Amy gave birth to Isaac in July of 2004. Though she wanted a drug free, natural delivery, hers was not. When Isaac was three days old, Amy and her husband, Joel, rushed him to hospital. His lips, hands, and feet were tinged with blue and neither his parents nor the paramedics could wake him. In the ER, he choked on vomit and could not breathe without intervention. He was admitted for overnight observation. Naturally Amy was anxious. Later that night, home without her baby, she experienced a panic attack.
When Amy told her home health nurse about the panic attack, the nurse told her that her attack was a sure sign of impending post partum depression and advised her to start on medication as soon as possible. The nurse called and made an appointment for Amy to see her doctor. When Amy saw her doctor, she tried to tell him what had happened, but he interrupted her, asking only what the home health nurse had advised. He started her on samples of Zoloft, telling her it was imperative they treat her post partum anxiety aggressively as it would get only worse, possibly dangerous without medication. She asked him to check her thyroid levels as she was taking Synthroid. He refused. Within hours Amy felt detached from her baby, her family, her emotions. Within days, the nightmare began.
“As I…walked past the stairs to our bedroom to lay the baby in his bassinet, I hallucinated – I saw myself standing about half-way down the stairs, throwing the baby down.” Thoughts of killing the baby and killing herself continued. Terrified to be alone with her child or alone by herself, nine days after the baby was born, Amy voluntarily checked herself into the psychiatric ward of the hospital only to be committed on an involuntary hold. It was there that she first read a circular that listed the side effects of Zoloft. But when she questioned the doctor about the obvious correlation between her symptoms and possible side effects, she was told it was impossible for the drug to cause her symptoms since she had been on it for such a short time. Instead of taking her off of Zoloft, her dose was increased. Amy was released from the hospital when she pretended her symptoms had abated, with the agreement she would stay on the medication.
After her release, the thoughts of killing her baby and herself continued. Each time the dosage of Zoloft was increased, the violent thoughts got worse. Every object became a way to kill the baby. That knife? She could stab him. Ribbon? She could choke him. Amy was so fearful of these horrific thoughts, she refused to be alone with the baby. Either her mother (who was staying with them) or her husband were with her at all times. In time, her homicidal thoughts grew to include her husband, her parents, and the family pets.
The thoughts never abated. In time, with each increase in dosage, the only difference Amy experienced was an eerie emotional detachment. Her mind chatter told her it was only a matter of time before she chose the means and killed her baby. Against her doctors’ advice, Amy finally made the decision to discontinue taking Zoloft. She titrated down and stopped the medication four months after starting it.
“Since I stopped taking Zoloft, I feel normal. I take care of Isaac by myself and stay socially active. I never feel out of control like I did on Zoloft, but the memories of losing my grip on sanity will never go away. Never again will I subject myself to drugs to ‘heal’ my mind.”
Zoloft and other anti-depressants are associated with homicidal and suicidal ideation. Increasingly, we hear stories of teens and adults who kill themselves or others while on these drugs. And though the accompanying literature clearly states thee horrific side effects as a possibility, doctors Amy Philo who prescribe these do not always listen to their patients’ concerns or dismiss them as the primary symptom rather than a side effect as they did in Amy’s case.
Amy’s anxiety was understandable and clearly caused by lack of sleep, the stress of childbirth, and a terrifying episode with her son. Her anxiety was also heightened by her prescription medication for thyroid as her blood levels were much too high.
Amy launched UNITE, an online information resource about the dangers of psychiatric drugs. On her site you will find personal stories, information about current and proposed laws, and links to additional resources.
Amy wants everyone to be aware of the Mothers Act. This legislation has passed the House with only three “no” votes and is now awaiting a vote by the Senate. This is dangerous legislation that will set up a nation-wide screening and “education” campaign to encourage the use of anti-depressant drugs and other psychiatric drugs for pregnant women and new mothers. Drugs like Zoloft. For more information on the Mothers Act and to learn more about UNITE, visit Amy’s site www.uniteforlife.org.