Medicine Experience Recap
I want to preface this by saying that I am in no way a doctor. I am not a psychiatrist. I am presenting my own experience with a medicine and that’s it.
If you have questions about my experience then I am happy to help but I can not in any way help you decide if medicine is a good choice for you- that’s between you and your doctor(s).
I also want to say that I do not credit my recovery to the medicine (lexapro) that I was on. I spent too much of my life attributing my successes to outside factors when I am the one who saved myself from my eating disorder. The medicine helped me for sure, but I do not think it “healed” me- I am the one who healed me.
I was put on lexapro after much deliberation. My therapist was the one who first brought it up (I had been going to her on and off for years- she brought it up for the first time in the midst of healing from my relapse- 2015). I was not about it when she first brought it up. What if the medicine controlled my axiety too well and I went out of control with being carefree and happy???? (irrational thought btw, but a real one all the same that I was genuinely concerned about)
On the other side of that thought though, I kind of wanted to go onto medicine. I was relieved that she’d brought it up, because I was so sick of trying to fight for something that just wasn’t clicking in my brain no matter how hard my rational side tried.
When you have a mental illness or disorder, like anxiety in my case, there is legitimately a malfunction of the neurotransmitters in your brain. They do not function as they should. There is quite literally a chemical imbalance in your brain, and in this case, sometimes even trying as hard as you can by yourself is not enough to overcome it. Sometimes you need a little outside help.
I remember sitting in my psychiatrist’s office, recounting to her the things that regularly went on in my mind. The games I played with myself, the constant fear of falling while walking, the OCD tendencies, etc. I remember thinking that she probably thought I was lying, or that I was crazy. But she didn’t. She understood- even if maybe she herself hadn’t experienced the thoughts that tormented me- she understood that I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t the mastermind behind these irrational thoughts but instead it was my chemical imbalance, my anxiety.
She prescribed me lexapro and to be honest, I never noticed any significant change in my mood or anxiety. She said that this was how it was supposed to be-unnoticeable. But over time I could see that my irrational thoughts were less and less. And when I had them, I recognized that they were irrational and could simply push them out of my mind.
In the meantime I did HELLA work on myself. I went abroad, where I consider the biggest chunk of my recovery to have been made. And not because of the medicine, but because of the spontaneity, the friendships, the drastic change in environment from what I was used to. The way that I appreciated life.
I continued to improve through the next 2.5 years- I met my boyfriend I’ve been dating since March 2016, I started lifting weights, I graduated college, I started graduate school and started at a new job. I wasn’t completely anxiety free during the 3 years that I was on lexapro, but holy moly it became a whole lot more manageable.
I tapered off over the span of 3 months under the supervision of a doctor summer 2018, 3 years after going on. My doctor had told me that in the 3 year time span, my brain should have been “trained" by the synthetic manipulation of neurotransmitters. And it was. My taper was seamless. I experienced no withdrawal, no side effects. I listened to my doctor’s instruction precisely.
My anxiety levels did not change when I came off of lexapro. The medicine had done its job and no longer served me. I still have anxiety, but my anxiety no longer controls my life, and my experience with medicine to aid in this process was nothing but positive.
Personal side effects I experienced were a bit of drowsiness going onto it, a significantly lowered tolerance for alcohol throughout the 3 years on it, and, on the ONE day I forgot to take it throughout my time on it, shakiness and lightheadedness.
I am often asked if I experienced weight gain while on lexapro, and I cannot say, because I was actively in the process of trying to gain weight (weight restoring from my relapse of anorexia nervosa) when I went on. I do know that I did not gain additional weight once I stopped actively trying to gain and was still on the medicine, and that my natural weight settled on the medicine at my pre-ED weight. But even if this medicine had made me gain weight, I would not change having gone on it, because it aided in me being able to control my anxiety for the first time in my life. And happiness is infinitely more important than a number on the scale.