9/14/13

Can You Fight Depression Naturally?

 

I went to college to become a psychologist. Yep, I was going to grow up and save people from sadness.  My sophomore year, I volunteered at a county crisis line. We showed up around nine pm and manned the phone to give desperate souls someone to talk to. The training lasted all of 15 min, and then my roomies and I were left alone to answer the phones.

 
I felt like Lucy Van Pelt from the Peanuts gang, offering Charlie Brown advice. My suggestions were not even worth a nickel. One weekend cured me from ever, ever wanting to hear people's problems again. I went to my academic counselor the next business day and changed my major to Early Childhood Education. That is kinda the same thing though, isn't it?

I recall distinctly my first ever encounter with depression. I had a friend in my Driver's Education class who failed to come to school for two weeks.  One day he brought his handsome face back to school and I asked where the heck he had been. He confided in me that he struggled with depression.
What the heck did that mean? I seriously had never heard of that particular condition.
Under his doctor's orders, his family decided to give Prozac a try. He said it nearly killed him. I do not remember all the details *ahem* 22 years later, but I know that all my life, in my mind, Prozac is that thing that almost killed- "like" the cutest boy I had known in the first 15 years of my life.

It was also the first time I started thinking about those ads on TV that give you a long list of side effects. It was also a time when my eyes were opened to a life outside my good little world...happens to every kid at some point, doesn't it?

So, check the warning for an anti-depressant drug:

Some young people have thoughts about suicide when first taking an anti-depressant.
 


Free Stock Photography: Sad Boy Picture. Image: 38727
 
© Photographer Caraman | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Does that seem effective to you?

And the warnings for drugs like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft:
The SSRIs act on serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. Serotonin also plays a role in digestion, pain, sleep, mental clarity, and other bodily functions, which is why SSRI antidepressants cause a wide range of side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
 
While some side effects go away after the first few weeks of drug treatment, others persist and may even get worse. (source)

I do not propose to have the answer. I have a nickel's worth of advice here, and am certainly in no position to tell another person what to do (Psychology drop out remember) But I wonder...out loud...is it worth it? Do these drugs do the good they are purported to do?

I am going to admit something that I don't really want to. I have been struggling this year, this month in particular. I love to say it is just stress. We have had some major changes lately. But deep down, I know it is more than that. So, why am I talking about this? Because I really want to know. Can you fight depression naturally? If I told my doctor how I am feeling. He would say, "I can prescribe something." Not yet. Let's look at other options first.

In today's society, we all want a quick fix. Just give me some drugs! In fact, TV and unfortunately some doctors tell us that is what everyone should do. I found this suggestion from HelpGuide to be very refreshing.

If you have severe depression that’s interfering with your ability to function, medication may be right for you. However, it's important you first try therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies that work just as well or better—minus the side effects—as antidepressants.

I love that medication was listed as the last resort, rather than the first. If only all sick care professionals would first look at diet and exercise, and then go from there.  I am going to explore some strategies this week that are medication free!  Can't hurt to try them and there is no nausea, dry mouth, or weight gain involved. And for you my friends, I will even let you keep your nickel.

Have you found alternate methods to medication to help deal with depression? I would really like to know.

*Note: Nothing I share here can or should be construed as medical advice. These are my thoughts and ideas only, meant to spur anyone interested into thinking outside the box of traditional health care. Take the time to do your own research and talk to your health care professional.

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56 comments:

  1. I have depression and would have to say since I was 12 yrs old. I take medication now for over 16 years and wish I had had it earlier. I am a terrible mess if I forget to take it or miss it. It helps a lot for me. Yes I have suicide thoughts at times but had before I took the medication which is Cebalta. I was given Prozac but did stop because all the women were on it at the medical office I worked in. Thought that was weird and we all know if you are depressed it is something you do not talk about. I hope this helps some.

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  2. I am so sorry that you have been dealing with depression for so many years. I can not even imagine. I am glad you found something that works for you. Thanks for sharing. I wish more people were willing to talk about depression. It is real and doesn't go away by hiding it. May God bless you.
    Janine

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  3. Here's the thing. I'm so sorry that you suffered from post-partum depression. It stinks. It robs you of so much and I completely get that. And I would never belittle that experience for you.

