Before I experienced PND I was quite sure I would never need anti depressants. I was convinced if I ever felt ‘down’ I could overcome it on my own. Well I tried that and I couldn’t. I had PND from pretty much the start of my daughters life, and it wasn’t until she was 6 months old that I realised and admitted what it was. By this time I was pregnant with my second. So anti depressants weren’t something I considered. The time between my first two were the lowest of my life.
I was lucky that where I live we have a fantastic perinatal emotional wellbeing team so I was referred to them for talking therapy for some time during my second pregnancy. It was during this pregnancy that I came to the brink of ending my life. This was the turning point for me, when I admitted I couldn’t overcome this alone and that it might be time to see the doctors about medication. As soon as my son was born I admitted to the GP & nurse about how I felt, filled out my Edinburgh PND questionnaire honestly which showed my score to be in the severe category and I left with a prescription and an appointment for my first session of CBT.
Already I felt better for having asked for help, but I admit I felt disappointed in myself for needing medication. I was adamant I wouldn’t take it. Why? Probably because it would mean admitting to myself that I was unwell which I found very difficult. Probably because the stigma attached to taking ‘happy pills’ and how it is perceived as a weakness – that I wasn’t strong enough to overcome it without them.
However after a few weeks of taking my pills I noticed a change. I felt the best I had felt in over a year, and glimmers of my old self started to re appear. I stayed on my pills for a good 6 months and with doctors guidance I slowly reduced them until after 8/9 months I was no longer taking them.
I had been warned that I may need them again if I experienced a stressful life event or distressing situation as I may be prone to slip into depression again. And just few months later I suffered a miscarriage the whole experience of which I found extremely traumatic and distressing. I fell pregnant again fairly quickly but the effects of the miscarriage left a mark and I felt depression creep over me throughout my pregnancy. After the birth of my second daughter I sought help and knew I needed to go back on my medication again. This time however I didn’t feel ashamed, because I knew they would help get me back on my feet.
The doctor advised me that I may need to take them for around two years as recent evidence shows that stopping them too soon when it’s your second time on them can cause relapses. I am quite happy to stay on them for as long as I need. I know that the one small pill I take each morning helps sort out the chemicals in my brain which have become unbalanced.
If it was something ‘physical’ that I needed to take a pill for no one would bat an eyelid but why this stigma against these invisible illnesses? Taking anti depressants is nothing to be ashamed of, and refusing them like I did in the beginning, can sometimes only delay recovery. There are plenty of natural ways to help with depression, exercise and good healthy diet, both of which I highly encourage and have found do really improve your mental wellbeing – but sometimes some of us need that little extra help and there’s absolutely no shame in doing so.
Taking one tablet a day allows me to enjoy my life again, helps me overcome the black cloud and have fun with my children. Things don’t overwhelm me and cripple me as much anymore, and if it means taking medication for a year or two then that’s fine with me. When myself and my doctors feel the time is right I will reduce my dose until I no longer need them. However long it takes is ok by me because they have helped my family get back some of the fun loving, happy mum and wife they deserve.