This is a an excerpt from my book, Fuck Portion Control, which contains references to other chapters. This information is provided to help those suffering from depression who would like an alternative approach to conventional medicine but cannot afford my book. I am also always available to chat with those needing help with this condition.
–––––––––––Chapter 13: The Cure for Depression
I never dreamed that a place like Club Axis in Salt Lake City actually existed. I was nineteen-years old and for the first time I saw people just like me who were not only open about their sexual orientation but were having a damn fine time showing it. Hordes of gorgeous boys my age danced and socialized as if the entire world was like us. Clubs like Axis were a haven in a world that showed little compassion and a lot of hatred.
Axis had an underage side and a 21-and-over side in which you needed a wristband to order drinks. Not daring enough to hunt for a fake ID, I would usually join my friends before the club to do some pre-drinking. The first night I got drunk to Alice Deejay and remixes of Tiffany and danced in front of a speaker which was nearly as tall as me I knew the rest of my life was going to better than it had been.
One night while traipsing across the dance floor I spied a devastatingly handsome boy with stone-white skin and short auburn hair. His eyes were wild with adventure, haze colored, lips hovering slightly apart as if whispering all the while his lust for life. I smiled at him, but naturally unsure of myself continued on to the bar (our side serving only soda, water, and Red Bull). Passing again through the crowd the same boy caught my arm and stopped me.“Do you have a problem meeting new people?” he asked. “What?” I replied, thinking he was being humorous. Apparently he had tried to say hi as I passed earlier and thought I ignored him. Always afraid of offending everyone I struck up a conversation, but our shared obsession with each other was soon too obvious to ignore. I asked if he’d like to go on a date. He agreed.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“In this little town up north you’ve probably never heard of,” he replied. It turned out he was in the Air Force and stationed at the base by which I used to live when I was eight, in that dry, dusty hillside neighborhood. Our first kiss happened while hiking an island in the Great Salt Lake, and thereafter fucked like rabbits almost every day for the next year. If we had been an opposite-sex couple one of us would have gotten pregnant for sure.
Three months in I fell in love with him, but it was right before the holidays and he went home to Louisiana for Christmas and would not return until precisely one hour after I left for a New Years cruise in the Caribbean with my conservative family. I had never longed for someone so severely, so I left him a message written in glow-in-the-dark stars above my bed to see when he would slip in alone later that night, but was caught by my family who had arrived earlier than expected to take me to the airport and when asked what I was doing mumbled something incoherent and avoided their eye contact.
I felt like the first person to ever hate being in the Caribbean, bearing the suffering of separated lovers in secret, condemning myself for spending my first New Years with a boyfriend away from him. But even ours was not to be an ever-after story. My melancholy uncertainty and his mercurial temper soon proved to be incompatible. I mistook a silent departure one day and failure to phone for a week as a sign he was done with me and slept with someone else, surprised and horrified when he called a few days later as if we were still fast boyfriends and nothing had been amiss. The fallout from my honesty was further compounded by a surprise infection with HPV, which I had not even known existed thanks to my religiously oppressive upbringing and caused him some much undeserved heartbreak.
Dealing not only with the tumultuous newness of a relationship between two young and excitable boys I continued to battle the demons of my youth, and that all consuming crisis deciding whether or not I was loved by God. I knew my family had abandoned me, and the circles in which I was raised, what had heretofore been the embodiment of God appeared to confirm that I was indeed outcast. That boy was my only joy, the warmth and comfort from his embrace unmatched in its tenderness and passion to anything I had ever experienced, especially not by an absent God and society who shamed me even as a child and left my prayers for salvation unanswered.
Tormented by this life, with no one in which I could confide I broke apart on the inside. Old friends and family were not only emotionally absent, but physically, as my family packed up and moved back to Hawaii and left me alone in a state where danger seemed to spring from every corner. Inconveniently during the midst of this relationship I realized I had committed to one person too soon, whom I probably could not live with for the rest of my life. If I did I would also miss out on the opportunity of dating other people. It also seemed my waning affection for him was punishment for unnatural emotions, over which I was powerless. I resolved to end things with him, and to give God one more go. I was cowardly in how I approached it, overstating my belief in a religion which had plainly rejected me, to avoid responsibility for the heart I was breaking. This boy is such a good person and loved me so that he actually took me to church meetings and received visitors from Mormon missionaries because of my frenzied endorsement. It was not entirely dishonest, because I found that I could not reconcile the hurricane of shame and heartache in me while having to care for another person. But eventually we split for good.
The most senior ranking church official in my area was younger than they usually came. He had a debonair, masculine quality that instantly made me feel at ease. The last church official I had met with, a bishop, was bent with age and scowled when I told him I was gay before ghosting on me when I asked for help in getting reacquainted with the church. I didn’t let his behavior deter me from finding answers, though, and now sought help from this man who was what is called a Stake President. He was much more appealing physically that the other man, and also greeted me with warmth and compassion. He didn’t blink when I revealed myself to be gay. I met with him a few times and he listening to my heartache and confided in me about his own struggles in coping with the premature death of his darling wife. Though this man was a more senior official than the many I had known over the years he was the first to tell me that sometimes people are the way they are for no particular reason, that God loved me the way I was, and counseled me not to participate in the conversion therapy groups that had infected the region because he had seen how it destroyed men like me. It was the first time an adult, knowing full well my deepest secret, had ever indicated I was worth loving as I was, something not even my own parents had done.
One night while ruminating on my situation I realized I would be forever unhappy if I continued to sit the fence between Mormonism and being openly gay, and that I should make a decision and stick with it. Continuing in Mormonism meant more lying and dishonesty. I was desperately exhausted by that. Love in the arms of a boy had been more precious than anything ever given to me by God, or at least what I understood was God, so I chose to fully accept that I was gay and live with those consequences rather than the other ones.
