Recently, I started taking Lexapro again a little over a year after I stopped taking them. This time last year, I had tapered off of a 20 mg prescription that I was on for about three years. When I first started taking it, my reasoning was similar to why I started it again this time: panic attacks.
In all honesty, I really, really, really did not want to go back on an antidepressant. The side effects aren’t my favorite (though fortunately, so far, I’ve actually had more lucid dreaming than before which is great because last time I was on it I stopped dreaming entirely), I worry about their long term effect on my liver, and I know if I ever want to stop them again that cessation syndrome is a real thing and it’s FUCKING HORRIBLE. I worked really hard to get off of them and honestly, I feel like I barely survived the withdrawal period.
However, the current theme of my life is a quote from Dragon Ball Super: I’ll focus on what I can do right now. Thanks, Goku. And the truth is that right now, what I can do – what I need to do – is focus on my anxiety symptoms and get them under control.
I’m experiencing a little bit of a chicken or an egg moment, where I haven’t had a panic symptoms in a week (!!! this may not sound major to you guys but considering I was having either a full blown attack or damn near it every single day for a while, this is h u g e !!!), so I’m wondering if the Lexapro kicked in already or if the refresher on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is doing it’s thing. I know that I don’t engage in the catastrophic thoughts that cross my mind. I know that I’ve been actively using my distraction and soothing tools. I know that I’ve made relaxation time and physical activity both priorities. But I also know that the last time I was on Lexapro, my panic attacks stopped without me ever going to therapy and employing these tools. My only apprehension is that I’ve only been on the prescription for two weeks at this point, which is considered by most physicians to not be long enough for it to really affect my anxiety.
I’m finding myself tempted to stop taking them, before it’s too built up in my system, to see what happens. Does the panic return? I know that the combination of medicine and therapy is most successful for recovery but can I do it with CBT and lifestyle changes alone? Is the Lexapro really necessary or did I jump the gun?
This brings me to the title of this post – “I caved in”. Whenever I thought about restarting my Lexapro, I always used the same phrase in my brain: “I caved in and restarted my Lexapro.” I expressed this sentiment to my therapist who asked me, “Does your mother take an antidepressant? Would you say that she ‘caved in’? The brain is an organ that occasionally needs medicine, just like every other organ.”
I know that she’s right. I know that I shouldn’t tinker with my medicine. I know I shouldn’t think of taking an SSRI as a bad thing – and her posing the question in relation to my mother finally made me see how unfair to myself I was being. Of course I wouldn’t think that about my mother or any other loved one of mine that takes an antidepressant. Believe it or not, I’m actually very pro antidepressants and related mood medicine. I’ve made the metaphor before that I wouldn’t expect a diabetic to magically produce their own insulin so why would I expect someone with a serotonin or related deficiency to just regulate their brain chemicals through sheer force of will?
And yet my apprehension lingers. However, having said all this, I am more determined than ever not to actually cave in – cave in to thoughts that I don’t need this medicine, that I’m going to suffer as a result of taking them, that I’d be better off without them. This is who I am and what I need to thrive. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just A Thing. Much like how I need medicine for my heart, I need medicine for my brain. It is what it is. I’m just glad that I live in a time in history where this is an option available to me – otherwise, without the various little pills I take every day, I’d probably die at like 40. God bless modern medicine. Now if only the societal stigma related to SSRIs & Co would go the way of the dinosaurs. The attitude that taking medicine for mental health issues somehow makes you “weak” is so obnoxiously pervasive that even I find myself off-put by them. And I’ve spent over half of my life on one antidepressant or another!
Anyhow, that’s the latest, folks. Summer is coming to a close fast so don’t dally on any summer plans you haven’t acted on yet. Appreciate the people around you, get outside, schedule some “me” time, take care of yourself. Be aware of how you talk to yourself and whenever you become aware that you’ve said something questionable, ask if you’d say such a thing to a loved one. And if you wouldn’t, then try to stop saying it to yourself. Because you’re stuck with yourself for your whole entire life so you may as well treat yourself with love and respect. It’ll make the whole “life” thing a lot easier c: Don’t worry, I’m talking to the mirror, too.