The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Broken to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
Juanita, my mentor and friend, is a woman I admire for her professional savvy, smarts, and success. She’d heard through our grapevine that I was down with depression. To my surprise, she explained that she suffered for years with it, too. She called from California. “Sara, you do not have to suffer. You’ve done nothing wrong. This is DNA, it’s genetic, it’s biochemical. If you had diabetes you’d take insulin. This is no different.” I respected Juanita. I listened. I felt a wave of relief.
Juanita was taking Sam-e, a naturally occurring supplement that had been successfully used for depression in Europe, had just become available in the U.S. She suggested that I read Stop Depression Now by Dr. Richard Brown. A credentialed psycho-pharmacologist who taught at Columbia University, Dr. Brown reported that Sam-e was found equally as effective in treating depression as Prozac in double-blind clinical studies, with none of the side effects of the drug. Since I still wanted to be pregnant and was adamant that I would not take any pharmaceutical drugs for fear of their impact in-utero. But my depression was increasingly debilitating, and I was grasping for a lifeline, so trusting Juanita I opted to try Sam-e. I was thirty-nine years old and this was the first time any kind of medication for the disease had ever crossed my lips.
After three weeks on Sam-e, I found glimmers of life again. Color returned to my vision. I laughed at a few jokes. My colleagues at the 4T did not seem as difficult. And I made love with my husband with gratitude and joy for the first time in almost a year.
This stuff was a miracle and I was grateful. I became an advocate and a resource for others, believing that it had saved me and, as naturally occurring substance, could cause no harm to in utero or nursing babies.
An extremely productive year followed. (It was later that I learned that for my bipolar brain, Sam-e acts like something between caffeine and cocaine. I was speeding but didn’t know it.) I returned to healthy lifestyle habits like exercise, diet, yoga, and prayer, friends, and community, and loving my man. In that year we finished the contract with 4T and started a consortium of Fortune 500 businesses for sustainability. I went through professional training to be certified as a leader of ShadowWork.® I also started writing again—I’d had a few professional articles published before my fall. Joe got his vasectomy successfully reversed and I regained my faith that we would indeed have children. Most of all, I was grateful for the day-to-day, with my brain restored to its “natural” functioning. The ability to accomplish simple tasks — sorting laundry, washing dishes, putting away groceries — seemed miraculous and I felt great joy in that. Spring had come to New England, purple tulips shooting up in our recently frozen ground, the days were lengthening, and the sun appeared once again on the horizon.