How I Went From Anti-Depressants To Nutrition & A Natural Supplement
- Published on: 22 March, 2014
- Last update: 10 August, 2017
I truly don’t know how to start this post. I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen and I just keep coming up blank. When did my depression even begin? That’s a really tough question, and is what’s so difficult about depression in general. You don’t know when it started, you don’t know how it happened, and most of the time you don’t even know what it is. I guess I would describe it as a feeling of emptiness that nothing could fill: friends, food, meds, etc.
I was always sensitive growing up. I was emotional and very worrisome – I would stay up all night when I was in Pre-K worrying that I’d get in trouble the next day or I’d hear my name on the PA system and have to go to the office (even though I was the most well-behaved child EVER!) I think it’s because I was very smart and almost hyper-aware of everything going on around me. I’m an only child and always had to think of creative ways to keep myself entertained, so needless to say my mind easily wandered and sometimes came up with crazy situations that could never happen but gave me endless nights of anxiety. I even saw a childhood therapist for that anxiety to teach me how to relax each muscle in my body and avoid panic attacks.
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” -Ernest Hemingway
Here’s the thing. I was always “DIFFERENT.” I felt it and was sure reminded of it! I was bullied a lot and made better friends with my teachers than with most other kids. I was called fat, four eyes, chubby, buck teeth, anything you could think of. I sang Italian opera and wasn’t exactly “popular,” but adults sure appreciated me!
As an “old soul,” I would rather talk about real things with the grown-ups than play pretend with other kids, and was very easily bored with things that were supposed to be normal or make me sit still. I was intelligent, and I was aware of what was going on in the world. As I got older this really isolated me.
I’ll never forget the year I stopped being who I was meant to be and started focusing on being accepted. For the first three months of sixth grade, I wore whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was knee-high neon pink and green spiral converse, bright orange skirts, and polka dot tops. Ask anyone who I grew up with and they will vouch for this. I would be late for school because I was twisting every single 1 inch section of my hair into butterfly clips looking like Jada from The Matrix or making my ponytail stand up like Cindy Lou Whoo from the Grinch. This was normal to me; it was who I was and it made life FUN! But the kids in the cafeteria didn’t feel the same. I made my mom go with me to buy t-shirts and jeans like the other kids. My teachers actually pulled me aside to ask if everything was OK… “Why are you wearing jeans?”
Fast forward to my teenage years. The bright clothing and crazy hairstyles were behind me and I was doing a great job at blending in with people my age. I still suffered from the severe anxiety I had as a kid, which eventually turned into social anxiety, but I had a great group of friends in high school. During my junior year, I went through a lot of changes and was experiencing normal teenage problems (arguments with parents or friends, feeling “misunderstood”) but for some reason things started to spiral out of control.
I began to put on a lot of weight and ate junk to cover my feelings. I sat in my room in the dark all the time just doing nothing on the computer. I tried to go out and hang with friends but it all felt empty and forced and I just wanted to go right back home to be alone in my comfort zone. One day I was folding clothes and while staring at a shirt I just started bawling. I told my mom I had been thinking that life wasn’t worth it and it would be easier if I wasn’t here.
My mother has actually had depression all her life. She had a really rough childhood that left a mark on her and has never been able to function without anti-depressants or anxiety medications. She understood exactly how hopeless I felt and took me to my first psychiatrist… an experience I had to go through to be where I am today.
Once in the psych’s office, I let it all out. I felt bored. sad. angry. helpless. stuck. tearful. no energy. Instead of my psychiatrist asking what I was doing in life (or NOT doing) to make myself feel this way, she told me that drugs would fix everything. In a mere 30 minutes I was handed a script for Lexapro to cover what she told me was “major depressive disorder” and “generalized anxiety disorder.” I had…. disorders? I was broken? At least this pill could fix me… right?
Right!… for 3 weeks. At first it was bliss. The pills started kicking in the first week and the darkness lifted. I had motivation to get out bed for the first time in months. I actually wanted to exercise and look good. But by the third week, the momentum came to a crawling halt. I went back to my psychiatrist and told her what was happening. She said I was only on the “minimum therapeutic dose” and definitely needed more. We went up to 15 mg for almost a year. I still felt better than I did and was able to lose 40 lbs during that time, but I developed a tolerance once again and lost momentum. So we went up to 20.
