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Pharmaceuticals can be wonderful in emergencies or for short term management of mood disorders, but for long term use for depression and anxiety they can cause problems and side effects.
Nowadays there are many alternatives for getting to the root of the cause of your symptoms. Functional medicine doctors are treating depression, bipolar and anxiety with many new treatments that allow people to get off harsh antidepressants.
If you are unhappy with the treatment your doctor has given you for depression there are alternatives. But you must know the protocols and preparation with nutrition and supplementation and be sure to taper slowly. A lot of people find the side effects of pharmaceuticals worse than the depression or not worth it in the long run.
Pharmaceuticals are like a life raft. These harsh chemical concentrates are great in an emergency situation but you want to get out of the water as soon as possible. You want to find the true cause of the chronic illness and fix it rather than just holding onto that life raft and floating in shark-infested water for the rest of your life.
The problem is doctors do not tell patients how difficult it can be for the body when you remove the drugs. There is little training for doctors on drug withdrawal symptoms for depression medications. Often people think the depression is coming back when they cut down on the meds when really they are going through drug withdrawal that will diminish over time.
Part 1: My personal experience
“Kill the baby! kill the baby!” I heard a voice in my head saying over and over. But It wasn’t my voice, and I had never heard voices before. What in the world was going on with me?
It went on and on in the back of my mind as I tried to look normal and proceeded to teach a Pilates student in my home studio.
She had been bringing the 6-month-old baby for a couple of months and it had been working out fine.
But today the baby was crying and fussing and needed more attention. The infant did not sleep through our lessons in her little car seat today.
I smiled pleasantly “Well she is growing so fast. I think she wants to do Pilates too. No more sitting on the sidelines for you!” I intoned brightly in the baby’s direction, as the evil voice in my head droned on.
The mom smiled sadly and got up off the Pilates reformer again to pick up the baby who was squirming and crying now. “Well, I guess she is getting a little old for coming to class with me.”
“Aww, too bad, but I guess so.” I agreed, smiling some more and still trying to look normal and hold it together. The mean little voice was still in the back of my head commanding “Kill the baby! kill the baby!” over and over.
By now it had occurred to me that this must be the Prozac I had been on for about 3 months. It was doing something weird with my brain chemistry. Perhaps it was bringing up my primitive limbic system and causing me to think more aggressive thoughts.
Don’t try this at home
As soon as my student and her baby left I ran to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and flushed the whole bottle of Prozac (fluoxetine) down the toilet. (Don’t do this to our water supply by the way. You can bring unused drugs to your local pharmacy for safer disposal.)
I wonder how many people had strange thoughts due to my contribution to the toxins in the water system that week.
My experiment with taking antidepressants was finally over
I had gained 20 pounds on Zoloft for 6 months with no letup in the depression. I felt no difference at all.
A doctor had thrust Paxil samples at me when I got blood tests for chronic fatigue. The Paxil had made me sleep through work and become obsessive compulsive. I felt weird and spacy, almost out-of-body while teaching Pilates in a studio I worked at part-time.
But even with all those other side-effects, I had never heard a nasty little voice in my head before and I never wanted to again.
Throwing your antidepressants down the toilet in one fell swoop is not recommended.
I was anxious for weeks afterward and had to have my boyfriend drive me to county mental health in the middle of the night shortly after going off Prozac.
But I think this was mostly because of fear and because I was doing it on my own with no supplements or guidance. This was in 2001 and it was early in the movement of alternative treatments for mood disorders.
The County Mental Health Department
When I went to county mental health for my weekly visit my latest psychiatrist-in-training thought I was nuts for stopping the drugs cold turkey and told me so. His disapproval was not heartening.
And since I had been treated like a contagious leper by county health in general, I wasn’t about to tell him that I had heard a voice in my head and that was why I had dumped my drugs down the toilet. I feared I would be committed if I admitted to hearing that awful voice.
I really was not about to take another one of those little blue pills after hearing this evil voice in my head! I was badly frightened and did not want to lose my mind.
