Post Script

The following is not advisable, nor is it recommended or endorsed by any of the information herein; the anecdotes serve as a reflection of my personal experiences. Do not take the same road I have.

 About three and a half weeks ago, I weaned myself off my antidepressant of seven years. For all the advice I’ve heard saying not to do so without medical supervision and all the times I’d poo-poo’d those who abruptly stopped medications – I weaned off my meds without medical supervision having made the decision totally independently.

I’ve written before about the panic that ratchets up watching the tablets dwindle in my amber colored bottle of sanity; about the same reasons I take them leaving me overwhelmed enough not to call the doctor for a new string of refills. It happened the same this time.

Except this time, I’d been growing ever more resentful of that daily bitter pill, something to remember, something to lean on heavily, something to possibly poison me.

In an as-yet-to-be-seen brilliant realization, I decided to space out my tablets to make them last longer – ‘until I got a refill’. I think that was my rationalization. I went down to one for several days, half for several more, and then a quarter.

Also around this time, however, I began reading A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan. Now, if the rest of my follies here are not endorsements, this most certainly is not an endorsement of this book. It took me an awful long time to swallow – pun possibly intended – what Brogan had to say. After years of coming to terms – mostly – with taking antidepressants, here was an in-your-face account of how they were absolutely unhealthy and unnecessary. The whole first half of the book told me in no uncertain and sometimes holier-than-thou terms that I had been duped and made a terrible decision for and possibly irreparable damages to my body.

As I said, I started reading this book around the same time I was weaning. I did not read one ‘expert’s’ book and change my entire life regimen around it. As I was already tapering these ‘evil’ meds from my system, however, I was curious to see what other options could help me complete this process.

The second half of Brogan’s book is the best; the part where she gets to the heart of her mission: helping women live healthy and whole lives. I don’t know that her tone was less sanctimonious or I was better able to temper it with my own decisions of what would/would not work for me. Her plan focuses on a four-week implementation of diet, detoxing the home, meditation, exercise and sleep – a four-pronged approach to keeping the body and mind on track.

There is a lot in this book that resonates with me – some of which I already do, in fact. However, the four-pronged approach makes that panic rise in my chest almost as much as the rattle of fewer and fewer pills in the bottle.

When I started meds, feeling so like a failure for needing them (no projection, just my own neuroses), my therapist said, “this is the tenor of your life right now. Whether or not you were previously suffering with a mental illness, you were able to cope. Now, mothering several children, there are significant unalterable circumstances that make you unable to cope. Your medication can help you do so.”

Tenor still untenable.   Nothing new there. Well, actually there is a new kid.

So perfecting diet, sleep, mindfulness, exercise, clean living – all factors dependent on me, everyday, in my imperfect life is a little terrifying. Especially considering that failure, which is inevitable really, means a depressive state. No big.

Back to weaning: Brogan advises her 30 day detox before weaning to reset your system first. Ha. That may have helped. It also may have helped if I didn’t wean in the last week before my period as I prepped and embarked on a week-long trip with all four kids solo only to return, take two weeks to prep for school, and pack for one final vacation that ends on the eve of the new school year. Timing is everything.

There were times I wanted to scalp myself or my children that first week; times I wanted to scream louder than the baby refusing to just.go.to.sleep; scared that the crying jags meant my depression was coming back; irritable and snippy with my husband; and in a much lesser, yet slightly amusing development, America’s Got Talent’s package materials and any high note hit by a contestant made me well up.

Brogan warned me the withdrawal symptoms might present as a relapse of the original condition. Who’s to say I was struggling because I desperately needed the pill to supplement my body or give it a crutch?

I didn’t complete a long yoga session last week seeking clarity of mind in regards to all this. I was finally sick and scared enough at the skin and muscle getting looser around my frame and the big kids were shoe shopping with their grandparents. The amount of tension in my muscles shocked me. I sobbed at even the slightest release of it. Not the wet, slimy tears of a betrayal or breakdown, but the semi-silent, breath-catching heaves of chest with a few slick tears sliding down from the corner of eyes when I unsquinched them long enough to let them fall. I didn’t realize how much I’d been carrying until I tried to let it go.

And that was just the physical.

As trite as it may be, I had an epiphany on the yoga mat that morning. Even if I was taking medication to take care of my mental health, I wasn’t taking care of my self. I’d forgotten to force time for the things that keep my soul alive. Stretching, meditative thought and moments, reading, writing.

