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What do I do now that my Depression has returned?

by (15)
Updated October 22, 2014 at 3:37 AM
Created April 20, 2012 at 5:27 PM

After going paleo a year or so ago, my chronic depression went away (along with 40 extra pounds and several medications). The past couple of months, though, it's come back. If one of my children is unhappy (even for something relatively minor), I go into a funk and don't pull out for weeks. For example, my teenage son has an injury that may prevent him from playing baseball again, which really has him bummed, which has made me depressed. I know in the larger scheme of things it's not that big a deal, but I can't shake it. How do I stop excessive worry and depression over my children?

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6
340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM

I'd like to reinforce what Sunny Beaches said about environmental triggers and social interaction. However, under the environmental category, I would also suggest looking at toxic exposures, as they can disrupt many of our internal processes; especially gut, enzymes, hormones. If you haven't had much change in your life, I wonder if you might be feeling boxed in or in a rut. Do you feel that you have control over where you life is going?

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6
340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:42 PM

I had the same reaction a while after going LC and before I realized that I hadn't upped my fat intake to appropriately compensate and therefore was always low on energy. As a result my mood would also fluctuate with my level of rest and food consumption.

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6
340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM

I'll second both The Mood Cure and GAPS. The Mood Cure offers methods to characterize the specific nature of your depression and identifies likely nutritional elements to address it. I don't recall for sure, but it may in passing offer support for the careful use of some pharmaceutical therapies too. The GAPS diet has a good history for treating mood and psychological ailments and has a large body of supporting resources.

9dd74d3941535d0aaa2c8d3cf454fb7e
800 · April 25, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Do you consume much coconut oil?

C79a5b43dfc5749200bd9dcaa6bb0858
1571 · April 25, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Very true Nance, at least it was for me. I got a good couple of months full of energy and excitement from this 'new' thing I was involved in. I'm sure it would have lasted longer if hadn't started having reactions to mystery foods which started a new, scary phase of the journey. I recognize that I am very dependant on planning for the future. I always try and have something to look forward to like a beach or camping trip, or a get together, or project. Otherwise I turn into a sad sack of sand. Very Eeyore.

E95216c62a14d21c371fcbf2fed8469b
1867 · April 25, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Good suggestion. Try it on everything as they say and my friend in the military uses it to manage stress from her tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 22, 2012 at 1:48 AM

I'll give that a look.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f
8933 · April 21, 2012 at 7:35 AM

Being susceptible to stress can be worked on through diet, but light and other external factors are equally important.

863fbe3ea7cacba9a77b19a09bf445cf
455 · April 20, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Ah, worry often seems to precede episodes of depression. Kamal (Paleohacks moderator) has a website that recently had a post on CBT for pain. I know pain isn't your issue, but the article has some info on CBT in general. It's here if you want to take a look: http://paindatabase.com/talktherapy/

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 8:42 PM

Before, I used to have the most trouble in the fall, but I was fine this past fall. This came on a couple of months ago. I first fell into it while worrying about a problem my daughter was having. As long as one of my children has a problem I seem to be incapable of getting past it and feeling happy. I just googled CBT. That may be something I need to try if this doesn't lift soon.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
37187 · April 20, 2012 at 8:06 PM

And I don't think I did a good job of explaining my thought, but your switch to "paleo" probably qualifies as something that might be interesting enough to temporarily improve your depression but would be unlikely to last forever.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
37187 · April 20, 2012 at 8:04 PM

LOL, I love my family dearly but they are the most frequent source of stress/anxiety in my life and a lot of my morning "don't think about anything" time is to escape their impact on my serenity. Just sayin'.

Dfeb3c1ef269c5dc03154d1689c14373
716 · April 20, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Also remember to give it time. It's not like you eat the food for a couple days and expect a chronic condition to instantly resolve itself. Be consistent and patient =)

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:52 PM

I think I'm good on vitamin D; I get out in the mid-day sun almost every day (I was even able to do that all winter, since it was so mild). I do need to up the organ meats and fish though (even though I don't enjoy them; I'll take them like medicine I guess).

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Not much has changed in my life in a long time. I'm probably over-invested in my kids (not that that's a bad thing; I probably need something else to focus on). I have very little social interaction outside my family, which probably doesn't help.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:47 PM

I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week). Some days I get very little though. I may up my carb intake a bit and see what happens.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:46 PM

I don't do the low-carb substitutes; I tend to stick to real food. I eat plenty of eggs, but I do need to add in fish and organ meats (I don't particularly like them, but I need to bite the bullet and eat them anyway). Also, I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week). I'll give your ideas a try.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week. I don't seem to have any gut issues. I'll check into GAPS. I do feel best after my workouts (one weight session per week and one Tabata session).

