Hopeful BULLSHIT

BY KATE HOVDESTAD

What Does Taking Medication (for Mental Health) Feel Like?

by | May 18, 2021 | 0 comments

There is a negative stigma around seeking care for your mental health. Many people assume that mental health disorders requiring medication should be manageable with diet or exercise, leaving those who need treatment feeling shame because they keep hearing their issues aren’t serious – or, worse, aren’t real at all.

Approximately 15-20% of moms experience a perinatal mood disorder and the leading cause of death in the postpartum period is suicide.  


I started taking Lexapro in December 2020 at my therapist’s recommendation. She referred me to a psychiatric nurse practitioner that specializes in pregnant and postpartum patients who answered all of my questions about taking medication while pregnant or breastfeeding. It put me at ease to know that even while taking medication, my baby would be safe.

I started with a 10mg dose and after about a month I felt noticeably better. If my baby cried for a long time, I didn’t get overwhelmed and shut down. If my baby’s sleep was interrupted (thanks to sleep regressions), I wouldn’t break down crying because I couldn’t handle it. I was able to start helping my husband with our household chores without that feeling like a monumental task.

All of my days had been bad days for months, and I didn’t even realize how bad I had been feeling – until I started to feel better. It was such a relief to not feel overwhelmed by anything and everything.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later I started to feel that irritability and anger come back. It was so strange because I felt really good, but I was snapping about dumb little stuff and yelling again, and I would often find myself questioning what I was even yelling about while it was happening. So when I went to my follow up in March 2021 with my doctor, she mentioned that it was pretty normal to have to adjust doses.

The way she described it made so much sense to me: If you’re in the desert without water, you’re so thirsty that when someone gives you water you immediately feel better – but, after a few minutes, you realize you’re still thirsty.

So we upped my dose to 20mg and waited to see how I felt. At my next checkup, my husband and I had been struggling through the 18 month sleep regression with our daughter. It was difficult to determine what was or wasn’t just the exhaustion talking, so we scheduled another follow up for June.

For the first time since our baby was born in 2019, I can feel joy in my life again. I feel more like myself, more like my normal – and that is important to me. The only way I was able to get to this point was through continuing talk therapy and by taking medication. I’m so glad I was able to reach out and get help because I’m pretty sure my marriage would have fallen apart if I hadn’t, or worse – maybe I would have considered or acted on the consideration of ending my own life.

If you think you might need help, even if you aren’t currently experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek it.

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