Posted 1/16/2020 11:57 AM (GMT -7)
I suffered Major Depressive Disorder for most of my life, and I've been where you are. I am aware that my words will not be encouraging or accepted by everyone, so I tread gently. However, for anyone who is like me, I just want to offer some hope and guidance (because if I didn't have it myself, I would have committed suicide.)
Nearly 5 years ago I began the journey of getting off antidepressants - 19 years of mostly Effexor, Lexapro, and Zoloft, each in their turn, with smatterings of Celexa, Tegretol, Remeron, Depakote, Wellbutrin, Risperdal, and Ativan. My longest single run was Effexor/Venlafaxine at 225mg and of course it wore off. My doc put me on 300mg and I didn't sleep for 3 days, so I just struggled through with 225 for about 5 years until my breaking point. I needed more and more Ativan just to get through a week.
I was diagnosed at age 14 with MDD, and my entire extended family was on antidepressants. It was the "hereditary chemical imbalance" and I did indeed feel better with medication... for a few months, then began the cycle of needing more and more, and switching meds, to keep up with my brain.
I was tired of this cycle, and my husband supported me in working with a naturopath to try to find natural alternatives. Withdrawal was the most horrific thing I've ever been through, and it took me a full NINE MONTHS to taper off Effexor and barely keep a job. I was put on Wellbutrin 150 in the meantime. I told my doctors my horror stories of withdrawal and they looked at me like I had 3 heads. They didn't believe such a thing could happen if I "taper slowly". Completely clueless as to how these drugs work and what they do.
I wish that was the end of it, but the trauma and stress of withdrawal, coupled with an infectious tick bite, left me chronically ill with Lyme disease (on which forum i spend most of my time). A close second in the Most Horrible Experience of my life (called the infectious disease equivalent of cancer, and worse quality of life than congestive heart failure - it's a true hell on earth... and yet I still say DEPRESSION IS WORSE). Since Lyme is a "suicide disease" and often results in psychosis, mania, and depression, no doctor was willing to let me taper off the Wellbutrin.
In healing Lyme, I learned more than I ever dreamed of about health and wellness, the pharmaceutical industry, medical school, the FDA, CDC, and mental health. I used that disease to turn around my physical health and work on my mental health.
Much longer story short: Last month I took my last pinch of Wellbutrin, and am now 6 weeks free of ALL pharmaceutical antidepressants for the first time in 19 years, (4 years off Effexor), and am gradually reducing the supplements I used to taper (B vitamins, GABA, 5-HTP, NAC, tyrosine, etc). I also got off hormonal birth control and antihistamines, which also affect mental health. I feel free, I feel reborn, I feel so thankful. And I no longer consider myself clinically depressed. **** happens, anxiety happens, but I have found ways to DEAL with them and lay them to rest. I am in control of my brain, not my genes, not the pills.
However I AM absolutely heartbroken that the mental health crisis still exists and that anyone has to go through the suffering, or more, that I did. Everyone has to make their own choices, everyone has their own set of genetics, environment, budget, and social situations. I understand not everyone can do what I did.
But to anyone searching for hope or starting the extremely frightening cycle of discontinuation and withdrawal, I want to say that it IS possible. Every doctor I went to told me i need to get back on AD's. Every doctor wanted to raise my dose. Every doctor said there was nothing i could do to change my genes. EVERY DOCTOR WAS WRONG.
It is an uphill battle, and my fight has been long. I learned a bit at a time from experience and a lot of pain, but have recently found several books that completely explained my journey, helped me wrap my head around what was happening, and encouraged me to keep going. Everyone needs to work with their own doctor (preferably natural, holistic, or functional medicine) to determine their own needs. But if there is ONE SINGLE FACTOR that everyone MUST change that will make unbelievable changes in your physical and mental health, it is a real-food diet. Cut sugar, gluten, dairy, and all processed foods. THAT is very difficult and it took me years to work up to that, but if i had just done it from the start, i could have saved myself so much time and pain. I untangled foods that directly trigger my rage and depression (for me, peanuts, corn and ubiquitous corn derivatives, and dairy, all of which are a regular part of the typical american diet).
Before you start weaning off medication, before you change them, before you add, before you do anything, help your body by giving it the proper nutrition - which is so different from your basic "food pyramid" education it's mind-blowing. I too tried "diet and exercise and it didn't work." Because my "healthy diet" was NOT at all. Health food is a joke. You must eat vegetables.
I highly recommend the book "A Mind of Your Own" by Kelly Brogan, MD. It consolidates everything I learned and did over 5 years and would have been SOOOOO much easier if I'd had this reference from the beginning! I caution against following her social media before you've read the book - it can come across as weird and disconnected, and a little woo-woo. You have to read the book and get the science down first.
Second greatest book I've found is "It Starts with Food" by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig - will explain all the nutrition you need to know
Third would be "Overdosed America" by John Abramson, which will explain the battle you're about to have with your doctor.
The work of Dr. Caroline Leaf ("Switch on Your Brain") in neuroscience has been fascinating and infinitely helpful.
I'm not saying you HAVE to buy any of these things to heal, I'm just saying they were extremely helpful references to me. If I'd had this kind of guidance from the start, I could have saved, literally, tens of thousands of dollars on treatment by not letting my body get so toxic and stressed.
Many blessings, I wish you all well, and please NEVER GIVE UP!