How Niacin Saved My Life – Battling Depression

Niacin (1)

In December I had a crushing, but eye-opening realization. I was depressed and had been for a long time. There had been minor highs and lows along the way, but it had been constant. No one knew. Not my best friend, not my husband, not my family. If anyone suspected, I guarantee they had no idea how bad it was. I didn’t know how bad it was. I hid it very well, even from myself.

It started five and a half years ago when our family had a major upheaval. My husband got a different job, we moved across the country, and away from my family, friends and support system. We moved four times that year before we moved into our real house. I had no friends during that time, and even once we moved into this house, it was about 8 months before I had a friend (yes, singular), who moved a few months later. I had 5 kids under four when we left, and I was alone a lot. I was lonely a lot.

Right as this first move happened, my health took a dramatic downturn, and I had a whole slew of health problems I didn’t understand. Life was hard. I cried a lot. I used to talk to my husband about the difference between who I was when I was younger and who I was then. I used to be vibrant, friendly and engaging. I had a powerful positive energy. Now I didn’t want to talk to anyone, be around anyone or be noticed. I stopped talking. I wanted to disappear. When I went somewhere potentially social like church, I went, I sat, I left. I avoided contact with anyone. I didn’t go to any extra activities unless forced to.

Two years ago it got much, much worse when a series of really awful events happened. Two friends died suddenly, my only friend moved, my son nearly died, my health took yet another dramatic downturn, all in a 3-month period, and it didn’t end there. That was the worst year of my life, and I’ve had some bad ones along the way. That’s when life got way too hard. I retreated even more. I felt like I was drowning. I used to be a much better mother and wife. I used to be able to handle and enjoy the life that was now crushing me. I used to cope with the challenges and push ahead. I didn’t recognize myself anymore, and I didn’t like myself anymore. I felt like a burden and a dark cloud everywhere I went. I mean, I WAS the dark cloud everywhere I went. My energy was still powerful, but it was a negative energy. I could feel it seeping out of me, filling every room, and as hard as I tried to hold it all in, it couldn’t hold it at all.

In December when I finally realized that I was depressed, I mean really depressed, not just having a really long, really hard time (which is what I thought), I thought it would resolve soon because my doctor has been helping me balance my wonky hormones and work through several of these health problems for quite a while. I felt like I was on the brink of solving the great puzzle of my body.

Unfortunately, with the new year came an even heavier cloud of depression. I started to feel like human poison. I felt toxic. I could hear my angry words coming out of my children’s mouths to each other, and I knew they came from my mouth first. They were struggling emotionally. I could feel the detachment between us, and I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. They were angry and felt abandoned, and I knew it was my fault. They started having meltdowns and behavior problems at school, which had never happened before.

I was at the bottom of a very deep, dark hole, and everyone I knew was up at the top with a shovel. Every request that I couldn’t fulfill, every need I couldn’t respond to was a shovelful of dirt thrown down on me. I was being buried alive.

I began to believe that I was meant to be alone in life. I thought that if I could be in a cabin on a mountainside, all by myself, no one else would be hurt by my presence. That image cascaded into the idea that my husband would be so much happier with a better wife, and that he could definitely find a better mother for my children. This woman would meet their needs when I was so clearly failing. I really was failing them. This wasn’t a figment of my depression, it’s true. I couldn’t help anyone, including myself.

Before long, I started praying every single night that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. That seemed like the easiest thing. I prayed that I could slip away in my sleep into oblivion. Not to heaven, or wherever this landed me. I didn’t want to be there, feeling like this, because I would only be bringing hell with me. I wanted to not exist anywhere. I was sure that if that happened then my family could find a replacement who would give them what I couldn’t. Dying was all I could think about, and it seemed like the perfect solution. I decided I was replaceable, and the replacement would be so much better. After the initial shock they’d all be better off.

A month ago, when I was at my absolute lowest, a song came on the radio called, “You Should Be Here.” He’s singing to someone who is gone and how he wished they could be there for these really important moments. It felt like a call for me to stay, to endure. I cried and cried and begged to be able to leave. I was certain that those moments to come would be better if I weren’t there. Flashes of my children’s future moments came to me. I saw my girls on their wedding days, smiling but with tears in their eyes, that empty spot beside them. I saw my boys graduating, big, tall men in suits, but still devastated little boys because someone was missing. I reasoned that they were young enough to forget me and latch on to another mom who could be better than I was. I cried for two days about that song and the conflict between that call to stay and my desperation to leave. The song kept coming on the radio as I drove the kids back and forth to school and activities. The call to stay was constant. The lyrics wouldn’t leave my head, “you should be here.”

