Shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Psychosis. I was prescribed a high dosage of Zoloft
, which helped tremendously.
Initially, the intention was to wean me off the medications once my condition improved. Combined with regular visits to my psychiatrist, the dosage was slowly reduced, with the hope that one day I was able to function without them.
Today, almost seven years after my daughter was born, I still have to take Zoloft and Xanax. It seemed likely that I would have to take them for the rest of my life, although in lower dosages than in the beginning. The few times that the doctor tried to lower the dosages past a certain amount, I had difficulties controlling my depression and anxiety. My obsessive compulsive tendency would be more pronounced, and I would worry endlessly and had panic attacks.
About five years ago, I started to have a serious problem with insomnia. I wasn't able to sleep even when I was physically and mentally exhausted. There were days when I would sleep for a total of one or two hours only. It got so bad that my psychiatrist prescribed me Stillnox
to help me sleep. However, it turned out to be ineffective on me, so I had to take Seroquel
instead. Seroquel is a strong anti-psychotic, often used as a sedative for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
It was difficult to explain how disheartening it felt every time the doctor had to increase the dosage or add another medication to what I had been taking. I felt hopeless, powerless, and impotent. It felt like doom and condemnation. It made me feel like I was a lesser human being than the rest; one that was incapable of living and functioning without the aid of those medications.
Without going too much into the specifics of why or which events triggered a relapse or necessitated an increase in dosage/types of medications, it was always devastating to learn that I was in fact dependent on those medications in order to function normally. There was no way around it. Moreover, living with those medications meant living with their side-effects too. A fact that until now, many of those around me overlooked, even when they knew that I was taking medications.
Especially for those, who like me, have been taking medications for long periods of time, the side-effects have become such a part of life that often times, even the people around us had such a hard time differentiating which one was the real us vs. the us influenced by the side-effects of these medications. For example, sluggishness, increased appetite, tiredness, tremors, decreased sexual desires, all of which I have experienced. Because I have been taking those medications for years, the above side-effects were now perceived as part of my personality not only by those around me, but also by myself sometimes. They have affected my life as a whole--in the courses of action and decisions I took, in how I reacted to others.
At times when I took the time to pause and contemplate however, I realized that the real me (without the meds) and the one with the medications, may not be the same.
Knowing that I must take those medications for the rest of my life, however, meant I have to accept this 'new' version of me--the good and the bad. And to be at peace with the high probability that 'it' was here to stay. I have to stop resenting the fact that I wasn't able to get off these medications; instead, I should try to make the best out of the situation. I must focus on the positive things that's in my life now: that I can function normally as opposed to being clinically depressed and highly anxious at all times. I must come into terms with those side-effects being a part of the real me without losing sight of who I was before the medications.
Sounds complicated? That's because it IS. I'm aware that it would not be an easy task. It would involve not only accepting who I am as a person, but also as a person who needs to take medications for the rest of my life
. Who has to deal with the consequences of taking those medications. To accept that as long as the good outweighs the bad, I should be thankful and move forward. To not judge myself too harshly when I felt that I was behaving under the influence of the medications. To not feel like a failure for having to take medications in order to function normally. I know that it will not be an easy ride; there will be bumps along the way. There would be struggles, internally with myself and externally with others, especially those who are closest to me.
But let this awareness be a start. The acceptance be the next step. Balance being the ultimate goal. And right now? To just be enough.
I AM enough.