Tag Archives: medication

Mental Illness and Pregnancy: To Medicate or Not to Medicate? That is the Question. (…that I do not have the answer to. I’m not a doctor. But here’s my experience.)

**Disclaimer (in case the title wasn’t disclaim-y enough for you): Like literally everything else on this CLEARLY non-medical blog, the following is based on MY personal experience. It is not intended to serve as definitive medical advice for my fellow mental health sufferers. I am not telling you to go off your meds, and I’m not telling you to stay on them. I am suggesting that you thoroughly consider your options, under the close care of a doctor who knows you well, and that you advocate for yourself before making a rash, fear-based decision. Mostly I am just letting you know that no matter what you decide or what you are going through, try to go easy on yourself. You’re doing the best you can. You are not alone. And you got this.**


A lot of people have asked me if I’m still on my depression/anxiety meds while pregnant. This is a totally fair and welcomed question, mainly because most of you have asked in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental, just-curious way, like, “Oh, hey, what’d you end up deciding about that?” But some of you have asked in more of an accusatory “You’re not still on your meds, are you!?” way that implies some sort of moral wrongness should I be on them– and even though I know (most of) you people come from a well-meaning place, it still makes me want to light your face on fire.

So allow me to try to explain a few things. Knowdlege is power and faces are generally better not aflame.

The answer is no, I am not on my meds. But let me be VERY clear about this– I am not off them because I have some kind of holier-than-thou judgement about staying on meds while pregnant. I have absolutely NO judgement about that, and in fact encourage women to stay on them if that’s what works best for their health and situation. Obviously. I am the queen of mental health triage– you do what you gotta fucking do to keep your marbles, sista! #sanityfirst

The drug I was on, Prozac (an SSRI), is actually known to be safe for pregnancy, and I know plenty of women who have been on this drug or others like it and have given birth to perfectly healthy children. And in fact, countless medical studies show that having a depressive episode or being acutely anxious while pregnant is far more harmful to a fetus than taking medication that will effectively treat these conditions (these MEDICAL conditions, in case you needed a reminder that this shit isn’t made up hocus pocus, they are legitimate illnesses). But yes, it is true that some mental health meds are unsafe for pregnancy. As long as you are discussing family planning with your therapist ahead of time, though, he/she should be steering you clear of those particular meds while pregnant.

Soooo after reading the above regurgitation of all the fun medical facts I’ve learned during my family planning journey,  you’re probably wondering, “Ok, so if all of that is true, why DID you stop taking your meds?”

Well, in a shocking turn of events, it was for no good reason at all, really. Basically, my therapist presented it to me like this: “The optimal, ideal situation is that you are off all medications and feeling fine, aka not depressed or anxious. Should you go off them and feel anxious or depressed, then the next best situation is for you to go back on them and stay on them for pregnancy. The least optimal scenario is that you have an acute depressive episode or debilitating anxiety while pregnant.”

Ok, so obviously all I heard there was, “The optimal, most ideal situation is that you are off meds….” and then I sort of stopped listening and everything else just became giphy. After all, it was my first time getting pregnant, I had no fucking clue what to expect or what the process TRULY entailed, so yeah, I wanted to do the thing I was told is “optimal.” No-brainer here. Do the “optimal, ideal” thing, because those are strong words that sound good. And I’m gonna be a good mom, damnit!

I’m not saying that line of thinking made sense, I’m just saying it’s the line of thinking I had when I quickly declared, “Ok, off the meds we go!” with far more confidence than any medication-dependent person with a lifelong mood disorder should have. lets-do-this

This decision was made back in July, and we weren’t planning to try to get pregnant until December, so I still had some time to wean off and be completely med-free for a bit before inviting a fetus into this  shitshow of an experiment delicate situation.

A few things to note.

  1. For the previous year before going off it, I had been on a very low dose of Prozac. That was part of why I felt I could probably be ok stopping it. Had I been on a high dose, it would have been a much more difficult and lengthy weaning process and likely wouldn’t have been worth it in my mind. Going off a low dose seemed easy and low risk.
  2. That being said, the last time I was med-free (age 26), I lost my goddamn mind. Like, completely incapacitated, lost 25 pounds, moved back in with my parents, played lots of senior-living type board games and took copious lukewarm baths just to pass the interminable minutes. I was extremely sick, and it was terrifying.
  3. THAT being said, I was younger then, far more naive, and had no idea what was happening to me. I had no reliable therapist, coping skills, or treatment plan for dealing with my illness. I didn’t even remotely UNDERSTAND it as an illness, so I certainly had no way of managing it (and no faith that it would ever end). Since then, I’ve done a ton of work on myself and have learned how to manage things (to the extent that I’m able) when life gets dark.
  4. THAAAAAAT being said, I’ve always had the medication to help me.

