Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Is My Mind on Drugs

 

I’ve debated writing this post for a long time—not because I’m ashamed of being on an anxiety medication, but because I was concerned that it might change people’s perception of me. But for reasons I won’t go into now, I’ve decided to tell the story. Some of you may say it’s “too much information”; others of you will say I’m weak for taking the drug. Since it changed my entire life and my relationships, I think it’s been worth it.

I’m not talking about the statin I’m taking — high-cholesterol runs in the family — but the generic Lexapro. Here is a description of the drug and how it helps with general anxiety disorder and depression:

Lexapro® (excitalopram oxalate) is an orally administered selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Escitalopram is the pure Senantiomer (single isomer) of the racemic bicyclic phthalane derivative citalopram. Escitalopram oxalate is designated S-(+)-1-[3(dimethyl-amino)propyl]-1-(p-fluorophenyl)-5-phthalancarbonitrile oxalate.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor: A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is one of the commonly prescribed drugs for treating depression. SSRIs affect the chemicals that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. These chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, are released by one nerve and taken up by other nerves. Neurotransmitters that are not taken up by other nerves are taken up by the same nerves that released them. This process is termed “reuptake.” SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, an action which allows more serotonin to be available to be taken up by other nerves.

There is a story that goes with this information, one that is especially important to me. I never took drugs, never wanted to, so when I discovered that a shift in mindset was called for, I was angry.

I had developed a cough. It was especially annoying because as a trainer and speaker, I wanted to be able to present without distractions for the listener. Since the cough wouldn’t go away, I went to my general practitioner. After checking out the usual potential causes, he finally told me that he wanted to put me on a medication for “stress.”

I could only sputter, “What?”

For years I had been practicing meditation, exercising regularly and eating right. How the heck could I be stressed? As I later found out, the real diagnosis was general anxiety disorder. I had not shown the typical symptoms of depression (although my entire family was depressed). But since the coughing was clearly not going away on its own, I consented to a minimum dose of Lexapro.

It wasn’t enough. After several weeks, I was still coughing. Now I was really outraged! How was it possible that I was going to have to go from 10mg to 20mg! Over stress! But we increased the dosage. The doctor explained that I would not notice any sudden changes, but after four to six weeks, I would notice one day a sense of well-being that I previously hadn’t felt.

He was right. In fact, my sense of well-being was significant. It showed up in many ways. When I had previously been triggered by trivial events, my body tensed up, but my brain didn’t respond. For years, I experienced this mixed response. The times that my husband would expect me to become irritated became more and more rare.

Needless to say, the cough also went away.

About five years ago I asked my doctor about cutting back the dosage and maybe getting off the medication completely. He said, “Why mess with success?” Not only was he right, but I depend on the medication to keep me balanced, especially when my husband, who has a chronic bronchial and lung condition, coughs. He doesn’t cough all the time, but his coughing is very loud. After ten years of coughing, it wears us both down.

So I’m on drugs. I have no plans to stop taking Lexapro. A part of me still wishes that I hadn’t needed to start taking it, but regrets are a waste of time. Taking the drug has dramatically increased my quality of life.

So for those of you who see me as calm and balanced on Ricochet, I don’t know how much credit I can take. Is it me, or is it Lexapro? I suppose in some ways it doesn’t matter. But as a person who treasures being authentic, I wonder who the “real me” would be without it.

I have a couple of close friends whose anxiety is off the walls—they worry about everything, even minor issues, and my heart goes out to them. Living with anxiety can be debilitating and exhausting. I should know.

Finally, for those of you who have had to include drugs in your daily life, it’s worthwhile contemplating the role they play. Only you and your doctor can decide what is best for you. But if you take the drugs, take them wisely.

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  1. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    #metoo

    • #1
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:03 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Susan Quinn: So for those of you who see me as calm and balanced on Ricochet, I don’t know how much credit I can take. Is it me, or is it Lexapro? I suppose in some ways it doesn’t matter. But as a person who treasures being authentic, I wonder who the “real me” would be without it.

    I think it’s worthwhile to consider whether the “real you” is the one who takes Lexapro or the one who doesn’t. 

    If the conditions that it fixes are something that developed over time, then it’s helping you to be the real you.

    On the other hand, if you always had them, then it might be a case of who you are supposed to be.

