This is the story of how I almost ruined it all while trying to get off of my anxiety medications, for the wrong reasons.
Some time in the year and a half after my husband proposed to me and before we actually got married, I decided I was in a place where it was time to start properly planning for my future. In my head this involved getting off of my anxiety medication, because after all I was doing so well, I was so independent and happy and carefree, it seemed like the right step to take, especially if we planned to have children. I mean it obviously only makes sense to stir things up if they’re going extremely well, right (she said with an eye-roll)?
I was under the impression that my anxiety medication wouldn’t be safe for a baby in utero, and that it would be a good bet to wean myself off of them. My doctor, not knowing my reasons for getting of the medication, went along with my plan and put me on a schedule to slowly get my body used to living without the pills that I had been relying on for the last 7 odd years, and so I started down that road. Fast forward a few months and I was managing fairly well, anxiety was heightened but I was handling it! Until one day when I had eaten too much too fast – something so stupid and simple – and the nausea kicked in, and I went into full panic mode. Now, when I was on the right dose of medication, a panic attack wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I would have gotten through it, and woken the next morning fresh and ready to fight a new day. This time was different.
This one panic attack set me back YEARS. I couldn’t leave the house, hell I couldn’t even be alone in the house, I could hardly handle being in my own skin. I remember just wanting to erupt and escape the confines of a body that hurt, ached, shook, and was in constant turmoil, every second of the day. It took everything I had to breathe, I couldn’t control my own throat for the need to constantly gag was so ever present that breathing was difficult. How could I keep calm when keeping calm involved breathing exercises that I could no longer perform? I couldn’t hold a conversation, much less go to work or see friends. It was a time I remember enveloped in complete darkness, darkness of thoughts and emotions, and darkness for lack of hope.
Needless to say, I was put back on my old dose of anxiety medication, and had a few other medications added on top to level me out and get me back to some semblance of normalcy. It took me being in an almost catatonic state for the better part of a month for me to just start on my road to recovery and renewed independence.
The not so ironic, but rather tragic part? If I had told my doctor that I had wanted to wean off of my medication because of the prospect of one day being pregnant… she would have called MotherRisk (an amazing program run by Sick Children’s hospital here in Toronto, where they research and inform mothers, and mothers-to-be, about the affects that various medications have on unborn babies), and they would have told her that my anxiety medication was completely, 100%, safe for any potential future babies I would have. I could have been happy and healthy without messing with my body.
Needless to say, it was a tough year-and-a-half between that proposal and the actual wedding. I felt a lot of doubt about whether my future husband really knew what he was signing up for when he proposed to the happy carefree me, and what he was getting with my complete breakdown. It wasn’t the first time he had witnessed my anxiety, we had been together for 4 years, 1 of which involved us living together, but it was the depths of an anxiety disorder that he had yet to truly witness. He stayed (if you hadn’t guessed… I mean I did refer to him as my husband) – and to this day claims he was never going anywhere (crazy guy, huh?).
When we finally got pregnant, both I and my doctor knew better than to play around with my medication, so I was went to see a neonatal specialist whose area of expertise the affects that various medications have on babies in utero. We discussed a thorough plan for after the baby was born – he would be monitored post delivery for precautions sake, to check for an signs of withdrawal, and I was encouraged to breastfeed so that he wasn’t rapidly taken off of contact with the medication I was taking and he was, as a result, exposed to while in my belly. So even though the medication was harmless, they wanted to be sure that he was comfortable on the outside just as he was on the inside.
The specialist actually told me that what I had done was a very common mistake made by women who wanted to become pregnant, and that next to this mistake the biggest one was mothers who either stopped taking their medication altogether when they started breastfeeding, or mothers who refused to breastfeed because they were on anxiety medication. He explained that it was rather important that I stay medicated, for the sake of my own well-being, and that I was very very strongly encouraged to breastfeed postpartum in order to ensure my son didn’t experience any kind of shock from being rapidly removed from an environment in which that medication had been present in the first place.
Now, before anyone starts judging me for exposing my unborn baby to anxiety medications – you can stop right there. It wasn’t an easy decision, I was wracked with guilt, trying to get off of these meds was what led to my breakdown in the first place – but research, and several doctors who specialize in this area, assured and reassured me that this was the best, and safest, course of action possible. Its a decision my husband and I, along with doctors, made – if you’re not interested in it then that’s your decision, but you don’t get to judge me for it. If you can’t abstain from that judgement, the door’s right there, don’t let it slam you on the way out.
Needless to say my son was fine – with the exception of our unrelated scare – they monitored him as promised and he showed no signs of withdrawal. It just goes to show, it really is important to ask for help, and to seek answers from the RIGHT sources before we make life altering medical decisions. Who would have thought it *sigh*.
I’m doing much better now, as those of you who have been following my blog regularly have seen, and my son is amazing (however excessively annoying he can get, he’s still the light of my life). I guess to err is human, and to forgive is… well its motherly (or fatherly), because if you’re a parent you’ve probably made a million mistakes already so you’ve gotten good at forgiving yourself.