Tag Archives: rants

Don’t Call Them “Happy Pills”

15 Apr

It’s no secret that I take medication for my anxiety and OCD.  It’s in my intro on the sidebar, for crying out loud.

Every morning, it’s 1 1/2 antidepressant pills and 2/3 of a long-acting anti-anxiety medication.  And in the evening, another 2/3  of the anti-anxiety, along with my prenatal vitamin for lactating moms (yes, I’m still nursing), and lately some ibuprofen for my earache.


I don’t take them lightly.  After all, these medications are altering my brain chemistry.  I’ve worked closely with my doctors and therapist to find a medication combination that works for me while balancing the side effects.  I’ve considered the risks and have researched their effects on breastfeeding.  I’ve adjusted doses and schedules more times than I care to count.  And this is all after spending a year fighting against taking anything at all because of the stigma and my misunderstanding of how psychotropic medications work.

My antidepressant works by soaking the nerve cells in my brain with seritonin.  Seritonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible in part for regulating the intensity of moods.  See, a normal brain releases seritonin, exposing the nearby brain cells, and then reabsorbs it.  My brain either does not produce enough seritonin or reabsorbs it too quickly.  SSRI’s (selective seritonin reuptake inhibitors) work by blocking the reabsorption process, thereby allowing the nerve cells to bathe in the seritonin for longer.  In my case, more is better.

The long-acting anti-anxiety medication increases dopamine levels and, along with melatonin,  has been shown in studies to rebuild neurons.  Dopamine is part of the “reward system” of the brain and is responsible for many functions, including mood, movement, working memory, learning, and motivation.

These medications work together to relieve the crippling anxiety and buzzing energy of my OCD and anxiety disorder, both of which have contributed to depression in the past.  They allow me to strap my children into my mother’s car and watch as she safely drives them for a sleep over without slumping to the floor in paralyzing fear that they will crash during the ride.  They help regulate my reaction to hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone; think fight or flight) during arguments with my 4-year-old.  Without this regulation, I am susceptible to anxiety-induced rage.  And most importantly to me, I couldn’t have slugged through the messy, emotional work of therapy had my seritonin and dopamine levels been unbalanced.

What they don’t do?  Is make me happy.  Instead, they allow me to feel the happiness that my unbalanced brain chemistry was robbing me of.

So do me a favor and don’t call them “happy pills.”  It makes you sound ignorant and makes me feel stigmatized.  It’s medication for a medical condition.  Period.


** I don’t have to remind you that I’m not a doctor, right?  I’m just one person sharing her story.  Medication decisions are personal and are best made with your doctor’s supervision.**

On Marriage Equality

29 Mar

On Tuesday, March 26th, I changed my Facebook profile picture, as did 2.7 million other Facebook users (2.7 million, people!), according to The Atlantic.  And while it may initially seem like a shallow gesture, the sea of red equal symbols isn’t just another example of a Facebook chain-letter-of-sorts.  Unlike the “bra color” stunt for breast cancer awareness in 2010, I believe this is a movement that has real meaning.  After all, everyone was already against breast cancer, and no one really thought about their bra color or cancer after joining in the mischief.  I know I didn’t jump up and do a self-exam because of the meme.

red symbols

So what makes this social media craze any different?  Because changing my profile picture is the equivalent of me standing up and saying, “me, too,” of me standing behind the gay and lesbian community and letting them know I support them – not just in private, but publicly.  I don’t know how many of my friends and family knew before about my beliefs and position on marriage equality.  I rarely discuss my politics or moral beliefs, often because I don’t want them to define me.  But now there’s no question where I stand on this issue.

This was too important an ideal for me not to make a point to share.

I believe that equal protection under the law extends to gay and lesbian citizens.  I believe two consenting adults should be able to enter into contracts with one another, binding them together financially and legally if they desire.  And I believe that calling one institution “marriage” and the other “civil union” is unequal and discriminatory.

I also believe that if your faith or moral code does not allow for same-sex marriages, you are entitled not to have one.  But to utilize the government to enforce your beliefs is a violation of the establishment clause.

And while I’m at it?  This isn’t just an issue of constitutionality for me.  I believe that a person’s sexuality is a complicated matter.  That we are all different.  Not better, or worse.  Just different.  And being homosexual?  Isn’t perverse or shameful, and it doesn’t completely define a person.  It’s just another example of how beautifully multifaceted the human race is.

And though I am ready to see my own face again (and make it much less confusing to navigate the social network), my views will not change along with my photograph.

The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling in June of this year.  I have hope that it will be in favor of civil rights.


More interesting reads on the topic of marriage equality:

House and Home by Vikki Reich – on what being a “single woman” despite being with her partner for 20 years feels like

Will Changing Your Facebook Profile Picture Do Anything for Marriage Equality? from Scientific American

You Look Good in Red – from Lesbian Family on how the gay and lesbian community feels about the red symbols

My Less-Is-More Christmas

19 Nov

It’s surrounding us already.  Pintrest boards are awash with 12-days-of-Christmas-cookie-in-a-jar madness.  Shutterfly insists daily in my inbox that I save 50% off holiday cards before it’s too late and that I order the new design that is “sure to stand out.”  Twinkly lights adorn the isles where Halloween clearance is on its final legs.  And Santa is taking lists at the local mall.

Let me say that last one again.  Santa is holding court at the mall.  And he has been there since November 17th.