When I was twenty-one and could legally entertain my growing alcoholism I went straight for it. Most of my friends were also ruined Mormon boys, expelled from their families and all of us loved to drink. One night before I learned to monitor my drinking I found myself at Club Axis with the world spinning wildly. I’d been enjoying myself but suddenly in the middle of the dance floor I was overcome with the realization of just how much I missed my parents. Not only had I lost them to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I had lost them to eternity, having moved away from home without ever really getting to know them in the first place. A suffocating sob rose to my throat. I was the tallest person in the middle of a dance club and about to start crying. I escaped before tears could come to my eyes, but found it difficult to walk the many blocks home, the city, spinning, more than once jumped out from under my feet. To this day I don’t know how I made it, but I rushed to my computer, ignoring my dog who pined at me from his crate and began furiously searching for plane tickets to Hawaii. I would call in sick from work and spend some time out there to repair the rift that had made me an orphan no matter what resistance they put up.
But I was too drunk to see the computer screen. Tears poured down my cheeks as I realized that my plan was ridiculous anyway, that they hated who I was, and even if I got to the island everything would end in as much heartache as it had before.
The pain was overwhelming. I wanted it to stop. I was tired of being depressed. For years my life had only every gotten worse. The depression which had begun when I was twelve-years old had matured right alongside me. Now that I was on my own I could see no future for myself which did not involve a torrent of unbearable sadness. I was exhausted, and lost. I could not do it anymore.
There was a bottle of vodka left in the freezer. I could drink it and killing myself would not be hard to do. So I downed the rest of it, then pulled out a serrated bread knife. I put it to my wrist and gave a quick test-slash. It didn’t hurt, but a small divide opened on the skin. At first it was white, but it quickly turned pink and then red as a trail of blood ran down my arm. Good, I thought. This is going to be easy. I pressed the knife hard against my wrist and slid it with determination.
The pain was as if the knife had been searing hot. Unexpected, it made me drop it. For a moment my vision popped into clarity. The skin separated in a wide yawn and thick red blood spilled out like yolk from a cracked egg. It was much darker than I had expected, and ran down my arm like an open faucet.
I don’t remember picking up the phone to dial 911, but suddenly I had the receiver to my ear and the person on the other line was asking me to stay calm and that the paramedics were on their way. Just as suddenly my apartment was filled with four or five medical personnel. Embarrassed at causing so much inconvenience I tried to thank them repeatedly. I regained consciousness later while lying back on a bed as a doctor put stitches through the open wound. “Thank you,” I said in an overly servile manner. “Why did you do it?” he asked. Even in this drunken state I was too embarrassed to admit that I missed my Mom and Dad. No, it was more than that. How do you tell someone you have lost your family while they still yet live. How pathetic I was, I thought. “I think I have HIV,” I said. It was not entirely a lie, since for the last year I had lived in constant fear of the disease, fueled by the shame of my conservative upbringing and indoctrination as well as alarmist conditioning from LGBT community leaders. “Have you been tested?” was his reply. I shook my head, and blacked out once more.
I woke up later in a small room with windows looking out to the hospital intake area, spread out on a couch with my arm wrapped in clean bandages and identification bands around my wrist which confirmed that none of it was a dream. My head was swimming but the world was no longer in free-fall. I felt embarrassed at my failure. Failure to avoid suicide, failure to do it right. What I wouldn’t give to have someone who loved me at my side.
Soon a frumpy woman entered and greeted me with a tepid, condescending smile. “Before we can release you,” she said, “I need to ask you a few questions.”
I confirmed that I was no longer a danger to myself or others. She accepted the lie without any prodding, and when asked for a motive I repeated the answer about HIV. The woman gave me some resources for counseling and said I was welcome to call someone to pick me up.
My friend had been waiting in the reception all night for me, said one of the receptionists, and had gone home to get some sleep and left a message that I should call him when I was released. Frederick appeared at the hospital ten minutes later, but seeing me offered no greeting and promptly turned around as if I should simply follow him out. I reached out and grabbed him and began crying into his neck. He had come to my apartment looking for me, horrified to see the ambulance departing, and then my apartment covered in blood. He cleaned it up for my return and taken my dog to his house, and for two days made me stay with him while he cooked, rubbed my back, and let me sleep in his bed, teaching me how to sculpt clay while we traded stories about our family and coming out.
Weeks later the malaise had not yet disappeared and I was afraid of falling back into a place from where I knew I would not return a second time. My sister had come to stay with me after returning from her Mormon mission but, like myself, had no life skills with which to survive and had spent the weeks on my couch trying to make sense of being loosed into the world. After revealing to my Dad what happened he agreed to let me come to Hawaii, upend my life and spend time recuperating. I quit my job, sold my belongings, and gave my lovely dog to a friend whose brother had a large farm in the middle of nowhere (since Hawaii required a month in quarantine for pets and cost more money than I could afford).
Landing at at the Kahului airport the fragrant, wet air hit me in the face like a warm kiss, filled my lungs with a calmness that no where else on earth comes so easily. But stepping out onto the curb I did not see my family anywhere.“Oh,” said my Mom when she picked up the phone, “we though your flight was tomorrow.”
I dozed on the curb in the bright Hawaiian sun, happy at least to be in paradise though uncertain of my future, content that it would at least not be any worse. Two hours later my parents arrived. “We don’t mind you being here,” said my Dad after we got into the car and the long drive into Lahaina. “But there are a couple rules.”
“Rules?” I laughed. I was twenty-one and had not lived at home for three years, and already they were treating me like a child again. “Under no circumstances are you allowed to bring your lifestyle in our house—”
“Lifestyle?” I started, feeling the heat of shame rising within me much sooner than expected. This was the last thing I thought to endure on an island paradise, reconnecting with those who raised me after a year of separation, with them fully aware of my suicide attempt. “It’s not a lifestyle—” I replied, trying not let them see how choked up I had become.
“What about pedophilia or murder, Nathan?” said my mother. “It’s not any different.”
