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How To Beat Depression Without Medication

While I was managing 40+ employees and assuring we could meet our $250,000 monthly payroll, I just about lost it. The pressure was too much. It was my decisions that assured their families would eat, their mortgages would be paid, and their kids could go on vacation. It was this weight that began my intense season of chronic anxiety and depression.

While anxiety and depression are not the same, they are similar. It was this moment in my life I was forced to beat it. Without medication. 

Disclaimer: I am supportive of medication as a last resort. Too many doctors today are treating symptoms rather than healing the root cause. Pair this with the pharmaceutical industry force-feeding us pills to keep their quarterly profit-and-loss statements in the green, and you have a sad solution for people who truly need help.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

The symptoms were so strong, my wife and I made the decision to change our entire life. We sold our house to move closer to work (and remove the stress of Los Angeles traffic), we started juicing a few times per week, I began riding my bike in the morning, I read my Bible and prayed for the first 20 minutes of the day, and most importantly, I simplified my life. I watched more movies. I played with my dog. I went out to dinner. I worked less.

Three different doctors prescribed me anti-depressants. But I didn't want them. I remembered human beings have overcome depression for thousands of years without pills. Why do I need it now? Convenience? Laziness? Fear?

We are not broken. Our bodies and minds are just as strong in the positive as they are in the negative. We are just overstimulated, not connected, and emotional scarred. But we can win. I promise. I did.

I hope my short story is an encouragement on your journey. Below, is a wonderful and practical infographic provided by one of my readers on the topic. I had to share it.

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

 


This blog post was written by an independent guest contributor.
Author Name: D Patridge.

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Comments

136 Responses

  1. When I think back to when I started hating both life and myself, I was only in third grade. I was young, and I was scared to admit I was having these feelings, plus I didn’t even know what depression was. I did start to hear about depression after this, but I never thought I had it. Then somewhere around the age of 13 I finally looked up what depression really was. I matched up with just about every symptom. I felt horrible, here I was wanting nothing more than to die and there were people fighting their hardest just to stay alive. A year or so after, I kind of gave up. I went through the motions with a smile on my face, because if my mom knew, she would try to help me. Happiness was something that had become foreign to me and the whole idea of reaching happiness was terrifying. If my teachers saw me slacking in my work, they would alert my mom. If my friends noticed, they would also probably alert my mom. So Eventually I realized how many people struggled with depression via Internet, and I was comforted to know I was not alone. The problem was, that I allowed myself to get comfortable with those feelings. I started mistaking my disturbing mindset as normal. It wasn’t. But all of the quotes and articles said that people struggling with depression couldn’t help it and that it was a chemical imbalance in your brain. So, I thought it was completely out of my control and I accepted depression as apart of who I was. One day, I had the realization that I needed to start holding myself accountable. The depression was my problem, and the only one who would be able to fix it was me. I forced myself to do the things that once made me happy. At the same, these things just made me miserable. Despite this, I didn’t give up. Sometimes this forceful attempt of happiness left me in tears because I felt nothing doing the things that once made me feel alive. But I kept going. As a kid, I loved to workout, draw, and write. These three things were my biggest passions but I had either given up on them or only did them to please those around me (my depression was not something I advertised, I was very embarrassed by my thoughts so I tried to keep the facade of being a happy teenager). Also, I was very frank with myself. The things I said to myself were things every article says not to say to people with depression. For me, this worked. I am genuinely happy today, and I never thought that would happen, I didn’t even think I’d still be around today.

  2. I am bipolar. I was 50 before I was correctly diagnosed. My manic episodes aren’t the “everythingisgreatI’msohappyIcanconquretheworldspendmoneyIamwomanhearmeroar.” No. Mine are “IAMANGRYINEEDTOLEAVEHEREWHYAREYOUCONTROLINGMESUICIDEISTHEANSWER.” I would like to be off the meds, but the manic episodes are far to scary and difficult on everyone around me to mess with that. Having said that… even on the meds I still cycle, they are just less extreme. My marriage, my faith and my desire to stay alive remain intact. One of the key things that works for me is to tell the people that love me that I am think I am starting to cycle into a manic episode. It lets them know that I am hitting a rough patch. I am not going to be me for a while. I need them to love me until I am me again. I need them to try hard to look past my bad behavior. And it takes away my excuse for bad behavior somehow. I have vocalized where I am mentally and emotionally and need to be responsible for it as much as possible. The episodes are shorter, and have been less explosive. Keeping something as important your mental state from the people who love you only leads to a deeper sense of isolation. Exactly the opposite of what you need when you already feel alone in the world.

