Friday, January 16, 2009

Singing Lexapro's praises

I read a fascinating article after the Tsunami about many of the native animals who'd run up high in the mountains, far from the flood's devastation. They innately felt the storm coming and ran for higher ground. Amazing.

My children sensed my Postpartum Anxiety-fueled storms coming and unfortunately had no way to escape. Like the hard-to-identify,  low-grade eating/exercise disorder I suffered with for 17 years, my Postpartum Anxiety was tricky to name and treat. But make no  mistake, it was there. The severe insomnia, heart palpitations, obsessively racing mind (non-stop "monkey brain" as my doctor coined it), unfounded fears and intense anger became unbearable. Its onset was immediate after the birth of my first son, but gradual with my second. I scared my children, my husband and myself. I got worked up at the slightest challenge in the day, which is every moment when in the first months of raising two under two. (phrase coined by - so satisfyingly succint)

The truest truism of motherhood: "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," ('s tagline - so well put I could just cry.) I fought tooth and nail against going on SSRI's (dun dun dun dunnn..... antidepressants) the first time around, only to delay my sanity 'til 3 1/2 months into motherhood. It took even longer the second time because I was fine when Noah was first born - but crazy by the time he was 5/6 months.  When I finally sought help from my primary care doc to get me back on antidepressants, I realized I had to set aside my idiotic ego and do it for my sons, if not for me. It wasn't fair to subject them to the intensity and unpredictability of my rage and fatigue.

With my first bout of Postpartum Anxiety I took Paxil. It worked, but was really hard getting on and off, leaving me definite I'd never do that again. This time around my doc suggested Lexapro. It was super duper easy and gentle to start. I've been on for about 2 1/2 months now and all my symptoms are gone. The two most important benefits: I can sleep,  and I can cope much, much better with the daily challenges of the first year with my infant and toddler.

My boys need their mommy, and they really need her to be happy. And I am. I am enjoying them so much more. Gabriel my toddler took the brunt of my anger, never knowing what to expect when I'd come get him in the morning after literally one hour of sleep, or after nap time when I'd struggled with Noah for hours trying unsuccessfully to get him down. (at that point he wouldn't go down because I was so freaked out) Now Gabriel spontaneously tells me, "I'm happy," and "I'm having fun." My heart melts. I praise Lexapro. 

Postpartum Anxiety is to Postpartum Depression as an exercise disorder is to an eating disorder: it is not as well acknowledged, understood or diagnosed.  Many mothers think if they're not lying on the couch wanting to kill themselves or their child, then nothing is really wrong. However, as soon as I began opening my mouth about my anxiety, many mothers came forward relating their similar experiences. Please, if you or anyone you know or anyone they know suffers with postpartum anxiety, urge them to get treatment. It is rampant, it is real and it deserves immediate medical attention. It profoundly effects the health and environment of the entire family. 

I am a bohemian-at-heart, earth-crunch-granola girl by nature, anti-establishment brat. But when it comes to illness affecting the quality of mine and my family's health... Lexapro, take me away!


  1. I just finished reading a fascinating book that examines mental illness through an anthropological perspective, _The_Culture_of_Our_Discontent_: Beyond the Medical Model of Mental Illness, by Meredith F. Small. Maybe we could treat our anxiety & depression just as well with !Kung trance dancing or some Soma shaman tea and steam baths. In Botswana we could rip off our clothes and run around screaming in the bush for a while and no one would think worse of us for it. I bet Charles' mom would have known some kind of island voodoo to make us right as rain.

  2. I never understood anxiety until I had my son. And like you, I tried Paxil. It was awesome, until I went off. And then I felt like I needed an antidepressant to get off the antidepressants!!!

    A year ago I had the worst bout with anxiety. It was something awful, and I felt like I would never again be the happy go lucky me. That's when "Lexi" entered my life, and we have been best friends ever since! As long as I have kids living at home, I may just cling to her as my life line. ;-)

    Here's my anxiety:

    ha ha!