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My Hidden Anxiety and Depression


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Overcoming Depression and Anxiety

So, it’s time for some personal stuff. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life. It’s genetic and runs in the family. Thank goodness we have a psychology professor (my dad) and a psychiatrist (my little sis) in the mix.

If you don’t suffer from a mental illness or if you’re not close to someone who does, here’s what you need to know:

  • Mental illness is not a character defect or laziness – it’s an illness – most often caused by a neurotransmitter imbalance.
  • Each person with mental illness will have their own experiences – not everyone feels the same way. But, there are some universal symptoms.
  • There are people in your life who suffer, but hide their symptoms well.
  • If you’re a human, you’ve experienced sadness, temporary depression, fear, nervousness, possibly even grief. This is not the same as a mental illness – which is usually more severe and certainly longer lasting. It’s very hard to understand what major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (or akathisia) are like if you haven’t experienced them. When I’ve been on a good stretch, I can’t even remember how bad it was!

I have tried almost every medication known to man. They made me gain weight that I still haven’t been able to lose and caused all kinds of side effects, but sometimes they worked (I had a good 10 year run on one medicine combo). They worked until they didn’t. Suddenly they either didn’t work or increased my anxiety to a point where I was trading one debilitating illness for another. Having a mental illness and running out of possibilities is a very scary thing.

I was in a very dark place, with no options – then I heard about TMS. Trans-magnetic cranial stimulation (TMS) sounded like something from a science fiction movie. You sit in a what is more or less a dentist’s chair and watch TV while an MRI-strength magnet creates electric pulses that go off like a woodpecker in your head every few seconds. There’s science behind it of course (the electricity stimulates the areas in the brain that are less active and promotes neurotransmitter activity – it does basically the same thing a medication would do but without side effects), and it’s FDA approved, but still a new treatment option. (Many pregnant women use TMS as a non-medication depression therapy.)

I was in a place where any treatment needed to be explored. But not only that, I’ve had all kinds of uncomfortable beauty treatments – waxing, peels, laser hair removal, CoolSculpting, IPL, Pixel Laser, Ultherapy – and even plastic surgery. So, I was a little nervous, but I needed to fix my brain and I knew I could handle it.

So, after watching lots of testimonials and doctor discussions and lectures on TMS, I decided to go to Southern California TMS Center. The treatments are very expensive, but they take insurance (as do many TMS centers across the country). And no – they didn’t pay me or comp treatments for me to write this. This is me sharing my personal issues – purely in hopes that TMS can help someone else out there who needs help.

It turns out that TMS is uncomfortable yes, but not that bad, and you get used to it very quickly. It ‘s very loud and feels like a woodpecker tapping your head. It’s not something you need sedation for or anything like that. Totally reasonable. And there’s no down time.

The nurses and doctors become like family because you have to go often (every weekday for 2-3 months). The staff at SoCal TMS were SO nice – amazing really that they can deal with depressed patients every day and still be super positive. Shout out to Stephanie!

My progress was not exactly “normal” (there’s really no normal). I had a lot of ups and downs the entire time. I also felt the effects very early – some people don’t feel anything until the middle or end of the series. I felt a buzzy, floaty feeling after the second treatment. And then my moods seemed to go up and down A LOT during the course of treatment.

Depression was the main issue, but anxiety was a close second. So, the doctor treated my left prefrontal cortex for depression and my right prefrontal cortex for anxiety (it’s not as simple as all that, but that’s more or less the gist).

Neal Brennan (comedian – of Chappelle Show fame) also went to SoCal TMS Center (there are lots of celebrities and big shots, but not every one wants to talk about it), and he talked about his experience on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and online.

After 40+ treatments, I can say that my depression had lifted! I wasn’t at all sure it would work, but it totally did. I may need to go in for a treatment or two every now and then (probably months or even years from now), but I won’t need to complete a whole series of treatments. Amazing! If you want to try TMS, find out if your insurance will cover it and then look for a TMS center in your area. I highly recommend reading 3000 Pulses Later – Martha Rhodes’ story about her experience with TMS when it was still very new.