  3. I think it’s all good and well to share your story.. But what to say to the person so far in depression that even trying to be more active is too big of a task?

  4. A lot of times its a chemical imbalance. I agree it shouldn’t be the FIRST resort but this post shames people who are in absolute need of medication.

    1. People have had depression and anxiety as well as schizophrenia and bipolar disease since Adam and Eve were kicked out of The Garden of Eden. If anyone on earth had a good reason for being depressed, being cut off from God and their perfect bodies would be the hardest to deal with. Before anti-depressants and other drugs for mental illness, people were shut away in “asylums” where they were horribly mistreated, shocked, starved, etc. You could lock away anyone –husbands would have their wives locked away from daring to be depressed about the losses of their children, being anxious, not being ok with a husband’s drinking and carousing. People with bad depression killed themselves and people that heard voices and acted crazy were burned at the stake as witches. Do some research. Stop referring to the past as “the good ol days”. In the last 100 years, people’s life expectancies have tripled, the number one cause of death among young women is no long childbirth –at least not right now, all those advocating home birth must have forgotten how dangerous childbirth can be–any problem needs to be fixed in seconds, not after a 30 minute ride to the hospital after your wife is bleeding our or the umbilical cord wrapped around your child’s neck.

      Anxiety from overworking and stress from your career is NOT the same as anxiety and depression from chemical imbalances. There are other symptoms: insomnia, suicidal thoughts, I had severe tachycardia that was uncontrollable with heart meds but stopped when I started taking an anti-depressant. I went to a Christian college and heard a lot of negativity about depression/anxiety. There is a stigma. If you were strong enough, if your faith was good enough, if you confessed your sins, you’d be cured. Then there’s people like you who beat the dead old horse of “nasty big pharma” wants us all to be addicts. Yeah, those bastards.Helping millions of people live better lives and not suffer as much from all sorts of diseases. Heartless, I tell ya!

      I have MS and the stress of moving, catching a weird virus, then my father dying unexpectedly sent me into a spiral of major depression. I already had chronic pain, which causes depression. If my psychiatrist hadn’t gotten me on the correct drugs immediately, I wouldn’t be here. I would have bought into Satan’s lie that my family was better off without me. My body was stretched to the breaking point, and my brain wasn’t making the chemicals needed. I couldn’t have thought or prayed my way out of “depression”. I couldn’t even sleep.

      We’re all broken. We all need Jesus, but we all need medications for our broken physical bodies. God gave us the intelligence to use His creation to ease our suffering.

  5. i have to agree with your article but it depends on the person. I suffered from anxiety and depression 2 years ago and then made an appointment with the doctor who asked me if I wanted anything prescribed and I said no, I want to speak to someone so I can find out what the problem is so I can fix it. For me, my anxiety and depression was due to several things occuring in my life and my inability to know why they caused my anxiety and depression and how to fix it. There is ussually a problem in your life which has caused this. You need to find the solution to this problem. Medication may be the answer for some, but it doesn’t fix anything. The problem is still there. After realising alot of what I have been through in life, I realised just how strong a person I was and how I thought I was weak because I was broken. Being broken allowed me to realise that I can fix myself. My problem was that i was in a marriage which wasn’t working, and I was taking all the blame for it along with my husband’s problems. I was carrying everyone’s responsibility on my shoulders and not allowing myself time for me. I was allowing people to walk all over me and not stating clear boundaries. I was letting others define my self-worth without being worthy of myself. Do not loose hope in yourself. When you are anxious and depressed you loose all hope. Everytime you feel like that remember that you are capable of working through anything and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up on yourself. Have belief in yourself. Don’t loose self belief. A month ago, I realised my marriage was over and all that I had believed in was what someone else wanted me to believe and I was used as their scapegoat. I blamed myself and allowed them to use me as their scapegoat. I went to the doctor who prescribed me antidepressants, came home that night and couldn’t stop shaking. I took a pill out of a packet and then saw the two pages of side effects of the pills which stated even worse depression and risks of suicide once taking the drug. I looked at the mirror and said to myself, ‘You have allowed your problems to defeat you. You fell in love with someone and now you are going to pop this pill in the hope that everything will be better’. At that moment, I threw the pill in the bin, put my head firmly back on my shoulders, wiped away the tears and dealt with the problem. I stood up for myself and told my husband I wasn’t going to tolerate any more of his crap and then proceeded to focus on me and carry on with my life. And at that moment, light came back into my life and I knew that although I had hit rock bottom, everything was going to be OK.

