Body Healing Journey: Going Off Antidepressants

It was just few months ago when I was taking my antidepressant and anxiety medication – just as I did every morning before leaving the house for the past year and half. Prior to stopping I’ve had several conversation with my physician, and every time I was scared as shit by the idea of going completely off. A morning after another visit and discussion with my doctor I found myself analyzing my new thinking about all of this in the moment, as I swallowed it down, I wondered: had it become a habit, or even a crutch in my life, rather than a necessity for a serious depression. In my case, the answer was an absolute yes – yes this thing has become a crutch in my life.

While recognizing that some people might need a mood-deregulator or a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) for chemical reasons, this was not the case for me. I needed the antidepressant for environmental reasons. The situation that I was in prior to taking the antidepressant has changed significantly. I was in a “happy place!” I was close to family, friends, had great friends, job,  and doing my teacher training to become a yoga teacher. Things were being checked off the box, and falling in place, and for once the future seems promising. But despite all of that, I still felt that I needed the meds.

On the other hand, while I was feeling mentally great, and my external reality was reflecting my mental state, the side effects of the meds on my body wasn’t great. Physically I felt like shit every day. In just few months I went from 110-115 pounds to 138 pounds (the heaviest I’ve been in my adult life), stopped running, and working out completely. To make things worse, I developed some horrible digestive issues, which I later found out was related to milk intolerance and other food sensitivities.

In late October I finally got some confidence, and decided to go off my meds, number of factors contributed to this decision – I finished my teacher training and was teaching already, I submitted and scheduled a time for my thesis defense, and submitted my last paper. I felt in control of the big things in my life that seemed out of my control for a while now.  This seemed like a logical transition to another stage in my life – living without the crutches called “antidepressants”.

A morning after another discussion with my physician, I knew that it was time to stop taking it. I took my supplements that morning, and spent the remainder of the day researching natural ways to deal with depression or post-depression naturally. That research led to me to three ways to heal with depression. While there were countless suggestions I narrowed down to three that I am currently using on a daily basis. It’s been over four months now since I last took my meds. So I thought I share my experience and journey with going off my meds and how I am dealing with not having thatcrutch in my life anymore.

But before I list them, there are few things to consider before you make the decision, the decision to go off should be considered thoughtfully and made with the support of your physician or therapist to avoid a risk of recurrence of depression. Once you decide to quit, you and your physician should take steps to minimize or avoid the withdrawal affects. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is my solution – meaning that it’s a solution that worked and is working for me. So, just because it worked for me, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you as well. Lastly, my decision wasn’t something that happen overnight, it’s a result of months of discussion with my physician and having REAL talk with myself, like asking myself whether the environment that I was in is likely to trigger me again. With that being said here are some of things that I had to incorporate into my daily routine:

Exercising Daily – Whether it is 30 minute or 3 hour, I always find a time to exercise. Research have found that regular exercise, and the increase in physical fitness alters serotonin levels in the brain and leads to improved mood and feelings of wellbeing. Also, several studies have shown that exercise promote mental health and reduces symptoms of depression. The ant-depressant effect of regular physical exercise is comparable to potent anti-depressants like Sertraline.

“Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect. It's been shown that people are far less likely to relapse after recovering from depression if they exercise three times a week or more. Exercise makes serotonin more available for binding to receptor sites on nerve cells, so it can compensate for changes in serotonin levels as you taper off SRIs and other medications that target the serotonin system” Harvard Women's Health Watch

Yoga – Doing yoga every day – My lunch hour, evening (if not at the gym) and weekends are spent at the yoga studio. I do yoga everyday during my lunch hour and weekends.  Yoga is not only a physical exercise, but it can be a relaxing and healing process. Practicing yoga can also alter your brain chemistry – some position are effective in stimulating the release of endorphins and reduces the level of stress hormone cortisol. Number of studies have been done and support this use of yoga for depression, and specific yoga posture that increase levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which may alleviate depression.

Taking Supplements – Taking supplements that are known to help with mild to moderate depression. For example, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is a synthetic form of an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression. Another one is 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and tryptophan, both are natural alternative to antidepressants. When the body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels. The evidence suggests 5-HTP and tryptophan are better than a placebo at alleviating depression.

