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I didn’t realize I had clinical depression until I was in my 30s. When I was a teenager, I didn’t understand that not every teenager daydreams about suicide or pretends to cut their wrists with tiny shards of glass. In my 20s, I didn’t know that not every 20-something runs off the road on purpose only to panic and jerk the wheel before it was too late. In my 30s, I didn’t realize that all the crying and bleakness and despair weren’t normal. Then, I had a baby—the bleakness and despair went into overdrive because of postpartum depression. I was barely functioning, so I finally made a doctor’s appointment and asked for help.
I received a depression diagnosis and a prescription for Prozac.
I didn’t realize how bad I had always felt until I didn’t feel bad anymore. When I started the medications, I felt better—maybe even good, some days. Early on, I noticed a few odd side effects from the prescription, but I was willing to deal with them for the sake of not wanting to die. I was willing to clench my jaw and grind my teeth all day and all night if it meant I got a respite from all the terrible thoughts I’d always had. Jaw clenching was a cake-walk compared to feeling like your kid would have a better chance at life if you died and your husband remarried.
Then a few headaches started in. They were low-key at first, just a nagging problem that I could ignore if I tried long enough. Even that was preferable to the unyielding despair I had felt for years. Then I started hallucinating—not acid-trip hallucinations or anything so dramatic, but I saw things in my peripheral vision. I caught glimpses of things out of the corner of my eye, just barely in my field of vision, but when I turned my head, nothing was there. It happened multiple times a day. It was the a bizarre feeling to see something but know it wasn’t really there. Not to mention I looked like an idiot, jerking my head around all the time, looking for things that were only in my head. It took a while before I understood that what I was experiencing were side effects, and it freaked me out, so I cut back on my prescription.
My doctor told me I was taking a type of medication, known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), that I didn’t need to wean from and could take “as needed,” so I started skipping doses—every other day, then a few times a week. Ultimately, I began a cycle where I would back it off just enough that the worst of the side effects stopped. Then, I’d start feeling bad again, so I’d take the medications and repeat the pattern. I should’ve talked to my doctor about it, but I didn’t. I had a decent balance, and I didn’t want to do anything to risk it.
When I got pregnant for the second time, I stopped my prescription altogether. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to stop feeling better, but it seemed like my pregnancy amplified the side effects. Plus, I didn’t entirely believe that it was safe to take my meds while I was pregnant, so I stopped taking them.
After the baby was born, I wasn’t quite so ambivalent about the side effects anymore and didn’t want to start my prescription again, so I began doing some research, as we so often do in the Google era. I didn’t have postpartum depression this time around, though, I had some seriously bad days. But I was functioning, so I felt comfortable taking some time to find an alternative to the prescription I had been on for the last three years.
I read that magnesium supplementation might help depression. After a bit more reading, I practically ran to the store to buy a bottle and started taking it immediately. I don’t want to say the results were remarkable or amazing—I wasn’t euphoric or suddenly full of energy and motivation. But I didn’t feel bad. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t crying for no reason. I wasn’t laid out on the sofa feeling all the terrible things I was used to feeling. I felt…even. I felt steady, which was remarkable given that I’d never felt steady before. In hindsight, even on my prescription, I’d been edgy, tense, and jagged. It seemed like I was waiting to fall again, but after I started magnesium citrate, I just felt calm.
My anxiety was still throwing me curveballs though, so after a year of taking magnesium, I decided to step up my mental healthcare and try cannabidiol (CBD) oil. It was a complete game-changer for me. Between the magnesium and the CBD oil, I’m almost completely free of my panic attacks and intrusive and recurrent thoughts. That constant uneasy feeling in my stomach—gone!
I never realized how spun out I always was until, one day, I wasn’t anymore. For me, the combination of CBD oil and magnesium citrate is the perfect cocktail for my particular mental health woes.
I don’t remember the last time I felt as good as I have in the two years since I started magnesium and CBD oil. The little rain cloud of dread and despair that followed me my whole life has shrunk; while I still get occasional showers, it’s far from the thunderstorm it used to be.
Kristi Pahr is a freelance health and wellness writer and mother of two who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She is frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Men’s Health, and many others.