Welcome to the Optimal CEO Podcast. This is Dr. Brian Brown. Join me on today’s episode
where we’ll be discussing how I went from depressed and suicidal to naturally restored and
ended a 16 year relationship with psychiatric medications.
Thanks for joining me today. Last week, I explained how I discovered at age 45 that I’d been
dying every single night since age 5… and how that journey gave me a profound appreciation
for functional & integrative medicine.
I also discussed why a blended approach is the best approach to wellness and why many
wellness gurus are off-base when they tell you that their way is the only way because it’s the
availability of blended options that bring about wellness success in this complex system we call
the human body.
Today, I’m gonna to continue my story and tell you how I found a way to get off of psychiatric
medications after 16 years.
Let’s jump right in…
I’ve been practicing psychiatry since 1998.
I’ve treated children as young as age 5… adolescents… young adults… middle-age adults… and
In that time, I’ve treated thousands of patients who were not content with life.
If “happy” is defined as “feeling or showing contentment,” then I’ve met a lot of people who
were not content (not happy) with life in their present situation.
Depression and anxiety are rampant in the Western world, yet the only answer that traditional
medicine seems to have is in the form of developing the next “latest and greatest” magic pill.
I’ve actually been one of those “discontent . . . unhappy” people myself.
All my life, I had longed to become a doctor.
I had felt this calling since I was a young boy.
It’s all I’d ever dreamed of and all I ever talked about.
It’s what I had my sights set on.
I wanted to help others and was hardwired from birth to be an empathic, caring individual.
Also, in my mind, it was a way for me to find some happiness.
I developed a hardworking nature right from the start: I started mowing yards when I was nine
years old and started flipping burgers when I was fifteen years old.
I’ve done everything from changing oil and pumping gas, to patching flat tires, to driving a gas
truck, to unloading trucks at UPS.
I’m thankful for those experiences because they have gifted me with the work ethic and people
skills I have today.
Because of my hardworking nature, the academic rigors of my training were second nature to
me as evidenced by being a straight “A” student through my high school, undergraduate, and
My story actually begins in the spring of 1997 when I was in my next-to-last year of professional
One of our lectures had just dismissed for a fifteen minute break in the middle of a four-hour
It was an unusually beautiful spring day, so I went outside to get some fresh air and enjoy the
tulips that were in full bloom.
I went to the third floor balcony that overlooked a park, the closest thing to nature near my
I was right in the middle of my lifelong dream on that third floor balcony. . . but I wasn’t
happy; somehow, happiness had eluded me.
I would later realize that by this point, I had been struggling with depression for about two
years and that health professionals had the highest rates of suicide among all other professions.
As I stood there on the balcony, propped against the balcony railing and facing the street
below, I saw a dump truck speeding down the road in front of me.
As the truck approached, I had a flood of emotion as all of the blood rushed from my head.
I became dizzy andthe whole world around me spun out of control in a maze of vertigo.
My heart was racing, and I was overwhelmed by a nauseated feeling in the pit of my
stomach . . .
Yet, at the same time, I had a sense of immediate relief and heard a small voice whisper, “It’s
It wasn’t a horrific voice. It was a peaceful voice.
You see as that dump truck sped by, I experienced all the sensations of being thrown over the
railing into the path of the oncoming truck below—I had actually envisioned throwing myself
over the rail.
All of this happened in a matter of seconds.
I still remember that feeling to this day.
I also remember, in that split second, not knowing whether it was actually happening or all a
Sadly, part of me hoped that it was real.
When I came to my senses and realized that it was all a vision, I was scared.
It rocked me to the core.
I immediately had flashes of my beautiful wife and my two beautiful daughters who were three
and six at the time.
Guilt and shame immediately set it.
How could I have such a vision?
How could I even feel hope that it was actually happening?
What was wrong with me?
I left the balcony that day and never stepped foot out there again.
I was so ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone what happened until about twenty years later.
And it wasn’t until a year after that incident on the balcony that I confided in a colleague that
I’d been struggling with depression and anxiety.
She never asked about suicidal thoughts, and I never told her…
And I sure as heck didn’t tell her about the dozens of other times I had avoided the impulse to
swerve my car into the path of oncoming traffic while driving.
She put me on Prozac, and it was at that time that I began a sixteen-year journey into the world
of “chemical happiness.”
I’ve often reflected why I went on the that first medication.
The only conclusion I can draw is that I was new in my profession… in the field of psychiatry…
and it just made sense.
It was the way I was trained.
I told myself, “Brian, why wouldn’t I do this? It’s what I’d do for one of my patients. Some
people get their “chemical happiness” fix through drugs or alcohol, and others, like me, get
their fix through antidepressants.”
This is how I rationalized it.
Isn’t it funny how we as humans will find a rationalization for most anything that we want… or
anything that we are doing… just to make sense of it all.
