Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom
A record number of moms and dads are taking anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, but some experts believe we're just dealing with the everyday roller coaster of parenthood with a small blue pill. What's the answer?
It's 3 a.m., and Hope Chanda is awakened by another panic attack. Not again, she thinks. But sure enough, the symptoms are all there: tightening in the chest, pressure on the rib cage, shortness of breath. “Every time, I feel like I'm going to die,” she says.
There have been many emotional hours—and days and weeks and years—leading up to this particular 3 a.m. For the past two years, Chanda and her husband, Joe, parents of twin 6-year-old boys in Melbourne, FL, have been trying to get pregnant: six rounds of fertility shots and three cycles of the fertility drug Clomid. “All the hormones made me crazy,” she adds. But toughest of all were the two miscarriages, a kind of invisible, unspoken tragedy that moms largely grieve alone.
“After the second miscarriage, it all came out,” she says. “I had this feeling that something was really wrong. But at the same time, I felt like I had to be this rock for my family.” She didn't want to end up like her mother, who was hospitalized for anxiety issues when Chanda was 10.
“You know how on an airplane the flight attendant says to put on your own oxygen mask first, then your child's? That applies here,” Berman says. “It's really hard for moms to put their well-being first, but they have to help themselves before they can help their children and families.” Unlike a cut or a broken bone, depression is an unseen enemy that can be pushed to the margins of life. Add T-ball and stomach bugs and bake sales and carpools into the mix, and getting help falls to the end of the to-do list. For this reason, Berman believes there is a large population of undiagnosed parents, particularly moms: Women suffer depression at a rate twice that of men.
After one too many midnight panic attacks, Chanda talked to her family doctor. Now she takes half a milligram of Xanax twice a day, and 20 milligrams of Celexa at night.
“It helps me be a better mom,” says Chanda. “I look forward to taking my medication. I'm more flexible, tolerant, and rational. Before, when the kids were being a problem, I would get frustrated and yell immediately. Now, we work through the problem.”