    • #2
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:08 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: So for those of you who see me as calm and balanced on Ricochet, I don’t know how much credit I can take. Is it me, or is it Lexapro? I suppose in some ways it doesn’t matter. But as a person who treasures being authentic, I wonder who the “real me” would be without it.

    I think it’s worthwhile to consider whether the “real you” is the one who takes Lexapro or the one who doesn’t.

    If the conditions that it fixes are something that developed over time, then it’s helping you to be the real you.

    On the other hand, if you always had them, then it might be a case of who you are supposed to be.

    That is so kind and eloquent, @mattbalzer. Thank you.

    • #3
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:17 AM PST
    • 1 like
  4. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Use of Lexapro is real you. In a sense there isn’t a the real you as you don’t exist in a vacuum. The drug helps to ameliorate stressors, but the stressors themselves make you not the real you. Being a spouse vs not a spouse makes you not the real you. 

    Drugs are often referred to as crutches – but are people who literally use crutches not authentic? Not whole in some cases, but surely they are just as real as before they used the crutch. 

    Man is the self-adapting animal. Our drugs are part of that adaptation and should be embraced when they help much like any other technology. 

    • #4
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:18 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  5. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: So for those of you who see me as calm and balanced on Ricochet, I don’t know how much credit I can take. Is it me, or is it Lexapro? I suppose in some ways it doesn’t matter. But as a person who treasures being authentic, I wonder who the “real me” would be without it.

    I think it’s worthwhile to consider whether the “real you” is the one who takes Lexapro or the one who doesn’t.

    If the conditions that it fixes are something that developed over time, then it’s helping you to be the real you.

    On the other hand, if you always had them, then it might be a case of who you are supposed to be.

    I’ve heard alcoholics claim that them on booze was the “real” person too, but given what excessive booze does my response has always been “Well, if that’s the case, the real you is a [redacted]”.

    I can say, though, that anxiety breaks the “real” person inside, as does bipolar and other such conditions. 

    The main complaint people on anti-anxiety meds have voiced to me is that while it restores them to function, the meds can blunt other emotions at the same time.

    • #5
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:26 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  6. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I’ve heard alcoholics claim that them on booze was the “real” person too, but given what excessive booze does my response has always been “Well, if that’s the case, the real you is a [redacted]”.

    To be fair, sometimes that’s who I want to be.

    • #6
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:30 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    TBA (View Comment):

    Use of Lexapro is a real you. In a sense there isn’t a the real you as you don’t exist in a vacuum. The drug helps to ameliorate stressors, but the stressors themselves make you not the real you. Being a spouse vs not a spouse makes you not the real you.

    Drugs are often referred to as crutches – but are people who literally use crutches not authentic? Not whole in some cases, but surely they are just as real as before they used the crutch.

    Man is the self-adapting animal. Our drugs are part of that adaptation and should be embraced when they help much like any other technology.

    I found some comfort knowing that the SSRI helps my body use the serotonin it already has. Also, a friend once likened it to diabetes: if I had to take insulin, I wouldn’t see myself as any less. Thanks @robtgilsdorf. I deeply appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

    • #7
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:36 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    The main complaint people on anti-anxiety meds have voiced to me is that while it restores them to function, the meds can blunt other emotions at the same time.

    I’ve heard this, too, but everyone on Ricochet has to put up with lots of emotions from me: joy, gratitude, annoyance, and the whole range. I’m glad only anxiety was dulled!

    • #8
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:47 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  9. MarciN Member

    More and more with each passing day, we are realizing just how much of our brain function is simply a series of basic chemical reactions. 

    It was fascinating to me to watch my little grandson when he was three years old respond to sugar and carbs, which are first carbs and then sugar. Grandchildren are people you love but they are not people you are responsible for. So grandparents are somewhat objective observers. :-) His little diet was so tightly controlled by his parents that a serving of sugar, which he almost never had as an infant and toddler, was unusual for him. Also, he was short. :-) So the effects were quite visible and fast. :-) There were no complications of the social self-controls that come later in life. My grandson would become active within–like clockwork, really–twenty minutes of his eating a piece of bread or a sweetened beignet. :-) 

    And our brains are affected also by our nervous system. In a much bigger way than we have previously believed.

