Engineering your health
When you are prescribed psychiatric drug, you may have the feeling that your doctor has no clue of what is going on with you. More too often the conclusion seems crystal clear: you suffer from depression, anxiety or another mood disorder. Does it make sense or are you faced with a one size fits all disease?
Medicine has taken a huge part in our lives to such an extent that it is difficult for ordinary people to question its soundness. Through this blog post I am exposing my recent journey inside the darkness of depression, anxiety and constant fatigue. You will find below my story, why I refused classical medicine solutions and how I took control of my health.
I must stress here that I’m not a doctor, what you read may be interpreted as advices but it is your responsibility to discuss them with your doctor. I am just sharing my thoughts about a delicate and complicated subject. It is up to the reader to end up with his own conclusion.
First let’s start with my background. I am a 27 years old male. I would describe myself as pretty normal. I haven’t had any particular childhood trauma neither been severely injured so far.
I have always had some mild anxiety (even though I didn’t know it back in my youth, it is now clear when I look at my past). Most of the time I was pretty calm and it was not impairing. It manifested mostly when I was under stress but nothing alarming, it was considered as a normal response.
Nevertheless, everything span out of control about 2 years ago. I had a stable life and I was doing a job that I really liked. I had a good work-life balance, well paying job, and I had time to hang out and do the things I liked doing. I never felt so good about myself. However, within the span of a week, I felt my body capitulating without any apparent reason: I went from a good and joyful mood to a sad, depressive and anxious one. I was crying for no reason, having panic attacks without any apparent trigger. I did no longer enjoy the things I had always liked to do. My family and my friends were making me mad to the point where I needed to be alone. The sad truth is that it didn’t make me much calmer either. I was literally going through a nightmare.
My brain was in frenzy state to find a solution to this nonsense. How can I feel so good about myself and then reach the perfect opposite in the span of a week? At that time I was looking for the common external factors: sleep, work, social life, … None of them was a striking eureka and I ended up to the conclusion that it comes and go and I would quickly become myself again.
During the next 9 months, my health continued to deteriorate: muscles twitching all over my body, impairing lower back pain resistant to my physiotherapist, and many other symptoms (physical and mental) that I cannot remember. But the worst of all was undoubtedly the fact that I was no longer able to think clearly, the famous brain fog. I therefore decided to take action, I could no longer close my eyes on my deteriorating health. I took the difficult decision to quit my job to rest some time at home hopping it would help. Guess what? nothing changed, unless the fact that I therefore had no job and a limited time to get back to a normal health (fortunately I was able to save some money before resigning). Seriously, it seemed that something was totally wrong and I didn’t have the key to restore my old self. It was just time to consult a doctor.
Classical medicine tried to help
Even though I didn’t present all the symptoms, my general practitioner told me I had depression. According to him the physical symptoms I had were psychosomatic and everything would fade away once we get my mind fix. He made me consider taking antidepressant and anxiolytic to calm my mind, another drug for my muscle twitching and cramps, another drug for my back pain, and on and on. It was the festival: every symptom had its drug. It did not make sense to me:
Are we just fixing the consequences or are we fixing the cause? Well, this is the issue, we don’t know the cause so we treat the symptoms.
I discussed with him the pros and cons of the drugs he wanted me to take and I judged it was not worth the try: what if I become addicted to the drugs? Everyone has an example of someone around him (family, friend, colleague) taking these kinds of drugs and who ended up addicted to the point he cannot live without (and in the worst case scenario the drug had not worked).
To be clear: I am not saying that psychiatric drugs are useless. I am just saying that in my situation I felt that it did not make sense to use them. I don’t have an extensive knowledge about these and I assume they are efficient towards certain conditions.
