GUEST POST: It’s OK to say yes

This guest post was sent to me at exactly the right time. I get lots of emails from mums around the world, sometimes they write just to say hi, or to share their thoughts on sleep or other important parenting things, and other times they ask for advice. I recently had two emails from mums asking about mental health treatment. Then the very next day I was sent this guest post. Perfect! Thank you to the mama who wrote it and sent it through. It’s really going to help others – we don’t talk about mental health nearly enough. Especially mental health and parenting. Sharing our stories as parents is so important. Thank you to everyone who writes guest posts to be shared here. If you’d like to share you story – email me at Arohanui xox

Trigger warning: Discussion of mental health.







Sweet, sweet drugs.

Prescription drugs for mental health, that is.

There is such a stigma when it comes to talking about medication for depression or anxiety, especially among those of us with young children. Postnatal depression effects 13% of new mothers in New Zealand according to Plunket. That is a shitload – yet among friends of mine, I would say that number is closer to 50%. The number of those who chose to medicate? Maybe 10% of that. But why? Why are we so loathe to take the magic little pills that can make all the difference?

Many of us are too ashamed to admit we need help, either due to unsupportive partners or extended families. It can be a huge struggle to talk honestly about what you need when you are in charge of everyone else’s needs. It’s so easy to put ourselves last when there are little people to keep alive, and partners to connect with; when those around us tell us how happy we must be to have such beautiful babies, how lucky we are, how perfect our new families are.

Some are scared of what it means to be taking chemical medication, preferring to go down the natural remedies track. This involves strategies such as taking herbal supplements, cutting out certain foods or trying new diets, relaxing the mind and body with essential oils, or filling alone time with exercise.

I identified with both of these (although not the exercise – who am I kidding).

With my first born I had a hell of a birth. It threatened both my son’s life and my own, and traumatized my partner. I have blacked out the majority of the event (self-preservation I think) and I do have fond memories of our first few days together as a new family. I was in a lot of physical pain, breastfeeding was agony, and I had an unsupportive midwife; this led to me deciding to quit while I was ahead, and go with the bottle to feed my son. But despite his entry into the world, and lacking the bonding that comes with a breastfeeding relationship (as well as unsupportive LMC and Plunket nurses due to being a teen mum, but that’s a whole other story!) I was on cloud nine.

Two-and-a-half years of happy families passed, and then Son No.2 was due to arrive. Opting to skip the carnage of the birthing suite this time around, I turned up for my elective cesarean with my private obstetrician and had my delicious newborn in my arms an hour later. After a few hours of separation (due to some drug reactions from me, and breathing difficulties for him) we were reunited and I waited for euphoria to set in.

But it did not.

While I waited, I pushed through the searing nipple pain. I was determined to breastfeed this child if it was the last thing I did. The 24/7 attached-at-the-boob routine was in place and still I waited for my babymoon to start. In the following weeks my partner’s business collapsed, we lost all income, and my two-year-old transformed from an angel child into Lucifer reincarnated. We made the decision to jump ship and move house and cities.

At our new place, I left the house about 4 times in 3 months. I literally couldn’t walk past the letterbox without wanting to throw up with anxiety. For 3 months I baked bread from scratch, handmade every single Christmas present and crafted elaborate birthday cakes. Yet I lay in bed awake all night, a baby attached to me, and sat my toddler in front of The Wiggles six hours a day. I was a zombie. Despite over-achieving on the outside, I was a walking zombie. Eventually, my husband marched me to the GP and I was set up with a fabulous counsellor through Maternal Mental Health. I looked forward to our weekly sessions, still in the comfort of my own house because I couldn’t leave. But I still said no to medication. I can’t even remember why.

Another move, this time 5 hours away, more depression.

Another year another move, same depression.

By this time I thought it was just normal to feel this way. My baby was now nearly 3, I had a 5-year-old at school, and I had finally convinced my husband for a third baby. Her pregnancy was very different to her brothers. I found the most amazing midwife and had a plan for my last birth to be empowering and on my terms. Despite all our best intentions, for a magical VBAC, my long-awaited daughter arrived by emergency cesarean and completed our family. Months went by, another business ended its course and again we decided to move back to Wellington. It was the best decision we ever made.

For the next (nearly) three years I thought things were better. However, I suffered from numerous health issues. So many tests, so many inconclusive results. I was so used to my new normal I never suspected my mental health to be a factor in my physical health. Eventually, it became too much and I had a nervous breakdown. Complete “what am I doing with my life?”, “my family is better off without me”, “I’m living a lie” – that kind of breakdown.

