Hipstercrite Life

The Stigma of Depression and Anxiety Medicine

I was working on a post about young entrepreneurs and how they make me feel like crawling under a rock and dying, but instead I’m going to write about anxiety.

My mother just called me to tell me that my grandmother is in the ER with high blood pressure. 235 over 98, I believe.

Obviously this got me worried, but the doctors said her blood work, oxygen levels and EKG results are all good. However, they’re going to keep her overnight.

My mother and I immediately assumed that stress is causing my grandmother’s high blood pressure, but the doctor said it wouldn’t make it rise that high. Regardless, I know that her stress and the ways she doesn’t deal with it is at least playing a minor factor in her high blood pressure. A few days ago she did not feel well and she told me it was because of stress.

Grandma has a lot to be stressed about, but don’t we all these days? In my grandmother’s situation she has a partner who has Alzheimer’s. It is something my grandmother has not come to terms with, though she said she has. She gets very angry and frustrated. She’s also worried about what she will do when he is put in assisted living- a sad fact that will become a reality very soon. Will she be lonely? Will she be able to afford all her bills? Will Lionel be OK at the new home? The truth is, she can’t take care of him anymore, but she does anyways and it’s difficult on her 85 year-old body.

Speaking of 85, my grandmother commonly says that she is frustrated with herself. She is “disgusted” that her body is getting old and she is helpless to do anything about it. This also stresses her out.

Besides these normal and legit stresses, if one knew my grandmother well, they’d know she also stresses about every freakin’ thing imaginable- whether it’s justified or not. My grandmother will not sleep all night worrying about my mom going on vacation for a week. She’ll have diarrhea just thinking about the forecasted 2 inches of snow the next day. She will throw up worrying about Lucy (my mom’s Jack Russell Terrier) having a cough. If she’s throwing a dinner party at her house, she will not eat and instead stand nervously over guests hoping that they’re enjoying their meal. When you tell her to sit down, she won’t. When you tell her to relax, she can’t. Instead, my grandmother lives in this thick bubble of anxiety that makes me wonder what it’s doing to her insides.

My mother has pleaded with her to take anxiety medicine (something my mother takes), but she refuses. It’s a sign of weakness, or more importantly, my grandmother is afraid it will make her lose control over her tight grasp on her life. She does not like taking medicine at all and when she does, she will work very hard to make sure it’s not being effective. My grandmother’s doctors have even suggested that she take anti-anxiety pills, but she won’t.

My mother and I are both supporters of anti-anxiety pills and it is difficult for us to understand why grandma doesn’t want to take them.

When I was 23 I took Zoloft. I had been working in LA as a personal assistant and was very stressed out and very unhappy. I cried a lot and I drank alone sometimes. I had no idea how to handle my emotions. Being miserable, angry, confused and negative was something new to me. My mother had just started taking Zoloft due to family stress and it was working well for her. We got me on it and it did indeed help me- maybe a little too much. For the entire year I was on it, I didn’t cry once. Not once. The typical emotional films, commercials, books and life events just didn’t trigger a single tear. For a girl who liked to get up early and not waste the day, I enjoyed sitting in my bed for long periods of time staring at the wall. I had extremely vivid dreams. I began getting confused about what was reality and what was a dream. Suddenly I wasn’t miserable, but I was indeed in a thick, cozy cloud.

A year later I went off of Zoloft cold turkey, which is something you’re not supposed to do. For a week or two I had terrible mood swings that I kept to myself, but it quickly dissipated. My boss at the time, who was an advocate of self-help, could tell as soon as I stopped taking the pills. He said that I looked like I had woken up, no longer walking around like a zombie. I was confused by his observation, but in hindsight maybe my apathetic demeanor was more apparent than I thought. After going off Zoloft I made the decision to leave my career and move to Austin. I’ve never taken anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills since and I rarely even think about it.

Do I believe that Zoloft helped me get through a rough time in my life? Absolutely. Do I also believe that it made me removed from my life? Yep. Was that year of mellowing out and doing a lot of self-reflection worth it? Completely.

Ultimately I’m a supporter of anti-anxiety medicine. It has helped both my mother and myself and I do believe it would help my grandmother. I firmly believe that if a pill will help you cope with a difficult time in your life OR for some people, prevent you from harming yourself or others, why should you not take it? I don’t understand the culture of feeling like you failed if you take anti-depressants/anti-anxiety pills or see a therapist. Those are two things I’m not ashamed of, but rather proud of myself for realizing at a young age that I needed help. My family did an excellent job raising me and raised me to believe in myself, but there are often events or emotions that occur in one’s life that go beyond that. I was traversing a rocky period in my life and I knew I needed to take action to get through it. I definitely feel like I came out of the other side better for it.

I do not think taking anti-anxiety pills or anti-depressants is something one should be embarrassed about, but it is important to know if it is the right fit for you. I hope the stigma of self-help will die one day. It’s not an admission of failure, but rather a recognition of wanting change.

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  • Reply Jenny December 5, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Haha, Zoloft actually GAVE me panic attacks, which just goes to show how medication is NOT the same for everyone!

    As someone who has been on and off anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds for the past 12 years, I’ve just come to accept that it’s part of my life, maybe forever. (the time I went “cold turkey,” I lost my shit, too. not pretty.) After a while it was like, “Hey this person takes medication for a heart murmur, I take medication for my brain, no big.”