A natural way towards healing
As my general practitioner was not answering my questions, I decided to be proactive to find more natural solutions. My interest rapidly shifted towards nutrition. Even though I always had a balanced diet it may not had been that optimal. My first read on the subject was The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman. The author states that most of our brain issues are in fact due to our poor nutrition. He advise therefore to take vitamins regularly to balance what we cannot get in our food. His thesis resonated with me and I introduced his recommendations in my lifestyle (look at the conclusion for the details): I started taking vitamins, exercising 3 times a week (instead of 1 previously) and practicing meditation daily. Within 2 months I witnessed that my health was slowly improving: the back pain disappeared and I experienced less frequent brain fog.
I was frustrated at the time because even though my health was improving, I was still feeling depressed. I stumbled upon another book: The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. The author states that we can fix our mood imbalance by taking some amino acids (this point is also mentioned in the UltraMind solution but without much details). I therefore added tryptophan and theanine (2 amino acids known to calm anger and anxiety) to my daily vitamin intake. The effects were quick and very positive. I took these aminos for 2 months until I could not see any more improvement from them. The author opinion is that they can help to restore balance, but we do not need to take them more than 3 months in a row. After that I still continued my daily vitamins.
I also read a book about controlling our negative feelings (no supplement, just mind exercise): Feeling Good by David D. Burns. It gives precise exercises to follow to improve your mood. Although it’s an interesting book, it was not effective in my case.
If you suffer from anxiety like I did, I also recommend you to read Dare by Barry McDonagh. This book is still a huge help to me.
Today it has been 10 months since I started implementing the recommendations given by Mark Hyman. I am still not at 100% but I have made great progress and I am getting better everyday.
My goal while writing this blog post was to point out the fact that sometimes it may be wiser to look for natural solutions instead of using drugs. We should first start controlling our nutrition and our lifestyle before considering drugs. Unfortunately, many doctors do not share this point of view.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
You may recognize yourself through my story, however, what worked for me may not exactly work for you. Everyone is different. The advice that I can give you is to read the books I mentioned and understand what is going on. You have to be educated on your condition and you cannot use your doctor as a black box not knowing how he reaches his conclusions. Nowadays, doctors agree on the fact that we are short on some of the vitamins and minerals (mainly vitamin D, K, Omega 3 and magnesium) and that a vitamin cure is advisable. It is your responsibility to talk about this to your doctor. Mine was not understanding on those subjects and I made a mistake not looking for another general practitioner.
Below are the books I mentioned as well as the exact supplements I have been taking so far. I am not here to advertise but sharing my knowledge. I would have liked to find this kind of article 10 months ago when I started looking for solutions.
I hope you had a pleasant reading. Do not hesitate to share your comments below.
- The UltraMind Solution: nutrition, lifestyle, supplementation.
- The Mood Cure: amino acids to balance mood.
- Feeling Good: how to control our negative emotions.
- Dare: a technique to end anxiety.
For a precise information about which supplements to take and the dosage, look at the UltraMind Solution. I am just giving you my personal formula as an illustration.
- Solgar Male Multiple: contains almost every vitamin needed, but sometime not the right amount. I took 1 tablet daily for 8 months, currently I am at 1 tablets every 2 to 3 days.
- Solgar vitamin d3 10 000UI: many will say it is a high dosage. I took 1 cap daily for 4 months (most my physical symptoms were related to vitamin d deficiency, however I did not have blood sample about it to be certain). And after that I was on 1 cap every 2 to 3 days. My recent blood sample showed I was just in the first half of the normal range.
- Solgar natural vitamin k2: this vitamin seems to be important for vitamin d assimilation. I take 1 cap every time I take vitamin d.
- Source Naturals magnesium malate: I take 2 caps daily.
- Solgar omega 3 fish oil concentrate: 2 to 3 caps a day.
- Calcium carbonate: 500 Mg a day (I use a local brand not available in the US, I am from the EU by the way).
They helped me reduce my anxiety. I am no longer taking them.
I also use light therapy and I must say it helps a lot (checkout on Amazon to find the correct lamps).