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Wellness

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!

The Results

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.

References:

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/the-science-and-history-of-treating-depression.html

2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/1-in-6-americans-takes-a-psychiatric-drug/

3. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

To Welcome Failure with Open Arms

I don’t like excuses. I just can’t stand them. So, I won’t feed you any. Simply put…I failed. My plans were beautiful and full of potential. But, they didn’t work out as I hoped they would. All I have to show for them are these barren patches of dirt in the front yard. Every day I step outside and see my failure.

It sounds harsh, but it is merely the truth—exactly as I see it. I was too wishful in thinking I could create a large, lavish herb garden in one growing season. I wanted more than 10 beds of plants I’d not grown before to thrive in my garden. However, I ended up with none.

“I must be a terrible plant grower. I should probably throw in my towel at ever being an herbalist.”

These are all things I’ve been telling myself as I think about this failure. But, that is my ego talking. There’s more to see and learn here, if I can be present with my failure—not wishing it away. Instead, asking it to stay and teach me a thing or two.

Failing is unpleasant, disappointing, and often extremely embarrassing. But failure brings just as many opportunities for growth as a success can offer. Perhaps even more! Let me share this dreamer’s story, and I’ll show you what I mean.

The Failure Part

Daisy sitting near one of my flower beds.

In late winter, I started getting antsy. I wanted to be planting, and I was ready for everything to turn green. I needed something to occupy my days while I waited for the spring. So, I started designing the perfect medicinal herb garden. Using graph paper, I measured everything out precisely as I wanted it. I surveyed the spot where I would put my garden. And I cleared the area of leaves and twigs.

By February I had my seeds ordered and the weeds were scraped clean from the beds where I would be planting them. I started the seeds in regular garden dirt to save money on buying soil. I figured I’d be able to tell when the plants sprouted, rather than the weeds that were hidden in the dirt. Wishful thinking!

Some of my seeds did sprout. I was able to identify them, and I was happy to see them coming up among the grassy weeds. Still, some of my plants did nothing.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed as spring arrived. In addition to the herbs I wanted to grow, I had garden vegetables to plant. This was a first time garden year in this particular place. The garden needed heavy tilling and a fence before being ready for plants.

Also, life was happening outside the garden. New schedules and routines. House work, meeting others’ needs, appointments. Oh, and the chicks! We had chicks to care for now, too. The plants I did have starting to come up didn’t make it. There wasn’t enough of me to go around.

The Picking Myself Up Part

Of course, it is disappointing to think about the plants I would love to be wandering through right now. I am sad, and slightly embarrassed that my dreamy plans didn’t take shape this year. I was so eager to get started, and the next growing season feels like ages away. It would be easy for one to assume that my skills aren’t good enough to make this plan a reality. For a while, even I believed that to be true.

The easy route is to believe that, and just give up. I could find something else that might interest me and try that. Then, I don’t have to think about the fact that I failed anymore. On the other hand, a more difficult path I could take involves sitting with the unpleasant feelings in order to learn from them. It may be be the more difficult, but it will also be the more rewarding in the end.

So next year I will try again. I will attempt to grow medicinal herbs in garden beds. (I’m dreaming of it already.) But this time with a few new lessons learned.

These are my failure takeaways

  • Start small. Planning and attending to one small patch of herbs successfully growing in my garden will be much better than planning a large, diverse patch that leaves me with zero or only a few suffering plants. Remember, you are not a superhero. You can only do so much!
  • Take your time. It is common in our modern society to want everything right now. That is one area where I went wrong. I wanted a beautiful, elaborate garden to walk through this year. But these things take time. Adding on, little by little, to a strong foundation is the best route to go.
  • You can’t possess the plants. I wanted to control the plant. If it’s growing in my garden, I will have ready access to it and it will be mine-so I thought. However, I now understand that the plant is a free spirit. If I try to plant medicinal herbs with this controlling wish, they will sense that. I will always be in a rush, and never satisfied with them. If I change my tone and attend to them with appreciation I will have a much happier plant growing in my bed.
  • Be prepared to put in extra work. This summer became hot and dry very quickly. Next year, I must be prepared to put in extra trips to the lake to keep the plants cool and moist. A routine is helpful when it comes to adding extra seasonal chores.
  • Start sooner. My plants were started too late from seed. They didn’t get adequate time to establish themselves before the summer sun cooked their roots. Plan to build a small greenhouse to start seeds.
  • Don’t give up. I’ve learned many great lessons to take into next year’s growing season. Not to mention learning a little something about my stamina along the way. Keep trying, because this is going to happen!

