mental illness
Blog,  Health

A Mom With Mental Illness

I consider myself a pretty open person, but I’m kind of private about one area in my life: my mental illness. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and depression. I think I’ve probably always had GAD, but was only diagnosed about 10 years ago.

I’m definitely a person who startles easily. Growing up, I remember one day my mom asked me, “What is going on at school? Why are you so jumpy all the time?” I told her honestly nothing was going on at school and I didn’t know why I was so jumpy all the time. Even to this day, my husband “announces” himself before he enters a room because he knows he’ll give me a heart attack if I don’t know he’s coming.

Diagnosed with Mental Illness

My diagnosis occurred while I was working overnight as a T.V. news producer for the morning newscast. I couldn’t sleep. Or I would fall asleep, but only for a couple of hours. My body thought it was just taking a nap. I was dragging at work, scared to drive home in the morning and lack of sleep was making me downright nuts.

The difficult schedule and difficult people created a perfect storm for anxiety and depression to take over my life.

A series of prescribed sleep medications and a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea left only one other option: anti-anxiety medications. The lack of sleep, the anxiety about the lack of sleep was affecting my personal and professional life.

mental illness

Figuring out which medication I needed was no picnic. It’s a series of trial and error. Side effects and struggle. Having never been on an SSRI or an SNRI before, I had no idea how tumultuous the process would be. I even went through talk therapy. I was angry and frustrated. One day I just stopped taking my medications because I was just sick of it all. No one told me that was the worst possible thing you could do. I experienced severe brain “zaps,” I felt like I had the flu, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and more. I thought I was dying until I discovered my grave error.

Eventually, I found a medication that worked, graduated from therapy and was mentally stable for a long while. Until I was ready to get pregnant.

Changes, Changes

It was really important to me not to take these medications while I was trying to get pregnant. I successfully weaned off my meds. The process to get pregnant took more than a year and I stayed off of the meds throughout my pregnancy. I felt really good about my decision and I seemed to be doing okay without medication or therapy. After my daughter was born, I developed postpartum depression. I was put on Prozac and life was good again. It was clear I was a better person medicated than when I wasn’t.

When I was ready to think about baby #2, I decided it was best to stay on the medication. It is Class-C basically meaning they didn’t have any evidence it would or wouldn’t hurt the fetus. I needed to be mentally stable for myself, my husband and my child, so staying medicated was my only option.

Then sometime in 2016, the medication just stopped working for me. I didn’t realize that’s what happened, I just knew my anxiety was getting out of control, but I was determined to fix it myself. I didn’t want to go through what I had gone through 8 years prior. It’s horrible. I did everything I could think to get a handle on things: meditation, yoga, long walks around the neighborhood, cut back on caffeine, and stopped drinking alcohol for a time. Nothing was working and my husband (my touchstone, the person I always ask ‘is this just me or are you seeing it too?’) told me it was time to ask for help again.

He was right. I knew he was right and it pissed me off. I was pissed off because I didn’t want to go through what I’d been through in the past. Testing new medication. Suffering side effects of new medication, then trying to get off it to try another new medication. It was going to be another long road and I didn’t want to go through it again now with two children relying on me.

To be continued

Do You Need To Talk to Someone?

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.

More resources here on how you can help a suicidal friend.