March 26, 2013

Poppin' Happy Pills

Well, how do I start this??

Hi, I'm Becca and I take Lexapro, an anti-depressant/ anti-anxiety medication.

There. I said it.

I'm actually not ashamed of this fact. I have taken it off and on for almost four years now.  I know what is going through your head right now. You are probably saying one or more of the following:

a.  What? Becca? No way. I would never think that about you,  that you have that problem.
b.  Oh, now it makes sense.
c.  I would never take 'medication'.
d. Christians don't need 'medication' because God can heal everything, especially matters of the heart.
e. All of the above.

     Before giving you some background, I have to first say that I am beyond blessed to have been born to not just one, but two parents in the medical field. My mother is a Registered Nurse and my father is a Physician's Assistant (P.A.), and for all my intents and purposes, a doctor. They always did an awesome job at explaining the anatomy, disease, sickness, treatments, etc. Conversation about such topics was common around our dinner table growing up.

Baby #2

Lincoln- 1 day old
   About 6 weeks before Lincoln was born I started to have that common 2nd time mom fear of "How can I love another baby as much as I love the first one?".  Everyone told me that was all normal. But then in the hospital I knew something was different about me, because I started getting nervous about going home.  I wanted to stay in the safe haven of the hospital.  Michael, Jr. had been the textbook perfect baby and I was so nervous about what was to come with this one. Our first day home I remember sitting on the couch with my tiny sleeping baby dreading the nighttime and what would happen with sleep routines, feeding, etc.  After a day or two, I struggled to pick him up to feed him. I had the perfect thing going with my one child and I just wanted him not this new baby who was already so temperamental. I didn't want to have to figure out how to fit another one into my life and into my heart. In all the baby books they tell you the signs to look out for regarding PPD (post partum depression).  I kept doing a mental check.

  • Do I want to hurt myself? No.
  • Do I want to hurt my baby? No.     Okay, I must be fine. Must just be the baby blues.

       A few weeks went by. Linc still wasn't sleeping more than 2-3 hours at night. Now, I know that is totally normal for a breastfed baby. But Mikey slept 6 hours by a month old and so I was starting to freak out. In my freaking out, I refused to just 'trust the boobies', as I like to say, in regards to breastfeeding. I would pump some and give him formula at night and try to manipulate it all as best as I could. Nothing seemed to work. This child was not following my rules. Finally, around five weeks or so, I couldn't take the stress of it and I decided to quit breastfeeding cold turkey.  I thought all my emotional issues would resolve. I thought surely if he had formula all day long then he would sleep and we would all be back to normal. Right?  Wrong. With quitting BF, I gained a whole other bag of issues. Now I was sleep deprived, emotionally unstable, and also missing out on bonding time that I so desired and knew I needed with my newborn. I went to my six week doctors appt with my OB. I kind of tip toed around the subject of perhaps having some mild PPD. She said "Yes, it sounds like you need some Lexapro. I'm going to give you a script just in case." I walked out with the script and thought, "I will be better in a few days. I just need some sleep."
     After my doctors appointment I went to Babies R Us to purchase some diapers. Anyone who has been in there knows that first section when you walk in is the breastfeeding section. All the pumps and bottles and pads were practically screaming off the shelves at me.  It had been about 3 days since I last BF Lincoln and there right in the middle of BRU, I started having what could only be described as a breakdown. I physically felt like I was Alice in Wonderland as she is falling into the rabbit hole. I was just sinking and sinking and all the breast pumps were talking flowers telling me how awful I was. I walked out without buying anything.
Lincoln- 6 weeks old
     I called my dad and told him that Dr. B, my OB, had suggested I take Lexapro because it seemed that I was having some PPD. He agreed! He explained that anytime the body goes through any major changes- childbirth, a move, a marriage, a divorce, a major illness, etc. it does a number on your whole chemical makeup. He explained the difference between serotonin and epinephrine.  He explained that childbirth itself can lower your serotonin then you add sleep loss to that, it just makes it even worse.  My dad has an amazing gift of explaining medical knowledge in lay terms.  Even though my dad thought it was as good idea, I was still so hesitant. I still had so much stigma in my brain attached to taking ant-depressants. I kept thinking about that sad little egg on the Zoloft commercial that has social anxiety disorder and there was no way Becca was going to be a sad little egg.
    The very next day, sleep deprived I took Michael to preschool. At our preschool, you have to get out of the car and walk your child in. I carried six week old Lincoln in the car seat in to take Mikey to school. I sat down the car seat as I did every other day and signed Michael in. Then I went to the car and left. About a mile down the road


