5 Essential Keys to Tapering from an Antidepressant
What YOU Can Learn From Hundreds of Patients
Every year, millions of people worldwide choose to take a pharmaceutical approach to treating their depression. For some, antidepressants provide a temporary reprieve from what feels like an unbearable weight. For others, antidepressant use creates more negative and undesired side effects than benefits.
The antidepressant medication approach stops making sense when depression remains -or gets worse- and the pharmacological merry-go-round of try this pill, then try that pill begins to weaken faith in a pill-based cure.
"Depression is a message—one that we must hear and understand so that we can move through it, not around it." –Kelly Brogan, MD
Depression is a Message
You may have reached a point where you feel less need for an antidepressant. Perhaps pharmaceutical methods never really clicked for you. You may be wondering, “What’s next for me?”
Doctors who prescribe antidepressants often fail to develop a long-term plan with the patient. Important questions go unconsidered, such as:
- How long should I take this medication?
- Will I eventually taper, and if so, when is the right time?
- What are the correct step-down dosages?
- What tools and support structures will be most helpful during a taper?
- What unfavorable conditions are contributing to my depression that I can work on in the meantime?
Tapering off antidepressant medication is a delicate balance of timing, dosing, and the right support structures. Most importantly, your success will depend on your attitude, and your strong commitment to see it through.
Stepping Down from Antidepressants
Here are the 5 key things you MUST know before beginning a psychiatric medication taper. This is not intended to be an exhaustive guide (you can obtain this level of support in my course, Vital Mind Reset), but rather to illustrate the big picture of this highly individualized process.
No matter how prepared you are, this journey unfolds differently for everyone. Reach out, get the support you need, and continue with a brave heart and unwavering resolve.
5 Essential Keys to Tapering from an Antidepressant
1. Improve Overall Health
Medication tapering places great demands on the mind as well as the body. Supporting your overall health must be a priority before, during and after the tapering process.
Depression is highly correlated to inflammation in the body, so calming inflammation is Priority #1. Inflammatory foods like gluten, soy, and dairy, as well as stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, can provoke brain-based reactions or psychiatric pretenders — physiological responses to food that mimic symptoms of mental illness.
To get optimum results, and prepare your body for the rigors of tapering, dedicate one full month to eliminating the following trigger foods completely from your diet:
- Refined sugars
- Grains (including corn)
Consume a diet that is high in the following foods:
- Grass-fed meats
- Pastured eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Oils such as coconut and olive oil
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Raw/sprouted nuts and seeds (if tolerated)
- Lots of purified water
Diet is simply THE most effective way to control for the variables of metabolic dysfunction and inflammatory response. It is so important, in fact, that many of my patients require no other intervention to evoke complete, systemic healing.
2. Make a Commitment and a Plan
Take an honest self-assessment before you decide to taper. Is fear your dominant emotion? If so, work on your emotional state before you begin. Connect to a sense of excitement about this next chapter of your life.
Without a baseline of confidence in yourself and commitment to your plan, the odds of a successful taper diminish greatly.
Make a resolute commitment to freedom from medication.
This will be the most important component of your success! When you hit bumps in the road, knowing why you committed to this process will keep you focused on moving forward, even if that means slowing down or even stopping for a while. What matters is that you get to your destination and grow from the process, not how long it takes.
Start A Journal
Thoughts and plans become real when we put them in writing. Start a journal that you will use throughout this process. Make it a living document; pour your heart into it each day, recording how you feel mentally and physically, as well as in spirit.
Note the dosage and medication type consumed each day, as well as the time of each dose. How are you feeling before and after you medicate? Be willing to adjust your plan as-needed to keep yourself as supported and balanced as possible
Share With Others
Don’t attempt a taper in isolation. Share a copy of your step-down plan with someone you trust. Instruct them on how to help you, should you require it. The more transparent your intention, the more the people around you will be able to support your efforts in constructive ways.
3. Provide Strategic Support
Once you have established balance in the body, focus on these supplemental practices to further calm and strengthen the nervous system.
Develop a Mindfulness Practice
One of the most empowering ways to promote personal resilience is by training your body to respond more efficiently to stress. There are numerous mindfulness practices that you can choose from, such as:
- Kundalini yoga known for powerful and fast results.
- Breathwork uses the primordial breath to send a signal of safety to the nervous system.
- Meditation, in solitude, in nature.
- Creative endeavors, such as knitting or painting
There are many paths one can take to a place of inner stillness. Pick one, and practice. Retraining your response to stress supports not just your tapering effort, but the very foundation of your life.
4. Engage Life and Community
Statistics show that addiction is, at its core, a lack of human connection. This lack is then neurochemically associated with the “remedy”: the feel-good sensations of the drug of choice.
When disconnecting the wires of chemical dependency in the brain, it’s extremely useful to make new connections to take their place. Seek out supportive, positive people with whom you can engage through your own creative gifts.
Find a Supportive Group
A bout with mental illness can be deeply transformative. Unfortunately, due to our limited cultural and societal beliefs, many people develop feelings of guilt or shame around their experience.
Seek out individuals who understand what you’re going through from a higher perspective. Strong relationships provide a steadying assurance that no matter where you are on your journey, you are exactly where you need to be. And, you’re not going it alone!
Ignite a Personal Flame
Have something active and engaging to do with your time and energy. This will be especially important once the blocks created by medication give way to more flow.
Make an investment in your happiness by pursuing a passion that you’ve never made time for. Perhaps it’s time to reignite an interest that you’ve ignored. Notice how good this feels! Now is the time to prioritize pleasure!
5. Stay the Course
Making the decision to taper from psychiatric medication is a brave one. Realistically, you must expect challenges to surface along the way.
A successful plan allows for setbacks and the realities of life to occur without derailing the entire effort. Having a few tricks up your sleeve can also help smooth the ride!
Remember Your Why
Write it down and look at it often. Have at least one good friend or counselor who understands your “why” that you can call when you feel challenged.
Recite a power mantra when a challenging emotion or situation arises. The use of mantras brings your focus back to center, gently aligning your thoughts with the chosen, positive sentiment.
Above all, be patient and kind to yourself no matter what stuff comes up for you. Never beat yourself up for feeling down or experiencing difficulties.
Learn From Others
While everyone’s tapering journey is unique, there are countless others who have walked this road before, and they have left valuable breadcrumbs from their experiences.
The revolutionary work of Dr. Peter Breggin, and websites such as Inner Compass and WillHall.net are invaluable resources for anyone undergoing a taper.
Follow Your Inner Guidance
Develop a relationship of being your own best friend and protector. Learn how to listen to, and respect, the voice of your Inner Healer. For when our own voice speaks loudest about what we need to be healthy, we become magnetized to the vitality that is our birthright.
Learning to love ourselves unconditionally is a lifetime practice. Don’t get discouraged if the reality of tapering differs from your plan. Adjust your plan, and keep moving forward. It can take years to successfully taper. What matters is the journey to your best self, and all that you learn along the way.
If you would like a helping hand but aren’t sure where to turn, our community of Vital Mind Resetters exists to help people just like you reach the other side. The Facebook Community provides 24-7 support and guidance for those seeking medication-freedom, and a life of vitality and natural wellness. See what everyone is raving about and know that help is literally a few clicks away!
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