The conclusion I made based on these four somewhat unhelpful and conflicting points? If I go off the meds and things get bad, they probably won’t get as bad as that really bad time, because things are different now, and I’m more prepared.

But let’s be real, given I’ve had the consistent help of meds for 9 years, there’s just no possible fucking way to know that.

So I took the gamble, because gambling is fun when you’re drunk in Vegas so it’ll probably also be fun when you’re sober and housing a fetus, thought no one logical ever.

And at first it was fine. The weaning went smoothly. By the time I was completely off the meds, it was late October, aka my non-optimal time of year thanks to colder, darker weather setting in, and a general life-long refusal to understand why summer ends. So I didn’t feel GREAT* (*not really my M.O. regardless) but I certainly wasn’t depressed. Plus we had the 2-week, warm-weather honeymoon to look forward to, so that kept me going.

But the second I got pregnant in early December, shit hit the fan. I alluded to a lot of this in my post In a Shocking Turn of Events, I Am No Glowing Goddess, but shied away from some of the grimmer details because a) it was my first post about the pregnancy so I didn’t want to come out Depression guns a blazin’ and b) I was genuinely excited to finally share the news. But I do now feel the responsiblity, as a mental health advocate and general blogger of honesty, to let it be known that I was NOT ok that first trimester. I was hesitant to use the word “depressed” while I was in it, because I really didn’t want to admit to needing meds, and I felt like I should “stick it out” until the second trimester. Plus, recognizing you’re depressed WHILE you’re depressed isn’t always easy– it’s part of the mind-fuck of the illness. The very symptoms of depression (self loathing, worthlessness, hopelessness) prevent you from assessing the situation as “This is medical. I am ill,” and instead twist it to “I am the worst, I am being a little bitch, and I need to grow a pair.” (but alas, you cannot grow a pair– and the harder you try, the more you hate yourself for failing. Tricky little devils, these mood disorders).

I convinced myself it was all normal first trimester stuff. And some of it definitely was. Constant nausea and exhaustion will make anyone feel like shit. But some of it was really fucking dark, and I’m not so certain that’s normal.

I cried every single day. I stared blankly a lot. I couldn’t write, and could barely read. I felt absolutely no attachment to the pregnancy, and had no ability to see how anything was going to get better, or how I was supposed to love or care for a child. I was stuck in a thought loop of “You’re going to be a terrible mom, what were you thinking? This was a huge mistake.” I could barely get out of bed and I felt horribly, utterly lonely– the kind of lonely that can’t be cured by another person comforting you, because that ironically just makes you feel all the more alone (on that note, God bless Eric. No, literally, God, PLEASE bless him with a bevy of Corgi puppies upon his eventual arrival in heaven). That self-hating loneliness was the only feeling I had– about anything else, I felt absolutely nothing at all. It was 3 long months of toggling between complete isolated self-loathing and absolute, utter detachment. I’m not sure which I prefered. Both were pretty fucking non-optimal.

But it got better, eventually. Very recently. Do I feel great now? No. But I’m not depressed, and I’m able to feel excited at times. I have some energy back. I feel more motivation to get up and go. I open the blinds. I listen to music. I’m doing my job, not just suffering through it. I walk on the treadmill. Food tastes like food again.

But please note, the second after this baby is born: tenor-1 (<— definitely what post-labor looks like, no?) I will be right back on that Prozac. That was always the plan– my risk for postpartum depression is high, and we’re not taking any chances. And when it comes to the next pregnancy, should I be lucky enough to have that happen, I will likely stay on the meds. Those 3 months were horrible, and I see no reason to make an experience that is so hard on even the average, emotionally stable woman even harder. 

So, this is just to say, if you are one of those pregnancy newbies out there, and you are presented with your options in the same way I was, please know that it’s ok to not choose the “optimal, ideal” scenario if it’s not going to work for you. It’s not optimal or ideal if you feel like a self-loathing garbage truck for three months. It doesn’t make you selfish– it makes you reasonable and responsible. There is no wrong moral choice here, and you shouldn’t feel bullied* into making a decision that might not make sense for you (*to be fair, I really wasn’t bullied by my doctor. I still completely trust her. While I wish she had worded it slightly differently, what she said was perfectly reasonable– but I heard what I chose to hear and then I proceeded to bully myself, because that’s what we depressives do best).

