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The Puritan Woman Sitting on Your Shoulder



We all know there's a little angel and a little devil on each of our shoulders, but did you know that there's an old puritan woman churning butter chilling there too?


I came up with this amusing image after talking to my psychiatrist yesterday (and no, I don't see a psychiatrist because I see imaginary people on my shoulder). I was talking to my psychiatrist about the safety of my medications during future pregnancies. I have always thought I'd do a trial run before getting pregnant where I would wean myself off of Zoloft to see if I could live without it. He explained that many people (particularly those with anxiety) prefer going off for pregnancy. Interestingly, research doesn't necessarily support this. Although there may be mild effects on the fetus from taking Zoloft during pregnancy, it is generally safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, it is often preferred for pregnant women to stay on Zoloft during pregnancy.


For me, the question would be: is it safer to have a medication-free pregnancy even if I'm an anxious mess? My logical brain would probably say 'no,' but there's still a tiny voice in my head that wants to try without the medications.


I have done well on Zoloft for a long time. The last time I tried to go off in college, I fixated on my own mortality 24-7. It was not fun and not healthy. Regardless, a little part of me wants to try it all again, convinced, for whatever reason, that there will be a different outcome.


If you've ever been on anxiety or depression meds for a while, you have probably experienced this phenomenon. You're doing so well that you don't believe you need medication anymore. Then you go off your meds, and all hell breaks loose. As it turns out, you were doing well because of the medicine. No matter how many times you experience this, it's almost impossible to quiet the voice in your head telling you things would be better without medication. Add in the idea of pregnancy, and you've got a complicated mess.


My psychiatrist understands this phenomenon all too well, so even though he tells me I would probably not do well off my Zoloft, he understands when I tell him I feel like I need to try going off before pregnancy. He understands about the voice in the back of my head saying I don't need them.


"It's quite a puritanical voice, isn't it?" He jokes. I immediately envision a frowning woman in a bonnet scolding me for my dependence on SSRIs.


Later, I laughed about this imagery with my mom. She talked about wanting a natural birth with me before finding out she needed a C-section. Her doctor questioned her motivation, "You do realize there's no medal at the end of labor, right?"


Like my mom, I have a strange motivation to at least try to have a natural delivery one day. But why??? I know from some lactation training and education that there are minor risks and benefits, but is it enough to justify excruciating pain?


The Puritan woman shows up in other facets of my life too. Not only do I have an inner voice scolding modern medicine's teachings, but it also scolds modern conveniences. I could buy romaine that's already washed and chopped, but instead, a masochistic voice tells me to buy the whole head. Every time I buy a bag of granola, the Puritan woman slaps me on the wrist and tells me it would be much cheaper to make my own. I never purchase baking mixes or premade pie crusts. I try not to buy pre-shredded or sliced cheese, and I genuinely do not know why. All I can say is that the Puritanical voice is strong within me.


As a dietitian, I sometimes resent this part of myself. Making healthy cooking and eating convenient is vital to having a healthy diet. Buying pre-cut and prepped food can be a considerable tool in enhancing your diet.


There is so much pressure in the wellness world to be the most natural. We all want to be medication-free, making homemade bone broth, pasta, and bread. Better yet, buy a chicken coop and serve our farm-fresh eggs next to hydroponic tomatoes grown from heirloom seeds.


Sometimes these "back-to-basics" approaches can be excellent for mental and physical health, but other times they can lead to obsession, non-sensical choices, and misinformation.


It's important to realize that modern medicine and conveniences can be critical. The recent tendency to villainize birth control, psychiatric medications, and all processed foods is one of our society's most entitled, misinformed health trends.


Look, the Puritan woman can make a mean loaf of bread. She can sew a quilt like nobody's business, but here's the thing... she's kind of a bitch.


The Puritan woman will always be a judgemental, obsessive nag clicking her tongue at my choices. She'll tell me my mattress is covered in toxic flame retardants, my antidepressants prevent me from feeling normal fears in life, my birth control is giving me cancer, and my shampoo is full of phthalates. She may even be right about some of her criticisms. But here's the thing- true health is about balance. It's about trying your best and having some grace for yourself.


Sometimes the healthiest choice is not the most natural choice. Occasionally it's not the homemade choice.


If you're like me and you've struggled with a desire for perfection in health, it's time to sneak the Puritan woman a cocktail. There is no such thing as a perfect diet or a perfect supplement regimen. There's no such thing as perfect mental health.


For me, these realizations don't mean one single thing. I will likely still insist on trying to go off of my Zoloft before pregnancy (just to see how it goes). I will probably still do a lot of chopping, mixing, and baking. I will probably still lust over a $3000 flame-retardant-free mattress. The main differences are that I will give myself some grace, and I will (try) not to judge the holistic or conventional choices of others. I will ensure my Puritan woman is focusing on my choices. If you see that someone else is on the pill, taking antidepressants, or using Bisquick, keep your mouth shut. The best health choices for you may not be the same for others.


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jtmorphis
06 dic 2022

Yep! Well said and I totally relate!!

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