“I spent two years with my lover Lexapro; the two most mellow years of my life. My immediate frustrations were comforted, my resentments muffled, my anxiety calmed…But I was also insulated against or from fun things like my creativity and sexuality.”
Below is an excerpt from her article by Actor, Director, Writer, (and Supermodel) Paulina Porizkova on her experience with the antidepressant Lexapro.
I felt guilty. I felt unnatural. I felt ashamed. Finally, I broke down and confessed my dirty little secret to a girlfriend and found that she not only knew what I was talking about, but she was doing it, too.
And the more I opened up about it, the more I found that I was not alone. Women in their late 30s and 40s were all having the same affair.
With an antidepressant.
I started taking Lexapro after my anxiety attacks came back and, for all intents and purposes, practically crippled me.
I’ve always had anxiety attacks, or panic attacks as some know them, but after years of learning how to deal with them, I thought I had them under control.
While my kids were little, the anxiety attacks even subsided to the point where they hardly bothered me.
But at the stroke of 40, they came back worse than ever.
I couldn’t get in a car, a bus and certainly not an elevator without panic overwhelming me: a crippling, terrifying sense of dread.
I couldn’t draw a proper breath, my heart pounded and heat flashed through my body, making me break out in sweat.
To top it off, my PMS symptoms of frustration, depression and irritability stretched two to three weeks instead of the typical one.
My doctor, fully aware of my dislike for medication of any kind (please, I had two kids all natural, I could take some pain!) suggested that I deserved a break from anxiety.
Rebooting the system, he called it. He also fully supported the idea that I begin talk therapy, but in the meantime, he offered me the following analogy: you can build a house with your hands, or you could use power-tools. Either way, you’re building a house, right?
I had just gotten kicked off of “Dancing with the Stars” (as the first contestant) and my ego traveled back to ninth grade, when I was the least popular kid in school and just couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong to be so disliked.
But I had to get over myself, quick.
I had children who needed me. I had a husband who needed me. I also had my novel (that took me five years to write) to finally promote. This was no time to sink under!
I knew that unless I did something drastic (far more drastic than my new and intense exercise routine and healthy diet-plus-vitamins, but less drastic then running away from home and my life, screaming, blinded by tears and rain, down, say, Fifth Ave), I would at the very least alienate all my friends, my children and my husband.
Lexapro it was.
At first, the stuff didn’t seem to work. It wasn’t until a few months into treatment that I realized what had happened. My world had quieted. The constant buzz of anxiety became noticeable only by its absence.
It was like spending your entire life in a room buzzing with fluorescents, and then, one day, they stop. I wasn’t even quite sure what to do with this silence, how to live in it.
When I had to have a physical for insurance on “America’s Next Top Model,” I truthfully wrote down the only medication I took, Lexapro. Writing was admitting it, and I did so with a fair bit of trepidation.
Unfortunately, this was promptly broadcast all over the “ANTM” production set. It seems I couldn’t be properly insured on a TV set if I was taking an antidepressant.
I had just started taking it, and this reaction was exactly what I had feared. I was judged crazy. Unstable. It was almost enough to get me to stop it before it had even had a chance to work.
Fortunately, the woman in charge of all this paperwork laughed and admitted that she was also taking said medication — weren’t we all? The production could just write a waiver taking their chances with crazy ol’ me. And they did.
As I got braver and dared to speak more openly about what I perceived as a terrible weakness, my girlfriends, one by one, stepped up and admitted that they were also on antidepressants.
At one point, I found myself at a girls-night-out dinner and discovered all eight of us were on assorted antidepressants!
One girlfriend took it because she was depressed. One took it because she got too angry. One also suffered from anxiety attacks. The reasons were diverse, but what we had in common were our age ranges and being married with children.
This shocked me. It also got me wondering. What was going on here? Was this a sort of universal malaise that hit peri-menopausal women? Without antidepressants, would we all be quietly suffering, or exercising like maniacs, having sexual affairs, turning to alcohol or drugs?
Was this the female equivalent of a male midlife crisis — Botox and antidepressants instead of the fast car and young chick?
I spent two years with my lover Lexapro; the two most mellow years of my life.
My immediate frustrations were comforted, my resentments muffled, my anxiety calmed; I was wrapped in a thick, warm comforter, insulated against the sharp pangs that came with living.
But I was also insulated against or from fun things like my creativity and sexuality.
I used to joke to my friends that after 24 years with my husband, we were, sexually speaking, a finely tuned precision engine. But now it felt as though I was being touched through a barrier, or, in this instance, a thick and cumbersome rug.
After a while, it seemed like being intimate was just too much work for too little pay.
And as for creativity, well, with my new sense of peace, I found I had no need to actually say anything.
This, for a writer, is akin to a cook who has no appetite. Sure, it’s possible to work, but the results will be uninspired at best. I no longer bothered to fight with my girlfriends, or husband; I could just shrug and walk away from situations that previously had me in endless knots analyzing and discussing.
And so, for two years, I learned nothing new. I felt emotionally Botoxed. Who was I under the blankets? What did I really feel like?
I began to wonder and to want me back, even at the steep price of misery.
I decided that this affair had all the drawbacks of an affair: the sexual distancing from my husband, the guilt, the lies; and the benefit — silence from the fluorescents — didn’t seem worth the price.
Continued in Ending a Midlife Affair with Meds, by Paulina Porizkova, HuffPost.
Lexapro (Escitalopram) “is used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; excessive worry and tension that disrupts daily life and lasts for 6 months or longer). It is in a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).” [National Library of Medicine.]
Her novel is A Model Summer.