  6. This kind of made me want to beat the shit out of someone. Way to stigmatize mental illness, you ignorant bitch.

    1. I don’t think he was stigmatizing mental illness at all. The point of his story was to say that we r beating treated for depression and anxiety when it’s really our lifestyles that r causing it. In the medication profession, it is important to eliminate all other causes being it social or biological before terming it mental illness.

  7. While I agree that there are great natural ways to fight depression when it is seasonal/situational, there are many individuals whom suffer from mental illnesses that consist of chemical imbalance. it would be like telling someone with diabetes not to take their insulin: “you can fight your diabetes naturally!” but the reality is they can’t, its not physiologically possible. their body is not made to produce the chemicals they need to survive. mental illness is the same way. personally, i have handled my depression/anxiety both on and off of medication, and what I have discovered is that for me, there is no amount of praying/quality time/church attendence/relationships/exercise/reflection that can cure it. i am nicole, and i am not my mental illness.

    1. My friend manages his diabetes without medication and he’s been diabetic his whole life. There are many cases of severe mental health who successfully manage their condition through nutrition. For example I know of a severe bipolar case which she manages with oily fish and a good diet generally. Medication is highly overrated and the medicine of diet highly underrated.

      1. You didn’t state type two as type one you cannot treat yourself as you do not produce any insulin. Mostly if you look after yourself you will not get type two anyway .

  8. I just wanted to say, I have suffered from real intense depression, the heaviest fuck!ng anxiety, and the very worst of thoughts since waay back. I remember having insanely painful bursts of anxiety attacks, lasting hours at a time, when I was 8. I first tried suicide when I was 11. Granted, it didn’t work out. I kept cutting back the demons until I was 15 or so. Then I fell deeper and apathy kept swallowing me. I hardly felt a thing for two years. Then again with the heavy feels, the panic, the nausea, the anxiety, the gloom, the stressful tearing, everything. Days on end which were just dark, dark, dark, like a pressure on my brain, reminding me how empty and dead everything is, nothing ever sunny or breathable, everything just emptily sickly dead. I have both the genetic disadvantage and the traumatic experiences to keep depression fed. I don’t know how to put it, so I’ll just say that I do have plenty of experience in the REAL depression shit. I have been offered most kinds of medication since I was 12, and have talked to some 5 psychologists for long periods of time. I never took any med, and talking didn’t help ever.
    Last year, actually about 16 months ago, when I spent almost ten days in a row in my bedsheets actively hating everything and my boyfriend told me this shit couldn’t go on, I started looking online for self help (whilst waiting in line for “real” help). I started changing my habits, made routines, started doing yoga, skipped bad foods (meat, grains, processed sugars), added good foods and good fats, got out in the sunlight every day, turned my destructive thinking around (“distorted thinking”, search it”, got into helping animals and the planet, and so on. To this day, I FEEL FUCK!NG GREAT! I’m not sure I’ve been this good, this stable, this happy and unworried in all my life. I wasn’t this at ease even when I was 4 years old. I worry less and feel so so much better. What was so dark is now so much light. Bright light. I’m feeling truly blissful at times. This was severely impossible before, even when I was happy (whilst getting engaged, for example, one of the happier moments in my life) I was worrying and hurting from anxiety. Today, I am able to enjoy worriless happiness whilst just… reading a book. Drinking tea. Sitting beside my boyfriend. Cuddling with my cat.

