4 Tips for Improving Life on an SSRI

January 25, 2017 at 3:48 am

Taking an SSRI for depression and anxiety can be life-saving, but anti-depressants aren’t always as helpful as we would hope. Some people don’t find any relief at all, or try multiple types of drugs before finding one that works for them. Science Daily recently reported:

More than half of the 41 million Americans who take antidepressants do not fully respond. Add-on therapies are often prescribed to enhance the effects of the drugs in these patients, but they typically offer limited additional benefits and come with side effects (Source).

I first began taking the anti-depressant Sertraline (Zoloft) in August of 2012. My journey managing life with this drug over the past few years has taught me a thing or two. One of my favorite things to do is to write about and share the things I learn. My hope is always that reading one of my posts will change someone’s life for the better. Here are four tips for improving life on an SSRI.

**As always, none of this should be considered medical advice. These are things that have helped me, but none of them should replace the advice or care of a qualified mental health professional.**

4 tips SSRI post graphic

Who do you think you are? (Part 1)

February 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

A week ago tonight I did something very brave. I got up in front of about 100 [felt like a billion] women and gave a speech.

For years I have had this belief about myself that I am “slow of speech.” I am the daughter of a master teacher. My father has taught and trained professionally for most of his adult life. But I thought my apple had fallen quite far from the tree. For years I have believed things like this: I am a writer, not a speaker. I can be eloquent in writing, but not in speech. I am horrible at [vocally] explaining things, but give me a computer keyboard and I’m golden.

Simultaneously, I have had multiple experiences throughout my life in which I have been told or prompted (by teachers, friends, God and others) that I should open my mouth more, that speaking would be a part of my future. Me? Really? Me?

So, last December, a friend of mine extended an invitation. She wanted to know if I would come speak at a church women’s dinner meeting in February. I told her, “I think I can do that. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

booklilenginesm1I thought it was going to just be a room of maybe twenty women. I would only be speaking for twenty minutes or so. No big deal. But the truth was… it felt like a really big deal. A really, really big deal. In fact, that’s exactly how I started my speech. After a few introductory words, I said something like this:

5 Tips for Managing Anxiety

January 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm

My whole world changed once I became acquainted with anxiety. I will never be the same person I was before. But I wouldn’t want to be either. I’m better for my battles. I know it.

72268768989948578_ElZL6iWa_f-225x300If you’re in the midst of your own battle with anxiety, I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I know the hell you’re experiencing. I know you fear that it’s never going to go away. Those fears tormented me day and night for a long time. I still struggle now and then, especially when I let life run me down physically and emotionally. But overall I’m lightyears better than I was when those first panic attacks hit me like a freight train in the spring of 2012. I pray with all my heart that you find healing as well. I have faith that you will. But if you find yourself having thoughts about ending your life, please seek help. You are worth saving. And there is no shame in accepting pharmaceutical help. Medication helped save my life.

On to the purpose of this post… I’ve learned some tricks over the past couple of years as I struggled  to manage my anxiety. I can’t promise these things will help you, but I can say they’ve helped me. This is not medical advice. I’m just sharing what worked for me. 

My Prescription for Happiness

October 9, 2013 at 12:32 am

About six months ago I wrote a post called “Becoming Whole Again” where I gave an update about my recovery from anxiety and depression. Yesterday I received a comment from Nicole on that post:

I am really interested in the new “prescription” to replace the drugs. What are the variety of spiritual and physical things you were encouraged to make habits in order to protect yourself from darkness and fear?

I’ve been thinking about sharing that prescription for awhile. So Nicole’s comment was the nudge I needed. I wrote this list in my journal on March 16, 2013. I feel it was a joint-effort between God and me, that we made the list together. At the time I wasn’t doing any of the things consistently and some not at all.

My daughter pretending to meditate

1) Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. and wake up early.
2) Meditate.
3) Read my scriptures.
4) Exercise.
5) Sing and play the piano.
6) Hold each child in my arms.
7) Have sex at least once a week.

Back in July I started meditating (kundalini yoga meditation) and singing every day. I haven’t missed a day since. I’m approaching 80 days. After I started this daily meditation practice, I felt so amazing that I cut my medication dose in half again. So now I’m down to 1/4 of my prescribed dose every other day. There were a few discouraging days while my body adjusted, but now that I’ve stabilized, the bad days are few and far between.

Lightbulb Moment

August 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

A week or two ago I had a little epiphany. Ever since, I’ve had that song stuck in my head… “I wear my sunglasses at night…” I’m a child of the 80’s. Actually, that’s the only line of the song I really know, so I’ve just had that one line repeating over and over in my head. Ha. What is that song even about?

