[Experiment] Stopping Antidepressants After 10 Years

Antidepressants Depression - break the system

Background:

I have been on some one form of antidepressant (prescription, or herbal or nutritional) for about a decade now. It’s always been something that I’ve had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I think we all agree some people just have some screwy neurochemistry, and the majority of my family has been on some kind of related drug at least at one point in their life, so it’s pretty clear there’s a genetic disposition. On the other hand, there is just something generally unappealing about having to rely on any particular substance, natural or man-made, in order to feel normal (read as not totally miserable). You should just be able to eat healthy, exercise, and “be happy” right??

There is this common positive psychology line of thinking that makes most people who have dealt with genuine depression feel guilty about not being able to make themselves feel good. Like it is our fault or a shortcoming. In fact I’ve had close friends more or less explicitly state this, which ironically, go figure, has a tendency to make one more depressed. In fact, openly talking about these kinds of personal problems is kind of taboo in a way.

That is why I wanted to write this blog post, documenting my experience of stopping all antidepressants and just dealing with what follows. I want to give people the opportunitiy to say “I feel the same way! I’ve been there!” I think that removes a layer of shame. After all, it’s hard not to feel shameful about feeling badly (especially as an American) since everyone is trying so damn hard to seem publicly happy!

My personal reasons for actually wanting to do this experiment are to test whether I’ve worked my way out of depression. Just “making yourself happy” is total BS, at best it’s a temporary fix. However, you can fundamentally change the way your brain and body operate over a long enough timeline – everything from leveraging neuroplasticity to improving your attention span to altering the way your body metabolizes carbohydrates. Meditation, sleep patterns, nutrition, mental habits – all of it matters over a long enough timeline, and each of these I have been working on for years now. It’s time to see if I’ve successfully fixed my brain!

I remember trying 3 times stopping antidepressants.

Trial 1 – Beginning Of High School
Once I ran out of prescription antidepressants by accident and felt uncontrollable fury the next day. Every sensory input was unbearable, every action done by anyone was 100% malicious. The thing is, you know this is a blatantly warped view of the world, but that doesn’t change the feeling that follows unfortunately. Resumed the next day.

Trial 2 – End Of High School
Another time I weaned off them, and successfully stopped taking them for a time. But I have distinct memories of trying not to cry in the middle of a graduation ceremony (no real reason why) and also looking out the window of my college dorm watching people laugh and have fun while I felt terrible inside, unable (even fearful) of going outside to be like them. This ultimately led me after about a year to switch to the herbal antidepressant 5-HTP (griffonia seed extract). It worked extremely well and with less side effects.

Trial 3 – One Year After College
A couple years later I tried to go all natural again. The next day I felt like I was moving through molasses, and had bouts of extreme anxiety. I remember walking a few blocks from my apartment, shuffling along for the slowest walk I’ve ever walked, making it only a few blocks before turning around and shuffling back inside. Went back on 5htp.

Not a great track record…

But I have grown a lot since then, and am setting myself up to be prepared to handle the waves of disorienting feelings that I know will inevitably come.

The Prep

The plan is no caffeine or stimulatory supplements (including nootropics). My depressive tendencies are of the anxious kind, so I don’t want to exacerbate this, at least not at first. Before starting this I got a good night’s sleep and will exercise the first day of the experiment (to facilitate sleep and stabilize mood).

I’m not going to work too hard, have planned my days to focus heavily on meditating, and have discussed this plan thoroughly with my girlfriend who has volunteered to be there to support me (she’s freaking amazing and I believe this kind of social support is key). I will also make sure to keep a strict diet throughout this period to make sure I am at my best.

The biggest thing is that I’m preparing to set aside some projects to be able to dedicate substantial energy to doing this battle with my mental demons. If this isn’t necessary, fantastic. But I suspect it might be, and I don’t want to have work in the back of my head. Full focus on this will be more effective.

I’ve recently switched to biphasic sleeping, and I suspect this helps with natural serotonin production. I’ve felt so much calmer already.

And finally, I have tryptophan (weaker than 5-htp) that I plan to take situationally if I start having intense withdrawal symptoms that are too intense.

Day 1

I take 5-HTP at night because it helps me sleep. My biggest concern is being able to sleep well, especially during the adjustment period. So I am temporarily taking double doses L-theanine and PS (two other supplements I take for stress/sleep) at night so that I sleep soundly. Just woke up from the first night of this and slept great. Mood feels normal, was surprised to have vivid dreams (5-HTP can cause these so I expected these to stop). I am feeling hopeful that this experiment will actually be quite easy.

