What do you mean I might not be mentally ill?

If you were to ask me 10 years ago where I would be at 25, “I don’t know if I’ll make it to 25.”

My mental illness (diagnosed as depression, anxiety & OCD) has been a shadow following me since I was 12. I remember the first time I thought there might be something wrong was when I started coming home from school at 4, sleeping until 7, eating and then sleeping till morning. No amount of sleep could cure the exhaustion.

It has stuck with me ever since. It has grown and morphed and squeezed into every single aspect of my life despite my best efforts to shield myself from it. It has progressed into a monster that I undoubtedly am no match for.

Now, at 25 I am married to a woman I adore, in a house I love with a dog I can’t imagine my life without. But, my “mental illness” has been worse than ever before. It has manifested into what my family doctor referred to as “probably bi-polar”, and has consumed me entirely as I tried to find ways to cope with it.

I’ve tried diet changes, medications (including an anti-psychotic for my “probably bi-polar“, exercise, socializing more, staying busier, taking time to rest, going on sick-leaves from work, life-coaching, therapist after therapist after therapist… To say the least, it has been exhausting and completely debilitating.

I have burnt bridges professionally, lost friends, and questioned my purpose during what I thought was “mania.” I have felt so enlightened and determined that I wrote half of a book in one sitting. A rollercoaster could not compete with the twisty ride my brain was on.

But, the one helping professional who has empowered me and helped me fight for answers is my naturopath. I’ve been seeing her for a year, and in that time, she has dug down to the roots of my being. She has asked questions no doctor ever thought to ask and wanted a full picture of my life (right down to when I go to the bathroom.)

So, when she suggested that I might not actually have a mental illness, but that it is a symptom of a larger problem, I believed she could be right. 

She then proceeded to tell me that she wanted me to take a test that tests the hormone, serotonin, dopamine, and neurotransmitters in the body called the Dutch Test
I trusted her. I trusted her wholeheartedly because I so badly needed an answer for why my depression and anxiety/OCD had morphed into this bi-polar like illness that was eating me alive.

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So- I took the test. I peed on little flaps of papers at certain times a day at a certain day in my cycle and then mailed it off in hopes that I would find relief. Nearly a month later, my results came back. I met with my naturopath who had taken the time to analyze the tests and what she told me frightened and enlightened me. “Your mental illness is a symptom of a hormone imbalance.” She also informed me that my serotonin levels, dopamine levels, and neurotransmitters were in the normal-high range. But that all of my basic hormones, including my cortisol, were not.

THANK GOD” were the first two words that popped into my head. Next were “who am I without it?” 

I never realized how heavily I identified as someone who is depressed, who is anxious, who has OCD. I never imagined it could be anything else. So now, I’m here. Sitting with the feelings that accompany my new diagnosis of having a “hormone imbalance” while not letting it have too much power over me (though I cannot wait to get my hormones back to a healthy level.)

For the next while, my posts will likely be about my experiences surrounding recovery & hormone balance, as well as my emotions surrounding this entire experience.

Love

 

 

 

 

 

Why Changing What I Eat is The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done For My Mental Health

*Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional and in no way am encouraging others to try any of the products/supplements I mention until they consult with their doctor.

Recently I’ve drastically changed what I’m consuming. Not to say I was eating complete garbage before…but I wasn’t eating what my body needed. I’d fill my body full of carbs when I was stressed or emotional, go hours without eating and then binge out of starvation. I ate tiny meals with little to no fat and not nearly enough protein. I didn’t eat nearly enough vegetables and loaded up on sugary fruits. I’d snack late at night on chips and chocolate and other packaged foods. Wine became a nightly ritual (more than 1 glass). And, water was simply something I showered in.

Not to mention the fact that despite taking Zoloft daily to help me manage my anxiety/depression, I didn’t take any other supplements or medications. I was wary of them, to be honest. I thought the die-hard health nuts who lived on water, supplements, and veggies were insane. I still kind of do. But, I can truly say I have never felt better than I do now.

I visited a naturopath recently who has completely inspired me to change my life from the inside out. Not only did she analyze my eating patterns, mood instability, sleep, emotions, and skin…She got an in-depth, clear view of who I am and what food meant (means) to me.

After spilling my life story to her, including my deep-dark secrets involving binge-eating foods that didn’t serve me, she provided me with a solid plan to help heal the parts of my body that were suffering.

Firstly, she informed me that my adrenal glands were exhausted and overworked which caused symptoms such as carb & sweet cravings, dizziness, poor sleep and fuzzy thinking, to mention a few. She helped me understand how sugar and caffeine (even in tiny amounts) were directly impacting my stress levels and causing my adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol (think fight or flight…all of the time). She prescribed me a supplement used to help combat daily stress using “stress adapting botanicals.”

Next, we focussed on my skin, which was dull and lacking moisture even in the Summer months. She informed me I wasn’t consuming nearly enough (healthy) fats and oils. Simple as that. Along with my habit of only drinking like 1 glass of water daily. She encouraged me to add healthy fats (such as coconut oil and avocado’s) to my meals daily and drink water almost constantly. I have already begun to see improvements in my skin such as less flaky dry skin. She also prescribed a high-grade Omega oil that I now take daily.

We also dove into my panic attacks that have worsened over the last few years (since starting College.) We discovered that my eating habits drastically changed after I started college because convenience trumped healthy and, let’s be honest, I was broke. My caffeine consumption also increased drastically when I started college. The habits I formed in college kind of just stuck with me even after I graduated and began my career.

