i am a recovering addict published a memoir About alcohol and pill addiction earlier this year. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed on a podcast where the host asked me when did he think I was addicted and specifically why I took Ambien, the drug I became addicted to. I asked him if he had started drinking.
I’ve been asked this question before and developed a stock answer of sorts. I think I was born an addict, and becoming addicted to substances was inevitable for me. But this time the question hit me in a different way.
“Honestly,” I said, after an admittedly uncomfortably long silence. “I think I was treating my undiagnosed postpartum anxiety with Ambien. I don’t think so, and I think it might have turned out differently.”
On August 4, the Food and Drug Administration announced Approve Zurzvae (the brand name of zranolone) is the first oral medication specifically designed for the treatment of postpartum depression. Unlike most other antidepressants, this tablet is fast-acting and designed to be taken in as little as 14 days. And because zranolone is a tablet, it’s more convenient to take than brexanolone, the only FDA-approved treatment for postpartum depression. Cost $34,000).
Clearly, getting therapy in pill form is a game-changer. But I think just as importantly, this announcement has created a much-needed conversation about a condition. affects 1 in 8 people new moms. A conversation that wasn’t exchanged when my son was born about 26 years ago.
“Do you think I might have postpartum depression?”
It was December 1999. I sat in the obstetrician’s office in a scratchy paper gown and my nipples hurt from feeding raw. After the words came out of my mouth, I closed my eyes slightly and moved around in discomfort. I expected him to laugh and tell me I was wrong. There was no way someone like me, who was young and cheerful with me, would go through postpartum.
Even if I had the courage to say the word, I didn’t know what to do if he said yes. Because if he says yes, it means it’s true. And if that’s true, then I was flawed.
Six weeks before that, I had my second baby in two years. After my first son was born in 1998, I was devastated, but physically I was fine. I bounced back easily and was quickly back to working out five days a week and a busy social life.
I have no idea what the fuss is all about. This was easy.
All I knew about postpartum was what I saw on the news. Women who committed suicide or their own babies were usually reported to have suffered from the disease. These women were typically Caucasian and clearly unstable. None of the young mothers around me acknowledged their postpartum experiences.And when it was discussed in our small group of black mothers, it felt like: ‘Have you heard of Liza? really rough It’s been a while since she had a baby, poor girl. ”
The breakdown was that those of us who aren’t “having a rough time” are somehow better mothers (and people).
My second pregnancy was a carbon copy of my first and was worry free and smooth. My contractions were short (3 pushes) and almost painless. However, a few days after returning home, my new situation began to materialize. I was the mother of a cute newborn and an equally cute (but very active) toddler, both of whom only slept a few hours in the morning. time.
After an entire week of almost no sleep, I vaguely knew alarm bells were ringing somewhere in my head. And although there were no words to describe it, I was overcome with anxiety.
I knew I should sleep when my baby was sleeping, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t sleep expecting them to stir in bed. I would always look around the house with my ears and hear the faint wails before waking up.
At first, I never thought that I would suffer after giving birth. I never felt flat or sluggish. And unlike the women in the news, I loved my baby and never thought of harming it or myself.I had never heard of postpartum anxiety and didn’t know there was such a thing. Affects up to 20% about new mothers.
I went to get my nails and hair done before my 6 week postpartum appointment. (I waxed both times before birth, just to show head position.) I figured that if I looked better, I might feel better. And to be honest, I wanted to impress my OB. Throughout my pregnancy, he kept telling me that I was “the most vulnerable patient.” He also boasted to his nurses.
I enthusiastically accepted the role. I trained to lose baby weight quickly. I was always with them (no matter what) and never complained or played victim. I didn’t want to lose my “better” status with OB.
But I wanted the alarm bells in my heart to stop ringing.
“Why do you think postpartum?”
“I don’t know. I can’t sleep when my baby is asleep and I can’t relax like I used to.”
“Anorexia? Mood swings?”
“What about feelings of despair and crying?”
“No, not at all.”
I felt a sense of relief spread throughout my body. Postpartum was not possible, because I had no such symptoms.
“So two babies were born back to back,” he smiled. “Give your body a chance to recover, then see how you feel. Okay? In the meantime, if you’re having trouble relaxing, try a glass of wine in the evening. Breastfeeding.” Then you’ll be fine.”
On the drive home, I scolded myself for not telling him about the alarm and my sensitive feelings.
Is Venus from the doctor more important than getting better?
It wasn’t until several months later that my GP first prescribed Ambien to me. I told him that the babies hadn’t slept and I hadn’t (although I kept it a secret from the others). What I didn’t mention was that the alarm bells were louder than ever and I was starting to feel hopeless.
that moment, that is, moment, When the first Ambien hit my bloodstream, those alarm bells quieted down. I burrowed into my futon and basked in a blissful velvety silence hitherto unknown. The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed and with no trace of a drug hangover. I felt like a superhero.
everything will be fine, I thought. As long as I have this medicine (forever), I can go to my family.
My fall into addiction came, in Hemingway’s words about bankruptcy, “gradually and suddenly.” I started by treating my symptoms with one Ambien per night. Fast forward 6 years and I was consuming up to 10 Ambien in 24 hours. In addition, my anxiety and insomnia worsened.
In July 2008, I went to therapy to seek help. But who dares have the idea that my ambience addiction began when I began undiagnosed postpartum self-treatment, despite being evaluated by several medical professionals, including a therapist. Neither was there.
Researchers found that postpartum women were: Increased risk of substance abuse compared with postpartum women without depressive symptoms. Conversely, women with a history of substance abuse are more likely to exhibit symptoms of postpartum depression.
Even saying the word “postpartum” out loud was embarrassing, and I thought I would be a bad mother if I did that. My doctor then dismissed my symptoms, so I ended up treating my postpartum anxiety with Ambian.
So when I first read about Zurzvae, I wondered: What if this drug was available after my baby was born? Could I have been a better mother? Was I still addicted?
Pregnancy and the postpartum period are considered to be times when symptoms of depression are more likely to occur. Add addiction to this and the recipe for tragedy is complete. As long as we are afraid to talk about what we are going through, we are more likely to self-medicate with substances.
We hope Zurzvae is just the beginning of a long-awaited medication and conversation trend aimed at giving new mothers and their children a chance at a better life.
Need help with a substance use disorder or mental health issue? In the US, call 800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA National Helpline.
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