Grace in a Little White Pill

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

I’m sharing some of my experience with postpartum anxiety and depression as part of a Blog Hop sponsored by my friend Katherine at Half-Kindled.  I’ve written a little bit about it before (here and here).  It’s a topic that is still hard for many people to talk about, and I’m convinced the more we remove the shame and the taboo of talking about postpartum (and other forms of) depression and anxiety, the more we can help each other.

After I had my first baby, I didn’t experience the typical symptoms you see in literature about postpartum depression.  I wasn’t sad so much as angry and irritable and frustrated all the time.  I was angry at everyone, and then I felt a lot of self-loathing for being such a (seemingly) terrible person.  Thank God, I never came close to harming my child, but my marriage suffered, as did various items around that house that I kicked during angry outbursts.

It took me eight months to talk to my doctor about it.  He actually recognized warning signs of postpartum depression right after I gave birth: I was sobbing–apparently that’s not normal!  “No, no,” I insisted, “I’m just tired.”

And so it went for months of denial.  Two things in particular kept me from seeking treatment:

1. My symptoms weren’t typical of postpartum depression.  In fact, they were symptoms I had dealt with all my life, on and off, to some degree: anger, frustration, and irritability interspersed with self-loathing.  Before having children, I was always able to push through somehow. The hormonal havoc and sleep deprivation that came having a baby just made the symptoms worse.  I wasn’t able to push through and function normally anymore.

2. The second and biggest roadblock to wellness for me was that I felt I didn’t deserve help.  I was never psychotic.  I never lost my reason.  I always had some degree of control of my actions.  Therefore, I thought, I just needed to try harder. Taking medication was the easy route that I didn’t deserve because I hadn’t tried hard enough on my own.

I attribute this to the Act of Contrition I learned growing up.  There really is such a thing as too much Catholic guilt! The line goes, “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more . . . .”  My understanding was, as long as there was some possibility that I could improve in the future, my failing was my fault, and I needed to just try harder.  “With the help of Thy grace,” is in there too of course, but I didn’t think much about how God’s grace could help me.  It just served as a reminder that I needed to pray harder.

The game changer was that now I had a family who suffered every time that (surprise!) my white-knuckling failed.  Thank God it became clear to me that I had to take the “easy route,” even if I didn’t deserve it, because they deserved it.

One form of the “help of God’s grace,” for me, is a little white pill.

Eight months after having my first baby, I started taking an anti-depressant, and it helped almost immediately.  At first I worried it would alter my personality, but now I truly feel that the medication helps me be my true self, the person God made me to be but that I couldn’t be under the weight of anxiety.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried going off antidepressants, but it’s never worked.  Unfortunately, whatever condition I have is not solely a postpartum one.  It just took the strain of having a baby to reveal a problem that hovered below the surface.

I don’t like the idea of taking a pill every day.  It has made me gain weight.  It’s made me sluggish.  I’m not the type-A super achiever I used to be.  I’m sure there’s some underlying hormonal imbalance or other health problem that is affecting my mental state, and I’d like eventually to figure that out.  But for now, medication is the only way I can be the loving, patient, happy wife and mother I need to be.

And that’s been the grace of the little white pill for me: it has forced me to focus on what God really wants me to do and the humility to realize that I can’t do it on my own power.

He isn’t calling me to be a super achiever.  He isn’t asking me to keep a squeaky clean house or volunteer on a dozen committees or work full time or even cook delicious meals.  All he asks me to do is love–love my husband, love my children.

To paraphrase a popular slogan, “I have one job.”

Before taking an antidepressant, I had enough nervous energy to do more things, but I was angry, bitter, and irritable most of the time with my husband and children.

Now, I don’t have as much energy and drive, but I have the underlying peace and calm I need to love my family better. It’s humbling to accept that I need medicine to fulfill the most basic requirements of my life.  That humility, too, is a grace.

Antidepressants are not right for everyone, but if you’re really suffering I’d beg you to consider it.

For all of us though, there’s truth in the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I  want to challenge everyone reading this to be open-minded about the ways you can “let God.”

God probably will not supernaturally transfuse you with peace and patience.

He might offer it to you in a pill.  (I think of Lexapro as my “patience in a pill!”)

He might offer you grace in the form of therapy with a psychologist of other professional counselor.

He might offer you grace through your helpful husband, if you would only overlook the way he loads the dishwasher incorrectly and doesn’t separate darks and whites.

He might offer you grace in the form of a friend’s offer to watch your kids, an offer you normally brush aside.

He might offer you grace when you let go of self-imposed standards for how you keep house or how many hours you work or how busy you keep your schedule.

Our calling is not to try hard and do hard things; our calling is to love.  And often we can’t love the way we ought until we stop trying so hard to do it ourselves.

Hope for the Future 2

For more on this topic, hop over to

Katherine at Half Kindled,

Bonnie at A Knotted Life

Jenna at Call Her Happy

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee, and

Rosie at Check Out That Sunset.

