I was thinking yesterday, I wonder what it’s like to not feel heavy emotional pain over my chest all the time? What would it be like to be "normal" and be able to feel a range of emotions without pain? I wish life would allow me just a sliver of this.. this joy thing... I hear about...without being tainted with black all the time.
This illness prevails over the more intimate places of life meant to be truly enjoyed. To feel joy. To feel the closeness of my husband. To be able to fully give of myself in open love. I try to do these things but it feels like there is a hand over them all telling me, no this is not for you. The emotional physical pain I feel in my chest clouds over experiences I feel we were here to live with abandon and experience love. Depression steals life while you are actively living it.
I am fully functioning, and have never let this get so bad that I could not provide for my kids, go to work, and perform all the daily tasks that tell others I am a fully functioning human. Well that is not true, 20 years ago I sat in a forced hospital stay as the doctors worked out my diagnosis of C-PTSD and major depression. Since I was a young child I remember the feeling of deep pain in my chest, it never went away unless it was party drug induced. As I got older and went through the process of healing Interstitial Cystitis and had to change my diet, I figured out that when I completely stay away from all refined sugar, natural sugars, grains, alcohol, and dairy my symptoms would improve, but before they do my body goes through some sort of detox and I feel much worse for about a week as I transition. I also figured out the 2 weeks before my period is MUCH worse than the other two weeks of the month. Even though I have had a hysterectomy now, I kept my ovaries so I still get this PMDD hell and I can tell you exactly what day I am in my cycle due to my emotions.
Well you think, isn't this is fantastic, she found something that can help with her depression! The problem - it’s VERY hard to stick to a diet like this in this culture we live in. No ice cream - ever. When you want to bring your kids for a treat you just need to sit and drool instead of partaking. No wine at the party, no alcohol, EVER. No cookies (even gluten sugar free) no corn chips to dip in your salsa, forget tortillas for your tacos. No freshly made popcorn, (my favorite food)
Just a BUNCH OF FREAKING NOOOOOOOSSSSSS... This diet is a sort of hell in itself. What it does to your thoughts surrounding food is not healthy. Everything is off limits or there is guilt.
So, when I am feeling better I get a bit cocky and the thoughts start. Yes, I can have a paleo made chocolate treat..yes I can have some wine. Sure, a bit of home made freshly popped popcorn with coconut oil can't be that bad? And all is ok for a bit.. until it isn't.. and it hits me like a mack truck.. hence the crying for no reason and feeling like death is closing in on me.. when nothing at all is outwardly wrong. Then I realize my diet has become a bit to NORMAL and my brain is super pissed off at me. The party is over. Again.
Yesterday was a very hard day, a day I wake up in tears. You would think someone had passed away close to me, but everything is actually going very well in my life. My work is great, and I am succeeding, my relationship is good, my kids are healthy and happy. My husband knows something is wrong as he sees me cry and tells me to please be nice to him.. He explains even though I have this pain it doesn't give me the right to take it out on others and I must be loving. He tells me "Love Wins" remember Melissa? You need to fight this.. But I didn't want to fight. I wanted to give up. I am tired of all the fighting in my life.
So, I wallowed in my pain for a few minutes, turned on the shower, and got ready for my day. I moved on.. and now today is day 3 of my "healthy diet" and I feel like hell but I will try again to get through this and hope for that silver lining to come once again. I know it will come, I have been here before.
What causes depression anyway?
I have suffered with major depression for my entire life. Even as a 5-year-old kid I remember thinking about the feeling of major heaviness on my chest and wondering what it was. I am still managing it to this day at 38 years old. I take supplements like 5-HTP for serotonin levels and have to follow a low sugar diet and wheat free lifestyle to manage my symptoms. Some days are awesome, and some mornings I feel like I got hit by a truck when nothing bad has occurred externally.
First hand I can tell you depression SUCKS. I describe it as being locked in a glass cage as life happens around you. You can see everything happening, but you can’t get your mind and spirit out to enjoy the fun! It’s also a very heavy painful feeling in my chest even though I am still participating in all the activities of life. It almost feels as if a cloud of darkness is sitting over my soul.
Depression runs in my family. My mom was severely depressed for as long as I can remember growing up and also suffered from agoraphobia and hoarding. Her mother was hospitalized multiple times when they use to shock your brain for depression. Clearly there is a genetic component.
It gets confusing when you also have a traumatic childhood and PTSD like I do. It gets even more confusing when you go on special diets to heal other issues and your symptoms improve. If depression was all genetic, or all from a bad childhood, then why do the foods I eat effect it so much?
I believe depression is caused by multiple factors all coming together in a not so awesome way. New studies are finding depression is linked with silent inflammation in the body. A number of things cause silent inflammation. Stress being the biggie! Not only emotional stress but environmental stress. Unknown food intolerances put a lot of stress on the body. Dairy, frankenwheat (that’s what I call todays wheat), refined sugar are the top offenders. Refined sugar is a double whammy not only because of inflammation but also how it effects your blood sugar. Refined sugar pulls minerals from your body to digest itself, and a lack of minerals can cause depression. It really is the worst thing you can eat if you suffer from depression.
Too much stress attacking you and soon your cortisol is out of control and serotonin and dopamine are not able to keep up with the body’s demands for it. Your sleeping becomes erratic, your appetite is either out of control or gone out the window, you have low energy and sex sounds boring. You lose excitement and may even feel extreme emotional pain. This is clinical depression. If it is severe do not feel embarrassed about going to your doctor for pharmaceutical help. I spent years highly against these meds from everything I was reading in the natural health world, until I became close to suicidal a few years back and went and got Prozac. It did help me through a rough patch, but I discontinued them due to side effects once I was able to manage my stress better though diet and supplements.
Diet is an important piece when you are prone to depression. For someone who has experienced a lot of trauma throughout their childhood, it is even more important they get serious about feeding their body a low inflammatory diet to manage symptoms for all sorts of diseases depression included.
Figuring out what hidden food intolerances you have through a blood test or elimination diet should be your first step after you have removed wheat, dairy, and sugar for a few weeks.
Supplements I have found helpful for my depression are 5-HTP for my serotonin levels and Mucuna for my dopamine. Everyone has different levels of brain chemicals that could be contributing to symptoms. You might need to experiment a little. Sometimes when I take Mucna I become very anxious and this tells me I actually need more serotonin supplements and less dopamine.
Regular exercise sounds exhausting when you are depressed but it is proven to help once you start! You don’t need to learn a big workout program and start powerlifting although that’s fantastic if you do! Just start with something easy like power walking 30 minutes a few days a week or a yoga class and go from there. The key is to not stress yourself out even more with a fancy workout program your mind isn’t ready for. Baby steps turn into leaps and before you know it you are working out regularly and starting to feel better.
You are not alone and depression is more common today than ever.
Realizing you need to address all these aspects of your life to heal might feel overwhelming. You might want to hire someone who has been through it and can support you through the changes.
Melissa is the Author of Healing Through the Pain How I overcame Interstitial Cystitis. She writes about health (physical, emotional and spiritual) from a vulnerable place, after overcoming Interstitial Cystitis and still battling emotional illness. She is passionate about helping women realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
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