Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone


Remember that Cinderella song from the 80’s? I was totally cool because the chick who cut my hair the year I lived in NJ was dating one of the guys in Cinderella. That put me way closer than 6 degrees of separation from Jon Bon Jovi, the man I was supposed to marry until he went and married his stupid high school sweetheart. I guess it all turned out okay since I adore my husband but Jon, you don’t know what you missed! My 15 yr old hair would have totally looked awesome next to your 80’s hair.

I’m not even sure how to write this post. It is hard to explain and is such an odd thing. Part of me is embarrassed – I’m a mental health professional so I shouldn’t be so unaware. And part of me wants to share just because it is one of those things that need to be on our radar so others don’t miss it.

Where to start? Just about every night, I lie in bed promising myself that tomorrow I’ll do better. I won’t yell. I’ll find more patience. I feel like I’m not great at this whole stay at home mom gig a lot of days. I know everyone feels that way and I know we all hold ourselves to higher standards than we do others. But I found myself battling frustration and impatience way more often than seemed “normal”. I thought this was me as a mom who stays home. Before having kids, I never thought of myself as a kid person and never dreamed I would be a stay at home mom. But once becoming a mom, I was lucky enough to make the choice to stay at home for a few years. I love my girls more than I knew was possible but the day to day minutia (topped with solo parenting for 5 months) was hard.

I can’t pinpoint when it started getting harder than seemed “normal”. That bothers me. Have I felt this way for the past 2 years? No, I think it has gotten worse in the past 6 or 8 months. But I can’t be sure. It happened without my awareness. I certainly had plenty of reasons to be tired and frustrated. My husband has been living in Pittsburgh since May. It was a LONG summer in this house. Constant showings of the house. Children who miss their daddy. Doing it all alone. Missing my best friend and partner. And summer was HOT so it seemed normal to not want to do anything.


Two weeks ago, I ran out of a medication that I’ve been taking for 2+ years. Not a big deal, called my doctor for an appointment to refill it. (Didn’t realize I was out of refills.) But I noticed something odd. After my first full day without the medication, as I was lying in bed, I didn’t feel bad about the mom I had been that day. We had a good day. I started thinking the girls must have been exceptionally well behaved but realized they were just their normal selves. No, it had been me. I was more patient and didn’t yell and enjoyed my day with the girls. The next night as I was lying in bed, I realized it had been another good day. I realized that I was feeling hopeful and happy and like myself for the first time in a long time.

I had a sudden light bulb moment. I had been depressed. And it had disappeared within 24 hours of not taking that medication (even though it wasn’t something that you would think would effect mood). Googling commenced. I wasn’t the only one who had experienced depression on this medication. I found thread of people on forums talking about the same thing. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t a bad mom. I was suddenly giddy. The absence of depression made me giddy. I had no idea I had been feeling depressed – I just thought it was the drudgery of life getting me down a little. I figured all would be well once we sold the house and lived in the same zip code as Steve again.

I can’t believe I didn’t recognize what I was feeling. I’m angry with myself for missing it. But I’ve never had an issue with depression and it wasn’t a deep dark, slit my wrists kind of place. But it invaded my life. I was lethargic. I was cranky. I didn’t laugh as much. Doing things seemed like way too much effort. And now I feel so much more alive and awake. I feel thankful that I ran out of the medication because I might have continued that way for years without realizing it. I also feel guilty that I robbed my kids of their real mom for however long I was in that funk but all I can do is move forward and show them their real mom isn’t an impatient, frustrated woman most of the time.

The effect of chemicals on the brain and body is an amazingly powerful thing.

Tessa still doesn’t love having her photo taken.

posted under Misc.
12 Comments to

“Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

  1. On October 6th, 2011 at 9:01 am Bobbi Says:


    I had the same thing happen to me on a medication I was taking, but it was the birth control pill so I should have known. I experienced EXTREME highs and lows. My poor family. It took my husband saying something isn’t right to look at the side effects. But, you are right, it can alter you. But, we don’t think about it at the time, and like you I was raising two young children at the time, felt overwhelmed and not like the best mom. I stopped the medication and was instantly better. I am glad you are feeling better and moving forward. I have learned that our children forgive us much easier for our mistakes than we do ourselves.

