Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Journey from Darkness to Light: One Woman's Journey out of Depression (Part III-A of III)

In this three part series, one of our avid TUS readers (with a background in mental health) shares with us her journey through anxiety and depression and how she found peace in natural remedies. Perhaps this story is yours. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression or know someone close to you that is, please share this series.

Disclaimer: And please keep in mind that though Ms. Chartier has a background in mental health and is very informed, citing all her resources, she is not a physician. Please consult your physician if you are dealing with depression or find a professional in natural remedies and homeopathy to help you. Thank you.


Part III-A
By: N. Chartier

Cardiologist, Physician and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dr. Paul Dudley White once said, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” It sounds cliché, however, it is so true! Many of us don’t have the time to fit a five-mile walk in to our day, I certainly don’t, but I do make time every single day to get in some sort of exercise. Whether it be a relaxing walk around the block once or twice in the evening, an intense interval training session on the elliptical, or five minutes of bouncing on a trampoline, I always make time for a simple workout. The endorphins our bodies produce while exercising are a natural antidepressant. In this final part of this series, I will share how I was able to get off the medications that were robbing me of my feelings, and I will also share the natural remedies that I have integrated into a healthy lifestyle.

My Journey Getting off Antidepressants

I do so much to be healthy; I eat organically, exercise, and take vitamins. So why would I want to continue poisoning myself with medications that were literally making me sick? After I had my daughter, I began seeing my life (and my emotions) from a new perspective. I started to research alternatives to the antidepressants I was taking. I no longer wanted to be a slave to the medication. I was at a point where I felt it was safe to begin exploring the idea of weaning off the SNRI again. Additionally, I was fed up with my psychiatrist trying to convince me to increase my dose each visit when I knew I did not need it. I was less depressed taking only 75mg of the antidepressant than I was taking 150mg, which is the opposite of what one would expect, and a blatant indication that the SNRI simply was not doing what it was supposed to be doing.

I knew that I needed to wean off the meds slowly and chose to do so without my psychiatrist’s supervision (something I do NOT recommend doing. If you plan to wean off your current antidepressant, ask your doctor how to do so appropriately. If your doctor is not sure how, or discourages you from doing so, find a doctor who will help you wean off safely). I researched the web hoping to find a site with guidance on how to safely wean of an SNRI. I found a message board with an antidepressant forum: http://www.topix.com/forum/drug/effexor . I read through countless posts by people going through the same thing I went through. It was so eye-opening to read that others had the same withdrawal experience trying to get off antidepressants as I had. Amongst all the posts about other people’s experiences, were also posts about how to taper off the drugs and recommendations for what supplements help with withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, I bought the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A., a book dedicated to offering all natural and safe alternatives to improving mood and quality of life. I also borrowed a book from the library called Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation by Charles Barber, which exposes how pharmaceutical companies create the need for a drug then rushes the FDA to approve it, and it explains how Americans are under pressure to medicate themselves. Armed with the information I learned from these resources and a few others, I began my journey towards living life medication and depression free.

After spending hours reading through years of posts by people on the forum discussing how they weaned off potent and addictive antidepressants, I decided to cut all my antidepressant tablets in half. Then I took half of those half tablets and cut them in to fourths and cut half of the fourths in to eighths. I started my taper by going down to three fourths of a tablet for two weeks, then half a tablet for two weeks, then one fourth for two weeks, and finally one eighth for two weeks. It was by far the most difficult two months of my life. I experienced painful withdrawals such as brain zaps, a strange sensation which makes your head feel like it is being electrocuted. My joints were so stiff and achy that I couldn’t stand up straight or walk first thing in the morning and after getting up from sitting. I had severe depression and crying spells over nothing. I was easily angered and suffering insomnia.

I learned from the message board that taking Magnesium Malate and high potency Omega-3 fish oil helps to alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. I went to the vitamin store and purchased bottles of both. Magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever. I took 1,250mg of Magnesium Malate up to three times a day depending on how I felt. It helped me tremendously with muscle and joint pain. I also took 1,200mg of Omega-3 fish oil with DHA which helped to minimize the severity of those annoying “brain zaps” I described earlier and also works as a natural antidepressant. After two months of decreasing my antidepressant dose and taking these supplements, I was finally free of antidepressants. I have been completely off antidepressants for three months now, and I have never felt better.