    What I’m saying is, before bashing it, try it. I know, I KNOW, it’s hard to try shit, to do shit, to act by oneself and make shit happen. But it is worth it.
    And, to the point, chemical imbalance is often further fed by the stressful state one is in, meaning that you can in some (or many, or all?) cases reverse the effects by reversing the situation, such as I did. I was born into hell, and I climbed my way out of it. I’ll die in heaven, but not in a great many years now.

  9. After years of 3 different antidepressants and horrible weight gain I told my doctor no more. I went vegan loosing five stone/60 odd lbs and managed the same level with my nutrition as the antidepressants. My breakfast is my kick start. It’s a vegan banana smoothie with supergreens and cacao. I’m currently doing the 30-day juice challenge and found juicing in general helps. I take 5-HTP before I go to bed. I also try to spend time with nature to energise. I’m not cured, but I’m certainly healthier and that alone has huge benefits. I’m a work in progress, fine tuning and making improvements where I can.

  10. After high school I was getting really sad and not sure why. So I did research on the Internet and came to a conclusion that I was cyclothymic. After more research, I found out I had same characteristics of autism. I was ashamed of myself because I wasn’t like the rest of my peers; being able to socialize easily. But then I started to exercise and eat better. Now I’m not as sad, and I have more confidence than I did. I thought I needed pills, but it was just all in my head. Thinking too much will be the death of you. Be yourself and let go.

  11. Do you not get the science behind depression? The body isn’t producing enough serotonin which causes sadness. That’s awesome you beat depression without using medication, but I’m not a huge fan of how this article is written like if you do these things you will magically be cured for depression. For some people, depression is a genetic thing. Some brains naturally don’t produce enough serotonin, and working out, doing yoga, and reading the bible isn’t going to do anything. My favorite thing someone said to me was “I started working out to help with depression, but then I was just sad with great forearms”.
    That’s why things like this really bothers me. People who are depressed are told “work out! it’ll help!” but no, it doesn’t always help, so then what? You feel like shit because everyone says you should be feeling better but your not.
    If someone’s depression is situational like in the writer’s case, then yeah, go for trying to beat depression without the drugs. But if depression runs in someone’s family then medication is probably the way to go. It’s a hormone imbalance that medication can help counteract and balance things out.
    I’ve been dealing with depression for 7 years, and I’ve also been a serious athlete for 9 years. Don’t sit there and tell me that exercise is the end-all-be-all to cure it.

  12. I’ve been experiencing depression since I was a teenager and it got especially bad in my 20’s. I was an avid exerciser but connecting honestly and more openly with other people and finding a good psychiatrist was what really turned things around for me.

  13. This is awful, you are awful for sharing it, and I hope that nobody who is currently struggling with depression reads this, because telling people that they are lazy or afraid because they took a medicinal option to deal with a medical issue is dangerous. People who listen to your advice are more likely to commit suicide. If you are in any way decent, you’ll delete this article.

  14. Exercise won’t cure depression 100%. Exercise, mindfullness, having a network of close friends to talk with, a good psychiatrist, doing things you enjoy. But sometimes just getting out of bed is the hardest thing when you experience depression let alone getting out of the house or even putting your shoes on.
    Depression is a day to day struggle. Sometimes you will think that just falling in front of a subway train will make all the hurt go away but that thought swiftly passes. And sometimes you will laugh so hard with the people closest to you and feel that this life is worth living with all of its darkness and uncertainty… life is beautiful.
    Depression is a day to day moment to moment victory over your lower self.

  15. Clinical depression generally doesn’t get better by prayer …..and we are NOT lazy if we use medications…clinical depression is not the same as stress, which is what you describe…it is not “cured” by moving closer to work, playing with the dog, or eating better – although those things may help a person through a depressive episode. Clinical depression occurs when a person is depressed for “no apparent reason” – that is…there is no cause other than biochemistry and one cannot decide to not be depressed. If you had written about stress…then I could have bought in to your article, but the way it is written now….it is harmful and destructive. I’m sorry you “just don’t get it”.

