Depression is sneaky. What begins as an “off-day,” turns into an “off-week”…then an “off-two weeks” with a decent day sprinkled in there. You wake up feeling sad and overwhelmed, feel better by noon and then—no, wait—you’re feeling “off” again.
Was it because of lack of sleep? Too much sugar? Not enough prayer? A fight with your spouse? That time of the month? Are you not sleeping and fighting with your spouse BECAUSE you’re depressed? Or is depression causing the lack of sleep and fighting?
You tweak your diet. You go to bed earlier. You light your favorite scented candle. You schedule a date night. You feel better.
Or do you?
It’s difficult to know when it’s time to get professional help.
I have been very open on this blog about my struggle with clinical depression—a struggle I’ve had on and off since about 2001. The more I learn about depression and seek to understand my personal cycles and triggers, I would now have to say, I’ve struggled with cycles of depression most of my life.
I didn’t really know it was depression until just a few years ago. I thought I was just really, really crabby, because depression starts out feeling so much like normal crabby (lack of sleep, lack of prayer, too much sugar, fight with a spouse, etc…) For me, the wake-up call came when, try-as-I-might, I couldn’t dig out of the crabby cycle. And things spiraled downward very quickly.
I have taken antidepressants (Lexapro) and seen a professional therapist. And though, I gained some unwanted weight on those antidepressants, I do not regret that decision AT ALL. In fact, I thank God for allowing me to live in an era where antidepressants and godly men with degrees in Psychology exist. The combination of Lexapro and professional counseling probably saved my life.
My only regret (regret is a strong word) is that I did not seek out natural, over-the-counter remedies before I tried prescription meds. Because I didn’t know I was dealing with clinical depression (I was not only depressed, but also a little dense and prideful), I waited until the last possible minute to seek professional help. I was in a desperately dark place and I was barely functioning. I did not have the luxury of time or the clarity of thought to browse the shelves at GNC for a natural alternative.
Now, I do. So I am. And that’s what I’m talking about today.
How I Felt the months of August and September:
Very weepy, over too many things.
Easily irritated, especially with my kids.
Very tired between the hours of 1 and 4 pm—needing a nap daily, but feeling even worse when I woke up.
Beginning to feel like I my efforts in writing, parenting and marriage were useless.
Waking up with a feeling of disinterest (on my better days) and dread (on my worst days).
If it all would have come on suddenly, I would have recognized it immediately and run to get help. But like I said, depression is sneaky. This happened slowly over weeks, with some really nice days sprinkled in between. Sometimes a little tweak here or there is all I need to lift a rotten mood. I dug deeply into my little bag of tricks trying to get over the hump.
But when I noticed a pattern of journal entries that read “Lord, help me.”
And “Something has to give.”
And “What am I doing wrong?”
And “I haven’t felt this sluggish and weepy in a very long time.”
And “I was looking so forward to this weekend, and now I’m just bummed and tired and worn out and apathetic.”
I could feel myself sinking into depression, and that scared the snot out of me—the most frightening thing being that all of this was happening during our mild and sunny autumn weather, long BEFORE the dark and dreary Kentucky winter (which is enough to make anyone sad). I knew I was at the point where I needed some help managing my depression.
What is SAM-e?
According to the official SAM-e website: SAM-e is a naturally occurring compound that is found in all living things. It’s distributed throughout the human body and it contributes to maintaining mood levels. SAM-e levels tend to decline as people get older and certain groups of people, including those with low mood, tend to have lower levels of SAM-e in their bodies.
What are the benefits of SAM-e?
Allegedly, SAM-e can improve mood, reduce anxiety and improve joint discomfort, in as little as 7-14 days.
According to WebMD, “Several studies have shown that SAMe can be beneficial and might be as effective as some prescription medications used for depression.”
In fact, the research available on SAM-e is all very promising.
How Did SAM-e affect me?
I started taking the lowest recommended dose of SAM-e (200 mg, twice a day). Because of the 7-14 day thing, I was not expecting anything whatsoever to happen for at least a week. However, I noticed on Day 2 a very mild “medicine head” feeling—very similar to when I started on Lexapro, but much more mild.
After a few days, I noticed a slight improvement in my over-all mood, but not enough to be satisfied with the results. After 2 weeks, I doubled my dosage to 400 mg, twice a day.
Within a few days of that change, I noticed a gradual and continual improvement in mood and energy. In fact, I would say in the last three weeks, I have felt happier and more energetic than I have in months.*
*Disclaimer: I don’t know if I can attribute all of this to the SAM-e. In this same time period, I’ve also switched up my workout routine and made some adjustments in my diet. It is my belief that all of those things working together helped to improve my mood and energy.
What are the side effects of SAM-e?
According to the SAM-e website: “Generally speaking, there are no documented side effects of SAM-e.”
According to WebMD: “SAMe is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can sometimes cause gas, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, headache, mild insomnia, anorexia, sweating, dizziness, and nervousness, especially at higher doses. It can make some people with depression feel anxious.”
I spent hours researching SAM-e before taking the first dose. In reading hundreds of independent reviews, I found a large number of people who experienced stomach upset/cramping while taking the supplement. This side effect appears to be reduced or eliminated by also taking a vitamin B12 supplement while taking SAM-e, which I do.
Other than that mild “medicine head” feeling on Day 2, I have not had any negative side effects.
Where can You Purchase SAM-e?
I found SAM-e at Costco and Target. It is actually cheaper on Amazon. Here is a link:
Would I Recommend SAM-e for Depression?
I am not a doctor—just a girl who wants to keep her depression at bay, preferably without the aid of prescription antidepressants. If you are having suicidal thoughts or cannot carry out your daily duties, I would NOT recommend SAM-e. Please, make an appointment with your doctor, like today.
That said, I am cautiously optimistic about the effectiveness of SAM-e for treating mild to moderate depression, and would recommend it to anyone currently struggling. SAM-e is a very potent supplement, so I would urge you to do your homework before you begin taking it.
Also, and probably more importantly, I would urge you to make other adjustments in your lifestyle—healthy diet, exercise, sufficient rest, fresh air, exposure to sunlight, supportive relationships, and active communication with God—while you explore any supplements or medications for depression.
If you are doing all those things and you still feel depression creeping in, I think SAM-e is definitely worth a try.