The gravity of my mistake began to envelop me. I was not on my way to recover, nor to win back the love of my family. I was, like a man who pleads guilty without understanding until the prison door slams shut behind him, trapped far away from any semblance of an adult life. Everything that belonged to me which had enabled a small bit of freedom to live on my own was sold or given away. I was now trapped on an island, unable to even drive or walk away from here, least of all to afford a plane ticket somewhere else or a place to live, realizing none of this until it was too late.
The rest of the drive was a quiet one, my reunion with my siblings dry and emotionless, my sisters concerned more with the politics of sharing a limited wardrobe and tight living quarters than my visit after being separated for so long. No doubt they felt some uncertainty around the reason of my return and unsure how to approach me, probably hearing in every prayer and every inquiry since my departure that I was lost and living in sin.
A few days later my parents introduced me to some new friends of theirs—A handsome couple, slightly younger than my own parents, with almost as many kids and each of whom was near in age to one of us. Their eldest was a girl name Helena, beautiful and intriguing they wasted no time in making her acquaintance on my behalf. When we were alone I wasted no time letting her know I was gay, not because she had any interest in me, which she did not, but to dispel the obvious imposition on her which had right away burdened our friendship. We did not become fast friends, as I think she was quite adhered to her religious sentiments. That’s the way it is with religious people—we would be their friend but for the hatred in their hearts.
One day while my family was at church and I was asleep in a cot behind the living room couch a knock came to the door. Surprised, I opened it to find their friend Adam, Helena’s father, standing on the other side.
“Hey Nathan,” he said. I immediately suspected a conversion scheme. “My parents aren’t here,” I said, hoping my rebuke was not too thinly veiled. “I wanted to talk to you,” he said. “I heard about your condition and I hope you don’t mind me saying but I wanted to let you know I suffer from the same thing.”
The shame which had threatened to surface turned suddenly to surprise. I relaxed a little and opened the door wider. “It’s part of why we moved down here,” he said. “The weather helps.”
“I’m okay,” I lied. Adam hesitated.
“Do you want to go kayaking?” he said. “I thought we could go out on the water.”
“Oh,” I replied. The last time an adult had expressed a desire to hang out with me was many years ago. “Sure,” I said. “Let me get my suit.”
Adam’s kayaks were already on his car, apparently quite confident in his success with me. We drove out of town and headed toward the inside of the southern bay on Maui. It was well into January, but the air was warm, the ocean content.
The kayaks were the river sort, short and broad, not at all intended for ocean going. The paddling was tough and required no small effort to put some distance between us and the shore, but it was magical with the waves lapping at the sides, the clear blue ocean beneath us.
No more than a few moments later an explosion suddenly shot up from the water’s surface a few yards away, a rush of water that sounded alive and breathing. Whales do that, appearing out of nowhere. No more than five feet to my left another enormous ridge of a humpback whale rose higher than my head as it undulated slowly through the calm water. A third whale then bobbed behind us in the action of spy-hopping, where a whale rises high enough to look across the water at whatever has caught its interest, which in this moment was us. A fourth whale then came rocketing from the depths, his full bulk leaping fully from the water. It seemed to float for a moment in the air, all thirty-tons of him, before crashing down with a tremendous impact which nearly swamped our kayaks.
Adam was all smiles and so was I. At rest in the midst of a peaceful ocean, the salt on my skin, the free air in my lungs while the majesty of life literally encircled us I began to cry at the wonder of it all. I realized suddenly there were probably actual answers to be found, I just had not discovered them yet, and perhaps just needed to search a little more. I wanted to live, and in spite of my wounds I was going to figure out how.
If you don't know depression, you don't know the limits of mortality. A condition made worse by the stigma of dark ages mental health abstraction and religious indoctrination, I tried as many ways to heal as there are books about depression—Medication, therapy, social life, alcohol, food, sex, abstinence, self-will, yoga, meditation, love, entertainment, journaling, exercise, being super nice, being an antagonistic jerk, working, reading, not working, praying, asking for help, taking control, losing control. Getting sober in my thirties helped me gain a change of mentality and purpose, but it did not relieve my depression. Many religious friends and family, and sober fellows in spite of their best efforts and spiritual wrestling continue to suffer from depression. I deeply respect the abstinence of drinkers despite such a struggle, and unlike most of the world know a compassion for those who cannot abstain. Alcohol was a welcome reprieve from the monster of despair. Medication was hardly better, since it caused as many problems as it was meant to help, and robbed me of more than alcohol ever did. When it comes to depression, cure is a dirty word.
These days when I have sadness it is beautiful June Cleaver sadness. It is neither suffocating nor depressing. Having faced the black dragon, sadness now actually makes me happy, because it feels so normal, so safe. I have not had depression for a long time now, save for a few days spat which was pretty mild by my usual standards. I spend my days in happiness, content to be alive even when things are in the shitter or loneliness makes me want to crawl into bed. I know it is gone because I also no longer have swings to the higher spectrum, those rare and far between moments of fleeting elation are not the opposite of depression but its conjoined twin. The condition is unbalance in the soul of a depressed person, not just the depressive troughs which over time grow lengthier than the crests.
One of my favorite things growing up was playing video games, especially with my brother and sisters. No matter what else was going on—parents fighting, pressure at school, or catching the flu, picking up the controller to the Super Nintendo system and hearing those charming midi compositions and seeing the gloriously rough pixels as they floated across the screen flooded my brain with an inexplicable sense that life was going to be great.
One weekend my parents had rented Super Mario World as a promised reward for good behavior, as if we were ever not good. Gaming was always haunted by a countdown to the imminent moral extolment of manual labor followed closely by the forcing of said labor, so early one Saturday my brother and I, as clever boys would, woke up early to get more gaming in before the inevitable hauling off to our father’s construction site. There was something magical in those early hours, like Christmas morning, quietly turning on the TV in the dim light of dawn. We had just gotten Mario's frog suit—one of the most satisfying inventions in video game history, when from the darkness suddenly crashed my half awake, raging father who, without warning, ripped the Nintendo and its chords from the television. The screen went black. He furiously wrapped the controllers into an unorganized knot, then turned with our precious Nintendo and stormed back into the darkness from whence he came, leaving my brother and I to stare at each other in speechless disbelief. We never saw the Nintendo again. Well, actually I found it a year later in the basement cellar tucked back on a dirt ledge, but I was too afraid to do anything about it.
