As noted in previous articles about anxiety medication, Anxiety Medication – Don’t Believe the Hype! and Further Thoughts on Medication, it is my personal opinion that the less medication one has, the better off one is. Among the negative aspects of medication are that not all the effects of medication are known, doctors are quick to react to physical symptomology but often fail to address the mental causes of physical disorders, and, the drug companies in the United States make billions of dollars annually and need to keep people dependent on their drugs in order to keep that income. However, on some occasions, the use of medication can be highly beneficial and the side effects very nominal, when medication is used appropriately and when needed.
When first considering the usage of medication, I was not sure whether or not it was right for me. I felt somewhat like a failure for going on it, was afraid of the potential negative side effects, and was also quite concerned with the cost, knowing that a month’s supply of common medications can cost anywhere from $100-$300. But, I felt like I was not as relaxed as I wanted to be, and I knew that being relaxed was a better way of life, and I finally rationalized that I could always go off the medication if I did not like its effects on my life. So, I decided to go ahead and take it. The doctor I saw was one on my local college campus with whom I already had a very solid working relationship based on previous experiences. Good doctors who listen to the patient and weigh his or her reports against professional experience are very hard to find. I gave him a good case for why I wanted to go on to anxiety medication (significant anxiety symptoms in very non-threatening social situations), and we eventually agreed that I would start taking a ten milligram dose of Lexapro, which is the lowest dose a person could take.
The first two weeks or so took some adjusting. I felt a bit “funny,” is the best way I could describe it. I am one who is pretty articulate with the written word, but some of the feelings that occurred in the first couple weeks with Lexapro were ones I had never previously experienced, and it’s really difficult to put those feelings into words. But, during the initial adjustment phase, which my doctor warned me about, none of these strange feelings felt significant or threatening enough such that they warranted an emergency visit to the doctor. After two or three weeks, I visited the doctor to do a brief follow-up to make sure that everything was going okay. This had been scheduled after I left the first day, per the doctor’s request. I reported to him the funky feelings, but that basically I felt okay, and that I did notice increased relaxation in my life. After some questions, he seemed to agree that I was doing well, and so we stayed with it. Even this little dosage helped to keep me noticeably more relaxed in anxiety-provoking situations.
While it still was not perfect, and while I still felt like the same person but without so much anxiety, it was quite beneficial. I still had to learn how to make conversation, how to be confident when talking in front of class, and all sorts of other little social skills. The Lexapro did not completely change my life, but it helped to reduce those anxious symptoms and the amount of time I spent worrying in my head such that a version much closer to the real me could come forward to more people. I keep doing all the other things that I was doing to reduce anxiety (exercise, dieting, sleeping, counseling, having supportive friends, and taking risks – all part of The Anxiety Bible), and the medication turned out to be just another helpful piece.
As a side note, and those who are financially unable to afford medications should pay attention, I was able to afford this medication because the manufacturer of Lexapro (I don’t know the name) offered patience assistance for this medication. Basically, I filled out a form stating my monthly income, about $1000 per month at the time, and then the rest was in the company’s hands. The company ended up deciding that I qualified (the logic is that giving free medication in the short run will enhance customer satisfaction and lead to repeat customer sales in the future), and they gave me the medication, normally like $125 a month or so, completely free! Other drug manufacturers do this as well, but I am not familiar with which companies do and do not – just know that this option is out there and be sure to ask your doctor if it is available for the medication you desire.
I never really had any problems or issues with it in the past year that I have been on it. There was a period of about two weeks where I felt funky (again a strange feeling hard to put in words) during the summer, and while I am not sure whether or not this was the medication, I am convinced that it was responsible nonetheless because I was not taking or making any changes in my life, and I had never experienced such a feeling previous to Lexapro.
Now, at the present, I have decided to go off of the medication, based on my view that the less of it I have in my body, the better. I have decided to instead take a generic type of Xanax, which is a drug that works three to four hours at a time. The Lexapro was something that I took daily; it was not really helping with the more intense situations; finally, I felt that I had gained enough skill in managing anxiety such that the effects of the Lexapro were no longer needed on a daily basis. This is the ideal in my eyes – to use medication to help one in gaining skill at reducing anxiety, until the medication is no longer needed. Some day, I hope to go off the generic Xanax entirely as well, but right now, if I do not take it during presentations or times when I teach classes, my head swirls to the point where I cannot think, my hands sweat quite intensely, and my back and shoulders all tense up. The Xanax, at .5 milligrams, reduces those effects much more than Lexapro, and I am going to try a 1.0 milligram dose when I have the next opportunity.
Overall, I had a very positive experience with Lexapro. Keep in mind that all people are different and that not everyone will respond to this medication in the same way. Some may take it and receive no effects, while others may take it and have very significant negative side effects. However, for me it was effective and helped me with few or no side effects, which is the definition of a successful experience with medication. Hopefully, this article helps others as they gain experience with medication!