There must be a better way to heal depression and find more light!
"I have taken 10,920 antidepressants. To let go. To fall. Who might I be without them?" - Brooke Siem
From the very beginning of her memoir May Cause Side Effects, Brooke Siem plunges her readers into her heavily medicated world that looks like this: "6 prescriptions a day X 7 days a week = 42 pills per week. 42 52 weeks in a year = 2,184 pills per year. 2,184 X 15 years = 32,760 pills. One third of those 32,760 medications are for my head. 10,920 antidepressants."
Brooke Siem was among the first generation of teens to be medicated with antidepressants after her father suddenly passed away when she was only 15. When old enough to make her own medical decisions, Siem chose to live life differently and advocated for herself to get off her antidepressants. Unfortunately, one of her doctors told her to get off the pills without any gradual preparation. The emotional and mental struggle that followed shows the readers how the antidepressant battle is so hard to win and how patients are left to fend for themselves while experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
The author's poignant question "Who was I before antidepressants?" at the beginning of the memoir takes readers down the author's journey of rediscovering her true self, of figuring out how to live with more joy and light just as her own mother surrounded her with "a beam of white light."
But reaching this beam of light did not come easily to the author, who makes deep philosophical and existential inquiries throughout the book, such as: "people always talk about how antidepressants flatten a person, how they push the issues down and dull it away. But people are wrong. I was never numb. I was simply not here. And now that it's time to let my soul back in, I find all the places that are broken. What is even left of me to recover?"
The juxtaposition of brokenness and healing, light and darkness/life and death are recurring themes in Siem's memoir, while she tried different modalities of healing to assuage her despair and anguish. This different modality of healing is described as Compassion Key, a revolutionary healing modality that helps identify, integrate, repair, and release sources of emotional and physical pain, trauma, and discomfort, according to Siem.
"My soul was separate then. Not so much protected by the drugs but suspended in a state of permanent shelter, the doors to both darkness and light slammed shut." - Brooke Siem
The courage to make changes in her life takes the protagonist on all kinds of adventures from winning the Food Network Chopped competition to traveling abroad for a remote year of work, where Siem created her own "eat, pray, love" adventure stemming from different premises than Elizabeth Gilbert's.
Thus, Siem's memoir not only encapsulates the loss of a parent, the battle to emerge out of darkness while remembering the light, but also the rediscovering journey of her true self, as well as the endearing and loving mother-daughter relationship that helped Siem heal.
In her acknowledgment, Siem said about Dee, her loving and supportive mother: "thank you for picking up the phone every single time, for helping me chase moonshot like opening a bakery and writing a book, and for eschewing parental norms and treating me like a partner rather than a perpetual child."
To find out more about Brooke Siem's memoir, her life after anti-depressants, and being a Food Network 'Chopped' champion, please listen to the full episode on Seeds of Sunshine.
Seeds of Sunshine is Carmen Micsa's multigenerational podcast that she started together with her daughter.