But… I don’t beat myself up too much over this journey, because my knowledge was limited
when I made the decision.
I guess you can say I wasn’t as enlightened as I am now.
And… I would even add that it was this journey that has allowed me to help so many others.
So… in a strange way… it had to happen… and again, here’s the rationalization of it all.
Now, let’s get back to the rest of the story.
In the course of sixteen years, I tried nine different psychiatric medications in the pursuit of
happiness… medications like Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Buspar, Lamictal,
Strattera, and Provigil.
None of these gave me the happiness I wanted.
In fact, they made me feel numb.
I couldn’t feel anything.
I had no emotion.
And on top of that, I gained 170 pounds…
At 390 pounds, I guess you can say I was “fat and chemically happy,” but I would use the word
“happy” very loosely.
Over time, I grew to hate the very pills that were supposed to make me feel normal.
And yes, I use the word “normal” very loosely also.
More than anything, I wanted off these medications.
I tried a number of times to stop taking them, but I failed every time.
The withdrawal side effects were not fun.
Did you know that the drug companies that make these medications will tell you that they are
In the purest sense of the definition, maybe not, but in reality definitely so.
When you try to stop these medication and have symptoms like rebound depression… rebound
anxiety… nausea… headaches… and irritability… just to name a few… there’s no doubt that
these drugs are causing addictive problems.
Unable to effectively get off these meds, I repeated the vicious cycle of finding the next pill
that would hopefully work and not have major side effects.
Oh! And speaking of side effects. They are horrible!
Depending on the drug, you can be excessively sleepy and want to sleep all the time OR not be
able to sleep hardly at all.
You can have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, increased appetite, loss of appetite,
anger, rage, irritability, no libido, erectile dysfunction… and these are just some of the most
common ones. Oh… and the yawning can be terrible… yawning all the time… and there’s
nothing you can do about it.
During my personal sixteen-year journey into “chemical happiness,” I was treating patients with
these same medications that I tried…
They were dealing with the same side effects… and dealing with the same withdrawal issues.
I followed the mantra of my professional training and just accepted that this was the way things
were supposed to be.
Again, I rationalized it with another professional mantra that we were offering the very best
treatments available… after all, what other options were there.
How naïve that was to say that… but it’s where I was at the time.
During that time, I mostly treated patients who were in their mid- to late thirties and older.
They would tell me that they were feeling unhappy . . . but many of them would follow it with,
“But I know it’s not depression . . . it’s got to be something else . . . some kind of imbalance.”
Most of the time, they would follow it with a laundry list of psychiatric medications they had
tried—none of which worked well.
Then one day, around the age of forty, it dawned on me: maybe my patients had been right all
Maybe my medical training had failed me.
Maybe the pharmaceutical industry had lied to me.
Maybe there were answers outside of traditional medical approaches.
I had to find a different way of doing things.
From that point forward, I made it my mission to become a student of the best alternative
therapies that a person could use to physically and emotionally regain happiness from the
Now, believe me, I knew that walking down this road could mean committing professional
You see, I had been practicing psychiatry for years now.
I was a company man.
I spoke for numerous pharmaceutical companies.
I talked the talk and walked the walk.
I believed the lockstep answers fed to me in my medical training, and, not ironically, these same
answers were fed to me by the drug reps that made sales calls on me at my office.
For those of you who may not know, here’s a bit of insider information… a peak behind the
curtain, if you will.
As a prescriber, you don’t get asked to be a speaker for a pharmaceutical company unless
you’re a high volume prescriber… that’s the first thing you need to know.
And secondly, Big Pharma has pockets deep enough to be very persuasive.
They provide prescribers with the most recent studies… all of which happen to prove their point
and sway prescribing in their direction.
They are fully aware that prescribers are busy and have little time to do in-depth clinical
reading of professional journals.
But the proverbial rabbit hole goes deeper.
All you have to do is follow the money.
Open up most any professional journal, and you will find TWO to SIX page advertising spreads
for this drug or that with a cost-per-ad that will rival advertising costs in major secular
These same Big Pharma companies are the ones that will pay $100,000 or more for a booth at a
I give you these tidbits to let you know that the information medical professionals have at their
disposal is tainted… and the professional organizations are tainted… they have been corrupted
by Big Pharma.
I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it first hand.
And, as you may recall from podcast episode one, the numbers show it.
The U.S. is almost last in health outcomes and almost first in healthcare spending.
When are we going to wake up and recognize the disconnect here?
But, I digress.
Until this point, I had been 100 percent sold on the fact that pharmaceutical drugs were the
answer, but that day I had my epiphany, something inside of me snapped.
I was repulsed by all the lies propagated by Big Pharma . . . lies fed to me during my education;
lies that led me down a path of unrest; and lies that certainly didn’t reverse my depression.
I couldn’t live like this anymore, and I couldn’t keep poking pills down my own throat and down
the throats of my patients either.