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

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36 thoughts on “Grace in a Little White Pill

  1. Pingback: Hope for the Future: A Blog Hop on Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety | Half Kindled

  2. Pingback: Bloghop! Good Catholic Moms and Maternal Depression | Check Out That Sunset!

  3. My youngest is 8 months, and I’m going to the doctor tomorrow to discuss medication for depression. Thank you so much for sharing your story. The wisdom of accepting grace as it’s being offered (especially when that looks differently than I think it should) is exactly what I needed to read today.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m glad that you got help and that your doctor recognized that your behavior isn’t normal and that you got the solution you need to get through your anxiety and depression! I was so afraid of going on anti-depressants when I needed them the most and I am so grateful that they helped me be able to live my life in a normal way.

  5. Thank you. This is me to a T (altho my little white pill goes by a different name..everything else I could have written). Except for the part about accepting it as God’s grace in action- this I need to work on and I thank you for sharing!

  6. Pingback: Treating Maternal Anxiety -

  7. Our experiences seem really similar.
    For so long I was too proud to take meds but after I did I realized that I needed to get better (be well) before I could get better (improve myself / be healthy physically / grow in virtue).

  8. Fantastic article, and I’m so happy you shared this experience! Several weeks ago, our priest gave a homily about issues like clinal depression (something he himself had suffered with for years) and encouraged parishioners to seek medical help if they were struggling with intense mental or emotional sufferings. I’m so glad more is being shared on this topic, and that encouragement (along with prayer, of course) is offered to help those who need it. Thank you!

  9. I am very happy that there are more Catholic women writing about this subject. As you mentioned, talking about it will help remove the stigma and will make us better able to give and receive help. I suffered from severe postpartum depression after my second son. Currently, I take bioidentical progesterone to help with anxiety and severe PMS symptoms. But I have taken a little white pill in the past and will not hesitate to take it if I need it again.

  10. Great post! 1) I’ve learned that that phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle” is NOT anywhere in the Bible; he often gives us wayyy more than we can handle as an opportunity to rely on his grace! 2) Have you checked out bioidentical hormone replacement? Turns out I have very low progesterone (I’d always assumed I had high androgens) and things are looking up with supplementation 🙂 This blog (unaffiliated) has been helpful to me http://www.larabriden.com/

    • Hi Jaime, Thanks for commenting! Yes, that phrase is really awful. I’m trying to think of a situation where it could help someone, but I can’t think of a one. . . . And yeah, progesterone therapy is on my radar screen. I kind of started the process of looking into it then got sidetracked. . . . I had some hormone testing done and my progesterone was normal as was my thyroid–my cortisol was low though–anyway, I don’t know how definitive that test was. . .. It helps so many people.

  11. Thanks for this Laura! I haven’t yet had to take antidepressants for postpartum, but I probably should have in the past. It’s good to have this conversation and to hear more about it because I really thought I could beat it just by myself, and of course spent most days in tears thinking I was a terrible mom. I hate the idea of moms suffering through that without taking advantage of help!

    • Thank you Christy. Reading your comment made me think about that fact that both my babies were born in January and the season certainly didn’t help. I don’t know if any of yours were born in the winter, but just getting through the winters where you live would probably be more than I could take!

  12. Love you and this post and the fact that it’s helped give you some much needed peace.

    Don’t love that I have been oblivious to your struggles for these years, which only highlights how content I am in my own little bubble — blissfully aware of what even my own family trudges through on the daily.

    Last point: nice graphic. 😉

  13. Thanks so much for writing this, Laura. ” The second and biggest roadblock to wellness for me was that I felt I didn’t deserve help. I was never psychotic. I never lost my reason. I always had some degree of control of my actions. Therefore, I thought, I just needed to try harder.” Yes to this. That about sums up why I waited a year to seek help. Took me a while to realize depression doesn’t really care if you think you need help, it is most likely not going away until you get it.

  14. thank you so much for speaking out about this issue. every day i work with people who have lost loved ones to suicide. the pain they bear on a daily basis is staggering. no one would expect to deal with diabetes or cancer by ‘trying harder’. depression is just as real and can be just as deadly if you don’t get treatment. program the national suicide hotline phone number into your phone. 1-800-273-8255. if you never need it… that’s great! if you do need it… you have it. make yourself a plan… check out the MY3 App at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/my3-app.aspx

  15. This is such a great post, Laura, and I think you’re doing a very important thing by being vulnerable and sharing your experience. And also, that’s a great graphic ya got up there. 😉

  16. This is a wonderful, NEEDED post. I’m afraid most Christian backgrounds, Catholic or not, reinforce this idea of try harder, pray more, just have faith, it must be your fault. God’s grace is a pill, and weekly therapy, for me as well. Without both I don’t think I’d still be alive. We’ve got to stop feeling ashamed of getting much needed help for mental illness; thank you for shedding some light.

  17. Wow, I feel like I could have written most of this. Especially the unusual symptoms. I had a very specific picture of postpartum depression in my head, and since my symptoms were different–mostly guilt and anger, rather than sadness and crying–I didn’t realize what it was until much later.

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