Happy Pills

S Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

I’ve been crabby lately. I readily admit it and do not like it. In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I should explain to you, my tiny legion of loyal readers, the reason for my general crankiness. I had stopped taking my happy pills.

I know this may come as a shock to many of you, but my usual cheerful, delightful demeanor does not come naturally. No, I am a pharmacologically enhanced Pollyanna. That’s right, it has all been a ruse. The happy-go-lucky, pleasant woman you have come to know is a facade. Let me explain.

Prior to having my twins, I had never struggled with depression. I was genuinely a happy, optimistic, easy-going person. When I got pregnant with my twins, all of that changed. I had an extremely rough pregnancy. I began throwing up almost immediately upon getting a positive pregnancy test, and it continued up to and during the birth of my children. I was prescribed every medication on the market that touted itself as a cure for nausea —many that came in an uber-pleasant suppository form. I spent hours upon hours sitting in doctors’ offices. I received IV fluids for dehydration. I lost twenty pounds with a twin pregnancy.

By the end of my first trimester, the constant sickness was beginning to take its toll on me. I cried all the time. I ended up quitting my high-stress job because I simply could not handle it. Like my mother told me on the day I quit in a burst of tears, “It’s going to be your babies or your job.” I chose my babies. So I spent the next five months sitting at home alone, unemployed, crying and puking.

At the beginning of my second trimester, my doctor suggested that I start taking an antidepressant. At that point, I was up for anything and everything that would make me feel better. So I began taking a low dose, 20mg, of Celexa. It helped quite a bit, and by my third trimester, I was rarely crying and I felt much more in control of my emotions.

The puking continued, however. And shortly thereafter, I began having preterm labor. I was in and out of the hospital, hooked up to terbutaline pumps, getting poked and prodded constantly. My twins were born at 33 weeks by emergency C-section after I developed pre-eclampsia. They were strong and healthy and absolutely gorgeous.

After giving birth, my doctor suggested that I remain on the Celexa. Given the intensity of my pre-partum depression, we were concerned about the ravages of post-partum depression. So I remained on the Celexa.

My twins are now five years old, and I remain on a relatively small dose of Celexa to this day. I found that parenting twins is as much a challenge as giving birth to twins. In the beginning, I was exhausted all the time. I was eating whenever I could find the time and whatever was convenient. I was rarely sleeping. I was not exactly the picture of health, but that goes with the territory.

Recently, however, I decided that I should wean myself from the Celexa. My children are old enough now that any lingering hormonal issues should have cleared up years ago. Right? Five years later, I am not exactly “post-partum” anymore. So I stopped taking my Celexa, confident that I would revert to my happy-go-lucky pre-pregnancy self.

Almost immediately, I found myself getting easily agitated. The kids began to annoy me more. I had less patience for people at work. I found myself holing up in my cubicle at work trying to avoid talking to people because, frankly, they just got on my nerves. I snapped at Ruanita on more than one occasion. I found that I had little energy and wanted nothing more than to sit on the couch, cuddled up in a blanket, playing Scrabble on my computer. I just wanted to be left alone. Not exactly an easy (or appropriate) practice when you have three needy children to care for. Regardless, I was infected with a numbness that I couldn’t ignore.

I told myself that I was just in a funk and that I would get past it. However, the funk seemed to linger. This past weekend, I actually went out on a “date night” with Ruanita. During dinner, she asked me if I was depressed or if there had been something weighing on my mind. Apparently, my crankiness was noticeable and my lashing out had not gone ignored. I didn’t think I was depressed. I thought I was just in some sort of funky mood I needed to pull myself out of. Unfortunately, “pulling myself out” of it proved to be a much more difficult task that I had imagined. I was powerless to control my mood. My mood controlled me.

I have also put on quite a bit of weight recently. I have always been an emotional eater, but I can usually control it. Lately, however, I have had no control whatsoever. I feel sad, so I eat. I get irritated, so I eat. I feel angry or worried, or lost, or lonely….so I eat. All of that eating has taken a toll and I have a closet full of nice clothes that no longer fit me as proof that “pulling myself out of it” is a Herculean task that I simply cannot manage alone.

On Sunday, after talking with Ruanita and still slightly against my will, I refilled my prescription for Celexa and began taking it again. I don’t like being that person that needs to be on medication to raise my children. I do not relish having to be medicinally “corrected” to be able to appreciate even the simplest joys of life. I don’t like having to depend on something outside of myself. After all, I was able to function. I wasn’t one of these people lying in bed all day crying. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall the last time, since my pregnancy, that I cried. So I was okay, right?

Wrong. I may not have spent my days lying in my bed crying. I may have been functional, but I was not okay. I do not like taking Celexa, even the small dose I take. However, it is better than the alternative. It is better than nagging and fussing at my children constantly. It is better than snapping at Ruanita. It is better than the numbness and general can’t-muster-the-energy-to-give-a-shit feeling that has controlled me for the last few weeks.

So I guess I need to get over it. I need to realize that giving birth to my twins changed by chemical make-up in some way. It certainly changed my life, so why not my body, too? Given my family history, I suspect the mild depression was lurking there all along, waiting for the correct conditions to root and flourish. In the end, I have two wonderfully healthy children (three, actually) that I brought into this world. As far as I am concerned, getting to watch them thrive and grow and develop into amazing little people is well worth the tiny pink pill I take each day.

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