Let’s talk about meds and maternal mental health. I write this on the precipice of being free from one of the meds that held me together during the worst time of my life.
I don’t know whether to start at the beginning with my medication journey or go backwards from what I’m on now… for the sake of my sanity let’s be chronological and go way way back to the dark days of my youth. Looking back, though they weren’t that dark compared to what awaited me in new motherhood.
I took my first antidepressant as a university student. I remember going to the doctor and actually asking for them. I’d heard in particular that Seroxat was meant to be good for social anxiety. So, after a l-o-n-g discussion with my doctor I came away with that golden prescription for a mind altering pill. Did I need them? Oh that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? Who knows? Maybe I would have been okay without them. Maybe they made all the difference. Who knows because we don’t have a time machine to go back and do things differently.
Matias (a pseudonym), a man in his 30s, shared his experiences of moving to the UK from a northern European country – with his then girlfriend – as a teenager, the sense of freedom and the challenges of overcoming trauma, dyslexia, anxiety and language difficulties in his efforts to pursue a career in IT and user experience.
Anxiety results out of psychological trauma. I used to go to psychologist and it was my daily practise with psychologist to record my sessions and I was always using mobile phone because it was quite useful to record them because then when you have one session with psychologist – lot of information get discussed and usually it’s quite hard to keep everything in your mind. Those records help me to remember all of them, so I can listen to records – come back to some stuff, make notes and sometimes I come back to one record, like, five times because all the times something new I can find. It’s quite interesting because brain basically not able to pick up everything at the same time – so, yeah, so recording will be nice.
Couple of years ago, is that thing (anxiety) became so serious and so strong that I wasn’t able to do anything – it was painful, basically. It was like strong pain, like, in this place where I’m sitting right now, I wasn’t able to sit – it’s my place where, you know, I’m working everyday. I’m working, like, remotely, but at that time I was working from office and it was lots of social – I will not call them ‘fight’ – but, you know, when people dislike some stuff, this is started to grow stronger and stronger and that’s what started to hit me a lot. And, it probably took me about a year to get into that panic attacks.
So, after panic attacks, I getting to my GP and they give me medication – it was Mirtazapine, and they said, you have to go to psychologist. Basically, I went to psychologist sessions and, didn’t give me any results, to be honest. But the thing is, I was always depressed, since my childhood. This was one of the problems that I wasn’t able to figure out why.
So, an anxiety – basically, I was in psychology a lot. I was try to fix it myself. Probably, I spent fifteen years, psychology, to figure out what’s wrong and what exactly making my depression. So depression kind of was a trigger to – and, anxiety too, was as well,….well, depression was a trigger to figure out what – to, to push me to start to investigate what the problem do I have – because I was afraid to go to psychologist. And, at that time, it cost money, you know, and it cost quite a lot and, I’m myself from [Northern European country]. The situation there quite difficult to UK – not the same as here. That time, I wasn’t able to get psychologist.
And, it was quite hard to find friends, actually. All the time I was try to find friends it was misunderstanding – all the time. So, I get the situation where nobody understand me, basically. I tried to express myself, tried to say something to people – I was all the time wrong.
So, then, I started to learn lots of psychology because I find out the problem inside me, basically. There some stuff – it’s not working well. And, interesting thing that that knowledge I was learn – I thought it will help me. So, and, it help me to solve some problems. My depression became a little bit lower because I figure out some stuff. But, then, there are some aspects that you are not able to go through on our own because our psyche.
So, basically, that knowledge didn’t help me that much because I wasn’t able to go through and figure out the trauma. So, after that, I tried lots of different methods. I tried to go into different psychology ways, hypnoses – everything. And then, I found one guy online I decided to try it. He start to help me with this but then, I was too positive about my treatment and all the time I thought, ‘yes, it’s all done’ and we disconnected with this guy. And he said, ‘it’s done? Then it’s done.’