     My heart was pumping faster than it ever had before. I made an illegal turn and drove 70 in a 40 getting back to school as fast as I could. I got back to the parking lot and jumped out of the car, engine still running, door standing wide open. Sprinting down the sidewalk and back to the classroom I tried to not make eye contact with anyone. I could not tell anyone what I had done. I got to the front of the classroom and there he was, sleeping in the carrier like I left him, clueless to what had just taken place. Scooping him up quickly, I dashed back to the car, again not making eye contact, praying nobody would notice. I got my precious bundle all strapped in, safe and sound, and I just lost it. Right there in the the preschool parking lot. I fell to pieces. That was it. That was my rock bottom. This was God finally shouting at me--- "You need help!!!"  I had left my baby at school! Not a stroller, not a wallet, not a set of keys. My baby. Where was my head???? You see, when your chemistry is off and your serotonin levels are low, you become forgetful. This is also very common in pregnancy and lots of us ladies causally refer to it as "pregnancy brain." Pregnancy brain is for real ladies and gentlemen! From the school, I went straight to Target to fill my script for Lexapro.
    I got home with my bottle of pills, started breastfeeding my baby again, and never looked back. I kid you not, within 5 days I was already beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I didn't feel as deep down in that tunnel. Every day after that I would wake up feeling better and think "Wow, I didn't realize how bad I felt. There is no way I can top the way I'm feeling." But then the next day, I would wake up and feel even better than the day before. Around 6 weeks is when the medication finally levels out and things plateau. I continued to take Lexapro for almost a year. Research shows that taking PPD meds for a full year decreases the recurrence of having to take it again.  Once I finally quit nursing and got back on my normal birth control pills, my hormones leveled out and I could tell that I didn't need the meds anymore.  I went about 18 months drug free!

Baby #3   

    ...And I probably would've stayed that way had I not gotten pregnant with Knox. Of course being preggo I was off my birth control again. I was fine at first; elated to be given a third baby.  This was the baby we had prayed and told God, "If you see fit for us to grow our family, then we are happy to do it again." Around the end of my first trimester, I was starting to get all out of emotional sorts again. But this time, it was not this low sinking tunnel feeling, it was more of an anxious, thermometer rising type feeling. I would snap at my husband out of nowhere. Oh and the kids; the precious kids. They felt the brunt of it more than anyone. They would misbehave or talk back and rather than disciplining them calmly, I would yell and spank more frequently. Rather than move on from a disagreement, I would let it fester. I took everything personally, like they were out to attack me. When I would get upset with them, it was literally like I could feel my body filling up with this hot liquid, bubbling and rising exponentially to the top, where it would then explode and destroy everyone around me. Physically, my heart would race and my blood pressure would go up. Once I 'came down' I had this awful headache. This was happening almost daily. So at my 10 week appointment, I left with a new script for Lexapro in my hands. This time, I did not hesitate to fill it right away.

   Around the 7 month mark or so, sleep began to not be my friend. So Dr. B suggested I try Ambien (a sleeping aid). It worked like magic! And initially I didn't need that much! Only 1/2 a small dose! But then guilt started to kick in. I was now taking an anti/depressant anti/anxiety medication PLUS a sleeping pill, BOTH while pregnant. I for sure could not be THAT girl. So, without talking to anyone about it but myself, I took myself off of the Lexapro. In my crazy preggo reasoning, I told myself that if I slept well at night, my emotions would be fine and I wouldn't need the Lexapro. I had gone off of it before so surely I could do it again? Right?  God gave me this baby so surely He knew I was able to handle being pregnant with it. Right? This happened to be around Christmas time. {Christmas= stress} I also happened to in the middle of a ton of work being done to my kitchen. {home repairs= stress} I stopped the Lexapro and increased the Ambien. It helped at first. I was sleeping so great! But then, the Ambien stopped working as well and my body seemed to need more of it to fall asleep and stay asleep. By New Years, I was up to about 2 full size man doses of Ambien and still only sleeping about 2 hours a night, on the couch. When I would lay down at night to sleep I would start fidgeting and my chest would feel heavy. I couldn't catch my breath.  It was impossible to sleep and barely possibly to breathe. Luckily, thank the Lord, I was due for an OB visit and when I arrived there, my BP was high and I was feeling queasy and weak. I was starting to see black spots. Dr. B came in and we talked about my sleep. She asked if I was still taking my Lexapro. Reluctantly, I told her the truth and my crazy preggo reasoning.  She stepped up and Momma talked me a little bit and instructed me to go home, start back on my Lexapro. She wrote the following on her script pad for me:

