Friday, July 27, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry

I write you today under the influence.

Of Lexapro, that is.

After my Memorial Day weekend emotional meltdown it became clear I needed to do something about my depression and anxiety before it eroded my quality of life any more. So for the past couple of months I've been in talk therapy with a cognitive psychologist. This has been going well, but he suggested that I might want to look into drug therapy too, so last week after a trip to my primary care doctor I came home with a month of Lexapro samples.


Last week, at this time, I was in the throes of medicine head -- if I sat down or stood up too fast the room started spinning, and in between I felt as if I were in a kind of suspended mental animation; uncomfortably numb. I didn't much like it. Depression actually felt better.

I later found out that antidepressants and antihypertensive drugs tend to amplify one another's side effects, hence the spaciness, and that taking one pill in the morning and one in the evening can help minimize the lightheadedness and lethargy.

So I'm a bit nearer to normal now, just in terms of getting through the day without feeling eight miles high. And it remains to be seen whether or not the Lexapro will keep depressive episodes and anxiety attacks at bay. But I still feel equivocal about taking these pills -- despite understanding the organic and oftentimes hereditary underpinnings of depression, and despite learning that nearly everyone I come into contact with on a daily basis is on some sort of "happy pill." The Stoic in me tells me that I should be able to fix myself by myself. Which is silly -- I mean, I wouldn't take that approach with, say, a broken arm or a clogged artery.

The talk therapy is going well; just about the time I thought it was a huge and expensive waste of time we actually started working on specific issues and goals, and I can actually see a bit of progress in changing my thought patterns...which, it turns out, tend to lean heavily in the beating-myself-up-for-being-normal reason. Again, at times I'll walk out of a session thinking, "This is so elementary, and on some level I already know it -- why do I need to pay someone to tell me what I already know?" But I think the element of human interaction, instead of living my dramas all in my head, and the element of accountability, make a difference. (Which, come to think of it, are also points applicable to being part of a faith community, instead of trying to "freelance" one's Christianity.)

So...anyway...I want to think that, one way or the other, I'm moving "closer to fine," as the song says.


toujoursdan said...

I would be really interested to learn if it changed your mood over the long term. When I tried drugs I just seem to have all the bad side effects without any benefits. The talk therapy was much much more effective. I gave up on the drugs altogether.

Sheryl said...

The drugs did help, but I didn't realize they were helping me until I was taking them for about 2 months. I was just so much more relaxed and...even about things.

And the therapy helps, too. I don't know if it was the accountability factor as much as it was just verbalizing the distorted thinking I let myself get into. When you actually say outloud why you feel the way you feel, and have someone say it back to you, you realize just how...not right it is.

I'll be praying for you in your journey.

Anonymous said...

boy, you're saying everything I felt when I dealt with depression several years ago. One of the biggest hurdles was giving up the idea that I should be able to handle this myself, without therapy or drugs; it was hard accepting that my way obviously wasn't working, and that maybe I would have to do what other people do, namely take a drug and see a therapist. I then learned that taking the drug seemed to enable me to do the work and re-thinking that was necessary, by enabling me to have some energy (not like an upper, more like I wasn't being dragged down.) So take heart. And best wishes as you take care of yourself.

LutheranChik said...

I know I haven't been on Lexapro long enough to truly evaluate its effectiveness, but one thing I have noticed in myself is less mental aggression -- I haven't been cursing at bad drivers or internally swearing at myself or otherwise getting blood-pressure-rising angry -- as a matter of fact there was an episode at our party this weekend that, had it happened several months ago I'd be going ape-ca-ca over; but handled it with grace and calm. And it wasn't because I was too "stoned" on my happy pill to care.;-) I found myself thinking about it as an intellectual issue and not an emotional one. And I do agree about the energy...since the initial woozies have mostly gone away, I find myself doing a little bit more in the course of the day -- not so much sitting and vegetating. Of course, the talk therapy also plays into that.

But...anyway...of all the symptoms I was warned about regarding these pills, the one that has bothered me the most is the dizziness/lightheadedness, and I think that that might eventually go away completely, although I may have to switch blood pressure pills at some point.

LutherPunk said...

I was on an SSRI for a couple of years in conjunction with therapy. The first few weeks sucked, but once the doctor and I worked through the side effects, the combination of meds and therapy really was a life saver. They are good tools that I am glad you are using. Blessings to you.

Mary Beth said...

Mmmm. Lexapro. Best one I have tried yet.

Dizziness and wackiness if I forget to take it. I can live with that.

In my situation, I look at all the depressed, bipolar, addicted people in my family line and feel darn happy to have found something that works for me...and that it can be handled without a lobotomy.

Kidding, but only a little.

David said...

I know a few folks who have been helped a great deal by Lexapro. In one person's case, she says that it saved her life.

Scott Alan said...

Your story sounds so much like what happened to me about two years ago. Several months of upset stomach and sleep-deprived nights, when combined with my grandmother's death, lead to a meltdown of my own. Lexapro and then Citalopram have helped me quite a bit, as did talk therapy.

I think the major benefit I get is the ability to see emotional distress much more clearly. Dunno if it's that way for you, but I pray that your emotional and physical health will continue on a path toward wholeness, and that you are given the tools to help yourself along that path.