What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Jessica Griffin.

After the birth of my 2nd child I went on anti-depressants and have been on them ever since. At the time I was very embarrassed by it so told no one and considered myself a failure as a woman and a mother.

I had really struggled with some depression during my pregnancy. I had lost my dear grandfather, developed a pregnancy induced liver and kidney issue and upon delivery struggled even more with breast feeding. My lactation consultant finally refused to continue seeing me, stating that my difficulties were all in my head. I made it as a half-assed breastfeeder for 5 months before my boobs dried up for good. They have been like droopy sausages ever since.

After my son was born I figured since I had two hands I should be able to handle two kids but it was really difficult for me. I felt weak and vulnerable. If a close friend or my mom came over I wouldn’t want them to leave because I was afraid of being alone if both babies needed me at the same time.

I had been seeing a therapist long before going on meds and it took her close to forever to finally wear me down and convince me to start taking something. I fought her on it because I didn’t want to be reliant on something in order to cope. In other words, my stubborn, I can do this pride kept getting in the way. However, my post pregnancy issues, subsequent depression and crying episodes made me painfully aware that I needed help. I knew, most importantly, I needed to be a healthy mama to my dear babies. So I agreed to try an anti-depressant.

Upon delving into my family of origin and childhood, a lot of stuff came to light and I was diagnosed with PTSD due to my years of abuse as a child and teen. I questioned her because I always thought it was reserved for victims of war and cruel violent attacks. I was shocked when my therapist told me I fell into that group of individuals.

I grew up in a verbally and physically abusive home under the dictatorship of a cruel stepfather. His bouts of rage were so profound that even now I still jump at loud noises, experience vivid nightmares and triggers. We lived in very rural area with a population of who gives a crap, so late at night my stepfather would force my mother into the car and drive off vowing he was going to kill her, dump her body and then come back and do the same to me. Every time they left I wondered if it would be the last time I saw my mother alive. That kind of thing can only go on for so long before it stops being a threat and becomes a reality. One night he beat up my mom and put a gun to the side of her head.
Miraculously my mother survived and was able to escape through the intervention of two nuns and a safe house. All those years of abuse and not one person was ever the wiser to our private hell. We appeared on the outside to be the perfect loving Christian family when in reality we were living behind closed doors as prisoners. I used to beg God my stepfather would die in a fiery car crash. I fantasized about taking a bat to his head while he slept in ignorant bliss, or stabbing him with a knife when he turned his back.

So, after knowing this about my past and present day issues my therapist thought it would be cool to add in anxiety, ADD and a genetic BiPolar disorder to my growing list of ailments. I started on an ugly regime of meds in hopes of finding the right ‘fit’. Ritalin for ADD, Zoloft for depression, Xanax for anxiety, Lamictal for mood swings, Ambien for sleep, yada yada yada. It sent my mind and body through a pendulum of highs and lows. It was exhausting and I didn’t feel much better. Finally, one medication seemed to work for what I needed and I cautiously began to take it routinely. I started to feel more in control. Best of all, I felt like I could greet a new day and actually handle it.

After a few years of counseling I was shocked when I saw my chart at one of my appointments. It was so thick that I realized it was time to move on and my chart proved it. I had reached a point where I felt I wasn’t moving forward. I was feeling good on my medication but my counseling sessions had come to a stalemate, so much that my therapist was starting to tell me HER family issues. We were more like friends meeting for coffee to the tune of 100 bucks per hour. I decided I could have coffee with friends for free.

After cutting the cord I felt a bit out to sea. It was a difficult road because in the past, every time a problem would arise I would always call Judy. The camaraderie was the hardest for me to give up because she knew absolutely everything there was to know about me, including every little detail of my torrid childhood and dysfunctional marriage. But I simply wasn’t growing or evolving in my mental health anymore. It was new terrain because I had to learn how to start figuring things out on my own.

As time went on I was grateful for medication as I went through family deaths, miscarriages, divorce, the loss of a home and two jobs, financial devastation and all the events in our lives that forever change us. I think it helped give me balance in times of chaos. I truly felt the benefit from it. Best of all, I felt present for my children.

It has been ten years now since starting my prescription and I’m in the midst of titrating off of my medication because I want to gauge where I am at. A lot of healing has taken place in my life over these past ten years. Honestly though, I am scared to discover what might be lying underneath once the drug is out of my system. However, I am trying to remain cautiously optimistic. Questions circling my brain at the moment are “Will I be able to cope or is my brain truly needing this extra serotonin to function in a healthful manner? Is my depression truly clinical or circumstantial? The unknowns However, I will always wonder if I don’t try.

Here’s the thing I need to remember though… I don’t have to be a hero in this. If it doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t work. It’s OK. I need to be kind to myself in this. It is better for me to be a healthy woman and mom than try to play some sort of martyr.

As I extend grace to others I need to be able to receive it myself. While it is difficult for me, I know it will be worth it.