Like many others, I was saddened by Whitney Houston’s death. Many of my friends and even my husband were not very surprised by the news. I, however, was completely shocked. This music icon was so talented and her amazing voice captivated us all. As I hear the news on her apparent cause of death being due to a toxic mix of alcohol and medications, I am even more saddened. I am reminded again of how precious life is and how grateful I am that I have people around me that are supporting and loving.
Within three years, I lost three of my sextuplets shortly after their birth, as well as my mother. After the death of my three daughters, I refused any anti-anxiety medications. A year later, per the recommendation of my Obstetrician, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was still waking up every hour and checking the heartbeats of my three surviving children and making sure their chests were rising and falling. I was petrified that I would miss something.
After speaking with the psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I began a two-year test of medications. I took everything; I tried Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin and many more. For sleep aids, I tried Lunesta, Ambien, Temazepam, Clonazepam and others.
I do not regret taking any of these medications. Finding the right combination took a very long time and relief eventually came. I do believe the medications and therapy helped me. I was finally able to sleep, if even only for a few hours. I was able to stop the feeling that something was going to happen to my kids and that I needed to be on guard all the time. I liken it to having a longer “wick” to deal with situations. It gave me time to realize that everything would be OK if I slept for a few hours and didn’t do the NICU-like hourly type check-ins with the kids.
The prescriptions and hour-long therapy sessions each week helped me understand and accept the feelings I was having regarding the death of my daughters and most importantly that it wasn’t my fault. I carried too much guilt, embarrassment and shame for the loss. No one but myself and a third-party professional could help me come to terms with these feelings I was having. I did speak to family and my husband, but they were so close to the situation we either ended up crying together or I would be upset over something someone said or didn’t say. I feel I was supposed to be seeking therapy during this time because soon after I began seeing someone, my mom became gravely ill.
Mom’s sickness and her consequential loss was so intense and emotional to me, I was really in a deep denial and emotional roller coaster. I know that being able to talk to a professional not only gave me a place to release my emotions completely but to also get a solid understanding of what was happening to my mom, what was to come and how to deal with the inevitable.
During this time of prescriptions and therapy, I remember a lot of my friends and family expressing great concern over the pills. How could I feel a loss or emotion if I was “drugged up” or what type of side effects will this have on my body down the road? To me the choice was clear: It was meds and therapy or sleepless nights and a constant battle in my head over fault, panic and denial. After taking medication and doing therapy, I was able to see life in a different way. I had time to think through my emotions and understand why I was feeling them.
There was a time when things could have been really bad for me and my family. After my mom’s passing, I was even more adamant than after the death of the girls to be the best mom and wife possible. I am always fully emerged in my children’s daily activities but I was really making sure that each day was memorable and special. I was doing so much that I was exhausted and so were the kids. Every day we had an outing, an activity, a lesson of some sort, leaving little time for us to be lazy around the house. I also started taking time to myself each night after my husband came from work. I would listen to my mom’s favorite songs or music that reminded me of her. I would sit alone and what started with one glass of wine became two glasses the next week and the following week a bottle. I distinctively remember one evening that my husband came home, we chatted like always, then I went to the patio, bottle of wine in hand ready to be opened and the music already started. He went with the kids and after about an hour he came home and joined me. He came out with the empty bottles of wine from the recycling bin and sat next to me and said “So…when is this going to stop?” He then lined the bottles up in a row in front of me. I remember him saying, “we need you,” and he shrugged to the sliding door where six eager eyes looked at me through the glass. It was as if a lightning bolt hit me. I hadn’t realized I’d been drinking so much, and I was also taking the prescription medications. I honestly believed it was still my one glass I allowed myself at night.
That night, my husband saved me. I had a choice of going down a lonely, emotional state or instead, re-joining the land of the living. My wine nights stopped and my therapy sessions have continued.
I am grateful I found doctors who listened and intervened when I needed them. And now that I’m finally off my medications, I am grateful science has come so far that there are helpful medications for doctors to prescribe when needed. Mostly, I am grateful for all of my family and friends who supported my decisions, especially my husband for truly being a life partner in sickness and in health. Without it, I could have had a very different ending.
Please also see Whitney: An Addict’s Opinion
Gracie Soldani lives in San Jose, CA with her husband Brian and their three surviving four-year-old sextuplets, Santino, Bruno and Lucia, two rescue dogs (CJ and ND) and their four hens and rooster. She published her first book, Gracie’s Orders and is now working on publishing her second book. She is also a sales rep for Beauty Society and President of NAPW Silicon Valley.