The decision to use medication to treat depression is an individual one – what’s best for one person may not be so for another. Julia Kerr explains why antidepressants are the right choice for her, in a special post to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
It takes guts to talk about the things people don’t want to talk about. There is great stigma in mental health and parenting. It takes bravery to stand up and say, I’m here. To share so that you might help another parent into the light. Here Julia shares her story of deciding to go back on medication to help her be the parent she wants to be. Thank you Julia. – Emily Writes, The Spinoff Parents editor.
I weaned myself off anti-depressants about 18 months ago. After six years, I wanted to see if I was able to manage my depression naturally. I was in a safe and happy place in my life and trusted that I would have all of the support I needed to help me on that journey.
I have been mindful of my diet, I have kept moving and I’ve made sure I get fresh air and sunshine. In the lead up to coming off my anti-depressants, I kept good track of my emotions and my triggers. I took note of how I felt at different times and how different things affected me. This time has been crucial in understanding how my head works and what I can do to manage it. I feel like I know myself really well now and that’s really important to me.
And that’s also why I have chosen to go back on my medication.
For the most part, life has been really good. Day to day, I can’t really complain outside the usual stresses of family life. I’m mostly happy.
But man, I’m tired.
Despite my best efforts, I still have those rough days. I still wake up some mornings with my head on a little crooked and feeling like I’m pinned to my bed. I still feel the walls closing in and I know I need to get out of the house but I can’t bring myself to do it. I still lose my patience and get so angry with my kids and that’s not fair. I can’t explain what it feels like when you are shouting at your children, knowing you should stop but you feel unable to because anger is a side effect of your depression.
I have to work really hard to remind myself it’s not permanent, these feelings will pass and I’m still a good person. But I also have to really fight to keep my head above water. I have to fight to remember that I’m worth something and that I mean something to other people. During these times, I struggle to remember that I have value in the world.
And I’m just over it.
Though these really bad patches are few and far between, I still feel like I’m facing little struggles every day. Things that maybe don’t need to be the way they are. Things that cause me to overthink and drain my energy without me even realising it. When I take something out of context, when I’m not able to make decisions or recall details – that’s my depression.
A major and ongoing part of my illness is memory loss. This is the biggest battle I face every day because it makes me unreliable, and as a mother (to me) – that’s something I just can’t be.
Increasingly, I feel like I’m spending a lot of energy fighting a battle that just doesn’t need to be fought. I know now that I CAN live without my medication but I have a war in my mind.
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what it’s like to try to parent when it takes you 10 minutes just to get the milk out of the fridge. Or how it feels to convince yourself your husband is going to leave you because why the fuck would he want you anyway? Or how truly crazy you feel when you suddenly develop an irrational fear of cleaning the oven or listening to female vocalists or using steel forks in ceramic bowls or anything else that’s equally ridiculous but is very, very real to you.
I want to make things easier for myself.
So today, I’m going back on my anti-depressants. While I know this doesn’t “cure” my depression or “fix” my anxiety, it does help me manage it. It helps me conserve my energy for more important things.
I know I will still have good days and bad days; I will still get stressed and I will still feel anxious and frustrated at times because I’m alive and that’s normal.
But this helps me see things for what they truly are. It will help me realise that driving somewhere unfamiliar isn’t actually as scary as my head tells me it is or that I won’t actually die if I get stuck in a crowd. When I’m trapped under my blankets because I’ve woken up in a world where shit is bad and no one likes me; it will help me to hold onto the idea that the world is good and I’ll be OK soon.
Depression is not an emotion. It’s not a mood.
Anxiety is not just a feeling. It’s an illness that I’m treating.
I’m not going to deny my family the best version of myself because of the stigma that comes with being medicated. Not everyone has to understand or agree with my choice but I don’t care about that because not everyone can understand mental illness. Medication might not work for everyone, but it does work for some. It’s taken me a fair amount of trial and error, but I’ve found something that works for me and that is what’s important. I know I can be better. I don’t want to hold myself back with negative thinking and self-doubt. I want to feel motivated again. I want to be, do, and achieve as much as I am able to and if I need medication to help me accomplish that, then that’s OK.
Mental Health Awareness Week, October 10-16. mhaw.nz
Julia Kerr is a wife, mother and stay at home hero, getting by on hot coffee and tiny hugs. Interests include sharing stories, normalising parenthood and searching for wine. You can read more from Julia at her blog or on her Facebook page.
Where to get help
Lifeline – 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. Text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
0800 WHATSUP (0800 9428 787) – Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at whatsup.co.nz.
Healthline – 0800 611 116
For more information about support and services available to you, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812 during office hours or email email@example.com.
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