mental health medication, anxiety medicationI have always described myself as an anxious person, but being anxious is not the same as having anxiety — the diagnosis. Just to give you a few examples from my childhood:

  1. My mom was called by my kindergarten teacher and asked not to put so much pressure on me because I was very worked up about coloring outside the lines. My mom was like, um, there is no pressure.
  2. I received a letter home, addressed to my parents, from my elementary principal. I convinced myself I had done something terribly wrong to warrant a letter home. It was telling them how amazing a student I was.

OK, so exhibit A and B. A certain level of anxiety has been with me my whole life. But it wasn’t until we started trying to build a family and went through the grief and trauma of recurrent pregnancy loss that I felt my anxiety went from a quirky, sometimes annoying thing about me, to something that was interfering with my quality of life. But I explained it away due to the magnitude of what I was navigating over those years.

Once my first child was born (in an unexpected or less-than-calm way) and I was consumed with the joy, overwhelm, gratitude, and frustrations of first-time motherhood, I could feel that anxiety creeping up and out again. I recognized something was amiss, brought it up to my OB, and was referred to a therapist. To my OB’s credit, she did ask if I thought I could benefit from a mental health medication to manage my symptoms, but I decided to try therapy first and see how it went.

Through my therapist, I was diagnosed not with what I thought was postpartum anxiety, but with post-traumatic stress. (Looking back, it was likely both, but one trumped the other at the time.) I felt like I was managing my symptoms pretty well with therapy, meditation, sleep, exercise, ya know, the gamut.

I started feeling “like myself” again when my first turned 1, and it was a relief. And then…boom… I found out I was pregnant with number 2. Then came the pandemic and lockdown, and giving birth in the midst of it all.

I had my first panic attack when my second baby was about 4 days old. I had a lot of swelling and was sure I was experiencing postpartum preeclampsia. We brought my masked-nurse-cousin over to take my blood pressure, which she did many times, and it stayed high. But when I called the doctor I was ignored. Luckily, we figured out that my cousin’s cuff was just a little small, and when she adjusted it, my blood pressure came back normal. But the damage — mentally — was done, and I couldn’t breathe, sleep, or mother well for 24 hours.

Since then, my symptoms have waxed and waned. Showing their ugly head at times when a multitude of stressors converge, because, duh. I was irritable, snapping at people — including my kids. My heart rate was high, often when lying down and all the things came rushing to my brain. I catastrophized and ruminated. I cried. A lot.

And, over the last several months, via a few friends sharing their stories online, I realized I may also be experiencing ADHD symptoms. It never once crossed my mind as a child or teenager — as a straight A student, this flew under the radar. But, when I looked at research about undiagnosed adult women with ADHD, I was slapped in the face with “holy beep, that is me.”

I think the ADHD symptoms impacted the anxiety, and the anxiety impacted the ADHD symptoms. A vicious cycle. It’s been mind blowing (and refreshing?) to have this reframing of my life and brain.

As I was preparing for my latest physical, I had the most obvious and yet jarring revelation:

Maybe I don’t have to live like this.

The wildest thing is that I am a HUGE proponent of using the resources we have available to us, including mental health medication. I have coached or encouraged friends to seek out therapy and perhaps medication for their own struggles. It just wasn’t until now that I felt I needed to take my own advice.

So I did. And I was very lucky to have a provider who listened to me. Who validated me. Who said, “Yes, that is a lot.” “Yes, you’re probably right.” “Yes, your self-assessments seem right on.” “I can help you.” A provider who went through the list of types of medications, pros and cons, and why she would recommend a certain type to me.

There may be new mental health medications or doses down the road — who knows what the future holds. I know this is not a cure and I won’t be a “whole new me.” But I am excited to have taken this step in my self-care and self-advocacy.  

So, hello new friend. Nice to meet you.

Colleen Lubin
Colleen Lubin grew up in Arlington, MA and dragged her Yankees-loving New Yorker husband back to the Boston area after years of splitting the difference in Connecticut. After getting her master's degree at UMASS Amherst, she worked for 15 years in higher education across New England. Recently, she made a career change into the Learning & Engagement world within Human Resources. Colleen is most passionate about supporting women and families navigating infertility, pregnancy loss and the postpartum experience. Colleen's most used coping mechanism is laughter, so she utilizes honesty, authenticity, and humor to talk about tough subjects including grief, loss and mental health. Colleen is a mom of two miracles, Liam and Logan, born in 2018 and 2020, and is therefore very tired all the time. When not "momming so hard" you can find her at the beach in York, ME, riding her Peloton, taking a dance class or sleeping whenever humanly possible.