However, because of my “special ridiculously sensitive body”, my depression went away and my anxiety got worse. So, now I’m dealing with that. MOST people don’t have increased anxiety after TMS – if anything it helps with anxiety for most people.

Jen Mathews

Most of the anti-anxiety drugs are physically addictive and have a lot of crappy side effects. There are a few things that have worked for me or that I’m currently trying out. Here are my tricks:

  • Distraction. They say you shouldn’t avoid your problems by distracting yourself. Well, if you’re getting help for a mental illness and doing everything you can to “fix” the problem, there are going to be times when you just have to wait out the storm.When that happens, I have to tell myself that “this too shall pass.” During these times, I watch a lot of TV/movies (or if I’m up for leaving the house – have my fiance take me to a movie). Especially comedy. Laughing and smiling really helps. And books can really help. Not self-help books, but books that make you laugh, or take you away from your troubles. I have read Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess)’s books several times. DEFINITELY BUY HER BOOKS! (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy) Seriously – I laughed out loud so many times when my poor fiance was trying to sleep!
  • Meditation. Whether your mental illness is caused by wacky neurotransmitters or not, you can create new pathways in the brain by meditating or visualization (or even prayer if that’s your thing). It sounds ridiculous, but researchers now know that the brain is neuroplastic and can be changed. To learn more about this, I highly recommend this book by James H. Silberman. My latest test is to train my brain by meditating while wearing an essential oil blend from Healanah. It’s a “handmade healing spray” called “Enjoy” and to me, it really does smell like happiness. It smells like sugared lemons (petit-grain and grapefruit), which is uplifting (and reminds me of my time in London years ago). My goal is to associate positive thoughts with this scent. Even if it doesn’t work, I smell damn good.
  • Sunshine. Sounds silly, but sunlight is necessary to create Vitamin D and serotonin. We spend a lot of time indoors staring at screens. And wearing too much sunscreen can actually be a bad thing when it comes to lack of sunlight.
  • A good support system. My fiance (the most empathetic guy I’ve ever met) and my family and friends have been life savers for me. They are always there to listen, even when it seems like I’ve gone over the same issues a million times with them. If you don’t have caring, understanding people in your life, definitely seek out a good therapist. Even if you do have a great support system, a therapist can be helpful. I haven’t had much experience in this department, but I know a lot of people who swear by it. I plan to explore the wonderful world of therapy and see if it helps me.
  • Exercise. Yeah…I’m still working on this one. When I’m feeling depressed or anxious, I often want to hide in bed – not run around town. I bought an exercise bike for my apartment – which has helped to get me moving. I think this will help if you can do it. If you can’t do it, don’t worry about it. Worrying about the things you SHOULD be doing when you’re depressed is one of the worst symptoms!

So now that I’ve bared my soul and hopefully did my part to end the (UTTERLY RIDICULOUS) stigma around mental illness, I hope to hear from you. Please share anything that has helped you through depression, anxiety or even just a rough life patch in the comments section below. Or if you have any questions about TMS, ask me! You never know who you might help. Thanks for reading!

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About chiefbunny

Jen Mathews is the Chief Bunny and social media maestro for My Beauty Bunny. She is also the President of Top Tier Media, a social media agency for beauty, fashion, health and lifestyle brands.

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56 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Laughing and talking with trusted friends definitely helps me when my anxiety takes over.

