3 Reasons I Ditched My Antidepressant & What I Use Instead
For a good-long time I was embarrassed to share with others that I took a pill for anxiety and depression. At times, I felt deficient. Like I was not enough. I wasn’t capable of being happy and normal on my own. It really wasn’t anyone’s business, but keeping it a secret made me feel ashamed. When I started looking into it more, I realized I wasn’t alone. It is estimated that one out of every six Americans take an antidepressant today.
Despite the benefits I’ve experienced from being on an antidepressant, I decided earlier this year to ditch my medicine for a more natural mental health regime. This has been a much more challenging journey than I’d expected. Yet, lately, I’ve been feeling better than I ever imagined possible.
Anxiety and depression have become epidemics in our modern culture. The National Alliance on Mental Health states that “collectively, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans.” Within the last 30 years the number of people ages 12 and older in the U.S. taking an antidepressant has dramatically increased (for a myriad of reasons). If you don’t struggle with anxiety or depression yourself, you likely know someone who does.
My Anxiety Story
I started taking a form of Zoloft about eight years ago. Having dealt with life-interfering anxiety in the past, I know how devastating it can be on an individual and their loved ones. I’ve watched depression tear people down, and I’ve felt the dark pulls of anxiety as I isolated myself in hopes of feeling less anxious.
Often my anxiety stemmed from school situations. At the start of a new semester I would scour the syllabus for each of my classes to determine how many presentations I would need to get through. My favorite classes were those that didn’t require presentations—there weren’t many. I never scored high in class participation because I was just too shy to say anything. My face would get red as I thought about the terrible things everyone must be thinking about me.
I played soccer in high school and that contributed to my anxiety as well. I would get so nervous before practice and games as I was sure I would mess up and get embarrassed. At times I would lay in bed beforehand and just cry. It was an unexplainable feeling of fear and stress over future events. And when I did mess up, I replayed the event over and over again in my head—feeling worse and worse
College was about the same. I managed the stress of presentations a bit better as I had to do them more often. However, I isolated myself as I ventured down the path of having an eating disorder. It wasn’t until I received professional counseling that I really started looking at my mental health and well-being in a different light. That light brought the healing I was needing!
All of this took place while I was taking my prescription for anxiety relief. I do think that my medication helped. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to get through all of my schooling without some form of support. But, as you can see, the medication didn’t make life easy or perfect.
3 Reasons I Ditched My Anxiety Medication
Determining I didn’t want to be on this medicine anymore was a thoughtful decision made over a period of time. It’s not the right choice for everyone. However, if you feel uncertain about being on an antidepressant, there are alternative options. For these reasons, I decided to let go of my need for a prescription.
Long-term effects of anxiety and depression medication are unknown.
Because anxiety and depression medications have only been around for 40-50 years, there isn’t much evidence to advise doctors on how long a person should remain on a medication such as Zoloft or Paxil. There hasn’t been time to experience the long-term effects of an anxiety or depression medication, and what they will do to the body over long periods of time.
I wondered what it felt like to just be me again. Without the medicine.
Over the years of being on this medicine, I’ve often pondered the idea of taking a pill for the rest of my life. I’d continuously think there was something wrong with me because I needed medicine to be happy. Since then, I learned this isn’t true. If you do need medication for anxiety and depression for long periods of time (or life), there is nothing wrong with you! You are a complete human being regardless.
But I still wondered who I was. Would I be interested in the same things if I didn’t take medicine? Would I ever experience happiness without it? Did the medicine make me a different person at my core? I would never know the answers to these questions unless I quit taking my medication to find out.
I strongly believe natural remedies and lifestyle changes can heal us more effectively than pharmaceutical drugs.
Preaching natural remedies means I want to live as closely to nature as possible. I know there are many things I could be doing to improve my mental health without the use of prescription medicine. Meditation for example, is a great way to calm the mind and improve relationships with myself and those around me. I know of many herbs, too, that can help calm the mind and body to promote a healthy life.
I wanted to give these a try. If they didn’t work for me, then I would always be able to go back to the medicine if need be. I decided I would give a wholehearted attempt at changing my habits to be more mindful of my natural mental health needs.
The Supports I Needed
First and foremost, my family has been hugely supportive. I told my family about this desire to get off the medication. They trusted I would know my limits, and return to the medicine if I found out that I really did need it to function properly. Without my family supports, I don’t think I would have attempted this journey in the first place.
Secondly, I talked with my doctor. I read many forums online of people that have stopped taking this medicine cold-turkey, and it wasn’t pretty. Even with the plan the doctor and I came up with, this has been difficult. I did become weepy, irritable, and overly sensitive at times. But, talking to your doctor and being on the same page with him or her will help you feel much better about the whole process.
Lastly, I started seeing a natural health counselor. I came to a crossroads about two months into the process. Either I would have to see someone for help, or I was going to get my prescription up and running again. I didn’t want to give up. But I didn’t know what else to do. My mom suggested I see someone at the wellness center nearby. It was the very best decision.
The wellness counselor I met with practices ‘amino acid’ therapy. She evaluated my symptoms and feelings before putting together a plan of which supplements I needed to be taking and how often. She explained to me that our bodies need these amino acids, but our modern diets don’t always nourish all of these needs. Adding these amino acids would help to fill in what I was lacking—which leads to feelings of anxiousness, depression, and other similar unpleasant feelings. Basically, she helped me to build a toolbox of ideas and supplements that would get my serotonin levels to where they needed to be for a healthy, prescription-free lifestyle.
Which is exactly what I was looking to achieve!
A fog has lifted from my mind. I can see things much more clearly, and I am envisioning myself a bit differently these days. It’s almost as if I can step back from situations now and watch myself react to them. I am seeing who I am (at my core) much more clearly. I love every minute of it!
Don’t get me wrong, times can still be rough. This past month has been rather overwhelming. Taking supplements, practicing yoga and meditation, and diligently making sure I am caring for myself does not make life easy. But it has stopped my nervous system from going into overdrive as often as it would have in the past. I’ve been able to handle the overwhelming situations with less stress and more laughter than I would have with just my prescription medicine. Plus, I think laughter is something we could all use a little more of these days.
*I share this experience to encourage others that would like to explore other options to anxiety and depression medication. I do not believe these medications are bad, and would never encourage anyone to quit them without speaking to a doctor.