Kate: I had a revelation about myself today.  In the last month I finally weaned myself off my anxiety medication that I’ve been on (and relied on) since college (I’m not telling you what year..because that makes me feel old).

The groundbreaking revelation?

The reasons I’m able to go off my medication (for now) are many.  But, it basically boils down to that my mental health has become a priority, and I feel like I have time to finally breathe and can make it a priority.  I’ve learned my triggers, ways to cope, being honest with myself (and partner) when I’m getting in over my head, and being able to compartmentalize and prioritize things.  I’m highly aware of it, and that’s what makes me able to manage it (right now).

A year ago there was no internal conversation that I could possibly ever go off of the meds.  If I missed just one day, I was off the deep end. The overwhelm, rage, feelings of inadequacy, and general “bad human”-ing were apparent to everyone in my household.  I needed that medicine to survive. And, the thought of weaning off of it was too overwhelming (on a good day) for me to even think about. I was still very much in survival mode for everything.  I’m not sure what has shifted, but I think partly it’s mind set, partly we’ve reached the age of independent potty going (if you aren’t there yet, you have no idea how liberating this is), and partly just “this is the right time”.

Liz: This is amazing! It doesn’t matter if it’s for a day, a week or forever…you set a goal and you did it. You made some major points here, first…don’t tackle the big stuff until you’re good and ready. It’s so easy to get caught up in the should haves of the world at large. It’s one of the most difficult things to recognize as a Mom. Forgetting all the outside pressures and expectations is incredibly difficult, but so very necessary. There are times when I get so caught up in the day-to-day that I completely lose sight of this! I mean, who has TIME to stop and evaluate what is a priority vs. what is not important (for now)?!

Secondly, accepting where you are right now is more than ok. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that you are enough! Who you are right now is enough. Sure, you have big plans but let them be just that…plans, until you are ready to take the next step forward. Make a list, stick them on a post-it in your closet, just table it for a later date. So many times I do this and when I come back to it, my perspective is completely changes. Sure, my priorities may be similar but the way I want to go about making a change or accomplishing something are totally shifted. That’s ok too! Just do what feels right in the time you have…right now.

Your goal took some crazy amounts of WORK to puzzle this all together. This hasn’t been just a month long endeavor, it’s seriously hard work. Being your own priority is the first step, but break down some of the ways you set out to accomplish this HUGE accomplishment…

Kate: You’re right – it took A LONG time to get to this point.  There are LOTS of factors that have gone into this and that it’s working (at least for right now).

First, my kids are getting “older”.  This is a huge part of it. My youngest is *almost* 3, the oldest *almost* 8 – that means there are lots of changes from 2 years ago.  I am reliably getting a full night’s sleep (and, if I’m not – it’s usually my own fault, not because I’m woken up by any of the kids). They are much less reliant on me for their every need.  I mean, they are able to get a semblance of a meal prepared for them (it may not have all the appropriate food groups, but..minor details). This freedom of movement for me has freed up my mind to work on “me”.

Also, I’ve opened up about my struggles with anxiety with other people, and they’ve opened up to me with theirs.  This camaraderie and honesty has allowed me to see that I’m not alone. For a long time I felt very lonely in my struggle, but now I feel supported.  I’ve heard other women talk about what has worked for them, and what they are continuing to work on. This gave me the strength to try it myself.

Another part of the puzzle is that I have become very aware of my triggers.  This is something that took me a long time to figure out, let alone communicate.  It took me a long time to figure out what exactly would start the anxiety hamster wheel, and then once I figured out what they were for me, I had to figure out how to put measures in place to limit them.  For instance, one of my triggers is lots of noise. We are not a household that has music or tv on all the time, in fact, despite the noises from rambunctious children, we are a fairly quiet household. Another trigger is change in the family routine, I start to feel out of control and then the downward spiral begins.  So, we stick to our routine.

I think another large part is that I have more confidence in myself as a person and as a mother now.  This confidence allows me to look beyond “how am I going to screw up my kids today?” and focus on the bigger picture.

Liz: AH, so many juicy nuggets here. It’s amazing how such seemingly simple things (opening up and talking to others and getting enough sleep) are so incredibly crucial and sometimes, so impossible to achieve. Many of us just barely get through the day and don’t even realize how depleted we are in terms of mental and emotional energy. We put so much pressure on ourselves and expect this whole mothering thing to just work, but it’s not always intuitive and it rarely makes sense when you’re in the thick of it!

Being aware of your triggers takes so much work, and always seems to be evolving. I know I’m starting to lose it when I find myself with very little patience for things that normally wouldn’t bug me. Sometimes, I can sidestep or ask someone else to jump into the fray while I take a mental break. More often than not, these challenges happen when I’m alone with the kids or trying to get home from some event. The small things just build and build until I feel trapped. There is no easy way out because all my usual distractions are WAY too difficult to conjure up when I’m at my lowest point. My gut reaction is usually to just push through and get to the next thing. However, finding something to laugh about…taking a breath (or six) and trying to regroup often has a much better result. It’s so difficult to remember that in the moment though!

At times, the thought of letting out these inner demons and actually giving voice to them seems horrifying! Does talking about all your insecurities and insane internal dialogue make you want to curl up in the fetal position?! The least intuitive thing is to share these crazy thoughts. And yet, by opening up…you deprive them of their power over you. It’s like meditation, just acknowledge the thought and move on (hopefully after some much needed connection and laughter among friends). You don’t have to do anything about, change it, or make any sort of decision. Just tell someone it’s there and then let it go. It’s crazy how liberating that simple act can be.

Kate: That’s exactly right.  Opening up and talking is a huge part of why this is possible for me to even embark on this journey. And, it’s a windy two steps forward, three steps back on a bumpy road and hail storms kind of journey.

The smallest thing can derail me and send me into a tailspin.  “Am I really ready to do this?” “Do my kids notice a difference?” “Am I more short tempered than usual?”

I had major moment this weekend of self-doubt.  I overheard a judgement on my parenting from a person of a younger age, clearly with no children of her own. It wasn’t kind, but I also KNEW she was uneducated and downright wrong.  But, did it affect me? Oh, yes it did. It triggered every negative, doubtful feeling I have as a mom. For almost a day it seemed it was all I could think about. The thoughts then turned to: If I’m obsessing over this silly comment, maybe I’m NOT ready to be off my medication.

But, then I texted one of my good friends about how I was feeling inadequate solely based on this comment.  As a good friend does, she told me all the amazing things I do as a mom, which was nice to hear. But, immediately after I sent the text, a weight was lifted.  I no longer felt under the power of the negativity. I was able to turn my day around and tackle my day head on.

I’m under no impression that every day will be smooth sailing, and I think it will take me awhile not to second guess my decision to work towards coming off medication.  I plan on still keeping a prescription filled for the foreseeable future in my medicine cabinet. If I find that I have more bad days than good, then I plan on revisiting my decision.  I truly believe that medication can be the right tool for certain cases. But, for right now, I’m going to try some other tools and see if it can work just as well.