You might say I had a professional mid-life crisis.
I refer to it as an awakening.
I remember resolving in my mind that I couldn’t do this anymore.
Either I was getting out of health care altogether or I was going to reinvent myself.
I set out on a journey to find answers, and it came in the strangest of ways.
While away at a cardiovascular conference, the keynote speaker, who was the world’s foremost
authority on cholesterol, said something that lit a spark in me.
Here was a guy being paid big bucks by some Big Pharma brand to speak about cholesterol.
Instead, what he did surprised the audience.
His entire lecture was on the natural treatment of elevated cholesterol.
I have to admit, I was in awe.
As a former speaker for Big Pharma brands, I knew what it meant to do what he was doing.
He was committing professional suicide, but he didn’t care… something that I later confirmed in
a conversation with him.
During that conversation, he also shared some insights that changed the course of my
He pointed me in the right direction, telling me who I needed to study under to gain the
knowledge and expertise that I needed.
I immediately started seeking that education.
After studying under the guru that he recommended for less than three months, I closed down
my office practice.
I had never been so sure of something in all of my life. I kept doing inpatient work to pay the
bills, but I didn’t darken the door of an office for nearly a year and a half.
I went on to train under this guru for a total of three years.
During that first year of training, I began implementing the techniques on myself… and guess
what? I began to feel better.
I began to lose weight and keep it off. My energy came up. My mood improved. I had stumbled
onto something big. I eventually stopped my antidepressants completely in the spring of 2013.
Finally, I was free. I had become an escape artist! I had escaped the confining boxes that Big
Pharma and traditional medicine had me trapped in. It was a beautiful thing.
But something still wasn’t quite right. Sure, I was off antidepressants and happy for the first
time in nearly two decades. But something was off. Then, it dawned on me. I had to share this
with others and help them become escape artists too.
In my second year of functional & integrative medicine training, I re-opened the doors of my
office. This time, I wasn’t practicing psychiatry.
I was so turned off by traditional psychiatry that I didn’t even want to be associated with it, and
I was proud that I had escaped that box and was now beginning my journey to help others
escape that box too.
I laugh about it today, but it took me two years to realize that I never left psychiatry. I recall
coming home one day and saying to my wife, “Guess what? I realized today that I never quit
practicing psychiatry, I’m simply doing it differently. I’m doing it holistically.” Always the voice
of patient wisdom, my wife said to me, “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to
figure that out.”
You see, it wasn’t enough for me to transform myself. I had to pay it forward. I had to share
other people… a way to get out of the confining boxes that traditional medicine, Big Pharma,
and others try to put us into.
And, that’s exactly what I do today. Sure, my repertoire has far surpassed natural mood
management. In my office, we manage auto-immune disorders, obesity, nutritional deficits,
PCOS, menopause, andropause, gut issues, and thyroid dysfunction… just to name a few.
But… since this episode is focused on the natural recovery from depression, I’ll leave you with
Throughout my years of traditional psychiatry and functional psychiatry, a few things have
Research shows that women and men in their early thirties begin to experience a decline in
hormone activity by as much as one to two1 to 2 percent per year… and this decline continues
through the rest of their life.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that according to the National Center for Health statistics,
women age 40 to 59forty to –fifty-nine have the highest rates of depression over any other age
group (12.3 percent in fact%)… suicide rates among men are highest in their fifties, and,
regardless of gender, those age 40 to 59forty to –fifty-nine are the least happy when compared
to every other age group.?
Sadly, with hormone disruptors in our diet and environment, we are seeing the ages for these
So.. is hormone decline the cause of this depression epidemic in adults age 30 and over?
I certainly think it’s one of the main causes.
In fact, since I’ve been practicing functional medicine, I’ve developed a very good track record
at helping people avoid antidepressants and helping them come off of antidepressants… all by
And… now that I have a functional medicine background, when we look at those in their late
teens and twenties, I often find nutrition, diet, gut disturbances, PCOS, and/or thyroid as the
Many of you listening to this podcast may have been struggling silently for years…
Or perhaps this is a new struggle…
Either way, you need the help of a functional & integrative-medicine provider because most
likely your regular medical provider doesn’t have the necessary information to help you take
back control of your life.
Don’t be forced into boxes of an antiquated system that you have no business being put into…
boxes that follow old, unchallenged treatment modalities.
You can easily find yourself in a cycle of being bounced around from doctor to specialist to new
specialist with different results and no clear answers.
Sadly, when traditional medicine can’t find the answer to what ails you, it will typically use
depression and anxiety as the default diagnosis box to put you in.
If you don’t take away anything else from this episode, I want you to leave with this…
Be informed… know your options… stand up for better alternatives… and find your voice!!!
Join us next time where I’ll be talking about the last segment in my personal story. From 390
lbs. To A Fit Without Diet Pills