    However, imagine that 7 months stretched out over the majority of your life. Post-partum depression is different in that most people who get it will get better. Many times it will go away slowly as hormones even out. Some people (myself included) experience severe, chronic depression. I have suffered from it for 15+ years including even severe bouts with it both times I had children, and has been worse than ever for the past 3-4 years with very little relief.

    All that to say this. I do not take medication myself, for many reasons. However, there are some people for whom it is literally a life saver for them. And others for whom it may not save their life, but it redeems it and makes it worth living. And I don't fault them or judge them at all for that.

    I now know that you have read the list of side-effects of the drugs, but have you read a full list of symptoms of depression? It encompasses way more than most people think. It really is a horrible illness that too many people just blow off.

    I pray every day for a miracle.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As I said before, I am hoping for a discussion here. I am so open to people's thoughts and do not mean to minimize anyone's experience with it. I love that I get an education through my blogging too! I will pray for your miracle too.

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  4. I would never discourage people to take medication that they NEED simply because of the side effects listed on the box. There are side effects for every drug we take, including antibiotics. Depression and mental illness runs in my family. There is not a natural therapy that can help schizophrenia. I'm so glad your depression did not last long. However, for many others, it does not simply just go away.

    I am curious to see what your strategies are for depression. I am all for a natural way to cure our ailments. I just wish you could have introduced us to them without discouraging the medication that so many people need.

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    1. I am so sorry Eva, for your family members who struggle. It runs in my family as well. If you know anything about me, I don't take drugs...for much of anything. That is the purpose of my blog, to suggest different strategies. I am in the process of exploring this one currently as I am struggling at the moment as well...beyond post partum and it scares me. I really do not want to resort to medication. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. Visiting from Homestead Blog Hop. . .
    I've found these 4 pillars to be a great place to start whether I'm feeling blue or helping a friend talk through a difficult time. I'm not associated with this blog in any way, I simply subscribe.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2013/06/the-four-pillars-of-mental-health-and-wellbeing/

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    1. Thanks Rebecca! What a fabulous resource. I appreciate the spiritual pillar which can not be found in a pill! But also that it is well rounded and includes being open minded to different treatments.

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  6. I refused the meds I was offered to help my anxiety. I refuse to be stuck on needs for the rest of forever like my family members. Serenity and Balance help...when I remember. I am looking to start diffusing Elevation or Citrus Bliss to see how that helps. Good luck to you on your natural journey!

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    1. That is the biggest problem I see with the drugs. They are not a cure. They are a tool for some. But never a cure. Glad to hear the essential oils help. I will be posting on that later. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. I think it really depends on the person. I think trying things like diet changes (to heal possible leaky gut contributions and microbiome), exercise (proven to work as effectively in as SSRI's in some patients), aroma therapy, massage, etc. should be tried first - and should remain a part of any treatment plan. As should talk therapy. I know people for whom SSRI's saved their lives (including immediate family members) and they are certainly a useful tool in the arsenal against chronic depression. But I do think that a holistic approach is best for long term treatment and possibly even full healing.

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  8. I agree Amy. Balance is needed in all aspects of our lives, including mood management. So many options available.

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  9. I was diagnosed with both depression and anxiety disorders. They feed off each other, digging a person into a hole they don't know how to get out of. I hit a low point and went to the doctor for it. He did put me on Prozac and an anti-anxiety medication, but as a temporary solution until we could get everything sorted out. There are so many factors that come into play, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies. He advised me to take supplements along with the medication for a duration of time, and then stop the medication and continue with the supplements and see how it helped. I'm in a much better place now, and off all prescriptions.

    I take chelated calcium/magnesium/zinc (daily recommended dosage on bottle), vitamin B complex (daily recommended dosage on bottle), 25 mg DHEA, 500 mg vitamin C, 3000 IU vitamin D3, along with a well balanced multivitamin. Every day. I was able to come off the Rx medications with no side effects, and I am a whole new person. As he explained it, when our bodies are unbalanced (in either hormones or vitamin/mineral deficiencies), weird things happen.

