Prozac or Potatoes: Which is Better?

The author votes for some of each. Though only 2 ounces of potato at a time.

Mood music for this post: “We’re All Gonna Die” by Iggy Pop and Slash:

At the suggestion of my friend Christy Hubbard, I decided to check out Kathleen Des Maisons’ book “Potatoes Not Prozac.” She suggested I take a look after reading a couple of my previous posts about being a Prozac taker. [More on that in The Engine, Prozac Winter and The Bad Pill Kept Me From The Good Pill.]

I haven’t read it from cover to cover, but I’ve digested enough of it to get the point.

Google Books gives a pretty good overview:

You’re not lazy, self-indulgent, or undisciplined. Many people who suffer from sugar sensitivity don’t even know it — and they continue to consume large quantities of sweets, breads, pasta, or alcohol. These foods can trigger exhaustion or low self-esteem, yet their biochemical impact makes those who are sugar sensitive crave them even more. This vicious cycle can continue for years, leaving sufferers overweight, fatigued, depressed, and sometimes alcoholic.

Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons came up with the solution and published it in her revolutionary book Potatoes Not Prozac. It gave you the tools needed to overcome sugar dependency, including self-tests and a step-by-step, drug-free program with a customizable diet designed to change your brain chemistry…

All in all, this is a very good self-help book. The author is deadly accurate in her assessment of sugar as a drug that’s as bad as cocaine. I know it’s true, because my own addictive behavior was fueled by large quantities of sugar and flour. And my recovery program includes a diet that shuns all foods with flour and sugar in the ingredients. I do eat potato, but only 2 ounces per meal.

Here’s my problem with the book. Well, not really a problem, but…

I admire any plan designed to bring a person to sanity without medication. Nobody WANTS to take anti-depressants. But sometimes you have to. I certainly had to. So when someone pitches a plan designed to avoid it, I grow skeptical.

I have no doubt there are people who have successfully recovered from mental illness on diet alone. But I tried that and it didn’t work. After several years of therapy, learning various coping tools and dietary tweaks, I still needed Prozac to balance out the chemicals in my brain.

I also got burned pretty badly a few years ago when I tried to do another drug-free program. You might have heard of Lucinda Bassett, star of the “Attacking Anxiety” infomercials and president of Midwest Center for Stress & Anxiety.

I watched her infomercials over and over again at the deepest depths of my anxiety and depression and, desperate to try anything, I got on the phone and bought the tapes, books and DVDs that encompass the program.

More than $500 later, I found that while useful, the program wasn’t nearly enough to help me.

And I felt burned because I got hit with extra costs that weren’t as advertised. One day a packet of vitamins came in the mail. I didn’t ask for them, and they were expensive as hell. I called the Midwest Center and told them I didn’t want the vitamins and I wanted a refund for the money they sucked out of my bank account. They essentially told me no refunds and that I should have read the fine print.

The problem with that is that when a person is messed up mentally and seeks out a program in desperation, it’s easy to take advantage of them. A desperate person is easily roped into extra costs that weren’t made clear to them during the purchasing process.

So in my mind, the center took advantage of me and suckered me out of extra money, then refused accountability. It didn’t matter in the end that the program included some useful tools — some of which I eventually adopted through the 12 Steps. I was burned, and that ruined the whole thing.

I still have the tapes and books. I’m going to gather ’em up and donate them to the local library someday so people can use it for free. I can’t think of a better way to say “fuck you” to the Midwest Center.

For me, the ultimate lesson is that there is no cookie-cutter path to mental wellness. Some tools work perfectly for one person but prove inadequate for the next guy.

In my case, it took a combination of therapy, diet change and, in the end, Prozac to make everything click.

When people suggest to me that such medication is a sham, I want to tell them they have no idea what they are talking about. Usually I just nod my head and move on, though.

Prozac worked for me, though I know drugs do nothing for other people. In some cases, the medicine can make things worse. I was lucky because I found a therapist who was up front from the beginning and took me through a very gradual process of dosage tweaks.

The big point here is that no two head cases are the same, nor are the solutions that work for each individual.

When taking the fight to mental illness and addiction, an open mind is essential.


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