  2. LOVE that you shared this. Sad that it’s so common and still not talked about. I have MDD with agitated depression (which means that when I’m triggered I get anxiety and bitchy, basically, before I want to crawl into bed), and PTSD (from several traumas as well as abuse). I think it’s mild compared to what others may experience, but still very real. I tried a gamut (sp?) of medications and finally found that celexa/lexapro and neurontin/gabapentin combined with enzymatic therapy (a process where you send our spit to Alan and they ‘prescribe’ the right combo for you) worked best. When my ex and I wanted to get pregnant, I had to get off the meds. I researched lots of herbal remedies (you have to be careful due to research not really knowing what is or is not good for preggers) and suffered through withdrawals (brain and body zaps), and -being a spiritual person-relied more on prayer and meditation (and therapy), and now am able to live on taking just b vitamins, vitamin D3, and holy basil. I also found that when I ‘released’ the unhealthy, non-supportive people in my life (my ex…), a lot of the tension and triggers went away. I still have my days, but they aren’t as deep or drastic as they used to be. I still have my triggers (anxiety in crowds), but I have learned healthy coping mechanisms (breathing, relaxing, calling my support system, praying…) that get me through. I also ‘allow’ myself a bad day or moment and don’t try to force my way out. TMS sounds cool and I hope that your sharing this brings hope to others. Thank you for your vulnerability and authenticity with us!

  3. Sharing your story only helps end the stigma associated with mental illness. I loved what you said here : Mental illness is not a character defect or laziness – it’s an illness.

  4. Thanks Nikki!
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  5. Thanks for sharing your story Lisa! I would love to hear more about the enzymatic therapy – that sounds really interesting. Oh and yes – holy basil! That has helped me a lot – along with phosphatidyl serine, relora, theanine and Gaia’s Adrenal Health formula.
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  6. Thanks for sharing your story! I’ve never heard of this treatment option but do know a few people in my life that might be able to benefit from this type of therapy and your other suggestions as well.

  7. I’m so sorry that you have to go through all the pain of depression, Jen. Both depression and anxiety run in my family so I know about it first hand. I also have had anxiety all my life but never really knew it. I’m glad to hear that you’ve had good results with TMS for depression. My mom tried every medication available at the time and found that only shock treatments helped her a bit, but did a number on her memory and handwriting. I’m glad that there have been some advances in medication and other forms of treatment since then. You’re right, the stigma was terrible for her and for us in her family. Glad that’s changing too. All the best xoxo
    Allison recently posted..Oils of Heaven and Balm Balm: Organic Skincare from UK-based Sister BrandsMy Profile

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s very brave and will help multitudes of people. I have one question. Did you feel unsure of who you were when the depression was gone because it had been such a part of you?
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  9. I’m so glad you found something that works for you Jen! Depression runs in my family too–for the men and women. Both my sister and I are on anti-depressants and I’m lucky that mine work for me. My mom wasn’t so lucky and went through many before she found one that worked. I hope you can find something for the anxiety that works just as well. We love you and you are very brave for sharing your story!
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  10. Thank you so much for being so open and sharing your story and your experience with this treatment. I’m glad that it has helped to lift your depression and I hope that you get the right kind of treatment to help with your anxiety. <3

    Until we stop stigmatizing mental illness and normalize it, people who need to reach out for help and support will continue to put it off, in fear that doing so will have negative consequences.
    Erika recently posted..Get Glowing and Soft Skin With Farmhouse Fresh Sweet Tea Whipped Shea Butter Body PolishMy Profile

  11. This is such a wonderful article. So many people don’t understand mental illness but it’s real and affects more people than we realize. I’ve gone through small incidents with both depression and anxiety. Meditation did help with the anxiety, unfortunately I needed meds for the depression. Getting my sleep regulated has helped a lot with depression though. Thanks for sharing.
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  12. Thanks Marcia! I’m so glad you found relief!
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  13. Thanks Erika!
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  14. Thanks Cindy! I’m so glad your meds are working. Not finding what works can be so frustrating!
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  15. Hi Shelley – very interesting question! I actually felt more like myself when the depression lifted. I have heard some people say they feel the meds make them feel weird or that they stifle creativity. I actually had more “get up and go” to take on life and get things done. I never felt different – just better. If that makes any sense.
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  16. Oh wow Allison – I’m sorry to hear your mom had to deal with that! I have a couple of friends who have done ECT and although it can be a lifesaver, it’s also pretty invasive and disruptive. The memory issue is one that I’ve heard a lot. I’m so glad we have TMS as an option now (although it doesn’t work for everyone). #endthestigma
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  17. Oh good Stacie! I really hope they read this and give it a try. Tell them to watch testimonials on YouTube – that really helped me make up my mind to try it.
    chiefbunny recently posted..My Hidden Anxiety and DepressionMy Profile

