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I am a single first-time mother with several mental disorders which I manage with a number of medications. Every day, I take five pills: an antidepressant, two mood stabilizers, a pill for anxiety, and a pill for insomnia. I take my anxiety medication three times per day, and if I miss a dose, I immediately notice a rise in my anxiety.
My anxiety feels uncontrollable, as if it is triggered by the littlest things, mainly by my toddler. I have a hard time dealing with her excessive screaming and crying because it reminds me of how things were just after she was first born, when I suffered from postpartum depression. Each time she screams at the top of her because I’ve told her “no,” I cringe, and feel like crawling under a soundproof rock.
I take my anxiety medication regularly, and all of my other medications, as prescribed. Missing a dose would upset my recovery, alter my mood, and make me a different kind of mother than I strive to be. I wasn’t the kind of mother I wanted to be right after I gave birth to my daughter because I wasn’t taking medication. I was irritable, emotional, and avoided close any contact with her. Now that I am on medication, I am stable and attentive, and I welcome and cherish the moments I get to spend with my little girl.
Even in my anxious moments, I cherish each second spent with her because my medication takes the edge off and allows me to cope in ways that I learned through therapy and during my inpatient hospital stays. My medication isn’t a cure, but it is a way that helps me to manage my mental disorders. I realized recently that some mothers are ashamed of having to take medication for their mental health due to the unfair stigma that surrounds it. I refuse to be ashamed of being a medicated mother because without my medication, I wouldn’t be much of a mother at all.
There are times where it is hard to accept my need for medication, and I have moments where I wish I didn’t need them. Sometimes I feel weak for needing medication to keep myself mentally stable, and feel bad about myself because I can’t cope with things on my own. It is in these moments that I remind myself that my medication isn’t doing all the work, that I am actually getting better and that I’m recovering thanks to my own hard work, my determination to survive, and my desire to be a good mother.
Most days are great, and I owe that at least partially to my medication. Each of my five medications does its job, and I especially appreciate the anxiety and insomnia medications. Without my anxiety medication, I would be less likely to use my coping mechanisms to get through the tough days, and without my insomnia medication, I would be sleep-deprived, my judgement would be clouded, and my thoughts inevitably would turn dark. I need all of my medications to function and to be the kind of mother I want to be: loving, attentive, nurturing, and playful.
Being a medicated mother does not make me weak. In fact, it proves my strength because it shows that I am willing to do whatever is best for myself and my daughter. Being compliant with my medications does not make me “crazy,” it makes me responsible, shows that I care about myself and my family.
It is not a shameful thing to be a medicated mother. It is a sign of strength. It shows that I care about my mental well-being.
Madelyn Heslet is a 24-year-old single mother who writes about mental illness to advocate for mental health and do her part to end the stigma that surrounds it. She not only lives as a writer, but as a loving mother and dedicated full-time student. She contributes a weekly column to Painted Brain News