So I went to the GP, and said, “I’m ready for drugs.”

And they saved my life.

Three months later I am a different person. I am happy – truly happy. I am a better mother to my kids. I am a better, more present and more loving partner. My new-found passions are opening up my world to new people and experiences. I am making the most beautiful and interesting friends.

The fence that my anxiety had built, and the fog that my depression had made around me, are both gone and anything is possible. I know how fucking cheesy that sounds, but I cannot express my love for my magic little pills enough.

I regret the years I have wasted being unhappy, the years of my children’s childhood that I wasn’t really present for.

I want to share my story because I want to say, it is okay to say yes to the drugs. By all means talk about it. Drink those herbal teas. Do that cross fit class. But it’s okay – it’s okay to say yes to the drugs too.

It is more than okay.

8 Comments on “GUEST POST: It’s OK to say yes

  1. Thank you so much for writing this.

    We really need to talk about this more, and you have been so brave and kind to share your experience.

    May you feel better and better.

  2. Wow! This brought me to tears, you are so completely amazing and brave. I’m not someone who ever comments on articles but I wanted to this time, to thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Thank you for this
    theres something about being a mum that makes this so hard to talk about
    it took me so long to consider taking medication i tried everything under the sun but drugs changed my life even now i feel like i have to justify myself so much when i tell a few tiny select group of people i trust that i take antidepressants
    i feel like they think im a bad mum for choosing drugs but i had literally tried everything
    there i am justifying again
    thank you for this again because it’s the only thing ive ever read by a mum about antidepressants
    nobody talks about it thank you for talking about it
    and im glad they worked like magic for you too like they did for me
    i wish i had your courage to tell others to consider them as well maybe one day i will
    sorry for the lack of grammar im on my phone typing one handed while breast feeding my 10 month old

  4. This is a great post about a subject that isn’t discussed enough. Whilst pregnant, I was identified as being extremely high risk for postnatal depression and/or psychosis because I have a history of serious mental illness. I was totally sane at the time, yet the professionals viewpoint was that I should take medication during my pregnancy, except for the last few weeks and then restart the day my baby was born. The medication they suggested is thought to be safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, but they said my baby would still be exposed to it and if I gave birth early then she might have some withdrawal symptoms.

    It was a hard decision, to medicate myself whilst I was doing fine, but it’s the choice I made. I’ve spent far too much time on psych wards and didn’t want my daughters life to start with us in the mother and baby unit. At 8 months postpartum, I’ve had no depression and only a smidgen of anxiety, I’m coming off the meds!

    I’d make the same decision if I get pregnant again. Still have some niggling guilt over exposing my daughter to pharmaceuticals, but I know that I’m a much better mother to here than I’d be if I were unwell.

  5. I loved this article and it really rung so true for me also. I’ve been suffering chronic pain for a few months and prior to that anxiety. Since my child was born I thought it was all just part of being a new mum and sleep deprived. I started anti-anxiety medication and it has changed my life around to the point where I thought why the heck did I not do this sooner!!! I now feel like the old me again. And the more I discuss with close friends the more I realise many of us are going through the same thing and are medicating to find a sense of normal. It is nothing to be ashamed of and I can’t believe it took me so long to say ‘yes’ to help when I wouldn’t think twice about taking other medication for other ailments.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I said yes to the drugs when I was 38 weeks pregnant with our first daughter after months of crippling anxiety, depression and insomnia. A week later it’s like a switch was flipped and I suddenly felt able to take on that incredible, wonderful, terrifying role of Mother. When I got pregnant with our second daughter I asked my new OB if I could stay on my medication and she said of course – what a lifesaver. We need to share our experiences and let women know that there is NO shame in anxiety or depression and we should never, ever be ashamed of asking for help. I’m so happy you found happiness after your difficult journey and wish you and your family the very best!

  7. As a psychologist, I would just like to add that while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying yes to drugs for post-partum (or any other) depression, studies show that they only help about 50% of people who take them. I mention this because it’s easy for women with post-partum depression who turn out to fall into the 50% the drugs don’t help to feel that they have somehow failed again. This isn’t logical, but there’s very little that’s logical about depression. If you try them and they’re not working as you hoped, it isn’t your fault – please do tell your doctor, who can try other formulations and/or other options.

    • There are seriously so many different anti-depressants and combinations thereof. We don’t really know how the brain works and there are likely a lot of different causes of depression that need to be treated differently anyway. The combo I’m on now is about the third one or fourth one I tried. If the first one isn’t working out or the side effects are unmanageable definitely go back to the doctor.