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anxiety

To Take Antidepressants or Not?

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anxietyLet me tell you a bit about myself. I am 37 years old, married and have 3 young kids with another on the way. I’ll tell you another thing about myself, I take Lexapro, and it’s an antidepressant….. Even though I am not depressed…. And I can manage without it. Do you think I’m crazy? Do you disapprove?

For the record, this article is purely and opinion piece and not the official view of IsraelPharm.com.

I grew up in a very stressful house, the tension rubbed off on me and I now realize that for as long as I can remember I have suffered from anxiety. Not terrible crippling anxiety but the frustrated, explosive kind, the kind where I am totally fine but then something rubs me up the wrong way and I start feeling this crunching pain in my chest. When this happens it’s a bit like when people say they are “Hangry” (hungry + angry), the temper comes out and I end up shouting. Once the shout is out the anxiety subsides and things return, much the same as a “hangry” person dos after they have satisfied their food needs. I have suffered from this since I was a kid myself, I just didn’t realize what it was and couldn’t put it into words. You might also say that I wouldn’t put it into words, I was unwilling to face what was really going on.

Until I had kids this anxiety was often mild and controllable, after I had kids that all changed. It’s not simple having 3 kids under 3 years old and the pressure gets to you. Until the baby was 4 years old I tried to muddle through with various techniques like counting to 10, leaving the room for time out etc but to be honest, most often, I resorted to uncontrollable shouting, I just couldn’t catch myself in time to remove myself from the situation or take a step back and catch my breath. The pressure of family life on top of a demanding full time job definitely made things worse and you might even put it down to post-natal depression but the truth is I grew up with this. The stress of raising a family, financial pressure and working full time just exacerbated it.

At some point just before last summer I said to myself I need a little respite from what will be the summer chaos and stress. In the past, after my third was born I tried the herbal Remotive (St John’s Wort) for a while and found it useful but this time I wanted to try an SSRI drug, something a little more chemical, something that works more alongside anxiety rather than a little pick me up. I also heard that SSRI’s can help IBS sufferers and my IBS was quite bad at the time. IBS and shouty stress (aka anxiety) were taking over my life, this was a long shot at killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

I only realize this now with hindsight. 3 weeks after starting a low dose of Lexapro SSRI I started to see the difference in my marriage, my kid’s behavior, my behavior, my IBS, by ability to focus at work, in fact just about everything in my life. Even during the most stressful stubborn struggles with my kids regarding eating dinner or turning off the TV for bath time (times when I would normally end up shouting) I managed to get through them with minimal chest crunching pains and virtually no shouting or raised voices at all. The real eye opener was when I managed to get through a stressful conversation with my father without any chest crunching at all. The Lexapro gave me that extra bit of control over my emotions so that I could take some deep breaths and count to 10 without that feeling of anxiety rising and worsening, the stuff that ultimately leads me to shouting my head off.
So many people out there are against taking antidepressants, there’s still a lot of stigma out there about admitting to it and to be honest (now that I am on the other side) I just don’t understand it. Media berates doctors for over prescribing and I often hear other people, especially mothers, moan about how hard life is and how they shout too much but can’t control it, can’t control the emotions, want to cry at the end of the day from the stress. I want to say to them that what they feeling is not just stress, it’s called anxiety and there is good stuff you can take for it, you don’t need to fight it alone, and your family does not have to suffer but I know that most of the time my words will fall on deaf ears. (I know this from experience). It almost always results in the conversation going like this “sounds like they really help you, that’s great but I want to try this method and that method and I don’t want to take medication for it, you know, to be on hush-hush “antidepressants”, I’m not depressed, I can manage without etc etc”.

– Rubbish I want to scream at them! You don’t know how to classify what you are feeling, you don’t realize that these emotions you are feeling have a name, it’s called ANXIETY and there is nothing wrong with having it or treating it.

Listen, I can manage without the drugs, sure I can, but I don’t want to and I don’t have to and I have no problem admitting to it. Ironically I am not one of these prescription or over the counter medication junkies, I only take pain killers when I can literally no longer stand the pain or the fever has reached 39.9. I get through the winter drinking herbal teas instead of constant cold and flu stuff and I refuse point blank to take prescription medication for my IBS and instead insist on managing it though a very restricting diet. When it comes to anxiety it’s a different matter, I am more than happy to scoff down my daily pill. You see anxiety is not just about me, it affects everyone around me, especially my kids and I just can’t have that. I don’t want them to grow up with shouty mommy, I want them to grow up with fun mommy. I don’t want them to become anxiety shouters themselves, the least I can do is minimize their exposure to it so they have less change of it rubbing off on them like it did on me.

When I started taking Lexapro it was only meant as a summer holiday chaos booster. Once I saw the difference in my life I had changed my mind and intended on it remaining a permanent fixture at least until further notice, like until the kids have grown up and left home. When we decided that another baby might be on the cards I cut the low dose of 10mg in half to 5mg. I did notice the difference but that tiny 5mg amount still helped me not shout and the effect on my IBS didn’t change that much either. Once pregnant I cut it out altogether….. and I am fine, totally and utterly fine even though hormones are running wild and grumpy, shouty mommy has returned, the level of chest crunching anxiety is manageable, I might be shouting more but I am “managing” it. (My poor husband might tell a different story but I think it’s more to do with pregnancy hormones rather than chest crunching anxiety).

I’ll tell you a secret though…… I cannot wait to go back on Lexapro after the baby is born. Yes I can “manage” without it, I can drive myself mad with different kinds of alternative anxiety reducing techniques but I don’t want to, and I don’t have to.

Of course, after the birth when I admit to taking antidepressants again chins will wag once more and people will presume that I have post-natal depression or criticize me for taking unnecessary medication. Maybe I will have post-natal depression, who knows, but I will celebrate my return to Lexapro regardless and will enjoy minimal levels on anxiety while bring up my kids in a happy and (mainly) shout free environment.

If you want to know more about depression and anxiety drugs and how they work then take a look at our previous blog post on depression and anxiety, drugs and side effects.

If you have questions for the pharmacist then feel free to contact Saul, our managing pharmacist.

This an opinion piece by Sara Flack who works for IsraelPharm and not the opinion of Israel Pharmacy themselves. We are in no way saying that everyone who shouts too much has anxiety and needs medicating or should take medication. SSRI drugs like Lexapro are not right for everyone. We are however interested in your opinions regarding this topic. 

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