My Journey Through Depression
I have been taking antidepressants for the past year. Jan 2017, I had a very dark night of the soul. I was not sure I wanted to keep living, I didn’t know whether I loved my child or my husband, and I felt utterly alone. 2016 for me brought up a lot of past trauma and pain. December 31, 2016 became a turning point in my life. I left my family that morning, not sure where I was going, but desperate to leave my life, my family, and everything I knew. I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue living the life I was living and I didn’t know who to turn to or how to change the way I was feeling. I had been in counseling for many years and my therapist encouraged me to give antidepressants a try.
Full disclosure: My doctor had prescribed antidepressants to me in the end of 2015, I took them for a few months, and then I didn’t like the side effects so I got off of them. In 2016, I saw a psychiatrist, who met with me for 15 minutes, never looked up from her computer and prescribed me another antidepressant after diagnosing me as bi-polar. Now this diagnosis did not makes sense to me, or my therapist who had been observing me for over three years at this point. I really hated the way there was no personal or holistic approach to figuring out what was going on with me, and how easily she labelled me with something I knew was not a fit. So I did not take the medication she prescribed.
Many things were going on in my life. I was a first time mom. I had stopped my career to be a stay at home mom, and I was overwhelmed with the massive shift and loss of sense of identity and purpose that I had because of this change. Also being a mom, brought up many of my old wounds of being mothered and what it meant to be a mother and I felt completely lost, without a compass for how to be a good mother and not repeat any of the patterns from my family of origin. Additionally, my marriage was in a rough point. My husband and I were in couples counseling. We have completely different ways of communicating and relating that left the other feeling completely missed and abandoned and unloved. So for me, every area of my life seemed to be failing.
In addition to what was going on in my own life, the state of the country was a complete shit show. The possible (and ultimate) election of a racist, misogynistic, sexual predator to the highest office of the land and the subsequent assault on women’s rights and people of color in America, left me feeling despair, fear and anxiety at levels I have never before experienced.
So, when I found myself questioning whether life was worth continuing to live, I knew it was time to trust my therapist, my doctor, my husband and my dearest confidants, and I begin taking the antidepressants.
I have always been a more natural and holistic person. Always preferring to take the natural home remedy and use things like diet, lifestyles changes and yoga and meditation for my health needs.
My chemistry background, and 12 years spent in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical patent and scientific literature research, have only solidified my resolve to be more holistic and to whenever possible, use a plant based, food based approach to healthcare before taking a processed man-made substance.
Returning to my story:
In 2015, I was introduced by a friend to aromatherapy and essential oils for mood management and I had a lot of success using specific essential oils to help with hormone stabilization and mood regulation using aromatherapy. This was sufficient to help me with some of the postpartum baby blues I had been suffering through for two years following the birth of my son. However, in 2016, the events of that year created a supercell type emotional storm in my life that I needed a bit more help to manage. So I started taking the antidepressants, the lowest dose I could, with the intention to take it for the shortest amount of time possible. I initially planned to stop after 6 months, but my doctor and therapist advised to continue taking the medicine for at least 12 months.
My approach to taking pharmaceuticals is that I am alway aware of the toll that taking pharmaceuticals could have on the function of my organs. The long list of side effects on most medications concerns me and have always caused me to wonder, is there a better way? During my time as patent researcher, I often found that natural plant species were the basis on which many of the chemical compounds used to make pharmaceutical were patterned. So I wondered, why not just use the plant?
Does Science Back this Up?
Many times, people have questioned me about why I use herbs or essential oils, because there are no double blind clinical trials and standardized scientific studies to verify efficacy. First this is no longer the case. There have been numerous studies published in peer reviewed journals documenting the efficacy and safety of herbal and aromatherapy tools both in vivo and in vitro. Second, standardization, meaning isolation of a single chemical constituent for testing in a living host, clinical trial, may not obtain the same effect as using the whole essential oil or plant species would. The biochemistry within the plant is so sophisticated and attuned and it is really the combination of constituents within the plant that offers the therapeutic effect. Since the scientific process is based on isolation, creating a model to test a single species of compound for efficacy, it would be difficult to isolate and reproduce results in order to meet the standards of scientific research due to the varied combination of chemical constituents in the plant. So the bottom line is we don’t know exactly how it works, but we do know that it works.
For centuries natural plant based medicine has worked. Modern medicine was born out of plant based medicine. Somewhere along the way, modern medicine moved away from this intuitive knowledge that the earth and the plants of the earth have healing and moved into a more chemical and synthetic model, that is not bringing greater health to humanity but is creating a dependency on synthetic interventions.
This is one of the reasons that I would prefer to limit the amount of synthetic pharmaceutical intervention in my body. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not against modern medicine. It has its place, and I will and do take prescription medication when it is warranted. However, I wonder if maybe, sometimes, the over prescription of medications and the moving away from dietary and lifestyle adjustments could be why we have so much sickness and “need for medication” in the United States.
I am not an expert, and these are just my musings.
So back to what I do know...My own story.
In addition to my depression, I was drinking alcohol a lot. For me a lot means having a drink or two every night. This was my “treat” at the end of the day. My diet was so-so. Though I tried to eat a fair share of fresh organic vegetables and fruits, I was also consuming a lot of meat and a lot of sugar. My drug of choice, was Dried Mangos with chili spice. I could go through three bags in a week. Lots of sugar.
Diet and exercise are important factors in depression. So when I look at my level of sugar and alcohol intake coupled with my moderate exercise, it was really no wonder that I found myself in a depressive state most of the time.
So fast-forward to 2017. I added antidepressants. This helped to bring my mood up to a point where I could start making better lifestyle choices for my health. I started eating a plant based diet. I began exercising regularly. I started taking supplements to support my nutritional needs and my cellular health. I began focusing on developing purpose in my life. I built my coaching and yoga therapy practice and my aromatherapy business. I took on personal development and began to process emotions more fully instead of numbing them with food and alcohol. All of these things contributed to a better outlook on life.
I also got better sleep. My phone has a program that reminds me to go to sleep at a certain time to get the optimal sleep I need every night. Having this little reminder has been so helpful and I find that I now wake up with much more energy.
I studied aromatherapy and read research on using essential oils for mood stabilization. Now, I am well versed in which essential oils are needed when I feel irritated or anxious. As well as which ones I need to help lift a low mood, and which essential oils to reach for when I need help focusing and grounding.
Also I have found resilience through resources such a yoga nidra and guided meditation to help process stuck emotions and create a shift in my energy by daily practice.
So that brings me to today. January 24, 2018. I have decided that I have built the resilience and have the toolkit stocked to be able wean myself off of the antidepressant medication. I want to blog through this process for two reasons.
I want to have a record of this journey so that I may look back on it and see how this process affected me. (My science mind needs this).
I want to create community and remove the stigma about talking about depression and explore within community what a shift from dependency on medication to other options that are more holistic in nature can do to change the national depression epidemic.
I hope that you will share this journey with me. I would love to hear your thoughts and would love to read your stories about how you experience and deal with mood challenges.
These statements have not been approved by the FDA. Also I am not a physician. Please DO NOT stop taking your prescription medication based on the information you find here. Please speak to your doctor and make sure you remain under the care of a trusted medical professional.