In 2016, I was working as an attending psychiatrist and assistant director of a psychiatric emergency room in New York City. Day and night, I evaluated and treated individuals struggling with many different issues including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, psychosis and personality disorders. I saw many of the same people time and again (a phenomenon known as “the revolving door.”) During my psychiatric residency, I had learned that the treatment for psychiatric conditions was medication and therapy. While I usually only provided supportive therapy in the emergency room, I treated patients with many different psychiatric medications. Sometimes they were treated and discharged and sometimes they were admitted to our inpatient unit for further stabilization. However, I couldn’t help but notice that many of these individuals didn’t get better with “mainstream” psychiatric treatment (outpatient or inpatient), and in contrast to what I learned in residency, many of them actually got worse, especially the more psychiatric medications they were prescribed.
At the same time, my own personal health was abysmal. Although I did a lot of running and tried to eat relatively healthy when I could, my diet was frequently poor due to being stressed and overwhelmed by the crazy number of hours and intensity of the work. I was suffering from extreme burnout from working in the emergency room and dealing with all of the administrative and systemic problems in the healthcare system. I used caffeine and alcohol as unhealthy coping mechanisms and had numerous medical problems including advanced endometriosis, gastritis and neuropathy. My mental health was also equally poor, and I was struggling with anxiety, depression and even passive suicidal thoughts. I had long wanted to have children, but I was told by multiple doctors that this wasn’t possible and that I should have a total hysterectomy in order to “cure” my endometriosis.
One day, I told my primary care physician that I wanted to have children, and she said, “you could have children, but you need to quit your job and work on your health.” Those simple but compassionate words led me to the place I am today. I tried to cut back on the hours I was working in the emergency room and started thinking about other career options. And then I made a lot of changes in my life. I started with my diet and went completely plant based. I eliminated all of the toxic habits in my life, started exercising regularly, and began meditating. And then something magical happened. I started getting better. I went from taking 8 different medications daily to 6, then 4, and eventually none. All of my physical symptoms disappeared, and my mental health also improved significantly. I decided to start the process of IVF to try and conceive and by the summer of 2017, I had two healthy embryos ready for transfer.
The universe smiled upon me and I became pregnant with my daughter in August of 2017. By that fall, I made the decision to quit my job in New York City and move to rural Virginia (to be closer to my family). I then spent the next few months learning everything that I could about holistic, integrative and functional psychiatry. What was the most fascinating to me, is that I basically had to un-learn almost everything that I had been taught in my psychiatric training. I came to understand that psychiatric medications (although necessary sometimes), are extremely toxic and come with tremendous side effects and the potential for addiction. I learned how difficult it is to wean off of psychiatric medications once they are started. I learned that instead of treating symptoms with medications, if you discover the root causes of illness and treat them, you can many times avoid the need for medications. I learned how absolutely critical our diets are to our physical and mental health. I was absolutely inspired by my own journey to health and decided that I wanted to help guide other individuals along the same path.
In January of 2018, I opened Free Range Psychiatry, which is now a non-profit organization that treats patients across the country. In May of 2018, I gave birth to my beautiful and healthy daughter, Maya and in December of 2019, I gave birth to my gorgeous and healthy son, Rio. Since opening Free Range Psychiatry, I have helped hundreds of patients taper off of psychiatric medications or avoid them all together. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to use my own personal journey to wellness to help other souls in the universe who are struggling with poor physical and mental health. My plan is to continue growing Free Range Psychiatry by adding more psychiatrists and other practitioners. I hope to educate other practitioners, patients and the public about holistic treatments and help to spread the idea that just treating symptoms with medications will never result in true health. It turns out that we don’t have to live in illness and suffering, and there is a way to end this vicious cycle. There is a beautiful, shining light at the end of this cloud-covered tunnel, and I hope to continue guiding folks into that light.