My Medicated Self

Last March, Ted and I went to a support group for people who had lost infants.  It was a very challenging experience for both of us.  I think we felt so raw, so much still in shock, that we just couldn't handle the group setting.  Being in a room full of people in the same pain that we were in was just too overwhelming.  We could hardly stand the pain - it was in every corner of the room.  It was, quite literally, too much.

The woman who ran the group was not a bereaved parent.  I am actually not sure what her credentials were.  Maybe she was a social worker - I think she was - but I am really unsure.  What I do know is that she meant well.  I know she really did.  But, her blanket advice left me feeling very uncomfortable. The woman who was sitting next to me was in severe pain - suffering the loss of her baby and also suffering from the ensuing strain that the loss put on her marriage.  My heart was breaking for her.  Her perfect life had been shattered.

We went around the room and told the stories of our children's death.  I hate that part of groups.  Maxie was more to us than his death....but there isn't enough time for everyone to tell the stories of their children's life.  I HATE telling the story of Maxie's death.  I HATE IT!  When we got to the woman next to us, she told of her pain and said she had made an appointment to meet with a psychiatrist.  Our group leader warned her not to let the psychiatrist put her on anti-depressants.  I wasn't on anything at the time, but I really didn't understand so I asked her why.  She said that it was really important that we all feel the pain of our loss as fully as possible.  It is the only way to heal, she explained.

I believe that suppressing the pain is unhealthy.  Yet, I don't think anyone who hasn't experienced this can know just how suffocating this grief can be.  It can be DANGEROUSLY suffocating.  I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I didn't want to live.  I did not want to live.  I told Ted 20 times a day at least "I cannot live like this." and 20 times a day, he would tell me, "You have to".  It felt like what hell must feel like.  I was in hell....still am sometimes.

I really, really, really believe that it is time to get past the stigma of anti-depressants.  I started taking Zoloft after Mo was born and I feel better.  I mean, I really feel better.  And, you can give a lot of the credit to Mo but I can tell there is something else going on.  Complicated grief literally strips away all of your defenses - every dismissive comment is extra painful, every smile you see hurts, every reminder of your child being gone is enough to stop your heart from beating.  The medication has helped me to ignore the stuff that doesn't serve me....something that was impossible to do before I started taking it.  It literally constructed a wall around me so that when someone says something thoughtless or I see two year old children at the Farmer's Market, I can hurt without wanting to die.  I am still devastated, I am still sad beyond words, I am still in the depths of grief often - I still FEEL it....but it was my choice to give myself a break.  It was a choice that only I could make for myself.  Not everyone would make this choice but I am glad that I did.  I am SO glad that I did.

I would never tell another grieving parent that they should take anything.  It's not my place to say.  But, I would never tell someone who was in THIS MUCH PAIN that they should not.  Frankly, I think it is irresponsible to tell someone NOT to take a medication that could save their life.  I believe it is possible that taking Zoloft has saved my life.  It has.  And, no, this post is not sponsored by Pfizer.


GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

Very honest and brave of you to share this. Thank you.

Madeleine Ireland said...

It's really Susan - but posting using Madeleine's blog a/c!

I've been to a few groups - I think a lot of it tbh, is how they are run. I've had a similar experience to the one you describe - everyone went round the room telling detailed accounts of how their children died - I was about 4 months into my loss, and I came away traumatised. The groups I've found helpful haven't worked like that - there is no need to do the what-did-your-kid-die-of stuff. We are all bereaved parents. I dont' need the details. I know you are sad. You can talk about whatever you want - don't know many bereaved parents who like re-living their loss in huge detail. And it really doens't matter - I blogged for a long while before I wrote even more than a sentence on what happened to Catherine.

ADs - yeah -that leader is a tosser. You're right - if it works for you, I'm sure not going to tell you you're not grieving the right way. AD use amongst bereaved parents is very, very common - lots of people take them for less serious life problems. Haven't taken them myself, but if it is helping you, that's good. I remember you being very low after Mo was born, and you do seem to have turned a wee corner now. Lots of love to you - just remember you are the expert in grieving Maxie - no one else xx

Seeing Each Day said...

There's not a lot I have right to assume when I comment on your posts, apart from the injustice of you and Ted having Maxie taken away and the tumultuous pain you are faced with, but I am absolutely gobsmacked that a 'professional' has given that advice about not taking medication - in my view she should be obviously emphasize strongly about people's individual choices whether they choose to or not to take medication, but then suggest well thought out options of ones to consider to then go and discuss with your doctor. What, should a person who is suffering from cancer not take medication to ease their pain so that they can 'feel it'?People who have lost their children, deal with so many avenues of pain everyday, even the simple act of going to the shops can really affect the day in a forceful way. I understand as you say she meant well but if she hasn't had to walk in people's shoes the only job she should have been doing in that meeting was facilitating it, not offering advice.
I commend you on taking the Zoloft, Abby. It is clear that you went through that decision making process intellectually and it is also clear that you are still coping with horrible pain and sadness. If you can say that you feel this medication is giving you the slightest bit of strength and any minutes of relief whatsoever then I think that is both important and wonderful. Renee ( thanks for your reply to my email the other day)

Jayden's Mommy said...

I'm looking into taking it. Having our two girls and been due to have baby Kyle the same day we lost Jayden, February 6th is braking me so much. Thanks for this post. If it can save my life I needed.