MY STRUGGLE WITH DEPRESSION
I remember being a teenager and standing in the bathroom. In my hand was a bottles worth of aspirin. I was about to take it. I wanted to take it. It would be so easy. But I heard a voice in my head. “Don’t do that.” Like the way a sassy grandmother would say it. Stern but comforting at the same time. I dropped the pills and started to cry. Was it my grandmother? Was it an angel? Was it the last bit of sanity in my brain? I may never know.
After that incident I never tried to harm myself again, rather I prayed to just not exist. I couldn’t deal with life. It was too challenging and I didn’t care about anything. I saw the world like I was a fly on the wall. Watching. Observing. An imposter in a foreign universe. I had trouble interacting with people. They talked to fast, moved to fast, reacted too fast. I was in slow motion. The world swirled around me while I lived from behind a piece of glass. During this time I was the most creative I’ve ever been in my life. I could see things other people could not. I was gifted in ways I cannot explain. But I didn’t want to live anymore.
Fast forward to college and my world was out of control. I would skip class to drive anywhere, anyplace. Driving made me feel like I was escaping somehow. Running from monsters. When I’d get to my destination all my anxiety, fears, and worries would return. Only for awhile could I ever escape them. The roof of the physics building at my college became my second home. There I would stare at the sky for hours and hours contemplating my life. Seconds from death and miles from reality I felt safe sitting on the edge of the roof. My legs dangling over, I marveled at the sunsets. They were always beautiful unlike my troubled life. Being alone and appreciating beautiful things helped me forget this thing that haunted me. This heaviness. All I wanted to do was numb my brain. It hurt. I hurt. I felt like no one could understand the weight I was lugging around everyday. I hated pretending I was normal. I hated smiling. And people who smiled. In fact I hated people. I existed in my own world and I let very few people in my life.
That was my life for many years. I went to doctor after doctor after doctor. They gave me antidepressants sure, but I didn’t take them. There was a remote part of my being that knew I had to get to the root cause of my depression. I felt that God hadn’t created my beautiful, wonderful, body to be in the state it was in. I was missing something.
CHANGE ON THE HORIZON
My first clue came when I read women taking birth control need to supplement with B vitamins. I remember buying the super B complex from Target, excited to try yet another supplement. My Amazon buying history looked like a pharmacy but maybe this one would finally help me. Instead of reveling in a healthier me, I became unexplainably nauseous. My head spun. The room spun. I couldn’t think. I slept for two days until the pill wore off. How could one little B vitamin pill be so detrimental to a human being? How could they legally sell this to people? The fact that a standard, readily available B-vitamin complex made me incredibly ill was actually the first clue to my mysterious condition. I have a condition in which I do not process B9 (folate) or folic acid (man-made version of folate) very efficiently. More specifically I have two erroneous copies of the MTHFR C677TT gene. Based on my research, people with 2 copies of this gene process around 30% of the B9 they ingest (folate or folic acid). Being homozygous (2 copies) is rare, although, roughly 40-50% of the population have 1 copy of the bad gene (heterozygous). However having 1 copy is enough to cause a B vitamin deficiency, especially if these people do not eat more than the recommended serving of dark leafy vegetables, and beans a day.
I have always loved vegetables and beans but I didn’t know that I needed to eat 2-3 times what I was already eating. I also didn’t know that B-vitamins eventually turn into neurotransmitters in your brain. When you don’t get enough B9 (and B12) the brain doesn’t have the necessary tools to form a proper balance of neurotransmitters. This can apply to people that have a faulty MTHFR gene and for people that just don’t eat enough dark leafy greens, green vegetables and beans. But it can be fixed. To begin my healing process, I decided to supplement with a special form of B9 along with eating natural sources of folate to see if it helped my depression (and other symptoms). It was the best decision of my life, and I am so happy to share with other people affected by depression.
MY VITAMIN REGIMEN
When a doctor finally diagnosed me with homozygous MTHFR C677T he recommended I purchased a methylated B vitamin complex. Methylated B vitamins are widely available from specialty vitamin stores (such as GNC), Amazon, and other online suppliers. I have not found them at drug stores (Walgreens, CVS) or large chains like Target or Wal-Mart yet. However it is not difficult to find methylated B vitamins and they are extremely inexpensive, especially compared to prescription anti-depressant medication. Methylated B9 (and B12) bypass the faulty MTHFR gene so a person can reap the benefits of the vitamins. They are essentially the product of what the gene would produce if it were functioning properly.
Before my husband and I were trying to start a family I was taking (1) Jarrow 400 microgram Methylfolate vitamin cap and (1) B-right complex vitamin cap daily that contains 400 microgram Methylfolate with B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, methylated B12 and biotin. I have found with homozygous that I need a total of 8oo micrograms of Methylfolate to feel my best. I would suspect that someone with heterozygous (1 copy) or someone who just doesn’t eat enough natural sources of folate would need only one pill of either supplement (400 micrograms of methylfolate) to start off. However it really is up to the individual to test and see how much they need by experimentation. I will note it took me 3 weeks of taking the vitamins daily to start feeling my best and for my depression to lift. So don’t be discouraged if you take the pill(s) for a few days and still feel your depression. It takes time for your body to turn the B-vitamins into neurotransmitters and for the neurotransmitters to build up in your system. Don’t give up! It took me 3 weeks for my depression to fully lift but during that time I did notice a change for the better every day.
Since my husband and I are trying to start our family, I’ve been taking the Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal (instead of the B-Right), as it is a special prenatal vitamin that contains methylated B vitamins. It is readily available online and is more expensive than regular prenatal vitamins, but completely worth it. I found when taking this that I also needed to supplement with an additional dose of methylfolate to feel top-notch. The only downside of the Optimum prenatal is that the daily dosage is 8 capsules. They offer the vitamin in powder form that is easily blended into smoothies but I have not tried it yet.
- B vitamin complex can make your urine all sorts of bright yellowy-orangish shades. Don’t worry, you probably are not dying.
- If you are taking a B-complex with niacin you can experience niacin flush if you don’t take it with food. I’ve experienced it before and my face gets hot and turns red for about 15 minutes. It’s not harmful it’s just uncomfortable. I take my vitamins with food now and it doesn’t happen. If you are taking just the methylfolate (methylated B9) you won’t get the niacin (B3) flush.
- It takes time to heal. It took me about 3 weeks of taking regimen #1 to feel my depression lift. It takes time for your body to turn the B-vitamins into neurotransmitters and for the neurotransmitters to build up in your system. You will feel better and better everyday but don’t give up!
- Reconsider hormonal contraception. The estrogen in the pills is known to inhibit folate absorption. And if you already have a folate deficiency then it’s a double whammy!
- Eat natural sources of folate and B vitamins. Just because you are taking a supplement it is still a good idea to eat healthy. Some of the best sources of B vitamins are kale, brussel sprouts, swiss chard, spinach, wheat grass and beans!
Perhaps you don’t have the severity of depression I had, but you still feel down or sad for no reason. Or maybe you have no motivation or don’t enjoy things like you see other people doing. It can’t hurt to try supplementing with methylated B vitamins to see how you feel. Leave a comment! I want to know about your healing journey.