An Herbalist Reconciling with a Prescription for Lexapro

In my late teens I started taking a real interest in herbal medicine. I was learning it when it was coming out of the lapse of interest in it between the 60’s and the 90’s. Especially the late 90’s into the 2000’s. Over time I studied with a Medicine Man, attended brick and mortar as well as online schools to learn more variance in my methods, and even did a clinical internship at a TCM Clinic in California.

I’ve also had a health issue since my mid 20’s. I treated myself with varied herbal remedies I made by using simples to create different formulas, all effective to varying degrees, but I realized quickly that herbal remedies don’t always do the trick. They’re best for health maintenance and acute conditions.

When I went to college I went in wanting to be able to help people who were, “going through it,” since I’d been doing that for a long while and had experience. I was of a mind to major in psychology, I figured that eventually those two things, natural remedies for acute issues and a knowledge of psychology, might go together like chocolate and peanut butter. I was right. I remember the dark side too though.

I remember looking around the classroom in an abnormal psych class at one point wondering how any of these people were going to be able to help anyone. None of them had, you know, “been through it,” or been through much of anything at all. How could they build trust if they didn’t have resonance and were only trying to figure out what boxes to check and what diagnonsense to administer?

When I got done with school I took it to the road, mediating and helping build communities all over the United States. I also, when settled between rubber-tramping excursions, offered herbal remedies and such for people that would hear about me at the bars, grocery stores and post office lines in the smallish mountain towns I tended to settle in. I was the typical Barefoot Doctor, the Small Town Medicine Woman.

I’ve treated some pretty crazy stuff, even saved a man’s foot. Still, I understand that it doesn’t have to be all one way or all the other. I’ve blended Western Medicine with Eastern modalities such as TCM and Ayurveda for a long time. Mostly, I keep pretty healthy with herbs and rarely get sick or have to go to the doctor. When I got the opportunity to experience the upheaval of homelessness for 5 years, I took on the challenge with the firm resolution that I would do my best and encourage my daughter to do the same.

In the five years we were homeless we learned a lot about each other and ourselves and evolved. It wasn’t all rosy though as there are a lot of things out of your control when you don’t have many resources. Our physical and our mental health were challenged. When we were unhealthy physically, it ultimately affected us emotionally.

Fortunately, I’ve had many opportunities in my life to show resiliency and create and incorporate, with success, the coping skills we needed. The physical deterioration was the most problematic though. My daughter developed epilepsy, which doesn’t stop her from doing anything. And for me, a heart and gut condition. I self medicated in various ways, marijuana being one of them. As an over-thinker, marijuana is useful as it helps me slow down and think things through realistically and rationally.

Once during a hospital stay, a result of the gut thing, I was fed some lines I’ve heard before about marijuana and a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. I’m still doing my research and to be honest I’m not fully convinced that I agree with Western Medicine about it. At any rate, I figured I’d ask the doc for any ideas about something besides marijuana to mellow my overly active mind. She recommended a drug called Lexapro.

I’ve built relationships with people online and offline for years based largely on my reputation as a Master of coping, it felt like defeat being told to take an anti-depressant. Then again, I always wanted to give Western ideas a chance and thought I’d try their recommendation. It’s contrary to what I normally would do, physical exceptions are one thing, psychological another, that’s my field. Yet I could justify it as a healthier choice, at least for my lungs, maybe not for my liver. Consider that no actual evaluation by a professional in the field was ever done. I was prescribed an anti depressant by a general practitioner who had no clinical experience in psychological evaluation.

Bear in mind this all seemed more like a way to prevent a relapse of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS), that’s how they were shilling it anyway, but they couldn’t fool this ol’ Carny. Maybe they weren’t trying to fool me, either way, I’m still doing the research. I have learned a lot of things from a lot of sources, including but not limited to a nurse telling me that the doctor who diagnosed me with CHS has, “Been working on getting published for her work with CHS for a long time,” with a nod and a wink it wasn’t hard to guess what she was suggesting, the doc needed another case to fit her research.

Despite the reasons why, I figured I should let it run its course and then let it go. For all the people who have wanted to quit taking some of the drugs they’ve been prescribed and have shared their experiences with that process, I wanted to be able to relate. It was just like all those years ago in college when I realized that the psychologists of tomorrow would be largely useless and it wouldn’t even be their fault. They’d know it, some would even concede to being paid far more than they’re worth, but they’d need the money.

I’ve since heard that a big part of CHS is the result of doing “dabs” which require a butane torch, not a lighter, a torch. The study showed that is what causes the illness, not marijuana ingestion, butane ingestion. As much as I’ve seen marijuana criminalized, even vilified, and as I’ve been lied to by the government but not the stoners, I’ll have to look into that. In the meantime, I’m trying something new, something that I’m not sure how I feel about, a medication created for depression for me, who rarely feels depression so much as a passing sadness or melancholy from time to time.

I’ve been on it for awhile now and I haven’t noticed any difference. My idea was that once we moved into an apartment and much of what was causing the melancholy was removed, I’d quit. Of course moving is never stress free, never as easy as you think and after 5 years of homelessness, the apartment is great. We’ve lost one of our sources of income however, the one we needed most, so we’re hanging on by a thread and have that hanging over our heads. That and the fact that I’ve found out you can’t just quit Lexapro, you have to go off of it slowly. Suffice it to say, I’m still on it.

For those five years we were what is referred to as “sheltered but homeless.” We were living in a leaky trailer not much bigger than my Honda Accord, both my grown daughter and I. No plumbing, just a port-a-potty, no food storage and no proper way to cook or prepare food. If we lose this apartment we have no itty bitty trailer to go to, we’ll be in the streets with all the meth addicts. I don’t like the prospect of that. So how do I reconcile being an herbalist and naturalist and taking this drug? I have no idea.



Creator of Gorgonzola Journalism, Author, Consultant, Drifter, Contract Polymath, Mediator to the Gods. M.H., C.H.T., O.M.D.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Hanna Maxwell & Fanny Adam's Ghost

Creator of Gorgonzola Journalism, Author, Consultant, Drifter, Contract Polymath, Mediator to the Gods. M.H., C.H.T., O.M.D.