Monday, July 27, 2009

So I Was Sane This One Time

So there was this one time I was sane. Lemme tell you about it.

The missus has twice put us on the same diet at the same time. Now I'm of the opinion that diets are bunk, and that the thing to do is exercise a little more and eat a little less. It's worked for me in the past; this last year, though, my personal habits have been dreadful and I'm paying the price...


This one time the diet was an exquisitely sophisticated one called The Diet Cure. It involved altering mental states by using amino acids as precursors to neurotransmitters, enabling one to fine-tune one's brain chemistry. (Please keep in mind that my experience with this strongly indicates that my brain chemistry is pretty fucked-up, so your mileage may vary.)

I was interested, partially because I'd used the idea of amino acids in that capacity in a science-fiction comic script I'd written back in the mid-eighties, when cyberpunk was still fresh. It was my first shot at long-form writing, and the script hinged on a couple who used genetically-modified bacteria to produce cocaine. They modified their coke by including the precursors to the neurotransmitters that coke releases in the brain, so one dose of coke would prepare you for the next rather than burning you out. (The twist was that it caused the users to become allergic to their own neurotransmitters, causing a Parkinson's-like effect. Turns out I was on to something.)

(Also interestingly, I modeled the lead character on Margaret Cho, who at that time was still in high school. She was a pal of my brother's. In fact, she mentions us and my sister in her first book, believe it or not.)

Back to the story. Going on The Diet Cure meant taking a lot of pills. A whole lot of pills. And you had to take them on an empty stomach, and each amino acid had to be taken separately in order to function. So all of a sudden my life was completely dominated by this arcane set of rules.

And make no mistake, these things were psychoactive. They have a very perceptible effect. Tryptophan, the one in the bottle at the top of this post, spikes your serotonin levels -- a dose of Tryptophan on an empty stomach gives you the effect of a Prozac-type drug within an hour or so. But this effect won't happen if you have any other amino acids in your stomach when you take it.

At first it didn't seem useful, but once I started modifying my doses way beyond what seemed reasonable all of a sudden something interesting happened.

I had no mood swings. I slept a solid nine hours every night. The chronic pain from my back bothered me less. I was mildly upbeat all the time.

But for eight months I took pills and cooked for me and the missus and read and played my bass a couple of times a week and that was fucking it.

No writing, no art, no new songs. Nada. Zilch.

And the price of the pills? I mean, I was taking something like sixteen L-Tryptophans a day, with vast quantities of the other pills to balance it out. Right now if I were to take four or five of 'em I'd be narked out and miserable. I mean, I probably should have counted the gelatin in the capsules when working out my diet.

And I gained fifteen pounds.

So Karen decided she couldn't afford to buy the pills for me, I lost the weight, went back to being crazed, and became artistically productive again.

Go figure.

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