Did I need to stop meds to hit rock bottom hard enough to make the burning fire of my calves burn a hole in my consciousness? Perhaps not. Would I recommend cessation of meds as a path to clarity? No. But stopping meds to see where my mind and body were at this point in my life, nearly eight years out from the offending episode of postpartum, and then having such a visceral reaction to the stress in my life and body – that sent me an important message.

Regardless of what my decisions are in regard to lifestyle and care, self-care must be part of it. Placebo or perfect chemistry, a pill isn’t a miracle. All cylinders of my life, my soul must be firing.

Life will never be perfect. Even if I decide to follow Brogan’s regimen or another with or without meds, there will be times I fail. I can’t control circumstances outside my body, my sphere – hell, even in my sphere. (Did I mention I have four children?) But perhaps with the balance of self-care, I can temper the abberations. It’s a tall order, but right now, it’s keeping my mind centered on care – not maintenance or even just keeping the lid on.

That’s a pretty compelling read for me.

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9 Comments

  1. So many points in your post resonate – so much so I’m going to have to ponder a bit longer. I’ve been off my antidepressant for nearly 2 yrs now…more because it quit working and the solution offered up by my doc was to up the dosage and take another pill to counteract the growing side-effects. Brogan’s book was eye-opening, but like you, I didn’t love the tone. I only have two children and they’re both in school so self-care is more doable. I’m rambling. I commend you and wish you all the best. Depression is hard. Depression while parenting is a beast of its own. All the best as you figure out your best treatment plan.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  August 17, 2017

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Have you tried any of Brogan’s regimen? I, too, was once advised to add another med to augment the first. There is no easy solution. Your line about parenting and depression may become my new cross-stitch 😉

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  2. When we become parents, we instinctively work that much harder at trying to be as healthy as possible, in whatever way possible … both as a caregiver, and as an example to our kids. Deciding to step down off your meds is a decision that we have all probably faced at some time or another, and staying cognizant, while doing our best to be an observer as to how the changes in our life are affecting our ability to cope, is essential to staying healthy. Recognizing what does work (and what does not) requires that we be in a healthy enough place to accurately gauge how we are coping. Often we have to rely on external cues to help us figure that out, such as recognizing old patterns of behavior, or noticing when it feels like we’re on shaky ground.

    I’m not familiar with Brogan’s book, but for many years I struggled with the question of whether or not I could accept the possibility that I might have to rely on pharmaceutical intervention for the rest of my life. That reality was not at all appealing to me, and I spent many years being shifted from one medication to the next, always trying to find the right combination that might help me stabilize. Ultimately I ended up stopping meds abruptly (never recommended) due to losing my insurance (and job), and it was a total disaster. Absolute chaos, and hitting a low that far exceeded anything I had ever experienced before. It truly frightened me, but also helped me learn how to accept that for some people, pharmaceutical intervention works, and might help them achieve a healthy balance in their lives. For others, it does not. But the importance of maintaining an objective point of view was key to making an informed decision the next time this came into question.

    I appreciate the thoughtful and carefully-worded way you shared your experience, and especially appreciate how you consistently warn against making changes in your life without also including medical supervision. Especially as people who struggle with life-threatening depression, it’s important that we keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another, but we can at least share the commonality of how our decisions about our health and self-care will truly impact our ability to effectively cope with the everyday struggles of life.

    Thank you for sharing some of the insight gleaned from your own journey. You not only give us plenty to consider, but also offer up gentle reminders that we have to be vigilant about self-care along the way. Accepting that we will sometimes fail, (yet still survive), provides a valuable perspective, and also serves as a realistic barometer of expectations, especially as we navigate our way through our own struggles with depression. Much to absorb, and again, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  August 17, 2017

      Thank you always for your careful reading and thoughtful comments. So many layers to this ongoing decision(s). I feel I will forever be reevaluating what works to manage my depression and, most certainly, my anxiety. I love hearing others’ perspectives too on this multi-layered journey ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. This post makes me so happy for you! Not because I don’t think mess are necessary, but because you are owning your body, mind, and spirit. It is beautiful to see you standing in your truth and light. As you make this journey through the next phase of recovery, know you were born to face the challenges it brings. Much love to you, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Meds… not mess. Although mess is necessary too. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Jennifer Butler Basile

         /  August 19, 2017

        Ha ha ha! It’s a hot mess, that’s what it is! Not sure yet what the best solution will be, but trying to work through my decisions in a thoughtful way. Your loving support means so much ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  August 19, 2017

      * Hard sometimes to face that knowledge of being born to face the challenges – or turn it over to Him that might help 😉

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