remind my precious “babies” that my brain is not well. That I have these two conditions and some days it gets the better of me. I remind them that when I’m screamy that it’s ME and not them. When I’ve had an anxious moment with them I apologize and remind them that they are most important to me and that it won’t always be this way. Medication has never been a perfect “fix” anyhow so I think it’s important for them to know that even though anxiety and depression aren’t visible on the outside like most conditions, it’s still a real condition that their mom has and some days/moments it gets the best of me.
- Feel the feelings. I admit I’m not a crier but right now apparently I am. Crying releases stress in our tears and I’ve determined that if that’s how my brain needs to medicate right now then I need to give in an do the crying. Even if I don’t like it.
- Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. I’m doing as much as I possibly can to appease my surly brain. Several days ago I could feel that I was sinking into a depressive moment and since my kids are older, I asked them to fix themselves a quick lunch so I could go up to my room and have a good cry and pray. I’ve made massages a monthly appointment. I take vitamins to help and I am trying to eat well most of the time. Though I do think that chocolate is as much a part of self-care as fruits and veggies. Time outs are for adults too. Hangry is a term I’ve come to use to describe myself and I’ve definitely come to realize that it can be a big trigger for me. Journal. Exercise. There are so many natural things that can be done to assist in brain wellness. Start figuring out what your brain likes best. Even with medications, we still need to make self-care a priority.
- Become self-aware. Are you hungry? Tired? Needing a timeout? When you are running late does that trigger anxiety? Do you need to hand out numbers to your kids like the DMV so that you aren’t overwhelmed when they are taking to you all at once? It’s funny how aware we are as mother’s to our children’s triggers and how much we work to make sure that they are getting all they need to be healthy emotionally/mentally/physically but how completely clueless we are and remain to our own well-being.
- This isn’t my fault or yours. I didn’t ask for anxiety. I didn’t cause this. I don’t want it. I loath it. Sometimes thats a hard truth to swallow but it’s one of the most important. Unfortunately, it’s one that comes up frequently for me and others. It’s a brain thing for most of us. Just like my rheumatoid arthritis is a joint thing I didn’t cause or ask for.
- GET HELP. From a professional. Therapy is good. Medication is good. Living with your symptoms because society has placed a stigma on it and made lots of us believe it is something we need to self-fix is a LIE. It’s a lie that I hear ALL THE TIME. But a lie none-the-less. Since I’m off my medications for a purpose I am also making my postpartum plans. I’ve met with a doctor, we’ve discussed my medications and I am following up with lactation to decide what are the best choices for me and my new baby.