Antidepressants, it seems to carry the idea of being a necessary evil for those who struggle with depression, any number of mental health challenges, including PTSD. It’s not something that most would want to rely on, either temporarily or in an ongoing basis, but yet their effectiveness can bring about a world of positive difference when used properly and under the supervision of a trained professional.
I used medications to help get some struggles I had, under control, and while it took some time and several doctor visits to get the dosage, amount, correct, the results were with it. Using the medications to help regulate my mood, reaction to stress, and ability to cope did serve me for a time, and with the combined efforts of a trauma informed therapist, I was able to wean myself off of them in time, again staying in contact with a trained medical professional.
Millions of people rely on antidepressants or have used them in the past. In fact, in the United States alone, 16 million Americans experience a major depression each year, and at any given time about ten percent of the population is taking antidepressants. The popularity of antidepressants is increasing rapidly: there are about four times as many people taking them than in the 1990s. That means as you walk down the street, through the mall, or in the office, it’s likely that someone you see is on this type of medication.
There’s certainly no shame in using an antidepressant, but there is a certain amount of stigma and shame that can come with relying on a medication to help us in daily life. My guest today, Dr. Wallace Mendelson joins me on the podcast to discuss the use of antidepressants and share his expertise on how and why they work.
Wallace B. Mendelson MD is a Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Pharmacology (ret) at the University of Chicago, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has authored or co-authored four books and numerous scientific papers, primarily in the fields of psychopharmacology and sleep medicine. His most recent book, The Science of Sleep (available on Amazon), shares with Understanding Antidepressants the goal of providing the scientific background of a group of disorders in a non-technical and very readable manner.
During our chat on this episode of the podcast, Dr. Mendelson and I discuss the following, surrounding the use of antidepressants:
- The use of antidepressants to help with PTSD. Which medications are actually FDA approved for PTSD, and how doctors choose between the correct ones to use with someone who’s experienced trauma.
- Concerns and apprehensions about using antidepressants.
- The potential benefits of using antidepressants with therapy modalities such as CBT and Interpersonal therapy.
- CBT – (in the area of depression) works on the idea that some kinds of thinking in which a depressed person does, can contribute to making the depression worse. Changing those beliefs, processes, and thinking patterns.
- Interpersonal therapy – oriented to the way you interact with another person; having satisfactory relationship with others as being a critical part of ones overall mental health.
- How antidepressants actually work; what they do in the body and brain.
- The importance of taking an active role in your treatment, and educating yourself so you can better understand your progress and interactions with your medical and/or mental health professional.
- His book, Understanding Antidepressants: which outlines in a non-technical, lavishly illustrated introduction on how antidepressants affect the brain, and a more general presentation of how drugs are absorbed, distributed, and eliminated from the body.
It’s no secret that one of the keys to life, is balance. Lean too much towards work, and we can lose focus on our personal life and risk burn out. Lean too far towards the personal side, and we can end up losing sight of the career dreams and things we want to accomplish. When you toss Mental Health into the equation, it adds a whole new dimension to this struggle.
Not only do you have to juggle your personal and professional life, what ever that looks like for you individually, now you have any number of mental health challenges that bring about their own daily influx of struggles. Talk about the need for balance, right!
As a mental health and LGBTQ+ advocate, and current MSW student, Lee Thomas shares her thoughts on this topic and several others during this episode of the podcast.
I first met Lee when I came across her weekly Facebook Live show, Crazy Talk, after the HealtheVoice 2018 Conference. Lee regularly interviews advocates, clinicians, professional, survivors and others all around the topic of mental health and advocacy. I was honored to be on Crazy Talk earlier this year (you can find that episode by clicking here) and now I’m pleased to have Lee join me on Beyond Your Past.
Lee was born and raised in a small town in northern Alberta. From a young age they were heavily involved in athletics, student government, and other extracurriculars. However, during their teen years they began battling a mental illness. Feeling scared and alone, Lee struggled silently for many years. Their illness worsened throughout their high school years and continued into university, until Lee finally sought help and began the difficult process of recovery.
After Lee began the recovery process, they realized that there were still many people struggling with mental health issues in silence. To reduce the stigma around mental health issues on their campus, Lee founded the #MyDefinition poster campaign in 2014. Since then, Lee has been working as a motivational speaker and mental health trainer, speaking to groups of all ages and sizes about their own mental health experiences, the important of reducing stigma, and LGBTQ+ issues.