I will work out later as one of the strategies to balance my mood and stress levels and encourage sleep tonight. The only other major variable is just keeping the next few days as low-stress as possible. When I move too fast in life that my mood suffers and I find that I am too busy to even think about how I feel!

Tangent: I was just thinking about the depressed period of my life. How slowly I moved, how much time I spent laying around “doing nothing” especially when I contrast that with how I am now. I like the interpretation Dr. Weil has that there is a kind of purpose behind “normal” depressed feelings – to force you to stop and reflect, and it only becomes counterproductive when you constantly get “stuck” in that state. Although, as I reflect back, there are so many things that I have now – motivations, positive habits, certain aspects of my character that have matured unusually quickly – that I would at least partially attribute to sitting around thinking all the time. There’s always a silver lining I suppose.

It’s mid-afternoon and now I’ve officially started experiencing some initial noticeable effects. It’s just a general sense of lethargy, disinterest, and apathy (towards both things and people). I hate these feelings because they influence me in ways which don’t mesh with who I am/want to be. So far it’s actually very subtle but still noticeable. I suspect it will gradually increase in intensity. I just hope I don’t start feeling too apathetic to update this journal!

A really interesting potential realization just popped into my mind. Often times late at night if I am around other people they always tell me that I start to look sad. I always thought I must have a sad face when tired, but I feel that same kind of slump right now that I feel at those times. And I just realized that always happens right before I take my nightly 5-HTP (ie about the time it’s completely worn off from the night before). Something to think about – there is a strong link between sleep and depression. But does this merely mean my mood dips with fatigue, or that my ability to intentionally wind myself and brace myself against depressive tendencies starts to fail?

I think this will be good though. I don’t think my thoughts have fundamentally changed. The negative ones are just more intense, so now the idea is to systematically de-root them as much as possible so they aren’t knocking at the door whether I am on 5-HTP or not. I think the specific plan to do this will reveal itself with time as the experiment progresses.

This experience has renewed my respect for anyone who deals with depression. I’m remembering what it is like to feel this way all the time. I imagine my immature-teenage-kid-self struggling to deal with it, or any other adolescent trying to as well, and I just think wow! If I felt this feeling every day I don’t think I’d handle it all that well even now! There’s this positive psychology idea where you just stop being negative and focus on the positive. Easy right? Just stop being negative! Stop feeling depressed. Look how beautiful it is outside…

But people who are genuinely dispositionally depressed have to manage a slightly more complicated situation. I hate most drug company commercials, but I like one analogy I remember from an antidepressant commercial of a woman talking about having to “wind herself up” to be able to get through life, let alone trying to be positive. You hear this while you watch a wind up toy drooping but struggling to wind itself up to stand up straight, all while it has a pained expression on its face. That’s a perfect analogy for what it feels like. Even the most depressed person can wind themselves up to be happy, sociable and positive temporarily, but this is an entirely different situation than what’s “normal” for most people, and I think this is where it is difficult for a non-depressed person to empathize with a depressed person.

If you feel ok most of the time, of course you can just “think positive” to keep yourself from getting too upset, curtailing negative thoughts, etc. because fundamentally you are preventing yourself from getting depressed, as opposed to actually starting from the set point of being depressed and having to constantly wind yourself up to be at least neutral. In fact that’s one of the most interesting observations about how I feel now, is that everything seems so daunting and like such a huge effort. Summoning the words to talk to people, getting out the door, going to get food, brushing my teeth… Logically, it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a strong feeling that physically feels like a heavy weight, and so it is difficult not to let it slow you down, compelling you to avoid what feel to be monumental tasks.

Ultimately it’s not about thinking positively. That’s not the point.  While that’s important, it’s the happiness set point that makes the sustainable difference, but that’s difficult to change. The only thing I know of that has been shown to do this is years of certain kinds of meditation and dramatic lifestyle changes. But that’s the challenge, and I hope maybe this experiment will reveal some insights. I’m still hoping that after this initial adjustment period I will find that I’ve worked on my happiness set point enough so that it’s tenable against depressive tendencies.

Key insight #1 – Feelings Are Not You!