Full disclaimer, despite doing all of these things, and constantly keep myself busy, I still have my days - there are days where i feel completely hopeless, helpless , anxious, sad, and have terrible mood shift. Sometime it gets so bad, that I try to talk myself into going back on my meds. But I don’t want to develop that dependency again - so instead I’ve decided to take each day as it comes, and accept that not everyday will be perfect. But most importantly, remaining myself that I am doing the best that I can and I have to be gentle with myself.

“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.” – Elizabeth Wurtzel

Journey to Health and Wellness with Becca Shern: Minimal Wellness

Bex fence grin SQUARE.JPEG

This is another of my favourite feature because combines three things that I love talking about, health, wellness, and minimalism. Before going into the post, I just wanted to thank Bex (Beeca) for being so patient and understandable through this whole process. This post was supposed to come out five months ago, but due to heath issues, I had to postpone and took a little break from blogging, not knowing when I'll be back again - but five months later and Bex still agree to do this, which I am forever grateful for. 

That being said, down below shares her journey to minimalism, health and wellness and how she incorporate minimalism into her healthy lifestyle. This is a two part feature, in the upcoming days Bex will be sharing her favourite recipe with us. 

Tell us about yourself (Who you are, what you do for living, where you’re from, anything interesting fact about yourself)

Hi, I'm Becca — I'm a mom, partner, registered dietitian, recreational athlete, and wellness nerd. For the past decade, I’ve been working and studying as a Registered Dietitian, with a particular interest in public and environmental health. I started and run Minimal Wellness, a nutrition coaching business to help people find, navigate, and enjoy the simple path to optimal health. My partner, Joshua, our four year old daughter, Ella, and I currently live in Missoula, Montana — Big Sky Country. Although we currently live in Montana, I’ve been a bit of a nomad — living in Alaska, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Most of my family still lives in Minnesota, where I grew up on a small hobby-farm outside of Minneapolis.  

What does minimalism mean to you? 

For me, minimalism means living with the essentials to enable vibrant health and allow pursuit of my passions. It means that I continually evaluate the things, activities, and relationships in my life and curate them to allow me to be the most optimal version of myself — meaning that I am the best mom, partner, and member of society that I can be. What is essential to me, will not be what’s essential to someone else, but I think it’s helpful to consider minimalism as a mental and physical framework that helps us continually grow and evolve into better people.

When did your journey to minimalism begin? And what or who inspired you to pursue this life style? 

I grew up in a household that believed in simple living. I feel fortunate to have been surrounded by family and friends that valued someone’s contribution to the world more than how big their house was, what kind of car they drove, or how stylish their clothes were. But, I began jettisoning unneeded material things in earnest a couple of years ago after I realized my life was not headed in a positive direction.

Three years ago, I was a salaried professional working mom, a student trying to complete my master’s degree, and was in a mismatched marriage. My then spouse and I bought a house, in part because I thought home ownership — the missing component of the American Dream I’d completely bought into — would cure my discontent. Unsurprisingly, the house wasn’t the answer, and my marriage ended shortly thereafter. At the same time, I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by two guys living here in Montana, called The Minimalists. Since then, I’ve been paring down and honing in on what is essential in my life.


When did your journey to health and wellness begin? How do you incorporate your minimalist lifestyle into the meals you create?

I've been interested in health and wellness for two decades. Our family was fortunate to have my mom shape our eating habits — she's an outstanding cook who always grew a garden and prioritized making delicious healthy meals for us every night. As a kid and teenager I was an athlete, so being fit and healthy became part of my identity. When I entered college, I drifted away from many of my healthier habits. But luckily after a couple of years, I stumbled upon an intro to nutrition course and found my way back to loving wholesome food, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle.