    Vitamins aren't cheap, but mental well-being is priceless.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. Mental well-being is worth any price. So amazing to me that you could replace the pills with vitamins. I love love love that! Thanks for sharing. I am sorry for all you had to go through to get where you are today.
      Janine

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  10. I have a family history of ALL the disorders...unfortunately. Growing up watching my aunts suffer, cabinets full of pills...I knew I didn't want to take them. After some major life issues - I did decide to use medication to "help" me get over a rough time. It did take time - but, I did feel or rather didn't feel - one way or the other. I didn't like it. If I am sad, I want to feel sad. Don't get me wrong here - I know family that need to take their medication - however for me - I would rather "fight it." I do suffer from anxiety. I have self diagnosed why and what triggers it. I have spent hours in prayer - trust me - Jesus helps. When I start to feel anxious I take deep belly breaths - like when you are in labor. Then I talk myself through what it is that is bothering me, how can I fix it or what can I do to change. I know some of my family think I should be taking pills - because they do. I guess, when people didn't have the medication, they found a way to "help" themselves. Good luck you have to do what is right for you. Blessings from Wisconsin.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you will stop again to continue the conversation as it unfolds. You are a brave soul.

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  11. Visiting from the Titus 2 Tuesday Linky Party...
    Thank you for bringing attention to an otherwise hush hush subject...as a child I was experiencing some severe psychological issues that would have qualified for extensive counseling/medication intervention. As I've grown into adulthood, many of the issues have subsided with coping skills I've managed to adopt myself, however with the right combination of medication and professional support, I believe that I could have made such large strides mentally. My stance is that each case is just that...an individual case that must be taken into consideration. However, it can't just be "cured" with only medication. It must be used in conjunction with a comprehensive support system/plan such as counseling. My two cents...doctors are to willing to prescribe the medication, yet not follow up for the depression.
    Good luck!
    Jennifer
    http://bonfiresandbluejeans.wordpress.com

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  12. After reading the blog and all the comments, it has left me asking some questions. Why are so many people depressed? Could it be the GMOs in the food? Could it be a lack of vitamins and minerals? Could it be the fluoride in the water? Could it be the silver (mercury) fillings in some of the people's teeth? Could it be the mercury from vaccines? Could it be a combination of all of the above?

    These leads me to conduct some research for a blog on the topic. Also looking into some of God's medicine which is by far the best. For now some of you might consider purchasing some lavender essential oil. Keep it with you and smell when feeling depressed or anxious. You can also use it as a perfume, do get the oils sold in the candle section. My daughter suffers from panic attacks and anxiety this helps her. Not a health care professional just a concerned citizen.

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    1. Could be any number of those factors. In the coming weeks I will share what I have learned about how diet, exercise, vitamins and minerals, and STRESS all contribute. I Use lots of essential oils...will talk about that tool last! Thanks Joyce

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  13. Sorry Jennifer from bonfires and blue jeans. My blog won't let me reply. Thanks for sharing your two cents. I am sorry for the pain you have suffered. I am so happy to hear, however that you have found ways of coping with it. I hope it continues to go well for you.

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  14. I was introduced to Jesus my sophomore year of college, and at the time I'd been taking medication for 5 years for severe depression. When I was finally freed from the weight of my sin in Christ, I was able to stop taking my meds - and I've been fine since. I believe, in my case, it was because of what is says in Proverbs: 'anxiety in the heart of a man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.' Looking back, I was depressed because I was anxious - about maintaining the fake 'good girl' image I had; about some serious sin I'd been involved in during high school. Being forgiven in Christ was the remedy!!

    However, I believe there are some people who do benefit from taking medication. I think it's wise to try other ways first, and leave the prescriptions to a last resort, because I believe that some depression is likely caused by the "food" we consume (or aren't consuming), sedentary lifestyles, stress at work/home, etc. But I need to walk in grace and assume that when believers are taking medication for depression, it's because they've arrived at the decision after much thought and counsel and prayer. And unless they specifically ask me for advice or my thoughts, I keep those to myself and continue to pray for them, that God would heal them and restore their health and wholeness in Himself.

