Crazy Days: What a Vitamin B12 Deficiency Looks Like

Crazy Days: What a Vitamin B12 Deficiency Looks Like

Daddy Issues

Daddy Issues

Art by Coco

Art by Coco

Ed: According to WebMD, you can get a vitamin B12 deficiency from a whole range of things, including anaemia, surgery that removes part of your stomach or small intestine, Crohn’s Disease, celiac disease, a parasite, heavy drinking, immune system disorders and and from veganism. 

Slo-mo Mental Health Breakdown

Not a day goes by in my social media world without a mental health hashtag popping up. Good — they have brought me small, bitesize bits of solace over the last months, in which poor mental health has stealthily and inconveniently taken over my life. Here are just a few of the times I found myself inconveniently (but unfortunately not always stealthily) crying recently:

  • On a walk along the Landwehr Canal, at the sight of a solitary, frozen looking duck
    On New Year’s Eve, bedecked in glow-stick bracelets, holding a unicorn toy by one leg and doing the twist with a seven year old
  • In bed, listening to the dulcet tones of the shipping forecast on Radio 4 instead of sleeping
  • On my sofa whilst a kindly friend on suicide watch did lines of coke from my Withnail and IDVD case and emptied my fridge of beer
  • On the ubahn, wantonly, behind novelty turquoise sunglasses I borrowed for the occasion
  • In the vegetable aisle of the supermarket, overwhelmed by the vastness of apple choice

Brain fog became a problem. I walked into rooms and promptly forgot why I was there. Every jog ended in a panic attack: where was I running to? Why was I running? What was the point? I picked up books listlessly, and if I read them I began reading them backwards, last page first. Why? Good question. I forgot everything, names and house keys and words. My two languages began bleeding into one, and then that too crumbled away, one beautiful compound word at a time. 

I white fanged a lot of people, but with far less style than Schmidt when he white fangs Cece in New Girl. Mauerbauertraurigkeit is the beautiful compound word to describe the sadness of building walls.

 The people I should have white fanged I stuck to insidiously, with all the abrasiveness of superglue on fingertips. „Come on!“ yelled a friend with aggressive joie de vivre, „Cheer. Up. Now.“ She clicked her fingers. „Life is GREAT!“ I wept, and went back every day for more. Revenge.

 Let’s be honest. There is something liberating about giving up a decade-long pretence of competency and capability. I outed myself as an imposter. With a sigh of relief I sank into my sofa, puffy-faced, ghostly-pale and be-hoodied, and resigned myself to that being that. The end!

Good Eggs and Professionals

But it wasn’t, of course. No rest for the wicked. The hardcore hangers-on hung on, and I was browbeaten and blackmailed into „talking to a professional“. After each phone call I made, I was brought a morsel of something delicious. Macaroni cheese. A ginger nut biscuit. A spoonful of slow-cooker stew. Often the professionals reported month-long queues of people waiting to talk to them. It was frustrating. 

Finally, armed with a blister pack containing a single valium in my coat pocket, I went to the doctors. I had my throat and under-eye bags examined. The unstoppable deluge of my tears was taken scientific, objective note of. I had a lot of blood taken. I swam around Berlin in a daze, cried on consultation chairs, and hyperventilated in stair wells.


My doctor is a homeopathic practitioner, and his stock advice, no matter what the ailment, is to eat hot food with plenty of chili and ginger. But when I was called back, he looked me up and down gravely (it goes without saying that I was crying), handed me my blood results back, and rummaged for several minutes in his medicine cupboard as I tried to decipher the incomprehensible figures.

„Vitamin B12“, he said as he handed me a box of tablets, „very, very low. Explains everything.“ Everything? I was cynical.[1] I took the box and left, and when I got home I asked the internet. And then I asked myself how it could be that everyone tells you about Vitamin C but scarcely anyone ever mentions B12.

The internet says

We need it for our nervous systems, our red blood cells, our DNA. Here are some symptoms of a deficiency:

  • Memory loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Depression
  • Faint or dizzy spells
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tinnitus
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Bladder incontinence
  • Problems walking


After a week of taking Vitamin B12 pills, I can report that whilst I have cried only out of relief, none of the symptoms have miraculously evaporated — I imagine it will take a while. I’m holding my breath. And whilst I do I urge you, sufferers of the above, to do something. Do not assume you are doomed to a forever of melancholy and grey days, or resign yourself to a lifetime of weeping and sofa-slothing! Listen to the good eggs amongst your friends, the ones who won’t let themselves be white fanged. Pester those professionals. Make head and body appointments. And get thee hence to have your blood tested!


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