#self love

I Quit Taking Antidepressants For Good, And Have Never Felt Happier

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When I was 29 years old, I went to see a new doctor for my yearly exam. At the time, I was working as a TV news reporter, and my doctor immediately recognized me from the crime-filled, disturbing stories I had been covering.

He also noted that I seemed on edge as I sat in his office that day. His comments on my demeanor made me feel like there was something wrong with me, like working long days interviewing grieving parents about the murders of their children shouldn’t overwhelm me.

“That is stressful,” I said. “Isn’t it appropriate I am stressed?”

Was this doctor really suggesting that something was wrong with just me because I wasn’t desensitized to the horrific events that surrounded me? Did I really need medication to make myself numb to my surroundings?

“You’re a strong, brilliant career woman. You can’t be crying at work,” I remember him saying to me.

At the time, I was so desperate to feel “normal” and not cry almost every day driving home from work because I was so exhausted and overworked. I walked out of his office that day with a prescription for Lexapro—a drug used to treat anxiety and major depressive disorder. In a 10-minute consultation, I became part of the statistic on the overmedication of Americans, and looking back on that is terrifying.

As I look back on that day in the doctor’s office, I want to pull my 29-year-old self aside and hug her.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that antidepressant use has skyrocketed over the last two decades, up nearly 400 percent. Statistics show that one in 10 Americans now take antidepressant medication. Among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.

Yet 69 percent of people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the primary type of antidepressants, have never suffered from major depressive disorder (MDD). Even more shocking, 38 percent have never in their lifetime met the criteria for MDD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder yet still take the pills that treat them.

I thought that the medication would take the edge off of my life’s uncertainties.

I stayed on Lexapro for several years—even after I left the TV news business. I was changing careers, moving, breaking up with a serious boyfriend, and I thought that the medication would take the edge off of my life’s uncertainties.

It wasn’t until I attended a lecture by best-selling author Marianne Williamson that I had my wake-up call. I listened as Marianne talked about her latest book, Tears to Triumph, and about how moving “with the edge” is our life’s work, spiritually speaking. The edge is made up of those sleepless nights, those cries, those uncomfortable conversations.

She told me that heartbreak is nothing new. Has anyone not had his or her heart broken? Has anyone not suffered a professional failure? Has anyone not experienced the loss of a loved one?

These things may be painful, but they are not mental illness. As I look back on that day in the doctor’s office, I want to pull my 29-year-old self aside and hug her. I want to tell her, “You don’t need an antidepressant; you need to find a new station to work for, a new boss, job, a new career. You need to sit in meditation 20 minutes a day, twice a day, reconnect with your spirit, and pray. You need to surrender your life to a higher power, eat healthier food, rest, connect with your friends and family in a meaningful way.”

I’m not saying that anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness should give up their medications cold turkey, or at all.

It’s been several months since I weaned myself off Lexapro with the guidance of my doctor, and I feel like myself again. I have 100 times more energy. I am clear. I am joyful and alive. That lethargic dark cloud that used to follow me everywhere I went has lifted.

Since becoming more conscious and awake, I’ve discovered that our society seems to promote self-medicating and numbing ourselves out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said and heard, “I need a drink.” I’ve rarely heard, “Let’s pray. Time to meditate. I need to feel my feelings so I can release this pain once and for all.”

I am in no way saying that my story holds true for everyone. I’m not saying that anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness should give up their medications cold turkey, or at all. I’m simply suggesting that we all take a deeper look into our choices, do our research, ask our health care providers and drug companies tough questions, and explore our options for treating anxiety and depression.

Feeling sad, out of sorts, anxious, or depressed at times is part of what it means to be human. My hope is that anyone who reads this will at least consider looking into other forms of relief. Your brain and heart will thank you.

7 Tips For Loving & Honoring Your Body (Yes, Even The “Flaws”)

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It’s become part of what it means to be human: point out something about yourself you don’t like, a perceived flaw that needs to be fixed.