Anyone who has spent time with children knows how close to the surface their feelings lie. From an early age we learn what makes us happy, what makes us sad, and all the other complex emotions of the human experience but have little experience in their control or meaning. Before we have an inkling of reason these emotions drive us with as much instinct as any animal. Then we spend the rest of our lives operating from this perspective, seeking stimulus for the feelings we like and relief from those we don’t, keenly aware of the effect each emotion has on our wellbeing.
But our brains aren't able to sense their own existence. Or more precisely, we do not consciously perceive the action of the brain, because the brain is the very thing which is doing this perceiving and cannot perceive itself. The things it does is what we are, and how well it does those things is the measure by which other humans consider us. Senility, autism, even youth are all states of the brain which compromise an individual's relationship to healthy, fully developed adults. The more insidious states of rage, violence, and mental disorders further complicate human relationships. Medicine has for decades inculcated the names of hormones like serotonin and dopamine into the bourgeois lexicon, and people drone on about them as if they're of no more consequence than a license plate number or a flavor of soda.
"The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality—” my favorite quote by Andrew Solomon illustrates exactly the dilemma faced by those suffering depression. We lack nothing that can bring happiness, merely the energy to live for them. But if vitality is what a depressive person lacks, is vitality the cure? How can I get it? What would I do to get it? Do I even want it? What is vitality?
Firstly in my depression I somewhat enjoyed it. My life took on a melodramatic depth and intensity of feeling. But this is not a way to live. Initially my path back to health was motivated by righteous vanity—done being overweight and sick. I didn't think much about how it would affect my inner conflict, until one day while hearing the chatter of L.A.’s immigrant flocks of lorikeets I realized I was alone and yet content. I fell down crying from sheer happiness, realizing that after twenty-years of suffering depression would no longer be my shadow.
For most of the recent history of mental health research the hormone serotonin was considered to be the happiness hormone, but this stemmed from a misunderstanding of the effects of serotonin. On experimenting with sufferers of depression and the administration of serotonin-raising pharmaceuticals medical researchers saw reductions of the manic, depressive symptoms which sufferers exhibited. This was taken as evidence of the effectiveness of such drugs and the explanation seemed to lie in the theorized and evident method of action which such drugs caused.
But serotonin is not the happiness hormone as it is called. Instead, serotonin is a hormone of torpor and hibernation. Torpor means to slow things down. In all animals which hibernate, serotonin rises to extreme levels as hibernation approaches. Its function is to slow down the metabolic rate so that these metabolisms don’t tear through the stores of valuable vitamins and minerals during hibernation. Without serotonin these creatures would probably not exist. In humans, serotonin has similar effects in slowing down cellular function, to help facilitate the healing process during acute injury as well as a primary function involved in the transit of food through the digestive system, or like the hibernating creatures to slow down metabolic rate in times of stress, to spare valuable resources from being exhausted.
Raising serotonin seemed to benefit manic patients, and often it did, because it interrupts the unsettling effects caused by a high-metabolic rate facilitated by stress hormones, but not because serotonin has anything to do with happiness. To an agitated, anxious sufferer of depression the tranquilizing effect of serotonin can appear to be a cure in comparison to the alternative. But since it achieves this effect by keeping the metabolic rate low, this eventually leads to new and worse developments of the psychiatric diseases because their body is never able to return to the robust state of healthy metabolic rate which supports vitality and enjoyment of life. This is why so many pharmaceuticals do not relieve depression, and why they often carry an increased risk of other dangers like suicide, homicide, and sexual and metabolic side effects, because they further derange an already deranged metabolism.
This mistake does not mean that depression is a mystery, though. Depression is in fact very simple. Specifically, it is a deficiency of dopamine.
Dopamine is usually denigrated as a hormone of “reward” in a sense that reward implies a lack of self discipline, risk taking, or hedonistic indulgence. But dopamine is happiness. The characterization of hormones as being mere mechanisms of biology, keys which fit into certain locks to elicit a biological response is an incorrect characterization of the nature of these molecules. Hormones are the feeling which accompany them. Just like a rock is hard or a feather soft, for fire is hot and snow is cold, hormones possess the characteristics which impart their corresponding feelings. They are the very element of the emotion. If a hormone could be anthropomorphized into an actual person that person would embody the quality of that hormone—Cortisol would be anxiety, adrenaline excitement, testosterone arousal and aggression, progesterone love and kindness. If dopamine was a person it would be insufferably happy.
If we believe the illusion that our thoughts determine emotion and not the other way around, then our brain is functioning exactly as it should. The most basic illustration of hormones are as the catalysts which compel the course of our lives. Did you notice you were hungry before the thought came to you? Of course not. First the hunger must occur, then the signal is conveyed to the brain. The same happens with sleep and the need for physical intimacy. Feelings must rise first and then the thought follows. With the higher emotions the illusion of being led by thought is stronger, yet no less an illusion. Compare two persons equally inclined to react to a negative stimulus, such as making a choice between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. One person in our example who has a full stomach will have a much milder reaction than the other who hasn't eaten for some time, where both of them singly will react more or less intensely in relation to the time since their last meal. If thoughts lead emotion then why the variable with blood sugar? In fact, populations in poorer health tend to be more susceptible to fear, because less stimulus is needed to raise already high levels stress hormones. It is no coincidence that populations generally exposed to better ideas of healthy diets as those who are educated, metropolitan, and wealthier are less likely to succumb to fear mongering and deceitful politics, because with more stable diets, nutrition, and thus hormonal state the emotions, which are hormones, are as well less susceptible to oscillation. Those who suffer from poor diet also suffer from extremes of emotional wellness, precisely because their bodies are not able to deal with stress, and so suffer from more extreme consequences of those hormones, having more fear, depression, and unhappiness than those who have healthy endocrine systems.
