How Gardening Helped Me Quit My Antidepressant

When grocery store shelves began emptying sporadically in 2021, I started to worry in earnest about food security. I had enough land for a large garden, and I figured that 2022 was the perfect time to start producing some of my own food.

So last March, I pulled up hundreds of rocks, put down hundreds of square feet of cardboard to suppress weeds, and spread 7 cubic yards of compost. Over-ambitious and eager to produce a lot of food, I prepared more than 1,000 square feet of growing space.

When I resolved to start growing food, I didn’t know that taking on gardening would take me off my antidepressant. I had been on it since I was 18 years old. It saved me much suffering when I was younger, and maybe even my life (Lord knows how bad my depression could have gotten without intervention).

Last winter, however, I felt stable despite some more recently developed anxiety. I began to suspect maybe my antidepressant was no longer necessary. After all, the psychiatrist who initially prescribed it hadn’t said it was a lifelong sentence. Some people come off Bupropion and do well even five or 10 years later.

Since starting the garden, I had something to look forward to, a grand project to design and tinker with, and a whole new realm of knowledge to dig into. I was excited. Doubtless, I would get into all sorts of mischief, like when I was a kid building unstable forts in the backyard forest. Only this time, it would be safer. What’s the worst that can happen — I kill some plants?

Likewise, what’s the worst that could happen if I stopped my medication? I know my depression well, and I would go back on the drug if my doctor thought it necessary.

Sometime during my early garden research and too-early planting of seedlings, I began decreasing my dosage of the antidepressant until I was off it completely. I felt no worse — if anything, the facial pain I believe stemmed from the anxiety was a bit less intense.

Gardening eventually brought a whole host of benefits I had only just begun to unlock in late winter. It gives me something to look forward to and prepare for when nothing’s really growing outside. The first year before spring finally came, I constructed rock walls, dug drainage trenches, and built rabbit fencing in addition to starting my seeds indoors and preparing the soil.

Gardening helps limit my use of social media and keeps me from overconsuming news and analysis. It also gets me outside in the sunshine (and sometimes the wind and sleet). When I’m outside doing manual labor, also known as exercise, I’m not inside snacking or baking treats.

Working in my garden has taught me discipline and perseverance. Hundreds of seedlings faced demise in my care, and many more seeds never sprouted. But I kept trying until I got some sort of success. Nurturing the soil and the plants connects me to nature in a way I can’t experience by tossing a football or taking walks with my kids. The garden welcomes my children, teaching them how plants grow, where their food comes from, and valuable skills to grow their own. This year, my eldest will have her own patch of soil to grow seeds in.

Growing my own produce has lessened my dependence on increasingly pricey and understocked grocery stores. And it gives me “gold star moments” that are rare in “adulting” activities. A stack of folded laundry has nothing on picking a ripe tomato or that first summer squash.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the topic, read about it here.

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