I’m taking a risk on the blog today – this post, to me, is even more vulnerable than this one.
I was on Lexapro (a mild anti-depressant) for around three years. And now I’m off it. Which is the good news, and which is the bad? Most would say the latter is good – you’re off it! You’re better! I’m not so sure.
I have plenty of friends who are on antidepressants. A few of them are truly, clinically depressed. Others take it for anxiety or nerves. I’m not sure how anxiety or nerves look in real-time. Excessive worry? Daily fear? Either way, the term “anxiety” doesn’t have a bad connotation to me. People get anxious. People take medicine. People get less anxious. No judgement there.
I don’t use the word anxiety to describe me. The real, Lexapro-free me. I am angry. I am pissed off at the world. I am super irritable. It was eating me – and my family – alive. I could hold it together okay at work most of the time, which meant that when I came home I just let it all out. I yelled at my kids and my husband. I was mean. Then I felt guilty for being mean, and I said sorry. Then the cycle would start over. Almost like the abuser cycle, you know? I mean, I wasn’t physically abusing my family, but I noticed the pattern.
And I finally went to my doctor and, bawling and blubbering, told him I needed help. Strangely, he acted like he’d seen this before. “Do you feel like you’re just pissed off at the world?” he asked. I nodded. “Well, let’s try this medicine – think of it as your anti-pissed-off pill. Maybe it will help.”
So I tried it. It did help. It took the edge off my almost-out-of-control emotions. I also started going to therapy. It helped, too. Sometimes you just need somebody to talk to, somebody outside of your circle of family and friends, somebody who can say, “Why don’t you try doing it this way?” Somebody who doesn’t judge you.
There have always been a couple of things that bothered me about Lexapro, though. First, it does numb your feelings somewhat. My grandmother died, and I couldn’t cry. I felt so bad about that. Second, the old person that I used to be kept nagging at me. When I was a kid and a teenager, I was happy. I was perky. I was bubbly and outgoing. What happened to me? Sure, I’d have my down times. I’d have a good cry now and then. But overall, I was nothing like the bitter, impatient woman I’d become. I still don’t have an answer for that. Maybe it’s the stress of being a grown-up. Maybe it’s difficult events that my family has gone through in recent years. Maybe it’s hormones, or brain chemicals, or something else physiological that’s out of my control. I don’t know. But even though Lexapro was helping me, I always knew that someday I’d want to get off of it.
So now I’m done with my weeks of taking half a pill a day, then half a pill every other day, and now nothing. No pill. I can tell a difference. I’ve cried a lot more lately. My emotions are much closer to the surface now. The numbing effect is gone. There have been a few days where I’ve felt sad and useless (acedia is a good word for it). Other days, I’ve felt happy and thankful. The irritability has come back a bit, but not as strong as it used to be. In some moments, I have to remind myself to be calm and kind. (I keep thinking of that verse in – oh, Philippians, maybe? – “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”)
Yesterday I met with my doctor, and I’m going to continue without Lexapro for a couple of months and then check back. He actually suggested exercise. He told me that it will probably be as effective or even more effective than anti-depressants in my case. We talked about how neither of us have ever been great at exercising consistently – but he told me to aim for 30 minutes a day, and that’s it.
I want to lose weight, anyway, so I guess I’ll try to kill two birds with one stone. It will be a bit of an experiment, I suppose. On days when I’m down – or irritated – will exercise help?
In the end, I may have to get back on the meds. If I do, that’s okay. But for now, I’m on my own, emotions raw and real.