And, then, I underestimate my abilities, basically, and, all of my knowledge I thought I know, actually didn’t bring me that much results. I start to go deeper and deeper into this anxiety, basically. I became very anxious – more and more. It was like – I don’t know how to describe this – it was like a swamp. You go at work and people doesn’t like you.
Basically, then later I figure out that this is my perception – I perceive that people doesn’t like. But then, you know, I lost – when panic attacks started, it’s interesting, because before, I used to like lots of things and panic attacks start to happen, I start to go into very deep thing that I devaluate my life. Suicidal thoughts start to happen. I was thinking, ‘well, there is no point to live, basically.’
But then, the knowledge I have from psychology help me to float and to go over this all difficult times – because I know, this is emotions, and emotions can be rapid and quick and sometimes hard but if you wait, they will go. It will be never for ever.
So, I start my way, I found another person – well, I start to go to hypnotherapy. Because I found out source – the source is in childhood. I knew source down there and I need to find out what exactly. In cognitive psychology they don’t usually do this because in psychology they try to avoid childhood experience. They touch on it a little bit but then they don’t go deeper because when you go deeper, you’ll be sucked in to that experience – into trauma, basically, and you not able to do anything.
I found a guy who do cognitive psychology but opposite. He bring me into trauma. And we start to work with trauma basically and step by step I start to go out of that. It was hard basically, to go through all of them and I don’t think I fixed all of them but I still work at this at the minute. Today, I will say, I don’t have that much anxiety when I tak to people. For example, I have slight anxiety when I see you but I will not say it’s quite hard – I’m not stressed, basically. I can see you there and I can kind of feel you but it’s not damaging my self-esteem, I will say. I feel alright.
So, this is because, we have two parts – we have emotional part and we have rational part. And, they together – if you rationalise your emotions – emotions go. If you not rationalise your emotion – if there is no rational part, emotion will go up. And, this is the play that I do. If I found emotion, I have to understand it. If I understand it properly and step by step, there is lots of them, lots of triggers, I go layer by layer and put them into my mind. And then when I rationalise them, my anxiety go. So, I don’t have to maintain later my anxiety because it almost not exist.
I was born in a rough area. There is people in the street who can stab you or hurt you a lot. It’s quite scary. You see group of people. I used to have very anxious about this all the time – changing the roads, try to go around – all of this. Because I wasn’t able to protect myself. But now, when I see those people, I don’t have anxiety at all, when I see them. There is thoughts that they might hurt me, a bit, then I said – I let them do it – if they do it. Because I cannot control it – let it go, so I basically, let it go. If it will happen, it will happen.
It was quite hard to get to this point because – the reason why I get anxious in these situations is, I was try to stop myself – try to protect myself and say, no way will they gonna hurt me. I was so afraid that they gonna hurt me. And this make me very anxious because this is a kind of block I make myself. So, I start to go this way that, people do whatever they have in their mind. I’m not able to control. What I able to control is, if I see they try to go at me with a knife, I will try to protect myself but if they will do it from behind me, there is no chance that I can do it, so I let this happen. At the beginning, it’s quite scary but step by step, I release – because mind keep this, this shouldn’t happen and it keep on. And I say, no, no, let it go and I step by step, let it go.
Usually, when you see those people, like, there is some triggers but what trigger do is trigger you into some picture in your mind and this picture show you something nasty that you would like to avoid and this triggers next thing. Like you say, no way that it gonna happen. You try to go away and this makes anxious, more and more and more. Because this picture not just project of your mind, this picture is based on trauma you used to have. So, brain thinks it will happen, this moment, but you just suggesting that this will happen, because some elements to what it used to be triggers you back to this situation. But, if you let this fear go, your brain will get new experience and step by step, you start to go more and more experience where you not getting attack. Your brain start to recognise this and then that’s how anxiety go at this moment.