I considered calling my doctor and asking for an emergency appointment, but I know from others that finding the right medication and dosage can take a long time, and the side effects can be awful. I didn’t have that much time. I needed help now, NOW, but I was afraid to tell anyone how I was feeling. What would they do?

Suddenly I remembered a snippet of a health/food documentary I had watched a few years ago called, “Food Matters”. I love to watch stuff like that. I hadn’t liked this particular one, but I very clearly recalled the interview where Dr. Andrew Saul talks about using niacin (code name for vitamin B3) to treat depression. I looked it up and watched that portion again. I watched it a few times. On my labs it repeatedly showed I was very low in all the B vitamins, and my doctor had put me on Vitamin B12 shots for a while.

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I did a Google search and read some personal accounts of how niacin had the same effect on others, and that it worked quickly, like within a week. I read reviews of different brands on amazon.com and then ordered one with next day delivery. I started with a 1,500 mg dose the very next day when it arrived. A few days later I felt a little lighter and brighter. By the end of the week I felt like someone had turned the light on. It was like I woke up from a nightmare. I felt so much better. I didn’t think about dying at all. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay. Those thoughts were GONE, and they haven’t come back.

Not only that, but I suddenly had much more energy. I’ve been battling serious adrenal fatigue for a few years. At its worst I’ve been stage 4 (determined by cortisol saliva testing with a few different labs), and I feel like I’ve been sitting in a chair for 3 years. I’ve had brief periods of better energy, but any little hiccup would cause me to crash again. There have been points when my cortisol levels looked much better, but I didn’t feel any better. I’m assuming that was the depression/low B3.

Last week I upped my dose to 2,500 mg, and five days later, I felt like myself for the first time in YEARS. I feel good. Everything feels possible. I don’t lose it over every little thing. I can cope with life’s normal events and challenges. One of my kids breaks a dish, which sets off the alarm system, and I have to dash out of the shower to take the call from the alarm company so they don’t send the cops and my husband is out of town. That did get my heart moving a little, but not a big deal. Once it was handled I went and finished my shower and went on with the morning. I haven’t had to tackle any huge life events yet, but it will have to be more manageable than it was. For me this has been nothing short of a miracle. Now when I say my nightly prayers, it is a lengthy expression of gratitude for being freed from death row. I was in the gas chamber, ready to inhale. Niacin saved my life. Literally.

A few weeks ago when I went to bed, my brain suddenly turned on and I started mentally blogging. This happens to me at times, but this was a flood of words that wouldn’t stop, and they were LOUD. Usually I will get up and write the words that need to come out, but I was exhausted from jet lag, and I didn’t want to be awake for the supernova side effect of the Niacin (explained below). Too bad. I was. Good times. I was awake until at least 3:30 with this blog post streaming live in my brain.

That night I felt so very, very strongly that I needed to share my experience, even though it is excruciating to expose such a personal battle and dark place. I mean, I almost threw up when I hit the publish button for my Dressing Your Truth before and after, and that was nothing compared to this. I’m an intensely private person. Showing weakness, imperfection, frailty, or any chink in my super shiny, well-polished armor feels like a failure, even though it shouldn’t. Sharing private things is so hard for me, even with my husband and those closest to me. The moment I do, I want to pull it back inside of me and hide it. However, I can’t let go of the fact that this could save someone else’s life, or at the very least release them from a dark, isolating prison. It could turn on the lights for someone else who is hiding the darkness. That’s why I have to share.

For those of you who know me and think, “I should have known. I should have helped her. I should have done something. I’m her (fill in the blank of the special person).” I want you to know that I internalized it. I swallowed it. I hid it from everyone. I cried in the dark. Even if you had known, what would you have done? What could you have done? I didn’t even want myself to know. Let go of the self blame now. I don’t want any teary apologies. You couldn’t have “cheered me up”. It was so much more complicated than that.

One of the lyrics to the song I mentioned above is, “You know if I had just one wish, it would be that you didn’t have to miss this. You should be here.” Even though I technically was here the last few years, I was missing it. I was missing all of it. They were missing me. I was missing them. I can’t redo that time, but I can be here for the rest of it.

