How I Successfully Tapered Off Psych Meds--and Am Healthier Than Ever

How I Successfully Tapered Off Psych Meds--and Am Healthier Than Ever

February 18, 2019 • Sarah Jean Gosney

If you have been following my story, you know that two and a half years ago I was hospitalized for psychosis and severe insomnia. I told the story about my breakdown and experience of insanity in this blog post. Since then, I’ve been on a healing journey which was accelerated when I discovered Dr. Kelly Brogan and her book, A Mind of Your Own mid 2018. You can read about the first 30 days of my healing process here.

Now, about 10 months since I started tapering off medication and 8 months since I started Dr. Brogan’s program, I am nearing the finish line (if there is ever truly a finish line in this journey of life). I have, at long last, reached one of my major goals: being 100% medication free. And not struggling and medication free, but happy, vibrant, and medication free.

My other goal was to achieve excellent health, and I am well on my way. I have battled for years with allergies, asthma, psoriasis, IBS (with fun additional diagnoses of candida and SIBO), joint paint, depression, recurrent infections, getting sick all the time…thinking back on it the list seems endless. I won’t say I am in perfect health now, but I have come such a long way and truly do feel better than I have in years. My gut is definitely healing, my mind is clear, the infection has healed, and everything else is slowly falling into place.

So, what was it like getting here?

I’ve already talked about the first 30 days of the process, but of course, my and most healing journeys go beyond that. I had to change everything: the way I ate, my spiritual practice, how I exercised, and I had to incorporate detox practices into my life. It was not easy, but it was so incredibly worth it.

The Challenges:

The number one biggest challenge for me was the food aspect. Not so much in that I was craving things outside the diet, because that passed after about two weeks, but in the social aspect. When you don’t eat grains or dairy or sugar or even fruit (this last bit is not part of Dr. Brogan’s plan, but I had to go ketogenic temporarily), it is very hard to find something to eat in the company of others. There was a lot of “Thanks, I’m not hungry” that went on during this period.

I was also avoiding alcohol completely (though I’d been doing that for about a year prior), which can be very alienating. I often ended up the designated driver and had to frequently resist my friends’ offers of booze until they finally accepted that I wasn’t going to drink with them.

Exercise also posed a challenge for me and still does. I hate “working out” in terms of going to the gym and getting on a machine or jogging, but I do like being active: yoga, dancing, taking walks, that sort of thing. My main issue is that I always seem to feel “too busy” to work out when I know that I simply haven’t been making it a priority. I am focusing on this and getting better.

I can’t say I loved doing the coffee enemas either…however, I bit the bullet and did at least one a week on the recommendation of Dr. Brogan and so many of her patients. This is more crucial for people tapering off medication so, I think that, now that I’m done tapering, I will retire this practice and continue my more gentle detox practices, like Epsom salt and baking soda baths.

Another aspect that I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the fear, skepticism, and doubt of others regarding the process and my ability to be well without psychiatric medication. My doctor reluctantly supported my decision to get off of medication, but he expressed doubt that it was a good idea or sustainable. My own family was supportive, yet they still nearly panicked with every night of insomnia I experienced (insomnia was a trigger for my original breakdown), and I could tell they were tense about it. Other friends thought I was crazy for trying this and accused Dr. Brogan of being a crazy hippie feminist, doubting that any of this would work long term. Another friend outright told me the program sounded like a scam and that I needed to be careful. I faced all of this with the confidence that Dr. Brogan speaks the truth, that I have the power to heal, and that God is guiding me every step of the way.

Withdrawal effects: these were actually minimal compared to what many people experience. At my doctor’s recommendation, I tapered my meds at a rate of 25mg or 20mg per month, which, apparently, in the online taper community is an extremely fast rate. Reading some of those resources scared me quite a bit in fact, leading me to believe that I would potentially be psychotic or a host of other issues for years to come. But, my intuition told me the rate was okay, so I went forward. Tapering from Lamictil, I didn’t see much change. Tapering from Geodon (the antipsychotic), however, was a bit more challenging. With this taper, I started sleeping 12-hour nights, sometimes with naps, and having less energy. The skin on my back broke out in acne, and then I experienced hives all over my body. None of it was noticeable with clothing on, but I was, and still am, pretty itchy. Since I took my last dose of Geodon just a couple of weeks ago, I am still waiting for these withdrawal effects to clear up. However, compared to what I could have experienced (psychosis, incontinence, a burning flesh sensation, you name it) I feel pretty lucky.

