How I Medicate Myself

I am one of the founders of a local “radical mental health” group. Its facebook page is:

https://www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaRadicalMentalHealthCollective

Each meeting we do presentations and for my own presentation recently I wrote these words. (If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted it’s because I’m putting my writing energy into my book.):

So my history. I have such a strong individuality that I wasn’t able to see eye to eye with any psychiatrists that I met. I took a bunch of random drugs that they had for me, but eventually it became evident that they weren’t able to understand my basic human nature – my soul. The development of my soul was the most important thing to me, and I decided that the medical establishment could not help me in this area. By focusing on the brain, they missed the importance of the soul.

So I left them, cutting them off wholesale from participation in my road of trials.

But that didn’t mean that there was nothing which could be improved in my physical condition, just that the doctors were not going to be the ones to do it. For a few years I just lived with my body “au natural”. I am an intellectual by nature, not inclined to pay much attention to the “mind-body” connection, as it were. But living purely based on feeding myself whatever appealed to me and was affordable led me to a situation where I was somewhat desperate. It turns out my body is more fragile than I wanted to admit. I felt that the continued pursuit of my soul’s journey was in danger, if I could not find some way to enhance my mental and physical strength and stamina. There were too many problems, and they were invading me too quickly. So I went to a health food store and bought a big book of the descriptions of ailments and their recommended natural food cures.

I was able to improve my mental and physical condition quite dramatically over time through trial and error of different foods and supplements. The first big – no, huge victory was the discovery of the power of the so-called omega-3 fatty acids. In plant form the best source is cold flaxseed oil. These omega-3’s are a little fragile and preserve best when kept cold. But the most efficient way to get omega-3 acids is fish oil. I sometimes wonder how this oil is taken from the fish in order to deliver it in little pills or what have you. But these oils ended up invigorating my mind – these acids are used by the tissue in the brain, among other things. My understanding is that many studies show a variety of benefits, not just mental, from taking fish oil. These oils work best in cold temperatures, and it is because they are so liquid that they don’t freeze – and I imagine that this looseness is how they work in the brain too, by “loosening it up” and greasing it somehow. Anyway, Omega-3 oils have been studied scientifically, but since there is no way to patent them, I’m sure they are not as well promoted as the chemicals with which the giant pharmaceutical companies stand to make billions of dollars. But they improved my mental condition far more quickly and lastingly than any drug I was ever given by a doctor. I had always had a low energy level, and it took a lot of effort for me to move my body. But these oils help bridge the gap between my natural energy level and that of a “normal” person. I felt the level of energy a normal person must feel, possibly for the first time, when I took fish oil.

There is another nutrient which the brain uses, or so I hear, called phosphatides. They are available – maybe by prescription, I’m not sure – as pills, and they are moderately expensive. It turns out my mother was taking these pills for a while, and they boosted her mental energy level. Now many traits are passed on genetically, and it doesn’t surprise me that when I was able to consume more phosphatides, my energy level went up as well. Yet I was able to find this nutrient in a cheaper form. There is something in certain plants called lecithin, and it can be processed out of the plants by some means, although I don’t know exactly how. Anyway, the most commonly available type of lecithin comes from soybeans and is called soy lecithin. It can be bought in liquid form, but for me the best way is in a large bottle full of these little yellow granules. This lecithin contains a lot of phosphatides. It is often found in chocolate bars because it enhances the flavor and texture and tastes a little bit like butter. There is a kind of chemical substance called an emulsifier whose purpose is to dissolve oil-based chemicals in water-based chemicals, and lecithin is one of these. When I sprinkle a little lecithin on some peanut butter, for example, it both enhances the flavor of the peanut butter and makes it digest more easily. So it’s fun to experiment and see what works.

One difficulty so-called bipolar people commonly have is being excessively agitated, affecting their ability to concentrate and to sleep. I never thought of myself as bipolar insofar as it is thought of as a bunch of strange moods which just take over a person completely randomly. But I do have a sensitive nervous system, and over time I was able to identify many subtle details about how I am affected by my environment. Perhaps the most fascinating is that I have a form of photosensitive epilepsy which was never diagnosed. Some kinds of seizures are difficult to spot from outside. There is a kind of seizure called an absence seizure in which a person’s consciousness is partially disrupted, but it can only be detected from outside by careful observation. I get these when I encounter many various forms of flashing lights. It’s also important to note that there are many speculations about the links between epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and several of the drugs used to treat epilepsy are also used for bipolar disorder.

Anyway, I’ve found some cheap, over-the-counter nutrients which help me focus and get to sleep very well. For a long time, I’ve been taking a combination Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc. I thought it would be good to take three nutrients instead of one, but recently I’ve bought just Magnesium by itself. Now these are simple chemical elements, which might remind people of Lithium, another simple chemical elements. But Lithium is toxic and will destroy your kidneys if you’re not careful. Magnesium is another simple chemical element, but it is cheaper, more abundant, and less toxic, and I’ve found it works like a charm to help me sleep. When has your psychiatrist ever recommended this cheap, non-toxic alternative to the very harmful other chemicals they constantly peddle? I find the whole thing pretty frustrating. If it can’t be used to show you how special they are as doctors, then they will rarely recommend it, which to me demonstrates nothing more than the sorry state of the modern mental health profession. Anyway, so far I’ve found Magnesium works great for calming me down.

Another thing which helps calm down is this amino acid called taurine. It turns out that this nutrient is used, along with caffeine, in energy drinks, of all things. I don’t know why. It is a common amino acid, and the body will produce it naturally from other acids if it can’t find enough of it. Yet it does seem to work for reducing my sensitivity to light and other things which tend to cause little seizures in me. It is just one of many types of supplements which can be bought over-the-counter which can, with a little trial and error, probably do just as good a job, if not better, than any of the fancy budget-busting prescription pills your psychiatrists is more-than-eager to push down your throat.

I also take a multi-vitamin, and an extra B-vitamin supplement, which both seem to help with my energy level.

Other things I learned about my physical body assist me in keeping myself energetic and healthy. For example, after much trial and speculation, I believe I have a mild case of fructose intolerance, which is a somewhat rare inability to process the simple sugar fructose. Also, I’m hypoglycemic, and I need a certain minimum amount of fiber in my food in order to be able to digest it easily. Thus I must add a fiber supplement in order to easily digest white rice, or french fries, or donuts, for example, although I generally just avoid these things for convenience’s sake.

I have two points. One is that psychiatrists will not generally help you find what is easy and affordable for you to take, because their professional pride – all those years of expensive training and an elitist medical culture – makes them balk at the notion that someone might not actually need those treatments which only they can legally provide. That most people can do just as well without any of their prescriptions precipitates in their psyches an existential crisis which most of them have not the courage to confront, and they instead take it out on their patients by forming a sort of devil’s pact with the pharmaceutical companies, which are only too ready to comply by fabricating what the doctor’s must always tout as the latest and most modern wonder drugs.

My second point is that the physiology, not to mention the psychology, of each person is different. Thus what works for me might not work for you. But there are a zillion things to try. All you need is a scientific mind, a willingness to experiment, and the courage to believe that you don’t need any sort of degree in the mental health in order to know what works for you and what to leave on the shelf. In fact, I left establishment mental health on the shelf many years ago, so to speak, and I feel pretty good about it.

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