While continuing her graduate education in the field of social work, she continues to serve as a speaker, trainer, and writer in the mental health field; her work has been featured on The Mighty, TEDx, CBC News, and more.
During our chat on the podcast, we cover some of the struggles and triumphs in her life so far as well as her future work as social worker serving the LGBTQ+ community and others who know what it means to struggle with a mental illness such as depression, eating disorders, bipolar, and more:
- Her struggle with depression, eating disorders, and self-harm in her teen-age years.
- The realization that she had been suffering in silence for so long, and then learning what a mental illness means for her.
- The limited information available about mental health when she was younger, and what she re-learned later.
- Starting the #MyDefinition poster campaign and how that lead to acquiring speaking engagements and sharing her story at conferences and workshops.
- The 3 keys of validation she needed to get started in her career: Passion, Knowledge, and Something She was Good at.
- What vulnerability looks like for each of us
- Staying busy and the risk of doing so to avoid confronting and working through tough memories and emotions.
- How staying busy reinforces the mindset of “uncopewithable” situations, and how this can set back healing.
Lee shares her thoughts on these topics and more during our chat, so I hope you’ll check out the po
When you come to a breaking point in your life, continuously being beaten down time after time, struggle after struggle, never seeming to gain your footing for any length of time, one of the things you might find yourself doing is praying for help and for wisdom. You reach out for help to God, the great spirit, the universe, or the higher power you connect with.
Healing from physical wounds is one thing, but healing emotional wounds is something entirely different. Not to minimize the pain of physical trauma at all, that’s difficult enough as it is and can leave lasting traumatic, emotional wounds that go far deeper than the physical ones that can heal in time. When you’re talking about the deep, deep wounds of emotional trauma that leaves scars only you can see; you need more than the body’s ability to regenerate over time on its own.
It requires a commitment the likes of which you may have never experienced before in your life. Unpacking those old wounds that you’ve tried so hard to bury in the bottom of your mind, for years, even decades, is not something to be taken lightly. However, the rewards that can come from reliving those memories, processing and learning from them, and forging your personal healing path, are truly life changing.
Healing unresolved trauma takes a combined effort of mind, body, and spirit; which is exactly the message my guest on the podcast today is sharing with the world. Alexis Acker-Halbur is the founder and creator of the Never Give Up Institute, and the author of “Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness”.
Alex offers anyone who has suffered trauma or loss not just one way forward, but many. A survivor herself—of an astonishing number of traumas including, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexual exploitation by a therapist, rape, and cancer—she describes the connection between mind, body, and spirit and shows how the stress and anger she has experienced connect to her life-threatening illnesses.
I was in a hospital bed, diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, and fighting for my life—not once but twice. I suddenly saw the connection of how stress and trauma made me so sick. I knew at that moment I needed to survive and find ways to help me thrive.
I founded the Never Give Up Institute to help you understand how unresolved stress and trauma can cause illness, increase financial difficulty, and keep you from living a meaningful life.
As a survivor myself, and someone who works with trauma survivors, the message that Alex shares today on this episode of the podcast, and what she teaches in her book and online program, “T.R.U.T.H.“, is one that resonates so much with me. I’m so honored to share our conversation with you. During our chat, Alex and I cover the following topics:
- Some of her story of being a survivor, which includes childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, failed relationships and more, in addition to dealing with colon cancer, breast cancer, and auto accident, type 1 diabetes, and other medical issues.
- The experience of going for a colonoscopy and hours later finding herself being prepped for surgery for colon cancer. She tells of laying in the hospital and praying for answers and help.
- Her prayers were answered in the form of being presented with a list of every trauma she’s ever faced, every disease or physical challenge, and the matching correlation to a past that involved a multitude of unresolved trauma.
- What she did with this information, and how it took it happening twice for her true healing to finally take shape.
- How the body copes with unres
Whether you are an advocate, mental health professional, a family member or friend of someone who struggles with a mental health challenge, or you yourself live with your own struggles, we can all agree that raising awareness and doing our part to help erase the stigma of mental health is needed now more than ever.
We can all do our own part, using our talents, gifts, and hard work to help make a difference in our local communities. After all, this is where we live, work, and socialize; it’s where we spend so much of our time each day. So why not do what we can to make our little corner of the world a place where people can feel empowered to ask for help when they need it, and to not feel ashamed or alone.
This is exactly what Cynthia Chazen is doing, with “The Stigma Free Zone”, in her local community of Bergen County, New Jersey.