Emotions are hormones, and are the sole enabler of our thoughts and motivations. Pump a man with enough drugs and he may soon act more like an animal, because the alteration of hormones by those drugs alter his thought and motivations. Yet we treat addicts and sufferers of psychiatric disorders as if they actually have control over their own biological processes, which is absurd, expecting them to do what no other person in their place could do either.
During a visit to my family a sister of mine was easily excitable, and I found her crying in secret. She confessed that she’d been short tempered and mean to her new husband, who is a kind and dashing fellow, as if for no reason at all. I had a hunch, her being newlywed, and asked if she was on birth control. That the alteration of her behavior could happen by pharmaceutical intervention had not crossed her mind, and she'd have continued to suffer in silence had I not caught her crying or if she had not shared her problem with someone who had an answer. She switched products and the turbulence vanished.
Similarly, my long battle with depression could have ended much sooner had anyone pointed out the connection between diet, hormones and health. Yet in such situations we also expect ourselves to find relief or change in our own thoughts, striving to force by will the evolution of emotional hardships. But since the origin of our suffering is in our bodies, with hormones which affect our mind which is also part of the body, this approach never works except to further torment and frustrate the sufferer. If one wishes to improve their general emotional state they must first start with the physical health, which is the seat of hormonal function. For how can we expect to be happy when we don't even fulfill the first requirement for happiness, which is a full stomach?
When it comes to dopamine, reward is not only confined to risk or indulgence. Reward also comes from love, from close bonds, from achievement, from eating, sleeping, moving, fulfilling responsibility, from sex, from intimacy, talking to someone nice, from learning new skills, and overcoming hardship. The purpose of domaine is not to impress upon a person the ways which can gratify us, but to emphasize behaviors which build the successful life of a social animal—one of honesty, togetherness, accomplishment, and ample resources. It is nature’s way of motivating social creatures, except that in the depressed individual dopamine is present in deficient amounts, so even reward fails to raise dopamine. Since dopamine motivates social togetherness this is also why the depressed individual suffers an impulse to isolate (which is not to say that other hormones don’t motivate as well). Without dopamine there is no biological mechanism to motivate accomplishing behavior, but also because a deficiency of dopamine never happens in a vacuum, and generally accompanies a suppressed overall metabolic rate and the elevation of other stress hormones. Non-sufferers take for granted that they are inspired to go to work, be chummy with old friends and new, the conceiving and execution of plans, discipline, and ambition—things which become inexplicably impossible to the depressed individual because they lack the very machinery which allows such behavior. Dopamine is so important to our function as a healthy human animal that when dopamine deficient people discover drugs and alcohol, which temporarily restores dopamine function, they become addicted because without dopamine all humans feel like hollow, worthless creatures and our deepest desire is to be fully functioning, healthy and independent.
Of course there are prejudices and perceptions which can filter a person’s impression of their environment and even of their own emotions, and the chapter on God and spirituality addresses how religion and bias negatively influence our perception of life and how to overcome it with rational, actionable therapy. But the increase in good mood, motivation, and presence which I have experienced came from an increase in my physical wellbeing. Other habits I've picked up such as avoiding grains and keeping my blood sugar elevated have also done immense good for my hormone stasis, and thus my thoughts and emotions. It is easy now to be happy and motivated, to be satisfied with less, because my hormones are no longer in an extreme state of flux. Removing the hormonal chaos removes the outward manifestation of it. That high-energy we feel when engaging in excessive exercise, which feels a little bit like agitation when you first wake up in the morning to get going, or which keeps us from sitting quietly on the couch with a book, is actually stress hormones which are beginning to pile on your physical health, which have risen because excessive exercise, pre-workout supplements, and inadequate calorie intake are forcing the body into a state of down-regulation and slowed metabolism (yes, even with a six pack), and are harbingers to harder challenges ahead. Maybe you are already in the throes of depression and anxiety, or anger issues, or starting to struggle with weight loss, because you have destroyed your endocrine system by depleting its resources through overuse and insufficient care. Perspective grants the space to make changes, changes alter the physical being, and physical being sets emotions and thoughts. A healthy person is happy and needs little. A sick person is changeable and needs much. When I was sick I felt constantly in a frantic action to find relief, and having learned so many incorrect notions about life and health I found little relief. Today I have found relief. Though I have a specific therapy to address depression, it generally came from my diet which is generally free of inappropriate grains, plentiful in fruit, sugar, protein, good fats, vegetables, sunshine, and coffee. The biggest surprise I found was how easy it is to get true relief, which even for a cancer ridden alcoholic came relatively quickly, and if a formerly cancer ridden, overweight alcoholic can experience such profound improvement so easily, imagine how easy it will be for you.
The body has four basic modes of operation. Activation (or excitation) which is facilitated by first-line, healthy hormonal function in which the organs of the body excrete, signal, grow, and rearrange, where cells generally expend energy outward from themselves toward the outward functioning of the organism. The next mode is inhibition which is facilitated by first-line, healthy hormonal function in which cells instead turn their energies inward, to repair intracellular structures and mechanisms, to replenish stores of enzymes and coenzymes, vitamins, minerals, and otherwise prepare the cell for the demands which occur during the state of activation. The other two modes are activation and inhibition but facilitated through the workings of stress-hormones, whose job it is to rescue these metabolic processes when the first-line systems fail or are deficient to meet the demands of whatever stress is currently applied. These modes can happen body wide, as what occurs during the sleep/wake cycle, or it can happen on an acute, cell to cell basis.
