Apr 3, 2012

Mental Illness and Nutrition

This post has been floating in my head for sometime now.  I have debated long and hard at how much I wanted to share and if this space was the right place to do so.  I have decided that yes it is, this is after all my online journal.  My only journal really.

I come from a family with a strong line of mental illness.  Depression at the very least with lots of wonderful bipolar and other odds and ends thrown in for fun.  I have been fortunate to escape the bipolar diagnosis however I do have my battle with depression at times.

Growing up as a child of someone who has a series and undiagnosed mental illness is something of a roller coaster adventure.  The highs on the coaster are the memory making kind but the lows, oh the lows, there are no words.  As a child you assume all is well, that every family has these issues to deal with.  As a teenager I found my rebellion to be wrought with guilt and a general F* the world attitude.  It's very hard to test the waters when you are overrun with guilt on what the consequence may be, and not your consequence, but the mental stability of someone you love.

At some point in my life I decided to eschew all that I saw represented my family life, leading myself to become known as the family prude.  I embraced this derogatory title with glee.  At this point I also made a pact with myself to make health be a very conscious choice for myself.  Afterall the tsunami of Issues I dealt with could be at least controlled with proper choices right?  Yup, a theory that has proven itself to me time and time again.

So what do I do to keep myself healthy, happy AND not depressed? A few things...

1.  I don't drink, smoke or do drugs.  These may seem like no brainers to some of you and to others you may be picking your jaw up off the ground.  "What! No wine with dinner?" Lol. Nope not for me.  I have seen the devastating effects of alcohol for years.  I know that most people are able to control their consumption.  However, it's not something I will even touch.  Drinking numbs the senses and the brain, making reaction time slower as well as disrupting normal brain patterns.  I decided long ago to embrace what I feel and not hide the pain/unhappiness/lonliness etc with drinking.  Drugs and smoking are no brainers for me.

2.  I talk.  Huh, you say?  Well I am big on communication.  I let it out when it bugs me.  Rarely do I have passive aggressive moments, rarely do I blow up, but always I talk (much to my husbands dismay at times).  I refuse to let something sit and fester.


3. I eat healthy.  I have no addictions or vices (well there is sourdough bread, that just might count hmmm).  I choose to eat things that I know will strengthen me, nourish me, and balance me.  Do I eat fast food?  Rarely, maybe 5 times a year.  Do I drink soda? Nope, I want all the calcium in my bones as possible thanks!  Broccoli and tomatoes make me happy, cheese obviously makes me very happy, and bread makes me happy.  I don't need the other garbage clogging everything up.

4.  I take supplements when needed.  If I am feeling depression sinking in I take Vitamin D and Vitamin E.  Those at my latitude can not get sufficient Vitamin D from the sun without running naked for many, many hours.  I've had 4 kids, there will be no public nakedness in this lifetime.  Vitamin D aids in the production of norepinephrine and dopamine for healthy brain function.


5.  I take a whole food multi vitamin.  If you are prone to depression or other mental illness, a multi vitamin can help to balance or begin restoring depleted vitamin stores.  I know there are some who do not think a vitamin is necessary but for those of us prone to depression it is needed, especially is during your depressed state you do not eat well (or at all).  Balance is a good thing!

6.  Exercise.  This one needs to be the number 1 on my list as exercise causes all sorts of happy things to happen in the body.  It releases endorphins, helps hormones, cleans the blood, and floods the brain with yummy new blood.  Movement is good!  This is the hardest one for me in the middle of depression though, maybe because it is so needed.

7. I have faith.  I know this one isn't nutrition related but I have noticed a distinct difference in what I can handle compared to friends who do not have faith.  Notice I am not specific here, I say faith not religion.  Having faith in a divine power or God brings internall peace which has impact on cortizone and hormone levels.

There are many  more things that one can do to help balance mood/hormones.  These are just a few that work for me.

How do you stay balanced and happy?  (Speak up, I know it's a tough topic to talk about but lets help each other out.)

 This post part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Rachel said...

Great post. So honest. I have just started on Whole Food Vitamins. I have noticed a difference. I too have a family of mental illness that I struggle to deviate from. So true that exercise is the hardest!

Nicole said...

My parents hid the history of my biological family from me. Life would have been a lot easier growing up (especially as a teenager) if I'd had know depression was a real issue in my genetics. I'm learning slowly how to deal with it, and what works for me. Thanks for sharing!