Episode 30 Holly Higgins talks about her own experiences with psychiatric drugs and withdrawal and how she became a nutritional therapy practitioner and healed her depression and anxiety with real food

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This week, we talk to Holly Higgins. Holly shares her own experiences of the psychiatric system and psychiatric drugs, how she approached withdrawal from the drugs and talks about how she became a nutritional therapy practitioner. Holly now supports others in managing their mental health using nutrition and her excellent website Pills to Paleo provides a wide range of helpful resources for those that want to improve their mental health without resorting to psychiatric drugs.

In this episode we discuss:
  • Holly's difficult childhood experiences that led to low mood and anxiety issues
  • How, at 25, Holly experienced a breaking point leading to intense anxiety and experiencing irrational thoughts and panic attacks
  • That between the therapist, a social worker and a psychiatrist, Holly was diagnosed with 10 different mood disorders and medicated with psychiatric drugs
  • How Holly was told medication would be a 'life jacket' and that she would need to take the drugs for the rest of her life
  • That Holly spent the most time on Zoloft, Lamictal and Xanax, an SSRI antidepressant, a mood stabiliser and a Benzodiazepine
  • How Holly felt excited because she believed that the drugs would help her out of a very bad place and they would treat her diagnosed mood disorders
  • That Holly bought into the idea that she was 'broken and that her brain chemistry was out of balance
  • How the medical professionals downplayed adverse effects and that Holly feels that there was no informed consent because she was given so little information about the drugs
  • That Holly's treatment journey felt like a rollercoaster in that every time the drugs stopped working, the psychiatrist responded by increasing the dosage or adding another medication
  • How that combination of drugs, taken at high dosages made Holly feel very unwell, her mood flatlining and leading to weight gain and losing her libido, which in turn affected her self confidence and her sense of self
  • That, after 18 months of the drug treatment, Holly realised that she needed to get off the drugs and she started to do more internet research although it was the early days and there wasn't very information available at the time
  • that Holly's Psychiatrist was supportive of Holly reducing her drugs but her goal seemed to be lowering doses rather than stopping completely
  • That even a 12.5mg reduction of the Zoloft caused a strong reaction leading to vomiting, nausea, shaking, cold sweats, dizziness, headaches and irritability
  • That Holly managed to find an integrative Psychiatrist who agreed to help Holly taper off her medications
  • How Holly managed to find help from the books The Antidepressant Solution by Joseph Glenmullen and Will Hall's Harm reduction guide to coming off psychiatric drugs
  • That Holly started to taper by the Prozac bridging method, switching to Prozac helps because it is more slowly eliminated from the body which reduces withdrawal effects
  • That even that taper was still too fast and Holly's Psychiatrist wasn't keen to help her find a compounding pharmacy or eager to titrate down in smaller doses
  • That Holly ended up coming off everything within two months, leading to dizziness, extreme fatigue, headaches, vomiting and leading to substantial time away from work
  • How Holly experienced a return of depressive symptoms but it was a withdrawal effect
  • That Holly felt that she started to stabilise after another month or so and realised that she needed to lose the excess weight, trying several different diets but with limited success
  • How Holly came across the diet, the Whole 30, a version of the Paelo diet which was radically different to anything else that she had tried
  • The diet required Holly to eliminate all grains, all dairy, all soy, all legumes, all refined sugars and oils and focus on humanely raised animal protein, vegetables, frats, healthy fast and nuts and seeds
  • That after a month, Holly started to see some weight loss and also felt her mood lifting so she continued with the diet leading to more weight loss and improvement in her mood
  • How Holly came to realise the significant connection between nutrition and mental health and that she felt angry because medical professionals had not once talked about nutrients and their impact on her wellbeing
  • That Holly went on to study Nutritional Therapy, becoming a certified practitioner and also using her own lived experience, now specialising in nutrition for mental health
  • That nutritional changes can support the tapering process and reduce withdrawal effects because they eliminate the most common inflammatory foods such as gluten, sugar and refined oils
  • That the cytokine model of depression shows the major contribution of chronic inflammation to depression and other mental health problems and that if you can reduce that inflammation you can improve your mental health without drugs
  • That lowering inflammation can also heal the gut and that a Paleo diet can also stabilise your blood sugar
  • That Dr. Kelly Brogan calls blood sugar imbalances the 'great psychiatric pretender' and that people who get their blood sugar under control, also get their mood under control
  • That a Paleo eating plan provides more bioavailable vitamins and minerals than you can get from processed foods containing synthetic vitamins
  • That if people can eat this way for several months, it can provide a stable foundation for commencing a taper from psychiatric drugs
  • Holly's time spent looking for resources to help her and how that led to creating her own comprehensive resource to help others: Pills to Paleo
  • How Holly provides one on one support to help people improve their mental health utilising nutritional approaches
  • How Holly can use her lived experience to help and support others who feel judged by the medical profession
  • That people shouldn't attach their identity to their diagnosis because it's limiting: 'you are not your diagnosis'

Relevant links

Pills to paleo

The Antidepressant Solution by Joseph Glenmullen M.D.

The harm reduction guide to coming off psychiatric drugs by Will Hall

Dr. Kelly Brogan

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