Let me explain where I’m coming from:
I was born and raised in the suburbs north of Dallas Texas. I enjoyed a comfortable middle-class life. When I was sixteen years old, I remember battling some intense anger and frustration at some of the aspects of my life. I remember telling my parents one day that I was so angry, I didn’t know why, and nothing was helping me to get rid of my anger. Looking back maybe this was a normal thing for a teenage male to experience while my body transitioned to adulthood. I’m the oldest child so my parents had never experienced raising a teenager before so they sought professional help. I talked to a counsellor for a couple hours and she thought I might be depressed and sent me over to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with major depression disorder.
So at sixteen I started taking 10mg of Lexapro daily. The doctor, my parents and I never thought that there could be long-term consequences from taking a drug that altered my brain chemistry. But it seemed to work and my anger disappeared. With my anger went all of my other emotions too but I never noticed to what extent they had gone until I stopped taking Lexapro.
Later after I turned twenty-one, I was in a serious relationship with a girl. We were planning on getting married and had been looking at engagement rings etc. She was older and graduated from college before I did and she moved back home and we tried the long distance thing. One night she called and told me she was going to sleep with someone but couldn’t cheat on me so she wanted to break up. Looking back it was a good thing we didn’t get married but at the time it caused a lot of pain and distress for me. These negative emotions were totally normal for someone who had just had their heart broken. I just so happened to have an appointment with my psychiatrist in the following weeks and I told him what happened and how depressed I had become. So he offered to up my prescription to 20mg a day. I thought, hey why not? Well, it worked wonders and I immediately stopped feeling all of those normal negative emotions. I went from depressed to couldn’t care less about what had happened. Sounds healthy doesn’t it?
So I took 10mg for five years and then 20mg for the next seven years.
Now I want to share why I decided to stop taking Lexapro.
First I went on a family vacation to Wyoming one summer and forgot to pack my Lexapro. I ended up having to drive two and a half hours to Jackson Hole to find a pharmacy. It took them a few hours to fill the prescription because they had to contact my doctor, insurance and whoever else. I realized that day that I was a complete slave to my medication and that it had cost me an entire day of vacation with my family.
Second, I was traveling for work and was on a weekend trip, and I forgot it again. You would think I would have learned my lesson, but it happened again. I didn’t have time to get it filled so I decided I would wait until I got home. By the third day, I felt terrible. I felt like I was going insane. I barely made it back to my house to take my pill and towards the end I kept thinking I was going to end up in a hospital somewhere.
Third, I got married in 2013 and after two years of marriage my wife had noticed that I lacked appropriate emotional responses to situations. She asked me to consider trying to come off of the medication.
Finally, the last straw came a few months after she had asked me to consider trying to come off of the drug. I was teaching juniors and seniors at a school in Dallas ISD. I started to get very angry at my students and coworkers and even my wife. I snapped a couple of times and let a few students have it which is not something I would normally do. My wife and I started to try and figure out what was going on, and she noticed a tiny sticker on my Lexapro. It was a note from the pharmacy saying that the manufacturer of my Lexapro had changed but that it was the same drug. I called my psychiatrist, and he said that even a change in manufacturer can cause adverse side effects. So he called in a new prescription from the old manufacturer.
The culmination of these events led me to decide I no longer wanted to take Lexapro, and I decided that as soon as school was out I would try to come off. It was the beginning of the most difficult thing I have ever done.