Clonazepam is my anti-anxiety medication. It probably won't surprise many of you to discover that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression back in 2010, and that I've struggled with it since long before that. Clinical anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, with one often being confused as the other.
I learned during college how to manage my anxiety on a general, day-to-day basis, requiring only the occasional dose of clonazepam. However, I gave birth to a beautiful girl a little over a year ago. It should come as no surprise to anyone that giving birth is a stressful event, and that life afterward is even more stressful. Not only do I have to worry about everything that could happen with me, but now there are so many things that could go wrong with her! At first, I frequently called the pediatrician to ask about things like whether she was sleeping too much or too little, eating too long, or whether the rash on her stomach was a normal thing.
Now, these are normal new-mom worries--the kind we laugh about. But I also found myself experiencing more frequent dark episodes. These are the ones during which you can only curl into a ball under a blanket and grab at your hair as you rock back and forth and try to keep your insides under your skin. And then, because you are self aware, you worry about what effect these episodes will have on your child as they grow up. You berate yourself for bringing an innocent child into your life before fixing yourself up. I thought this was the depression. My obstetrician increased my dosage of Zoloft.
I started taking my .5 mg of clonazepam every night because it helped me fall asleep in conjunction with my unisom. It also helped with my anxiety, but I just figured that was the increase of my antidepressant and the increase of sleep. Either way, things were good.
Then several months ago, I gradually stopped taking my other supplements. I didn't think much of it, but started feeling chronically exhausted. I couldn't make sense of it (though in retrospect it seems obvious), so I started experimenting with my nighttime medications to see if one of them was making me sleepy. One night I took only half my unisom and a full clonazepam. I didn't sleep as well, and I was utterly exhausted the next day. So the next night I took only half my clonazepam and a full unisom. I still didn't sleep as well and I was still exhausted the next day.
In the late afternoon, I started feeling off emotionally. I chalked it up to the fact that Alexandra was having a rough day and had refused to take a nap. That would take a toll on anybody, I reasoned. It continued getting worse. I checked to make sure that I had taken my antidepressant that morning. I had.
By the time Jeff got home from work that evening, I simply told him that the baby was in the crib and needed a nap and that I was going to take a shower. My wonderful, understanding husband made no objection and asked no questions, just gave me a kiss and sent me off to shower.
Almost immediately upon entering the shower, I sank to the floor and curled into a ball while the water pounded down on me. I plugged the drain and turned my shower into a bath. I couldn't stand the feeling of a constant freefall-panic, like that moment when you've tipped back in your chair too far and almost fall. Except there's no end to that panic; it never stops. I needed some way to get it out of me. I contemplated using my razor to release it from my skin, though I hadn't done that since high school. I punched my legs, hard. I berated myself for not only dragging my sweet, selfless husband into my mess, but also my precious, innocent baby. My nerves buzzed and I couldn't escape the black agitation.
I prayed. I prayed that Jeff would come rescue me somehow, because I didn't have the strength to get out of the tub and rescue myself. I knew that my downstairs neighbor would be angry if I called loudly enough for Jeff to hear me over the bathroom exhaust fan, and I didn't have the emotional strength to risk her ire. I hadn't brought my phone into the bathroom with me either.
Miraculously, Jeff came to check on me. My darling husband retrieved and filled my oversized water bottle and brought me my medication. Fortunately, your stomach absorbs clonazepam in such a way that it can send it immediately to you brain and the medication starts working within ten minutes. Jeff brought my baby to me and we played together in the bath, being silly. Since I had calmed down, Alexandra was also no longer feeling distressed.
I can honestly say that the combination of medication and a supportive partner has saved not only my family, but my life.
Some people feel that you shouldn't take any medication while pregnant or breastfeeding in order to protect your baby from any possible side effects. However, I have consulted with my doctor and we both feel that the risk of harm to me and my baby is greater if I don't take these medications than if I do. That's a decision I'm very comfortable with. If you're here because you're trying to make that decision, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. If you don't feel comfortable with the direction they're trying to push you, find another doctor to discuss it with. Make sure you discuss it with people you trust and who are informed and impartial. For me, that person is my husband.