About Robbie Mack
Hi there, I’m Robbie Mack, and shortly after my 32nd birthday I started to feel like shit.
I didn’t feel as good physically, which I put down to getting older, but my mental health had noticeably declined.
I had developed a consistently low mood and eventually, I believe, fell into depression.
I vividly recall waking up one morning and just staring at the ceiling - it seemed like my brain had stopped working or that something had broken. I was overcome with intense negative thoughts and feelings, which were amplified by the adrenaline coursing through my system from the fear of what was happening to me.
After a week of feeling really terrible, I realised this mental state wasn’t a fleeting thing like I hoped it was. I knew I had to take action and I remember thinking that I was prepared to do anything to never feel like this again.
That was four years ago; today I feel better than ever and I am delighted to have been able to turn things around myself, naturally, through diet and lifestyle and without the help of doctors or drugs.
I’m sharing my story in the hope that it resonates with others and provides them with a sense of support and ultimately, through making my research available, a fast track to their avoidance of, or recovery from, mental health disease.
So who is Robbie Mack?
Just an average guy. I was born in Dundee, Scotland. I’m 36 and the oldest of three children. I live with my partner in Edinburgh, am a lawyer by profession and play squash at a fairly decent level.
And of course I did not expect to be on the path that I found myself on - depressed and consumed by a desperate need to fix it.
Going to the doctors with the news that I was feeling depressed, only to be prescribed drugs, didn’t seem like an option for me. I felt like I had to try and figure this out myself.
The first obvious thing that occurred to me was that I was probably (definitely!) drinking too much. So l cut back on the booze and then, later, cut it out entirely.
But after a few months with no noticeable improvements, I decided that I needed to shine a spotlight across everything in my life. The problem was that I had no clue what to do next other than to get online and start searching keywords like ‘cure depression naturally’’.
Even then, I didn’t know how to make sense of the vast amount of information out there, or how to judge which advice was credible, much less how to put a plan together and then implement it.
I felt hugely overwhelmed.
Fortunately, and not long after starting my quest for wellness, I saw that my dad’s sister had shared a post on Facebook about B12 and mental health. From a quick read of the article, I noticed under ‘deficiency symptoms’ that depression was at the top of the list.
I turned to my auntie and she told me that she too had suffered from low mood and depression and that after various tests it was revealed that she had pernicious anemia (essentially she had lost the ability to uptake vitamin B12 from her food) which over time led to her mental decline. My gran, it turned out, also suffered from the same problem, contributing (I believe) to her developing MS.
Armed with this knowledge, I went to see my doctor for a blood test.
The results showed that whilst I was at the lower end, I was still within the ‘normal’ B12 range (my reading was 320ng/L on a scale of 180-2000 ng/L). This meant that I did not qualify for B12 supplementation through the NHS (the UK’s publicly-funded health care system) and I wasn’t offered any kind of useful assistance.
I didn’t take this rejection, coming in my darkest hours, very well….. I raised my voice at the doctor and stormed out! I remember thinking, “fuck them, I’ll do it all myself!”
I went home and bought a book called ‘Could it be B12?’ and started to teach myself. I learned that people definitely display symptoms towards the lower end of what is an unhelpfully broad range used by the NHS. I learned about methods of supplementation and different forms of B12.
I then researched some B12 products on Amazon by reading reviews and studying all the ingredients. After some trial and error, I found a product I was comfortable taking.
After a few months of supplementation I began to notice some subtle improvements in my mood. A blood test 5 months on showed a reading of 2000> (off the scale) so I started to ease back.
With my resolve strengthened by this personal victory, I continued my research and stumbled across Iodine. I learned this somewhat controversial element is in short supply in the modern diet yet remains as important as ever for the proper functioning of the body and mind.
Back to Amazon and within a couple of days I had some iodine. I studied the recommendations about how to supplement properly (Iodine supplementation isn’t straightforward!). Things got worse before they got better but I was definitely feeling improvements in my mood after several months of supplementation.
The next element that I discovered was Magnesium (Mag), the ‘relaxation mineral’. It turns out Mag is crucial for fighting inflammation and regulating the body’s stress response and, unsurprisingly, is almost entirely missing from the modern diet. Amazon! Within a couple of days I was applying a Mag solution to my skin daily, as well as taking regular Mag baths.
