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Why I Stopped Taking My Anxiety Medication... and Started Again

Taking medication for your mental health doesn't make you weak. Stopping and starting again doesn't make you weak.

Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash

I stopped taking my medication in October.

Fed up with the fog my medication often put me in, I stopped taking my daily 10mg of Lexapro. I felt like I was out of control. I felt like I wasn’t myself. My life was dictated by chewing a pill that tasted horrible as the anxiety bubbled in my chest like hot soup on a stove.

I started taking Lexapro, an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, in March of last year. I began the spring semester of my junior year of college medicated. I’m not ashamed to say it. I was also in therapy. However, the therapy sessions were ineffective due to the lack of counselors at my university and the fact that they were also not professionally trained therapists. So I stopped going to my therapy sessions (which I just got an email about last week that I hadn’t been to counseling since May).

I was fully relying on the Lexapro.

During April and May, I felt as if I was drowning, my head barely above water. My world screeched to a halt and came crashing down. During this time, I discovered newfound toxicity in those around me. And for a while, I was alone. I was having suicidal thoughts. I wondered what my purpose was. I tried to validate myself through poetic Instagram captions and boys I liked who didn’t care to read them. There were people around, of course, but I felt empty. I blamed the Lexapro. At the end of spring, I took a break from the Lexapro. I left it on my nightstand until I felt as if I needed it again.

Summer was a strange time. Still feeling alone, I searched for ways to fulfill myself. I was overworked at jobs that underpaid me. I was tired all of the time. I worked two customer service jobs throughout the summer. Each taught me valuable lessons, and while I met incredible people, I put my job before my health. It was here, that I restarted the Lexapro dosages again. After long days at work, I was completely overwhelmed, often crashing onto my bed with shaky legs and anxiety in my chest. I went through this cycle for three months.

In September, I got fired.

That same month, I found a new job at my university as a photography lab monitor. This was a low-paying job, but it was something that I was skilled in. I managed the darkroom, refilling chemicals and providing supplies to students. I sat at a desk mostly, and talked to people as they asked for things to complete their projects. But early in the fall, my health started to decline—drastically. I was constantly in pain, battling joint stiffness and constant itchiness. For months, putting on clothes was a task as my skin was just too sensitive for fabric. I was back to being in a fog, but this time it was different. This one was brought on by lack of sleep, nutritious food (and frequent meals), and my slow inability to work.

Psoriatic arthritis had taken over my body.

In October, I spilled my Lexapro across the carpet during one of the most debilitating panic attacks I could ever remember. I’d just watched a triggering scene from the movie Eighth Grade and had to call upon my friend because I couldn’t trust myself being alone. My Lexapro wasn’t working anymore, and I’d hit yet another rock bottom. I let the pills sit on my floor for days before I vacuumed them. I chose holistic healing methods such as essential oils and mediating to find relief.

From November until yesterday, I hadn’t been medicated. I hadn’t reached for an orange pill bottle or checked CVS for refills. I hadn’t even thought about those tiny white pills that carried away my anxiety like a receding tide. But last night, I revisited an old friend I'd lost touch with: My Lexapro.

I am not embarrassed to say that I am taking antidepressants. I am not embarrassed to say that I’ve stopped, let it go, and come back to it (like a lot of my past relationships). I’ve found that I am my strongest when I decide to no longer wallow and suffer in my own mental health. I cannot go about life, completely alone, without a little push—whether it be from Lexapro or from a friend. I stopped taking my Lexapro because it made me feel weak. When, in reality, not taking it doesn’t make me feel like I’m brave. Instead, it’s just my pride overshadowing my need for my anxiety medication.

If you’re taking medication for your mental health, know that you are not alone. Nor are you weak for taking it. Saying to yourself, “I need this to help me,” makes you strong because you’re not denying that it exists. You’re strong because of it.

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