Last Thursday I received a phone call from a producer at Anderson Live daytime TV show. “Hi Cristi. Would you be interested in being a guest on our show next Tuesday about the Parenting.com story Xanax Make Me a Better Mom.” The story had gone viral and was making news.
After panicking for a bit, I called my husband and then messaged a group of mental health and PPD bloggers I’m a part of. You see, advocating for mental health is something I’m very passionate about but I was SCARED. My husband immediately said “You’re going to do it!” and my heart was telling me I wanted to. But I was panicked for several reasons. Would the media sensationalize this important topic? Would it turn into a fight between moms who are against meds and those who take them? Would I be able to handle the stress of actually being on National television when I deal with an anxiety disorder day to day in my own everyday life?
Turns out it didn’t really matter. After I said I was interested, they ended up choosing guests more geographically central to New York City (I’m in Seattle so it would have been a big deal with travel.) I was disappointed, but it is what it is. And I’m grateful that someone found me because of this blog. That’s a very good thing.
Taking mood stabilizers to be a better parent?
What do you think of this new trend? Tweet back: ALParenting
Mood stabilizers, a TREND? I don’t think so.
“MOM CONTROVERSY: PILLS MAKE ME A BETTER MOM — Anderson hears from moms on both sides of a controversial debate making headlines, as mothers who say taking anti-anxiety drugs makes them better parents square-off against mothers who say this behavior goes too far.”
This kind of sensationalized, stigmatizing promotion really bothered me. I know the media tries to “sell controversy” to capture attention and viewers, but mental health treatment is serious business. We’re talking about people with a real medical condition–myself included–who need good care. Who need good doctors. Who need to feel unashamed of reaching out for help.
Friends, I know that there are abuses in just about everything. There are those who have addictions, and that is so so sad. Not all doctors are created equal and some are prescribing unnecessary medication or not educating their patients about the risks.
But legitimate GOOD mental health treatment is not a trend, it is a necessity.
From the get go, I felt like this shouldn’t be a controversy. Medication is not one size fits all. It’s not for everyone. And if someone disagrees with taking pills, then don’t take them. We have to be our own mental health advocates.
But mental illness is real and saying that one form of legitimate treatment is a trend just perpetuates stigma and makes people feel bad about themselves for needing medication.
Over the years I’ve felt very bad about the need for medication. I’ve felt the stigma FOR SURE.
But I now know better. I take medication because it works for my illness, to help me be the best ME I can be, along with many other things like diet, exercise, therapy, and most importantly learned coping mechanisms that help me get through the rougher spots. Saying that parents just take meds as the easy way out is over simplified and completely untrue.
Do you know just how difficult it can be to find the right mix of medication? How many side effects there are? How long it takes to feel well. And once you do, how vigilant one with mental illness needs to be to take care of themselves and be healthy?
Women who are “popping pills just to be a better mom” have much deeper issues at work, whether that’s mental illness, addiction or just terribly low self esteem, these women need therapy and other medical treatment, not stigma. Not a “battle of the moms” and not more judgement.
After watching the actual segment on Anderson Live today, I can say this with certainty. A few minutes is absolutely NOT enough time to cover this complex and important topic. And it was sensationalized. I think Anderson Cooper and his team tried to provide some good information offering an expert with coping mechanisms and talk about true mental illness toward the end, but it wasn’t enough in my opinion. The moms who shared their stories were brave and as candid as they could be in the very limited time they were given. But there is so much more to share.
Christina Gleason @WELLinTHIShouse, one of the Anderon Live show’s guests wrote this post that I’d like to share: You Will Not Shame Me — The Stigma of Mental Illness and Prescription Drugs
Not coincidentally Katie Couric also aired a segment about moms and medication yesterday. She interviewed one of the moms actually featured in the Xanax Makes a Better Mom Parenting.com story, JD Bailey @JDhonestMom.
Before I get to her interview, I have to note that I HATE the title of the Parenting.com story. Its obviously meant to elicit a strong reaction. And it doesn’t get to the real issue.
I’ve seen a LOT of comments on this story about benzodiazapines (Xanax, Ativan, Valium) and how addictive and improperly used and prescribed they are. But these specific types of drugs are VERY different from other mental health medication. They are not meant to be used long-term like SSRI’s (Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, etc.) or mood stablizers (Seroquel, Lithium, etc.). Benzos are very addictive and are prescribed (by good doctors) in very small doses and only to be used in case of emergency like a panic attack. Unfortunately I think these drugs are often used incorrectly and much longer term than they should. That is a show in itself.
But in general real mental health treatment by medication is longer term (or can be shorter term for those suffering postpartum depression).
And yes, these medications do make me a better mom because they make my mental health similar to someone who does not have depression, anxiety or manic episodes. I’m able to handle stress like a normal person with the help of medication. I’m not addicted. I’m not using it as a crutch. It is a medical necessity for me. And I’m NOT ashamed of that fact. Not anymore.
JD Bailey did a wonderful job eloquently presenting her point of view on Katie. And I think Katie Couric handled the topic in an intelligent and less sensational way than Anderson Cooper. So I wanted to share a part of that interview with JD here with you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you think medication makes you a better mom/a better person?
UPDATE: Good Morning America is scheduled to air a Moms & Medication segment on Monday. I know I’ll be watching!
Please note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. The above are my personal opinions and do not constitute medical advice of any kind. If you are struggling please contact your doctor immediately.