    But sadly, it’s not THOUGHT of like that; it’s still this THING. I think the only way to release the stigma is with education and people like you speaking out, so HUZZAH!

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Before I took Zoloft, I had a doctor who wanted to put me on Lexapro. Lexaprop made my stomach tingly. It was really weird. Tried it twice but realized it wasn’t a good fit. Everyone is different.
      Thanks for sharing, Jenny.

  • Reply CJ December 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Did not enjoy my short stint with meds. Of course, I was drinking and partying so I get why they might have made things worse.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Ha. Yeah. I can’t imagine. I’m not sure what alcohol does with anxiety meds.

  • Reply Alexandra the Tsaritsa December 5, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I think your grandmother would benefit from seeing a therapist, if only just to talk things out and release some stress that way. Medication is definitely not for everyone, but it won’t hurt to at least try. I was on anti-anxiety meds for a bit and didn’t like the way they made me feel, but they work differently for everyone. I hope your grandmother can find the stress relief she needs.

  • Reply Ian December 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I found this to be a mature and thoughtful look at a topic that causes passionate, often unfounded opinions on both sides. I also laughed pretty hard at the first sentence.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks, Ian. I really appreciate that. I was a little worried about posting. Your comment made me feel better! 🙂

  • Reply Hannah December 6, 2011 at 12:22 am

    This was really interesting. I suffer from anxiety and it’s reassuring to know that others managed to survive and find a way to deal with stress. You have a very well written post! 🙂

    • Reply hipstercrite December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks, Hannah! I think more people suffer than you think! It’s nice to be reminded that you’re not alone!

  • Reply Israel Carrasco December 6, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I just wrote about depression myself. Have you considered supplements? I read “Depression Free for Life” which helped alot

    • Reply hipstercrite December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Interesting. No, never heard of it. Will you please send me your post?

  • Reply Stefani December 6, 2011 at 3:41 am

    I took Zoloft for a year following my divorce. The divorce gave me panic attacks, something I had never experienced. I stopped taking it a year later and never had issues.

    I’m also a huge proponent of therapy, if you find a good one. I love mine if you need a recommendation for Grandma.

    Self-help books like “The Power of Now” and “When Things Fall Apart” can also be comforting.

    I just started meditating, which helps keep me sane, as well.

    And all those things can help her get over the refusal to seek help via the meds.

    Good luck to you and Grandma. Great topic and post.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks, Stefani. My grandma goes to the gym regularly, which is good, but not sure it helps. She lives in a very small town in Upstate New York so I’m not even sure there are a lot of alternative self-help things she can do other than reading books, which she doesn’t really do. I read Power of Now and really enjoyed it. My Dad is a fan of that author.

  • Reply Sarah December 6, 2011 at 4:50 am

    I needed to read this. Thank you.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you for reading!

  • Reply Paige December 6, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I have taken Zoloft during two spells in my life, and while it got me through really rough patches in life I also felt like I was in a hazy cloud. No tears, no excitement, no emotion whether good or bad. I wanted to be myself again so I phased off (after cold turkey the first time – HELL) while backpacking over the last 6 months. I feel so great and awake now that I’m Zoloft free, but am grateful that it got me through that time period. My anxiety attacks (mine are all about my future death – agh!) started back up, I tried to handle them but decided to try Xanax just as a fire extinguisher for when the waves of panic overtake my rational mind. Just knowing that I have an extinguisher makes me feel more in control and I would recommend it.

    Great article Lauren! I always love your articles about anxiety – makes me feel much more normal.

    • Reply hipstercrite December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      You are normal! We all are! There are so many people at various time or all times in their life need support. It’s 1100% normal. My Mom is off Zoloft and has Xanax now. I’ve taken it a few times and it didn’t do much. Once I took two before a flight and almost fell asleep!

  • Reply Ben December 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Oh man… These days, I take a variety of herbs/minerals and the like, and I mostly preach their value over prescription drugs. (They’re cheaper, easier to quit, makes you feel more empowered because you’re doing research and buying things on your own instead of just doing what your doctor/HMO tells you…) But damn… your description reminded me of how much I liked zoloft. I too quit it and had a major crash when I did. But no herb or mineral has made me feel quite as different as zoloft did.
    In any case, I feel sad when I imagine being too stubborn to put something like that into my body.

  • Reply Simone December 9, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I just started taking Cipralex (which is recommended specifically for people with anxiety) and it’s been working for me so far. I don’t feel like I am walking around in a haze at all. I feel like myself. I still feel sad when I should feel sad. It just seems to quiet a bit of the anxious “noise” that used to always be in my head. Two other people in my life use it & have had similar experiences. I used to be very anti-medication too but after seeing how it helped people around me cope & now is helping me, my opinion has changed.

    I’m so sorry to hear about what your grandma is going through. My grandma has an ailing partner as well and it’s just so difficult & heartbreaking. I hope she gets the stress relief she needs because after reading your other posts about her she sounds like a really cool lady!


  • Reply How to Stop Worrying January 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    […] with all their might to break. My grandmother has reached an age where she does not recognize that her anxiety-riddled behavior filled with sleepless nights and bubbling anger is anything other than normal, but both my mother […]

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