“The Last Lizard was a particularly memorable episode in Suelo’s attempts to test the philosophical framework for the moneyless life, in the years leading up to his decision. In a broad sense, he was trying out two theories about the good life. The first came to him courtesy of Henry David Thoreau. As a million pairs of soon-to-be-chapped lips have recited at the head of the Appalachian Trail, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
But before Suelo could begin to discover what the effects might be of living simply, free of artificial distractions and closer to the rhythms of nature, he had to prepare himself even to embark on such an experiment. He had arrived in Moab pickled to the gills – like 10 percent of Americans in the 1990s – on a skull-warping cocktail of Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin. When one antidepressant stopped working, they’d give him another, and when a few replacements crapped out, they’d give him another, and when a few replacements crapped out, they’d revert to the first. The problem with Zoloft was that it made his mouth dry and his brain fuzzy. Once, while being interviewed for the local television station about a Habitat for Humanity program he was launching, he got so parched that he started to stutter right there on camera. Then it seemed to him that the buzzing of the neon light overhead grew deafening. Worse, when he looked up at it, he discovered that there was no neon light – the buzzing was instead inside his skull. “Luckily no one watches that station anyway,” he says.
One day, blinking into the sun as he stepped out of the post office, he bumped into his former roommate, Linda Whitham. She asked how he was and he couldn’t fake it.
“Shitty,” he said. “I’m out of a job. Anxiety attacks. Life sucks.”
She looked at him with supremely kind eyes.
“Don’t worry about anything,” she said. “Not jobs or money. Until you find your health. That’s what’s most important. Concentrate on that.”
A little light switched on – not the buzzing neon in his head, but a pleasant bulb illuminating some forgotten corner of will. He resolved that day to cure himself of depression without the use of pharmaceuticals. He began splitting the pills in halves, then quarters, then eights, then finally he flushed the last of the particles down the toilet. His naturopathic friend Michael Friedman suggested a natural alternative, St. John’s Wort, which Suelo began brewing as tea three times a day.
“I started visualizing my thoughts,” Suelo says. “My mind was a weed garden of negative thoughts about people, things, myself. I thought: “I don’t care if it takes me until I’m eighty years old – I’m going to weed out this garden. That’s my priority.” I kept seeing these negative thoughts rising in my mind. Why do I hold on to them? It’s useless. I’d let it go.”
And slowly, living in his cave through 1997, his mental health improved. He would look up from what he was doing and notice that he hadn’t been unhappy in hours. The depression had begun to evaporate. Thrilled by the progress of his mind, he began to focus on his body.”
The Man Who Quit Money
InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.