    My husband is going through a period of severe depression right now; it has caused him to do erratic things (quit his job on a whim, leave for a while, etc)...and the elders at our church asked him to consider finding a Christian counselor who might be able to determine if meds are the best option for him now, to bring stability so that we can work on working things out. He has refused, so we continue to pray that the Lord will choose to heal in ways that we are not able.

    Thank you for this post! I am visiting from the Raising Homemakers link-up. :)
    ~Lisha

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    1. Faith is absolutely the number one natural antidepressant. Thanks for sharing your testimony here.

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  15. I have never experienced depression but have had days where I feel a little down. I find that vitamin B is a really good pick-me-up that you might try.
    Also, the Bible says in Psalm 22:3 that the Lord inhabits the praises of his people. If you are praising Him and He is in your midst then His joy is there too. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the joy of the Lord is your strength. Here is an article I found about thanksgiving and praise that might be good for you and some of your readers. I have prayed for you.

    http://www.kcm.org/kcmmedia/nojs/node/4545

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    1. So sweet Ashley, thanks. Your gesture brings joy to my heart!

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  16. I suffer from adrenal fatigue and although I have not been to a doctor to get a diagnosis, I believe I suffer from some level of depression. It is hard to admit it. I follow the protocol from a website called Women to Women. I take vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and herbs. It keeps the adrenal fatigue in check and manageable, which helps my overall feelings of feeling better which helps the depression. I like using this protocol because Women to Women is created by female doctors who are health minded. I have nothing against male doctors, I just know that what I am going through is more of a female reaction. Men handle stress differently, I can see it in my husband. This program has helped immensely.

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  17. Here is a link to an article written from the Women to Women website that may help.
    http://www.womentowomen.com/depressionanxietyandmood/default.aspx

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    1. Good resource, thanks Terri! I think another issue specific to women is how we compare ourselves to others. I have heard that many Christian women are on Prozac as a result of not being able to be the perfect woman they should be..you know the way the other ladies are. A shame!

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  18. When I get my down days (or weeks, as it had been for awhile) I always feel like I'm either lacking some nutrient or my hormones are out of whack. Too bad there isn't an easy way to figure out what we are missing...
    I pray you are able to find out a way to naturally be relieved of the depression, Janine.

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    1. Sorry to hear that Becca. I hope the serenity helps! I know I love it. I am certain stress comes in to play a lot as well! I hope your coming weeks are brighter!

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  19. I did not read the other comments so hopefully I am no redundant. There are many articles now linking poor gut health to depression. I think that is the first place to start. I have an interesting interview on my website about a man who healed from depression with a serious healing diet called GAPS.
    www.purposefulnutrition.com

    Jennifer

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    1. I think most people here are seeing the link between so much depression and poor diet. That is true of most health problems today. I have heard of GAPS. And I am certain gut health is involved! Great resource, thanks.

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  20. This really struck a chord with me. I agree that medication is over prescribed. But I also KNOW it can be a literal life saver for those who need it. We have tried every therapy for years with me son. This included: prayer, diet, cognitive therapy, etc. When we finally tried medication after 3 years, it was so wonderful. My son was back. He could rest at night. He stopped pacing and wringing his hands. He started to laugh. I have been on medication since I was 20. There have been many, many times that fellow believers have suggested that I didn't pray enough or access the Holy Spirit. It is so disheartening and perpetuates the shame. Certainly, those with diabetes or other illnesses aren't told to pray harder.

    To those who sometimes suggest praying harder, please be compassionate. Comments like these shame and wound.

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    1. So happy you have your son back. I can't imagine watching a child suffer so. I believe that the prayer we should be asking is: What should I do? Than follow the answer. If He tells you to medicate, do it!

