Parenting is hard! You know what's even harder? Parenting through your own struggles. In my case that is depression. My journey through depression started about 6 years ago. I wasn't diagnosed with a true "clinical" depression, rather I needed help keeping my cool due to parenting a very strong willed 18 month old. Being on medication allowed me to parent without "losing it" constantly. It helped me feel calm and controlled. Parenting her only got harder as the years went on, but being on depression meds helped me to feel like I still had some control over my life.
After becoming pregnant with my 3rd child 3 years later I knew I would need to eventually wean from the medication before giving birth. Although I was able to wean about a month before her birth it wasn't long after she was born that I was back on it. This time I felt I was truly depressed. I was having a hard time enjoying anything in life, aside from my new baby. She was my sunshine and kept me going on the really hard days. Maybe I was also dealing with postpartum depression? Who knows. I ended up on a higher dose than I had been on while pregnant. I can truly say it was a life changer for me. I began to enjoy my family again and I wanted to spend time with them.
Here I am today, pregnant with my 4th child. Due to being on a much higher dose this time I began to wean down early on in my pregnancy. I am 25 weeks now and on 1/3 my starting dose. I actually went lower but had to admit to myself that it wasn't going well. I feel comfortable on this dose. I feel sane...most days. Most importantly I feel I am enjoying my life and family, even if it's a struggle sometimes.
My strong willed girl is now 7 and recently diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Her mood disorder is my undoing. I honestly feel that without it in my daily life I could try to wean off my depression medication for good. I have to be honest with myself though, for the sake of myself and my family, and admit that I CAN NOT parent her without that medication. There are no words to explain parenting a child with ODD. The only people in this word that can truly understand what my life is like are my husband and the other unfortunate families who are in the same position as us.
I have developed ways of coping when I become overwhelmed. I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband who understands what it is like to parent in our home and allows me to use my coping strategies. I frequently take Mommy breaks by either locking myself in my bedroom or leaving the house altogether. I make sure the time I have without my children, whether they are sleeping or gone from the home, is not filled to brimming with chores and obligations. I allow myself to relax and do nothing. I don't let myself feel guilty for this because I know it's one of the ways I survive. I also lose myself in books where I am transported to another world, one where I don't have to think of ODD and what tomorrow will be like.
Some day I really hope I can live my life without the help of medication. Until that day I accept that this drug allows me to be the Wife, Mother, and Friend that my family deserves.
This post was inspired by 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about hope, love, and music in the snow covered streets of Philadelphia. Join From Left to Write on August 28 we discuss 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.