I feel the depressive feelings, but I’m keeping myself from getting too wrapped up in them. I approach this in a mindfulness meditation kind of way. This is in stark contrast to in the past when I associated it with my identity (as in “I am depressed” versus “I feel depressed”). Maintaining this perspective is invaluable.

Day #2

Felt really terrible in the morning, and it seemed to be tied to taking ALCAR. It is a nootropic which I wasn’t supposed to take (oops). It’s not super stimulating so I thought it would be fine. I will drop this tomorrow. Definitely seemed to intensify the black cloud feeling after taking it. And I became super irritable and sensitive (but 100% did not act on it in any way which I was proud of). It was like being hungover – senses were intensified to the point of being too much to handle, slightly inconvenient aspects of life all of the sudden seemed to loom large and insurmountable, making me feel angry for what I knew were completely irrational and arbitrary  reasons. The past few years of different meditative exercises gave me the ability to at least change the perspective, despite being unable to rid myself of the feeling, to understand that this was an unfortunate subjective experience that I shouldn’t react to it. I viewed the negative feelings and sensations somewhat similarly to stubbing a toe – you say “ouch” and you move on with your day while the pain gradually fades on it’s own.

I keep noticing how feelings are deeply amplified, even in my dreams. Sometimes good feelings, but more noticeably the bad. I think I am starting to see potential for actually being happier off 5 htp. It’s like it shifts your mood up, or maybe is the emotional equivalent of Ibuprofen, dulling mental pain, but a side effect is the narrowing of emotional experience. I suspect in a way it might have been preventing me from fully experiencing certain positive moments in my life.

The experience of intensified negative emotions was hard to manage at times but I’m eternally grateful for my girlfriend who has been insanely helpful. We would talk about things, and when a topic that hits a nerve came up, it would strike so deep, and in a way that I wasn’t always prepared for. But having her there with her infinite compassion and patience made it a productive rather than an embarrassing or dark moment.

I think this might already be one of the biggest takeaways:

Key Insight #2 – Social Support is Everything

Depression helping depressed friend

I don’t think you can fully handle depressive tendencies by yourself, and it takes someone special to help you with it. You have to trust them fully (a surprisingly rare situation). Find that person at all costs and ask for their help.

There’s all kinds of mental BS that can cause unhappiness, and unfortunately the triggers are usually buried too deep to productively deal with inside oneself, especially if they happened during one’s formative years. They are built into your experience of the world in a way that is almost imperceptible to you unless pointed out by another. I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity now, and I know how much easier this has been because of her.

Throughout the rest of second day there was a fairly wide oscillation of my mood that was completely independent of my surroundings. One of the arbitrary low points happened by an insanely beautiful lake with my girlfriend. An amazing moment, and yet I was unable to feel appreciation for it, despite much concerted effort to do so. I could intellectually acknowledge the reasons why it was a great experience, but I couldn’t actually feel it. The best I could do was 1) not spread the negativity, 2) keep it in mind that this feeling/sensation should be kept separate from my self-identity, and 3) understand that it was just a temporary, passing low point that would soon lead to a high point. And it did!

Key Insight #3 – Feelings Are Temporary

After failing to actually be able to alter my mood, I just accepted it and didn’t let it affect me. More importantly, I reflected on how both positive and negative emotions are always temporary, so the feeling would pass. This is also the technique I used to remove my (formerly extremely intense) fear of public speaking – viewing anxiety as a temporary and physical experience rather than one associated with me or my actions. Sometimes I still feel anxious, but I barely even notice it, spending about 5 seconds thinking about it, just like I spend 5 seconds thinking about that stubbed toe before moving my awareness to more important things.

Day #3

Skipping ALCAR definitely helped. Not sure if that means I’ll have to permanently stop using nootropics, but for now they are a no-go! Surprisingly, some experiments with caffeine don’t seem to cause any problems with mood. So many of my assumptions about this experience are proving to be incorrect (which makes it a great learning experience!)

Today it seems there is no obvious black cloud, and I’ve had super positive interactions while meeting new people – something that typically requires a lot of energy for me. It feels like there is still some lethargy and a lack of motivation however, and despite 2 strong coffees I feel like I could take a nap (so unusual for me, as I am relatively sensitive to caffeine and struggle with insomnia). But it is not a depressed lethargy, and still seems less intense than before. Although this begs the question of whether I am adjusting to this experiment biologically or psychologically.

