How I quit my antidepressant cold turkey and lived to tell the tale.

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I’m finally all healed up from my dual-surgery round robin in July. But because I’m such a glutton for punishment tremendous bad-ass, I couldn’t just leave it at that. Nooooo. I figured “why not tack on another major medical event, while I’m at it?” And thus begins the story of how I quit my antidepressant, cold-turkey, after 3 years.

Let me first be extremely clear: I do not, absolutely do NOT, recommend discontinuing any medication without the support of a medical professional and some very trustworthy friends or family. Getting off any psychopharmaceutical is a difficult and sometimes dangerous effort. Most doctors recommend a step-down, or weaning off process. I repeat: never stop your medication without consulting with a professional. 

In my case, it was time to quit. Pristiq quite literally saved me when I needed it most. Three years ago, I couldn’t manage my depression without it. Starting the medication was, for me, a last resort decision that was not easily made. But I’m so grateful that I did it. In certain cases, medication is the best, fastest way to help regulate the chemistry of one’s brain – and, in doing so, can save lives, both literally and figuratively.

But, after spending several years on Pristiq I was experiencing some negative side effects, and with a hope for pregnancy on the close horizon, my doctors and I decided it was a good time to try removing the medication and see if my chemistry could balance itself, given all the positive changes I’ve made and ongoing work I’m doing in the maintenance of my health over the past couple of years.

What positive changes and ongoing work, you ask?

Careful to never confuse my medication as a “cure-all,” the meds were, to me, merely a supplement to all the other, natural “treatments” available to me.

  • I changed my life dramatically to extricate myself from an unhappy marriage and start over. Not easy. Not fun. But so worthwhile.
  • I spent an hour each week exploring my triggers, identifying and correcting unhealthy patterns, and healing past traumas with a wonderful therapist who didn’t pull any punches with me.
  • I improved my health and nutrition by taking supplements, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods and proteins, and low in refined sugars/carbs and additives.
  • I go for acupuncture regularly, which has helped balance my body and systems in ways I didn’t even realize I needed, but has made a tremendous difference in how I feel.

And, as a bonus, I stumbled into the most healthy, nurturing and satisfying relationship of my life – which every day blossoms more fully into a future that fills with me excitement, joy, and stability. Score!

In short, I learned to love myself, forgive myself, and to make taking care of myself inside and out a non-negotiable priority.

But even with those support systems in place, I was scared. Scared to quit, and scared not to quit. I really didn’t want to be chained to medication for the rest of my life, if possible. I wanted to be able to have a clean system for pregnancy. But I heard terrifying stories about the painful withdrawal experience. (Hint: stay far away from online forums. They are like mainlining nightmare fuel.) Pristiq has a high incidence of severe discontinuation syndrome, which I had already experienced milder forms of, if I was even just a few hours late in my daily dosage. I didn’t want to do a super-slow wean off, because I felt it would just draw out the uncomfortable effects of withdrawal for weeks, possibly months. I wanted to cut the cord, walk through the fire, and come out on the other side as quickly as possible… knowing I had a safety net of psychiatric professionals, and friends, and family to save me if I started going down in flames.

Luckily (and ironically), having surgery meant I’d be on some very strong painkillers for about a week, which numbs discomfort (duh) and keeps asleep more hours than I’m awake. So it was decided that I’d try a cold-turkey quit starting the day of my 2nd surgery, when I would be guaranteed to barely remember the first few days anyway, thanks to anesthesia and Percocet. I spent the week slithering from my bed to the couch, and back again… dosing every 4 hours with painkillers and every 12 hours with benadryl (as studies show antihistamines can ease the “Brain Zap” side effect of withdrawal, which was by far the most disconcerting).

brain zaps quitting antidepressant

Let’s be real: I was high as a kite, and it helped. But even through the fog of those drugs, I couldn’t shake the feelings of withdrawal. I spent a few days feeling completely underwater, like everything I experienced was in slow-motion and far away. I had flu-like symptoms of nausea, headaches, and exhaustion. And I was definitely tender, as evidenced by the amount of tissues I went through during Louie marathon that I was leaning on to distract me during my waking hours. But, unlike in my depression, I wasn’t sad. I was just… feeling. I wasn’t hopeless. I wasn’t drowning. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel alone. I had perspective. I knew, in my bones, that this discomfort was only temporary. And that I was loved. And strong. And I could make it through.

