When I was originally diagnosed with PPD and PTSD, the option of medication was introduced. I had never considered taking any kind of psychiatric medication, and the thought of it was not attractive to me. I had found my therapist and trusted her implicitly. I knew that if I was going to get through this, part of the control was going to have to be handed over to someone else. I was not going to be able to find my way out of this on my own.
My biggest concern was not for myself- I was worried about how medication would affect my baby. I was nursing and planned to continue to do so. Although my doctors assured me that medication was perfectly safe while breastfeeding, I had begun to question medicine completely after the experience I had when Hayden was born.
I went to therapy for about 2 or 3 months, without medication. I did make some progress, but I was having a great deal of trouble following through with a lot of my homework. The therapy was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- also known as CBT- a type of therapy that involves doing things that might be uncomfortable in order to change thought patterns. In my case, this involved things like going out in public with my baby- I was terrified of him getting sick so for the most part, we stayed at home. I was also supposed to be doing some sort of exercise- exercise has been proven to be just as effective as an antidepressant in mild cases of depression- but I could not find the motivation. I was supposed to be sticking to some kind of routine during the day, but had trouble following through. I felt tired all the time, but I wasn't sleeping. I had physical pain that did not have any medical origin. I had nightmares and constant anxiety. It became painfully clear to me that I may have to try the medication in order to function.
After doing a great deal of research on websites like Mothering.com and Kellymom.com, and reading Dr. Hale's book, Medication and Mother's Milk, I decided to give the medication a try. In my case, the medication was Zoloft, a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, or ssri. After two weeks or so, I was convinced that the medication was not working. I didn't really feel any different. Then one day, I realized that Hayden had started smiling at me a lot. I thought, "well, isn't this interesting- he must be going through some new stage in development where he smiles a lot." And then it hit me- he was smiling BACK at me. I noticed that things that had caused me so much anxiety all of a sudden did not seem like such a big deal. I found myself thinking- now what was I so upset about? I was sleeping, and the mysterious pains were gone.
The best way I can describe the feeling of taking medication when you truly need it for depression is this. Imagine you are in a dark room, a room in which you have never been before. There is furniture, but you aren't familiar with the placement. You don't even know where the door is in relation to where you stand. You fumble around, trying to feel your way out of the room. You trip over furniture, you stub your toe. You sit down in the middle of the room in frustration, defeated.
Taking medication is like turning on the light in that room. All of a sudden, you can see things for what they are. You have the ability to work your way toward the door. It might still be difficult to get there due to the obstacles that are present, but you are able to get there because you have the right tool. Medication is a great tool to have in your arsenal to help you find your way out of depression.