  18. Thanks for sharing. Mental illness runs in my family, and I have had anxiety and depression most of my life. I use a combination of medication and therapy. I am lucky to be able to afford a good therapist because none of them take insurance. The other thing that really helped me was cognitive therapy. I went to someone who specialized in it and got 15 good years out of it. I hate the stigma–luckily I can work at home now, which makes managing my illness a lot easier.

  19. Thank you Jen for this post, and being so open and honest. I’ve never heard of TMS, but you know I love all natural healing! It’s fascinating! I treated my lyme with magnets and lasers, and I’m 95% better. I also was able to get off my depression and anxiety meds for the first time in years.
    I’m also listening to motivating podcasts, and reading as much as I can. I’ll definitely look into the books you recommended. I’m so glad that your depression is better, and I hope that your anxiety is getting better too.

  20. I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I’ve never heard of this treatment before!

  21. I’m so glad that it worked for your depression! It’s so hard to get moving with these things… I suffered from it for a long time. Originally the doctor thought “baby blues” and maybe that was part of it. I was put on countless medications, some of which made me feel absolutely NO emotion at all, which wasn’t good. Tons of doctors and diagnosis later (all wrong) I finally self-referred myself to Magee Women’s Hospital here in Pittsburgh. I figured if anyone knew women issues it’d be them. I first went to a gyne there and after she listened to me and examined me she told me what she thought I might have and sent me to a specialist in the hospital who examined me and knew I had it in 5 seconds. I ended up having Adenomyosis which was giving me anxiety, extreme panic attacks and depression all because it was effing with my hormone levels. We tried a few options but nothing worked and tbh just made it all worse so I had a full hysterectomy last year (they took everything but my ovaries). The change in my mood is indescribable. I no longer have depression, extreme anger, anxiety… I didn’t have to hide any of it. I can’t even tell you the 180 it is. My panic attacks used to last 30 minutes and didn’t end until I threw up. I haven’t had any attacks, even the smallest one, since my surgery. I don’t know if you are experiencing any other symptoms but it’s crazy what hormones can do to our minds and bodies. This website helped me the most http://www.adenomyosisadviceassociation.org/Symptoms.html . I had every single symptom but some people only had a few. It’s said Adenomyosis is rare but tbh I just think most doctors don’t know to look for it and it’s not diagnosed. Their Facebook page is awesome, too. It’s a long road to figuring out depression and anxiety. PLMK if you ever need to talk! <3
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  22. Thank you for sharing this! Too many people say, “Oh, it’s all in your mind; get over it”, when it comes to anxiety. I’m so glad TMS worked for you. Love the coping tricks. Exercise in particular has been very effective for me <3
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  23. Wow Brooke – I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Thank goodness you found doctors who could help! I’m going to look into this. I have been diagnosed with all kinds of things (fibromyalgia, hashimoto’s, leaky gut, lyme disease). Some by traditional western doctors (Kaiser, Cedars, etc.) and some by naturopathic doctors (collect them all!). I suspect there is a hormonal component to my health issues – whether that’s thyroid or progesterone/estrogen, or something else.
    chiefbunny recently posted..Layla Mattress – How I Get My Beauty SleepMy Profile

