The 7 Stages of Lexapro

“You ain’t never seen nothing crazier than this ***** when he off his Lexapro”

-Kanye West


A few months ago I freaked out at an airport. During the three hour drive to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, my lovely friend, Laura, put up with my steady descent into the madness that is my newly-developed-pre-flight-anxiety. My breathing was labored, my arms and feet were going numb, my head felt like a helium balloon, and my bowels were having a heyday (TMI, whatevs).

Before and after this episode, I had mini versions of these bizarre freak-out sessions. “The dizziness” occurred every day for about a month. It crept up at work, at the grocery, while driving over bridges, in conversation, while playing violin in orchestra, and while eating lunch with friends. The likelihood of the dizziness happening increased when I felt trapped in a place, situation, or conversation. The weird thing was that there seemed to be no cause. I was perfectly satisfied and happy in my life.

I got in to see a doctor as soon as I realized that the dizziness wasn’t going to go away. Knowing that I had anxiety issues in the past, my doctor prescribed the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Lexapro with minimal questions asked. I was hesitant to go down this path becuase this wasn’t my first encounter with a SSRI. Two years ago I was on Zoloft for 3 months, but it didn’t change anything one bit. Zoloft didn’t seem to vibe with my brain chemistry, so I gave up on medication. Suffice to say I didn’t have high hopes my second time around the SSRI merry-go-round.

Unsatisfied with this easy way out of a problem that could be much bigger, I visited another doctor. As usual, I did a lot of research online and decided that I was probably anemic. Wha-la! No wonder I was so frail and faint! The power of self-diagnosis! Nope, doc #2 said I did not “look anemic” and told me to take my Lexapro. So I submitted to his requests. Two months later and here I am.

Mental illness is serious, but it doesn’t need to be an overweight elephant in the room. I’m not an overly open person, but sharing this doesn’t feel like a big deal. I used to feel shame, but this time around with mental illness it felt less mysterious and more tangible. I talk about my “dizzy” time like I do a cold. I don’t want pity. I don’t think I’ve done anything heroic. I want to make light of the madness that is the mind and laugh about it.

Here are the 7 stages of Lexapro as told by a non-medical professional:

Acceptance

Everyone has their own crazy, but some crazies are more mainstream than others. Mental illness is no joke. It enters your life demanding your undivided attention. It’s so common that it’s starting to feel like the new hotness. We mentally ill folk all have our reasons for wanting to go medicated. Find your muse!

The Doctor’s Appointment

You’ve written down your symptoms on a folded napkin. You’ve spent hours on WebMD even though your friends tell you that you should block it from your web browser. Your doctor-induced panic skyrockets as you sit in the waiting room, most likely filling out insurance papers incorrectly. The doctor calls you in. “Have you tried eating a well-balanced diet and exercising?” Five minutes later he sends you out the door with a prescription in exchange for your folded napkin. All fixed!

The “Do I really need to take this? Maybe I just have an inner ear infection” Stage

You didn’t have this one? Oh okay, nevermind.

The Placebo Effect

(Swallows pill) “So sorry I have to cancel all my plans. The meds label says I can’t drive or operate machinery /:” I’m dizzy. Am I dizzy? Will I wake up tomorrow?

Drowsiness

Sleep, yawn, sleep, yawn, sleep. Losing motivation to do all life activities has never felt so…surprisingly acceptable?

Freedom

“I’M HAPPIER THAT I’VE EVER FELT IN MY LIFE AND DIDN’T KNOW I COULD BE SO EASY GOING??? MARRY ME, LEXAPRO!””

The Inevitable End

“Do I stay on Lexapro for the rest of my life or will the magic brain chemicals transform me into a functioning human being someday? Will it get recalled? Am I fueling Big Pharma and their greedy agenda? Will it destroy my heart, liver, immune system, stomach, feet muscles, nose cartilage, eyes, and/or lungs?”

After two months on Lexapro, I am in the freedom stage. I didn’t know what to expect when I went on this mysterious medication, but I can say that it has gone seamlessly so far. There were days in the beginning where I thought my side effects would last forever, but they wore off as expected. I love Lexapro because I no longer have physical symptoms of anxiety, but a twinge of darkness still exists in me. I wouldn’t want my anxious mind to be completely healed. I would be a pretty boring person without a hint of crazy. After all, mental illness has been linked to creativity, which is cool. I still look under the bed every night and convince myself I have diseases on the Internet, but I’m no longer as burdened by it.

I can’t ensure that Lexapro will work for you. Finding a SSRI is like making your first move on that Windows XP game called Minesweeper; you’ll either get a number or a scary bomb. (Okay, maybe it’s not totally the same.)

For what it’s worth, if you’re going through something I want you to know that I was going through something too. It took awhile, but I finally found a way out that worked. I hope you do too.

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