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Thanks! I'll look into that.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:38 PM

I'll check it out, Thanks!

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · April 20, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Haha Dave. Google PTSD & EFT.

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20411 · April 20, 2012 at 6:53 PM

I thought EFT was about as credible as alkaline water....

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15 · April 20, 2012 at 6:49 PM

Thanks for the responses. I'm doing one weight training session per week (Body by Science protocol) and one set of Tabata sprint intervals per week. Other than that I do a lot of activity, but no other exercise (I hike a couple of times a week, shoot baskets in the driveway, etc.). I've been getting plenty of sleep and I get a lot of sun. The stress level is another matter. I take my kids' problems on myself and stress out over them. Not sure how to stop doing that. I haven't changed much. My job isn't stressful (just boring), and I've had no trouble keeping the weight off.

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566 · April 20, 2012 at 5:57 PM

I think you are at the point where you are "leveling out" for lack of a better word. The "better" feeling you experience as your body re-adjusts to a natural diet is becoming normalized, and old habits can come back. I don't think it's diet as much as it may be mental tenacity and training. That is a long term thing that is a personal journey.

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1607 · April 20, 2012 at 5:39 PM

This might be something diet can't correct for you. Do you work out A LOT? Or physically stress yourself a lot? When I was really overtrained I got DEPRESSED. I have cycled in and out of depressed periods for years, but not like that. Have you made other changes in your life or lifestyle that could have triggered it? How's your sleep/diet/stress levels/exercise doing?

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15 Answers

C79a5b43dfc5749200bd9dcaa6bb0858
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1571 · April 20, 2012 at 6:18 PM

I have been fighting depression since puberty so I feel your pain. Your issues may just be situational, but the fact that they keep routinely coming back tells me that your constantly on the fence and at the mercy of every new situation. The good news is that you may be close enough to mentally healthy that other natural interventions may give you more robust mental health.

Some things to check out:

The Mood Cure

GAPS Do you have gut issues? IBS, gas, D/C, etc? This line of questioning leads into the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) approach to mental health. If you're not familiar it's pretty interesting and like Paleo made too much sense (to me) to ignore. I follow this and Paleo.

Doing a carb refeed on the weekend tends to help me boost my spirits as does bi-weekly walk/sprint sessions. The body weight work I do probably helps me feel good in my body as well.

Full disclosure is that I take Wellbutrin daily and have for years now. Paleo helped me immensely in that my medication started working finally.

Best of luck and try and stay positive. You've made a good first step by asking for support from your community. We're here for you! You are NOT alone. :-)

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6
340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM

I'll second both The Mood Cure and GAPS. The Mood Cure offers methods to characterize the specific nature of your depression and identifies likely nutritional elements to address it. I don't recall for sure, but it may in passing offer support for the careful use of some pharmaceutical therapies too. The GAPS diet has a good history for treating mood and psychological ailments and has a large body of supporting resources.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week. I don't seem to have any gut issues. I'll check into GAPS. I do feel best after my workouts (one weight session per week and one Tabata session).

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2022 · April 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM

This is probably not going to be the most popular response here, but you could always try an anti-depressant. Your doctor will start you on the lowest, most efficacious dose in order to minimize side-effects. I think it's always best to avoid medication if possible, but it sounds like you've been working hard at pulling yourself out of your funk. There is no shame in getting some additional help. Medication doesn't have to be forever, but it can be a nice kick-start.

Good luck:)

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158 · April 25, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Start a garden. I know that sounds over simplistic but I think you need to reconnect with the earth. I believe growing your own food and spending time digging in the dirt has a positive effect on mental health, not to mention all the great food. Also spring is in the air!

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37187 · April 20, 2012 at 7:27 PM

I've suffered intermittent depression and there's one insight I developed that hasn't yet been mentioned, which is that sometimes a change of scene/focus triggers remission but it's not necessarily permanent.

For example, I happened to be quite depressed at the time I was a passenger in a car involved in a serious car accident. The injuries I and my then-3-yr-old son received totally shocked me out of my depression and it was years before the tendency re-surfaced. Also, a few intense weight-loss diets in my past had the same--sadly temporary--effect.

The moral of my story has been at some point you have to confront the underlying issues whether they are situational or biological. The initial emotional benefits of the whole-foods lifestyle have also worn off for me and I've had to consciously work on reducing my stress and frequently recharging/supporting my serenity.

If you look away from how you're eating, what's going on in your life that may call for some compensating strategies?