My girlfriend left to travel for a week today, so I won’t have quite as much direct support now. But I feel good about being able to handle it from here. I am so thankful she was here the first 2.5 days, but now I know what I am dealing with and it seems the most consistent obstacle is that I feel the content urge to take a nap and will be more lazy for the time being.

Days #4 and Beyond

Certain aspects of daily life feel qualitatively different. It’s hard to describe, but some things have changed about the way I feel about things or the way I approach situations. It really brings up interesting philosophical questions about identity. Maybe for years you are a “compassionate person” partially because you are on antidepressants, then you stop and you are short-tempered and apathetic. Is the latter the “real” you? I suppose it relates to the subjective nature of all statements, because maybe it’s both. Maybe in reality you are “compassionate when happy but apathetic when depressed”. Actually this paragraph is a perfect illustration of my initial point. I am normally very concise and efficient, but I keep finding myself on long, spacey philosophical tangents. No idea why, just hoping that none of these changes involve me getting substantially worse at things (like writing). Do let me know if this is terribly written please!

It seems going forward there is no more constant black cloud to deal with. First time in 10 years that one wasn’t held at bay by antidepressants. I do know that I am still more emotionally vulnerable – I can clearly tell that I will have more difficulty handling emotionally challenging situations. All part of the experience of continuing growth and adjustment.

Summary

Recap of Key Insights from this experiment:

  1. Feelings are not you (but rather you experience your feelings)
  2. Social support is everything in life
  3. Feelings are always temporary (good and bad)

To those who are depressed or on antidepressants – the biggest takeaway I hope you get from this is: it is not a permanent state of existence! You can fix the underlying tendencies over time. This is NOT something you can do instantly, but something to continually work on and improve and then one day you wake up and find you are actually happy, and in a way that is not dependent on external circumstances. Antidepressants are great for making depression more manageable, but it really doesn’t fix the underlying problem. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what does, but I can tell you it can be done. If you don’t believe me, start doing a bit of reading about Matthieu Ricard to see how your happiness set point can change over time. Becoming a monk may not be your dream solution, but the point is that it shows what is possible.

To those who have never experienced long-term pervasive genuine depression (and I don’t mean your grandma died and you were sad) – hopefully this has given you some insight into what the experience is like. Please try to be empathetic to people who are struggling with these types of situations. Some people who know me are reading this right now and thinking “What?! No way! He seems happy! I had no idea he has spent half his life wrestling with anxiety and depression”. Similarly, people oftentimes are convinced I am an extrovert. Each time I laugh and try to explain that not only am I definitely an introvert, being in crowds used to make me feel extremely anxious and uncomfortable. Now I regularly get in front of audiences to run interviews, webinars, do live dance performances, or teach classes. But that’s one of the purposes of life I think – to face obstacles, overcome them, and then be stronger for it.

The truth is, it’s hard to know or understand the kinds of challenges other people have, but it is always meaningful to them when you are empathetic. The understanding and compassion shown by my girlfriend over the past several days was indescribably helpful, whereas comments in the past from loved ones (who have never dealt with genuine depression) essentially saying to “get over it” is incredibly hurtful. When you meet someone and they seem harsh, aloof, uninterested, cold, lazy, quiet, stupid, or judgmental, most people will assume that is just an unpleasant person. But do you know that person’s life story? Do you know what is going on inside of them?

Here’s to all of us taking a moment to not make assumptions, but as a rule give compassion  towards others. Try to to empathize, to understand where they are coming from, despite that first instinct to judge.

21 replies
  1. Mike Harrington
    Mike Harrington says:

    Really solid write up on your experience, Grant.

    Glad you had the courage to put this out there, as it definitely helps raise awareness.

    That’s great that you’re managing depressive states with other supplements. I personally have been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 – so the herbal and other non pharmaceutical treatments just didn’t cut the mustard for me.

    The good news is: as long as I take my prescribed mood stabilizer (which is cheap!) I feel good pretty much all the time. Of course, with a normal range of emotions in response to life events.

    I also fought having to take meds for many years. “I’m strong! I’m too smart! I can beat this alone!”

    In my case, I was full of horseshit. I wouldn’t expect a diabetic not to take insulin, or a guy with a broken leg to refuse a cast. Or someone with bad vision to decline glasses or contacts.

    Once I just accepted it, I was able to right the ship.

    Thanks again for posting. See you in USA this year?