We haven’t learned this behavior all on our own: we’re constantly being bombarded with images of “perfect” (airbrushed, sometimes completely reconstructed) bodies. We’re constantly being fed a message of needing to slim down and tone up. Want the job? Lose weight! Want your dream partner? Lose weight! Want to be happy, rich, successful, attractive? Lose weight!

It’s easy to see why we’re so hard on ourselves, finding it impossible to reach a beauty standard that’s absurd and unattainable.

At a healthy size 12, I work as a plus-size model. I find the label degrading, but at the same time, I’m happy there’s a place in the industry for my body type: I love representing curvy women and showing more diversity in fashion.

I’ve certainly been guilty of comparing myself to others, and definitely had some emotional moments being the “big girl” on set when shooting with size two models. But these insecurities ultimately let me heal and release, and that’s been the greatest blessing of all.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken and committed to that have enabled me to love and honor my body:

1. Practice the art of acceptance, even when it seems impossible.

Loving your body starts with acceptance. You have to know who you are and what you’re working with.

I’m built exactly like my dad: tall, strong and athletic. I’m not, have never been and will never be super skinny. It isn’t my body type or bone structure. But I eat clean, work out and stay active. I’m not the skinniest girl in the room, but I’m definitely one of the strongest!

Focus on your best assets. My thighs may be “big,” but they’re are what help me be a great athlete, and I find beauty in strength and fitness.

2. Learn to forgive wholeheartedly.

Through guided meditations, energy work like Reiki, journaling, walks in nature, reading and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle, I’ve learned to forgive myself for negative self-talk and others for the unkind things they say about my body or body type. Forgiveness is a choice I choose to make on a regular basis.

Recognize unkind words as just thoughts, perceived fear not based in reality. Forgiveness releases you and others, allowing you to live your life from a place of love. Anything you’ve done to your body that didn’t come from a loving place can be forgiven and healed.

3. Be willing to see your body in a new light.

Be willing to let go of old thought patterns that don’t promote a positive body image. Be willing to see love instead of fear. Be willing to eat healthy, exercise and take care of your body. Be willing to try new things.

For me, it was reiki, fascial stretch therapy and meditation. These practices put me more in touch with my energy, body and ability to heal. As the old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Or as I like to say, If I can do it, so can you!

4. Gain a sense of perspective.

A shift in perspective can literally shift your life. By choosing to see your body as beautiful and appreciate it for all it’s done for you, you can honor your body instead of complaining about what’s wrong with it. Our egos love for us to believe bad things about ourselves, so don’t take the bait. Choose to see your body as the temple it is instead.

5. Don’t compare.

This is a big one, and something our society loves to do. Comparing keeps us small. It lowers our energy. Quite simply, it feels like crap.

I meet many naturally thin women who tell me they wish they had my curves despite sometimes wishing I had a slimmer stomach. It’s imperative that we stay in our own lane. The wasted time and energy you spend comparing yourself to others could be spent nurturing your own body.

6. Take a bath.

It might sound silly, I know, but I take a bubble bath almost everyday. Besides getting clean, I find it extremely relaxing and it helps me connect to my body. It’s my time to take care of and nurture myself. It’s not just a skin-softening ritual, but also a body love ritual.

Warm water, healing epsom salts and essential oils give me such a sense of calm and draw attention to my sense of self. We’re all so busy working and taking care of others that we often neglect ourselves. A bath slows you down and allows you to love yourself in a pure, simple way.

7. Say thank you.

Forget the grueling hour-long sessions with your trainer, marathon races or even child birth for a second. Yes, your body does all of that for you, but it also got you up out of bed this morning, showered, fed and out the door. Our bodies are constantly working for us, doing almost everything we ask of them and yet we’re so hard on them.

Starting today, try saying thank you to your body for all it’s done for you. We all want to be appreciated and our bodies are no exception. Gratitude goes a long way, even with ourselves.

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