Updated: Aug 16
FIRST! I am not a doctor in ANY way. DO NOT stop any medications without speaking with your doctor. This is only my experience/journey and many medications are completely necessary and not everyone will have the same experience as me. And I am not at all anti-meds, and never be ashamed for taking them. My journey just led me to trying life without them. What works for me, might not work for you and that is OK!
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 14. I was a sophomore in high school and was struggling to function. A feeling that I would become very familiar with. I always did well in school, I got along with most of the kids in my class, I was shy but well liked, I had a lot of friends and like every teenager, I spent every possible minute exploring my hometown with them. This was the age when the trauma of my childhood was at a peak. My dad was is a sociopath who used my brother and I to torment the hell out of my mom. He was cruel. My younger brother was starting to experiment with drugs and was starting to show signs of some serious behavioral issues. Things were challenging. But chaos was really all I had known my whole life. So these rather large struggles in my life were something I could just shove deep down inside me and ignore. Well at least I thought.
But then I noticed my appetite started to disappear, I started struggling with sleep. I would wake up nauseous almost every morning and soon I had lost 20 pounds in a month. Something wasn't right. After a quick doctors visit, I was diagnosed with depression and was sent home with my first little orange bottle of antidepressants. And I took one little white pill every day... for 14 years.
Fast forward to Christmas 2019. Even on medication, with regular dose increases, I was the worst mentally I had ever been. There was no immediate reason for this depression. I had a good job with a decent income, I never worried about making sure my bills were paid. I was able to provide myself and my son with a pretty decent life. We had a nice apartment, I had just bought myself a decently newer car, I had friends that I went out with regularly. Life should have been good. I "should" have been happy. But I was in hell. I had started tracking my moods while on my meds, and noticed that they were extremely inconsistent. I would have a few good days, followed by a few really bad days. And my mood could change within seconds. So what really was my medication doing to help? And after 14 years, what is my body really life free of these antidepressants? I thought just maybe, I could learn to understand my emotions, feel my emotions and learn to work through them. Instead of numbing them and pretending they aren't there.
So, for the first time since I was a young teen, I decided to try life without medication. And let me just say, it was HARD. The side effect were rough, but this is something I knew I wanted to do. I put my bottle of little pills away, the same little pill that had seen me through a traumatic childhood, becoming a mom at 20 (No,I didn't take them while pregnant), many breakups, college, career changes, my brothers declining mental healthy, and the abuse of my father. I knew there would be withdrawals, but I didn't realize how severe they would be. These are the symptoms I personally experience when I stopped my antidepressants.
*I never slept. Ever. Insomnia is a cruel, cruel bitch.
*My mood swings got bad. I could go from extremely happy to a full on panic attack within seconds.
*Headaches, some were pretty severe.
*Night sweats. These were terrible. To the point of soaking through my shirt every night.
*Serious grumpiness and irritability.
*My depression got more severe. Temporarily.
Although these symptoms sucked, they were temporary. After a few weeks, I started noticing a change in my mood. I felt my emotions becoming more stable. I could feel my emotions better, therefore, learning to understand them and cope with them better. Here is what I learned by stopping my antidepressants.
Withdrawals suck, but don't last long- This was the first phase of coming off my meds. It wasn't fun, but I had a goal in mind and learned to ride them out. They were only temporary.
My emotions become more intense- I feel my anger more. I can feel what it does to my body and the symptoms that come with it. I not only felt angry, I could feel the heat rising inside of me. But the same is said for happiness. I used to just feel sad, and it sucked, but now, I can feel my body reacting to it. The antidepressant numbed most of my emotions to where I couldn't feel the totality of the feeling beyond "I am pissed" or "I'm sad". I could feel "happy" before, but now I can feel the energy and warmth of my happiness throughout my body and the tingle in my chest. I learned happiness isn't just an emotion but a whole body experience.
By feeling my true emotions, I learned what my body needed- When your body is reacting to emotions, it is telling you what it needs. I have learned to read my body better. When I am extra grumpy, my body is usually telling me that I am feeling overwhelmed and it needs some alone time or rest. When I am feeling sad, sometimes I need some sun, family time or a walk. This has taught me how to cope with these feelings in healthy ways.
My moods leveled out- Instead of the up and down roller coaster ride that I was on when taking antidepressants, my moods started to flatten out. They don't just change on a dime. I become more consistently "okay". There weren't highs and lows to the extremes that there was before. I was happy, with a few minor bumps through out the day.
My recouping time decreased- After something happened that would trigger a meltdown, it could take me hours or sometimes days to recover. My boss was mean to me one day?... ends in a whole night of tears. I said something that made me look stupid?... I would repeat that moment probably 1000 times until I was so anxious that I could only finally fall asleep at 3AM. Yes, I still can get fixated on situations like these, but not nearly as long as I used to. The time it takes for my brain to move on has seriously decreased.
There are SO many natural ways to help your depression/anxiety- When you stop taking your antidepressants, you start looking for other things that make you happy or feel better. The BIGGEST thing hands down that has helped me overcome my depression is seeing a counselor. It was the best decision I ever made. Other things that have helped me? Clean eating. Yoga, walking and other exercises. Flax seed (Omegas are amazing). Vitamins (B, St. Johns Wort, Theanine, Valerian Root, GABA, Ashwagandha and so many more). Meditation and deep breathing exercises. Getting outside. Finding new hobbies and things you enjoy, for me I learned I LOVE my indoor plants and cooking. Writing/Journaling. Keeping my house clean has helped my mood tremendously. Regular lunches with friends. Decreasing my alcohol and fast food. Keeping a schedule and a consistent life. Reading. And most importantly, I found that I really enjoy self help. I have enjoyed constantly learning new ways to get better and stay better.
Stopping my antidepressants was absolutely the right choice for me, but depression cure isn't a one size fits all. What works for me, may certainly not work for someone else. Speak with your doctor before making changes. And learn what to read what your body is trying to say or ask of you. Whether you are on any medications or not, the number one thing you need to do it discover yourself. Try new things, learn what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy.
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