But how should I respond when told it’s best to try to go off the meds, even if I don’t feel that’s the best option for me, you ask?

Well, next time, I’m probably going to say this, so feel free to borrow it: “Nope nope nope! No thanks, Doctor Person Who Isn’t Me, but I am me and because of that, I know myself farily well by now, and I sure do enjoy being sane! Seems the risks of the meds are pretty low, and the risks of me losing my shit are pretty high, so I’m going to keep doing that thing where I’m lucid and functional and seeing the point in showering, because, even though I don’t know much about babies yet, I DO know it’s easier to care for them when your mind is firmly planted in reality and you don’t wake up wondering why you have to exist. Right? Babies like moms who care about living and eating and clothing themselves? I feel like I read that somewhere and it sounded accurate.”

Or something similar. There’s probably a less condescending way, I don’t know.

Bottom line, do what works for YOU. I am not advocating for either option– every mental health situation, and every person, is different. I am simply advocating for you to advocate for yourself (under the care of a doctor you trust, of course. I really hope that goes without saying), and to really think through what will work best– again, for YOU.

Did going off meds work for ME? Meh. Hard to say at this point, because now that I’m out of the darkest darkness (I hope), it’s like “Ok, I survived that and no one died or anything, so that’s good.” But should that be the standard? No one died? Probably not. I feel like it was a lot of unnecessary suffering and potential risk, and I can’t imagine ever willingly going through that again. Plus, I can only hope and pray that my struggle didn’t harm the baby. So far everything looks good in there, the heartbeat is rapid and strong (doc says “Sounds great!,” I say “Sounds like anxiety!”), and I have no tangible reason to think she’s not thriving. But who really knows. And whether on or off meds, I’d have that “who really knows” feeling regardless. So next pregnancy, pretty sure it’s gonna be tenor.

And if you’re not ok with that? That’s cool. Just express your judgement to someone else, not me. I can’t go lighting faces on fire once I’m a mom, but I can definitely teach my kid to spit in your eye and claim it’s an accident.

Hi Again! Here’s Where I’ve Been.

I’ve gotten many comments about my lack of posting lately. Most of you think it’s because I’m too happy and in love to bother writing anymore. HAH! No.

Yes, I love Eric dearly and yes we are very happy together, but that would never be the reason I stop posting. If I’m writing less, that is usually a bad sign. I write more when my energy is good. I make myself write when my energy is bad, too, because it is definitely therapeutic. But you’ll certainly see more frequent posting when my spirits are up.


Jk, you can blame him a little, at least for the blog’s decrease in entertainment value. My pre-Eric dating life was more amusing. For you guys, at least. Living it was bona fide hell.

Anyway, back to the point. Here’s where I’ve been:

I have felt like absolute dog shit for the past 5 weeks. No, not depression (wahoo!), but feeling this awful for this long was starting to make me FEEL depressed, which is when I knew I had to make a change. I was blaming the new Paleo diet (for those of you not familiar, Paleo is essentially a whole-foods diet…nothing processed, no added sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes). I had started feeling this way about 6 days into the diet (after an initial first week of feeling fabulous), so I was certain that my body was just transitioning from carb-burning to fat-burning for energy, and it was taking a little longer than normal because I’ve been feeding it approximately 16 gallons of sugar-coated garbage per day for the past 34 years and now it’s like WHAT THE FUCK DO I RUN ON NOW!?!? CHRIST.

So I was just giving it some time.

But weeks passed, and I still felt incredibly weak and depleted. I essentially felt as if I possessed no muscle whatsoever. My arms and legs were extremely heavy, and when I walked, I felt like I was going to teeter over. It hurt to hold things in my hands (even my phone. I HAD TO PUT DOWN MY PHONE, GUYS). I was so irritable I wanted to punch everything in sight, which is less than ideal when you work with children.

But I really didn’t want to give up the Paleo diet, because the switch to this lifestyle had instantly cured my two biggest life-long ailments– headaches and stomachaches. So I kept riding it out, certain my strength would return, as well as my ability to not be a fang-toothed fire monster.

It didn’t. I started crying every day because I couldn’t run anymore. I could barely make it up the stairs to my classroom at school. I couldn’t carry a grocery bag.  Social events made me anxious because I didn’t know how I’d feel. I pushed myself to go to a friend’s outdoor-concert birthday party, only to end up crying hysterically to her when I didn’t have enough energy to stay on my feet.

