{I Wish I Hadn’t Waited} How Anti-Depressants Changed My Life for the Better

Woman holding infant appearing tired, concerned, sad, depressed

I wish I hadn’t waited. If I could go back and change one single thing in my entire life, it would be to get help sooner.

I knew something was probably “off” within a few months of delivering our first son. I had fantasies of running off the road or into oncoming traffic while driving. I dreamt about hopping on a plane and just leaving. Since I never actually intended to follow through, I was quiet. I waited. I had heard about postpartum depression but was quick to dismiss it because it’s the sort of thing that affects other people, not me.

Nine months after the first, we got pregnant again and my husband deployed.

I spent days on end crying, alone with a toddler, and desperate for a way out of the dark. Still, I waited. 

Immediately after my husband’s redeployment, we PCS’d across the country, four-week-old in arms. My husband took command and worked long hours, six days a week. We got pregnant again. And still, I waited.

During those three years outlined above, I often made loose plans for what I would do if I could just run away. I thought about what killing myself would be like, almost casually and absentmindedly.

No, I never made a plan, but it certainly crossed my mind.

It was dark, and to be frank, my thoughts terrified me. Even in the middle of an episode, crying in the fetal position on the kitchen floor with my sweet, far-to-young-to-understand children trying to comfort me, I was horrified that my brain was even capable of doing this to me.

woman holding her legs and sad in black and white
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

My OB happened to catch me being honest on a routine depression screening when I was around six months pregnant with our third.

Having reported suicidal thoughts, she begged me to go to behavioral health right then and there. But my husband was TDY and the kids were due to be picked up from school shortly; I had places to be and no time for a mental health crisis. She asked, instead, if I could get to a pharmacy and would I be willing to start an anti-depressant. “Sure,” I said.

That day I picked up a prescription for an anti-depressant and soon, my life changed for the better. I only wished I hadn’t waited so long.

I took my first low dose of a standard SSRI and went to bed. I was warned that anti-depressants usually take weeks to fully take effect, and I was prepared to feel no different after that first dose. Honestly, and blessedly, I felt immediately better.

Maybe it was the placebo effect, but I felt… relaxed, for the first time in years.

The small annoyances that used to drive me to rage rolled off my back. Within a few weeks, I found myself enjoying parenthood for the very first time since our oldest was born three years prior. I knew all along how much I loved my children, but I can’t say I always liked them. Suddenly, I wanted to spend more time around them, to get on the floor and play, to read another story, and I didn’t cry all day.

That day I thought, “I wished I hadn’t waited so long.”

Every experience and trial shapes us into the person we are meant to become. I can’t turn back time. I can’t change the past. Maybe I wouldn’t want to if I had the opportunity. I’m honestly not sure, though.

My single greatest regret in this lifetime (so far!) is that I allowed three full years of parenthood and marriage to go by without doing something about my postpartum depression. We had kids in such quick succession that I never truly recovered the first time before we swept from one child into babies two and three.

I spent three years taking out most of my anger on my husband, who was never anything less than supportive and tried his hardest to make me happy.

I spent three years wishing the days away while my babies grew before my eyes.

I spent three years crying more than smiling, faking a laugh for anyone watching.

I spent three years lying to my friends and family about how I was doing “fine” when I was so very far from it.

I spent three years wavering between mostly stable and suicidal.

I spent three years coming too close to losing everything in my life that today brings me endless joy. I spent three years testing the strength of our marriage and family unit.

I spent three years in a very dark place that I wish none of you ever know.

I wish I hadn’t waited.

After those first weeks, I also began seeing a therapist who worked closely with me to identify triggering thought patterns and replace them with appropriate emotional responses. I talked more openly with friends and more importantly, my spouse, about my experiences. I worked hard on it, prayed on it, and have come a long way.

I still haven’t weaned off of medication and have had to increase my dosage a few times over the years. Still, I know that anti-depressants changed my life for the better. Someday, I hope to return to daily life medication-free, but if that is not to be, at least I’ll be able to say that I did what I believe was best for myself and my family.

I wish I hadn’t waited. Moms, I urge you – no, beg you – not to wait.  

If you feel “off” or just know that there is a better version of you somewhere in there, talk to your PCM. See a therapist. Even if it hasn’t been long. Even if you think your moods, anger, anxiety, or rage are just the product of difficult circumstances. Talk to someone. If medication is appropriate, don’t be afraid to try it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to strongarm your way through postpartum depression. Don’t try to simply pray your way out.

Don’t try to do this alone. Don’t wait.

If you are looking for help, here are a few resources to get you started:

National Child & Maternal Mental Health Education Program

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

SAMHSA Helpline