It’s time for people to stop being afraid of being stigmatized and start having a real conversation about mental illness. This article is the first step for me.
To say that the last year of my life has been the most challenging year ever would be a drastic understatement. There was 3 months where every single day I wanted to end my life. I constantly fantasized about suicide, I would have done anything to ease the pain. It started like most tragic stories start, with a girl.
Her name was Elise and I was madly in love with her. The courtship lasted a year and it was the most intense set of experiences I’ve had in my life. We were like two reactive chemicals, when we were together something unpredictable would always happen. The energy was insane in every way, and there was no boundaries, nothing was off-limits. Like most passionate romances, after a year it came to an equally spectacular ending. For a month after we separated I was elated, then I unwisely spent time with her again and the turmoil began. Half of me knew I could never have anything remotely functional with this woman, the other half was completely convinced that I could somehow make it work. I became a man at war with myself.
Each day was a downward spiral, my grip on reality started slipping further and further from my reach. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take 4 or 5 hours just to get out of bed. There was no joy in anything that I used to do. Even when I would kiteboard, I would end up crying hysterically. Everything became a pointless distraction. I had no direction, felt no control and nothing seemed to matter anymore. For 3 months I constantly wanted to end my life every single day. The only thing that got me through the day was the hope that the next day would be better. It never was, and I was giving up hope. There seemed like there was no way out.
Things got frighteningly bad. For a week I started shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t walk, and brushing my teeth became impossible. I was so afraid and felt like there was no one I could turn to. Then the voices started. There had always been a kind gentle voice in my head that quietly told me what I needed to do to be satisfied. Suddenly the little voice got very, very loud. It kept telling me to do things that were absolutely out of character. It kept repeating “Just end it now, end it NOW”.
After 3 months of hell, something happened and I started to pray. I had never believed in a god, I was praying to something inside of me. I prayed to the part of me that honestly believed that things could be better. I wasn’t present for my son or anyone else in my life. My closest friendships had self-destructed under the stress of my mental illness and my relationship with my child’s mother was far more stressed than it had ever been. I was desperate to heal myself.
Somehow the praying changed something in me. Subconsciously I think I knew a lot of the problems I was experiencing but consciously I was without a clue. On a whim I bought a blood sugar meter and started testing my own blood sugar. For 6 years I had used a gallon of OJ a day to regulate my blood sugar whenever I was hypoglycemic. It turns out I had developed Reactive Hypoglycemia and my pancreas was producing far more insulin than it needed to. On top of that I had also developed something called Adrenergic Postprandial Syndrome. This meant when my blood sugar would spike and I would produce way too much insulin causing it to drop very quickly. My body would freak out thinking my brain was going to get starved for sugar and an adrenaline surge would start. This surge of adrenaline would cause the liver to start burning Glycogen which would regulate my blood sugar again. These constant Adrenal reactions were taxing the entire system and causing me to act like a speed junkie. I was spiraling out of control so I decided to cut all sugar and starches out of my diet.
In the span of the next 3 months I spent almost $5000 on doctors and tests to figure out what was happening with me. This was a leap of faith, as I hadn’t been able to work for almost 4 months and I knew that it would be several more months before I could work again. It turns out my Adrenal Glands were massively overactive and producing about twice the amount of Cortisol that they should have been. On top of that I found out I was also Gluten intolerant. I switched to a diet of mostly beans and squash and started feeling much better. For about a month I was fine, then I saw Elise again and started spiraling out of control again. I tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as EMDR and both helped a little but not as much as acupuncture. When I did acupuncture I would cry the entire hour or two I was in the chair, but I would get one or two days of relief. I started to do acupuncture two or three times a week.
In my prayers the reassurance I constantly received from myself was the message that if I believed that my body could heal itself. A big part of this healing was through dance. I danced 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes for over 15 hours a week. I danced like a man possessed by demons, I danced like a monster, I danced like a god. I danced because I believed that my body needed to move to heal. I danced because it really helped.
The entire time I was trying to heal myself I was reading constantly. I read over 50 books on depression and mental illness. I can’t convey how strange it was to be so sick and to be working so hard just to comprehend what was happening in my own mind. After 8 months of struggle I finally stumbled on the solution.
A few sentences in an obscure book on Depression talked about experiments that were done in the 50’s in mental wards all over America where patients with extreme depression and schizophrenia were given regular megadoses of Niacin (B3) and Vitamin C. They had found amazing results by giving doses of 3000mg of Niacin which is about 12,000% USRDA.
I took 500mg which is about 2000% the USRDA and went to bed after the flushing. When Niacin flushes the blood vessels constrict, your skin turns bright red and it feels like a bad sunburn for 10 minutes to an hour. It was uncomfortable, but at this point I would have tried anything to make things better. I remember clearly waking up in the middle of the night to take a piss and feeling completely normal. I was floored, it was as if my life was a dream and I had suddenly woken up. I went back to bed and woke up the next morning and everything seemed fine. I was still thinking about Elise constantly but there wasn’t a desperation about it anymore, the sense of overwhelming hopelessness was gone.
I ended up buying about $50 worth of Flush-free Niacin which was enough to last 4 months at 3000mg/day. Over the next several months I would fluctuate my dosage between 2000-3000mg a day depending on my mental state. I also took 9000mg of vitamin C daily as well. If I forgot to take the Niacin for a day I knew it, the darkness would start creeping in again. In time the voices in my head became silent and I learned to trust my instincts again. When I saw Elise in the supermarket or on the street I would tell her how much I missed her and how much I loved her, but I wouldn’t spiral out of control for several weeks.
Niacin saved my life, and I don’t understand why the public is unaware that a simple vitamin might help severe mental illnesses. The only conclusion I can come to is that there is no money to be made from selling a vitamin that costs only $10 a month to mega-dose on. When 1/2 of the undergrads at Cornell University are taking some form of medication for depression, that medication represents a HUGE amount of money. If you suffer from severe depression or schizophrenia you should know that there is a chance that your condition might be corrected by a simple vitamin.
What have you got to lose? You might gain a little bit your sanity back. I did.
Update 10/28/2013: I’ve been off Niacin for almost 6 months now. I slowly cut back and when things got bad I would just take more again. The voices stopped, the depression stopped. My brother passed away and I could deal with it. I saw my ex girlfriend and instead of spiraling out of control I was just fine. I am thankful for that short passage I found in that book on depression that talked about those Niacin studies in the 50’s. It really saved my life.