The healthy inhibitory state is deficient during depression, which would normally enable or facilitate the appropriate production of dopamine during the excitatory state. The inhibited state is like restocking a grocery store. If there aren’t enough items or stockers to fill the store back up, when the customers come to shop there will only be so much they can buy. Caffeine and other substances can temporarily relieve one of depression symptoms, because it helps facilitate more dopamine than what the body is able to produce on its own due to insufficient inhibitor activity. Specifically this deficiency is caused by a lack of an inhibitory substance called GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), or GABA activity, whose role it is to stimulate cells to turn their energetic focus inward, to actively restore the internal constituents of a cell and regenerate its internal structures and nutrients. When I was first curing myself of all these metabolic diseases I found that the amino acid taurine cured my depression (in addition to a good diet). It turned out that taurine, which in healthy bodies is normally made in abundance, supports the GABA system and taking it as a supplement helps elevate dopamine by facilitating the restoration of cells through the GABA pathway, especially if a good diet enables the successful completion of those processes in providing plenty of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, and good fats. Without GABA a body in the active state, especially one under stress, is unable to meet the demands and is quickly depleted of dopamine and other factors which support a robust metabolic rate and desirable state of health, and thus a state of depression develops. Taurine also facilitates the proper and efficient use of proteins (from which many hormones are synthesized), and directly promotes the formation of good hormones. It also supports a robust metabolism, healthy levels of sex hormones, and using it as a supplement side-steps a GABA deficiency to help produce dopamine.
A slow metabolic rate causes plenty of health challenges, but a slow metabolism is absolutely unable to make sufficient taurine. This may even be a regulatory mechanism to prevent over-use of minerals or vitamins, and unfortunately taurine is not found abundantly in foods, at least not enough to therapeutically relieve depression, so when the body becomes sickened and looses the ability to synthesize taurine in sufficient amounts, a deficiency occurs. This deficiency of taurine is present in other metabolic illnesses as well, like Parkinson's disease and Diabetes. Conditions like alcoholism or the medication Accutane can chronically impair the synthesizing of taurine as well, and survivors of both are often deficient in taurine even after recovery. Other important functions of taurine are to support gonad function, hence the sex hormone support, and hair follicle growth. When the body cannot maintain adequate levels of taurine it likely routes the available supply to the more important purposes like supporting the cardiovascular system, rather than the less important dopamine, at the expense of our vitality. Increasing metabolic rate through food and nutritional therapy can increase the GABA system and thus the rate at which taurine is synthesized, and thus dopamine, relieving depression long term. In fact if the diet is not set to support normal GABA, taurine, and dopamine levels depression can never be truly cured because the underlying causes have not been addressed.
Taurine can be supplemented, and initially my departure from the dark, suffocating gloom of depression began this way. Red Bull energy drinks contain taurine, which is one of the reasons why it ‘gives us wings’ and improves mood (not to mention the caffeine, sugar, and supporting B vitamins). If a person does not have a deficiency in taurine, they do not experience the notable effects of supplementation because taurine is not as pharmacologically active the way drugs are. Taurine is not at all present in plants, which is one of the reasons why vegetarians can (especially vegans) suffer metabolic diseases and depression. After learning that Taurine supplementation could help regrow my lost hair and reduce unwanted body fat I began supplementing it. At first it has the effect of increasing bile output (because it is a component of bile acids). This can give a stomachache, and I learned that I had to ease into the dosage, starting at 500 mg a day until eventually taking up to 8,000 mg a day (taurine should never be taken for longer than a year without some meaningful break—a good rule to use with all supplements). Improving overall health, especially addressing the GABA system as discussed in the chapter on vascular regeneration and GABA will naturally increase the production of taurine, but supplementing gives the body a shortcut to the hormone cascade that makes us feel content and energetic, while helping to short-circuit the stress response which contributes to depression. As taurine increases the metabolic rate it is important to always take with adequate food, especially carbohydrate, otherwise it may cause low blood sugar and associated unpleasantness.
Diet is more important than supplements when dealing with depression and other emotional disorders. Because many foods contribute to the condition from substances which are not as compatible with our physiology, failing to alter the diet will sustain the condition and taking supplements or medication won’t matter. This may sound ominous, but the diet I eat which cured me of depression is both indulgent and high in calories, so it is not a diet in the sense of deprivation but in the sense of composition (more detail about what makes a healthy diet is discussed throughout this book). To summarize what constitutes a diet helpful for relieving depression would be a diet of foods which are both easily digestible and stable in the high heat, high oxygen environment of the human body. If a fish were left on the counter in a one-hundred degree room how would that fish smell in an hour? How about two? Since our bodies concentrate oxygen it isn’t too difficult to imagine how quickly the components that make up a fish can quickly turn rancid. The same is true of many other things in our food supply, like corn oil, soy oil, etc., which when bought off the market shelf have been deodorized and cleaned to remove any of the normal warnings of rancidity, to trick the consumer into thinking they are fresh. This doesn’t mean they aren’t rancid, only that the smell has been chemically neutralized in order to trick our senses. These kinds of foods directly tear down the metabolic integrity of the endocrine system. They are the destroyers of vitality.
As I have mentioned, the only things in all of creation which are actually meant to be food are milk and fruit. Everything else, including grains, greens, and animals, do not want to be eaten and have evolved defense mechanisms to deter consumption or digestion or without concern for our physical wellbeing and nourishment. The phytic acid in plants bind to calcium, zinc, and other minerals which are required to make hormones. Toxic contaminants severely disrupt the endocrine system regardless of the diet. Fish were not put on this earth to feed humans. They are here because they make up the chain of life, and their biology does not always agree with ours. Seeds are not fuel for us but for the plant from which it must grow. Those who refuse to see the consequence of diet are those who will suffer from its ill-effects.