The Stigma Free Zone, started by founder, Mary Ann Uzzi, in Paramus New Jersey, has a mission of inspiring public interest and open dialogues about stigma, raising awareness of the local mental health resources available, and breaking down barriers of mental health in local communities.
Cynthia and I first met at the HealtheVoices Conference in 2018; she is an enthusiastic advocate who believes everyone can educate about mental health. She is the editor of the Stigma Free Zone News of New Jersey, and has a huge following on Twitter where she shares both local and global news about mental illness. You can subscribe to her newsletter by checking out her Facebook Page, SFZNewsofNJ.
During our chat on this episode of the Beyond Your Past Podcast, we talk more about The Stigma Free Zone initiative, including:
- How the Stigma Free Zone movement started in New Jersey, and is spreading across the country.
- How you can get involved and create your own chapter in your local community. Get the toolkit here.
- You don’t need to be a mental health professional or have a degree, to make a difference.
- How mental health education is the area for grassroots organizing.
- Giving people permission to talk about their own mental health struggles.
- Some of Cynthia’s story of the challenges she faced in her life that inspired her to take action for others.
Be sure and follow Cynthia Chazen on Twitter and check out the Facebook Pages for the Stigma Free Zone for more information on how you can get involved where you live.
If you’d like to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast, you can contact me anytime. Don’t forget to share this episode with someone who might need it; together we can all continue to make a difference.
-Matthew Pappas, CLC, MPNLP
All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on BeyondYourPast.com, and BeyondYourPastRadio.com is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.
Something I learned a long time ago, from both a therapist, and later from a coach, and to be honest more than a few others, is to celebrate the wins, no matter how small they may seem. It’s something I encourage clients to do, talk about on the podcast often, and reference in blog posts. It’s a regular reminder on the daily recovery support calls, it’s something that I have written down right on a post it note on the wall, right behind this monitor.
So when I talked to a friend about a week ago, and was sharing just in passing that I was coming up on episode 100 of the Beyond Your Past Podcast, she said to me, so how are you going to celebrate that?
Uummmm, what? I replied?
“How are you going to celebrate this win, acknowledge this milestone…it’s a big deal”, she said.
I thought about it for a minute and said, well it’s funny but this episode kind of snuck up on me, landing at 100; and so I hadn’t really thought of doing something special initially. Of course it was then that I got a taste of my own medicine; a reminder that if I’m going to encourage someone to do something good for their journey, I should remember to do it more often too.
So…here we are at episode 100 of the podcast and I figured it might be a good idea to take a brief break from the normal routine and just talk with you for a while about what’s been happening over the last year including some events over the last 12 months that have changed my life in ways I would have never even thought could happen.
As I tossed around some ideas on what to do, I had a brainstorm of making a compilation of highlights from a select number of episodes over the last year. However the more I thought about it, trying to decide which episodes to choose and which sections to use, it became a daunting task that I would never have been able to finish in time for my regular schedule. Plus, each and every guest, and their episodes are equally important and have their own special message, so trying to decide who would make the cut just didn’t seem like something I would be ok with doing.
So I figured, hey, I haven’t done one of those, “talk to you guys” episodes in quite a while, and now just might be a good time to do one again.
I’m happy to do just that on this milestone show, number 100…and I’m thankful that you’ve decided (or at least are considering) giving it a listen. And heck, maybe even share it with someone who might find it interesting as well. *I know, living on the wild side, right!*
During this episode, we’ll chat about:
- What is Surviving My Past, how and why did I create it and how does the podcast fit into the blog. For that matter, how did Beyond Your Past form anyway.
- A look back at earlier episode topics and how the podcast has evolved from earlier show design and topics, to current episodes.
- The last 12 months of events, both positive and challenging that found me facing:
- Death of my dad
- The marriage of my daughter
- Birthdays and Holidays
- A rare illness that sent me to the hospital and a subsequent ongoing recovery.
- Continued education and finishing several new certification programs
- Leaving corporate America after 17 years and striking out on my own, full-time.
- New opportunities that have developed and a partnership with a friend and mentor, and now colleague.
- and more.
Thank you again to each and every one of you who listens each week and shares the podcast episodes; together we are reaching survivors, practitioners, and advocates all over the world with the message of hope, validation, and inspiration.
Remember…celebrate those wins, every single one of them and don’t minimize the progress you’ve made so far and the path you are on that will continue to help you live your life, no longer defined by your past.