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      Thanks Mike! Loved your article on this type of topic too.

      Curious what kind of prescription they provide for that? Awesome it’s working for you. I’m definitely not against Rx meds for this or anything else, and it definitely implies no weakness of character to take them.

      I’m just in favor of experimenting with trying new things or occasionally going off them (in a controlled way) to learn things like whether there are other underlying issues on can work on that the meds might not affect. For example, for me at least there are some definite psychological causes/triggers that it’s important for me to work on that cannot be solved by herbs or medicine or anything besides some concentrated self-work! But it’s all so individual.

      Might be towards the end of the year – stay well and stay in touch! 🙂

      Reply
      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Hi Grant,
        Congrats! I would love to be in your shoes right now! It seems you had a relatively easy withdrawal from your anti-depressant..?
        May I ask what dose of what drug you were on? Are you still going strong without the meds? I’m just wondering as I am currently having an awful time trying to get off of mine 🙁 I have been on them since college, approx 15 years total now… Its seems to get harder the longer you have been on them.
        Any information would be really appreciated!
        Thank You!

        Reply
        • Grant Weherley
          Grant Weherley says:

          I had bad withdrawal one time in the past. Not a dr. but here is what I know:
          1. Taper off
          2. Remove as many causes of depression as you can (cognitive behavioral therapy, nutrition, exercise, social support, etc.)
          3. Switch to herbal depressants as you ease off of them – can possibly help with the transition (I think doing this switch first was what made it so much easier for me to stop)
          4. Placebo effect – if you can convince yourself you wont have withdrawal you will be less likely to.
          5. Placebo effect #2 – have a love one give you either a placebo or a dose of the antidepressant, randomly but while tapering you off, so you don’t know whether you are getting it or not, also should utilize placebo effect in your favor 🙂

          Reply
  2. Johnny
    Johnny says:

    Hey Grant, glad you are taking matters into your own hands and making great progress! I really liked the part where you said:

    The way you are feeling is not you.

    Reframing “I am depressed” to “I am feeling depressed” is such an easy tool that will help a lot of people instantly.

    Reply
  3. Larissa
    Larissa says:

    Hi Grant,

    I am sitting in our hotel in Taiwan and I am at a loss for words. I needed this article so much you dont even know!! When I was 20 I started my intense journey on and off medication to treat severe anxiety, I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder combined with panic disorder. Fear was the only consistency in my life. I have been off of meds for about 4 years now. Its been a roller coaster ride that I often feel most people don’t understand who I am and what I deal with every single day. When people see me and see how ‘happy’ i am most of the times they have no idea that half of my life I am fighting suicide demons and just trying to make it to the next day. Life turned into survival mode. I just wanted to make it through each day.
    For the past 3 years I have been doing great. I even moved abroad to Thailand, something I never thought I would be able to do! I have been so blessed and I have learned so much about myself and this little part of me that is called anxiety. Since the beginning of this year, the last 3 months, my anxiety has intensified again and I have no clue why…even though I now live in one of the safest places in the world….Chiang Mai…I often feel overwhelmed with fear and i feel the panic attacks slowly creep back into my life…BUT I know I have overcome this once and I know I can do this again. It is just a cycle and I have faith that it will go away.
    I do have a question for you, you talk about social support as key to dealing with these feelings. Do you not find it difficult as an expat to have that social support? I honestly think that is a big reason why my anxiety returned. I often feel so alone in a country where I don’t speak the lounge and where I have more connections but hardly true deep friendships?
    Thank you for writing this…It gave me new hope to fight the anxiety…and a nice reminder to stop feeling sorry for myself because I am not only.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      Thank you for the amazing comment Larissa! I am so happy you found this helpful 🙂 I was hoping people would.
      Yes it’s something that most people keep secret and so most people don’t know that others are dealing with these kind of struggles. I bet neither of us suspected these things about each other for example. And also yes social support is definitely more challenging as an expat – you really have to work at it. Fortunately CM has lots of events and meetups and such which I have found helpful. And I don’t just mean the introverted entrepreneur focused events, but even the ones with the yoga or dancing groups – they tend to be more open to connections.

      I think the most important thing is to realize that when you have these kinds of dispositions, it is indeed a bit or a roller coaster, and you can’t always control how it goes. But the thing about roller coasters…the lowest possible point comes right before it swings back up to the top 🙂 In fact I like to think about how the worst possible moments in life are actually the most optimistic – because you are at the lowest point which usually precedes lots of great things happening. Whereas it’s best to be humble when everything is great, because you have so much you could lose at a moments notice. Let’s catch up next time our paths cross!

