An unforgettable memoir about the turmoil of antidepressant withdrawal and the work it takes to unravel the stories we tell ourselves to rationalize our suffering.
Brooke Siem was among the first generation of minors to be prescribed antidepressants. Initially diagnosed and treated in the wake of her father’s sudden death, this psychiatric intervention sent a message that something was pathologically wrong with her and that the only “fix” was medication. As a teenager, she stepped into the hazy world of antidepressants just at the time when she was forming the foundation of her identity. For the following fifteen years, every situation she faced was seen through the lens of brokenness.
A decade and a half later, still on the same cocktail of drugs, Brooke found herself hanging halfway out her Manhattan high-rise window, calculating the time it would take to hit the ground. As she looked for breaks in the pedestrian traffic patterns, a thought dawned on her: “I’ve spent half my life—and my entire adult life—on antidepressants. Who might I be without them?”
Unfurled against a global backdrop, May Cause Side Effects is the gripping story of what happened when, after fifteen years and 32,760 pills, Brooke was faced with a profound choice that plunged her into a year of excruciating antidepressant withdrawal and forced her to rebuild her entire life.
An illuminating memoir for those who take, prescribe, or are considering psychiatric drugs, May Cause Side Effects is an honest reminder that the road to true happiness is not mapped on a prescription pad. Instead, Brooke’s story reveals the messy reality of how healing begins at the bottomless depth of our suffering, in the deep self-work that pushes us to the edges of who we are.
“This is a heart-rending and tender memoir that will start conversations we urgently need to have. It’s moving and important.”—Johann Hari, author of New York Times bestseller Chasing the Scream and international bestseller Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions
"May Cause Side Effects made me weep. It grabs you from the first page and won’t let go. Brooke’s depiction of the fragility and strength of the psyche goes straight to the gut, all at once cutting, wicked, and wise.”—Laura Munson, New York Times bestselling author and founder of Haven Writing Retreats
“Brooke gives voice to a generation of young people medicated unnecessarily for grief and loss. But she is not cowered, and her bravery is an inspiration to all who would like to live more authentically. Hopefully others will learn from her experience to separate themselves from the withdrawal effects caused by coming off antidepressants, and to find a life beyond.”—Mark Horowitz, MBBS, PhD, Clinical Research Fellow in Psychiatry at University College London and the National Health Service, England
“A gripping story that inspires us all to go back and find the parts of ourselves we lost along the way—to finally, joyfully become who we really are.”—Amy B. Scher, bestselling author of This Is How I Save My Life