That’s probably what I used to do. Because, I used to go on street. I was preparing myself – my brain will tell me there is a danger. I go and say, ‘I will let this danger happen.’ And, it’s probably took me five attempts to do it and it rewires after that, all of the situation.
It (the reading) helps me at some extent. It helps me to build knowledge about myself, basically. The knowledge about psychology helped me to find the right person. Lots of psychological techniques don’t work, I will say. I’m not saying it doesn’t work for everyone – it doesn’t work for me. The most important in this is experience. If you don’t have experience, you not able to rewire yourself. As general knowledge, what happened to you, is quite useful – it’s quite good to read psychological things, theory and understand this. That will make you – sometimes it will help you to build foundations that you can stand on.
Most of it is social anxiety. I used to have fear of animals – this is gone as well. I used to afraid dogs a lot because it was based on my childhood trauma. Now, somehow, it’s gone. I don’t afraid dogs any more. This is what I find out recently. I just go next to dogs, I don’t feel anxious, next to them.
Most of my anxiety was around people, that they can attack me, basically. The source of this is tI will be abandoned. This was the most painful thing for me. It’s still at some, I don’t know, maybe there is 40% of that, that people will – if people will be unhappy, I will feel rejected or abandoned. This is will bring me back to my trauma. But, now I can get out of this quite quickly. It’s took me a couple of hours, or maybe a day sometimes, depends how strong conflict it was.
I will not say it affect my work that much – especially now, last year, Covid situation started, we start to work online, from home. Stop communicating with people. It became easier – but, I will say, it’s not directly affecting career – it’s affect this way, I’m not able to take a lead in a team – this is, basically, how it’s affecting it. Because you afraid of people judgment and how people will react. Leading positions are always about responsibility and other people to make discussions, decisions and, you know, fights, sometimes with them, to prove something. This is all affected because I am not able to do that much but now it’s little bit better. I’m probably, step by step, going to that direction, where I can be more leading projects and all of this stuff.
Lot’s of different types of jobs I used to do. My dream job was about computer graphics and 3D animation. That didn’t go that well. I built websites with my mate and in my city, we built online radio. He was the main guy who was representing our radio for the audience – I was afraid to represent because I have this massive fear to represent this. But I was like to have this attention from people, that they – not negative attention – positive attention, that I’ve done something that people using.
I build myself interface, design it and build interface. Me and my friend connect to Winamp, when I was around 16/17 years old; it was MP3 music player but you able to stream music and make proper radio using this Winamp plug-in and this what we made that time online. After that, I start to get some connections from Russian music television and I was working for Russian music television building banners and this is where everything started. Before, I was interested in computers. I was build computers myself and then it was get into computer graphics, like Photoshop and all that – animation.
Then, I came to UK. My job was at factory BMW factory, building jobs – all of the random stuff. Engineering job that I’ve done for almost two years in London. I was installing exhausts and I was kind of on lead position but it was hard as well because – well, it was quite friendly environment because it was all my friends. I start to build company with my mate – he built company and I help him.
But, then, I work for seven years in IT – yeah, it was BMW, then building works, then IT. At the BMW, I start to get panic attacks. I almost lost my life but at that time, I didn’t know what was happening. It was sixteen years ago. I start to get antidepressants, changed job and, you know, all panic attacks gone. At that time, I didn’t get it exactly why. I think, I was alone, without people and that’s what makes me anxious. I was without family, I was here, without friends and just working, home, working, home. It was quite depressing.
I changed job – start to do things more that I more enjoy – computer graphics, again, I start to work for small company, marketing company. Then, I met the guy who start to build his company. I move to him. We start to build his company, then, we get fight, split and start to go and I tried to come back to IT again and I come back to Oxford. In Oxford, I get to massive IT company, I start to learn user experience – I was surprise how close it is to psychology.
Basically, psychology is my passion because all the time something new – I like it – I like to go deep into things. I like to go digging down and see how everything work; I like to see how other people react with stuff and, for example, user experience – UX design – it’s very close to this because you investigating how people using your product, basically. What they do? Where is the problems? All of this stuff, I start to learn in this new place in Oxford.