Randomly, these lyrics from Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, were constantly in my head whenever I thought about life beyond medication…. beyond withdrawal.

“I kicked the habit. Shed my skin. This is the new stuff I go dancing in.”

Peter Gabriel, I love you.

Once my eye doctor cleared me to take easy walks again, about a week after my surgery and stopping the Pristiq… and just when the Percocet ran out… I started meditating.

A new studio called Unplug had just opened within walking distance from my house – a chic, stylish space geared toward teaching meditation without any of the religious dogma or “woo woo” propaganda that can sometimes be associated with the practice and turns a lot of people off. They offer the first class free, and I absolutely loved it. I immediately signed up for their monthly unlimited package, with the goal to attend at least 20 times in the next 30 days, as part of my recovery and withdrawal process.

It was such a relief to give myself 30 minutes a day to just sit in silence, focus on my breath, and accept every thought, sensation, and feeling as they came – without judgment. Some days were easy, some were insanely hard, and some days were amazing. But, giving myself a goal, a routine, and a new discipline to focus on was exactly what I needed. The walk there and back was a gentle re-introduction of exercise, with the bonus of some quality time in nature, and a great way to practice continuing my meditation outside the studio walls. I looked forward to it every single day.

And I learned that practicing meditation can actually heal your brain. It literally grows the pre-frontal cortex (which deals with logical thinking) and shrinks the amygdala, which adds up to an increased ability to regulate our emotional responses to stimuli. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol in our systems, improves our memory, and can aid in the management of depression, anxiety, pain and a whole host of other health problems! I had no idea when I started meditating, but the benefits seemed uniquely tailored to my needs. Every single time I went, I walked out happier, calmer and more at ease and at peace than when I walked in.

With the help of meditation and getting back into my exercise routine after my eyes were healed, in addition to the other natural tools I use to manage my mental and physical health, I was able to breathe through the tougher moments of withdrawal and help my brain develop in ways that will continue helping me manage my challenges as they come. It took 4 weeks before I felt the last brain zap fade away, but now it’s been 7 weeks since I took my last Pristiq and I feel better than ever.

I realize that this is just one chapter in the novel that is my lifelong journey with mental illness. And I feel gratitude every day for being in a really healthy, happy, balanced place for the first time in a long time. There may come a time in the future that I need to turn to medication again to help guide me toward the light at the end of another tunnel of depression. But, this experience has taught me that with proper support and healthy self-care habits, I have more influence over my well-being than I previously knew. And that feels fucking awesome.

By the way, wanna see me meditate? LOL. The news was there filming class one afternoon I was there. Try not to be distracted by how much the teacher sounds like George Bluth. But at least you can see my studio.


He so does sound like George/Oscar, doesn’t he?! Hilarious.

And meditation has had fringe benefits I never expected! I got to meet a hero of mine, Arianna Huffington, in all her grecian goddess glory, at a special event that was held at the studio:

10553491_1446165262319048_8139808474237683479_n

…and I even asked my favorite teacher, Olivia, to officiate our wedding! Guys, she’s so awesome. I can’t wait. (Less than six weeks to go! eeeeeeep!)

