Monthly Archives: January 2016

Off meds… How and Why

With my doctor’s guidance, I decided to stop taking my anti-depressant about 7 weeks ago.

IMG_0432This is a pretty big deal for me; I started taking them in July 2012, initially to combat severe post-partum/post-natal depression after the birth of my son (read about my experience here). The medicine helped me come out of the darkness of that experience, and I chose to remain on a low dose (50mg/day of sertraline, aka Zoloft) indefinitely. I had finally realized I’ve been struggling with bouts of chronic depression most of my life, and wanted to see what it was like to have that bit of extra help. I took sertraline for two and a half years.

Taking (and staying on) an antidepressant was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It gave me the ability to see things more rationally, and enabled me to have an honest reflection of my past experiences. This objectiveness also helped me to develop a long-term “battle plan,” and has given me a bit more clarity in those much-less-frequent-but-still-sometimes-there darker moments.

In the past several months, however, I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the drug had side-effects I hadn’t been aware of, the biggest one being FATIGUE. Every day, by 12:30pm, I was exhausted. As in, if I sat down I could barely keep my eyes open, and often succumbed to a nap with my son, even if I’d had a decent sleep the night before. “What’s wrong with napping?” you ask. Nothing! I’m a huge advocate of napping – my very first blog post was about it. However, feeling that you literally don’t have the energy to make lunch or do the school run or play with your kids, even AFTER a nap, is not normal.

This issue with the whole “fatigue” thing is this: every single mother I’ve ever met is TIRED. My kids (ages 5 and 3) are done nursing, fully potty trained at night, generally healthy, and overall good sleepers. But, as every mom knows, somehow WE STILL HAVE TO WAKE UP SEVERAL TIMES A NIGHT. Man, it really sucks, especially if you have trouble falling back asleep quickly. Reasons we have to wake up in the wee hours may include any or all of the following cries from the small people: “I need more water! I need chapstick! My star-light needs new batteries! My sock fell off! I’m hot! I’m cold! I heard Anders cough! I heard Tori cough! I had a bad dream! I had a funny dream! Can I wake up now? I can’t find my teddy bear! I need a tissue! When will my cow-clock wake up? Can you snuggle?” And of course, multiply these requests by a dozen if they’re actually sick.

So it’s been easy for me to say “I’m tired,” but think, “that’s normal, I’m a mom.” And thus I’ve ignored it for quite a long time. But recently I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I was a bit extra-tired because of the sertraline. It is certainly a listed side-effect, so it’s been on my mind for a while.

Here are the side-effects usually listed with sertraline:

“Less serious side effects may include:

  • bluepills_o_default-700x434drowsiness, dizziness, tired feeling;
  • mild nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach, constipation;
  • dry mouth;
  • changes in appetite or weight;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or.
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.”

 (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/drug-sertraline/article_em.htm)

Now, you may read this list and think, well, anyone could have any of those issues, even without taking meds. Which is true. But I feel I’ve had all or most of them, to a slight degree.

So one of my main reasons for stopping my anti-depressant is that I want to see if any of those side effects disappear!

The other (BIG) reason is this: I’ve been feeling quite stable these last 6 months, and I felt that if I was going to stop the medicine, now would be a good time to do it. And I’ve had lots of time to fully implement my battle plan and make it a regular part of my life, so I feel much more prepared to go without the anti-depressant. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have said this.

So. I weaned myself off, VERY slowly (DO NOT google “side effects of coming off sertraline,” you’ll be scared for your life!!). I did a 50mg/25mg/50/25/50 dose for the first week, then 25/25/25/25/25, then 25/12/25/12/25, then 12/12/12/12/12, then 12/0/12/0/12/0. So it took over me a full month to do this process, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been completely off. Thankfully I did not experience any of the crazy side-effects some people have reported when weaning off sertraline.

So far, I’ve been a bit more weepy than normal (like, getting teary-eyed while watching a cat-food commercial…!?) but otherwise I feel pretty good, overall no big changes yet.

