Despite all advice and evidence to the contrary, I carelessly thought some of my struggles with depressionwouldn't accompany me into parenthood. Like many folx socialized female, I'd wanted to be a mother always. I'd rock baby-dolls, turn GI Joes into nurturing parents and children, and make my Barbies have babies. I was pretty much obsessed with the idea of being a mother. My life-long struggle with depression was conceptualized separately from my ideal of motherhood. What I had to come to terms with (quickly) were the reasons why taking antidepressants has made me a more confident parent.
It is common for folx with mental illness to question the necessity of medication to help manage their mood. This may be associated with our cultural stigma related to mental illness and the idea that taking a daily medication is a sign of mental or emotional weakness. For me, I had to do a ton of therapeutic work just to make it to the point (in my early 20s) where I would consent to even try medication. I, like many others, went through several rounds of going off the medication to handle things on my own because I erroneously thought I should be stronger than the depression (side note: all bullsh*t story lines I had to work past with the help of professionals). In my late 20s I finally began to associate empowerment with taking my meds every day. Doing so didn't make me weak, on the contrary it was a revolutionary act of radical self-care.
But the stigma of a pregnant person taking medication still persists. Even as a third year graduate student in counseling psychology with access to this research, I immediately stopped my medication when I found out I was pregnant. All of my providers heartily encouraged this ill-conceived idea. I didn't go back on medication until the beginning of second trimester. Most nights I lay in bed exhausted, unable to sleep out of the fear the dark tentacles of my depression were strangling my fetus. I found myself in front of a coffee shop waiting for my mentor shaking and questioning my grip on reality. With that mentor's compassionate support I made the call to get back on medication not only for myself and my career, but for the child I hoped would come out of this pregnancy. It is within this context I offer my list of why taking anti-depressants makes me a better parent.