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How Organic Food Played a Crucial Role in My Decision to Quit 11 Years of Antidepressants

In the summer of 2001 and at the urging of my then-girlfriend, I went for an appointment to go see her naturopathic doctor in New York City, the place where we were both living at the time.

Having done acupuncture since high school, I had always been open to alternative medicine and was curious what this woman could do for me.

During our session, she asked me about all of my health and dietary habits – eating, drinking, smoking, drugs, exercise. Everything. In the midst of this conversation, the topic of organic food somehow arose. I remember that I had some notion about what organic food was but wasn’t overly familiar with it.

When I asked the doctor why I should be eating organic food, she responded “because it doesn’t have chemicals or pesticides.” Yet, I already knew that it didn’t have chemicals or pesticides.

The question I really meant to ask was “Don’t we need the chemicals to kill all the bad stuff?” Somehow that didn’t make it out of my mouth.

After leaving her office that day, I set out to educate myself about organic food. I soon learned that we didn’t need pesticides to kill all the bad stuff and that these pesticides were in fact very harmful.

My foray into organic food started with research on the Internet and then migrated into shopping at the natural market. First, it was the organic apples and pears. Next, I moved onto lettuce, carrots and spinach. Soon came rice and popcorn. After that, I then proceeded to tackle every other food on the shelf.

As my interest became more of an obsession, I developed a real paranoia about everything non-organic that I was putting into my body. There is no doubt that I drove myself and many other people crazy because of this.

What made matters more complex was that I was taking Prozac at the time. I started on this antidepressant during my junior year of college because I was having so much trouble getting through the day. Each day was heavier than the next and life was becoming a major struggle. As it was already, I felt totally in over my head at Brown and my parents worried that I wasn’t going to make it.

Why was I so down? It is hard to say exactly. There was no specific event or trauma that I can point to. However, my best guess is that it was probably a very bad case of seasonal depression. The dark New England winters and lack of sunlight have a tendency to do that to me.

So, I ended up following the advice of both my parents and my psychiatrist to go on medication. More specifically, Prozac. Fast forward nearly 11 years later and I was still on the drug.

That summer of 2001 was the very first time that I had ever considered going off of antidepressants. And I reasoned that if I were ever going to do it, this was the time.

Life was finally going really well for me. I had a great job, a beautiful South American girlfriend and a fantastic apartment overlooking Union Square in NYC. Furthermore, my company had just closed a $17M round of financing.

As I debated the spiritual questions as to whether Prozac fit in my life anymore, something else became clear. I was expending so much time, energy and money to keep chemical-laden food out of my body yet I was popping two pills filled with chemicals into my mouth each morning. This didn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Going off of Prozac was the continuation of my purification process. Two years before, I had quit drinking. One year before, I had quit smoking cigarettes. Now, it was Prozac.

As I started to get rid of the bad stuff, the things that would nourish my body were coming in. It was at that point that I started to truly believe in the tremendous importance of food and how food is medicine. Organic food, that is.

The decision to stop taking antidepressants was the biggest one I have ever made. For several years, the road after Prozac was beyond brutally difficult. I had lost everything – my job, my life savings, my independence, my girlfriend. My hope. The best part of my day was when I went to sleep at night. The worst part of my day was when I woke up in the morning and was reminded that I was still alive.

Regardless of all the pain that I had to endure, I knew the only path for me was to be antidepressant-free. And organic food played a pivotal role in helping me see that this was indeed the right decision.

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Living Maxwell

Personal

Thank You to My Readers, Thinking of My Mother

I am in Denver for Thanksgiving and will be heading back to Boston tomorrow. Two things have been on my mind.

1) In case you didn’t know, I am an absolute AM radio junkie, mostly sports radio. One of my favorite hosts is Colin Cowherd from ESPN Radio. Practically every single night, I replay some of his segments from earlier in the day.

Something Colin always says resonates with me very deeply, especially now as I am starting to build an audience of my own. He acknowledges that there are many, many options out there and appreciates that people have decided to spend their time listening to him.

And, that is how I feel. There are millions and millions of websites out there, and I am very appreciative that people take the time to read what I write and watch my videos. I do my best to provide interesting and compelling content, both information related to organic food and specific personal issues that I deal with.

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Living Maxwell

Personal

“I Was Told My Brain Was Broken”

In November, I put up blog entry titled The Repercussions of Going on Antidepressants, and I received a comment on this post the other day that both disturbed me and confirmed what I already knew. I thought it merited its own discussion here.

The woman who wrote the comment calls herself NoRx4Me and left the following information:

I was put on an SSRI at 24 years old during a bad marriage. I needed guidance and support, instead I was told my brain was broken.

SSRI’s led to stimulants, mood stabilizers, SNRI’s, and lithium for a short time. I was a mess. I lost 13 years. I have little memory of those years (especially sad, because I was raising two boys). I didn’t grow as a person at all. I quit dating in 2003 and never developed knew friendships either. I didn’t even realize this was odd until I was off meds.

I probably would have responded like some others on here while I was still under the influence and told you the meds were great. With a clear mind and 20/20 hindsight, I know the facts, my life was destroyed.

And they do cause physical problems; I lost a ton of hair, and my teeth are a mess. I look like I’ve aged 20 years instead of 10.

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Living Maxwell

Personal

The Struggles I Faced in College and How I Handled Them

As I wrote about the other day, it was during college when I went on antidepressants. Each day was getting harder than the next. The sky was growing darker and darker. It was a major struggle just to survive.

I was overwhelmed with a variety of responsibilities — school work, in which I seemed to be drowning; the tennis team, which occupied several hours of my time per day, not including constant traveling to other schools for matches and tournaments; and my fraternity, something in which I was very actively involved.

With my voice becoming more heavy during each phone conversation, my parents suggested that I go visit a local psychiatrist to see if he could help. More specifically, they thought that antidepressants were the answer. After a brief chat with the doctor, he diagnosed me with a mild case of depression and believed that Prozac would indeed improve my situation.

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