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    2. Well said, Sweet Apron. I began taking medication for anxiety about a year ago. The meds were necessary just to get my anxiety under control enough to be able to begin therapy. I was NOT anxious because of unconfessed sin, or lack of faith, prayer, or praise. There is definitely room to consider diet, environment, etc. as cause for mental health issues. But to categorize every mental heath disorder as a spiritual issue shows ignorance, quite frankly. Those who believe such things might do well to read through a basic psychology textbook. If you are not a mental health professional (and I am) or a medical doctor, please do not discourage people from utilizing all the resources at their disposal (meds, therapy, dietary changes, etc.)

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  21. My #1 non-drug resource for mental health is http://www.hoperevealed.com/ I know her personally and can attest to how effective her teachings have been through out the world.

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  22. I have been depressed my whole life. I do remember riding my bike everyday after work for
    10 miles. I did this for months and no it did not help at all. I did everything I could think of to help myself. I was in therapy for 10 years. That was a total flop. The only thing that made a difference was when I finally got on Prozac. I've been on it for 24 years. The depression always comes back whenever I try to stop. It's just part of me now. If you can fix yourself without drugs, that's great. Some people need the drugs. Side effects are not bad compared to not being able to function at all. Good luck.

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    1. It seems that this is a very individualized problem. The solution is not the same for every person. Thanks for sharing your experience Penny.

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  23. I have also struggled with depression since early adolescence, which has waxed and waned throughout my young adult life. It has certainly made many things difficult for me, and many of my intimate relationships have failed due to my inability to control my emotions. Whenever things have gotten too out of hand for me to handle, I have gone back into therapy, where the majority of therapists have wanted to put me on antidepressants. This is not something I want in my life. Instead, I have always focused on figuring out what I could change in my life at that moment that could result in positive change. Sometimes it's changing up a routine, making different friends, joining a club, learning a new skill or trying a different form of exercise. Recently, I switched my birth control to low dose and nothing has ever helped me as much as that has! I will never go back to a higher dose and sacrifice my mental health, I just wish I had known this would help sooner. I'm not saying that it's the ultimate fix I needed and that I'll never be depressed again, but I do know that I wake up every day happy to be alive and excited for what the day will bring, which wasn't really the norm before. It's different for every person, and those who need the antidepressants, by all means, take them! I know they've been doing wonders for some other members in my family and if they're happy, I'm happy for them.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your strategies. Such hope!

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  24. I've struggled with depression from about 12 years old. I never knew what it was until I was in college. I thought I was just "different" that I couldn't be happy like others. I've tried several different anti-depressants, but they never lasted more than a few months (enough to get on them, give them enough time to be effective, then decide if I liked them). I didn't. I can't say I'm the happiest person or that I'm not in a constant state of mild depression, but I do know that I'm happier when I'm off of them because I feel like myself. There was a falsity of feelings that I felt when on the meds, that always stopped me from being emotional at all. Sometimes you just need to cry when you're sad and it makes you feel better.

    I think you can try changing your diet and finding things that you really enjoy (hobbies) to get you through those depressive times. When you're busier, I find it harder to be depressed. At first you have to force yourself to do it, but eventually, it becomes easier. I've tried exercising too. Even though I liked my body better, I've never received a "high" from working out. But I also like group sports that I can do with friends, and that always makes it more fun.

    Goodness, that was a bit of a rambling response. My thought is that you just have to try different things. Anything you try will take a few months for you to feel the effect, it's not immediate. As long as you don't get discouraged, there's always a new alternative. And if nothing natural works, the drugs will always be there!

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    1. Thanks April. More great strategies. I appreciate you taking the time to share them here.

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  25. God bless us all. Thankfully, after 20 years of "try this and see how it works", I found a doctor that runs blood tests to see how I metabolize medicines. This has led me to a higher dose than standard for my anti-depressant plus he's added vitamins and minerals that my tests showed were lacking. Not only do I feel better and have more enjoyment in life, I also "know" that my body is responding to treatment.

    That being said, I would love to get off my medication but I have made a lot of adjustments in my life style and nothing else has helped. One of my therapists looked me right in the eye and told me I would be treating this like Type 1 Diabetes for the rest of my life.

    Chronic depression is not the same as feeling blue or being in a funk. It is a soul destroying disease. When I would rather die than get out of bed and face the day, I'm willing to do whatever I have to to join the human race again.

