I’ve been diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” and depression. I believe there’s some seasonal affective disorder in there as well because I’m very sensitive to light levels and I get pretty miserable after a few days with no sun.
I was prescribed escitalopram (Lexapro) around 2007. I take it (just about) every morning. I frequently take it with coffee because that’s one of the first things I drink in the morning and it also amuses me to take a drug to treat anxiety in the same gulp as a stimulant. If I miss a dose for more than a day or two I start getting really nervous/anxious/irritable. I know the medication isn’t supposed to have effects that quickly though, so either I’m very sensitive to it or it’s psychosomatic. It does its job pretty well though. Perhaps it causes occasional dry mouth? I don’t really pay attention to the side effects as they’re rarely noticeable.
“Just as you wouldn’t ask people to go without their glasses, it seems silly to tell someone with bad eyesight to ‘just try seeing harder’.”
When I first started taking it I noticed a pretty rapid change in my life. It felt like the world was suddenly… softer? More muted perhaps. Fewer sharp edges. I no longer felt like I was on guard all of the time. People around me noticed a change too; they said I seemed more rested and I wasn’t snapping at people. It’s kind of like when I put on my glasses for the first time. Suddenly I saw the world in a new way, but I couldn’t really describe what was different until it had the new experience with which to compare. The differences drove home just how much it had been affecting me previously. I feel like the medication is very much like prescription eyewear for me… there are physical/chemical issues with the way I perceive the world, and the glasses/medicine corrects for that. Just as you wouldn’t ask people to go without their glasses, it seems silly to tell someone with bad eyesight to “just try seeing harder”.
Before I started the medication I had a number of issues… day to day I was just nervous and sometimes irritable about it, but on a semi-regular basis the depression would kick in. I’d get extremely angry and I’d either turn it outward (rare) and do stupid things like put my foot through a door, or I’d turn it inwards and give myself a thorough hating. It was the door thing that caused me to finally seek medical help. I’d say in my head “I want to go home” even when I was already home or in some other safe place. I also had times where all of my emotions would just shut down completely. Those were oddly pleasant because all the bad feelings went away, but kind of worrying when they ended because they were clearly not normal.
“In a weird way I feel like I have impostor syndrome about my mental illness”
After the medication kicked in those issues largely went away. I still sometimes get overwhelmed in times of high stress, but that only happens a few times a year now and I can usually just sleep it off and be alright the next morning. In a weird way I feel like I have impostor syndrome about my mental illness, because it’s not as severe or acute as those of other people that I know, so I sometimes worry that I’ll be judged less for “whining” or using it as a crutch than I would be by just keeping quiet about it. I’m not ashamed of having it, more of a question of whether it’s worth bringing it to people’s attention and triggering whatever expectations that may carry.
Taking the medication regularly has been by far the most effective solution. Before I had that, I tried some of the usual strategies… walks, exercise, time outdoors, meditation, martial arts, sleep, and self-medicating with alcohol. About half that was for prevention issues and the other half was for handling acute issues. Talking to friends helped too, but I didn’t want to burden them or feel that I was coming to them with something that was unimportant until it got really bad. My instinctive response was to find an area where I felt comfortable & safe and to go be by myself. After I had everything around me under control I could play music/games/watch a movie to distract my brain and I’d start to relax.
“The more internal pressure you’re under holding things back, the less external pressure it takes to cause problems.”
One surprising thing I found was taking Emergen-C packets… for close to a year when I was working in downtown KC I would take 1-2 of those a day. Too many would upset my digestive system but 1-2 seemed to be a good balance for me. I wouldn’t really recommend it to people as a long term strategy as it’s kind of like overclocking your body in some ways, but it did help me. Cognitive therapy helps, certainly. Just having some way to vent the badness out instead of bottling it up inside you. The more internal pressure you’re under holding things back, the less external pressure it takes to cause problems.