This is a really tough topic to discuss openly, so bear with me on this one.
Yes, I work for a natural product company. Yes, I take vitamins and supplements. Yes, I believe in healing holistically … And YES, I also take a prescribed antidepressant (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)) every morning for my anxiety and panic. And I’m 100% OK with it.
I wasn’t always OK with it, though. I was hesitant to even try medication. When I started, I only told a couple of people who were close to me. I didn’t even tell my sisters initially. I was embarrassed. I was scared.
I had this idea in my head that taking medication would change who I was, and honestly, that was my biggest fear. I liked myself – anxiety and all.
Unfortunately, I was at a point where I couldn’t get out of bed without having or fearing a panic attack. I had gone to therapy; I had done yoga; I had meditated. And guess what? I was still an absolute mess. So, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and was prescribed a low dose of an antidepressant.
I remember her saying something along the lines of, “Diabetics take insulin because their bodies need it, right? So, what makes taking an SSRI different for someone like you who needs the serotonin?” (SSRI’s block the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available.)
I had never thought of it that way. So, I gave it a go.
My first week taking the SSRI was an adjustment. It gave me a little bit more energy, which I immediately associated with anxiety. So, I thought it was having the opposite effect on me that it was supposed to – UGH. I was lucky to have a very close friend who could relate to my situation, so she talked me through it. Eventually, after maybe 5-7 days, that feeling went away and I started to feel relief. I started to feel like ME again.
The doctor told me it would take 4-6 weeks for the SSRI to build up and really be effective, and she was right. About a month in, I was thriving. Let me elaborate: I was still me, I still had a tinge of anxiety, but I wasn’t having panic attacks. The SSRI gave me what my therapist called a “ceiling.” I could get anxious, but my body would stop itself before getting too far – too far as in an anxiety or panic attack. THANK GOODNESS.
Since then, I’ve upped my dosage, brought it back down, weaned off of my medication temporarily, and also got back on it. Currently, I take it every morning after breakfast.
I can honestly say that my medication has improved the quality of my life, and I am grateful for it every day.
But, taking an antidepressant wasn’t the cure to my anxiety – I needed more.
Of course, diet and exercise (blog coming soon on that!) along with other healthy habits have a lot to do with mental health – and yes, I do exercise regularly and eat balanced meals. But, after I started working for a supplement company, I learned that certain vitamins and minerals could help with levels of stress and anxiety.
So, here’s what I take daily in addition to my medication:
- Probiotics: Along with helping digestion, there is emerging support that probiotics can help boost mood and protect the body against the negative effects of stress. SIGN ME UP! This one is my personal fav.
- Adaptogens, like Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used for centuries for its therapeutic qualities. It has been clinically studied for its impact on the stress hormone, cortisol, and its ability to support a healthy response to stress. I don’t necessarily take Ashwagandha every morning, but I do take it when I’m feeling a little extra stressed out … And it helps!
- B-Complex: You’ve probably heard that B-12 can boost your mood and energy levels, which is amazing! Well, B-complex vitamins can also be helpful when it comes to keeping your mood lifted and stabilized.
This blend of natural supplements doesn’t erase my anxiety completely (heck, it’ll always be part of who I am!), but I always feel noticeably better and more balanced when I’m consistently taking them alongside my medication. I plan to continue to test and learn about the natural supplements that can help with my mental health.
While anxiety medication, such as an SSRI, doesn’t work for everyone, I’ve found it to be super beneficial for me. I am grateful every day for giving it a chance, and have learned to never be ashamed of doing something for myself.
*Please note that since I work for a vitamins and supplements company, I do have easy access to the vitamins listed above.