Nobody likes the girl who cries to the birthday girl. I know that’s not even a thing, but I made it a thing, and I think everyone involved can agree it was not a good thing.

So I had a ton of blood work done. Checked all my vitamin levels, thyroid, cholesterol, blood pressure. Everything came back fine. I started to think I was going insane (you know…again).

I googled everything I could find on issues with pervasive weakness. About 3 hours into my google search, as Eric tried to gently pry the computer out of my hands and suggest I do something productive, like stand up or blink, I came across a testimonial from a girl who had very similar issues. They were related to her birth control. Specifically, she started noticing herself fall apart as soon as her pharmacy switched her over to the generic form of her pill.

This had recently happened to me. About 7 weeks prior, my mail-order pharmacy had sent me a 3-pack of the generic form (Levonorgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol) of my regular birth control (Aviane). I wasn’t thrilled about the switch without notice or approval, but I naively trusted it’d be the same thing, and I’d be fine. Well, you know how the saying goes– “naiveté killed the cat.” (Yeah, I know, it’s “curiosity.” But that doesn’t fit this context and there’s no good quote about naiveté so BACK OFF.)

I immediately googled “Levonorgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol.” The reviews and patient testimonials were insane. Basically, women switched to this pill and turned into Medusa. One girl swore it caused her divorce, because she became a completely irrational and emotional lunatic. Another used to be a marathon runner and then found she could barely walk (um, hello?!). Another gained 15 pounds in 3 weeks despite going to the gym every day and being in the most active, healthy phase of her life. Another stopped having sex with her husband because the sight of him disgusted her (that sounded more like a life problem than a medication problem, but godspeed to that couple.) Overall, the pill had a user rating of 1 star (for comparison, the name-brand pill I’d been taking had a rating of 4 stars).

“Holy shit. I’ve been poisoning myself,” I thought as I scrolled through testimonials that easily could have been written by me. I had basically been waking up every morning and swallowing a tiny little dragon pill that turned my insides to mush, my pupils red, and my breath to Game-of-Thrones-worthy fire darts.

I stopped taking the pill immediately. Didn’t even ride out the pack like they say you’re supposed to. Just stopped mid-pack and threw the rest in the garbage.

I quit it last Sunday. By Thursday, I was myself again. My body no longer feels heavy. I’ve been running every day. I have my strength back (not 100%, as I haven’t worked out in 5 weeks, but it is infinitely better). I can walk up stairs and not lose my breath. I can laugh again. I don’t hate everything.

Needless to say, Eric is relieved.


So the point here is four-fold:

  1. Know what’s going into your body.
  2. Know that generic drugs are NOT the exact same as the brand-name. By law they do not have to be. They can be stuffed with fillers and binders that might be EXTREMELY harmful to your body, particularly if you are someone who is hormonally sensitive, as I am.
  3. Pay attention to how your medication affects your mood and energy. If it’s not good then
  4. Go off of it before you murder your significant other.

Number 4 is very important. Because if you murder your significant other, it should be because that’s just who you are as a person, not because a pill made you do it.

You’re welcome.

I’m glad to be back!




My Students Will Know I Have a Mental Illness

The other day some teachers in my school were discussing how the 5th graders have been very into googling their teachers to see what kind of dirt they can dig up.

I’m sure this trend will catch on with the 4th graders soon enough, so just to prepare myself for what my students might find, I googled my name. The very first thing to pop up (besides my LinkedIn page) was an essay my father wrote about why he supports mental health organization Active Minds.

It goes into detail about my battle with Depression and Anxiety, focusing specifically on a time when I was deeply, deeply depressed, to the point where I had to quit my job and move home. It talks about how I couldn’t function. How my brain essentially lost the ability to comprehend the simplest of information. How I was terrified all the time, and couldn’t stop crying. How I was completely dependent on those around me. How I took, and continue to take, medication for mental illness. How I saw, and continue to see, a psychiatrist.

And you know what? Good.

Sure, I could worry about the general stigma and misunderstanding. I could worry about judgement from the students’ parents. I could worry that the children, families, or administration would look at or treat me differently.

But I don’t. At all. The old me would have.

Here’s how I see it now:

Your teacher was really sick and she got better, kids. And she works extremely hard to stay better, even though some days can be pretty tough. But she keeps going. And she has wonderful, strong relationships with caring, amazing people who are there to support her through the darkness and celebrate with her in the light. She stumbles, and sometimes it takes weeks or months to get back up. But she does. And she’s stronger and wiser for it.

I think that’s a pretty great lesson for a 10 year old.