Then, they start to blame me, that I’m like ‘idiot’ and I all the time get depressed after a year, working with people at work because I start to think everyone hate me, basically. And, I start to be less productive. And, this is what destroyed my job, basically, at the end.
I was changing jobs all the time and then, I remember that, at that place, where I study user experience, I was kind of in bad situation in my relationship with my manager, team leader. They said you’re crap, you done so many mistakes – well, of course, I can do lots of mistakes in code, because, I got dyslexia, I’m not able to see some stuff. With code, it’s quite easier because you’re using programmes that helps you to fix this code quite quickly but I still do lots of spelling mistakes and people come back to me, ‘look, lots of spelling mistakes.’ My boss said, look you’ve done lots of spelling mistakes, our client was unhappy. But, the funny part, I fixed all of them, because it was testers who test everything and it wasn’t that bad but they use it to drop my salary.
I was so angry with them. Because, you know, I was working for them very hard, I’ve done lots of projects for them and they all the time blame me and I figure out that they just using me. They figure out that if they blame me, I’ll work harder for them. And this how, basically, it is affecting the relationship of work. They blame me and I will do everything they will do to stop blame me. Quite common thing what people do at work, basically, they can put blame and they drop price that they pay you and you will work twice harder you used to work and you, you know, no energy, nothing,
Then, I left that job. I get new one. And, that new one, I start to work with another guy on psychological thing and I get into trauma, basically. I wasn’t able to get out of that and anxiety start to get more and more and more and I start to get into panic attacks and that’s basically how it was.
I got this moment the fear of that I will be on the street is stronger. This all the time pushing me to job and for that time, I forgot about any fear. I start to hope that new place will be better than previous one. This is what pushing me into new position and, usually, when I met people, they all friendly at the first day and, then, I will not say that I’m – I used to think that I am crap – doing stuff, my job doesn’t cost anything but, previous job, I learnt that I’m not that crap, actually. You know, tiny bit. This has helped me to get into new job, where I am at the minute and it’s much better job than I used to have. I was able to use all my knowledge. I found out that people need my knowledge in this place. That’s how I get there.
But, I don’t think my job now is bad. I feel that my trauma is kicking in in some places and people – some people – triggering this. And now, it’s not happening this way as used to happen, so I able to protect myself. If somebody attacking me, I can protect myself, basically. This is one of the main things and achievement that I wasn’t able to do before. I got feeling that if I will lost this job now, probably, I will able to find new one or, I will start to try to build my business. It’s quite hard to find job that will give me work that I usually like and probably, it’s not easier, but it’s better to provide product that I’m able to produce. It will just be time to find clients who need it. And, if I will find the right clients who need it, then, it will be great. I will all the time employed.
It used to be my dream to have a business. But, then, I ruin it, because, I find out, this is, more about the money, only. I’m looking now for something more enjoyable. That, maybe, it will not bring me much money but it will be able to use my skills I have and people will pay me for that skills. I don’t know how much but, maybe, it will be alright, enough to survive on this money, maybe, it will not be enough, I don’t know. Yeah, we can call it business, but this is probably my dream – I can use everything I know and knowledge and share with other people who need it.
In my back place (in [Northern European country]), I wasn’t happy with my life, at all. The pressure was from everywhere. I didn’t know where to hide. I was thinking to go and study at university – IT university. I wasn’t able to study at IT university because I have to make money – to pay money – a lot of money, for this university. I cost a lot.
I learn English for a year and it was a couple of friends who I said, ‘would you like to go to UK?’ Because, it was European Union, they just open borders. And, it was opportunity to make a little bit of cash. I thought it would be enough cash to come back to my country to pay for one year of university. And I thought, ‘ok, I will go.’ I said to all my friends, ‘let’s go to UK, let’s go together’ because I afraid to go to UK. I like the idea to go work for summer and come back.