  16. I’d like to think that anyone can beat depression without meds, but I think that is only going to work if you have situational depression/anxiety. Past trauma and/or growing up in a dysfunctional family will make it difficult to cope without meds. If you are strongly committed to CBT or DBT therapy (group + individual) and have a good support network, then great, but when your emotions become so intensely overwhelming and you’re having serious thoughts of suicide then definitely go see your psych doctor for a Rx. The pressure to stay of meds can be too much to deal with; don’t feel bad for having to rely on them seeing as they can save your life. Just don’t get lazy while on them and think your problems are all solved; you need to keep working on improving yourself with a commitment to therapy (even if it’s only self-help books) and improve your lifestyle with yoga, diet, supplements, meditation, human interaction, etc.. I’m only speaking from personal experience.

  17. I believe this article should be withdrawn or at least rewritten (especially the title) to be less misleading.There is huge stigma on mental health issues and antidepressants. Yes, if the depression is situation and temporary it is possible to beat depression without medication. And even with medication I do believe that there is some additional work that is required to overcome it (primarily therapy). But taking medication because you have clinical depression and/or a family history of depression is NOT “weak” or “lazy.” That “human beings have overcome depression for thousands of years without pills” proves nothing. I cannot understand why people can’t be thankful for modern medicine and how it improves our lives. It is because of misguided messages like this that so many refuse to find help and either end up miserable or commit suicide. IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED AND READING THIS SEEK HELP; USING ANTIDEPRESSANTS IS NOT WEAK OR LAZY. If you have clinical depression, exercise and prayer are not going to cut it. They are a nice complement to medication and therapy but not a substitute.

  18. It is extremely irresponsible to make it sound like curing depression is a matter of willpower and that medications should only be used as a last resort. The message that you could potentially be sending to someone in the depths of a severe depressive episode is that if they were stronger, they wouldn’t need medication.

    Major depression is often chronic, though it may come and go throughout a person’s lifetime. I’m one of the millions of people who has it. After a bad experience with a medication, I refused to take them. I suffered for years, lost many friends, missed some professional opportunities, spent way too much time by myself, and was miserable. Finally I had the strength to realize medication wasn’t the enemy. It gives me the boost I need to have the energy and motivation to be more proactive about my self-care. Healthy eating, exercise, mindfulness, acupuncture, massage, and sunlight all help, sure, but for me that alone wasn’t enough. If I had taken your advice when I was at my worst, I would probably be dead now.

    Get off your high horse and recognize that there are many ways to treat depression. What it comes down to is what helps an individual best.

  19. I was like you. I exercise on a regular basis (8-15 miles a week, 3 strength training sessions a weeks, and yoga/pilates on most days of the week. I eat gluten-free diet high in vegetables (some out of the garden), fruits, fish and lean meats, and low- to moderate-amounts of rice and quinoa. My caffeine consists of a 1-2 cups of breakfast tea and I’m working to bring down my sugar intake.

    I’ve been telling myself for 30 years that I didn’t need medications but I found myself in crisis on a couple of occasions where my friends had to take me to the doctor. I was in such a steep downward spiral that I didn’t realize I had stopped exercising, I was eating nothing but junk food, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had brushed my teeth. I was prescribed medications for depression and anxiety. I felt like a complete failure. But then this miraculous thing happened … I brushed my teeth without having to be reminded. I talked to the lady in the produce section about the best way to prepare cauliflower. I went for a “short” walk and returned an hour later after walking 4 miles.

    I am not a shying violet, conflict averse, or passive-aggressive. I have a job where I must lead a large group to success, fight battles for my team, make unpopular decisions, and be a role model, mentor, and professional coach. There is no room in my schedule for crippling depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, my brain didn’t get the memo. Healthy living can help battle depression but sometimes we need more to keep us from looking for ways to end it all. Even with healthful living and medications, I still have to find ways to put one foot in front of the other … to live one more day.

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