    Our civilizing behaviors need to be so strong to organize and direct our biochemical natures that it has taken several thousand years to accomplish. I was thinking about this the other day, that given human nature, it’s pretty remarkable how peacefully 7.5 billion people live on this small planet–that is, how few wars there are at any given moment. I’d say we’ve been pretty successful using a combination of the various existing religions and cultural and legal guidance systems. :-) 

    Someday, just the way we are determining our genetic makeup, we’ll be easily determining our biochemical brain makeup. 

    At which point, we’ll be back to all the simple questions Socrates asked about controlling the way we respond rationally and morally to these chemical reactions. 

    I wouldn’t worry about an anti-anxiety medication of any kind. If the patient’s head is less groggy, less frantic, more able to reason calmly when he or she is taking the medication, that’s what should matter. We live in a complex emotional and mental environment. If we’re to survive, we have to be able to deal with a lot of sensory input at any moment. Caffeine clears my head. I cannot function without it. I’d be poor and homeless without it. My husband is the opposite. He cannot process caffeine in any way. He cannot function with it. Interestingly, I have low blood pressure. He has high blood pressure. I can’t help thinking that those differing blood pressures explain the differing responses to caffeine.

    It’s all in the biochemistry. 

     

    • #9
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:48 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Our civilizing behaviors need to be so strong to organize and direct our biochemical natures that it has taken several thousand years to accomplish. I was thinking about this the other day, that given human nature, it’s pretty remarkable how peacefully 7.5 billion people live on this small planet–that is, how few wars there are at any given moment. I’d say we’ve been pretty successful using a combination of the various existing religions and cultural and legal guidance systems. :-)

    Thanks for your entire comment, @marcin. The comment I included here was especially powerful for me.

    • #10
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:51 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Henry Castaigne Member

    I don’t believe that the real you is a necessarily a good person. When pedophiles have sex with kids they are being authentic to their real selves. When they live a life that is unsatisfying sexually because they choose to be a good person, that might be considered unauthentic. But what does that matter if they choose to live virtuously?

    Some might suggest that pedophiles are a weird group and don’t represent humanity as a whole. This is partly true, however, men of x tribe raping y tribe is the norm in human history. That is a normal thing among tribes of all colors and it was normal for almost all of human history and pre-history. So while pedophilia is unusal, rape and racism are totally normal: Vikings abducting Briton women, Imperial Japanese, and Zulu conquerors were not known for being kind and decent to ladies. But they were authentic.

    Authencity is for suckers. The real question is whether or not you are more or less productive and/or happy under the drugs. That’s the real question.

    • #11
    • February 1, 2019, at 11:53 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  12. JoelB Member

    Some of my best friends… No, really. People I hold in very high regards are using medication of this sort. No problems here.

    • #12
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:10 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Authencity is for suckers. The real question is whether or not you are more or less productive and/or happy under the drugs. That’s the real question.

    Love your comments, @henrycastaigne–very thought provoking. I agree with your last sentence here, but not the last. I think a person can be authentic and the latter, and I think all are worthwhile. Don’t you think it’s helpful to people on Ricochet that I try to be genuine and sincere? Don’t you think they sense that, and that helps our relationships? I’m curious why you think authenticity is for suckers. . .

    • #13
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:13 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Rodin Member

    The mind is a beast.

    It’s amazing what it takes to tame it. As @marcin indicated part of the taming is socialization. But also, for many, part of it is taking in substances — be it alcohol, street drugs, or prescription medications. 

    It truly is a “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” situation. Whatever you do to tame the brain it may be ineffective, incomplete, or riven with side effects or unintended consequences. 

    • #14
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:14 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Rodin (View Comment):
    It truly is a “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” situation. Whatever you do to tame the brain it may be ineffective, incomplete, or riven with side effects or unintended consequences. 

    Assuming we’re trying to train the brain, though, @rodin, and we aren’t trying to destroy it, there are lots of legal options for helping us out. In fact, I believe I did try one other drug first and must have had some difficulty or lack of help from it, so I switched to Lexapro. Fortunately I’ve been mostly socialized, too! ;-)

    • #15
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:17 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Authencity is for suckers. The real question is whether or not you are more or less productive and/or happy under the drugs. That’s the real question.

