*Insert great joke here to deflect from the vulnerability of talking about taking medicine for a mental health condition.* Today I’m sharing what i’ts like to take Lexapro.
Lexapro is a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) taken for the treatment of anxiety. But I call it my “crazy pill” because that makes me laugh. It’s a daily medicine that builds up in your system over time to ease your overall anxiety, rather than a pill that you take in the midst of panic (although I have that prescription, too). In the 6 months that I’ve been taking it, lexapro has changed my life dramatically. I almost feel like a normal person! In all seriousness, it’s crazy to me that this tiny pill eased so much of my struggle with anxiety.
When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, I resisted medication for a long time. I had this idea in my head that I wanted to be “strong enough” to fight anxiety on my own and didn’t want to “become dependent” on a medicine. To me, taking medicine felt like giving up.
In actuality, taking medicine is the opposite of giving up. It’s admitting that I need extra help beyond lavender oil, therapy, and other “natural” methods. It’s loving myself enough to admit this. While some people can fight anxiety without medicine, I can’t, and that’s okay! Needing medicine doesn’t make me weak or incapable – it makes me strong for accepting necessary help.
When I finally asked my doctor for an anxiety prescription, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was scared that it wouldn’t help, and I was worried about side effects and dependency. My doctor was very kind and talking me through the timeline. She informed me that it would take a while to reach full effect (so I shouldn’t expect results immediately), and she made sure to put me on a non-addictive prescription. Feeling well-armed with this information, I started on Lexapro.
The process was long – every day I would wake up and think, “Do I feel differently today?” I waited patiently, hoping for a change but not sure if I was feeling anything. After about two weeks I felt a subtle effect, and at 4 weeks I felt like I could definitely tell there was difference. Finally, around the six week mark I noticed a huge change in my mental health – it suddenly felt like a switch had been flipped. I was able to fall asleep at night, I didn’t feel panicked during the day, and the things that used to send me into a frenzy (sending emails, making phone calls) suddenly became amazingly easy. It felt so freeing.
In the following 6 months or so, Lexapro has continued to make me feel free. It has lifted a huge weight off of me every single day. However, the medicine did give me some side effects that I also want to be candid about.
The first thing I noticed was the dreams…
(I left that sentence independent because I thought it looked like a line from a horror story and it made me giggle.)
Since starting medication, my dreams have been super wild and super vivid. They are hyper realistic, to the point where sometimes I get confused about whether or not something happened in my dreams or in real life. The dreams I have are mostly anxious dreams, bordering on nightmares, but I would so much rather have nightmares while sleeping than be living a constant daymare with anxiety! My doctor says these dreams go away for most people, but I guess I’m just lucky enough to keep them 🙂
Another side effect I experienced was a sexual one (family members, look away). Not to get too far into TMI territory, but I suddenly couldn’t do something I very much enjoy doing. This really surprised me because I had done no research on side effects and wasn’t expecting it at all. After a quick google search, I learned that this is a pretty common side effect with anti-anxiety medicine. I was super worried it was going to last forever, but PRAISE BE, once my body got used to the medicine, things…came around. Honestly I’m unsure if I could have kept taking the medicine if this had continued, so that’s definitely something to think about if you’re considering anti-anxiety meds.
Since starting medicine, I’ve also gained some weight. This could definitely be due to over-snacking, but I don’t feel like anything in my lifestyle has changed and yet I’ve gained a couple pounds. I keep telling myself I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and anxious, but I do wish I could keep those pounds off.
Another change I’ve noticed since starting lexapro is that I’m a lot sleepier. I don’t consider this a bad side effect becausemy anxious energy used to keep me alert and awake way into the night. Now I get tired around 10pm, which I guess is normal for a non-anxious person? I am now sleeping well, and sleeping a lot (10 hours a night).
All of this to say, to me these side effects are 100% WORTH IT. The fact that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat due to an unsent email, the ability to make a phone call without building up to it for hours, the freedom of feeling like I can be me at work and in my friendships – lexapro has made all of this possible for me, and I could not be more grateful. My days feel so much less heavy now without the chain of anxiety around my neck.
Of course, I still struggle. There are still things that are challenging for me, and old anxious habits that are hard to break. But the change that medicine has given me has been so immense and so freeing.
I hope this helps someone who has also been struggling with their mental health and debating using medication. You have to do what’s best for you, but I’m a big proponent of medication now – please know it is nothing to be ashamed of and it can really change your life!
As always, happy to answer any questions you might have about mental health or medication – my comments are always open!