Okay, this post is somewhat out of the ordinary when one considers the usual schlock I put out here on my little blog. However, I have had enough people ask me about my experience that I think it could be beneficial to post it. Also, I am just naturally lazy and don't want to have to repeat the same story over and over. I'd rather have folks read my story and then ask questions if they have any.
The topic of niacin (vitamin B3) and depression is also, I feel, a big part of why I am on the path I am now, including my renewed zest for exercise and changing my diet. If it weren't for the lift in my deep depression, I would not be doing things to help myself. Instead, I would still be on that horribly negative path of self-destruction, the same path I'd been treading for the last 12 years.
I heard about the benefits of niacin for depression purely by accident. I happened to watch a movie called "Food Matters." WATCH IT. The movie is generally about nutritional therapy and its amazing impact on chronic disease, how our diet has made us so incredibly sick, and how resistant the medical establishment and pharamceutical industry are to even the mention of "orthomolecular medicine." (Fancy for - you guessed it - nutritional therapy). Anyway, my favorite guy in the movie, Andrew Saul, Ph.D., told a story about a woman who was so deeply depressed that she just sat in a corner and talked to nobody. Her family talked to Dr. Saul about nutrition and he suggested that they try niacin. Soon, the woman was out of her corner and talking to her family as if nothing had ever happened. The sad thing is, when she saw her doctor, he warned that "taking all that niacin could be dangerous." So they took her off of it and, of course, she was back in the corner. I was touched by the story and thought, albeit briefly, "maybe I should try that." And then promptly forgot about it as the drama in my life escalated to yet another out-of-control situation.
Now, I've been on and off Prozac for many years. At the time I watched the movie, I was definitely ON Prozac. I've been given all kinds of psychological drugs, all kinds of psychological labels, and all kinds of therapies. None of it really did much for me. Furthermore, I am an alcoholic and a drug addict. I also have another very serious process addiction (as opposed to a substance addiction). Over the past 12 years, I had not been able to put together even a full year of sobriety. I would have brief, happy times of sobriety and clarity, only to be drawn back down by bouts of deep depression and crippling self-doubt. My struggles seemed insurmountable at times and for whatever reason, I could not sustain the motivation or drive to help myself. I don't think I thought I was worth it.
So, three months ago I was at an all time low. All of my addictions had led me to a truly awful place. I had just seen a new psychiatrist that told me I had yet ANOTHER diagnosis, another label, and needed some new drugs. My relationship with my husband was at the breaking point and I truly hated myself. My husband and I had gone to Costco and while we were there, he suggested that we should pick up some niacin. I said, "Why not? I've got nothing to lose." I started taking 1500 mg of niacin that night. The next day, a Sunday, I was so depressed and hopeless, I was actually looking up ways to kill myself on the Internet. I felt that desperate and low. I didn't see another way out. But I continued taking the niacin.
Monday was a tough day - I was still feeling the after-effects and withdrawals from alcohol and drugs and continued to feel hopeless. By Tuesday, I felt a little better, but that didn't surprise me because whenever I get sober, I always have a small spark of hope that maybe I can do it (which is inevitably crushed again, soon after). I crashed into bed, exhausted by the day and the weight of my depression. I began to think the niacin was not going to help. But before I went to sleep, I was sure to take the 1500 mg.
Wednesday dawned. And I was NEW. It was as if during the night, God had reached down and switched my black, diseased brain for a shiny, healthy one. Suddenly, I had energy. Suddenly, I had hope. I was excited to get to work. I did not linger at home to avoid having to see people or think about my life. I was laughing, smiling and intentionally interacting with people. I actually freaked my secretary out because she had not seem me so animated and happy in ages. She was used to my glum ass attitudes and constant hiding in my office. I was, for all intents and purposes, a new person.
I thank God for that. But I also thank niacin, and Dr. Saul and the people who made "Food Matters." I thank God that I saw that movie, and that my husband encouraged me to try the niacin. We were at a point that we would try anything. And it worked. By God, it worked!
And the amazing, up-lifted feeling didn't end. It didn't go away. It's been three months now. I feel AMAZING. I am totally sober. I am off of all pharmaceutical drugs. I've lost 12 pounds and a pant size. I am exercising. I am working my recovery program. I am eating very healthy. I am excelling in my work. I am no longer avoiding people, places or things. I am facing life and dealing with it. And I am dealing with it very well - to my own total amazement.
Not to say that I don't have my down moments because of course I have down moments. I am human. I get sad. I get angry. But instead of turning my sadness and anger inward and hurting myself and others, I have a new attitude that says, "hey, you need to deal with X. You can do it." And I do it. Yes, it helps that I am sober. But sobriety has never, EVER been as wonderful or as hope-inducing, prior to the lifting of my depression through niacin. Not a single naysayer is ever going to convince me otherwise. It is MY experience and nobody can change it or tell me that I am wrong. It happened to me. And I am sure that it has happened for others, too. I WANT it to happen for others.
People ask, "well, don't you get hot-flashes?" It's called a "niacin flush," and yes, occasionally I get the flush. I take the niacin at night (I now take only 1000 mg a day) and so the flush occurs while I am sleeping and I do not feel it. I've had a couple during the day (or been woken up late at night by something other than the flush) and experienced a full-on flush. It is not fun - it is hot, and for me, itchy. It goes from the top of my head to my toes, slowly, over the course of about an hour and half. And then it's gone. I've read that it is not harmful - just a weird side effect. And frankly, I would go through that experience every single day of my life if it means that I will feel this good on a daily basis.
There is a bunch of science stuff out there on the Internet if you want to read about it. Go to the Food Matters website. Look up Andrew Saul, or better yet, the guy who discovered the effects of niacin on depression, Dr. John Hoffer. Go to these sources and read about it if your interest is piqued or you think this might help you or someone you love. You owe it to yourself or your loved one to at least inform yourself about niacin and depression.
Well, that's all I have for today. I don't know that anyone will ever read this post but I wanted to get my experience out there so that perhaps some other depressed and hopeless person might stumble upon my story and find just a shred of hope that they, too, can recover from depression and live a more full life.
I will write another post on this topic in 9 months - the one year mark. I am certain that things will be even better than they are now. 'Cause I got HOPE, man!