Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Why I Went Off Anti-Depressants

A few years ago one of my girlfriends told me she posed nude for a Japanese magazine and got paid $2000 for her trouble.

"Oh, that's nice." I replied.
"You're not shocked?"
"Should I be?"

I'm generally unflappable. I used to think it was because I lived a very interesting life and surrounded myself with others who lived similarly. Dullards need not apply was my philosophy. And being around interesting people inures you to the quotidian. So to me, getting paid $2000 for posing nude for the Japanese was just not that big a deal. Knowing my sister once had to tread water in shark-infested waters off the coast of Africa and keep her friend afloat until the people on the yacht they were on turned around and rescued them? That was a big deal because A. Imminent death and B. LindyMOMSGOINGTOKILLYOU.

When I went on antidepressants I was in bad shape. I had lost all feeling in my hands after my ankle surgery in 2008. Coming off crutches screwed with my neck muscles which in turn affected my nerves and presto chango: no feelings in my hands. I dropped and shattered glasses in the sink, couldn't write with a pen and was unable to tie my shoes. I cried all the time. Even though I felt sorry for myself I believed I was very much part of the problem. My brain was set to We're All Going To Die and I couldn't stop myself from feeling bad every. single. day.

Thoughts become things. Choose wisely.

Someone who saw me every day during this time suggested I see a professional and my first response was, "No way; I like using my feet to hold a glass in a restaurant." But I knew it was time to get help. On the advice of a psychiatrist I went on a low dose of 10 mg of Lexapro* and my pity party shrank by one occupant.

I stopped crying. I stopped dropping glasses in the sink. And I stopped wearing shoes that required shoelaces.

After a year, the Lexapro had done its job. But if I thought nothing shocked me before, this last year on anti-depressants removed any vestiges of even the slightest possible recoil that I could have from life. I was deadened from the chin up.

My friends would tell me what upset them and I would stare blankly into space. Unable to see how they had constructed such huge mountains out of such minuscule molehills. My own mountains-to-molehills ratio had shrunk by such a large number that I was only able to empathize with others via the comments section of their blogs. If they had no blog I hurried them off the phone. I'm sorry your life sucks. Take a number and get in line.

I've now been off Lexapro for over two months. When I decided to quit I thought I might go into the shitter because, you know, I have goals and all.

But I didn't.

I would go back on them in a heartbeat if I started to slide down the proverbial rabbit hole. I still can't feel the last two knuckles of any of my fingers but the Lexapro gave me distance and perspective on where I was in life. I can now tie my shoes and sign my checks. Can world domination be far behind?

If you think you need anti-d's, DO NOT go to an internist, gynecologist or your local grocer. You need to see a psychiatrist because they're the ONLY ones who can diagnose your trauma and dispense antidepressants responsibly. They're trained in the vagaries of the brain. Do not let people convince you to the contrary or you can end up with a diagnosis for the vapors. After all, if you break a leg, do you go to a dermatologist?

And please don't write me and say you got a script from your dentist and you were fine and I'm a moron. You were lucky. A psychiatrist makes you check in regularly to monitor your mental health. A dentist will only remind you to floss.

And I certainly don't need you to tell me I'm a moron while my mother is still alive.

End of chat.

*Lexapro worked for me. It doesn't mean it will work for you. I'm not a doctor although I'd like to play one on TV.


  1. Great post. I'm afraid I can't empathise, never having been through what you have, but I certainly think you've given some great advice. And made me laugh in the process. Of course.

  2. excellent post.

    But of course, I expect nothing less.

  3. GREAT advice Susie and I can emphasize having had 3 bouts of endogeneous depression! I never would have considered asking my internist/dentist/dermatologit to diagnose me and hopefully, those reading this won't either.

    Hope you never, never have to get a new prescription!

  4. You were smart AND proactive. You did something about your situation. I would say that you took the bull by the horns but the mental image of you using your feet instead of your hands...

  5. That is great information and advice.
    I wouldn't have been shocked either by the nude thing, it's getting to be more shocking that someone hasn't posed nude.