Then, I bought ticket – I wasn’t alone, I was with my girlfriend, at that time. And, I said ‘let’s go – this is idea – let’s do it, let’s try and study English-’ I wasn’t planning to stay, to be honest, in UK. It was just a plan for three months, came here, learn English and make money.
When I came here – well, all my friends say our parents didn’t let us go – I was nineteen at that time. My girlfriend was seventeen – or eighteen – I can’t remember – we was eighteen. I bought ticket one-way. Because, I know I will get scared. It was challenging for me to go, that far, because, in [Northern European country], I was scared to even to city centre from my neighbourhood. I always need to go with someone.
I bought ticket for myself and for my girlfriend. I said, ‘let’s go one way.’ Oh, for her, it was two ways because she have to come back and finish her school. It was challenging. All my friends say no. And we – just me and her – stay together. I was so shy, I wasn’t able to speak to anyone. But, you see, my idea was driving me forward. I wasn’t able to say stop to myself. I was so curious about stuff.
We came to the UK and I didn’t recognise anyone – whatever people were able to tell me, I wasn’t able to understand. My girlfriend was little able to understand. We came to Oxford, basically, because, one of my friend, he work here for six months, and he said, ‘go to Oxford – it’s nice city,’ and I learn about the UK that in some places, it’s better not to show up because, it can be quite dangerous. Someone can kill you, basically. Someone can attack you because, well, because you foreign. I heard lots of stories from other people who already visit this place.
And, then, I think, Oxford – lots of students, maybe it will be nice and I can stay for three, four months and we’ll find a job. And, I kind of plan a year what I will do. I save some money – it was £700 – I save for a year. And, it was, for me and for my girlfriend, we came to Oxford, I thought I will find a job in two weeks time. I wasn’t able to find a job in two weeks time. I go to agencies and agencies say, ‘go back, learn English, come back again.’
I was surviving on this money but I met a guy who help me. My friend, from [Northern European country], called to this guy and said, ‘can you help my friend?’ And this guy said, ‘sure.’ And,.we, somehow, managed to communicate between each other. I can’t remember how. He help me – he show me – I met his friends and his friends give me some room where I was able to stay.
For three months, it was hard but it wasn’t that bad, actually. I don’t know why – I was felt freedom, to be honest. It was lots of release from the family that I used to be with. And, then, later on, I find out where is the problem from of all this. It was actually from relationship with me and my parents. That is where anxiety start to grow. It’s based on trauma, you usually get before puberty age. That’s what making anxiety, depression or anything else and that we have in our future life. Because, it’s just the results of that. But at that time, I didn’t know this. None of the psychology was explaining this. Just after many, many years, I find out.
So, it was hard and fun as well, at the same time. I was young, as well, and, stupid, maybe, at the same time. I didn’t feel – I didn’t think that many – I didn’t have that many thoughts about that I will fail or something. I was believe that I will try to do something and that was why I bought ticket one way. And, I start to learn English, basically, step by step. At some point, I start to speak a little bit.
They (my family) don’t know about all of this stuff. This all stuff – it not exist for them. Because when I was, probably sixteen, or fifteen, I get into panic attacks and I ask my father to be next to me as I was afraid to be alone. I lost sleep for seven days – I didn’t know what’s happening to me. Out of nowhere, this serious fear hit me. And my father was next to me and he didn’t know what to do – nobody knows what to do. He stay and he just said, ‘I not able to help,’ and he just left. He thought I have to figure out myself but, not me, not him, didn’t know what is this. I was thinking I’m dying, basically, I don’t know what’s happening, something broken inside me.
To be honest, they never accept me and doesn’t matter what ever I will say, they will put me into – they will ignore that and they will start to push something, whatever they have in their mind and, it will be quite random. So, it’s one of the reasons why that easy it was to left my family, basically, because I never get any support from them, basically. I never felt secure in my family, so it’s quite normal for me to feel unsecure.