When we passed by the center of the mall, No1 asked to go see the giant tree and to investigate if the snow was real.  Sure, I told her.  They’re probably just getting ready for Santa.  As we walked by and she craned her neck around the giant plastic lollipops, her eyes widened.  “Mommy.  Stop.  It’s…. Santa.”

At this point, I worry I gave away the truth when I failed to bubble over with excitement.  After all, if the real Santa was in our little mall during possibly one of his busiest times of the year, I should have screamed like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert.  As in, “Oh. My. God!  SANTA?!  HERE?!  THE. SANTA. CLAUS?!  What are the odds!  In fact, I know the odds!  They’re astronomical!  We MUST go see him RIGHT. NOW!  Does anyone have a CAMERA?! ”  Instead, I responded with vague interest and attempted to disguise my contempt.

I love Christmas.  Children believing in magic, listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. Decorating an indoor tree with glitter and baubles.  Houses dressed up in bows and lights.  Watching a friend open a gift chosen with intention and love.  It’s a sacred time when people are all a bit kinder, softer, and warmer.  A season for gratitude and taking time to slow down and engage with our loved ones.

At least that’s what I want it to be.  Santa’s November 17th invasion of the mall wasn’t just an inconvenience causing me to have to tell my preschooler “no,” for the seventy-eighth time that day.  It was a psychological advertising tactic, designed to create a sense of urgency and scarcity.  The message was, “Santa’s already here, so you better get busy.  You have so many gifts to buy and so little time.”  I watched children sit with the bearded impostor for their pictures, parents glad to “have that checked off my list,” as I overheard one parent say.  And the whole scene made me furious.

When did the holidays become nothing more than a series of checklists?  Why do we all feel the need to shop early and get it all done so we can “enjoy the holidays?”  Shouldn’t visiting Santa, writing out Christmas cards, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, baking cookies, and mixing up a batch of eggnog be the very things we do to enjoy the season?  These things can be meaningful rituals if done mindfully and with intention.  Instead, we’ve become so blinded by marketing and have gotten so caught up in finding the perfect gift and fulfilling the expectations of others, we’ve forgotten what kind of Christmases we want for ourselves.  In our quest for more, we are seeking out quantity instead of quality.

This year, I’m not falling for it.  This will be my Christmas of Less is More.  No more comparing.  No more rushing around or believing that a gift’s inherent value is proportional to its Black Friday discount.  No more worrying about how my decorations measure up or if the tree could be just a little prettier.  No more Christmas stress in November, for crying out loud.

I will focus on being present for each holiday preparation and on celebrating our family’s traditions.  Does this mean I won’t send out Christmas cards or bake a gingerbread house?  Will we permanently avoid a visit to Santa? Of course not.  I’ll have to cut back on my holiday tasks, for sure, but I believe the ones I choose will each have more impact.  And anytime I hear the seductive voice of self-doubt whisper the word should, I’ll turn inward and search for what I truly want to do.

After all, Christmas isn’t a time of obligation.  It’s a time of celebration and jubilance, of good cheer and renewed hope.  And this year, I hope to slow down enough to really soak it all in.  You know, AFTER Thanksgiving.

Invisible Wounds

20 Nov

I recently encountered a mom who took one look at me and assumed I had it all.  And y’all?  I can’t lie.  I have a wonderful life.  I am 34 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby girl.  I am fortunate enough to work from home and for myself, doing a job I adore.  My amazing husband is currently working on his PhD at an Ivy League school, has job security, and is home almost every night for dinner and to bathe No1.  And my first-born is a thriving, energetic, bright little girl who is mostly well-behaved.

I know it must look perfect from the outside.  But like @Hopin2bHappy said to me the other night, “Sometimes I wish I could just open my brain and show them the broken parts. ”

Because sometimes?  I feel like I have no excuse to be struggling with antenatal depression and anxiety.  I think people glance at my life and see the house and the cute preggo belly and the crafts and the swept kitchen floor… and decide that I can’t possibly be struggling.  How dare I?  Look at how great my life is, how much I accomplish, how pretty I am, and how my floor and countertops are clean.  (Really, folks, I can’t tell you how often people comment that my floor is clean.  As if I’m sweeping my floor not because I have an anxiety disorder that compels me to sweep every day lest I feel out of control, but because I want to make them look bad.)  I know I shouldn’t care what they think, but it gets to me.

There are days I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt.  Guilt for having so much going right in my life and for not always being able to enjoy it.  So I remind myself of the truth.  Women struggling with PPD or PPA (or any kind of mood or anxiety disorder) are strong, successful, talented, and loving.  We have passions: we bake, we sing, we write, we craft.  We parent the best we can and reach out to help others despite our pain.  We work: for ourselves, for companies, for our families.  We are normal people dealing with an extraordinary situation.  The depression strikes despite all we have going right in our lives.  It literally prevents us from being able to enjoy our blessings and windfalls.  That’s why it’s called a mood disorder.

I realize that if you haven’t walked in my shoes, it’s impossible to truly understand where I’m coming from. I get that it’s a complicated subject, and often uncomfortable for people to discuss.  I’m managing the antenatal depression and anxiety well these days, but it is what I spend 80% of my energy doing.  They are always humming in the background, challenging my daily tasks with their lunacy.  My wounds are invisible, I know, but they are so very real and so when asked, “how are you?”  the answer is “I’m okay.  I’m in survival mode, but I’m doing okay.”  I choose authenticity, and I hope in response you choose compassion.

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