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1571 · April 25, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Very true Nance, at least it was for me. I got a good couple of months full of energy and excitement from this 'new' thing I was involved in. I'm sure it would have lasted longer if hadn't started having reactions to mystery foods which started a new, scary phase of the journey. I recognize that I am very dependant on planning for the future. I always try and have something to look forward to like a beach or camping trip, or a get together, or project. Otherwise I turn into a sad sack of sand. Very Eeyore.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
37187 · April 20, 2012 at 8:06 PM

And I don't think I did a good job of explaining my thought, but your switch to "paleo" probably qualifies as something that might be interesting enough to temporarily improve your depression but would be unlikely to last forever.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
37187 · April 20, 2012 at 8:04 PM

LOL, I love my family dearly but they are the most frequent source of stress/anxiety in my life and a lot of my morning "don't think about anything" time is to escape their impact on my serenity. Just sayin'.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:51 PM

Not much has changed in my life in a long time. I'm probably over-invested in my kids (not that that's a bad thing; I probably need something else to focus on). I have very little social interaction outside my family, which probably doesn't help.

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681 · April 25, 2012 at 2:59 PM

I suffered from severe depression for a few years some years ago. I feel pretty much bullet proof now though.

In my case I believe there were two causes for my depression: a biological one and a psychological one.

When I used to wake up the morning, the depression would hit me the instant I gained consciousness. It was like being plunged into a river. I think that feeling stemmed from biological causes.

The fix for the biological problem, or at least a big part of it, was I think a better diet. The optimal diet is as I think you know lots of whole foods and plenty of healthy fats (and plenty of high cholesterol foods probably helps too).

The other problem was psychological.

Depressed people typically hold a lot of irrational negative beliefs. The fix for this is to challenge those beliefs using reason.

I'm not talking about positive thinking or affirmations or the "law of attraction" or any of that nonsense. There is nothing wrong with negative beliefs in and of themselves. For instance, "there are many starving people in the world" is a negative belief. But it's quite true, and it's not irrational to believe it. There is nothing wrong with it.

A classic example of a negative irrational belief that depressed people hold is "I will be depressed forever."

How could you challenge that? Personally, my conversation with myself went something like this, briefly:

"I will be depressed forever."

"No. While it's possible you will be depressed forever, it's unlikely because most people get better."

"Ah, yes, but I will be one of the unlucky few who will not get better."

"Why do you think that?"

"Because only bad things happen to me."

"That's untrue. Here's an example of something good that happened to you recently: [an example]. You have no reason to believe you will be one of the unlucky few."

"Okay."

"The strongest statement you can make is that you may be unhappy forever. To say that you will be unhappy forever would be an irrational belief because you can't justify it."

"Okay."

The more irrational negative beliefs you jettison, the more happy you will be, and the greater sense of relief you will feel. There are many beliefs that we hold that we just aren't required to hold. They weigh us down but there is no good reason for them. We don't have to hold them if they can't be justified.

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5509 · April 25, 2012 at 2:03 PM

It sounds like you've been working very hard to tackle the biology behind depression by eating healthy and exercising. Environmental triggers seem to be what's eating at you now. Eating healthy can only do so much. Us humans are complex little creatures. Eating healthy is an amazing first step! Eating healthy, however, won't get rid of your external stressors and how you respond to it because your mind will always be fighting for you to confront those triggers.

  • Depression and anxiety tend to respond well to changes in cognition/perception. The road to getting back on your feet is to "train" yourself to think of situations in a new light. Have you considered seeking help and/or support to guide you along the way?

You could try to tackle these worries by using some CBT strategies. I don't know your situation well enough, but this is an example:

"Yes, my son hurt himself. Basketball means a lot to him, and I also know it's not black and white. It doesn't define who he is, and it doesn't mean that IF he is injured forever, that his life is doomed. He has many other strengths. I cannot predict the future"

  • Journaling

Sometimes it might feel like you having so much on your chest and have nobody who can understand you. Journaling has been found to be effective in improving mood. Maybe each night, you can just write freely for 10 or so minutes, or however long or short you'd like. When you close your journal, think of it as putting your worries in a closed box, for that time being.

  • Relaxation techniques/Distraction/social support

You stated that you have very little social interaction outside of your children. Could you maybe try to schedule one day a week to start with to just play board games, go on a walk with a loved one? You need to take care of you, as well. Don't feel guilty doing something for yourself, because in the end, a relaxed and happy YOU means that you have more energy to be a parent. You are more than a parent. You have many wonderful roles and talents and you should make time for yourself! Start a hobby:)

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340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM

I'd like to reinforce what Sunny Beaches said about environmental triggers and social interaction. However, under the environmental category, I would also suggest looking at toxic exposures, as they can disrupt many of our internal processes; especially gut, enzymes, hormones. If you haven't had much change in your life, I wonder if you might be feeling boxed in or in a rut. Do you feel that you have control over where you life is going?

