In 2017 I published a book on yoga philosophy. I touched on how the practice of yoga helped me overcome a binge eating disorder I had in my late 20s and early 30s. Following the book’s release I was on a number of podcasts to talk about the practice of yoga and how it relates to personal growth and healing. One podcast host reached out to me to talk about how my yoga and meditation practice provided tools that enabled me to heal and then thrive without medication, namely anti-depressants. I told the host that I was prescribed anti-depressants during the peak of my eating disorder (they were tremendously helpful) and that I later went off of them. That was true. I didn’t tell her that I was, at the time, back on anti-depressants and imagined I would be for life. I felt judgment about medication from her (duh, the name of the podcast was “skills not pills”) and I ended up declining to be on the show.
At times throughout my journey as a yoga teacher, lawyer, entrepreneur, and author, I have placed expectations on myself of who and how I am “supposed” to be. I’ve told myself some variation of the following countless times: “You have so many tools; you shouldn’t need medication;” “you’re supposed to be a role model and you need to ‘walk the walk’;” “you meditate pretty much daily;” and “it’s embarrassing and shameful to be on anti-depressants.” Thus ensued a roller coaster of going on and off anti-depressants for many years. Each time I went off, within a few weeks I experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety. So back to my doctor I went, who explained for the umpteenth time that if I had asthma, for example, I wouldn’t feel shame around taking my inhaler, so I needed to drop all the stories in my head about what I “should” do and stick with what has proven for almost two decades now to help me be my best.
Here is my truth. I am on a fairly low dose of anti-depressants. At times I have been on higher doses, particularly when I was struggling to overcome my eating disorder. For me, medication is not a happy pill or a magic solution. Rather, I find it helps me be in a place of feeling “normal” enough to actually use all of my tools: yoga, meditation, reflection, family time, deep connection with others.
Do I think everyone who struggles with depression and/or anxiety should be on medication? No, of course not. I think we are all unique individuals with different brain chemistries and what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. And, our needs can change over the course of our lives. But let’s not judge each other and work to end the shame around getting the help and support that we need.