My “Secrets” to Living Life Depression-free Naturally

Truthfully, what I am about to share with you is not really a secret at all (although the FDA and “Big Pharma” would probably like it to be). The remedies I use to maintain my emotional health and well-being are natural, affordable, abundant, effective, and some of them are even free! For instance, the sun is free, and it is abundant and is one of my favorite “cures” for a bad mood or depression. The quotable Astrid Alauda stated once that “The sun is nature’s Prozac.” Each day, first thing in the morning, I open all of the blinds in my house to let in the sunlight. Some mornings, I get caught up feeding the baby and forget to do it right away, and I’ll catch myself feeling a little glum. Then I open my blinds and feel a world of difference in terms of my mood.

Unfortunately for many of us simply opening the blinds is not enough to help boost our mood, which is why I also rely on supplements to keep my anxiety and depression in check. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.A. taught me which supplements work for certain mood categories. I rely heavily on this book, refer to it on a weekly basis, and highly recommend it to anyone; from those who experience the occasional blues, to those who suffer from more severe depression. The Mood Cure shares information about natural antidepressant remedies, such as SAMe, 5-HTP, St. Johns Wort, Tryptophan, GABA and Melatonin, and provides instructions on how to take these supplements as well as when to stop taking them. For the sake of keeping this part of the series from becoming too cumbersome, I will only go in to detail discussing the supplements I take:

5-HTP-5 hydroxy-tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid and is the precursor to serotonin. It is converted from tryptophan, a protein building-block, and is transformed in to serotonin by our bodies. It is also an important brain chemical that influences mood, behavior, appetite, and sleep. Sometimes we do not get enough tryptophan from the foods we eat (eggs, beef, poultry, turkey and dairy products) therefore, our bodies have a more difficult time producing serotonin, which can lead to depression. 5-htp is also useful for combating headaches, carbohydrate cravings, obesity, fibromyalgia and insomnia basically side effect free. Relief from depression can be felt within minutes of taking a 5-htp supplement. I take 100mg of 5-htp every morning, and depending on my mood and whether I am having trouble falling asleep, I might also take 100mg at night, too. You can purchase 5-htp in supplement form from any health food store or vitamin shop. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross. M.A. Pages: 26-7, 42-44 and 235-36.

GABA- Gamma-aminobutyric acid is an amino acid, or building block of protein, and is a “potent mood enhancer”, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.89). Taking GABA in supplement form has the same effect on the brain as taking a benzodiazepine because it is what biochemists refer to as an “inhibitory neurotransmitter”, a chemical which turns off the brain’s reaction to stress. Our bodies produce GABA naturally, but too much stress can deplete our natural supply of GABA leaving us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious, I take one 750mg GABA tablet and feel relief within a half hour. GABA can also be taken before an event which you know might be stressful and will actually prevent the person taking it from becoming too anxious or stressed. If you find that you are getting really sleepy after taking GABA, you are taking too much of it. GABA can be found in health food stores and vitamin shops in the same section where you will find 5-htp, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and other mood enhancing supplements. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 89 & 90.

Magnesium- Magnesium is a soothing and relaxing mineral that protects us from conditions associated with insomnia, depression, stress, anxiety, anger, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, constipation, low blood sugar, diabetes, chronic fatigue, low thyroid, PMS, osteoporosis and also encourages serotonin production, according to Julia Ross, M.A. (The Mood Cure, P.195 and 234) There are so many reasons to take a magnesium supplement. I prefer to take Magnesium Malate, which is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, because it helps with pain in addition to working as an antidepressant. I take 1,200mg in the evening because I find that not only does it help relieve the back pain I feel at the end of a long day of carrying and lifting my baby, it also helps me fall asleep quickly at bedtime. Since muscular tension and pain are often associated with stress and depression, I believe it is important to make sure you are getting enough magnesium if you suffer from depression or anxiety. For more information about how magnesium can help relieve chronic pain, refer to http://www.naturalnews.com/026801_magnesium_Vitamin_D_chronic_pain.html. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 195-96 and 243.

Fish Oil- Fish oil supplements are loaded with the important brain protecting fat, Omega-3. Omega-3 fats help protect our brains, arteries, and digestive lining and are also extraordinarily effective antidepressants. And, the more omega-3 we have, the more depression-fighting dopamine our bodies produce. It helps to improve our mental and physical alertness, as well. Grass-fed beef, many types of fish, eggs and flaxseed are all great sources of heart-healthy, mood boosting omega-3 fats. I take 1,800mg of omega-3 fish oil with DHA and EPA every day. One thing to watch out for when taking/eating omega-3 rich supplements and foods is that you are not also getting too much of the bad mood omega-6 fats. Source: The Mood Cure, Julia Ross M.A. Pages: 149-50 & 197.


In Part III-B Ms. Chartier will share lifestyle changes that can dramatically improve your mental health, along with her conclusion and recommended reads. Don't miss it!


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