June 17, 2017

Why I’m “anti” Anti-depressants.

*Editor’s note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. For serious.


Many years ago, as a sad, confused, listless young woman, I sat on the couch of a stern psychiatrist who informed me that I needed to take prescription psychotropic pills every day for the rest of my life.

That didn’t sit well with me.

But, I was 21, and facing the moment-to-moment reality of horrible depression during every waking moment of my “real” adult life.

I learned that depression is anger turned inward. Self-blame exacerbates a mentality in despair. For me, depression was like endless fields of gray. I only wanted to sleep or die. I was unable to hope and had zero desire to do anything but lie in bed. It was like being stuck in a huge, ugly glob of what’s-the-point! 

Life was drained of all color, fun, and love.

I chose to take the pills. I was told they would take a couple of weeks to kick in, and they did—like clockwork. My ability to function in the world was restored. Once I felt better, I’d stop taking the meds. Then, of course, I’d feel bad again, dragged down into the quicksand of darkness.

So, I’d start back up again with my prescription refills and they’d take longer to take effect, since my brain was building up a resistance. This carried on for about four years, until one day, all the fireworks exploded in my mind and I was catapulted from the lows of cyclical depression to the rapid fire “high-high-high” of mania.

That’s when I was committed for 10 days to the state psychiatric hospital and was prescribed lithium for life.

Teaching yoga at a fitness center the following year, I struck up a conversation with a woman after class about mental health and prescription drugs. She urged me to read up on lithium and its detrimental effects, and gave me a book on the topic. My mom and brother had both been diagnosed with bipolar prior to me, at age 40 and 14, respectively. I was 24 when my manic side emerged, although, in retrospect, it was more like popping topless out of a cake than a gradual emergence of symptoms.

There is the reality that everyone’s brain chemistry is different and influenced by genetic factors outside of our control, and yet our brain chemistry is also affected by our lifestyle and behavior choices. After a few years of taking lithium religiously, I felt ready to phase it out of my system and did so under the care of a qualified psychiatrist—a doctor not much older than me—also named Michelle. She helped me phase it out, and it’s been eight years now with no relapses.

My cures include, but are not limited to:

A devoted yoga and meditation practice, walking and living in nature, and eating real food as opposed to processed junk. I include all the fresh fruits and veggies I can find growing locally, and butter—not margarine. My staples are avocados, pineapple, quinoa, plantains, garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Most importantly, I find that living life at a more relaxed and slower pace is key to physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness. I intend daily to find the balance between my ingrained North American need for achievement, and the overriding Guatemalan culture of heart-centered enjoyment…and procrastination.

Now, I see achievement and progress as being able to enjoy every step of the process, which is always in flux.

The other day, I posted a meme on my Facebook page that showed a forest path and a bottle of pills. The images were labeled, respectively, as “an antidepressant” and “a lifelong addiction.” It resonated with me, so I shared it. A couple of people balked at it, pointing out that it’s not that simple. I immediately deleted the post, realizing they were right: it is more complicated than that.

Depression is not cured by anti-depressant pills. They are a band-aid. And like bandages, they can be extremely helpful and necessary in the short term.

In my experience, depression is uprooted through natural remedies and healthy lifestyle choices. Walking and living in the woods may not be the cure for everyone, but it certainly works for me.

Here’s to healing and feeling good, whole and healthy in our mind, body, and heart!


Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Image: ChaosKitteh/Deviantart
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Supervising Editor 1: Khara-Jade Warren

Supervising editor 2: Yoli Ramazzina

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Dr. Iz Mar 10, 2018 11:46pm

You CANNOT do it alone.

Dr. Iz Mar 10, 2018 11:34pm

Some day the fallacies and the solutions will be apparent. They're already here, but one must be willing and ready to see -- and do the work.

Andy Bowker Jun 24, 2017 5:34pm

Totally agree. I think the issue is that there is an over emphasis on pills and not enough on nature, diet etc. If someone needs anti depressants to help them stay sane, fair enough - but there's little if any doubt that medication is far too readily prescribed these days.

Michelle Margaret Jun 21, 2017 1:27pm

Thanks for reading and commenting. I would suggest trying to find a really good, openminded doctor to help you phase it out safely. Blessings on your path!

Annika Farthing Jun 19, 2017 3:52pm

Thankyou. Im trying to wean off citaopram but having to go REALLY slow otherwise i get brain zaps and depression rearing up. Any advice?

Michelle Margaret Jun 18, 2017 6:31pm

Thank you for reading and commenting. For me, they were a lifesaver, for sure. Short term! To each their own path, of course.

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom. She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting, and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!