Seriously though, if we’re going to wear sunglasses, we really should be wearing them at night (unless we’re driving, of course). And because of all of this pondering about light and sunglasses, I’m becoming convinced that every woman transferring in labor to a hospital should wear amber (blue-light blocking) eyeglasses. At least until she gets situated and comfortable and labor is continuing to progress.

Let me explain…

It might help if you read these posts first:

Supplemental Support

May 26, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I was talking on the phone with a friend last night. She’s been experiencing some depression lately. One of the things we pinpointed that could have been contributing to her mood swings was nutrient deficiencies. She had left her stash of vitamins and supplements at a family member’s home while on a trip, so she hasn’t been taking them.

During my first three pregnancies I was pretty lax about taking prenatal vitamins. But after seven straight years of being pregnant and breastfeeding, my body was seriously depleted. I suffered from some depression during my fourth pregnancy, but once I began taking a whole-food prenatal vitamin, my depression disappeared. When my baby was about a year old, after getting lax again with taking vitamins, I began suffering from anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until I began taking my whole-food prenatals again (among other positive changes) that I felt my mind-body-spirit regaining balance.

Super Nuts

January 20, 2013 at 7:41 am

I have single-handedly consumed almost three pounds of walnuts in the last few months.

Just about time to get another stash at Costco.

I’ve always liked walnuts, but now I can’t get enough of them. In the past, I’d sometimes get canker sores from eating them, but I must have built up a tolerance or something ’cause I can eat them like candy now.

Relief

October 10, 2012 at 2:23 am

It has now been over a week since I have felt anxious or depressed. I think I finally feel confident that the worst is over. Crossing my fingers anyway.

It’s hard to know what made the difference, but I think all of the following are contributing factors…

1) My husband asked many of my family and friends to fast and pray for me the first Sunday in October. I’m deeply honored and grateful that so many participated and feel certain that their united faith pushed me into one of the best weeks I’ve had since June. Thank you so much.

2) I started meditating a week ago (too bad I keep missing days) thanks to my friend Felice’s prodding and meditation webinar.

3) I started re-taking a multi-vitamin that has helped me in the past (New Chapter Perfect Prenatal). I had run out of them a few months ago and had been trying several other brands in the meantime without finding one that “worked” (Rainbow Light, Mercola, etc.) Once I started taking this one again a little over a week ago, I felt almost normal within a few days. May I never run out again!

Four centimeters

May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

For months I had been writing things like this in my journal…

“Right now I just feel so drained. I feel like I give and give and give until there’s nothing left.”

“I am exhausted. I want to sleep for two weeks. I so need a break.”

“I am so run down, so overwhelmed, so out of reserves. But what can I do except just keep swimming?”

“I need a break. Big time. So much.”

Little red flags were waving in front of my face for quite some time. And then Mama Birth posted this:

I think that selflessness and sacrifice are beautiful things- and I think they can purify us and teach us. But I also know now that a woman needs balance. . . . Babies need a mother who takes care of herself and the other people she loves and who herself is nurtured in her relationships.

And it was another little red flag, another messenger saying, “Girl, you need help. You need a break. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” (Thank you, Sarah). But, unfortunately, those little red flags just kept on waving, and I just kept on running myself into the ground. I could feel myself sliding into depression, and it scared me. I have been in that dark place before, and I did not want to visit it again. Looking back, I can say that the damage was already done. A body chronically depleted of sleep and sapped of vital nutrients through chronic stress is going to have a very difficult time functioning, let alone functioning cheerfully.

Prenatal photo tour

March 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago.  We were at a baby shower, and somehow we got on the subject of belly buttons.  I mentioned that my son had a kind of funky belly button (’cause he sort of did at the time), and this friend said something like, “Could that be because of the home birth?”  I was very perplexed and said, “What do you mean?”  She asked, “What do they do with the umbilical cord?”  Then I explained that they use the same umbilical cord clamps hospitals use, and cut the cord with sterile scissors, just like they do in the hospital.

As much as I was stunned by this conversation, I have to cut my friend some slack.  Home birth really is so foreign to most people.  So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it’s like and about midwives also.  Toward the end of my last pregnancy, I decided I’d bring my camera along and document the visit, partly for memory’s sake and partly so I could do a little bit of demystifying about midwives and home birth.

I realize that prenatal appointments are going to vary considerably depending upon who your midwife is. Some midwives come to your home for check-ups. Some have their offices in their own homes. Some have their own offices, like my midwives. I don’t presume to believe that this is the way all midwives practice. But I still thought it might be helpful to show what a typical visit is like with a home birth midwife like mine (Mary at Beyond Conception Midwifery).

