THE FUNNY FARMER: An astonishingly boring, painful, humorous and occasionally insightful approach to gardening and life as amom, a former psychotherapist, and apparently a life-long patient.


My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Funny Pharma - Antidepressants and Miracle Gro

I just read a GREAT article by Katrina Alcorn in the Huffington Post titled Peaceful RevolutionIf You Give a Mouse A Prozac  She began experiencing crippling symptoms of depression, exhaustion, panic attacks, and sleep disturbances while attempting to "balance"  a demanding commute and job with young children. 

Her quote/recap in red summarizes her story.  My comments are in black.

1. Trying to work full time and raise young kids put my body under unendurable strain (Been there, done that)

2. My body broke down. (Symptoms of depression including sleep disturbance and anxiety)

3. The doctors decided that something was wrong with me, so they prescribed pills (antidepressant)

4. Those pills made it impossible to sleep, so they prescribed more pills. (sleeping pills)

5. The second pills depressed my breathing and made it look like I had sleep apnea. (extensive sleep study)

6. The doctors gave me a machine to treat the sleep apnea (expensive and not covered by health insurance), which dried out my (medium-to-large) nose and made me sick (with a cold).

Mamma Alcorn took the diagnosis off from herself and gave it back to its orignal owner: It is crazy to put working parents in impossible situations where they are bound to go crazy, and then act like there's something wrong with them for going crazy.  This is a classic case of treating the symptoms and not the problem.

This article REALLY spoke to me.  When I became a mother, I was self-employed with a thriving psychotherapy practice and loved my work.  I was fortunate in that I stopped working at week 36, was not limited to 12 weeks of maternity leave, could come back to work part-time, and could schedule my own hours.  I pumped and napped in my office in between clients.  Ideal, no?

Actually, no.  With the sleep deprivation and multiple life-stressors, my own symptoms of childhood trauma began to surface.  Despite being a trained therapist, I was also ignoring my own symptoms of Post Partum Depression and Anxiety.  At the time I was too 'in the thick of it' to see the forest through the trees.  We just had a newborn (who did not sleep well for the first couple of years), bought our first house, moved, my father began having health problems, and I had two miscarriages.  I was simply in survival mode and functioning on adrenaline and cortisol.

As I became more and more specialized in trauma treatment, my workload of clients became more skewed in the direction.  I began having nightmares of not only my own trauma, but those of my clients as well.  I had intrusive thoughts about my patients, panic attacks, sobbing spells, was not thinking clearly, and very irritable.  I was waking in the middle of the night and  unable to get back to sleep, blah blah blah blah blah.

Finally I made the extremely difficult and painful decision to close my practice, something I had worked so hard for and had so much pride in.  I was given a prescription for an antidepressant which I did not fill.  I tried two jobs as an employee thinking that a different line of work would solve my problems, not medication.  But I just couldn't maintian the pace.  Those memories of racing out of the office to pick up my kid from childcare and coming home to a dark and empty house are forever burned in my memory.  My husband typically didn't get home until 630pm from his job, leaving me to care for a tired child and attempt to make a healthy-ish meal.   You know the drill, right?

After being essentially fired from my last job, I finally filled the prescription, got back into therapy, took some tai chi and yoga, starting getting acupuncture, and was able to sustain my next pregnancy.

So let us draw some parallels to gardening, shall we? 'Cause you know that's what I do!

Placing an overtaxing burden on any organism is going to make them unealthy at best and unsustainable at worst.  People and plants need the proper nutrients and environment in order to thrive.  People should ideally have adequate housing, healthy and plentiful food, a supportive environment, rest, relaxation and some sun.  Similarly, plants thrive with the correct balance of nutrients in their soil, adequate water, the proper amount of sun for their species. 

Now what about synthetic assistance?  There is a lot of research out there, as well as my own anectodal experience, which suggests that anti-depressants improve your mental and physical health.  Similarly, Miracle Gro can cause your plants to shoot up quickly and prolifically.  You don't have to google past the first page to find some very strong opinions on either side of each debate.  A lot of the arguments for both anti-depressants and Miracle Gro involve:
          Research & professional recommendations          
          Ease of use         
          Financial implications
          It's not hurting anyone
          t's my decision and my body/plant/soil

The arguements against both synthetics include
         Treating the symptoms, not the problem
         Side effects on body/plant/soil
         Environmental (negative impact on soil, water)
         Political (research studies skewed, big industry, fossil fuels)

Personally I shy away from synthetics when I can, but when I was down and out and could not see my way to a solution, I caved.  And guess what, it helped enormously.  If I were a farmer and my tribe was depending upon me to feed them or they would stave, perhaps I would break down and head to the local hardware store for some of that Grower of Miracles.

A few months ago I went to dinner with 3 other moms.  We enjoyed pleasant conversation about our children, work, holidays, and books.  But by the time the bill came, the conversation had taken a severe turn.  Suddenly we were all sharing about our anxieties, our overwhelm, our failing health, and ordering another bottle of wine.  Three of us "confessed" that we are taking antidepressents and the fourth, the only one with tears streaming down her face, was not (but she is now!). 

Everyone's circumstances are different, and judging individual decisions for their particular set of circumstances was trained out of me in college and grad school. However I do think it important to really examine the big picture.  What is the common denominator that now four out of four women (granted, a rather homogenous sampling) are taking antidepressants for virtually the same complaints?  And what can we do to TRULY replenish our soils?  What will give us REALLY deep roots so we can grow really tall, strong, and colorful?


Lopez Family said...

Cherie, this post rang a few bells....hummm. I too have been experiencing a lot of discontent and personal upheaval these days. Of course I wanted to blame it on winter, but the reality is that it has nothing to do with the weather! I see many of my friends also struggling and our common denomenator is that we have kids that are school age and we are suddenly sort of free to carry on. I think its the sort of that is the problem, living in a world of in between is a true no mans land full of ambiguities. I am now back working part time and have decided that it is easier to take it a week at a time. After being home for 9 years with the kids, I find it hard to re-assimilate and even harder to schedule child care! Hence the week at at a time! Everyday I try to count my blessings and see what I can do to add to the list today. This helps. I also try to see each "disaster" as a opportunity. In the meantime my seedlings are growing and the trees are leafing out and the sun is shining. I tell my kids when they are cranky, life is a series of choices, choose to be happy and you will be, its up to you. If I could just follow my own advice!!

michaela said...

I love this, Cherie. I'm hoping to step down from my own personal Miracle Gro - and replacing it with chianti ain't a half bad idea. ;)

Sheila said...

A very interesting post! I often try to describe synthetic fertilizers to steroids or like being on a glucose drip, sure you survive a while, but what are the long term implications? I guess the same is with antidepressants which I stopped taking because I felt they were just masking the real issues and the long term results were not worth it!

xo Cherie said...

Thank you for the comments everyone! This was a really interesting and fun post to think about and write.

Kathryn said...

I'm intrigued...I will follow this blog and see what happens... ;)