Updated: Sep 14, 2020
I intended to write a post about my journey with depression and anxiety, but at the last minute I realized that, although they tend to work as a tag team, I have two very separate experiences with these illnesses and there is just so much information that I have to share about them both; in other words, the video would have been way too long for editing; so, in this post, I want to focus on my journey of battling depression using St. John's Wort, a natural herbal supplement and a tisane.
Tap 'play' to watch me briefly explain what St. John's Wort is, why I decided to take it, and how it has been extremely helpful in my journey towards proper mental health.
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Saint vs. Evil
In a battle of good vs. evil, St. John's Wort is the good, and depression is definitely the evil. Depression is a very dark illness that threatens to rob anyone suffering from it, not just from joy, but also self. I know first-hand how depression can leave someone in despair trying to experience life with only a skeleton of themselves.
People who have never personally dealt with depression may characterize it simply as sadness but it is so much more than that. Not being properly educated about this illness can leave you insensitive to the sufferings of those who endure it or in disbelief that they are actually experiencing symptoms at all. I know just how destructive depression can be but since its symptoms vary and there is a range for the intensity of the illness, I will save my personal experiences for later.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in which there is a loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed, emotional problems and physical symptoms ranging from chronic pain to digestive issues. In order for someone to be diagnosed with depression, they must experience symptoms for at least 2 weeks.
St. John's Wort is a herbaceous plant or shrub with distinctive yellow five-petaled flowers and paired oval leaves, used in medicinal preparations to treat various disorders, including depression. Although America is slow at accepting herbal remedies as nature's way of healing us, Germany has long led the medicinal world into natural remedies, making St. John's Wort the prescription of choice for anyone diagnosed with depression.
For example, a book that was recommended to me by one of my wise German friends entitled, "The Complete German Commission E Monographs - Therapeutic Guide To Herbal Remedies" states the following:
Name of Drug: Hyperici herba, St. John's Wort
Composition of Drug: St. John's Wort consists of the dried, above ground parts of Hypericum perforatum L [Fam. Hypericaceae], gathered during flowering season, as well as their preparations in effective dosage.
Uses: Internal: Psychovegetative disturbances; depressive moods, anxiety and/or nervous unrest. Oily hypericum preparations for dyspeptic complaints. External: Oily hypericum preparations for treatment and post-therapy of acute and contused injuries, myalgia and first-degree burns.
Contraindications: None known.
Side Effects: Photosensitization is possible, especially in fair-skinned individuals.
Interactions with Other Drugs: None known.
Dosage: Unless otherwise prescribed: Average daily dosage for internal use: 2-4 g of drug or 0.2 -1 mg of total hypericin in other forms of drug application.
Mode of Administration: Chopped herb, herb powder, liquid and solid preparations for internal use. Liquid and semi-solid preparations for external use. Preparations made with fatty oils for external and internet use.
Actions: A mild antidepressant action of the herb and its preparations has been observed and reported by numerous physicians. According to experimental observation, hypericin can be categorized among the MAO inhibitors. Oily hypericum preparations demonstrate an anti-inflammatory action. [Ed. note: The research suggesting MAO activity was experimental and not conducted in animal systems. Subsequent research has indicated either no or very slight MAO activity in St. Jon's Wort or its preparations.]
St. John's Wort can be ingested internally as a tea by simply releasing the contents of a capsule into warm water and stirring thoroughly (I like to add honey), or you can take it orally as you would any other pill.
My Experience with St. John's Wort
I have been taking St. John's Wort by Nature's Bounty orally for 4 years to help me in my battle with depression. I began sipping it as a tea and today, I just simply empty the contents of the capsule into my mouth and swish it down with water. I took St. John's Wort 3 times a day, but after experiencing slightly adverse side effects, I now take one capsule of St. John's Wort at 4 AM and another capsule at 3:30 PM daily. St. John's Wort is a natural remedy so it worked slowly but surely with my body. The more regular my intake, the more pronounced the effects. Initially, I would become really sleepy about 15 minutes after taking the recommended dose. I think my body and brain were so tired that part of my healing also included sufficient rest. I did experience dry mouth, small rashes, and slight mental confusion but I realized these side effects were related to the dosage. I reduced my dosage and the side effects went away.
Slowly but surely, St. John's Wort helped me regain my mind and my life. my thoughts stopped racing and I regained more energy. I was calm, less anxious and more able to focus. My mood began to rise towards positivity and I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Each and every day I began rediscovering myself and my hobbies realizing just how much I had lost, but grateful that I was regaining it all back. Yes, grateful, one of the many emotions that I had not been able to feel in years and one day, just like that, I was able to feel gratitude; a simple emotion that couples joy and contentment. I haven't ever stopped being grateful since.
St. John's Wort is the main reason why I can write such a clear blog post about this topic, without it, I would not be me as depression would have kept me hidden away forever. My story in battling depression with St. John's Wort is a love story at best, where self-love and healing ride off into the sunset...
Gabie vs. Depression - Round 1
When I first battled with depression, I had no idea what I was fighting. I was a child when symptoms of depression began and when anything happens as a child, you write it off as normal, perhaps uncomfortable, but normal. Depression wasn't a widely spoken of illness at the time and in the Black community, mental illness is frequently completely ignored.
My family deemed me as sensitive when I would cry about absolutely nothing. I was called dramatic when I felt like my life was worthless and I thought it was normal to have intense feelings of sadness and then go on a scavenger hunt in hopes of finding what was the actual cause. Depression and its symptoms would be normalized and tolerated all the way into my early adulthood until my brain would say, "Enough is enough", and introduce me to my illness in a much more aggressive way.
At around the age of 24, after being married for almost 2 years and living a fairly functional life with depression, my brain decided to throw me a curve ball that, I guess, it thought I was prepared for. One day, while lying in bed after another sleepless night which was becoming increasingly more common, I thought, "Why don't you tell him?" My brain, seemingly acting as separate from my 'self' was encouraging me to explain to my then husband all that I had been through as a child and why my depression existed. I lay in bed grappling with my thoughts, trying to prove my brain wrong about the traumas of which it was reminding me.
At some point, my brain was fed-up with trying to convince me and decided to open a door that I didn't realize existed in my mind: the door to all the visuals of my trauma. Immediately, images flooded my mind of traumatic and unloving events of my life and I realized immediately why I had suffered bouts of sadness all of my life. Suppressed emotions about my childhood traumas coupled with anger gave birth to depression, the evil beast that would hence-forth try to rob me of my existence.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
What follows this mind game is an 8 year battle of healing my childhood traumas and creating new boundaries with individuals implicated as well as waging a war against depression, the enraged evil beast set loose in my mind and life. Some facets of my life fell casualty to my battle, as the saying goes, it is through the hardest times that you see who your true supporters are.
My husband, someone who I thought had vowed to love and cherish me through thick and thin, sickness and health, turned his back on me during this time, all the while pretending that he was being helpful but in fact contributing to the decline in my mental health. Some family and friends showered me with love and hope while others proved to be useless and distracting. I can tell you with immense pride that the most important relationships that were victorious were the ones that I have with God and myself. Not only was I able to regain my personality and core-self but I can type this blog post today, having never really lost hope, knowing that I am mentally healthy and fully able to express the complete journey of my battle with depression using St. John's Wort. I don't think there will ever be enough blog space to express my extreme gratitude.