      Reply
      • Lariisa
        Lariisa says:

        How do I even respond to that?? I am feeling exceptionally blessed right now! Thank you so much for those words…I think I should have you as my life coach!!

        I am contemplating going home after Taiwan just because things have been going so rough the last 2 months and I feel I need to be around a good support system and see a dr. BUT maybe I can do that in Chiang Mai. I will let you know and yes we definitely should meet up when we are in the same city again:) You are amazing and thank you so much for sharing so openly. You are changing lives by doing so. Take care and chat soon!

        Reply
        • Grant Weherley
          Grant Weherley says:

          Wow thanks so much to you too Larissa – you have no idea how much I appreciate your kind words 🙂 Although I think I am much better as a business coach than a life coach!

          I have found value in trying to build a support system/connections wherever I am. It is very challenging for sure, but I guess the way I see it is that no matter how great your support system is at any time…inevitably people move, relationships change, and then maybe you are in the same boat while still at home (at least this has happened to me before).

          One trick I found a long time ago is salsa dancing – for whatever reason, no matter where you are in the world people who dance are super cool and supportive. One of the main reasons I learned to dance originally and continue to wherever I go 🙂

          I have full confidence in you that you CAN do it in Chiang Mai or anywhere else you are! But I’ll make no comment as to whether you SHOULD because I don’t know enough about your situation to give that kind of advice!

          Happy to grab a coffee and give you a big hug (everyone enjoys a big hug) next time you are around.

          Reply
      • Julie
        Julie says:

        Grant your just the inspiration I’m searching for. I have also been on anti depressants for many years. I have contemplated for quite a while now, getting off all my meds… I really found your article do very helpful and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your story.. Stay strong and happy. Bless. ?

        Reply
  4. Jeremy G
    Jeremy G says:

    Nice post, man.

    I was on adderal and also an depressant (meant to help me sleep, not for depression) for a few years.

    Summer of 2013, I stopped both and fell into a state of “depression”. After getting fired from my job in Israel, I flew back home to figure things out.

    My doctor subscribed me a more intense anti-depressant. One day of consumption and I hated it. Nausea ensued. I felt more anxious than before. I vowed to never take anti-depressants again.

    Instead I maintained a healthy diet, read self-help books, stopped drinking alcohol, and exercised regularly.

    6 months later, I cut out adderal completely and I have not looked back since. I’m now 1 year with out pills and the only drugs I take are THC and caffeine.

    However, every once in a while, just so I know I can, I take a long hiatus from each drug to make sure I never become dependent. I did 1 month no alcohol, weed, caffeine last summer and it was incredible (after the first 2-3 transition days).

    Now I meditate everyday, do yoga, write a daily journal, and more…. and I feel more focused, more in control, less anxious, and more opposed to western pills than ever.

    Jeremy

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      That is freakin awesome man 🙂 That is the best way to go – focus on the groundwork of mental and physical health FIRST. I think some people still need meds, but unfortunately they are immediately prescribed instead of taking care of this stuff FIRST.

      Similar to the one time where I was allergic to dairy and didnt know it – I go into a doctor’s office and they “diagnosed” me with asthma and gave me a bunch of meds. I was still allergic to dairy…and had to figure that part out on my own. Ironically I subsequently went to a better doctor and sure enough he said something like “nope. you don’t. that other guy is kind of an idiot.” Or maybe that is just how I remember it 🙂

      Reply
  5. Claudia
    Claudia says:

    Hey Grant –

    Thanks for being brave and sharing your story. I’ve gone through the same since high school. I think it’s something that really smart people are inflicted with 🙂

    I’ve gone off my meds – mainly for generalized depression – a few times in my life. Each time I found that I was totally ok…until something went wrong. What I realized is biologically missing in me is the ability to process and manage potentially emotionally-jarring situations in a normal manner. There is just something that isn’t in my brain to do that. Meditation helped majorly, as did a yoga practice after a pretty bad breakup that left me feeling like I was free-falling. But it only helped and I fought to do the rest on my own, but honestly, going back on meds was light turning on the power button. It just works. So I always say to myself and others, why suffer through it and fight such a hard fight when you don’t have to?