So, I guess the moral of this story is multi-fold (like paper towels):

1. My story was UNIQUE, and I do not recommend cold-turkey withdrawal from any prescription without a doctor’s supervision. Everyone’s needs and experiences are different. Your mileage may vary.
2. BUT, in the right circumstances, and with support, it is possible to quit your antidepressant and live (happily) to tell the tale.
3. Whether or not you take medication for depression, don’t forget all the other natural therapies such as diet, exercise, acupuncture, yoga and meditation that you can use to support your physical and mental health.
4. Try meditation! It has changed my life. It will probably change yours, too. If you don’t know where to start, google “mindfulness meditation” + your location, and look for podcasts or youtube videos with guided meditations. Olivia has a few here. And read a few books. Amazon has a ton of great options, covering all different styles of meditation. There are a TON of styles. Chances are, one will work for you.

Lastly, let me say that if you ever feel depressed and need help but don’t know where to go, reach out. To friends, family, to me, or to a professional who is equipped to help. There is no shame in needing help for your depression, no matter how mildly or severely you experience it. Trust me. I have lived with depression my whole life, from manageable levels to debilitating and frightening depths. And I wouldn’t be here without the help I’ve asked for, and received. So please, don’t suffer in silence. The world needs you. And there is hope for a better tomorrow and a brighter future. I promise you that.

Ad astra per aspera, friends.


Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

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My inner domestic goddess (a much nicer, more elegant way to name my “inner hippie”) is taking over, y’all. After a long, hidden hibernation, she re-appeared quite without warning last year, and has been dancing barefoot around my house ever since.

Around the same time I started taking a more active role in my health care, I also enrolled in a series of classes at The Institute of Domestic Technology to learn various and sundry food preservation techniques – from cheese making, to jam making, bread baking, and beyond. And as if by magic, some kind of past-life spirit was ignited inside me that has a fervent need to make things. Like, from scratch. And grow things that we can eat, and know the sources of the food I buy. To eliminate as many unnecessary chemicals from our home as possible, and embrace a more natural, wholesome lifestyle. My teachers dealt in the alchemical arts of home economics, and I was hooked.

If you knew me before, this is when you’d laugh uncontrollably and fall out of your chair. But it’s true! And it’s a rabbit hole of endless possibilities that are actually fun to play with, as well as eco-conscious and health-conscious… but most of them are insanely cost-conscious, too. Me likey.

I’ve already shared my recipe for homemade, natural deodorant. And today, I’m happy to pass along my latest endeavor…

Homemade Laundry Soap (aka: Laundry Lube)!

(because, don’t get it twisted, living a cleaner lifestyle doesn’t put an end to my filthy mind.)
homemade diy laundry soap

You’ll need:
1 bar Fels Naptha (5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
plenty of hot water
2 one-quart Mason Jars (or 1 half-gallon mason jar)

make your own laundry detergent

Fels Naptha (aside from being incredibly fun to say) has been around for over 100 years, and is by far, the most efficient, affordable and versatile laundry soap on the market. It’s also one of the least chemically-laden. It’s widely known as a great stain-fighter, and can stop the spread of poison ivy in clothes that have been exposed. For this recipe, you can either hand-grate it, or do like I did, and cube it before sticking it in ye ole Cuisinart for some hot pulsing action until it resembles chopped nuts. Bonus: your food processor bowl will be polished beautifully once you wash it out!

Divide the gratings equally between each of your quart-sized mason jars, and add 1.5 cups of near-boiling water to that (between 180-212°). Hint: if you have a keurig, just run water through that to heat it up. It’ll do ya just fine. No need to mix or jostle it around too much. Just put the lids on the jars and let it cool for about 12-24 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy. I actually waited around 3 days, cuz life got busy.

When you come back to it, the Fels Naptha will have sort of jelled up at the base of the jar. Take a butter knife to it and slice around until you can stir it into a consistency like a mucous-y, lumpy, gooey vanilla pudding. It really doesn’t have to be exact. You can’t do this wrong. Just mush it around.

Then add your 1/2 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, to each jar. Note: this isn’t the same thing as Baking Soda. It’s just not.

borax and washing soda

Now add enough hot water to reach just where the curve of the mason jar starts to narrow, an inch and a half below the lippy top of the jar.