Most often, the situations and events that leave us feeling uneasy and uncomfortable are the situations greatly needing our attention. They are trying to tell us something. My tendency is to push them away because they are so unpleasant. Yet, they always seem to offer the most room for growth. I’ve learned so much about myself from this process of thinking through a failure and forming a plan to try again-with the hopes of greater success.

Had I pushed this failure aside, or hid it under my bed I would not have identified little areas of weakness. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have determined how I could make them better. I challenge you to think about something you feel is a past failure. Can you too work through it, rather than giving up on it? I guarantee you will find out something new about yourself in the process. And, understanding ourselves a little better is always worth the effort, in my mind!

Herbs for a Better Night’s Sleep

Today it is rather common to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Our world focuses on perfectionism and obtaining quick results. We drive ourselves crazy trying to ‘be enough’ at work and for our families. We worry our minds and sacrifice taking proper care of ourselves in the process. This might work for a little while, but eventually we burn out.

One of the very best ways to show ourselves some love is to get adequate sleep. For many people that is more challenging than simply going to bed on time. Difficulty sleeping is most often due to fried nerves or an overactive mind. Our bodies and brains need time to wind down, relax, and be put in the right mood for sleep.

To prepare our bodies and minds for rest we can turn to sleep promoting herbs for help. Many of the herbs listed below have been used as sleep aids for centuries, if not for thousands of years. When taken consistently, these herbs will promote a calmer mind, relaxation in the body, and a good night’s sleep. (If you think an herb isn’t going to work for you, check out this post from Healing Harvest Homestead. It gives great insight into the way herbs work.)

Sleep Promoting Herbs

We are all familiar with the sleep promoting herb Lavender, yet, there are many others that can naturally encourage you to wind down at the end of the day, and promote a healthy nervous system. Are any of them familiar to you?

Skullcap

A member of the mint family, Skullcap is found in wooded areas throughout North America. It is rather particular about soil conditions, requiring moist, rich, and acidic earth. Skullcap contains compounds that soothe the parts of the brain responsible for regulating anxiety. It is thought that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of skullcap calm the nervous system. Skullcap can be made into capsules, tincture, or tea.

Chamomile 

A sweet apple aroma is produced when the daisy-like flowers of chamomile are gently brushed. Chamomile is a spreading perennial that can be found throughout Europe and North America. The two most popular species grown in gardens today are English (or Roman) and German chamomile.

Chamomile has a host of benefits that primarily revolve around calming and soothing irritated systems of the body. Specifically called upon for digestive upset and skin conditions, chamomile also makes a soothing sleepy-time tea to calm the mind and set the body up for relaxation.

Make chamomile into a tincture, tea, or capsules. Chamomile can also be infused in oil for topical use. Definitely one of my favorites to include in the garden.

Valerian

A beautiful flowering plant with clusters of white or pink blooms atop stems adorned with lanced leaves, Valerian may be the most popular plant for inducing sleep. Valerian is native to Europe, and is now found naturalized in North America. Valerian root is where the natural sedative compounds lie. Like Skullcap, these compounds take action on the part of the brain that regulates anxiety—which is likely the root of the problem for insomnia sufferers.

Make valerian into a tea, capsule, extract, or tincture. It will likely be more effective when combined with other calming herbs like lemon balm, hops, or passionflower.

Passionflower

A spectacle observed in person, Passionflower has flower heads reaching three inches across. Passionflower has a variety of different benefits, and has been used for centuries to encourage sleep. Passionflower contains enzymes that relax an overactive brain while soothing the nervous system.

Take Passionflower as a tea, tincture, or in capsule form. Combining it with lemon balm or hops will increase it’s sleep promoting effect.

Hops

The plant material used to give beer its flavor and aroma was also used by Native Americans to help with insomnia. Hops is the fruit of a vining plant native to Europe, Asia, and North America. Hops, with many benefits for discomfort, pain, and digestion is often combined with Valerian to aid in nervousness and insomnia. Whether taken as a tea, capsule, or tincture, hops is sure to add a bit of relaxation to your life.

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is one of the cheeriest plants in my garden, and one of the oldest plants utilized for restlessness and anxiety. A member of the mint family, Lemon Balm has light, fuzzy leaves that give off an aroma of sunny lemons. It’s no wonder bees are so fond of this plant, too.

For thousands of years Lemon Balm has been used to gladden the heart and aid in achieving a good night’s sleep. Take it as a tea, tincture, or extract to calm the mind and promote relaxation. It goes well with other calming herbs.

Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a great herb to strengthen the heart and to regulate it’s rhythm. Because it affects the heart in this way, it may indirectly help with developing positive sleep habits. In addition, nervous energy often sits in the chest. Hawthorn can benefit those that struggle with nervous energy by lowering blood pressure levels that add to the tightness and tension in the chest, therefore making it easier to rest.