Replacing bad foods like fish oil, soy, canola, corn oil, etc., with better choices like butter, cream, and beef is the first important dietary modification required for those suffering depression. Instead of canola oil, use butter. Instead of cheaply made ice cream which uses allergenic gums and emulsifiers choose another brand which takes care to make actual premium ice cream and not in name only (Trader Joe’s, I’m talking to YOU). When dining out choose mashed potatoes to avoid the cheap, crappy vegetable oil used by the restaurant to make chips and fries (yes, even at fine dining restaurants unless they specify the type of oil). When unstable fats react with oxygen and free-radical species in our body it results in catastrophic inflammation of organs like the pancreas, where taurine is generated, and prevents the normal function of systems to heal depression. It doesn’t mean you can't have chips or fries—I often make homemade corn chips and French fries, but they are made in coconut oil or grass-fed beef tallow. There are some brands of potato chip made entirely in coconut oil (and they are very tasty). Common wheat gluten also simulates inflammation in tissues once it’s absorbed, because the signaling nature of proteins are inescapable and is why wheat causes so many problems from constipation to migraines (the chapter Good Bread talks about how to consume grains safely). The swelling caused by conventional wheat puts a plug in the secretory organs, shutting down the primary, healthy states of activation and inhibition and engages the back-up, stress hormone enabled states. Such repeated exposure to foods which has this effect eventually prevents the first-line states of excitation and inhibition from functioning altogether, causing a decrease in the hormones and pathways which promote vitality and relaxation. If the body is to heal and be able to make its own taurine, GABA, and dopamine, it must be supported by a diet which supports those metabolic pathways, without exception.
Another primary contributor to metabolic decline and the development of depression is rooted in the serotonin/melatonin function of the body. One of the purposes of melatonin, which is derived from serotonin and produced in the pineal gland, is to lower the metabolic rate. Like serotonin the nature of melatonin has long been misunderstood. They are both part of the backup, stress state of inhibition which, unlike the primary state does not restore the full functionality of cells but causes them to more or less simply slow down, to stop functioning as much as possible while continuing to sustain life. This is a protective mechanism to reduce the use of spare resources. Melatonin rises at times associated with severe nutritional deficit, such as at night when we are sleeping and unable to eat, but also in the wintertime due to deficiency of sunlight, or artificial wintertime such as is caused by excessive sequestration indoors. To lower the metabolic rate, melatonin functions by inhibiting other hormones which raise the metabolic rate such as dopamine. Melatonin strongly inhibits GABA, the primary facilitator of healthy inhibition, which is why the impulse to take an afternoon nap, when melatonin is at its lowest, is often so much easier than falling asleep at night. Bright light, and especially ultra violet light lowers melatonin overall, but more importantly it is the absence of light exposure which causes melatonin to rise and thus suppress the restorative metabolic functions.
In fact, the key to permanently restoring the functions of the normal inhibition pathways in depression lies in the effect which light has on the brain. Some researchers are already beginning to confirm this phenomenon in studies on PTSD patients, but hampered by bias and limited understanding of the mind their findings have not yet struck the chord they need to. Ultimately, the conditions of depression are rooted in the function of an area of the brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus, which just so happens to be highly influenced by light. The raphe nucleus is the center of neurological serotonergic function, and during events of heightened stress (nutritional or environmental) the function of the raphe nucleus becomes permanently altered and begins to chronically elevate levels of serotonin. This is made worse by nutritional insufficiencies which handicap the brain’s ability to respond to such stress. This in turn down regulates dopamine, GABA, and calcium function, among other things. Most depressive conditions too originally begin in winter months when the hormones which promote depression are already elevated, or during artificial winter states of sunlight deprivation such as occurs with excessive sequestration indoors, and the condition is further sustained by poor diet or dietary behaviors and light deficiency.
Generous exposure to natural sunlight can and does reverse the condition, as long as the diet also supports good health. I have discovered that to regain its normally robust metabolic rate and cease the excretion of hormones which cause depression, aside from direct bright-light exposure the dorsal raphe nucleus specifically requires generous amounts of vitamin C. Specifically, light must target the back of the head, as would be the case if we spent our days foraging under the sun as did our ancestors, our eyes and face turned away on account of the brightness the light. In fact, there are studies which confirm the sensitivity to light of the brain in the presence of light independent of the eyes. It is this sensitivity to light which helps those parts of the brain regulate hormonal function and circadian rhythms, and can thus be used therapeutically to heal relevant diseases. This does not mean 30 minutes of light during a lunch break, but rather many hours every day. If adequate sunlight exposure is not possible, an option to use artificial light is an acceptable supplement, and can sometimes be more effective for specific therapy than variable sun exposure. For the purpose of the therapeutic healing of the dorsal raphe nucleus I find it useful to use a bright incandescent light (not UV) pointed to the rear of the lower skull where the neck meets the head. This is the optimal place for light stimulation of the dorsal raphe nucleus. Because vitamin C is needed to facilitate the increase in metabolic rate stimulated by the light, by protecting against increased oxidation, vitamin C should be taken about 30 minutes before light administration along with a little bit of sea salt (as the body also requires sodium in order to transport vitamin C through tissues—I use just 1/2 teaspoon as too much salt can make you sick and is not helpful). As I have mentioned, natural vitamin C is best and most effective. The administration of vitamin C then protects cells against and facilitates the increase in metabolic rate, allowing the simulation of a higher rate of respiration within the dorsal raphe nucleus by light and thus eliminating the excessive hormones of torpor which maintain the disease. This effect is further amplified if the body is replete with iodine, since the hypothalamus and pituitary glands will increase their activity in response and require large amounts of iodine to function. One or two hours of light stimulation a day for five to seven days is required to significantly restore normal functioning to the dorsal raphe nucleus. I find it easy to do while reading a book or watching TV, and most effective in the late afternoon or evening when the metabolic rate is at its highest. A 300 watt incandescent bulb in a lamp or a clamp reflector from a hardware store is great for this purpose (to direct the light), but such lights can get very hot and burn skin and hair so take precautions to protect yourself and others from getting burned. As long as the diet also supports a robust metabolic rate with good foods, good fats, and avoidance of stressful dietary behaviors such as fasting, drinking, excessive strenuous exercise, etc., a full disappearance of depression can be excepted within a few days of this therapy. If significant deficiency of sunlight exposure should recur it is possible for depression to return (or engaging in behaviors such as fasting), so to maintain recovery it is necessary to have normal and healthy exposure to sunlight, and taking care of the health and metabolic rate. During the winter a red light such as an infrared warming light available at home improvement hardware stores can provide ample light and heat energy to prevent recurrence (shone anywhere on the body). Red light is often more therapeutic than other wavelengths (and fluorescent light can actually cause problems), but I have found some infrared mixed with red to be the most helpful overall since it also supplements some heat energy and is very pleasant to help get you through the winter.