The recipes I create at home and for Minimal Wellness focus on simple, real ingredients, and easy preparation methods. I try to decoct healthy eating for people and make it as straightforward yet delicious as possible. The recipes emphasize the essential components of any diet — tons of vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and fruit. The recipes don't require complicated equipment or a pantry full of millions of ingredients, they minimize unnecessary grains (I believe some grains for some people are fine, but the standard American diet places far too great an emphasis on grains), eliminate gluten, and contain as little added sugar as possible.


As a minimalist mom, what has been the biggest challenge of raising a child in minimalist household?

Our daughter is four, so I realize that difficult times might come in the future, but in all honesty, minimalism hasn't posed any direct challenges with parenting — it's only made life raising a child easier. There is far less mess, we have fewer distractions, and we're able to enjoy more time with one another.  Our small issues arise occasionally around gift giving with friends and relatives. We encourage experiential gifts over physical items, but that's not always possible, so we try to be flexible. 


How are you teaching your daughter (Ella) to lead a minimalist lifestyle? 

We lead by example. When she has questions, we talk to her about why we live the way we do and its benefits. We include her. Quarterly, we go through her closet and toys together and discuss the items she uses and the ones she doesn't. She identifies the things she doesn't use or wear and decides what she wants to donate. We don't have friends in town with children younger than Ella, so most of the things she grows out of get donated instead of given to friends. When we do purchase an item, we specifically buy the most durable goods in order to pass them onto someone else when Ella's no longer uses it. 

If I had one recommendation to make to others considering minimalist parenting, it's to eliminate the TV from your home. Ella still watches a few select shows from a tablet, but she's spent her young childhood without the outsized influence of a large light-emitting rectangle on a wall. Not having a TV does a few things for our family, first and most notably is the lack of direct advertising — she simply doesn't see the vast majority of stuff that other kids see and therefore she doesn't ask for it. Second, not having a TV eliminates that large volume of time that adults in the family often choose to watch shows while the children are still awake (Josh and I do occasionally watch something in the late evening), so we have more time together as a family. 


Is Minimalism for everyone?

I think we can all benefit from being intentional about what we purchase and how we spend their time and attention. Our society dictates what we "need" and what we "should" do — it makes sense to question this template and determine for ourselves what we want out of life. Often when we start questioning and searching, we find that we need far less and are happier and more fulfilled by creating our own path.    

Take us a through a day in life of Bex.

5-7am Wake up. I don't use an alarm and I wake up when I'm rested, usually that's after 7-8 hours of sleep. 

7:30-8am Ella wakes up and makes her bed. Then we get her ready for pre-school (get dressed, brush teeth, take vitamins & probiotics, have a snack (usually nuts or a hardboiled egg and some fresh fruit). 

8:30-9am Drop Ella off at pre-school.

9am-5pm Work. I'm fortunate to have a flexible schedule and the ability to work from almost anywhere, but client sessions require privacy, so I usually work from our home office. 

10am Breakfast. My mealtimes aren't set in stone and I let my hunger cues determine when I eat, but these times I list here are pretty typical. I do a type of intermittent fasting that extends the overnight fast to 14-16 hours. This means I usually finish eating for the day before 7pm and don't eat the next morning until somewhere between 9am and 11am. You can read more about my eating pattern here

1:30pm Light lunch or substantial snack.

3pm Workout. Like mealtimes, my exercise time is fluid, I do some type of purposeful movement everyday, but never on a routine. I've been doing at least 15 minutes of daily yoga lately which I enjoy in the early morning as a wakeup or in the late evening before bed. If I do cardio or weight training, that usually happens sometime in the middle of the day.  

5pm Ella home from pre-school.

6pm Dinner

7:30-8:30 Bedtime routine for Ella: a bath with lavender epsom salts, reading, rocking in her rocking chair, sleep by 8:30 at the latest. We're strict with her bedtime and nightly routine. 

8:30-9:30 Unwind time: clean up, get things ready for the next day, make nighttime tea. 

10-11pm Reading and sleep.


When do you feel best in your body?