    Love your comments, @henrycastaigne–very thought provoking. I agree with your last sentence here, but not the last. I think a person can be authentic and the latter, and I think all are worthwhile. Don’t you think it’s helpful to people on Ricochet that I try to be genuine and sincere? Don’t you think they sense that, and that helps our relationships? I’m curious why you think authenticity is for suckers. . .

    I suspect he means authenticity uber alles. Authenticity is important, but it makes a poor lodestar and calls to mind people who abandon all responsibility in order to ‘find themselves’ – not to mention that it is often a defense of, and even a call to, rudeness. 

    • #16
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:34 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    TBA (View Comment):
    I suspect he means authenticity uber alles. Authenticity is important, but it makes a poor lodestar and calls to mind people who abandon all responsibility in order to ‘find themselves’ – not to mention that it is often a defense of, and even a call to, rudeness. 

    You might be right. People will use it as an excuse to behave badly–“Well I was only speaking the truth!” I hope he’ll show up and tell us what he meant.

    • #17
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:36 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. MarciN Member

    I’ve been reading about artificial intelligence for the last two months, and it has changed how I think about the brain and mind, which I now see as two different entities. The brain is simply the mechanical operating system for the data the seven senses receive and send to it. The ephemeral mind is the place where the emotions and soul and sorted data from the senses are acted on. We understand enough about computers and the human brain to create something we now call AI. We’re nowhere close to creating a mind. :-)

    • #18
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:38 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    I suspect he means authenticity uber alles. Authenticity is important, but it makes a poor lodestar and calls to mind people who abandon all responsibility in order to ‘find themselves’ – not to mention that it is often a defense of, and even a call to, rudeness.

    You might be right. People will use it as an excuse to behave badly–“Well I was only speaking the truth!” I hope he’ll show up and tell us what he meant.

    Well, it is possible he knows more about what he meant than I do, but how will I ever get that Dog Whistle Inspector General job in the next Democrat admin if I don’t start honing my ability to explain what people really mean when they write or speak? 

    • #19
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I’ve been reading about artificial intelligence for the last two months, and it has changed how I think about the brain and mind, which I now see as two different entities.

    In Buddhism, there is a koan that says, “Everything is mind.” Interesting, huh?

    • #20
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    TBA (View Comment):
    Well, it is possible he knows more about what he meant than I do, but how will I ever get that Dog Whistle Inspector General job in the next Democrat admin if I don’t start honing my ability to explain what people really mean when they write or speak? 

    Well, in that case, good job!!

    • #21
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:43 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Front Seat Cat Member

    My opinion of you wouldn’t change if you were on 10 drugs or none at all – if it helps, good. Maybe it would help a coughing Hillary?!

    PS Your title reminded me of that old commercial where a voice asks that, and then shows an egg frying in a pan – no – that’s not your brain – I know plenty whose brains resemble the egg, but not you…

    • #22
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:45 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  23. Henry Castaigne Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Authencity is for suckers. The real question is whether or not you are more or less productive and/or happy under the drugs. That’s the real question.

    Love your comments, @henrycastaigne–very thought provoking. I agree with your last sentence here, but not the last. I think a person can be authentic and the latter, and I think all are worthwhile. Don’t you think it’s helpful to people on Ricochet that I try to be genuine and sincere? Don’t you think they sense that, and that helps our relationships? I’m curious why you think authenticity is for suckers. . .

    If humans are made in the image of G-d, and G-d is an embodiement of platonic Virtue, then a very small part of humanity is made in the image of G-d. Humans are mostly made in the image of Apes.

    Apes are among the smartest creatures to have ever lived but they are still pretty dumb. To be good, we need to go beyond our nature. I would argue we need to go against our nature. Buddha had to meditate for eight years to learn the Middle Way if I recall.

    In Jonah Goldbergs, Suicide of the West, he describes: limited government, capitalism, and classical liberalism as being unnatural to human nature. Human nature thrives gloriously under those conditions but there is something unnatural about them.

    Humans are designed to love an ugly collectivism that hurts them. They aren’t designed to love a noble minded freedom that lets people live how they want to live.

    • #23
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:47 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    My opinion of you wouldn’t change if you were on 10 drugs or none at all – if it helps, good. Maybe it would help a coughing Hillary?!

    Oh, I thought of that this afternoon! Fortunately I didn’t have uncontrollable spasms.