She also outlined the dangers of eating sugar in excess when you suffer from anxiety/panic and strongly encouraged me to eat as little sugar (especially processed) as possible. She also prescribed an amazing supplement packed with L-Theanine to help combat panic when it comes on. I was super unconvinced when she prescribed it. As someone who has tried Attivan in different doses without any relief, I strongly doubted a supplement would be able to give me any relief. But, during a panic attack, I took one of the prescribed supplements and almost instantly stopped shaking and could feel my nervous system calming. I felt slightly sleepy and my thoughts stopped racing.

When we began talking about my sleep and how it has been disturbed for nearly my entire life and prescription sleep aids never provided much relief, she immediately mentioned my cortisol levels again. She prescribed magnesium which decreases the stress hormone and also helps tense muscles relax. It has provided me more relief than any prescription sleep aid ever has!

Additional supplements she prescribed me include Vitamin D drops and Vitamin B complexes.

As for my “diet” which I’ve started calling my fuel…It’s simple. I eat protein, a lot of it. I also load up on vegetables with each meal instead of carbs. I eat carbs that contain protein such as Quinoa. I consume dairy in moderation and try to buy organic meat to avoid excess hormones. I also add healthy fats to each meal. I’ve also started to incorporate a lot of nuts/nut butter and seeds into my diet.

A daily meal plan looks like:

Morning Smoothie (Supplements= Adrenal Vive, Vitamin B complex)
1 large handful spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
A small handful of berries
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tbsp Chia seeds
Ice
1 scoop of protein powder. This one of my ultimate favorite!
*Bonus: 1 tbsp of acai berry powder

Snack
Grapes with walnuts

Lunch
Spinach and Kale salad topped with protein such as salmon or chicken with pumpkin seeds, avocado and any other veggies you like.

Snack
Coconut yogurt topped with a few berries, hemp seeds and a drizzle of agave.

Dinner (Supplement: Vitamin D drops, Omega oil)
Cabbage, onion, garlic and rapini skillet with organic sausage.

Bedtime Snack (Supplements: Magnesium)
Anything I desire as long as it doesn’t have a lot of sugar.

So, in short, I now eat a bunch of vegetables, little sugar, little caffeine, lots of healthy fat and protein and lots of water!

I hope this helps anyone who’s considering visiting a naturopath. I can’t recommend it more!

Additional Readings:

How to Tell If Your Adrenals Are Fatigued (Plus 7 Ways To Support Them)-This website is gold!

What Are The Causes Of Adrenal Fatigue?

11 Steps To Rebuild Your Relationship With Food

Happy Healing Everyone. Hug your body it may not be perfect, but it’s the only one you’ve got.  xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Naturopath Experience

Note: I am in no way trying to disrespect Doctors who work in family practice, I appreciate the work they do and believe there are good doctors.

I saw a naturopathic doctor for the first time a few days ago. I booked the appointment in hopes that she would be able to help me live a life with less anxiety, pain and exhaustion. I had no expectations though. My experience with doctors in general hasn’t been the most pleasant. Although my family doctor has good intentions, she rarely asks what I want in terms of treatment. She’s quick to prescribe and is incredibly busy. Appointments have never lasted more than 20 minutes (that’s if I’m really lucky).

But seeing the naturopathic doctor was as different from traditional medicine as can be. I approached the office (which is a hut outside in the middle of nowhere), and was greeted by a Doctor who genuinely seemed happy to see me. We spent 1.5 hours together. She asked me questions regarding my diet, lifestyle, mental health, sleep, relationships and everything in between. She really tried to get a full picture.

She also took the time to explain every single suggestion she made. She helped me come to realizations about my health and wellness and gave me tips and tricks to combat my concerns. She also reaffirmed my decision to work half time (and volunteer and pick up shifts) instead of working at a place that I didn’t feel fulfilled me.

She is 100% positive that my mental illness stems from both life experiences/trauma AND a hormone imbalance. She informed me that almost all of my cortisol (Primary Stress Hormone) is constantly being used to manage my anxiety Vs. manage my hormones. This would explain why in the most stressful years of my life I went months on end without a period. I have never had a doctor even consider the idea that a hormonal imbalance may be exacerbating my mental health issues.

After the appointment, she sent me her notes, and a list of recommended supplements as well as a full diet plan to help improve my mental health and energy levels. She also offered me the Nutraceuticals at her cost (she literally made no money off of it). She didn’t try to push anything on me, just informed me of the benefits of each recommendation.

Here’s the diet and lifestyle changes I am going to work on changing:

  • More protein. Meat is very important in the treatment/management of depression & anxiety. She recommended I get at least 60g of protein per day (before seeing her I was getting maybe 30g).
  • More root, energy and rainbow vegetables: She stressed the importance of having all 3 of these vegetables at lunch & dinner.
  • Eat protein and fat with EVERY meal
  • Drink 8 cups of water per day minimum
  • Add flax seeds to 1 meal per day to help with hormone balance

She also prescribed these nutraceuticals:

  • B6: helps with neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Omega D3: helps with immune function, hormone production and mood balance
  • Magnesium: helps with stress, anxiety, sleep, hormone production and ovarian function.

Luckily my insurance covers 80% of Naturopathic appointments. I would highly recommend, if it’s affordable, to visit a naturopath. I’m not going off my anti-depressants, I’m just taking her recommendations and pairing them with my anti-depressants in hopes that I may be able to eventually go on a lower dose.

I’m feeling hopeful. Have to stay brave and trust the process.

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