I feel best about my body when I take care of myself by consuming nourishing food, enjoying frequent movement, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep. For my 35th birthday, I donated my bathroom scale which did far more for my ability to love my body than just about anything else (beyond the four pillars of health I mentioned above) I've ever done. It's always been relatively easy to not let the number on the scale determine my self-image or worth, but the scale had become a mild source of negativity. For the better part of a decade my weight had been stable within a small five pound range. I was used to that range and felt good about my body within that range. I started doing some weight training this year and put on a few pounds of muscle. Although I still felt great in my body and clothes, which has always been my primary barometer of health, seeing a different number on the scale was hard to reconcile. So I got rid of that input. It's not that I deny my weight, I just realized I don't care what my weight is as long as I feel great, which I do. 


What’s your workout routine? And how do you remain motivated? 

Honestly, with the exception of 15 minutes (or more) of daily yoga, I don't have a workout routine. I know I need to exercise to be able to do the things I enjoy in life and to feel the way I want to feel. I want to be able to keep up with Ella and set a good example for her of how we can live healthy lives without feeling compelled to exercise. Removing the obligation from exercise and finding your "why" seems to be the key to being happily active for life. My why is simple, I enjoy being fit. There are many times I don't "feel" like exercising, but as with lots of things, if you wait for the times you're in the mood, it doesn't happen. Sometimes you have to act your way into right thinking, and not not wait for illusive motivation. Nike's slogan "Just Do It" is catchy because it's the distillation of many active people's view of exercise, including mine. I want to be fit, it's important to me, so I exercise.  


How can minimalism help one lead an optimal and healthy life?

We live in a world that profits from confusing health messages. Massive industries — food, healthcare, fitness, even alternative medicine — all have different and often opposing motivations, which unfortunately results in information that is frustratingly conflicted.

Health is not a commodity, but that’s often how it’s treated in modern society.

Applying minimalism to our lifestyles can help us achieve a healthy life in a simpler and more enjoyable way. Filtering out the thousands of conflicting messages helps clarify the path and focus on a simple framework makes a healthy life more tangible, accessible, and achievable. For me that framework is: eat nourishing whole foods, move your body, get sufficient sleep, and manage stress. Focusing on and committing to continual improvement in those four areas of our lifestyles leads to a healthier life.


Balance is the key to healthy living, what are some tips to creating and maintaining balance? 

Indeed, balance and moderation are central to healthy living.  It's important to understand that everyone's balance point is different and will shift over time. What feels balanced to us now won't necessarily be what works in the future. Conversely, what worked in the past won't necessarily lead to balance today. One way we create balance is by understanding that 180 degree changes don't happen overnight — we’re unlikely to be successful with a drastic diet plan, or a very intense exercise routine if it’s significantly different than our current routine. Those enormous shifts are destabilizing and unbalanced. Instead think of change in terms of committing to small and realistic pivots from our current habits —  with time and effort, we end up in a radically different but balanced place, living a beautifully healthy life.

What advice would you give for anyone who wants to become a minimalist? 

My partner, Joshua likes to say minimalism isn't a radical lifestyle, it's a practical lifestyle. Getting rid of the excess in our lives helps us focus on what's truly important and that's different for everyone. For anyone contemplating the minimalist approach to life, understand that it's not really about the stuff, it's about being intentional with all of our resources — money, time, attention — it's about living more deliberately. When I started down this path, I played The Minimalism Game a few months in a row, which ingrained the habit of evaluating the physical items in our home and jettisoning the stuff that wasn't necessary. Since then minimizing been a continual process without an endpoint. I didn't cross a threshold of "having less stuff" and suddenly become a minimalist, it's been an evolution.


What’s next for Minimal Wellness? 

I'm offering a web-based program in October called the 23-Day Priorities Reset. This will be the third "class" of the Priorities Reset and I love coaching these small groups of highly motivated, like-minded people. I also plan to do more writing this fall and am looking forward to seeing where the creative process takes me.


Where can people find you?

Minimalwellness.com is the source for blog posts, recipes, information on coaching services, and my contact information. I'm also active on social media (@minimalwellness), my preferred platform is Instagram, but I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Journey to wellness with Melyna Amyot

Melyna Amyotc (@melynaamyot) is a Toronto based Instagramer, whose journey to wellness began 3 years while going through a difficult time. What started as a 30 day challenge has now turn into a lifestyle. Here Melyna shares her story of how she got into wellness, how she stays motivated and and favor work out.

