The Wrong Pill

Five years ago in a galaxy about two miles away, I had a very seriously awful depressive spell that would not go the fuck away. I didn’t eat. I cried all the time. I couldn’t get out of bed even though I never slept. I was paranoid and delusional. Simple tasks like showering would take me hours to work up to and even then, half the time, I said fuck it.

Worst of all was a persistent voice in my head that I call Eeyore, because it never has anything positive to say. Eeyore never shut the hell up. It would either whisper in my ear, telling me everything was hopeless and worthless (particularly myself), or it would yell at me. It would tell me that there was no point to it all and that I should just stop it. “Just stop it” were words that constantly ran through my mind. I didn’t know what it meant at first. One day, I realized that the “it” was living. Eeyore wanted me, us, to die.

Eeyore would plan who would look after our pets and what things in the house we should get rid of because it would be embarrassing to have anyone find them after we were gone. Eeyore would go through all the possible ways that we could stop “it.” Eeyore thought about who would get what, what kind of funeral we should have and whether we should write something down about our final wishes. All I could do was listen to it prattle on in my mind, powerless to make it stop.

It was awful. It got so bad that my friends forced my hand. They gave me an ultimatum: either I get help on my own or they would 5150 me. Fifty-one-fifty is a government involuntary psychiatric hold of up to 72 hours for those who are a danger to themselves or others. If you threaten to jump off the edge of a building and the cops have to talk you down, you will most likely get 5150ed.

I didn’t want to be 5150ed. For those of us with mental illness, there’s not much that’s scarier than 72 hours of involuntary psychiatric hold. It’s a powerful motivator. So, I sought help on my own. I called the state department of crazy and started the long, arduous process of getting psychiatric treatment.

Months later, I was medicated. Originally, they put me on Lexapro (Escitalopram), an SSRI that treats depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It helped. I stopped crying all the time. I got a job. Eeyore became pretty quiet.

Then, the state being the state said they wouldn’t offer Lexapro anymore even though I was paying for it myself out of pocket, because Lexapro didn’t have a generic version. Instead they put me on Celexa (Citalopram), which was the precursor to Lexapro. My state psychiatrist said that it was essentially the same. It wasn’t.

They have similar possible side effects:

  • very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, feeling like you might pass out
  • agitation, hallucinations, overactive reflexes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination
  • headache with chest pain and severe dizziness, fainting, fast or pounding heartbeats
  • headache, slurred speech, severe weakness, muscle cramps, feeling unsteady, seizure (convulsions), shallow breathing (breathing may stop).
  • drowsiness, tired feeling
  • sleep problems (insomnia)
  • mild nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, dry mouth
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough
  • increased sweating or urination, weight changes
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.

Only now, after at least two years of Celexa am I realizing just how not the same as Lexapro it is. I cannot sleep, but I am constantly tired. I get dizzy, lightheaded and out of breath from minimal movement. I’ve had a pretty much constant headache for two years. I wake up in the middle of the night with cripplingly painful cramps. I’m nauseated a lot. I have to pee every five minutes. My sex drive is gone. I have anxiety and panic attacks that I never had before. I had none of those on Lexapro.

Worst of all though–and this isn’t listed above–is that I’ve been absolutely numb for two years. I have been in a holding pattern. I have done nothing; I don’t want to do anything. Yes, Eeyore is quieter now and I don’t think of killing myself all the time, but I don’t think about living either. I don’t cry all the time over nothing, but I don’t cry at all, not even when it’s entirely appropriate. Celexa has taken the negatives away, but it hasn’t replaced them with anything. I feel nothing. I do nothing. I don’t care about anything. I am just numb. This is not healthy.

It’s sad that it’s taken me two years to even realize that it might be the medication. The good news is that I do realize it now, and I have health insurance again. As soon as I get my insurance information, I can go get on the right pill again.

Have you ever been on the wrong pill? How disastrous was it for you?