Better Living Through Chemistry

The story starts like this: I was in a bad place. I had a lot of legit reasons to be sad, which I’ve written about here, here, and here. Sadness had blossomed into full-blown depression. The situation at the root of all of this pain was now a small part of it. When I wasn’t asleep, which was rare, I was exhausted. I was permanently in a bad mood. My friends and family were worried about me.

I was no stranger to therapy, but I had never taken pills before. No Ritalin to power all-nighters in college. No swallowing Valium with a cocktail. It isn’t accurate to say that I never experimented with drugs, but I never wanted to take any medication that would alter my personality. I was a writer. I needed to experience highs and lows, to feel deeply even when it was painful. Psychiatric medication would harsh my creative buzz, man.

I was also afraid that having an RX for antidepressants and a shrink’s number on speed dial would signify to the world that I had been broken. I wasn’t the strong, independent woman I’d tried to present myself as, but a damaged, emotionally unstable one.  

Finally, I’d read enough about antidepressants on WebMd to know that I’d have to start drinking in moderation for real. I was 28 and although I hadn’t been drinking much lately—it is hard to mix a drink in bed— I felt sure that between the sobriety and the personality-altering pills, my social life would be over.

The battle of whether or not to try the Lexapro my psychiatrist prescribed went on in my head, but eventually, I gave in despite my fears.

For the first few days I felt a little high. Like I’d taken too much cough syrup. The giddiness was short-lived, and soon, I was back to sleeping too much again. Except that this time I felt awake and refreshed when I woke up.

The pills, which I’d dubbed my happy pills, enabled me to push my sadness and anxieties aside some of the time. I was still dealing with a terrible tragedy and I could still wallow in my pain. But it took effort to wallow. The Lexapro muted my pain. It didn’t take away my capacity to feel at all.

Nor did it make me less creative. In fact, most of my best work has happened after I let Lexapro into my life. Understanding pain is a helpful tool for writers, but it isn’t nearly as important as being able to thinking clearly.

I did have to slow down on my booze intake for while my body adjusted to its new normal on meds. Also, when you don’t want X to interfere with your drinking, you’re already drinking plenty.

Instead of being labeled as a depressive, a SSRI junkie, or tragic girl, I quickly discovered that I was not the only on meds among my co-workers and friends. I was just the only one talking about it.

That’s why I’m writing about it today. Lexapro changed my life for the better. I feel really lucky that this prescription has worked so well for me for almost eight years without any negative side effects. It isn’t always that easy. I hope that talking about it, sharing success and even horror stories, and supporting each other will help us all achieve mental wellness.