I’ve had pretty significant anxiety for over 10 years. It started when I was a sophomore in college when I noticed myself obsessively re-thinking every situation I was in. It could be as small as wondering why I asked a question in class or as big as feeling like I made an ass out of myself while out at night with friends. It would completely consume me to the point of not sleeping and I started avoiding situations all together or attempting to overly prepare myself for them. It got worse when I would obsessively check my blinds at night, thinking someone was trying to come into my 2nd floor bedroom window to get me. I hated driving in the car and would often times picture my car crashing into medians. After many nights of not being able to sleep, I called my dad while I was out shopping while home from college and basically said “I think there is something wrong with me, I haven’t slept in 72 hours.”
At this time, I was on Accutane, a very intense acne clearing medicine. This was the last time I took it after being on it a handful of times before. I don’t believe Accutane had ANYTHING to do with my anxiety, and it was truly a Godsend for me given how horrible my acne was, but the way I was feeling concerned my dermatologist enough for him to recommend I seek help. For those of you who don’t know anything about Accutane, it has been linked to young adult depression and thoughts of suicide, but my body always reacted well to the drug which is why I don’t think it necessarily was responsible for my anxiety. I just happened to have an appointment scheduled with my dermatologist the day following the call to my dad and broke down in his office, explaining how weird my life had been recently. After this incident in his office, he immediately stopped my meds and sent me to psychiatrist to make sure I was taken care of. Looking back, considering the sensitivity around the drug at the time, the scenario may have been heightened to be worse than it was. However I am thankful for it because I was able to start a medication that really changed my life.
My psychiatrist diagnosed me with OCD and anxiety and prescribed me Xanax only to be used when I felt a panic attack coming on, and Zoloft, to be taken daily as something to control anxiety long term. At first, it was a weird feeling as I never thought of myself as needing prescription help. I was happy, in college, doing what I was supposed to do. I didn’t feel depressed or unhappy, but my anxiety feeling was becoming debilitating as it consumed every moment of the day. Medicine. Changed. My. Life. I had no idea how great I could feel – like a normal person without the constant nervousness and light headed feelings. Throughout the years, I have tried to go off of my medicine a handful of times and then always determine that I’m better when I’m consistently taking it. I’m a better person, less anxious and overall, happier.
When I started thinking about getting pregnant, I talked to my OB about the need to stay on or get off my medicine. She told me that she was comfortable with me staying on Zoloft (Xanax was a big no – no) but if I was more comfortable going off of it, she would work with me to wean me off. At this point, panic attacks had become almost non-existent and I felt pretty good with where I was so we began the process of weaning me off my meds. I will also note that two of my biggest anxiety triggers are caffeine and alcohol, both of which I knew I wouldn’t touch while pregnant, so that also helped during this time. I spent the nine months of my pregnancy without taking a single dose of medicine. Toward the end, I recognized some of the same symptoms coming back – I was becoming anxious driving and in public places with a lot of people. I would often get light headed and felt really off. I wasn’t sure if it was anxiety induced or pregnancy symptoms, but either way I recognized a difference in myself. We talked extensively about the fact the those who have a history of anxiety or depression before pregnancy had a bigger chance of postpartum depression and anxiety. I wanted to be as prepared as I could to understand how I would feel after having William so that I was equipped to take care of myself and my new child. Again, I have to thank my OB and give her all the credit for having such a close eye on my own personal history and focus on what I needed and would need after William arrived.
I was extremely anxious during my C-section. I also was having surgery while awake and I hadn’t slept in 36 hours, but I just remember thinking how long the entire operation felt, even if it was actually very short. I didn’t want Alex to leave my side and I was weirdly not worried about William once I heard him cry for the first time. I didn’t want to hold him because I was scared of dropping him or not being able to care for him correctly. I went back to recovery and kept asking myself why I hadn’t stayed on my medicine. The next day, a partner in my OB’s practice came by to see how I was doing and I just broke down in tears. I guess this is fairly common as giving birth releases a whole mess of emotions and it’s hard to control those feelings, but because of my past experience with anxiety, I told her that I felt it best to start back on my medicine. If I was already feeling this way with the support of my husband, how was I going to feel when it would become just me and William during the day? I just remember her saying, “Let’s do it” and I started taking my anti-anxiety medicine less than 24 hours after having William.
I’m not saying that every woman who experiences anxiety needs to be on medication, but you should feel perfectly fine recognizing that you don’t feel like yourself and may need some help whether it’s through medicine, unbiased conversation, weekly therapy sessions, etc. No one should make you feel bad about it. I would not be the mom….or human that I am without some help and I have had so many conversations with people who are embarrassed or don’t feel like it’s necessary to seek out additional help. Being a parent is tough…and also never ending, so if you find yourself going in a downward spiral of anxiety, depression, overall crazy, etc. absolutely reach out to a friend, doctor, mentor, whoever it is and talk through what help you may need so you can be the best you.