As I’ve discussed in the past, I have reasonably serious anxiety and depression. I generally manage these pretty well with the help of hugely supportive family and friends, a brilliant therapist, and medication. These three things keep me pretty functional most of the time.
Before we started trying to conceive, I went to my doctor to talk about the role medication should play in a pregnancy. The drug I take is considered safe for babies in utero, but is only tested up to the standard dose of 20mg, and I was on 40mg. I’m uncomfortable about taking an untested dose with unknown outcomes for a baby, so we decided that the best course of action was to wean down before actively trying to get pregnant.
I reduced to 30mg for about 6 weeks without noticing any drastically awful consequences, and then while I was in Brisbane stork chasing I took the next step down to 20.
What the last fortnight has taught me, is that the threshold of efficacy for me and that drug is somewhere between 20mg & 30mg.
At first I thought I was being a bit emotional and sensitive because of hormones, nerves, and excitement, but as my wellbeing deteriorated and my outlook blackened I started to realise that there was more going on. It got to the stage where getting out of bed was beyond me.
I felt – I still feel – incredible guilt about what a terrible partner and parent I am when this happens to me. That guilt compounds everything so dreadfully. SJ is amazing, and just takes everything on, while I crumple into uselessness. I am so grateful for her. And it’s for her, and for Arty that I have to try to be better.
There’s this analogy that gets used to describe what depression is like to people who have never experienced it: you are lying on the couch in your living room, feeling terrible, and on the coffee table is a magic wand that has the power to make it all better. But you can’t get off the couch. The wand might as well be on the opposite side of a lava-filled canyon patrolled by evil flying monkeys with laser death rays. The distance between you and the solution would be just as impassable.
But there are things that can be done to close that gap and cross the canyon, and for me, making a list of them was a way of fighting the impossible inertia that comes with depression. A list was the perfect pseudo-step. The not-doing-something that led to doing something.
I tried to dismiss the idea that it was pointless and I didn’t deserve to feel better, and focus instead on the tiny rational part of my brain that has been trained to know better. I made my list, and once it was written down, it became more than a list. It was almost as though I didn’t have to find the impetus to begin within myself any more – I’d outsourced that to the piece of paper, and all I had to do was obey.
The list became the bridge across the canyon between me and the magic wand. The evil flying monkeys are still taking pot shots at me, but I’ve got the means to run.
And I am bloody well running.