    I also realized that it’s not just my life that is effected – it’s the lives of those around me. I always felt terrible guilt for being such a wreck around friends and family. I just wanted to be able to add value and to uplift their lives instead of sucking the life out of them.

    So until I know I’m able to fully be me without a pharmaceutical aid, I’m gonna just suck it up and keep popping those little white friends each night.

    Please take care of yourself and be well. I look forward to following your progress.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience as well Claudia 🙂

      Just to be clear this post definitely is anti-meds, just anti-we-take-so-much-meds!

      To answer your question, I think it is worth the experiment because…
      – there are negative side effects of meds that suck, especially long term
      – usually there are things like meditation and health and such people need to work on as groundwork beneath meds, but people are lazy so most won’t bother until forced to
      – negative mental habits/thoughts perpetuate the problem, but meds artificially keep those at bay, which is great, but not as effective as working on the mental habits themselves.

      All said, if what is working for you is working, awesome 🙂 But I am a big fan of experimenting and trying new things for the sake of learning and personal growth

      Reply
  6. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Thanks for sharing such a personal post, Grant. Going off antidepressants (several times in my life) produced similar results for me. Daily exercise and 1,000mg of Omega-3 fish oil (EPA) in addition to the things you mention above have helped me live depression and antidepressant free for over a year now. Stephen Ilardi’s research is what gave me the motivation to get off the meds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HDFEbsGRlA

    Reply
  7. Piccia
    Piccia says:

    I am not sure why you should give up medication. That’s part of the stigma, I fear. I totally agree with Mike Harrington’s comment. If you have a chemical imbalance, a vitamin deficit, you simply take a supplement. You don’t stop taking it if you still need it, if your body still doesn’t produce that substance you need. So why stop taking medication, if it helps and has no problematic side effects? Why?

    It’s like saying that it’s all in your head. It isn’t. At least not in mine.

    No amount of therapy, yoga, support, love, friendship, success in life and work can change the fact that if I stop my meds, my world unravels. If I take them, I am simply normal.

    Grant, thanks for the article, it’s incredibly helpful.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      Hi Piccia – glad you liked the article.

      Two clarifications (don’t want you to think I am judging you at all):
      1. I definitely don’t think it comes down to “you should give up meds” – just that the experiment is useful, and the habits around the meds are actually more important than ONLY taking them (there are studies which show this)

      2. I am a million percent against “it’s all in your head” – in fact I hate it when people say that and honestly think they are assholes when they do (shows a notable lack of empathy!)

      Said something similar above, but again I don’t think “meds are bad” at all. Just the lack of emphasis on internal work, and external structures in your life is really bad, because it’s the combination that is so effective and important.

      I’ll put it this way (related to the vitmain deficit thing) – since you are a woman there is a good chance you are anemic (at least at times). Taking an iron supplement can be great, but if you can alter your diet to get more iron that is somewhat preferable, although AFTER doing that you may find you still need the supplement. So the best case scenario probably being a combination of the two! 🙂

      Fish oil and exercise is more powerful than prozac (studies show) but if you are solely relying on antidepressants versus healthful habits AND antidepressants (if you still need them – so far I do) then that is like a one-legged stool, it is dangerously unstable. If you build a tolerance to the meds, run out, you start to experience very bad side effects, something particularly tramatic happens, etc. that is really scary if you don’t have fallbacks to keep things at least a bit on track while you figure things out. So maybe the ideal is fish oil, exercise, meditation, yoga, PLUS antidepressants…or whatever works for you.

      Anyways, hope that is a helpful clarification. Food for thought after many years of thinking and working on this 🙂

      – Grant

      Reply
  8. Tasha
    Tasha says:

    Thank you . I have struggled with anxiety & depression all my life . Been on many different medication at the highest dose you can give a human for 10 yrs till I just couldnt handle not being able to feel , 5 yrs ago I decided to off of them . It has been very hard & sometimes almost destructive but I got through it . I have found myself in the past year trying to slip back into lately , fighting the sense that I may need to be on medication again but after I read this I know I can get through it with the advise & info from this article . Thank you again , written very well.

    Reply
    • Grant Weherley
      Grant Weherley says:

      That is so awesome Tasha I am so glad you found this helpful and to hear you have been staying strong! 🙂

      Let us know how it goes for you and don’t hesitate to come back and ask questions, update us on your progress, or get additional support.

      Reply

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