Anxiety and depression are still not spoken about openly and treated as a taboo, I was very lucky to have come out of it unscathed!
Four years ago, I moved to China, from India. It was my first ever stint to live away from my home country. The first year went past really quickly while I adapted to the new culture, food, and language. It was all very exciting. My husband, kid, and I lived in a beautiful apartment overlooking the harbor in a city called Qingdao. We learned to speak basic Mandarin, started eating using chopsticks, explored the best of Chinese food, learned Chinese history and customs. We traveled to different cities during the Chinese holidays and were enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Life was perfect.
The following year, things started to change, and yes, for no apparent reason. Nothing of the extrinsic factors had changed, we were in living under the same circumstances as before. The only that had changed was — my state of mind.
I had started to get very dark thoughts, my energy levels had started to deplete and I couldn't control my mind from wandering into the abyss of my brain filled with macabre and depressing content. I was helpless and had no control over these thoughts, they seem to overpower me and came as a strong torrent, impossible to hold or control. For the first time, in my life, I realized that I had such little control over my thoughts!
One evening, I felt I couldn’t breathe and went to the hospital. The hospital staff ran basic diagnostics and told me that there was nothing wrong with me. Later, I got to know it was called a ‘panic attack’. I was beginning to feel miserable and felt as if I were possessed by my own demonic thoughts. I was an inch away from suicidal ideas. I started withdrawing from social life and had to take a break from my work.
I was unable to fathom what was going on with me. The Chinese doctors told me that nothing was wrong with me physiologically and I should meet a psychiatrist. Then, I visited India and went to a general practitioner to understand what I should do and if I should see a psychiatrist. The doctor did a general check-up and asked me to do a blood test. He also took notes about my health history, my diet, where I lived what I did, and if I had any stress. I was wondering how a blood test would help? I even asked him if there was a test to check my brain function or check if my brain is releasing the right quantity of neurotransmitters which are known to play an important role in mood regulation. The doctor asked me to relax and come back with my blood test report.
The following morning, I collected my blood report and went back to the doctor. The report had, what the doctor had suspected. I was unusually low on Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Iron levels in the blood. This was causing an imbalance in the brain function. B12 deficiency can cause almost any psychiatric symptom, from anxiety, and panic to depression and hallucinations. Vitamin B12 is also linked with the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and thus its deficiency can cause various neuropsychiatric disorders. I had been a vegetarian all my life and B12 deficiency is common among vegetarians and vegans. The other problem which my report indicated was that my vitamin D levels were very low. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with depression. The two Vitamins which were low in my body were causing my mind to malfunction, causing depression and anxiety.
I started the vitamin supplements prescribed by my doctor. I was also advised to exercise every day, to pump-up my mood. In one month, I started to feel much better and within 2–3 months, I was absolutely fine. It was unbelievable! I never thought that the fix to my problem was so simple. Just a few vitamin supplements could do such wonders!
It is estimated that as much as half the world, including more than 40% of Americans, have low levels of vitamin D and most vegetarians and vegans are deficient in vitamin B12. There might a whole lot of people out there who might be suffering through the same issues as I did and, might not even know how simple the solution is. They might shy away from reaching out for help as mental health problems are still not openly discussed.