So, here’s a photo tour of a February 2011 prenatal appointment with my midwives…

Antepartum depression

October 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

Sometimes I feel like God gives me blogpost assignments. This is one of those. I actually had a few other blogpost ideas lined-up, including the follow-up to my “Mate selection” post about smell and bonding. Then, as I sat nursing my baby a few mornings ago, I got the distinct impression that I needed to write more about my experience with depression during my last pregnancy.  Perhaps this is God’s way of answering one of your prayers.  Who knows? But I’ve learned, over the years, to listen to those whispers that come into my mind, prompting me toward some action. I usually only find out why the prompting was important when I choose not to listen and then suffer the consequences. Listen to those voices, friends! I am choosing to take action on this prompting because maybe, just maybe, one of you desperately needs to know you’re not alone.  And I can’t bear the thought of not speaking up and letting you know that I care.

I mentioned in my recent long drawn-out birth account that I experienced a period of darkness and depression in the middle of my pregnancy. I described it this way:

 I’ve always claimed to be happier and more emotionally stable while pregnant than while not pregnant, and in my previous three pregnancies that had been true.  But not this time.  In September, I got on an emotional roller coaster like nothing I had ever seen.  And I wondered multiple times a day whether taking that flying leap off the cliff of surrender had been the stupidest thing we’d ever done.  If it had been right to welcome this baby on God’s timetable, then why on earth was I so ridiculously miserable?  I was bombarded with seemingly incessant waves of darkness and misery.  Some afternoons, when my husband arrived home from work, I fled immediately to my bedroom or closet, locked the door, and let myself weep and writhe and wail without restraint.  To make matters worse, I felt guilty and horrible that the beautiful, special baby growing inside of me could probably feel my dark thoughts and feelings, and I felt even more guilty and horrible that many moments my thoughts were resentful and rejecting toward that special child.

Surrender, part 5

May 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I’ve debated off and on whether to post about this. I guess you can tell which of my inner-dialogue teams won.

My birth story didn’t end with my daughter’s birth. Some things happened afterward that I would say were an extension of that birth. They’ve been sitting on the back burner in my mind, waiting. I suppose I’ve been holding them back because I just wasn’t quite ready to process them yet. Pondering and writing this post was an intense journey of realization and discovery and spiritual revelation. I don’t know exactly why I feel like I need to share it, but I do. What follows is a little graphic and a lot personal. If you choose to comment, please be respectful. Here goes…

My uncle somehow always seems to know when I’m pregnant before I make it public knowledge. This last time, after we shared the news, he said, “I think you’re having twins.” We laughed.

Healing your home

May 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm

So… air pollution. We hear so much about the global warming debate, but we rarely hear about how toxins in our air may be impacting human health and happiness. This subject has been on my mind a lot over the past week, and I felt impressed to do some digging about it. How are those toxins impacting pregnant women and their babies?  And how can we protect ourselves?

What I found was that prenatal and early exposure to air pollutants has been linked to a growing number of health and behavioral issues. Here are a few:

Preterm birth

“For the first trimester, the odds of preterm birth consistently increased with increasing carbon monoxide exposures and also at high levels of exposure to particulate matter . . . . Women exposed to carbon monoxide above 0.91 ppm during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy experienced increased odds of preterm birth” (Source).

Reduced fetal growth

“Over the past decade there has been mounting evidence that ambient air pollution during pregnancy influences fetal growth. . . . We found strong effects of ambient air pollution on ultrasound measures” (Source).

Surrender, part 1

March 7, 2011 at 4:55 am

Trying to get words on paper to describe my fourth baby’s birth has been a challenge.  I’ve told the bare bones condensed version more times than I can remember now, but to find the words to infuse the story with all of its detail and intensity and emotion… every time I thought about making an attempt, I found myself paralyzed.  My feelings about the experience seem to change daily as well.  As I’ve relived it and processed it in my head over and over, the words and feelings associated with the experience have ranged across a broad spectrum—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes neutral.  Fortunately, as the event recedes further into memory, my feelings about it grow more and more positive and peaceful.

Initially, in the first few days after giving birth this time, I felt a lot of nostalgic longing for my first home birth experience. It had been so magical and spiritual (especially in retrospect, I’m sure), and the weeks after that birth had been even more wonderful.  This birth, however, was so utterly different than I ever expected or visualized.  Before I even had a chance to wrap my mind around the fact that it was happening, it was already over!  And, I must admit, those brief moments of “happening” were intense enough that I felt, for the first time after a birth, a bit traumatized. There also wasn’t time for so many of the things I had hoped to do during this birth experience—lots of private time with my husband, time in the shower, time visualizing and meditating on my baby, etc.  I only got to wear my birthing necklace for what seemed like a few minutes, and I had envisioned spending hours with it draped on my neck as a reminder of the love and strength being lent to me.  So this birth was initially a bit disappointing to me despite the fact that it all went “perfectly” in terms of health and clinical details.  I feel so ungrateful now as I type those words, but I’m just keeping it real.

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