My father, he got similar fears, of abandoned, to be alone, basically, but he never show those fears but I – when I analyse him, I know he has those fears. None of them show those fears. There is different situation with my mother, she get anxious but this is not the same way as I do, it’s completely different anxiety – it’s different one. She get anxious about everything but she will always put this anxiety on me or anyone or any members of the family. If, for example, it used to be like that in childhood, that, my father late for, I don’t know, ten minutes, from work, she already anxious – it’s something happened. It’s like, what can be happened – ten minutes?
Step by step – this is experience I get, of anxiety from her but it’s not those moments she gets anxious , it’s more moments she was pushing me other stuff. It was much harder, it’s – she break, basically, couple of things – I don’t know how to explain that – it was moments I get broken, basically, by relationship between her and me. This is where anxiety start to grow, step by step.
I will say, I have a brother, younger brother – he always get fight. It’s not get any support, it was more fighting between each other. I will not say I was try to be bad to him but he was try to provoke, you know, to get out of this situation something, whatever he needs. I was all the time bad person, in front of him and in front of my parents
I broke up with my ex-girlfriend and it was not easy time. I just remember, it was sixteen years ago, we break up with my girlfriend – I decide to stay here in UK – I was alone at this time and it was lots of fears, what I’m going to do next. It was, work at the BMW, night shifts, all the time, twelve hours, six days a week. I get so tired and that’s how I get into anxiety. I start to become alone and all of this stuff, go deeper and deeper. But then, I met, different girlfriend and we stay together for many years now.
During pregnancy, the risks of taking antidepressant medication, including selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), must be balanced against the risk to the mother and the foetus of withdrawal symptoms from ceasing intake, including depression and anxiety symptoms.
In the detailed personal account linked below, US military partner, Summer, living in Germany, followed her doctor’s advice, at six weeks, to stop taking Zoloft (Sertraline), an SSRI that she had been on for over three years – as well as Topamax, for her migraines. Whilst she does not state what the doctor’s reasoning was, she writes, having conducted her own research: “Zoloft is not as dangerous to the fetus, but it has been shown to cause withdrawals in the baby immediately after birth (like excessive crying). Topamax has up to a 3% chance of causing cleft lip and/or cleft palate if taken during the first trimester. (Source: FDA).”
The severe withdrawal symptoms of headaches, nausea and vomiting meant that Summer eventually resumed taking Zoloft. After discussions with a psychiatrist, she was put on the maximum dosage of 200 mg: ” The research seemed inconclusive as to the risks for the baby, but even more so, the risk of becoming severely depressed could be even more harmful to the baby.”
She describes feeling better and being more active but continued to experience vomiting and social anxiety about doing so in public. She also says that she lost enjoyment in doing activities she normally enjoys. At the time of writing the account, she was 24 weeks pregnant and still struggling with anxiety and sickness but describes having a routine and being physically active.
The dilemma of taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy is one that should be raised with all women who are prescribed. Withdrawal from SSRIs is recommended to be done gradually, to reduce withdrawal symptoms. In England, the health service advises that: “As a precaution, antidepressants are not usually recommended for most pregnant women, especially during the early stages of a pregnancy. This is because they might be dangerous for your baby. But exceptions can be made if the risks – including of taking Citalopram and/or Sertaline – posed by depression (or other mental health conditions) outweigh any potential risks of treatment.”
Image designed by Anna Vanes. For stock image and other credits, click here.
To read the full blog-post by Summer on her blog, OutsideThisSmallTown.com, click the link below.
Pregnancy comes with a range of emotions — highs and lows. While it’s a beautiful thing bringing life into this world, the toll it can take on a first-time mother isn’t something commonly discussed. I want to tell you about my personal experience — my first and second trimester of pregnancy and the mental, emotional, […]