If you have an immersion hand blender, great! You can stick that baby right down into the jar and turn it into a lovely mayonnaise of laundry cleaning power! No immersion blender, you say? Well, do you have a regular blender? Because you can use this amazing hack to screw your mason jar directly into your blender blade housing and mix it that way! Don’t have a blender, either? Well, you might be amish. But that’s ok! Break out a whisk, and some elbow grease, and make like you’re going for a stiff meringue.

The photo on the left, below, is what the gelled Fels Naptha looks like when after it soaks up all the hot water and you come back to it (top), and after you stir it up a bit (bottom). The photo on the right is what it looks like after the Borax and Soda are blended in. Looks pretty delicious, actually! But don’t eat it, yo. Basically, when you’ve got something between a mayonnaise and a smooth silky pudding, you’re done!

diy laundry soap step

The end result is a highly-concentrated laundry lube that will leave your clothes bright and clean and fresh, without all the creepy chemicals and high price tags of store-bought products.

(Now, I think that it smells pretty darn lovely all on it’s own. The Fels Naptha gives it a slightly lemony freshness that is particularly well-suited to laundering. But, in theory, you could add 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the washing soda before mixing it in, to personalize your scent. I might try this later, and will update with results then. If you try it before then, just be sure to choose a scent or blend that will play nice with the lemony scent that it naturally carries.)

To use it: just plop 1 Tablespoon on top of your clothes before starting the load. I find it simplest to use a cookie dough scoop, which is exactly 1 Tbs and has a handy release lever built-in. For super duper dirty loads, you can add another 1/2 or full Tablespoon. But here’s the catch: don’t put it into your soap tray. Just plop in directly into your washing tub with all your dirty duds.

I know what you’re thinking – can it possibly work in High Efficiency (HE) washers? YES! It does! That’s what we have. It works in both, regular or HE washers, whether they load from the top or front. Does it really clean your laundry – like really clean it? YES! It does! Believe you me, my hippie aspirations will never stand between me and a well-cleaned load of clothes. This stuff works. And, according to the general consensus of people who’ve used it for a while, it won’t fade your colors, either.

But how much does it make, and what does it cost? Well, let me break it down for ya:

The most amazing part? This recipe makes enough laundry soap for 128 loads. That’s, like, a year’s worth of laundry! And the cost breakdown comes out to about $7 for a YEAR OF LAUNDRY. But, guess what? You can make it even cheaper. I shopped at Amazon for these prices (because I’m lazy), but word on the street is there are lower prices out there that can reduce this whole shebang to as low as $2 for the whole recipe if you shop super smart.

My price breakdown – through Amazon
Fels Naptha Bar: $4.40
Borax (76oz box) contains 9.5 cups. At $11.74 box, it costs $1.23 per cup
Washing Soda (55oz box) contains 6 7/8 cups. At $9.68 box, it costs $1.40 per cup
Total Cost for 128 loads of soap: $7.03

So there you have it! My homemade laundry lube. Saving the world, and my wallet, and making my inner domestic goddess do a happy dance… one load at a time.

Go forth, friends… and be clean!


My Pits Don’t Stink: Homemade Natural Deodorant

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“Oooh, that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?” Listen closely, chickens. I’m about to let you in on what has been a life-changing recipe for me. See, my quest for the perfect deodorant ain’t because I’m scared of my own smell, or even, that someone else might find themselves in the wake of it. Oh no no no, friends, it is that “deodorant” smell that is just as sure a giveaway of a sweaty lady as her own B.O. might be. That awful, damnable powdery smell… or that floral whiff that is forever in contest with your chosen eau de toilette. Whenever I smell it on myself, or another girl, I cringe. Almost all the scents available in commercial deodorant fall into the “I would never choose that” category, the same way 90% of the perfumes at a department store counter do. There was one exception, when Secret briefly offered a “vanilla chai” scented stick, but it was discontinued, and I cursed the heavens for a long time to follow.

