I’m about to go out on a limb here and tell you that I love my antidepressant. Since I started taking Lexapro almost four years ago, my mental health has improved to such an extent that I vaguely remember what it was like to spiral into the oblivion of anxiety. A few years ago, I read John Green’s novel, Turtles All the Way Down, and for the first time, I realized that other people know what it feels like to spiral. Green’s description of Aza’s obsession with human microbiota in the first chapter mirrored my obsession with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. I can remember frantically looking at my weather app, watching the movement of incoming storms and fixating on where I was going to go if the storm continued moving in my direction. I can remember pacing the house when the skies opened up and it seemed that the flood waters were going to rise and transport my house into the lake across the street. I remember making my husband go outside in the middle of a torrential storm to make sure that the culvert was not overflowing with water. These brief descriptions do not come close to what spiraling feels like: dry mouth, racing heartbeat, a tingling feeling creeping over my hands and arms, a fight or flight instinct that causes irrational terror to overwhelm.
Since October of 2018, I have taken 10 mg. of Lexapro each day. At first, I thought that my body would not be able to handle it. For the first few weeks, I would fall asleep only to be woken up by a shocking panic attack. For several nights, my husband had to hold me, cradled like a baby, until the panic would pass. Eventually, my body accepted the medication, and I was able to get more than 2-3 hours of sleep. The fog started to clear, and I felt like I was returning to some sense of normalcy.
I have been stable for almost four years which for me means no major panic episodes, no spiraling, and no hint of depression. During these four years, there have been a few times that I thought about getting off. However, in March of 2020, COVID lockdown happened – so Lexapro got me through. I thought about it again in the spring of 2021, but my family and I moved to help my parents in Colorado. The question came up again in December of 2021, but my stepdad passed away on the same day as my doctor’s appointment. So, I stay on my meds, mostly because I don’t want to return to that obsessive, frantic worry that used to plague my life.
Sometimes it’s the little things that I notice. Graduations always stressed me out. Every year I would sit with the graduates and my colleagues, waiting for a panic attack. My stomach was in knots, my attention was hyper focused, my mouth was dry. I would scan the field or gym, looking for a way out, hoping that I wouldn’t throw up, pass out, or freak out. Now, I can enjoy graduation and celebrate with my students. No panic attack in sight.
By nature, I am a pretty introverted person. I do not like being in crowds, and new situations usually freak me out. However, with Lexapro, my social anxiety doesn’t really exist. I am willing to go into new situations (like starting a new job, yet again), and I can go to new groups at church without feeling like I need my husband by my side. This is a life changer for someone like me who has trouble making new friends because my anxiety has usually won the battle.
The sad thing about being on meds is that some people believe that medication is a crutch, that it is a lack of faith, that it is a symptom of the pharmaceutical racket in our country. This isn’t true for me. When I was seventeen, my panic attacks were so bad that I wasn’t attending school which meant that I wouldn’t graduate from high school. I wasn’t functioning. With the help of my mom, I found a great therapist who suggested that I start medication so that I could function again. Thankfully, my mom let me make the choice, and Prozac worked for the time being. Four years ago, I wasn’t sleeping. I was teaching, mentoring a student teacher, taking graduate courses, and fostering a new child. The stress of my circumstances halted my sense of peace, so I wasn’t functioning again. With the help of my doctor, I started taking Lexapro and at this point in my life, I don’t feel the need to stop. The benefits of my meds far outweigh any consequences at this point.
Lexapro means that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night in a panic. Lexapro means that I don’t freak out when there is a thunderstorm on its way. Lexapro means that I can interact with my students without feeling anxiety. Lexapro means that I can make new friends without fixating on whether or not I said the wrong thing. Lexapro means that I can relax at home by myself without worrying if I will do something to harm myself.
I know that mental health is a serious issue for many people out there. I know that some people worry that medication might change their personality or their emotions. I know that some people worry what their pastor will think or what their church will think if they knew what was really going on. None of those feelings should stop you from seeking help if you need it. If you are not functioning, if you are not enjoying your life, if you can’t appreciate the big or little things, then you more than likely need to seek help. Medication might be the answer.
I do believe that there are times when I need to muscle through my anxiety or depression, but I also have learned that when I can’t, that doesn’t mean that I don’t trust God enough. Depression and anxiety are medical conditions, not a condition of the heart. Yes, God can help us to overcome anything, including depression and anxiety. I believe that he has set me free from both. However, I also believe that medication and therapy are avenues of healing.
For now, I love my antidepressant. It helps me to get through each stressful situation that lies before me. It has restored my sleep, calmed my nerves, and given me opportunities for new experiences. It has helped me to appreciate life again.
If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to someone. Get the care that you need even if that means medication. It’s not a crutch, a weakness, or a lack of faith. Be encouraged to take care of yourself.