Ok, I'm going to give some background before I get to the point, which is that I think Paleo has helped, but not completely relieved, my symptoms of depression:
I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 7 years when I started getting really depressed in college. I gained weight and started isolating myself socially. My parents were pretty worried and wanted me to start medication, but I kept telling them I didn't need it.
Then, after my freshman year of college, my father died. I was devastated, and I had a hard time doing anything except having angry thoughts. I went on medication, and - after trying several different anti-depressants over the next few years - settled on Wellbutrin for the next 8 years. It raised my heart rate into the range of tachycardia and I had years of insomnia, but it made me feel like a human being again. I could function, I didn't spend too much time crying, and I still had a sex drive (unlike on all those other medications). I lost weight, started exercising, was successful at work, and fell in love.
When I got married three years ago, I had to quit my job, and it took a long time to find another one. In the meantime, I gained all my weight back and became totally miserable again - like a person my husband didn't even know. I started a clinical trial on a new anti-depressant, and it was a bonafide disaster. My weight soared 15 pounds in two months, and I hated myself at a level I never thought possible. I seriously contemplated suicide…so I went back to the Wellbutrin.
Six months later, I was still miserable, although I was able to function again. Without telling my husband, I decided I was going to quit the medication, because I didn't feel like it was helping. I was doing CrossFit 4-5 days a week, but I still didn't have a job, and I just couldn't lose weight. Finally, I got a job, and my self esteem started to improve. I was doing ok without the antidepressants, and I started counting calories and tracking my food and exercise on mynetdiary.com. At the same time, I decided I needed to start eating some fish, as I just wasn't getting enough protein to support muscle growth.
Say what you want about calorie counting: if you're diligent, it works. I lost 35 pounds in five months, and I started feeling human again. While I was losing weight, I started researching the Paleo lifestyle, and I realized that it made sense to me. I waited until I reached my goal weight to start adding meat into my diet (because I didn’t want to halt my really successful weight loss). I cut out all grains except my morning cereal and cut way back on sugar, and then I went strict Paleo after I got to my goal weight.
That was about three months ago, and I’m feeling ok. I’m totally functional, but even at a size 4, I still don’t like myself. My heart rate and blood pressure are much better, and my cholesterol is even lower than it was as a vegetarian (128 vs. 152). I don’t cry much anymore, but I still wouldn’t consider myself happy. I’m staying off the drugs, and I don’t feel like I’ll need them again. But I do miss the feelings of actual happiness that I used to have from time to time on Wellbutrin.
Has Paleo caused or maintained my ability to stay off drugs? I’m not sure. It could be having a job, or losing the weight, or maybe my chemical imbalances from college just aren’t around 10 years later. Either way, I’m going to continue experimenting with optimizing the diet, and see where I go from there. Intellectually, I believe the diet will help me. Emotionally, it’s hard to have faith that I can really find a way to be truly happy again. I hope I can maintain a standard of emotional living that I want without having to resort to potentially dangerous drugs.
And now you know what there is to know about me!