  24. Thanks for sharing Ann! I have had bad luck with therapists – I’m sure I just haven’t found the right one yet. I have heard that CBT can be very helpful.
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  25. It’s definitely worth asking about and even eliminating it by getting a pelvic exam, MRI or Ultrasound. Those things won’t conclusively diagnose it, but they’d be able to tell if your uterus is enlarged or boggy and then discuss other options and treatments to help. I think the birth control may have helped if they’d have figured it out a lot quicker. At the point I was at it was too far progressed.
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  26. Thank you for sharing your story and your process with TMS. My sister has bad anxiety, I do too – but it’s mainly onset because I have very high blood pressure, my sister – she’s always had depression and anxiety and also suffers from Migraines so her neurologist had suggested it. Ssadly there is no place on the island that does it – so we would have to travel away for her to go. It’s something we look into and stuff and I will share this with her.

  27. Thank you for opening up and sharing your story. I went through several years of severe anxiety in my early 20s and was able to overcome it with meds and therapy. At one point I was too scared to fall asleep, so I went without sleep for days, which totally ruined my health at the time.
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  28. Good for you! I know from my own experience that anxiety and depression can really take a lot out of you and stand in the way of your enjoying anything in life. I’m so glad to hear you’ve found a treatment that works for you! Keep up the good work!

  29. When I was going through a rough patch and my anxiety was at an all time high, a friend of mine recommended I read up on eating according to your blood type. Through that I learned that Type Os (like me) don’t respond well to caffeine and other types of food and that anxiety disorders are actually quite common. It also said that exercise is the best way for Type Os to overcome anxiety. I started following the Type O diet and noticed that my attacks have significantly decreased in just a couple of months!

  30. *hugs* Thank you for sharing all of this. You know I treat my anxiety with daily medication and see a therapist. It helps tremendously. I’m really grateful to learn more about your Trans-magnetic cranial stimulation (TMS) therapy.
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  31. Thank you so much for opening about this Jen. I’m so happy TMS was helpful for you. I wish I would have good insurance to try it out myself. Depression is hitting home- though I never talked about this openly. The more I look into this, it seems it is a way higher number that suffers from this than we all think…

  32. Thanks for sharing your story Jen. I have also struggled with this. I am doing a lot with diet & exercise these days, and exercise helps greatly with anxiety. Keeping taking good care of yourself x

  33. Thanks Mary! Glad to hear you’re doing well! πŸ™‚
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  34. Hey Sissi! I had to change my insurance in order to get TMS – but was so worth it!
    chiefbunny recently posted..SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Provence Lavender BabyMy Profile

  35. Oddly enough, I went to get a M.A. in Mental Health counseling to help my oldest and I was diagnosed with PTSD. For me, I have a combo of anxiety and depression as a result of the PTSD. I’ve tried so many meds and like you, weight gain has been a side effect that bugs me. It was a combo of psych meds and prednisone that made me gain. Now, I’m having the hardest time losing the weight. It whacked my body out to the point of when I lose weight and I eat the smallest non low cal foods, my weight jumps back up! πŸ™

  36. I’ve never heard of TMS before and have suffered on amd off with depression for years. Very interesting indeed.
    What has worked for me over the last couple of years is mindfulness meditation. I’m not sure if it will ever completely go away but i now have more acceptance when it happens.
    Thanks for sharing
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  37. I think you touched on a really important thing that people seem to forget: when things are OK, you forget how bad it is going through depression. I always keep that in mind when trying to help someone else who’s struggling.

  38. Nothing is silly if it works, especially as you say when you have tried everything.

    We have depression in my family.

    I will keep you in my thoughts.

    Hug!

  39. Mental health is an issue that is not spoken loudly, psychiatric help can make a difference in the battle.

  40. Thanks for sharing your story.Nice

  41. Have a routine. When people feel down, they can get into poor sleep patterns, staying up late and sleeping during the day. Try to get up at your normal time and stick to your routine as much as possible. Not having a routine can affect your eating. You may stop cooking regular meals, eat snacks throughout the day instead or miss breakfast because you’re still in bed.

