the worst year ever.
2016 wasn't only just the worst year ever, it was also the year I turned 30, founded my own feminine wellness company, and brought an amazing puppy home. So not all bad. Light does find a way of shining through the darkness. And what is the darkness I'm referring to? Crippling anxiety and depression at the hands of a severe vitamin deficiency that went undiscovered for 16 months.
I started feeling very off in the fall of '15. Racing mind, impulsive behavior, insomnia. That all developed into a feeling of anxiety that lasted for almost 2 months without any relief. I mean, can you imagine having a 60 day long panic attack? I can now - I lived it. On top of all of this, imagine that you have no idea why your body is turning itself inside out, your brain feels like it's on Pluto, and your sweet boyfriend is wondering what the fuck is going on. The unknown is certainly a terrifying place.
2016 arrives, and so does the therapy and the medication. I feel okay for moments of time, and then plunge back into the darkness again and again. The anti-depressant cycle is a vicious one - especially if you don't actually require one, but that moment of enlightenment won't arrive for another 9 months. Up and down, up and down. Tears, moments of extreme highs, confusion about why you don't feel completely back on your feet after the standard 4-6 weeks of allowing the meds to "kick in". Making changes and adjustments to medications more than 4 times. Exercise helps, my relationship helps, my family helps. But, the underlying, creeping feeling that there may not be a silver bullet to my problems, and that this state of disarray may be the new "me" keeps me feeling stagnant. I wouldn't wish my 2016 on my worst enemy.
September arrives. My doctors are confused by my lack of progress. Finally, a complex blood test to look at my vitamin levels is ordered. A week later, a transformative call lights up my phone and ultimately, my life. I'm told I have severe deficiencies of Vitamins B12 and Vitamin D. Want to know what happens if you're deficient? You can develop, amongst other things, depression, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and a lot of other vague and uncomfortable symptoms. Want to know what happens if you never address your deficiencies? The symptoms can become permanent - yes, like permanent brain damage.
So how can a seemingly healthy 30 year old woman, who is a professional chef and makes quite a point to responsibly source food and eat healthy have vitamin deficiencies? The story gets more complex. I was so shocked by my results I absolutely had to know more, and I absolutely felt hopeful for the first time in over a year. I went into health-discovery overdrive. I saw eastern medicine doctors, holistic practitioners, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and got genetic testing done (quite easily too, through 23andme). My raw genetic details would reveal that I have mutations in the MTHFR and MAOA genes, indicating why a woman who does everything right on the outside may not feel so great on the inside. The field of genetics is a brilliant, developing one. I truly believe that how we perceive personal healthcare will completely change over the next 10 to 20 years as this area grows and more people are clued in to just how personal you can get with your health.
What I know now is why my body doesn't process B12 and D in the way that other people can. I also know how to handle this problem - which is by taking the highest quality, most bio-available methylated form of both every single day for the rest of my life. For the few first weeks, I routinely stabbed myself in the stomach with needles full of prescription liquid B12. A kick-ass probiotic helps too. I always kind of scoffed at people who gulped down 30 vitamins a day, thinking of them as snake oil pills, and fools for being suckered by the vitamin industry, but fuck man, this shit works. 6 months later, after following a strict regime everyday I literally feel 100% back to normal. Better even than I did in 2014 and most of 2015 leading up to The Great Depression. I'm confident that my deficiencies had been brewing for much longer than just a few months.
During my struggle I could barely process my emotions, let alone work a full 9-5 on YouTube videos, Love Wellness, or TheLoDown. I've lost so much, and gained so much on the other side too. I've grown as a human in ways I didn't think possible. I dealt with all the ickiness inside of me that could at times make me behave badly, treat others poorly, and not take great emotional care of myself (therapy, man). Depression and anxiety can be both emotional and physical, and having lived through it, all I can say is that the struggle is worth it. I resent it, I hate it, it's fucked up my world - but I also see it for what it is, and that's quite beautiful. Life happens, and if it happens to you - how will you handle it? I'm living proof that you should fight, you should explore, you should take your health into your own hands and be your own advocate, and that you CAN come out the other side with some serious scars, but feeling like a brand new human being.
For a list of the vitamins I'm taking, see below:
- Blisphora (methylated Vitamin B12 with folate)
- Vitamin D3 with K
- Circumin (Turmeric)
- Serenol (for symptoms of PMS) - the jury is still out on this one
- Good Girl Probiotics (vaginal health/wellness)
- Perfect Condition Vitamin (vaginal health/wellness)
- Omega 3s
P.S. - there are HUGE discrepancies in quality between vitamin companies so definitely do your research before hittin' up the vitamin aisle at Duane Reade. I like to make the comparison between cheap, readily available brands and ones of greater cost to that of fast food and farm to table eating, if you catch my drift. Be Well!