A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan, MD. Harper Wave| March 2016| 352 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 9780062405579
“We are engaged in lifestyles that are not compatible with what our genome has evolved over millions of years to expect. We eat a poor diet, harbor too much stress, lack sufficient physical movement, deprive ourselves of natural sunlight, expose ourselves to environmental toxicants, and take too many pharmaceuticals.”
My psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital recommended this book. A colleague recommended it to her. At my last visit she still hadn’t read it so we couldn’t discuss it. However we have discussed the mind-body connection; that I do not want to be dependent on Klonipin or my current SSRI [I am tapering off Lexapro]; that I believe in homeopathic treatments and see an acupuncturist; that I do yoga and I am a vegan. Going into this book I felt I was doing lots of things right but I still am miserable and low functioning. I don’t take a lot of medications outside my daily psychiatric meds, vitamins and supplements. I listen to my body. I feel fairly connected. My psychiatrist said that there’s a disconnect between my level of education and my level of function. That’s not easy to hear. But I know that it’s likely the truth as I cannot find work and struggle to get paid for anything at which I feel I excel. Writing reviews for example.
This book isn’t without controversy. For one thing Kelly Brogan, MD is an anti-vaxxer. I’ve worked as a healthcare professional and get my flu shot every year and have done so for the past decade or longer. Dr. Brogan believes that mental illness is not a chemical imbalance but a symptom of imbalance in our body. It is NOT a disease. I only recently started thinking that mental illness was a disease and a disability because I attended DBSA Boston meetings and that’s what the majority of people at DBSA and NAMI believe. Many receive SSDI.
Dr. Brogan writes: “Depression is merely a symptom, a sign that something is off balance or ill in the body that needs to be remedied.” This is much more complicated to both comprehend and accept. For how many years have we been told that we have some sort of chemical imbalance in our brains and with the right medication we might be able to stabilize it? She adds: “[sic] there has never been a human study that successfully links low serotonin levels and depression. Imaging studies, blood and urine tests, post-mortem suicide assessments, and even animal research have never validated the link between neurotransmitter levels and depression. In other words, the serotonin theory of depression is a total myth that has been unjustly supported by the manipulation of data.”
She also states something that’s way easier to understand: “So many patients today who are being shepherded into the psychiatric medication mill are overdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or mistreated.” If you are like me, you’ve been to quite a few psychiatrists who churn out the prescriptions – one pill to wake you up, one pill to make you sleep, one to calm you down. And for some people they can handle side-effects such as weight gain and cognitive impairment. Some even seem resigned that they will always have that extra weight because they will always be on medication. Then there are the psychiatrists who speak to you for two minutes and give you an out-of-left-field diagnosis. That’s their interpretation of the symptoms with which you present combined with your lifestyle. You could likely get a different diagnosis depending where you go and who you see. I speak from experience. Brogan explains that over time antidepressants lose their efficacy and can result in chronic and treatment-resistant depression. Instead of helping us, medications make us feel worse. Of course Big Pharma controls the medical industry. It’s all well and good to want to be treated holistically but few insurances cover that. A script for another drug? Absolutely. Transmagnetic Stimulation [TMS], acupuncture, light therapy and cranial stimulation? Not so fast. What’s in it for Big Pharma? How can pharmaceutical companies make money? That’s the bottom line.
What can you do? Dr. Brogan focuses on diet, exercise, sleep, eliminating environmental toxins and meditation. If you’ve read Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, M.D. and/or Your Health Destiny by Eva Selhub, M.D. [which I HIGHLY recommend] this is somewhat familiar territory. Everybody knows that we feel better after a great workout, a good night’s sleep or a big salad. Dr. Brogan believes that inflammation causes depression symptoms and to get rid of inflammation you should eliminate gluten, dairy, GMOs, artificial sugars, NSAIDs and antibiotics. She’s also not a fan of birth control, statins, acid-reflux medications, fluoride and vaccines. Take what you choose from this book. There are definitely some thoughtful and useful tips and explanations. Embracing the mind-body connection remains the best treatment. Of course when you’re completely unmotivated, anxiety-ridden or too tired to move it’s tough to hit the gym and make yourself a healthy meal.
In one chapter, Dr. Brogan explains the importance of quality food to fuel the body. She suggests not eating processed food and to eat whole foods. So consuming products with fewer ingredients and eating more produce, legumes and grains will make you feel much better. In another chapter Dr. Brogan explains the importance of meditation, sleep and exercise. On lack of sleep, she writes: “Otherwise balanced, rational women are rendered near psychotic by the trauma of insomnia and disrupted sleep cycles. Their bodies and minds have “forgotten” how to do it. It turns out that one of the many poorly elucidated lasting effects of antidepressants is their interference with normal sleep patterns.” There’s an entire chapter focused on detoxifying our environment. She discussed everything from tap water to cell phones to cleaning products to dust. Admittedly some of what she claims to do seems unrealistic for many. Who is dusting every single day or using a body brush four times a day (to stimulate the lymphatic system)? In the chapter on tests and supplements, Dr. Brogan suggests certain tests such as thyroid functioning, MTHFR (methylation), and various vitamin levels. To my psychiatrist’s credit [I switched to MGH Psychiatry for a reason], the phlebotomist withdrew about eight vials of blood so I could be tested for a bevy of things including MTHFR. As for supplements, Brogan writes: “Magnesium, zinc, iodine, and selenium are essential to the body’s functionality.” You can read details about these supplements as well as many others. And yes, that can get expensive and insurance does not yet cover supplements. In summation, much of your mental and physical health remains in your control. You need to ask questions, conduct research and remain vigilant. Listen to your body.
Before she received her MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Kelly Brogan earned a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience at MIT. She’s board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and integrative holistic medicine. This book contains a plentitude of valuable information which may or may not be successful for you and your mental illness. I take zinc, magnesium and a multi-vitamin but may consider adding other supplements. I also want to try to go gluten-free although I adore toast! Mental health might be that element I can control in order to realize my goals.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.