    OH, and I think you are rocking the single mom of young kids thing!!!

  2. On October 6th, 2011 at 9:48 am Kim Says:

    I had the same thing happen to me (not med related, though). After I took Baby Alex back to Guatemala I went into a funk for about 6 months. I didn’t really recognize it at the time, but as I was coming back out of it, I looked back on those 6 months and realized that I had really checked out.

    I’ve had a couple other bouts of depression since then, but I can now better recognize when it’s coming on, and have found ways to deal with it.

    I’m so glad you discovered what was going on – and if I was dealing with what you are dealing with – I’d be rocking in a corner somewhere right now. 🙂

  3. On October 6th, 2011 at 9:52 am Minnie Says:

    I am tapering off a benzo I took for back spasms for 8 years. I wonder if I’ll be my old self but for now I have horrible withdrawal symptoms. Hope I feel as good as you once they pass. Glad you’re doing good. 🙂

  4. On October 6th, 2011 at 4:57 pm debbie Says:

    Ah, I’m so glad you have discovered it and can get back to “normal” (whatever that is) in due time.
    I’ve only experienced being a single mom, but I can imagine if you had help then didn’t, it would not be pretty.
    I have the yelling thing going on too, but it’s not a drug interaction, it’s call hormones….or lack thereof. Going to see the Dr soon about it because I am going to wallow in guilty mom hell if I don’t. It’s brutal, isn’t it?

  5. On October 6th, 2011 at 6:28 pm Jane Says:

    I often say I have no control over my body…I’m just along for the ride! Glad you are feeling better. And hope your single parenthood gig ends soon.

  6. On October 6th, 2011 at 7:06 pm Andrea Says:

    The body and mind are an amazing thing, indeed! So glad you were able to catch it! And don’t feel guilty at all. I often use the frog in the boiling water analogy. If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. You, being the mental health professional could spot it in someone else because they “jumped” in some way (I hope that makes sense). But, if you put a frog in cold water, and turn the heat up slowly, the frog won’t jump out, and will eventually boil. Gruesome, but the point is that when you’re living in the water, you don’t always realize that it’s gotten too hot and it’s time to come out. Now, go and enjoy life and I do hope your single parenting days are numbered 🙂

  7. On October 6th, 2011 at 7:23 pm nora Says:

    I love your honesty on a number of levels in this post – the night times, the exhaustion, the over-reflection and yes, the realization of chemicals and bodies. Glad you are feeling right. Thanks for sharing. Also that pic of Tessa is so frekin’ cute – looking the other way.

  8. On October 7th, 2011 at 1:25 pm Brigid Says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have recently realized that a medicine I take for anxiety was causing me to need a 3-hour coma-like nap every day. After having big $$ tests done, and finding only one hormone level off, I switched to taking it at night, and now I can stay awake all day! It sounds silly, but OMG I can do so much more when I’m not planning around a 3-hour nap every day.

  9. On October 8th, 2011 at 1:10 pm Yo-yo Mama Says:

    I feel guilty for not accepting that I NEEDED meds to make me feel better. Children have that affect on us; that we are never doing enough.

    Just remember your kids love you in spite of our flaws.

  10. On October 8th, 2011 at 6:45 pm Adina Says:

    I will admit that I have battled with depression off an on. In college was the worst it got, since then I’ve started to inch toward it during/after different life events. You’d think I would know the signs as well, but sometimes even when we’re striving to be very self-aware we can miss it. I applaud your honesty (and I’m glad running out of the meds helped!).

  11. On October 10th, 2011 at 2:10 pm heather Says:

    Yep, I agree with everyone. I think when it’s something that creeps up on you, and it’s happening to you (you are not on the outside looking in), it’s tough to spot. My husband has problems with depression but it is exactly as you describe. If he forgets to take his meds (or more recently, ran out and decided to just see what would happen), I am the one who notices as he tends to have a shorter fuse, sleeps all the time or not at all, and just isn’t himself. But he is always surprised that I know as sometimes he doesn’t even realize.

  12. On October 23rd, 2011 at 8:58 pm martha Says:

    I am one who pretty much needs to be on anti depressants. It’s just best for all concerned.