I was 19 when I was first prescribed Zoloft. My mom got the family doctor to write me a prescription over the phone, though I have no memory of actually speaking to the doctor myself. I didn’t protest. I can’t even remember the circumstances. (When I think of being depressed in college, I think of my senior year, and by that time, I had already been off Zoloft, on Serzone—with the occasional Klonopin, Ambien, and vodka chaser—off Serzone, back on Zoloft again.) What on earth was I looking for at so young an age?
I will never forget my first night in my new bed 3 states away. I was alone in the room, breathing in the gloriously chilly 40* September Minnesota air through my open windows, piled deep in down comforters. It was so quiet, and the stars were so bright. As the days went by—and certainly by the time I spent a semester in London—I got scared and nervous, as I realized I didn’t know what to do without my parents’ approval or disapproval. I saw that I’d based a lot of who I was off my reactions to them. I needed an audience to exist. I had an eating disorder. That was about control, not about being depressed. So, yes, I was a bit lost, and of course that was magnified as I faced the prospect of entering the real world upon graduation. I think that’s fairly common.
I did all the acting out in my twenties I didn’t get a chance to do in my teens. New York was the perfect place for that. It’s easy to find at least a few people like you—and plenty of distractions—in a city of 7 million. I went off Zoloft, on Zoloft, off Zoloft, on another drug whose name I’ve blocked out because the withdrawal was so mindblowing. I tried on new personalities, jobs, friends, loves, and drugs like outfits at Barney’s Warehouse Sale. When things got serious with Matt, I felt strong enough to go off the SSRI for good.
Until I gave birth. I had a beautiful birth—and an even more beautiful baby—but I had a pretty horrible experience in the hospital. I needed A LOT of help that first week home. I couldn’t sleep. My heart raced at the prospect of caring for this tiny 7-pound bundle of life forever. Henry and I both had infections. I was recovering from major abdominal surgery after a fairly long and strenuous labor. Yet I was also elated and felt a renewed sense of appreciation and deep love for Matt, and of course, Henry. But I just couldn’t get my mind to shut off. There is nothing more terrifying to me than a panic attack, and I demanded my OB put me on Zoloft. Actually, I asked her for Ambien just so I could get some sleep (and hopefully a clear head), but with the breastfeeding, she recommended Zoloft. So there I was, back at square one.
Once it was just the three of us again (our new family!), I felt great. I was in Babymoon Heaven! I began to question whether I needed this drug at all—clearly I’d just had a case of baby blues. So I went to a therapist and checked in with my doctor, and we decided I could go off the meds. I’ve had no regrets.
Over the past month, however, that old feeling of panic has set back in. My heart races. I suffer horrible night-sweats. Some nights I don’t fall asleep at all, even with the Ambien I am allowed to take now that we don’t nurse during the night. My son sleeps through the night now, so why can’t I? I re-read my emails to friends, and I sound horribly negative. Where is that love I have for Henry, every fiber of my body and soul? When I complain about sleep or teething, I sound like such a self-centered bitch. What the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I just snap out of it? My mind spirals out of control: I think about what it means to be someone’s mom, and I am terrified of failing, of letting my son down. I’ve already made mistakes, and I’m going to make more. I’m terrified that I’ve never been so open, raw, bloody, and vulnerable—my heart is actually walking around outside my body in the form of a 26-pound toddler who depends on me to feed him, keep him clean, cuddle him, love him. We’re vulnerable together. I should look at this as an opportunity for enlightenment, but I can’t seem to pick myself up.
I had a thyroid work-up, since all that runs in my family, but I’m fine. I’ve gone back to yoga. I’ve cut out caffeine. I should probably cut out alcohol, sugar, gluten. Change my cal/mag supplements. Increase my Bs. I really don’t want to go back on SSRI’s. Especially when I look back on my history and see that my need for them outside of the normal highs and lows that come with the teens and twenties, was actually pretty minimal. In a way, I think I’d see that as another failure on my part. I’ve never really waited it out. What does that look like? What would it look like to my son? My husband? Once discomfort hits, I’m running. I wonder if I can sit here, a little longer, a quiet lotus in the middle of the night, breathe, and maybe, just maybe fall asleep on my own.