🏆 2023 BIBA® Non-Fiction: Memoir Winner!
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.
Hi! I’m Brooke Siem. Like so many in my generation, I am a “career slasher.” That is, I am part of a modern tribe of professionals who, thanks to varied interests and the emergence of the gig economy, work multiple jobs (and write books) in wildly different sectors.
I am a writer/chef. My second book—a memoir called MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS—is about antidepressant withdrawal, a very real and common experience largely ignored by the mental health and psychiatric community. I wrote the book because it’s the story I wish I’d had while I was going through hell. In the end, getting off antidepressants, surviving psychiatric drug withdrawal, and recovering from depression has been the greatest gift of my life. I hope my story can bring hope to others.
I’m also the co-author of Prohibition Bakery, a cookbook based on my (now closed) boozy bakery in New York City.
In addition to my writing, I’m a Food Network “Chopped” Champion (Season 32, episode 6, available on Hulu), a 2014 Zagat 30 Under 30 honoree, hold a degree from Middlebury College and the Institute of Culinary Education, and have written for The Washington Post, EatingWell Magazine, and more.