There's a number of stigmas associated with motherhood, which (more or less) all perpetuate the idea that every single mom should be grateful for motherhood, and basically feel invigorated by the challenges that motherhood presents. Yes, they can feel down sometimes, but don't you dare seek mental health treatment and definitely don't take any kind of mood stabilizer! That's just irresponsible. Well, here's the thing: it's not. Being on antidepressants doesn't make you a bad mom, people. It actually makes you a better mom than the woman who is struggling, but refusing to do anything about it. Okay, not a better mom, just one who is more self-aware, I guess.
I spent most of my life carrying around a bias against people who were prescribed and take drugs like antidepressants. I huffed and puffed (usually silently) when I heard about friends who had decided to go on medication, essentially equating their need for medication as a weakness. I believed, rather strongly, that instead of medication, people should be using things like food, exercise and spirituality to help them through any issues they may experience. Then I experienced postpartum depression.
I spent months telling myself that I could (and should) go without any kind of drug. As a result, I spent months attempting to put one foot in front of the other, feeling angry, annoyed, impatient, and like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. After five months of constant struggle and exhaustion and feeling utterly lost, I finally made the decision to seek medical help and tried going on a low dose of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and within a month I was wondering why I had waited so long.
Antidepressants didn't make me feel like a different person (which is what I have long feared), they made me feel like my old self. I was finally able to enjoy motherhood, instead of spend my time being angry and annoyed and impatient and exhausted by it. In fact, not only was I happier, my entire family was happier, as a result of my overall change in mood. So, with that in mind, here are nine reasons why taking antidepressants doesn't make you a bad mom, because the stigma surrounding mental health has gotta go.
Taking Care Of Yourself So You Can Take Better Care Of Your Kids Is Important
Listen, you are not being selfish for going on antidepressants. You are not giving up for going on antidepressants. You are improving your baseline so that when your kids act annoying or push boundaries (which, let's face it, is inevitable, because kids), you can respond with more patience and love. That's difficult to do when you're depressed and feeling like anything but yourself.
Sometimes, Eating Better Isn't Enough
Yes, if you're living on fast foods and sugary treats, chances are high that your mood will improve when you cut those things out, but sometimes it's just not enough. Other times, you just don't have the energy to prepare healthy foods, because with depression comes an undeniable dose of fatigue.
Sometimes, Exercising Isn't Enough
There's no question that exercise has been proven to help alleviate depression, but it's not as simple as investing in Beach Body™ or going for a run every day. Inertia is a very real problem when you have clinical depression, and sometimes it can feel impossible to get moving. Antidepressants can be what gets you to a place where you can get moving and appreciate the effects of exercise.
Sometimes, Spending More Time In Nature Isn't Enough
About a month ago, there was a meme floating around that implied that a walk out in nature was an antidepressant and a pill wasn't. Having fallen victim to postpartum depression during a summer when I spent most of my time at a cottage, in nature, I can tell you that nature doesn't always cut it.
Sometimes, Prayer Isn't Enough
If you can ask God to take away your depression and get Him to listen, more power to you. It wasn't quite that simple for me (and many others) unfortunately. Doctors and medication and mental health practitioners exist for a reason.
Sometimes, Meditation Isn't Enough
Meditation can be a powerful tool (just like prayer) to help distill the swirling thoughts that are overwhelming your mind. Sitting down for long enough to effect some change can feel impossible, though, when you want to scream or crawl out of your skin just 30 seconds after sitting down.
Sometimes, Counselling Isn't Enough
Counselling can be truly amazing and transformative. It may also be the place where you're told you would benefit from starting to take antidepressants.
Sometimes, The Only Thing That Can Help Turn Things Around Is Medication...
Personally, I spent five long months attempting to fight postpartum depression with literally everything except medication. When I finally made the decision to start taking something, it took a month for me to start wondering why I had suffered for so long without. These medications exist for a reason, and the stigma attached to them doesn't change the fact that for millions of people, they work.
...And You're Not Alone In Needing That Help
An estimated 11% of middle-aged women are on some sort of antidepressant. For new mothers, an estimated 10-15% will experience postpartum depression. Feeling depressed, whether you're a mother or not, is common and treatable, especially with antidepressants. You're not alone; you're not broken; you're not a bad mother.