After being on 20 mg for another 6 months, I became a zombie. I wasn’t exactly sad but I wasn’t…anything. I had no sex drive and was tired constantly. My weight loss that I was so proud of started to reverse, no matter how hard I worked out or how healthy I ate. I became “depressed” ONCE AGAIN and decided it was time to get off of these drugs that I once thought were the answer. At this point I was dating Nick and we were beginning to learn about nutrition and alternative medicine. He saw me through some of my worst times when I quit that drug.
This post is already way too long so I’ll say this: I would not wish Lexapro withdrawal on anyone. I tapered off and everything but still went through hell. I was crying all the time, convinced no one loved me, I had severe episodes of mania and mood swings. I was panicked thinking people were going to “leave me” I felt “brain zaps” every 5 minutes that kept me up at night. I wanted to die.
I had no idea what to do! Even though I had lost 40 lbs a year or so before, I did it by calorie counting and portion control. I was NOT eating actual real food, and was making a lot of my snacks Nutrigrain bars and things of that nature because they were 130 calories. After some intense googling, I read that diet alone can alleviate depression symptoms.
So what did I do? First and foremost, I went gluten free. This helped a LOT because the wheat we have today in the U.S. is hybridized and different from the varieties people have been eating without issues for years, see video here. But most importantly, it helped because it made me stop eating packaged foods since they all had gluten. Nick and I began shopping at Trader Joes and working out. We made a lot of meals from scratch and REALLY tried, although we were beginners and still had tons of GMOs on those plates thinking back. This was right around the time I started the health instagram I have today.
Within the first week of eating gluten-free home-cooked food, I felt better. Definitely not 100% or even 50%, but better and that’s all that mattered. Through more googling, I discovered that other countries don’t prescribe antidepressant drugs the way America does.
I found out that Europe actually gives people an over the counter supplement! It’s kind of like a vitamin. It’s called SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), and it’s a compound formed naturally in the body from the essential amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy-producing compound found in all cells in the body. It was first discovered in 1953.
It turns out that a lot of the time, depression is caused by the brain simply not creating enough S-adenosylmethionine naturally. With additional help from vitamin B-12 and folic acid, SAM-e relinquishes a methyl group from its composition to surrounding tissues and organs. Through this action, SAM-e helps with the maintenance of cell membranes, removal of toxic substances from the body, and the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Why would my brain not have enough methionine to produce SAM-e? Because my diet SUCKED and I was eating GMOs and drinking fluoride! My brain was clogged with toxins that a natural supply of SAM-e should have been removing, and my body was not being filled with the proper foods that would provide it with the methionine to make SAM-e.
Let me tell you something. I have never felt so lucky and grateful as I did the first week I took SAM-e. I felt NORMAL. I felt GOOD. I felt FUNCTIONING. I stopped crying. Everything did a 180 turn in my life and my brain kick-started into overdrive. I began researching nutrition and natural supplements/alternative medicine like SAM-e and realized that the pharmaceutical industry and pills just cover up the problem! Pretty soon your brain gets used to the drug and needs more – or worse it stops working altogether! My mom has been on 6 different antidepressants because she keeps getting used to them and needs to change them up. My antidepressants were a band-aid to the real problem, and getting off of them almost made me take my own life. If something as simple as a supplement like SAM-e could heal my horrible thoughts, what other simple things was I missing?
I kept researching the symptoms I had felt all my life and found out about “MTHFR.” In 2003, a genetic study called the Human Genome Project was completed. Through that study, scientists discovered that an important gene towards health and well-being called the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) was defective in 50% of the population!!!
What does that mean? Well, the MTHFR enzyme works with the folate vitamins (B9, folic acid), breaking them down. Once broken down, THOSE vitamins help convert the amino acid homocysteine down to another essential amino acid, methionine, which we just talked about. Methionine helps with depression and even inflammation. Methionine is converted in your liver into SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine). When you have a defective MTHFR gene, you DON’T break down folate/B vitamins and DON’t break down homocysteine into methionine which = SAM-e.
I went to the doctor to get tested and it turns out I have the MTHFR defect, which once again he confirmed to me was extremely common: 40-50% of the population.