    Do what works for you and encourage others to do what works best for them.

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    1. Yea! So glad your body is responding, your mind especially. Thanks for your imput!

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  26. I think FAITH is the best medicine and TRUSTING in The Lord to be a refuge in times of trial. I would never take a pill to get me through what Christ is carrying me through.

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    1. This is a very common misconception in the Christian community. People with hormonal imbalances do not have them due to lack of faith, but to living in a fallen world. Before I took medication, yes, the Lord carried me through, but I was MISERABLE and near suicidal because my hormonal imbalance kept me from thinking rationally. I too believed this-that if I had enough faith, God would get me through, then my pastor and his wife gave me wisdom I will be forever grateful for. God has provided the medical community with breakthroughs and the medication I take is a blessing from the Lord. It is not a cure-all, but balances my hormones and gives me the edge I need to deal with things properly, think rationally under the Lord. God is the author of all good and He is merely using the medication to help me seek Him properly.

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  27. I wanted to email you, but saw no way. My research revealed that vitamin D is important for the brain. Many people who lack vitamin D suffer from depression, and other mental health issue. I encourage you to research this on you own.

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    1. You can always find my e-mail on the about me page. In my upcoming blog makeover, I will make it easier to find. I have no doubt that the right balance of vitamins is crucial!

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  28. Medication can be great if you find the right one. I used to take one that you mention, and I took it at 3pm every day. If I missed it, but 3:30, I was feeling "zaps" - there's no other way to explain it. When I realized that the medication was causing it, I worked with my doctor to wean off of it, and man, those zaps got intense! Ever since, I have something for when I need it (my issues are more panic attacks than depression) and I've learned how to breathe properly and use aromatherapy. I don't take pharmaceuticals nearly at all. Great discussion - found you at Be Different Act Normal - fitting!

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    1. So glad you stopped by Jona. So happy that aromatherapy is helping so much. Will be discussing that later!

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  29. I agree medication is not for everyone, but it really can help those who have hormonal imbalances. Some depression is situational and should be treated first with counseling and natural remedies, but some people (like myself) have hormonal imbalances where our brains do not produce enough seratonin. Some have a combination-depression is a complicated thing! I am thankful for my medication and believe the Lord provided it-it helps a lot! I mentioned this above, in response to another comment, but it is not a cure-all. It simply gives me the edge to think rationally to be able to deal with things properly and under the Lord. It's hard to explain to someone who has not struggled with depression, but with a hormonal imbalance, you are so out of whack, you don't really think rationally and fell very out of control. The medication gives me that control to make good decisions for my emotional health and rationally seek the Lord. Also, I have never experienced bad side affects from the medication. Just dizziness when I first started and weaned off (during pregnancy). My pregnancy hormones evened me out, so I did great, but then I got PPD really bad when my baby was 4 months old. I went (and am currently on) Zoloft because it is the only one that's been tested long enough and proven to not affect babies while nursing.

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    1. Thanks for all of your imput April. I am a big believer in going to the Lord. He knows what will help each of us. We are all so different!

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  30. Here is a great article... that I found very good... try it..

    http://ldsshrink.blogspot.com/2013/09/got-depression-do-this.html

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  31. Fine if you don't go on medicine if that's what you decide, but don't let anyone say it isn't "Christian" or you don't have enough "faith" to get better. I've gone through all of that. Sometimes the chemicals need a little adjusting. That's what the doctor said to me. Your friend, Linda

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  32. I found that a nutritional deficiency led to my nervous breakdown if you can believe it! I was severely depleted of magnesium from eating the SAD (standard American diet). After taking magnesium for only one day my heart palpitations stopped, after a month no more panic attacks, and now I have learned how very essential magnesium is to our bodies. It controls stress, depression, and our response to panic. I would like to recommend to everyone, even if you are on meds to take this supplement. Almost all Americans are deficient in it and it leads to depression and anxiety.

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    1. Wow, thanks so much for sharing that Sarah. It takes a huge leap of faith to consider that the pickle we are in may be caused by ourselves. The good news about that is, if we can figure out that we caused it, we can figure out that we, ourselves are also the cure!!

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