I had heard that antidepressants helped people feel normal again
I had always mixed feelings about antidepressants and the whole psychology and pharmaceuticals industry was a mixed bag I knew from experience. I had heard about Prozac in the 1980s when it first came out because it was notorious for bringing about violence in patients. So I had been surprised and dubious when the county mental health I had finally gone to for help decided to prescribe Prozac.
The idea they believed in was that something was wrong with me and that I would need to stay on drugs for the rest of my life just to function.
But I had read about a few people who were helped by psychiatric drugs and said they felt normal again on meds so I thought I should give it one more try. There was this vague idea that a little magic pill would fix my life.
Prozac made me feel pleasantly numb
A few weeks after starting the Prozac it did seem to be helping a little. I did not feel quite as anxious and sad all the time anymore, as a matter of fact, I didn’t feel much of anything.
I taught Pilates students in my home and I did lots of jigsaw puzzles of the thousand-piece variety.
I used thick rolls of clear tape to preserve over the hundred or so jigsaw puzzles, so they would stay together permanently and hung a few of them up. There was a huge pile of taped together puzzles in my hall closet because I had done so many.
So maybe I was acting a little obsessive-compulsive, but it seemed harmless enough. I didn’t do a whole lot else that summer, but I was pretty content. The Prozac seemed to dull me but it was nice to be dull for a change… until the voice!
How to safely get off antidepressants SSRIs
Your prescribing MD might not know the best way to taper off. Few studies have been done on getting off SSRI’s safely. The medical model for depression is broken. Mainstream medical treats depression like is a disease in its own right when it is often an adaptation to inflammation, nutrients missing and toxin overload.
In reality, depression is a symptom that something is wrong with your system. It could mean that stress or trauma or environmental toxins have caused your body to stop producing the right chemicals to feel normal. Dieting is a big stressor that can induce depression just from lack of specific nutrients. people with depression are often low in healthy fats like DHA and EFA. The microbiome has been studied of late because so many neurochemicals are produced in the gut as hormones.
Depression does not have to be a life sentence
Doctors often treat depression and anxiety like a permanent condition, that must be treated with antidepressants and sleeping pills and other add-on drugs to treat the symptoms of the first drug, for the rest of your life.
When doctors prescribe antidepressants, They are not trained to tell you about the risk of dependency or how hard it will be to get off of them once you start. Instead of investigating the root cause of your depression you are given the most extreme treatment first. Luckily brain-cutting lobotomies are not as popular these days nor is electroshock therapy the first offering in the lineup.
Russ McKenzie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given medication. He got himself off Lithium after 16 years:
Antidepressants should be the last resort not the first knee-jerk reaction by your doctor
It should be routine to do simple, inexpensive blood panels to check for thyroid, hormone balance, toxins, like mercury and lead, food intolerance, microbiome issues, mold sensitivity, methylation issues with absorbing B vitamins and several other root causes instead of giving people neurotoxic drugs that are designed to cross the blood-brain barrier. It should be routine to radically enhance your nutrition first, before doing anything with drugs that can damage your brain more than the depression itself.
But unfortunately, you cannot expect a lot of help from the mainstream medical system we have in place right now. Big Pharma is in the driver’s seat and they want everyone on meds of one form or another.
Mainstream medicine will not help you with a healthy diet or supplementation to heal whatever is deficient in your body that is causing you to feel so terrible.
Treat the root cause not just the symptoms
Prozac has a half-life of several weeks after you stop taking it. This is probably why I did not have an adverse reaction or withdrawal as it gradually worked its way out of my body. But it is better to wean yourself gradually especially if you are on a higher dosage or have been taking antidepressants for over 6 months. Some people do have a withdrawal reaction to Prozac.
I was on a fairly low dose, around 20 mg to start I think and then it was raised a little, and I was only on it for about 4 months. Be sure to do it at a time when you are not in a demanding situation. Listen to your body and make sure you have support.
Resources for tapering off antidepressants
Dominate Depression is a blog and a6-week program with a lot of great resources
The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, book, program and website chock full of resources
Your Resonant Self by Sarah Peyton, book, website and courses
Debbie Hansen’s site, The Best Brain Possible
Over to you
What has been your experience with antidepressants, and depression? Have you found alternatives to drugs that help? I would love to hear about your experience. Leave me a comment or write to me!