Some may worry about the sleep effects of low-melatonin because they have been incorrectly informed as to the nature of sleep, which is not facilitated by melatonin but is facilitated by GABA, where melatonin is instead a protective hormone against the stress of darkness and low nutrition, not an inducer of sleep, and GABA is the natural and healthy first-line inhibitory facilitator of sleep. Melatonin actually suppresses GABA, so in excess it ruins sleep, which is why insomnia often accompanies depression. The use of light, especially generous sun exposure, chronically lowers melatonin and thus enables greater GABA function, betters sleep, and overall metabolic restoration (more on GABA is discussed in the chapter on it). In the wintertime artificial light can be used as described to promote GABA.
There are some studies which seem in conflict about the benefits of low melatonin, and indeed there is a great difference between melatonin which is naturally low due to a healthy body, which has little need of its adaptive functions, than when melatonin is low because of age or disease and a subsequent inability to produce it. The low levels I advocate are that which result from improved health rather than the artificial lowering or blocking of melatonin, since doing so in a stressed state would be damaging, rather than helpful. In the elderly and those with advanced disease states it is possible that low melatonin can be a sign of the inability to make it, but even in this case it is more helpful to restore normal melatonin through GABA restoration and adequate exposure to sunlight than to supplement melatonin. This apparent discrepancy between studies and medical observation is very relevant for other disease states and biological elements, where there can be a difference between low or high levels of one thing or another in the case of good health, which further supports health and longevity, and the same measurement which might result instead from stress or disease and an inability to produce it. Strangely, there does not seem to be much awareness of this nuance in medical studies, certainly not in medical practice, and is why understanding of context is so important in the determination of health conditions and the therapies which restore them, because assumptions drawn from test results can misleadingly correlate and can and does lead to misguided theorizing, prescribing, and diagnoses.
During stress vitamin C is flushed from organs by hormones such as cortisol. This happens because vitamin C facilitates high metabolic function and a stressed body needs to conserve energy. So stress sheds vitamin C and raises hormones of torpor (melatonin and serotonin) in order to down-regulate metabolism and conserve resources. Eating good foods which contain lots of good nutrients and plentiful sugars lowers stress hormones and provides energy to restore normal metabolism, and allows vitamin C levels to rise back to normal (as long as vitamin C is consumed). In addition to vitamin C it is important to enable niacin and NAD synthesis by providing all the nutritional requirements for it, of which I find milk to be the most efficacious, but any nutritious diet will suffice. If depression does recur it merely warrants another course of therapy and better adherence to good dietary behaviors.
Some quick tricks can be used to temporarily relieve acute depressive episodes as well if the aforementioned process cannot be practiced (but which are not substitutes for a good diet and improving the metabolic rate). The unripened skin of organic banana peels contain enough dopamine (between 100 and 800 mg depending on the peel) to lift depression for an entire day. Emulsifying a peel into a smoothie is a great way to temporarily relieve depression. Aspirin, coffee, sugar, and sunlight/UV light exposure can also lift the metabolic rate temporarily and improve the synthesis of both taurine and dopamine, because those substances work with the first-line, healthy mode of activation states and the stimulation of dopamine. Taurine directly enables the GABA system and so is a useful tool, along with a good diet, in curing depression. GABA supplements do not actually work to restore the GABA system, however, because ingested GABA and drugs which act directly on GABA, like the benzodiazepines, have deleterious side effects because they force rather than facilitate the body’s natural pathways and so can cause derangements or interfere with the system by overusing, depleting, or interruption. The chapter on GABA is a comprehensive dietary strategy to induce and support the healing effects of GABA, which is not necessary for the resolution of depression but can be a useful support to it.
Early on, a good diet and taurine was enough to resolve my depression, since supplementing taurine helps to negate the insufficiencies of the pathways which lead to depression. By using this light therapy my condition became so stable that I no longer required taurine to feel happy. My brain chemistry, strangely, has been altered so that as I recalled my suicide attempt and read my old journal entries I could no longer revisit the feelings which had driven me to such a desperate course of action, and began to understand why those without depression cannot comprehend how truly awful it is. Depression indeed is a sinister creature, only understood by those it touches.
In the chapter How to Perform Self Therapy I discuss how to measure pulse and body temperature to chart the metabolic rate, which directly reflects vitality, in ways which are easy to do at home and don’t require assistance. Measuring vitality with these tools is not a way to diagnose disease or replacement for proper medical care, but is a way to help you understand your progress back to good health and empower you in your own journey. It also helps identify fluctuating variables of diet and environment which can sabotage efforts to get well, making the cause and effect of diet and behavior more clear than it seems when we try to deduce through simple observation and waiting.
Like most I believed the terms of mortality could be ignored. Rude was my waking. To work with the limits and logic of physiology, as well as adopting a self-honest attitude toward the factors that influence it has freed me from the darkness of depression and ill-health, and anyone else can do this too. The use of taurine, a good diet which supports the normal function of the GABA system, and targeted light therapy with vitamin C can maintain vitality and provide permanent relief from depression. It is important to have enough carbohydrates, protein, and good fat to fuel the metabolism otherwise starvation can negate the benefit and cause uncomfortably low blood sugar and thus inhibit a healthy metabolic rate. So always adhere to the first requirement for happiness, which is a full stomach.
CURING DEPRESSION LIST
L-TYROSINE (WITH FOOD)
AVOID METABOLISM-LOWERING FOODS AND SUBSTANCES
STAY FED, RAISE RESTING PULSE AND BODY TEMPERATURE THROUGH DIET