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Today one of my sons, the child who has probably felt the most distanced from me, picked a handful of purple flowering weeds, put them in a cup of water and brought them to me. He said, “These are for the most wonderful mom in the whole world!” and he gave me a big hug. We haven’t had a moment like that in such a long time. Before I would have thought, “I’m the worst mom in the world, and I don’t even deserve a cup full of weeds.” Today I felt like I could accept the flowers, the accolade and the hug. This evening one of my daughters told me about a hard experience she had, and I was able to listen to her, hold her, reassure her and tell her how wonderful and special she is. I’m so grateful for today. I got to connect with each of my kids for a moment.

My husband and I returned from a trip a few weeks ago, and my 2-year-old keeps saying, “I missed you Mom.” I missed you, too. “You’re here.” Yes, I’m here, and it’s good to be back.

Niacin has one side effect called the niacin flush, or as I call it, the supernova. It’s like burning up from the inside out. Maybe this is what menopausal hot flashes are like. It feels like a terrible sunburn, your skin hurts and feels like needles, heat radiates from your body, your skin gets red and flushed. The more empty your stomach is, the sooner it happens. It lasts about 15-30 minutes for me. This one side effect is absolutely worth it. But wait! I have good news! If you take it at bedtime, you can sleep through the supernova. I occasionally wake for a nanosecond and feel my face burning and drift off again. If you’re not one to drift off to sleep quickly, have a bedtime snack so it delays the release.

There is such a thing as no-flush niacin, but what little I’ve read indicates it’s not as effective. The flush is how you know it’s working. I linked to the brand I use above. I’m sure there are lots of brands that are effective, so don’t feel like this is your only option. I haven’t done the research to find out why this works, because right now, I don’t care how it works. I’m just grateful that it does.

I’ve done all this without medical supervision, which I don’t recommend. I’m not a doctor or a nurse or even a CNA. THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. I’m not qualified to give medical advice. I am sharing a personal experience. If this interests you, gather your facts and go talk to your doctor about it. I acted rashly because this was an emergency. I was going to die. That was a choice I made as a last, desperate effort.

If any of this resonates with you, if you recognize yourself in any of these words, tell someone. Call your doctor and make an appointment now. Right now. Tell your significant other, your friend, your family. Admit it to yourself. You can climb out of the dark hole. If you recognize someone else in these words, talk to them. Share this post. You can’t save them, but you can throw them a line, and maybe they will save themselves.

26 Comments

  1. Laura

    Love this post. Thank you for sharing, my friend. Your honesty and openness will help me, and hopefully others. So glad to hear you are doing better. Love and prayers.

  2. Andrea

    I’m so happy you shared this. It takes true courage and generosity to be this vulnerable. Sharing your experience on this topic is important for others to read. People experiencing something similar may be helped, and others who know people dealing with depression can share the knowledge and understand that much better what their loved ones are going through. Thank-you!

  3. Jenn

    Wonderfully written and well thought out. I can only imagine how difficult this was for you to write.
    Depression is an insidious disease. I am so glad you heard that song and that is spoke to you deep down, because depression is a liar.
    Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable.

  4. Leo Ebbert

    April,

    so glad you shared this. just this week some friends of mine were talking about niacin. one of them said this: “the first time I got niacin flush I was like, wth is happening??? I called my mom and said I felt like I was sunburned on the inside of my skin”

    but they rave about it. i’m so glad you’re feeling freed. what a blessing that is

  5. Leo Ebbert

    Some friends of mine recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Niacin-Story-Wonderful-Healing-Properties/dp/1591202752. Apparently niacin can treat lots of things.

  6. Shelli Proffitt Howells

    I’ve been in that place where I had convinced myself, “If I’m gone, my family would be better off. God will give my husband and kids a better wife, a better mother.” I’m glad that I made it through those times, and I’m grateful you did, too. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. Fearless Coach Marla

    Thank you for posting this. I admire your courage.its so challenging to admit when we are scared, or things feel out of control. Many of my clients combine natural remedies, such as niacin, with coaching. They find it really helps!

  8. Jocelyn

    I am so glad you shared this. Shared knowledge, shared strength. Thank you for being brave.

  9. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing. This is something I will research for my son. I’m so glad you pulled through this- it is impossible to know how much the hormones throw you into that downward spiral, or how it is we all deal with the chaos, pain, and loneliness so differently. There is always hope. I’m grateful you had the courage to find your cure, and the courage to share it with others. Stay strong, Sister.