Hawthorn prescribed as a sleep aid came as a surprise to me. I’ve always known Hawthorn to be the ‘heart herb.’ Hawthorn is a tree or shrub with many different species. Birds love hawthorn’s red fruits.

Make hawthorn into a tasty tea, tincture, syrup or extract for optimal heart and well-being.

The power of getting adequate sleep can reshape how we look at our lives, our situations, and everyday challenges that pop up. A lack of concentration, mood swings, and illnesses will be the result of not getting enough sleep. If you struggle with sleepless nights, looking to these herbs for help can get you back on track. Find a way to incorporate them into your day to day life. Rely on sleep promoting herbs consistently, and they will tone and soothe the systems of the body that are overworked and frazzled in today’s world.

What is your go-to remedy for sleepless nights?

Yoga Benefits for the Farm Life (Or Any Life!)

Today 36.7 million adults in the US practice yoga, and it’s a beautiful thing. In 2012 I took my first yoga class at the local community college, and I’ve been hooked ever since. No feeling comes close to the energized sensation I get after completing a thorough yoga routine. And the best part is that even following strenuous sequences, I feel relaxed and ready to take on the day.

At first it was challenging to fit yoga into my off-grid, homesteading life. There is always so much to be done in a single day, and it felt selfish to take the time to practice yoga when my to-do list loomed overhead. Still, now more than ever, yoga is a driving force in creating the very best me–physically and mentally. This grants me the ability to reach my goals and conquer that to-do list. Yoga can do the same for you whether you’ve dabbled in it already or have no idea where to begin. Let me show you how…

Yoga Benefits for Farm Life (or Any Life)

  1. Flexibility

    A regular yoga practice will most assuredly make you more flexible. But you don’t have to be naturally flexible in order to take part in yoga. I was not flexible as a kid, but yoga helped to tremendously increase my flexibility. Every day tasks become easier with greater flexibility. Homesteading can be physically demanding, and having just one more thing on my side (like being flexible) is enough for me to keep up the practice.

  2. Strength

    Likewise, yoga builds strength. Holding particular poses can be challenging-much like carrying buckets of water or logs for firewood. Yoga uses your own body weight to build strength, which is another benefit-no extra cost for weights!

  3. Breathe

    When I practice yoga, I practice breathing through the difficult poses. I move and I breathe, just like we all do every day. The difference is that I’m paying attention to my breathing. This allows me to tune in to the sensations of my body while I’m moving. Its a connection to the very moment. I can take my breath practice further by paying attention to my breathing while weeding the garden, taking care of the animals, or doing any other chore. It’s a way to appreciate the moment without focusing on excessive thoughts of the past or future-which most minds are prone to do.

  4. Time for Me

    I always feel better after some yoga. The reason is because I took time out of my day to take care of me. If I don’t take care of me, I won’t be able to take care of anyone (or thing) else. My body feels good. I’ve moved and stretched. I took deep breathes and let them all go again. Refreshed. I can go about my day knowing I did this for me. It’s never selfish, and I deserve this!

  5. Connecting with Nature

    Yoga outside is probably my favorite yoga. When I have the birds and crickets chirping, the breeze blowing, and the warm sun on my back while on my mat I feel a deeper connection to the nature that I love. It doesn’t get better than breathing in the fresh air while standing in tree pose!

Where to Begin?

Yoga can be brought with you anywhere. You don’t need a gym (or expensive membership), a lot of equipment, or even special clothes. You can do yoga on the carpet of your living room for free if you have access to the internet. There are tons and tons of yoga resources on YouTube. Of course, I do have some favorites to share though!

Erin Motz of Bad Yogi is my go-to yoga inspiration. Her motto is that yoga is not exclusive to enlightened, purely organic, thin, or overly health concerned people. She promotes yoga for everyone! I have been doing yoga with Erin for five or six years, and it continues to get better and better. I recommend her 30 Day Yoga Challenge for beginners or anyone looking to get in the habit of doing yoga on a daily basis. Most of these videos will introduce you to the basic yoga poses, and they typically aren’t longer than 20 minutes. Erin also has a popular 8 week program available for purchase. It’s well worth the cost if your practice is more advanced.

Other great (free) yoga videos…

Ekhart Yoga 

Tara Stiles Strength and Energy Flow (50 minutes)

Tara Stiles Weight Loss and Balance Flow (50 minutes)

Or just search “yoga” on YouTube and find your favorites!

