Brighter days always dawn
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Seven months ago, I wrote a column about discovering a serious vitamin deficiency that was at least one apparent cause of significant changes in my mood and behavior.
When I wrote it, I had just been sent home after three awful weeks in the hospital, and I figured the worst was behind me.
It’s fortunate that I actually had no idea at the time how much worse things could — and would — get before they began to improve. Now that my outlook and prospects have brightened immeasurably, here’s a progress report.
Before I underwent gastric bypass surgery for weight loss in 2010, I promised my surgeon I would take a hefty daily dose of supplemental vitamins for the rest of my life. I understood how surgically engineering a detour around a good deal of my digestive tract would limit caloric absorption and produce major weight loss. I also knew I would no longer be able to absorb all the vitamins I needed from food alone. I just didn’t sufficiently grasp how important supplemental vitamins would be in avoiding later mood and behavior problems.
This part of the “why” never really sank in because psychiatric research had only just begun to link a shortage of certain vitamins to problems with mood, temper, talkativeness and even hyperactivity. My handfuls of vitamin pills were expensive and inconvenient, and I simply grew lax and quit taking them after a couple of years. Bad decision.
A link between vitamin deficiency and clinical depression also has been established. I’m still not positive of a direct relationship in my case, but for whatever reason, I began to be enveloped by a bleak, smothering depression in early September. I honestly expected to die during the long, dark night of the soul that followed, but since I didn’t, I hope that sharing my experiences — and the fact that a new, brighter day eventually dawned — will be of value to someone who may be undergoing a similar experience.
I began having trouble concentrating on simple tasks. I would go for a few items at the grocery store and come home empty-handed.
I abandoned editing my already-taped TV restaurant reviews because they no longer made any sense to me. In fact, I became unable to relate to anything on TV, even the news, much less that person with a fork in his hand who resembled me.
I gave up speaking engagements because I couldn’t imagine even getting myself anywhere, much less delivering a talk. It wasn’t long before I stopped driving entirely.
Being around others began to cause extreme anxiety. Even getting myself dressed and having my wife take me for a haircut was extraordinarily uncomfortable.
I lost a lot of weight. When I was home by myself, I would go for entire days knowing I needed to eat but unable to do so.
I began to imagine that my friends and family were judging me or making fun of me, and I spent much of the time in the company of others staring silently at the floor.
The approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas was more than I could face. For the first time in my memory, I did absolutely no Christmas shopping, an Advent church service seemed dark and dreadful, and I could not even help decorate a Christmas tree.
Although I was dreading Christmas day, my wife, children, grandchildren and extended family made it enjoyable, and the occasion seemed to mark a turning point.
I’m happy to report that I’m pretty much back to “normal” — if there is such a thing — here in mid-March. Obviously, I’m immensely grateful for the care of my loved ones and my doctors, who have adjusted the vitamin regimen and, to an even greater degree, my anti-depression meds.
I know there are a lot of people who have gone through and are going through much worse. If you ever want to talk or just hang out with no talking at all, let me know.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a review of Starlight Cafe in Greenville that he filmed recently for UNC-TV.