Sick days: During this process, I experienced a few bouts of 24-hour flu-like illnesses. I can’t say what the origin of these was, but I suspect they were not all viruses since I wasn’t getting a ton of exposure to the public. Even if they were viruses, I bounced back quickly after lots of rest. I know now that suboptimal gut flora means a compromised immune system, and that is one of the things I’m healing from, so it’s possible I would have gotten sick from a virus no one around me was affected by. Additionally, after I traveled for Thanksgiving (10 days of eating at restaurants, with dairy and gluten mixed in a few times) I was sick for two weeks! I was in disbelief that I could have a reaction to food that lasted so long, so I went to the doctor, thinking I had gotten trichinosis from some undercooked pork I’d eaten. He “diagnosed” me with gastroenteritis and prescribed and antibiotic, which I did not take (I didn’t want to dig myself further into the hole). I had eaten dairy and gluten on a couple instances before and had a reaction, but it only lasted a couple of days. I can’t say that’s what caused it, but for whatever reason I was laid up for a while after travelling. Needless to say, this recovery process has involved a lot of sleeping.

The Wins:

I think what motivated me and carried me through this whole process what the knowledge that I was going to be okay. That I truly don’t need medication. That God is watching me, and that my body has the ability to heal completely in a natural way. I suspected this before I ever heard of Kelly Brogan, so when I heard her message, I instantly knew I was right: that everything was going to be okay, and that I could achieve vibrant health and mental well-being without a single prescription. Dr. Brogan says this ingredient is essential for success, and I can see why. There were many times when the people around me and even my body seemed to say “Enough! Isn’t what you have good enough?” But the belief that I could be better than ever if I dedicated myself to healing my body and freed myself of medication propelled me through the dark and hard times that accompany a process like this one.

My body immediately responded well to the program. I slept better, my digestion was better, and my psoriasis started to clear up. Physically, I am still not symptom free, but overall I’m at least 70% better (and I’m not done yet!) regarding illnesses that are supposed to be chronic and incurable. Mentally, apart from some lingering fatigue, I feel 100%. And they said I might become schizophrenic! To be honest, I feel better than I can ever remember. My bigger health problems set in at 20, and I spent most of my early 20s feeling like an 80 year old woman, running from specialist to specialist looking for answers. Even before that though, as a teenager I was plagued by depression and low mood, so even if I had few physical ailments, I still was not always a happy young person. Now, at 27, I feel like I have my youth back.

Another amazing benefit of going through this process is how it has connected me to others, both those who can advise and encourage me and those who have been inspired by my process. By openly talking about my experience online, I opened myself up to new, incredible relationships as well as information that will enhance my healing even further. Through this process, my admiration and gratitude for the Weston A. Price Foundation was rekindled, and I started listening to their podcast, Wise Traditions. Through them, I discovered the Heal Your Gut Guy, who has demonstrated the most logical and scientific explanations for the causes and cures of gut disease I have ever heard, and who is helping me to heal my gut to the point of resiliency. This means not swearing off gluten and dairy for the rest of my life and getting seriously ill when I eat those things. In fact, I’ve started drinking raw milk recently (local and pasture-raised) with no issues whatsoever.

However, I think the best part of this whole process was finding out that I am not actually broken. I remember the many months after my hospitalization and diagnosis where I kept going over in my mind how I was broken and defective. The fear that I would pass this affliction on to my children. The worry that I might not even be able to have children at all due to my medication and illness, or that if I chose to get pregnant while medicated, I would birth children who were addicted and at risk for possible complications. Instead, Dr. Brogan and many others have instilled in me the belief that mental illness is not actually a set of diseases, but is a set of symptoms that are a wise response to real, solvable problems within our bodies and environments. Reclaiming my own power to heal and direct my life rather than being at the mercy of genetics (an explanation that leaves a lot out of the picture) transformed my relationship to myself and others, and really did change my life.

In the end, I hope my story inspires and encourages others. You can come from a very dark place, and still, there is light waiting for you on the other side. There is so much healing power at your fingertips, and you don’t need to rely on any doctor or pill bottle to get you there. Our bodies are resilient and wise beyond our comprehension, and if we simply set the right conditions, healing will begin. I now personally know many people who have been through this same journey, whether with Dr. Brogan’s program or on their own, and they are all amazing, vibrant people who have an inner strength and light that is something to behold.

You can heal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Tags: health, self improvement

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