There’s a lot you don’t really find out about going on psychiatric drugs until you’re in the throes of it. Recently some of the side effects have been driving me a little crazy, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.
Escitalopram (Cipralex/Lexapro) is an SSRI. I started on 5mg of this stuff and have worked my way up to 30mg. I have to owe this drug the last 2 years of functional person-hood because I really needed it to get my anxiety under control. I didn’t have a choice, I needed medications. I resisted for a while because I was scared I “wouldn’t be myself” and in a really twisted way, scared that my anxiety would go away completely. It’s like a Stockholm syndrome…with your own brain. It’s weird and this part of me was resistant through every new increase or change in medication.
First of all, this drug takes a while to take effect. Waiting for this drug to work was a tumultuous period that was not fun. My moods were all over the place. I didn’t know if I would be able to go to school, or if I was going to be dealing with such intense adrenaline rushes my short-term memory was gone. I didn’t know if I would be able to hand-in assignments on time. I would start my homework assignments and work on them whenever I could and hand them in as on time as I could. It was just about doing the best I could and hoping that I would stabilize. There was also the risk that this drug wouldn’t work and I would have to go through the whole “on-boarding” process all over again (idk, what the terminology is…on-boarding feels right haha).
I was lucky and the drug did seem to be improving my mood. However it did take months of figuring out the right dosage and constantly adjusting. Bi-weekly doctors appointments were my main extra-curricular in my senior year at uni. 😀
Even though there are side-effects that affect me daily there is no doubt that it’s better than dealing with crippling anxiety.
Number one least favorite side effect: Vivid dreams.
You may have encountered vivid dreams on an off night of sleep, or if you were sick with a fever. They’re the ones that feel REALLY real and seem very clear. I remember my dreams better than I remember movies. I remember them almost like real memories. Like I could tell you about my dream 2 nights ago. They’re so vivid I wake up and I can tell you details I saw. You’re not supposed to remember your dreams because they so freaking weird and terrifying. You might be able to recall bits and pieces of your dreams. I remember the transitions from dream to dream too!! Do they make more sense when you can remember them? Nope. Two nights ago I was at the Grammy’s, seated in the center section, just off to the side, with the seats in front of mine empty. I got to see all the action from my plushy, golden, velvet chair. Lorde was playing and being all cool and lordey. After she performed I HAD to get a present and card to her. Here I am zipping through the Four Seasons (I actually have around 3 hotel properties I frequent in my dreams – the Island Resort is siiiccckkk! My villa has the dopest bathroom in all of dreamland.) and I can’t find Lorde. I made the stupid decision of appointing someone to give her the card, but then I was walking around with a wrapped up board game (lame gift. Even lamer was the fact it was a Frozen themed board game.) that I really wanted to gift Lorde, even though it was a terrible gift. Of course, a whole bunch of old acquaintances are also at the hotel and are making the elevator go SO slowly and I just want to ditch this gift, but I can’t because I mentioned it in the card. The only takeaway I have from this dream is that should I ever meet Lorde, I will give her a card and gift card and mail it to her agent.
It can be kind of cool to watch a brand new movie in your head every night, but the novelty has worn off. I will trade in all cool perks of meeting celebrities and hooking up with crushes, frequenting all my favorite locales via self-flight, and whatever else, just to get some rest. I just want to reset and get shut eye, just like everyone else does. The dreams are annoying because they are sometimes so weird they throw me off for entire mornings, or even entire days. It’s also annoying because I mix up dream memories and real memories. Sometimes the dreams are super normal and I just go through my regular day, but by the time I wake up I’m exhausted because it’s the beginning of a day I have just completed and I have to do it all over again! 0% fun.
Number two least favorite side effect: SSRI Sweats.
I need to sleep in a refrigerator in order to not wake up in cold, damp sheets. Almost as soon as I started on SSRIs my body’s ability to regulate temperature at night has been out of whack. I live for those winter nights where a nice -5ºC breeze blows in.
Number three least favorite side effect: Waking up every three hours
Woooooo insomnia! I have the kind of insomnia that makes it hard to stay asleep. It used to be a lot worse, but I still wake up in the middle of the night pretty regularly. I used to wake up exactly. every. three. hours. It was like clockwork. I have no doubt my medications mess with my sleep cycle. And usually when I wake up, I am wiiiddeee awake.
I did turn this magical ability into a fun little party-trick. It’s awesome when you have friends all around the world because you can always text back and have someone to talk to. Most of the time it hasn’t made me any more sleepy during the day, but then the loss of sleep hits me all at once and I sleep for a whole day.
Number four least favorite side effect: No alcohol
Wellbutrin and alcohol are so not friends they really need to be living on different planets. Occasionally I’ll indulge in a glass of wine or whatever, but let me tell ya, DO NOT MIX ALCOHOL WITH WELLBUTRIN. Holy shit the side effects. Especially if I’m not stable to begin with I end up with unpleasant intrusive thoughts and thinking all kinds of terrible things I know aren’t true. Like, I’ll be hanging out with my best friend and I gradually become consumed with the idea they’re going to abandon me because I’m no fun and a terrible person. Which I know in my heart isn’t true. The interaction makes me feel depressed and absolutely horrible. I have experimented so you don’t have to! Seriously, I don’t want to be one giving advice, but don’t do it.
Number five least favorite side effect: Too, too, sleepy
I have tried a couple types of drugs for the purposes of making me drowsy so I can sleep when I’m too hyped up. It also helps me break the cycle of being increasingly anxious because I’m constantly tired, which makes me susceptible to more anxiety, which messes with my sleep… and so on and so forth. Me and trazodone are not friends. It makes to TOO sleepy. It takes a herculean effort to wake up and then I spend the day like a zombie who’s only desire in life is to sleep. At certain times, my escitalopram has gotten out of balance with my system and made me too sleepy.
Me and l are frenemies. I totally understand why it comes with a warning saying long-term use can cause dependency. That drug is like a light switch for your brain. Like, it just prevents your brain from making connections so you can’t really follow a thought through. Basically, when I need a serious rest from Least Favorite Side Effect #1, this is the tool to break the cycle. However, it definitely can’t be good to just shut off your brain.
My thoughts on all this medication stuff right now is that I still don’t like it. I am still not 100% comfortable with having these drugs in my system. At the same time I’m extremely hesitant to go off them. I’ve read online about people who quit and then tried to go back on them and they didn’t work anymore. Having to find a whole new cocktail sounds like the literal least fun in the world.
Right now I’m still using a combination of CBT therapy, medication, and also injecting some “natural wellness” into my routine.I use aromatherapy at night and I am also just starting dabbling in using CBD oil. I shall let y’all know how it goes. Exercise has fallen to the wayside since I went away, but I need to get going on it ASAP. I know that exercise is super effective, both from reading about it and from personal experience, but it’s been hard to keep it in my routine when I haven’t really lived with any semblance of a routine for more than a year.