  • Take a Tylenol PM and an Ambien, Take a hot bath, then an hour later take another Tylenol PM and an Ambien. 

"Do this for 3 nights." she said. "Then after that just take 1 Ambien every night if you need it."
7 mos preggo- TIRED!!

    Well, I followed Dr's orders. I finally slept decent that night. Not amazing, but better. The next night even better. Finally by that 3rd night, I was sleeping great. I was a little foggy during the day until that 4th day, but I finally was starting to come back out of the tunnel again.
I stayed on the Ambien until Knox was about 4-5 days old.
    Knox is now 13 months and I am still taking my Lexapro. I am still nursing. Did you know that nursing lowers your estrogen levels. Estrogen is what makes us ladies feel and act like ladies. I am planning to stay on my Lexapro until I feel that I no longer need it. That may be when I am done nursing, it may not. It may be forever. Who knows?
   The point is, I just really felt this urgency in my heart to post this. I feel like so many mommas out there struggle with their hearts and emotions and don't realize how common it is. They don't realize the physical feelings and detriments of depression and anxiety.  When I used to be elbow deep in fabric and my sewing business for DDD, people would always ask, "How do you do it all?" My response was always, "Well... I'm just a tad crazy but I take pills for that, so it's alllll good." That's true. Once I embraced my issues and did no feel shame in them, I was able to recover and function normally.

The Tricky Part

Do I believe the Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Rapha? Yes! I do. I believe that he heals the broken hearts and binds up wounds (Psalm 147:3) and heals all disease (Psalm 103:3). I am the Lord who heals you! --Exodus 15:26

Do we all have special gifts and talents that the Lord has positioned in us? Yes!

Do I also believe that God chooses people, like the apostle Luke, to be Physicians or doctors, which in the old Testament, meant 'healer'? 

 Does the Lord provide knowledge and common grace to doctors, psychologists, therapists, etc? You bet.

If your child had diabetes, would you refuse them insulin because of the 'stigma' that went with it? Would you just hold out for healing from God? I have a precious friend, whose angel of a child has a chromosomal difference that causes his development in certain skills to be delayed. Should she fore go all therapy and treatment and 'hold out for a miracle.' Or does she believe that God has chosen people to work for Him and through Him?

Do we get colds, flu, depression, disease, and even cancer because we are awful, bad people? No,  God has woven it all in His plan and through all sickness- mind or body-- wants us to draw into him and praise him throughout it. I believe I have a fullness and a healing in Him because I have submitted my will to the authority and knowledge of a doctor. I believe He has me in His best interest and because of that, He has provided a way through my OB and modern medicine to correct and chemical in balance in my body.

We are all sinners and because of His healing and saving grace, he has allowed Doctors, nurses, therapists, etc to be instruments of his power.

Dear God, I pray for women and mommies out there. I pray for broken, sad hearts who need to be healed by you, the ultimate healer. God there is no condemnation in you and by you. You are the Almighty Healer, Jehovah Rapha. Only you can heal our full hearts. Thank you God for choosing health professionals. Thank you that you would entrust them with your work and duties God. I pray that anyone out there who needs some emotional healing would seek you first, then seek medical help by one of your servants. God, thank you that you showed me rock bottom. I am thankful that you took me there, showed me the ugliness that exists and because of that, my desire is to never return there again. I want to serve you Lord. Thank you for healing my heart and thank you for giving me amazing parents and doctors who believe in my well-being.