And on the other hand, in recent years, there’s been more and more noise about the potential dangers of aluminum, which is present in all antiperspirants, and their rumored cancer-causing properties. There’s the problem of other additives that may not be doing our skin or our health a service, but are convenient, inexpensive fillers for “big B.O.” to use in their products. And the older I get, the more I realize that knowing what I’m putting in or on my body matters to me. I’ve got far too many mysterious, incurable maladies – and the more I learn, the more it would appear that “cleaner living” can benefit our health at all levels.

So, when I learned that it was exquisitely simple to DIY my own deo with only 3 all-natural ingredients that I probably already had in my kitchen, and control the scent, I jumped at the chance to try. After all, I already exclusively use whipped coconut oil as a body lotion, and love it, so why not add 2 ingredients and call it deodorant?

DIY Natural deodorant

It’s that simple, folks. Mix together the ccoconut oil, baking soda, and your choice of cornstarch or arrowroot. Hit it with a hand blender, if you want to ensure a lumpless, fluffy cream, and slap it in a mason jar. If you have an old jelly jar, or spaghetti sauce jar, use that. By all means, recycle. Note: I definitely prefer the texture of the cream made with arrowroot, as opposed to the cornstarch. I find it is a softer touch, and emulsifies better into the oil. But, I recommend you experiment with both, and figure out which suits your taste better.

In this state, it has, and will impart to your pits, a very light coconutty smell. One which will not interfere with your perfume of choice. Nay, in my opinion, it will only enrich any scent it comes into contact with, like umami does for savory foods. But, if coconut just ain’t your jam, you can experiment with whatever essential oil(s) floats your particular boat.

To use it, just dip your finger in the salve, grab a dollop about the size of a dime, and slather it on your skin. But, in my opinion, there are a couple key tips that can improve your experience getting used to this switch, and they are thus:

1. If you can, do a 3-day “detox” before starting on your natural deodorant regimen. Simply trade out your deo for a few drops of Tea Tree Oil for 3 full days. If you can’t, don’t sweat it (ha!), but if you can, it’s a nice way to sort of “cleanse your palate” from commercial, inorganic ingredients it’s been force-fed for who knows how many years.

2. If you’re of a more sensitive nature, you may wish to start slow. For some, putting this on immediately after shaving can cause a little irritation, due to the somewhat abrasive texture from the powders in the cream. I’ve also heard rumors of break-outs from applying it to skin just after shaving. So, wait a bit before putting it on. Maybe shave the night before. As time goes on, you’ll acclimate, and it will cease to be a problem. And the bonus is, if you ever suffered from over-pigmentation in your pits, this can actually help fade that, over time!

3. If you can, reapply once, mid-day, for maximum potency. As this isn’t an antiperspirant, you’ll still be sweating, and you’ll want adequate coverage. BUT, the good news is that, once you’re allowed to perspire freely, no longer confined by the chemicals of commercial products, and your body acclimates to this freedom, you’ll find that – over time – you actually sweat LESS. And when you do sweat, it’s much less likely to have as much of a funk as it used to. And that, my friends, is like an alchemical miracle. It’s like how they say your lips can become addicted to balm, because they “forget” how to moisturize themselves. The same appears to be true of armpits, kind of. So by lacquering ourselves in chemically-derived antiperspirants, we’re actually teaching our bodies to fight harder to produce sweat. How crazy is that?

So, sure, it might take a bit of dedication to acclimate your body to a new means of odor control, but not only is it safer, more natural, and infinitely cheaper (at pennies per jar versus several dollars per stick), but it’s absolutely worth it for all the same reasons. I can safely say that I’ll never go back. And if you’re a friend of mine, don’t be surprised when I gift you a small jar for yourself, and try to convert you. ‘Cuz I’m preaching the gospel of DIY deodorant to anyone and everyone who will listen!

What do you think… would you give it a shot? If you do, come back and let me know how it works for ya!