Why Getting Off My Mental Health Meds Was a Bad Idea
I created this artwork while smack-dab in a low mental health place over the jummer. My anxiety was causing my hand to no-joke shake with the paint brush in it, yet I felt so sure: everything I was going through was material and it would take me somewhere. (p.s. Is it obvious that I’d just seen the newest Aladdin movie?)
Well, it happened again.
I feel like life for me over the past decade has basically been this: me scurrying around scooping up my marbles, then losing them again. Scoop em up, lose em again. Scoop, lose, scoop, lose.
The particular Marble Scattering that just occurred, though, I mostly did to myself.
In late spring, I had successfully thrived through several consecutive months of strong mental wellbeing and successful management of my ADHD symptoms. I had all my personal/home support systems in check, was straddling clouds of inspiration and creativity, found myself plowing through to-do lists and social endeavors like a John Deere tractor, enjoyed almost all of my inner thoughts about myself and the world, and generally found life to be manageable, maybe even — dare I say it — easy.
Let me pause here to offer my medication backdrop: My anti-anxiety go-to med for these 10 years has been Lexipro. I have done lots of personal development around acceptance of this gift from modern medicine; therapy and inner work have assisted in my slow descent off the pedestal that used to be a shrine to my ego. When anxiety first presented in my early thirties, I used to sit on that pedestal — suffering and panic-ridden — as if by not accepting the assistance of pharmaceutical intervention I somehow was stronger (albeit iller). But then I got wiser. I’ve written a “Medication Manifesto” to myself and have it tucked away in my journal for regular review, its core message that I am strong for all the work I put into my wellness — medication included — and that it’s not cheating. After all, strong people accept help.
But, after having just explained to you how much comfort I had worked hard for surrounding the gift of Lexipro, I still had this quiet eagerness to get off of it. Without even consciously knowing it, I think I was secretly looking for enough evidence, enough stability, enough consecutive weeks/months of my marbles well-kept to warrant an off-ramp from anti-anxiety meds.
In May, I was solid — really, really solid. And I was ready to hit the eject button to my pal, Lexipro. I said, “Thanks, old friend. You were there for me when I needed you, but life is telling me I’m ready to move along now. I’m grateful for you, and I will now say my goodbyes. SEE YA!”
So, I did. I removed Lexipro from my regiment.
Oh, how that was not the right move.
I don’t mean to throw Life under the bus (because it’s just doing its thang, nothing personal of course), but shortly after I said ta-ta to Lexipro, I did unexpectedly lose my favorite housecleaner/laundry-manager/home-organizer (my beloved Jane) and I did transition from school mode into summer mode with four kids around me all the time (I thought I had a balanced-out summer plan with proper babysitting stints but apparently not — the ample amounts of me-time I glean during the school year didn’t transfer over) and I did have back-to-back houseguests (which sort of throws me off without enough reset time between).
Actually, to be fair, Life only threw the first curveball in that list. The others I knew were coming. I was just too much of a dingbat to account for them when I made my “I’m OK to go off Lexipro” decision. Like I said, I was in conquer-life mode when I made the decision, not prepare-for-the-worst mode. Oh, and also, I was on Lexipro when I made the decision to go off Lexipro. Kinda twisty, the way that works.
By early July, I had lost a couple marbles. I was instantly aware… on standby as I ramped up mindfulness meditation and self-care as best I could. But by mid-July I had lost the whole lot of those freaking things, my mind a pretty panicky and whacked-out place, my body affected by sleep loss, appetite loss, heart racing, and overall pretty damn shaky.
I texted my favorite full-disclosure people to fill them in and got back on Lexipro on July 14th.
It’s been a slow return to mental health wellness since.
And, since I’m 76% not embarrassed about it, I’ll say that because Lexipro was taking a much longer time to kick in and since I was forced to admit that I couldn’t handle continuing to go downhill during the wait, I layered on a second medication to try to get some relief.
And I did.
So, here I am — a little beat up and weary — but better. Much, much better.
I’ll stop here to share with you what one of my favorite people gifted me as I was getting better:
I was feeling like my inner tube might actually be losing air, but it turns out if you’re breathing then you’re doing the most important thing right and that must have meant my head was in fact above the water. I thank my dear friend, who reminded me of this when I needed it most.
I’ve learned from one of my favorite inspirational teachers, Glennon Doyle Melton, that there’s a less intimidating way to approach decision-making than we often do. This quote of hers resonates with me, “Just do the next right thing one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.”
The me in May believed the next right thing to do was to go off my mental health med. The me today is abundantly aware that anti-anxiety meds might be in my life for a lot longer than I expected them to be.
The past five months have been material that took me somewhere, and that means I’m a few steps closer to home. I’m grateful for that.
Arthur, T. (2019). Why Getting Off My Mental Health Meds Was a Bad Idea. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/why-getting-off-my-mental-health-meds-was-a-bad-idea/