Don’t you?


Now let’s just hope to god they never find my blog. IMG_6871

Excuse Me While I Meet My Idol Jenny Lawson and Ask Her To Sign My Prozac-filled Pill Case

On Thursday, at a Barnes and Noble book-signing event, I had the honor of meeting my idol and hero, Jenny Lawson. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a hilarious blogger (known as “The Bloggess“), a NYT bestselling author, and an inspiring mental illness sufferer and advocate.

Basically, she’s me.

But way funnier and hugely successful and totally established.

So, ok. Rewrite.

Basically, she’s who I WANT to be.

Up until about 8 months ago, I actually had no idea who Jenny Lawson was. In an ironic twist (and a twist that has surely prevented my blog from being more successful), I am a blogger who doesn’t really read blogs.

You know those tv actors who are asked what their favorite TV show is, and they say, “Oh, I don’t actually watch tv, I don’t really have time.” I’m one of those assholes. Except I do have time, I just spend it doing other things, like napping and eating and drinking Bloody Marys.

Basically I’m the worst.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I discovered Jenny out of sheer luck– one day, someone commented on my Facebook page that my writing reminded him of Jenny’s writing, and that I should check out her blog and her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I skipped the blog part (because again, I’m the worst) and went straight for the book.

Holy shit, y’all! (as Jenny would say. God I wish I had the right to say “y’all,” but I don’t think Potomac, Maryland counts as the deep South.) This woman is fucking HILARIOUS and she DOES kind of sound like me! (again– WAY better. I don’t for a second want anyone to think I think I’m as good as her. I’m clinically mentally unstable but I’m not delusional. When it comes to this, at least.)

Jenny is gleefully blunt, self-deprecating, has a beautifully foul mouth (she cursed about 17 times at the Barnes and Noble event, and my love for her grew a little more with each “fuck/fucking/bullshit” that came out of her mouth), is totally honest in her writing (and sidebars with long, hilarious, often barely relevant, ADD rants), bares all her flaws, and speaks candidly about her mental health issues in order to fight stigma, help others, and, most importantly, help and heal herself.

Like I said– she’s me. But awesomer. (Fuck you, spell check. Awesomer is a word).

So what did I do when I met her? Yes, like a normal person, I asked her to sign my copy of her new book about living with mental illness, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (read it immediately. It’s fantastic. If you suffer from mental illness or are trying to understand someone who does. Or if you’re a human who likes to laugh and know things.) Then, like a NOT AT ALL normal person, I asked her to sign my pill case.

jenny lawson

Because Jenny has a saying– “Depression lies.” And it’s so true. And when you’re not in it, you know this for a fact. But when you are in it, you forget. You’re utterly convinced that the voices telling you that you are worthless, shameful, and a burden are real. You’re certain you are nothing.

But Depression is a big, fat, fucking liar, and sometimes you just need to be reminded of that. Over, and over, and over, until it eventually fades and you’ve made it through.

I use my pill case every single day (and so does Jenny, by the way– “Oh! I have this very same pill case!” she exclaimed as she took it from me with what I think was compassion and understanding, but might have been fear). I wake up and diligently swallow my Prozac, doing my part to fight the demons (note: the Prozac is just one small part. I see a psychiatrist weekly, run my heart out, fundraise for mental health org Active Minds, write/blog my thoughts as honestly as possible, and surround myself with the most supportive, awesome family and friends– all forms of depression-fighting therapy).

Some days, though, none of this helps. Some days I wake up feeling like I am absolutely nothing. Some days I need that constant reminder that DEPRESSION LIES.


And now, thanks to Jenny Lawson, I have that. I’ll see those words every single morning– and when she says it, I believe it. I know it’s true. Because I know she’s been through it. Many, many, many times. She’s had it worse than I have– rather than just wishing she was dead, she’s actually had thoughts of wanting to kill herself. She’s hurt herself in an attempt to feel. She’s stayed in bed for months at a time because she could find no reason to get out.

But she makes it through and she keeps going, and she is fucking FANTASTIC at what she does.

So when she tells me Depression lies, I believe her. Because I look at her and see how Depression lies to HER. If someone like her can believe she is worthless, then clearly Depression is a fraudulent, deceptive douchecanoe. (Also a word, spellcheck. BACK OFF.)

So thank you for being you, Jenny! And keep doing what you’re doing– you are an inspiration!


Emily (the girl who whipped out her Prozac-filled pill case at your book signing. You remember.)


#bestfriends #youjustdontknowityet