When did your interest in wellness begin?

I'd say my journey began roughly 3 years ago. I had just dropped out of Art School and was going through a difficult time which resulted in fostering this really negative relationship with my body and food in particular. I was sick, tired and unmotivated. A friend suggested I try going Vegan for a month and that's all it really took ! I had to really research what I was putting into my body to fuel it properly and the more I learned the more I became passionate about cooking and understanding the power of plant based food. 

From there it was only natural that as I felt better internally, I could only keep improving externally. And that part I'm still figuring out.

How would you describe your diet now?

Plant based/Experimental are the words I would use. I'm always very curious to understand people's  specific allergen restrictions or food sensitivities so I myself will personally go without wheat, soy, or whatever it may be to really identify and understand how to build proper meals around these modifications. As well as try and educate myself and introduce certain diets out there such as Keto or Paleo for instance while staying true to my plant based roots.

What is currently your favorite workout?

Circuit training and Boxing ! I'm obsessed with the inclusiveness and energy of group training but also love that empowering feeling of one on one time with my boxing coach.

How do you stay motivated (health, wellness, fitness)?

Set a schedule and stick to it ! Holding yourself accountable for your own progress is really what motivates me the most. Reminding myself that no one is going to make the changes I want to see  really puts me in that positive mindset.

Takes us through a day in life of food?

My day starts with half a litre of water and a coffee. Always.

Unless I have a prior morning engagements I practice fasted cardio, meaning I don't eat my first meal till right after my workout.

Breakfast is typically a Smoothie Bowl, loaded Oats or Chia Pudding. Often a  second coffee.

Afternoon snack is a protein shakes with almond milk and Sunwarrior protein.

Lunch is usually Raw. Weather it be a salad or some kind of concoction of whats left in my fridge.

Mid day snacks are veggies and hummus or rice cakes with avocado and nutritional yeast.

Dinner is more often then not some type of stir fry. Whatever is fresh and whatever is available. Usually over brown rice / quinoa or some type of spiralled vegetable. 

I usually end the day with some type of snack.

Where do you go food shopping?

I prefer to stick to local markets (Dufferin Grove is my fav !) but I also know how difficult sourcing locally year round can be so when I do shop at major grocery store I tend to pick up organic produce.

Who is (are) your favorite Food instagramer that you follow?

@ErinIreland ! Erin has been such a role model to me over the last few months. Her passion for food and vegan advocacy is so refreshing and inspiring. She seems like she has it all figured out.

How do you decide what to make, day-in-day out?

It's always a surprise. I never follow recipes and because I enjoy sourcing locally it's whatever's in season that hits the table. Sometimes it's a disaster but often then not I end up with something new and different.

Where do you get recipe inspiration?

Mostly Instagram. Obviously visual representation doesn't always mean it will taste good so I try and take inspiration from beautiful dishes and try my best to make them really flavourful and put my own vegan twist on them.

Favor dish to make?

Smoothie Bowls & Vegan Mac & Cheese !

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

1000% Chocolate. Zimt & Fitzy's are my favourite. (Both Plant based & Canadian !)

Favorite place to get  healthy food  in Toronto?

Hibiscus, One Love vegetarian, Calii Love & Sweethart Kitchen.

Advice for anyone struggling with getting into health and wellness lifestyle?

Whenever and wherever you decide to start, do so at your own pace. Listen to your body. Thank it everyday for deciding to begin, for being strong, for being able. Be patient and kind to it. It's your forever home.

Favor self-care ritual?

STRETCHING ! I often avoided this step when I first got into fitness and trust me I learned quickly to never skip a stretch again. 

When do you feel best in your body?

I feel best in my body those minutes following a tough workout. My face is red, Im struggling to catch my breath, I feel my heart racing in my chest, my hair has taken on a new life, my body is dripping with sweat and those are the moments you need to be thankful for. You brought yourself to that exact place. There is nothing more gratifying and beautiful to me. 

You can find more of Melyna and inspiration on her Instagram.