So NOW WE KNOW why SAM-e was so freaking effective. Even if you don’t have the defect, SAM-estill helps with depression because it is anti-inflammatory, supports your immune system, helps produce then breakdown of your brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, and is involved in the growth, repair and maintenance of your cells. I was in an even worse boat because I do have MTHFR and therefore had almost no SAM-e naturally occurring in my brain.
If this information is known and available, why are we still giving out toxic meds instead of using SAM-e the way Europe does? They PRESCRIBE it. Here it’s just a supplement on a shelf that gets no attention. I want everyone to know that SAM-e can naturally help them and is not toxic whatsoever.
What about all the stuff you made us read up there about your childhood?
Oh yes… we’re getting to that. Through my discovery of nutrition, natural healing, SAM-e, my MTHFR gene, and the toxic poisonous food in America, I regained the “differentness” I had as a kid. This time it wasn’t with pink knee-high converse (which certainly was my passion at the time) but was with my new-found passion and mission, nutrition. I was now different because I was choosing to stay home on the weekends and read instead of going out to parties. I stopped trying to conform and spent my time doing what I wanted to do: blogging, writing, researching, sharing, helping. It’s still hard because I’m in college and society tells me I should be “enjoying my golden years” by binge drinking in basements and making bad decisions.
But I had to accept it. I’m not an average college kid. Drinking and hooking up with guys does not make me happy. Do I still get jealous when I see pictures of girls my age going out every night in a brand new outfit having what looks to be a blast? Sometimes. But I remember how upset I was in 6th grade when I started wearing jeans. I’m not going to make that mistake again, and I’m not going to do something everyone else is doing because I feel like I’ll miss out or stick out.
This is me, this is what I was sent here to do, and this is what I love.
A big reason I became depressed in the first place is because I STOPPED doing what I love… I STOPPED doing things that made me have fun and feel passionate, even if it was twisting my hair up and designing crazy outfits. I had always been the “little adult” and “old soul” that needed intellectual stimulation and learning to feel satisfied in life. And I completely ignored that when I started to get really depressed.
I stopped dancing and singing when I tried to be like everyone else in cruel old middle/high school. I stopped being enchanted by stories when I forgot there was so much to learn. I stopped finding comfort in the territory of silence because I hated the silence… it made me look inside myself to who I really was, and I knew I was ignoring that girl.
1) Ask your doctor if SAM-e is right for you.
In a 1999 Newsweek article, “What is SAMe” authors Geoffrey Cowley and Anne Underwood state that: “SAMe doesn’t seem to cause adverse effects, even at high doses” I wrote my own Amazon review a year back but here are some great ones to look at:
2) EAT REAL FOOD (with balance of course): consume more vegetables, give your body vitamins and minerals.
When you clear your colon and intestinal tract, you free your mind. 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut. Give your brain the nutrients it needs to help YOU! Eat tons of avocados, which contain glutathione and will detox heavy metals from the brain.
3) TAKE A PROBIOTIC!
To see the importance of a probiotic, read my article here. I take Dr.Ohhira’s Probiotics Original Formula. Like I said, 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut and if you don’t have the proper GOOD bacteria there, your body can’t make it!
4) STOP forgetting what you love, START doing the things that make you feel alive. Whatever you do while you procrastinate is what you should turn into your “job” because that’s where your heart is. You don’t need to work somewhere that you hate.
Mold your career around your passion. Take whatever it is you LOVE, and throw yourself in it. My friend loves makeup, made a blog about it, and is forming it into a career. Another person I know is selling soaps and handmade cosmetics on Etsy. I made this blog and it’s turning into…something? A career? Who knows. It has shown me WHAT I want to do and has given my life purpose.
5) Exercise. Every. Day.
Food is the most widely used anti-anxiety “drug,” why is exercise the most underutilized anti-depressant? In studies, exercising daily for 45 minutes was shown JUST AS EFFECTIVE as taking a pill. Go out there and get those endorphins.
6) Dance. Sing. Laugh. Read Books.
Don’t get too busy and forget to do those things. Start every day with stretching, meditation, and laughing. Write a journal. Write songs. Do something to let your creative spirit shine.
I truly hope this helped someone. If you read this far, thank you.