  10. Lindsay

    Thank you for so bravely sharing this. I cried for you. And then I cheered for you! How wonderful to be living your life again. I hope the future continues to be bright.

  11. Mary Selednik

    April you are very brave to have posted this, but you will help people by sharing your story. My depression started in high school and it was bewildering to me. After my son was born several,years later I sank very deep and had no one to go to for help. After a move to another state when my children were small I again had a very hard time. When someone hinted to me that my problems were due to laziness or a lack of faith I became very angry.
    Now I know that in high school I developed the first of several autoimmune diseases. I was sick, but couldn’t understand what was wrong.
    I am thankful that today we have resources on the Internet to help find natural solutions. I take lots of vitamins and minerals and eat a very clean diet. I am thankful to Andrew Saul and others who have helped me too.
    Glad you are feeling better.
    .

  12. Rosa

    Thank you for sharing your story. I went through a rough time myself. I finally tried a high b liquid vitamin that I could absorb. It had niacin in it also. It helped me so much. Glad you are doing so much better. I am suite so many people will be helped by your story.

  13. Shawna

    Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for sharing this post with the world – as difficult as it was. I’m sure you will do a lot of good because you had the courage to share your personal experience. Thank you. Today I listened to a Glen Beck clip about his mom committing suicide when he was 13 and how he thinks she thought their lives would be better without her. But as he explained how much they needed her, I saw the longing and sincerity in his eyes from all those years of wishing she would have stayed with them. Thank you for giving your children the gift of yourself! I know they need you so very much.

  14. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this. Words can’t express how much I needed to read this. This post is my version of your song “You should be here”. Thank you.

  15. Leisa

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am going to do some research on this for my husband. He has been having issues with depression for a few years now.

  16. April (Post author)

    Thank you to everyone who has commented. If this post helps even one person get to a better place, it will be worth it. Each of your comments means a lot, and I appreciate the support.
    Jenn, you are right. Depression is a liar.
    Shawna, I’m going to look for that clip with Glen Beck. Anonymous, you should be here. You really should. This is your call to stay, and to endure. You can do this. Tell someone that you are struggling and ask for help.

  17. Sonya

    It breaks my heart to hear what you’ve been through. I’m so grateful you found a way to feel like yourself again and to know of your self worth. You are an amazing person!! Your story is truly inspiring and will help others.

  18. EllieZ

    I am so pleased to hear your happiness. We are all here and all wanting
    Happiness and Joy today 🙂

  19. Liz

    Thank you for sharing, April. I know how difficult it was for you to do so. I’m running to the store as we speak to pick up some Niacin. Fingers crossed it will help. I’ve been sliding back into the black hole again for the past few months and really need some help, too.

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  21. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this heart felt story, very eloquently written. I will try Niacin for myself. I wonder how or if this works for teenagers too…

  22. Anonymous

    Bless your heart ,April.Its a difficult thing to expose yourself like this but clearly you knew it was for the greater if the good and I thank you.I’m going to take some RIGHT now.

  23. Joley H.

    I went to the health food store as soon as I left work and bought the type you recommended. I started taking it every evening, and yes, right when you’re ready to drift off is great because you do sleep through it…I’m noticing immediate lifting of depression symptoms and actually wanting to live life for the first time in a long time. Thanks for sharing this, I really appreciate it.

  24. Malia

    Thank you for sharing this. As someone who has also struggled with depression, my heart goes out to you! I am so glad you’ve found something to help you feel like yourself again. I will be trying it asap!

  25. Joyce

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. In the past year or two I’ve been feeling similar to how you shared you’ve been feeling… very low, but also very private and doing my best to hide it from everyone. I recently went to my doctor for a check up and when she was going over my labs she noticed how low my B3 levels were. She recommended I take niacin daily and I remembered your post. I’ve just started taking it and hope to feel the effects soon. Thank you for sharing and helping me feel like I am not alone in my struggles. <3

  26. Haley

    I’m so glad I came across your blog and Food Matters. I’ve been dealing with depression since I was about 14 and I just thought something was wrong with me and I’d have to deal with it. The older I got through research and hearing other stories, I knew I had depression. Mine is not as severe as you described yours was, but I could relate with what you were saying and it certainly affects my day to day life.I didn’t want to have to rely on medicine to function though. I’m going tomorrow to try Niacin to see how it makes a difference. I’m so excited!! Thank you for being so transparent and sharing your story. It’s made a big difference 🙂

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