I've suffered with depression since the age of 13 (now 20) and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 3 years ago and treated with anti-psychotic medications.
My mood pattern over the last 7 years has been very predictable - 2 episodes of depression a year, one over the winter for around 4-5 months and another usually around a month long in the late spring, both of which followed a brief period of 'mania'.
Last year in October the depression that I presumed was inevitable struck again and I noticed that with it my consumption of sugar and junk fold absolutely exploded. Prior to that I'd been eating the traditional 'healthy' diet (I'd say SAD but I'm British :p) of whole grains, not too much red meat and lots of fruit and veg. I was doing 30mins of strength training 3 times a week and ran 5k 4 times a week.
I thought I was living my life in the optimal way so was very discouraged when the depression struck again, and my sugar cravings went through the roof.
Suddenly I was spending £20 a day on junk (crisps, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks etc.), I stopped exercising and I stopped leaving my university flat (apart from to grab junk food) and stopped interacting with my flatmates. The only human contact I had was with my GP once a week to increase my meds.
The depression got worse and worse (and I assume this now to be a result of my appalling diet and lack of human contact/ sunlight) and eventually in January I was hospitalised (psychiatric) after being prescribed yet another med which made me extremely impulsive and agitated, leading me to come within about half an hour of killing myself.The only reason I'm still here to day is because the psychiatric nurse assigned to me phoned me up to see how I was doing before I managed to put my suicide plan into action.
Once in hospital I was dosed up on benzos and released after a week once I was judged to no longer be a risk to myself. I went back to binging on sugar and avoiding human interaction and was back in hospital a fortnight later.
When I was eventually released the second time I was determined to find out what I had done wrong to get depressed again even though according to the medical community I was "doing everything right".
I stumbled across Paleo and dived straight into it. I saw an improvement in my symptoms within a week, and things continued to get better for a few weeks until eventually I felt as good as I had before my first episode of depression when I was 13.
I felt clear-headed, alert, my memory improvemed, my motivation returned. I wanted to run and skip and read and laugh.
Despite the vast improvement (I would go as far as to say complete reversal) of my symptoms, my psychiatrist and nurse told me that I was not eating healthily and that they were concerned I was slipping back into my old days of disordered eating like when I was 14 and 15.
I was willing to listen to them, so I did an experiment with myself - I went back to the "healthy" eating, and sure enough, back came the fatigue and the lack of motivation, back came the anxiety and the self-doubt.
I went back to eating Paleo and my symptoms again disappeared. I no longer even get time of the month cravings or PMS. I feel perfect!
I made the decision to come off my medication and in a months time I will be med-free for the first time in 5 years. I'm being careful not to get too ahead of myself because I know my illness has been a recurrant and persistant one, and that this lifestyle might not be the answer to everything, but deep down I think that this lifestyle is the thing that will save me.
My doctors still look at me like I'm a bit mad when I claim that changing the way I eat, sleep, exercise (lots of walking, heavy lifting twice a week; HIIT twice a week) and relax has fixed every complaint that I had, but I know that it's worked for me so I don't waste energy (or risk causing stress) by arguing with them.
Apologies for the length of this post but it's a topic that I'm really passionate about.
My parents are still suspicious of the Paleo diet (at least they have no problems with the sleeping/ exercising/ relaxing part) but they can see a huge difference in me so are agreeing to go along with it for now (though there's no chance as yet of them joining me in this lifestyle, sadly).
To actually answer the question (haha, took me enough time to reach this point) - I would say that once the episode of depression has lifted I do feel more in touch with myself, and it's certainly increased my empathy and sensitivity for/to others. I've become a quieter, more thoughtful person and I think some of that is down to the huge amount of self-reflection that I've done over the years when I was searching for what was going wrong.
Whether these qualities would have been useful evoloutionarily speaking, I do not know, but they come in very handy in the present day when studying for my degree because I can take my time with my reading and writing and now I'm Paleo I don't waste dozens of hours a week recovering from hangovers and oversleeping like I used to. ;)