Before I made this big change, I knew I needed to adjust my battle plan a bit… after all, the number one thing on the list was “I’m on an anti-depressant”! I’ll be sharing this new plan with you in my next post, because STAYING off my medicine is just as important as how and why I went off it. In the meanwhile, your prayers are greatly appreciated as I continue on this journey. XOXO

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Parenting in Public

I could feel people staring at us as they walked past. My daughter was crying and so was my son, and, to be honest, I was near tears as well. We were walking home from school and it had been one of those afternoons when not a single nice word had come out of Tori’s mouth since I picked her up. Whining, complaining, sassy-I-don’t-care kind of words came instead. “MOM! Get my jacket NOW,” was the first thing she said to me. Not, “Hi Mom!” or “Can you get my jacket?” We had made it about half-way home (a full mile one-way commute) when she chose to snatch her brother’s snack from his hand, eliciting tears from him. When I made her give it back AND give him a piece from her own snack, she lost it. “How dare you?!” she yelled. “NO!!”

Meanwhile, cars and cyclists whizzed by, dozens of people walked past, and we were in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped walking, squatted next to her, and gave her a stern talking-to. We didn’t start walking again until she apologized and chose to change her attitude. It was a cold, wet wait, and we certainly received our share of curious looks from passers-by.

I’m sure this kind of thing happens to every parent. Whether it’s in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or even just with friends, we parent around other people. But here’s the thing that’s changed for us since living here: we don’t own a car, so I am CONSTANTLY parenting in public, even on our way TO the grocery store or restaurant.

There is no moment in which I am ever alone with my children except when we are literally in our house. No drives home from school, no road trips, no seat belts limiting the kids’ movement, and certainly no drive-thru restaurants. And, when bad choices or tantrums start happening, there are no threats of “don’t make me pull this car over, young lady!” haha!

Don’t get me wrong, driving with kids can be so very stressful; they’re yelling or crying or whining, all while you’re trying to pay attention to the road. BUT. In a car, there are not random strangers listening to every word you say. No one watching you, just to make sure that you don’t seem abusive or inappropriate. No random person walking by and offering unsolicited advice or an eye-brow raised stare when you’re choosing to let your child continue with his tantrum on the sidewalk.

Overall, we really love not having to drive! But it can be hard to be constantly scrutinized and judged (or feel you are) by the behavior of your children, and not have the respite of getting into the privacy of your car.

Parenting in public can be so, so exhausting, can’t it?? The looks and stares are enough to make you question your parenting choices. “Maybe I’m being too hard on her. Maybe I’m not being hard enough. Yes, thank you, ma’am, for saying ‘oh my’ when my son hit my daughter. Should I even bother addressing Tori’s attitude right now? But if I wait until we get home it will lose its effect… But it’s raining out and I really don’t have the energy to wait out here in the cold while we talk about this…” and so on. Sometimes I deliberately speak loudly so people around me can hear that, yes, I am addressing the issue, and no, I’m not swearing at her or threatening her with violence. But then speaking loudly can seem like I’m yelling at her. Yet speaking softly seems to imply malice!

I’m most grateful when I make eye contact with a stranger and they give me a sympathetic, smiling look which says “I’ve been in your shoes, hang in there,” and then go on their way.

Our extra time in public has forced me to stay true to my convictions, and to learn to just ignore the people walking by, and to realize this: It’s a lose-lose situation if I start to care what strangers on the street think about me and my children. My psyche can’t handle trying to impress people. It’s an exhausting and dangerous downhill battle that can lead to dark places.

We’ve all had that moment when someone offers you unsolicited advice or condemnation when you’re already stressed about your children. We must choose to stick to our convictions and instincts, and, dare I say it? parent our children the same in public as we do in private. Otherwise we’re sending our kids a mixed message and that’s not fair to them!

It’s so much easier said than done… I’d love to hear your thoughts about parenting in public; do you parent the same way at home as you do in the grocery store? Is it really possible to parent in public WITHOUT taking into consideration that you have an audience?

Well, I’m off to do the “school run,” as they say here; praying that our walk home will be full of good attitudes and happy kids :)