On Antidepressants, Postpartum Depression, and My ChoiceJessica Cohen
My experience with antidepressants was after going through postpartum depression. They were tremendously helpful for me. After struggling with PPD after my first child, I went on them immediately after having my second. Luckily, I only needed a small dosage of the medication to feel like myself, so weaning was not an awful process in terms of physical symptoms, though in hindsight the second time I may have weaned a little too soon.
On the other hand, I have witnessed two people close to me at different times try to wean off their medications with awful results. One friend suffered from panic attacks, heart palpitations, severe headaches, and changes in body temperature. Frankly, it was a little scary. The other thought she was well enough to wean, only to realize many weeks later that all the symptoms had recurred almost immediately.
Whether to stay on prescription medications for issues with anxiety and depression is an important topic, a personal one, and a sensitive one. More than one in ten people over the age of 12 in the United States take antidepressant medication, and the majority have been taking medication for 2 years or longer. For some, the reasons for starting on an antidepressant may, in fact, be temporary, such as dealing with trauma or, like me, postpartum depression. (Though it is important to note that these may not be temporary for everyone.) For other people, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are necessary as a permanent life-long solution for stabilizing the chemical messenger in our bodies that is responsible for regulating emotions.
As for my friends, both went on to realize that their bodies simply need these medicines, in the same way that people with other medical issues need their own medication. Fortunately, both ended up finding peace with that answer. For them it was about finding the specific medicines that are the right fit for them.
Personally, I am a big believer that these medications can be incredibly helpful. For the most part, I think that people who are diagnosed with depression or anxiety from serotonin level issues should stay on their medications. Yet I can empathize with the need for some people to wan off the medications to see how they feel and whether life can be managed without them. Experts say that certain antidepressants are more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than others, so it is talking with a doctor before weaning is important. After all, your doctor may have other ideas or solutions, as well as a plan for reducing your dosage in specific increments.
For those who have decided that it is time to wean, there are ways to help yourself through the process. Christine Young chronicles her personal transition from anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants to using essential oils at From Dates to Diapers: “I know having a plan set in place helped. I didn’t stop taking my anti-anxiety meds until I found an oil regimen that was working for me.”
Since oils may not be the solution for everyone, here are a few other ways you can help yourself if you decide to reduce or go off of medications:
- Exercise. Getting regular moderate exercise has proven to improve energy levels and prevent depression.
- Eat healthy. A healthy diet has been linked to a lower risk of depression. Stock up on fruits and veggies as well as those whole grains and lean proteins. Following a Mediterranean diet has also been shown to lower symptoms of depression.
- Consider taking supplements. Taking vitamins as well as a probiotic may also prove to be beneficial for you. Studies show that a lack of Vitamin B-12, folic acid, magnesium and Omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to an increase in depression.
- Look into holistic approaches. In addition to essential oils, you could try tapping (emotional freedom technique), acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and journaling.
- Therapy. While journaling can be a freeing process, consider talking with a professional in private or in a group about your stressors and ways to work through them.
Lastly, you may want to consider the timing of the weaning process. While life can always bring unexpected stressors our way, it may be wise to wean off your medication at a time when you are not experiencing added stress at home or at work. My friends waited until the time was right to start the weaning process.
Again, it is all about finding out what works best for you, whether it be essential oils, other techniques, or staying on medications for life.
Whatever you choose, good luck!
Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
Jessica also recently wrote:
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