  42. Your story is so nice. I have also struggled with this. Thank you for sharing this.

  43. Whether you’re battling depression or just trying to avoid the afternoon crash, balancing your blood sugar is key. Make sure to eat regular meals and snacks, including a good source of protein at every one.

  44. Its great that you have got a bike for your apartment, i tried to exercise more too. Now I am eating fruit and nuts for breakfast an avoiding bad snacks. Thanks for the positive words. Love your writing style.

  45. Interesting. As a therapist, I had never heard of TMS before. Glad you had success with it. I definitely agree with your other points about laughter, exercise, and movement. I do therapy outside with my clients and incorporate yoga and movement whenever possible which seems to greatly increase their results. Congrats to you on your journey.

  46. Thank you so much for your honesty and experience. I have been suffering g with depression for 20 years but can hid it very well and on the outside I look like an accomplished successful girl with three beautiful sons and a great life but behind closed doors I have had bouts of depression off and on for many years. The first 10 years were managed depression free with Prozac but when I stared having my kids things got worse. I have tried every medication and conbo out there, feeling better for a short tine. Just started TMS and starting my 3rd week today. When did you feel better? Looking for some words of encouragement and support. Thank you!!!!!!

  47. Hi Carli! Thanks for sharing. I had so many ups and downs with TMS – even though I was VERY sensitive to it (which is fairly unusual), I didn’t feel completely better until the end of the 40+ treatments. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss! (jen at mybeautybunny dot com)
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  48. Thanks for sharing your story, that is never easy. It can sometimes be cathartic and at the very least this will undoubtedly help readers that are suffering from similar anxiety and depression find some solace in knowing they aren’t alone. Unfortunately, people battling depression or anxiety often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate which can make matters much worse.

  49. Anxiety is interesting, because it tends to get worse when you try to fight it. It’s not clear why that occurs, but most likely the stress that your body goes through in order to control the stress of anxiety only makes it worse, as does the effort it takes to try to not feel your natural feelings.

  50. I agree with this – exercise has been proven a lot to help with depression, when you are depressed, you are pressing your energy in. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic here

  51. Anxiety is a bitch. I used to suffer from depression as well and I’d rather have that back. I can always feel peoples moods sometimes I have to leave the room due to a certain persons mood. Constantly worrying about shit that will never happen. I’m a new father and I had a panic attack because I was worried about being a good father. Anxiety is terrible. People don’t understand our thought process. I’ve tried to explain it to my gf. She just doesn’t understand. I’m a chronic worrier. How do you change your thoughts after a life time or worrying?

  52. Hi Aiden, there are so many thing you can do to try to calm the anxiety monster, but I personally believe that if your chemicals are out of balance, you need to be on the right medication to fix them. Have you talked to a psychiatrist about it?
    chiefbunny recently posted..Lipstick League – Do You Use Micellar Water?My Profile

  53. I’ve suffered from depression for all my life
    which is why i made a site dedicated to it,
    check it out
    http://thtbeast.com

  54. That’s a really great informative article. For me, a one or two-hour workout session is perfect for busting stress. I also recommend everyone to do the workout if you are stressed.

  55. Thank you for writing this article. I just wrote an article on treatments for depression (http://www.infocounselling.com/depression-treatment-plan-why-am-i-depressed/), but I did not include TMS or ECT for that matter. It is really useful for me, as a future psychologist to know what the actual experience of getting TMS is like. It was unfortunate that it did not take away your anxiety. I wonder if nutritional supplementation would help a little. I found out recently that some experts believe that the vitamin D3 recommendations, for example, may be off by a factor of 10. That means that, instead of 1000 IU, a person ought to have 10,000 IU per day! That is quite a difference. I wish you all the best!
    ~ Rachelle

  56. Great post! Thank you for sharing these experiences and this information. I am glad to hear that your depression has lifted, but good luck with the anxiety!

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