  6. I've never taken anti-depressants, although I have friends and family who probably often wish I would. I do have someone in my life who takes them without making his regular visits to his psych. I can't say I like him more now that he doesn't feel, but at least he's not waking me up at 2am with phone calls now.

    If I ever decide to use, I promise I'll go to an appropriate medical/psychiatric professional.

  7. I love your style. Good advice, packaged with an appropriate dose of humor. Really helps it all go down well.

    Glad you're feeling happier. :)

  8. Anonymous10:36 AM

    Although I have never had a depressing moment in my life (HA!), I think this post of yours was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. Oh, and BTW, I think football is depressing. Superbowl Sunday is approaching, and the stores will be empty. Shop, people, shop! Avoid the game and help the economy!
    Love and aloha,MJ

  9. -->I needed my "vitamins" after having a baby. Postpartum happens despite what Tom Cruise says.

  10. I saw taking antidepressants as being the sam as taking antibiotics: something is medically wrong, go the doctor, get pills to fix it, get better, stop taking pills.

    Thanks for this post. Very well done. And "inures you to the quotidian" is my new favorite phrase.

  11. Anonymous3:29 PM

    I have a parent in my classroom that appears to be chronically unhappy.

    Always moppy, never smiles nor talks and is generally lethargic in all activity. I feel bad for his beautiful and vibrant wife and two delightful kids.

  12. Great post & very sound advice! All given with your signature wit & charm!

  13. So, did your psychiatrist remind you to floss? Hah, didn't think so.

    Can I start the bidding at $50?

  14. Thank you, Twitter!


  15. So how much did you hate the Newsweek story about antidepressants and placebos?

  16. Hey Suz,

    My mom-in-law, the one who was diagnosed with Alzheimers by the CA DMV, was put on Lexapro by her cardiologist. I guess he thought her Alzheimer's was because she had a depressed heart.

    By the way she didn't have Alzheimers but she does have major depression which they are treating, not at all.

  17. I was on anti-anxiety meds for a while and I hated taking them, they made me feel like I was always a step behind everything. I talked to my doctor and decided to take a more holistic approach. I was weaned off the meds ... and I started doing breathing exercises, and I used pick me ups like walking or cleaning or using small accomplishments to take my mind off the anxiety. It's been working. I like it better this way!

  18. Great post from a strong woman!! I will be telling one particular girlfriend to pop by for a read. Sound advice.

  19. And if someone *does* call you a moron, I will hunt them down and NAMIOHO RENGEE I WILL CUT YOU!!!

  20. Great post! I have struggled on and off with depression myself. I have currently been completely off medication for about half a year... but this damn ND winter is enough to make anyone depressed. ;)

  21. I've considered anti-depressants in the past, but I could never build up the nerve to seek help. I came out of it on my own, but I do wish that I had taken the time then, maybe it wouldn't have taken so long to pull myself up if I had looked for guidance outside of my own head. Though in truth, some part of me didn't want to change the way I thought. Still, if I ever reach that point again I'll be sure to take your advice.

  22. Lexapro has helped me get through tough times too. It didn't ever make me not feel though. I still got sad, happy or angry. But when I first neede a med it was because of anger management secondary to fatigue issues. I turned into a raving angry raving lunatic like Lewis Black. Normally I'm more like the occasional temper tantrum throwing Ben Stiller. Hus has called me Ben in the past.
    It helps to have insight on how you react on the meds. MOst people dont'.

  23. Suzy, you excel at mining the story of your life for comedy gold. Unfortunately that's as much as I can care right now, but still....good job!
    You always make me laugh, even though sometimes there are a few tears mixed in.

  24. You know what? I'll tell ya, my "expensive friend" prescribed every anti-d in the book.

    And I woke up just as sad and woeful as the day before, so, why fry my liver over dark grey vs black? You know?

    What I DID like though,were the beta blockers. Now, those made me feel very very nice...extremly very nice.

    Me likee.