Try it Out

Yoga is a big helper on the homestead. It keeps my body strong and able to do any heavy lifting, and flexible for crawling under cucumber trellises to weed. It help my mind to remain uncluttered for a more peaceful day of tasks that I truly love doing. It’s just that those task build up from time to time, and the work can become more like a list of things to be done. Simply put, yoga helps me enjoy this life I’ve been given and appreciate all the beauty around me. I hope you will give it a try, and find the same results!

 

Developing Curiosity for a More Creative Life

While pulling weeds alongside a rather inquisitive 4½ year old, I was struck by my own obliviousness to the world around me. She sat bravely near the borage as four or five bumble bees buzzed about doing their work. She asked questions about the bees and the plants, and I shared how the bees pollinated the borage and tomatoes (great companions) and the other plants, too. Then, from deep inside of me came the exclamation, “Isn’t it just amazing to think that a red, round tomato will grow from that yellow flower?!”

Something so small that happens day after day, year after year. But, when I stop to really think about it—WOW! The food we eat grows from a seed planted in the Earth, and pollinated by insects and birds. I was filled with gratitude and a pure joy to be living and experiencing. I became curious, like this child asking how and why. Then, I wondered what else might I be missing? Why had I lost the natural wonderment of life?

It’s common to find that adulthood dulls our curiosity. We become accustomed to how and why things work. Sadly, if we do come across something we’d like to know more about, there’s hardly time (or energy) in our busy schedules to investigate. Quite honestly, this feels like a gray, gloomy existence.

We need curiosity to live a bright, creative life. Curiosity reveals parts of us we’ve yet to meet. It helps us solve problems, and encourages us to create unique, beautiful things. The best part is all is not lost if you’ve been missing your curiosity. You can practice being curious. And therefore, you can live the creative, colorful life full of spirit and awe! Just like a child.

What Will Curiosity do for Me?

  • Curiosity leads to creativity. It encourages us to think about things in a different way. It also inspires us to try something outside the box. This can often lead to new, undiscovered results we didn’t know were possible.
  • Curiosity makes us smarter. When we are interested in something, different parts of our brain lights up leading to even greater benefits—like increased memory.
  • Having a desire to find out answers to some pressing question means whatever the question is, there is some sort of passion there. It gives us a way to tune into our bodies and how we feel in order to meet an undiscovered part of ourselves.
  • Curiosity is an extension of our spirit. Sometimes it’s having a curiosity that doesn’t crave an answer. When we can sit with a question without having to know the why and how, we create joy and wonder within ourselves. We learn to appreciate the mystery that makes life meaningful. This kind of curiosity will develop an underlying appreciation for all the little things going on around us as we move through the day.

How to Develop a Stronger Curiosity

Meditate

Clearing our minds of clutter makes space for curious thoughts. When we don’t automatically think about things other than the task at hand (doing dishes, cutting the grass) the task becomes less mundane and more interesting. Also, clearing our minds of self-absorbed thoughts will give us confidence to try something new.

Spend Time Outside

Nature has a way of helping us see what is important. And the possibilities are endless when contemplating the processes of nature.

Spend Time with A Child

This is a prime example of observing curiosity in action. Children approach life with such spirit and excitement, primarily because they are curious about the ins and outs of everything going on around them. They do not take “just because” for an answer. They want to know the details, and when you say to them, “I don’t know” they will begin to make guesses themselves. (That’s the creativity part.)

Move Your Body

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise helps increase the size and functions of the prefrontal cortex—a vital part of the brain for creative people. Since curiosity and creativity go hand-in-hand, your endeavor to be more curious will surely benefit from the health promoting practice of regular exercise.

Listen to Your Body

Notice and keep track of the signs your body gives you. These are the passions that make you, you. It is easy to squash your passions when you start to think about all the other people in this world that may be curious about the same things you are. You may think, “Why even try? Someone else is already doing it.” But, I guarantee these passions were given to you for a reason. Following them is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Don’t Connect Curiosity-Driven Attempts and Experiments to Your Self-Worth

Curiosity will spark creativity. Yet, it doesn’t promise success. One thing you mustn’t do (and I really need to practice) is letting go and moving on if curiosity leads you down a dead end road. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. It is the price of living a curious, creative life. But if you can find a lesson from a failed attempt, you’ve won! It’s all about the journey.

Hopefully you can see how the childhood curiosity and awe we all once had, can help you create richer experiences as an adult. There isn’t an exact formula (though I wish there were) for how to go about become curious about life again. Little by little you can form the habits of a naturally curious, divinely creative person. Now that sounds like the life I want to live!

Need More Resources?

Check these out…

Big Magic-Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (affiliate link)….One of my favorite books

Play, Spirit, and Character….On Being interview with Dr. Stuart Brown on the importance of play in developing character