This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I haven’t been able to figure out where to start. But I was reinspired this morning when I read this piece. A fellow mom in the trenches, chastised on social media for using medication to balance her mood.
I take an antidepressant and, on occasion, an anti-anxiety medication. Which frankly I find harder to admit on here than I did to admit I was an alcoholic. Because that’s just how stigmatized mental illness, and medicating mental illness, is in this country.
Now, anxiety is not a cop out, not some new diagnosis I’m trying out. Some of my earliest memories are of being anxious about something. A thunderstorm, having to hug grown ups I didn’t know at church, the health and well-being of my infant brother, even death. Yes, at four years old, I feared death. I won’t forget this memory. My parents were watching that TV show Fame. And in the theme song, it is declared, “I’m gonna live forever…” Which, of course, they are talking about living forever because they will be famous and therefore remembered forever. But my four year old brain thought, “Can you live forever? You can’t, can you?” And suddenly, my first time struggling with the concept of death.
So, anxiety has always been there. The one constant in my life. And when I got sober, my counselors and psychiatrist worked with me to treat the underlying cause of the alcoholism. Which was mostly the anxiety, peppered with depression to keep things exciting. And I took the medication as a last resort. They kept offering it, and I kept refusing it. But, you might remember from my story, I left rehab and almost instantly relapsed, and I was willing at that point to try any goddamned thing to help. And as it turns out, the medication helps. A lot.
And the medication makes me a better mother, not a worse one. In the article I mentioned at the beginning, the woman got endless negative comments about what a terrible, pill-popping mother she was. How selfish and irresponsible. And I take heavy issue with that. My kids don’t need me moping around the house all the time, struggling to find the energy to take a shower, dropping them off for school and saying goodbye with that hollow, far-off look in my eyes. They need me here, present, happy and capable of my mom duties.
And, as the woman also says in the article, the use of alcohol to “deal” with parenting is applauded and celebrated. You can’t get through one Facebook scrolling session without seeing a half dozen of these memes. “Mommy needs her sippy cup.” “Is it wine o’clock yet?” And the photo I see every mother’s day of a chalkboard sign outside what I assume to be a liquor store, urging patrons to buy their mom a bottle of wine because, “You’re the reason she drinks, after all.” I started collecting screen shots of these memes, to share with this post, but I had to delete them all off my phone, they were making me uncomfortable.
And honestly, I think my addiction took such a strong hold because I was caught up in this culture. I thought I was fine because I was just like everyone else. And I bet there are moms out there right now who think the same thing, but really need help.
I couldn’t even get myself to watch that new movie Bad Moms because of the party scene in the previews. I mean, this is the idea of what moms would do if they gave up trying to be perfect? Had a night to do whatever they want? Throw a kegger? The whole idea makes me sad.
I’m not condemning drinking here. Go ahead and have that glass of wine if you want to. But if you feel like you need it, then maybe think twice. And have compassion for those of us who struggle, and leave the picture of the coffee mug that says, “There’s a chance this is wine” off the social media.
And if you think you need meds, if a medical professional thinks you need meds, by all means take them! You will be helping yourself and your sanity, and some of us just need to exist this way. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a fad, it’s not weak, it’s what must be done. And let’s do away with the double standard here. A mom drunk on wine is more fit for motherhood than a mom that takes a Xanax once in a while? I don’t think so. And you know that’s not true, I know you do. So, why all this love surrounding motherhood and drinking on social media?
No, when I was finishing a bottle of wine a night, I was not being fun and blowing off steam and taking the edge off of parenting, I was fostering a terrible habit and putting myself and my children in danger. And when I take my medication, I am setting myself right. I am putting my brain in the right mindset. I am a better person for it, and will no longer apologize for it or feel ashamed for it. The article I read this morning has empowered me to feel proud that I’m doing something good for myself and for my family, and no amount of berating will make me feel any differently.
Take good care of yourself, my friends. If I learned nothing else through the process of recovery, I learned that we have but this one life to live. One chance to do it right. Make good choices, choices you can be proud of. Take care of yourself, no matter what that means. And treat other people with respect and give them their dignity.