At about the year mark I came to an important milestone in my quest. I already knew that my diet did not include good natural sources of these vitamins and minerals and so, most likely, I had depleted my resources over a long period of time. My depression was surely a sign that I was running on empty.
That’s when I realised that my recovery was likely also going to be a long game. It would take time to build my body’s stores back up.
I am so glad I came to understand this paradigm early on so that I could reset my expectations and not lose hope or become disillusioned by my progress.
About a year and a half into my quest, with huge progress and only some minor set-backs, I started to feel like a different person. There were big improvements in my physical and mental wellbeing, my daily routine of supplementation was properly embedded into my lifestyle, and, whether I realised it or not at the time, I had become confident in making decisions about my health.
So confident in fact that I started sharing the knowledge with family, friends and even colleagues, who I thought I could help. However, what became apparent was that most, if not all, of the people I talked to had no idea about any of this stuff.
Faced with this, I took it upon myself to start educating people, though typically, my recommendations were met with blank faces, indifference and sometimes frustrated outbursts (so what?). I got it - they hadn’t suffered adversity (yet!) - but it didn’t stop me trying to get through…
At about the 2 year mark, I felt I had a solid understanding of the important nutrients, minerals and vitamins that were key for optimal health.
But I already knew supplementation alone wasn’t the solution to my problems. The underlying problem was my diet and lifestyle.
It’s bizarre to think about, but we don’t come with a user manual that explains how we work, our basic needs or how to live and what to eat.
You learn from your parents, your family, your friends and of course through the marketing influences of businesses beaming their products and information directly into your home. These dietary and lifestyle habits become ingrained in you.
Understandably, it then becomes quite uncomfortable when your lifelong habits and beliefs are challenged by conflicting opinions.
But I already had lots of experience of everything being turned on its head; this was my new reality.
So I set about trying to separate fact from fiction to learn about the right way to eat and live.
After consuming lots of research, articles, blogs, websites, YouTube videos - I became increasingly interested in the history of humans, how people ate and lived, going back decades, centuries and millennia.
What quickly became clear is that, whilst there has been a huge amount of change, particularly in the western world in the last c200 years (technology, industry, food and lifestyle), our bodies and minds have far from adapted to these changes. We still have the same basic requirements as our (first) ancestors did.
In terms of diet, this meant that our bodies still need the key nutrients and minerals that can only be obtained by eating the foods that we evolved eating over thousands and thousands of years, whole foods like: unrefined salt; lacto-fermented (probiotic) foods like kefir and sauerkraut; and, preferably, an animal-based diet (including the fat, organs and raw dairy) which provides us with more bioavailable nourishment.
Eating properly also means not eating too much - it’s becoming increasingly clear, from people smarter than me, that one of the reasons we are all sicker is because of ‘excess’, in particular, of food.
Humans didn’t evolve with access to food all of the time - you had to catch it or find it first and that didn’t work a lot of the time. And so tools like fasting and time-restricted eating, for example, to mimic periods of little or no food are healthy and natural and there is overwhelming evidence to support this.
In terms of lifestyle, quite simply we need to be outside, uncovering our bare skin to the sunlight whilst we eat, move and exercise - for many important reasons not least to allow us to create vitamin (hormone) D3, which we are all increasingly deficient in by being indoors all day, covering ourselves in suncream and generally being afraid of the sun.
Looking back, knowing what I know now, it’s fair to say that I was a ticking time bomb and it was a matter of when, not if, things would start to go wrong. My body was starved of proper nutrition and letting me know it.
A year on - now in 2020 - and after an overhaul of my diet and lifestyle, I've managed to regain my mental and physical health with lots of interest. Some of the measures of health that I notice on a daily basis include: laughing (a lot); a positive and optimistic outlook; and feeling calm and collected most of the time.
So, that’s my story or quest for wellness (in a nutshell).
I’m now convinced that I understand what it takes to achieve and maintain optimal health for myself. And it’s taken me the best part of 4 years to learn it.
So I am making it one of my life goals to spread the message (the user manual if you will) to as many people as I can so that everyone (who wants it) has the knowledge about how to eat and live to achieve optimal health.