    • #24
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:49 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Yikes! More than I expected. See my comments intertwined below

    If humans are made in the image of G-d, and G-d is an embodiment of platonic Virtue, then a very small part of humanity is made in the image of G-d. Humans are mostly made in the image of Apes.

    Plato really messed up Jewish ideas. He has no place in describing, understanding or speaking for Jews and humanity. We are not made in the image of apes.

    Apes are among the smartest creatures to have ever lived but they are still pretty dumb. To be good, we need to go beyond our nature. I would argue we need to go against our nature. Buddha had to meditate for eight years to learn the Middle Way if I recall.

    Not totally untrue. We tend to do a lot of things that are not good for us, and we often need to find ways to improve ourselves. But trust me, Buddha wasn’t perfect–no enlightened person is. They still screw up but are more likely to know they’re doing it. And I think humans are foolish and naive at times, but that’s not the same as dumb.

    In Jonah Goldbergs, Suicide of the West, he describes: limited government, capitalism, and classical liberalism as being unnatural to human nature. Human nature thrives gloriously under those conditions but there is something unnatural about them.

    I agree with Jonah.

    Humans are designed to love an ugly collectivism that hurts them. They aren’t designed to love a noble minded freedom that lets people live how they want to live.

    Unfortunately, often true. That’s why Progressivism has such appeal, for some.

     

    • #25
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:56 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    If anyone is wondering, I began taking Lexapro about 13 or more years ago. (I just realized I didn’t say that.) Long time.

    • #26
    • February 1, 2019, at 12:59 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Henry Castaigne Member

    How did Plato mess up Jewish ideas? I have no knowledge of Plato learning about Jews. Jews were a really unusual group in the ancient world. All the pagan Empires thought them odd and bizarre. Socrates might have been an odd monotheist with deep symathy to the Prophetess of Delphi. If Plato misenterpreted Jewish stuff it would have been intensely fascinating to me. 

    • #27
    • February 1, 2019, at 1:03 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    How did Plato mess up Jewish ideas? I have no knowledge of Plato learning about Jews. Jews were a really unusual group in the ancient world. All the pagan Empires thought them odd and bizarre. Socrates might have been an odd monotheist with deep symathy to the Prophetess of Delphi. If Plato misenterpreted Jewish stuff it would have been intensely fascinating to me.

    I explained that badly, Henry. Many Greek ideas invaded Jewish ideas–by the Jews. They wanted to be like the Greeks. Unfortunately, accepting a lot of their ideas into Judaism distorted basic Torah tenets. My bad.

    • #28
    • February 1, 2019, at 1:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Henry Castaigne Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    How did Plato mess up Jewish ideas? I have no knowledge of Plato learning about Jews. Jews were a really unusual group in the ancient world. All the pagan Empires thought them odd and bizarre. Socrates might have been an odd monotheist with deep symathy to the Prophetess of Delphi. If Plato misenterpreted Jewish stuff it would have been intensely fascinating to me.

    I explained that badly, Henry. Many Greek ideas invaded Jewish ideas–by the Jews. They wanted to be like the Greeks. Unfortunately, accepting a lot of their ideas into Judaism distorted basic Torah tenets. My bad.

    Athens and Jerusalem can totally get along. I think, (I am not sure) that the Jews got into Greek ideas when the Romans invaded them. The Romans were more about government then they were about philosophy. Maybe, the Jews had a bad example of Greek philosophy.

    • #29
    • February 1, 2019, at 1:46 PM PST
    • 1 like
  30. El Colonel Contributor

    I’m not a fan of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I know that they can be effective, but too often the body becomes acclimated, dosages must be increased, other drugs are added. Certain side effects not be evident at lower dosages appear as dosages are increased, especially if a person is taking other medications for other problems. Once you get to a certain level of combined medication, it is difficult to tell whether issues are endemic or caused by the alleged cures.

    I would recommend seeing a Naturopath. Let them do a full blood work up and see what is going on. An alteration of diet, more exercise and some relatively harmless herbal supplements might provide a far better outcome than reliance on pharmaceuticals.

    My oldest daughter did this and for her it has been life-changing.

    It is easy to just take a pill, but it may not be good.

     

     

     

    • #30
    • February 1, 2019, at 2:30 PM PST
    • 4 likes

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