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455 · April 20, 2012 at 7:55 PM

I realize your depression was chronic, but did you exhibit any sort of seasonal waxing and waning of your symptoms in the past? Some people actually feel (temporarily) worse in the spring ("April is the cruelest month . . ."). I'm not sure what strategies you've tried in the past, but there's a lot of evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps for both depression and worry.

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15 · April 22, 2012 at 1:48 AM

I'll give that a look.

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455 · April 20, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Ah, worry often seems to precede episodes of depression. Kamal (Paleohacks moderator) has a website that recently had a post on CBT for pain. I know pain isn't your issue, but the article has some info on CBT in general. It's here if you want to take a look: http://paindatabase.com/talktherapy/

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 8:42 PM

Before, I used to have the most trouble in the fall, but I was fine this past fall. This came on a couple of months ago. I first fell into it while worrying about a problem my daughter was having. As long as one of my children has a problem I seem to be incapable of getting past it and feeling happy. I just googled CBT. That may be something I need to try if this doesn't lift soon.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
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32518 · April 20, 2012 at 6:12 PM

EFT is brilliant for depression.

E95216c62a14d21c371fcbf2fed8469b
1867 · April 25, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Good suggestion. Try it on everything as they say and my friend in the military uses it to manage stress from her tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Thanks! I'll look into that.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · April 20, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Haha Dave. Google PTSD & EFT.

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20411 · April 20, 2012 at 6:53 PM

I thought EFT was about as credible as alkaline water....

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2048 · April 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Are you eating VLC? Sometimes I have noticed a brief return of depression when I don't eat enough carbs. If you don't have other health issues, you could try eating more sweet potatoes or other carb sources that work for you and see if it helps. I hope you figure it out and feel better soon. Depression is awful.

A9007c998e3b924deebbe9ebb98d4db6
340 · May 21, 2012 at 10:42 PM

I had the same reaction a while after going LC and before I realized that I hadn't upped my fat intake to appropriately compensate and therefore was always low on energy. As a result my mood would also fluctuate with my level of rest and food consumption.

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:47 PM

I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week). Some days I get very little though. I may up my carb intake a bit and see what happens.

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1794 · April 25, 2012 at 11:45 PM

Balance your serotonin and dopamine levels: Ray Peat has some interesting thoughts about that.

I don't know how much of those thoughts are right, but...

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2328 · April 25, 2012 at 7:25 PM

maybe some natural caffeine stimulation would help, coffee, dark chocolate, green tea, etc. and maybe give meditation a shot.

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8933 · April 20, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Vitamin D3 (or more calcium), up the sugar, up the liver, up the oysters. I got depressed after going VLC during the winter too. Computer usage makes it worse, so I guess using bright light therapy might do a lot too.

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15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:52 PM

I think I'm good on vitamin D; I get out in the mid-day sun almost every day (I was even able to do that all winter, since it was so mild). I do need to up the organ meats and fish though (even though I don't enjoy them; I'll take them like medicine I guess).

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716 · April 20, 2012 at 6:34 PM

I think we often label our diets paleo in the same way we label things low carb. A low carb diet may consist of sugar free cookies and all other types of minimally nutritious foods. Paleo can also act in this way, especially when you're emphasizing eating tons of coconut oil, fruits..etc, they're nutritious, but rather minimally--coconut oil is devoid many micronutrients and fruits have some vitamin C and such, but little else. My main recommendation is to make sure you're eating the most micronutritious foods on a 'very regular' basis. The following foods include sardines(bones and skin included), cod liver oil, egg yolks, bovine/lamb liver, and oysters. I have had depression for most of my life, and only after eating these foods regularly did it go away. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!

Dfeb3c1ef269c5dc03154d1689c14373
716 · April 20, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Also remember to give it time. It's not like you eat the food for a couple days and expect a chronic condition to instantly resolve itself. Be consistent and patient =)

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:46 PM

I don't do the low-carb substitutes; I tend to stick to real food. I eat plenty of eggs, but I do need to add in fish and organ meats (I don't particularly like them, but I need to bite the bullet and eat them anyway). Also, I'm not super low carb (I eat a serving of fruit or two per day, plus a few potatoes per week; also some sprouted grain bread a few times a week). I'll give your ideas a try.

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6235 · April 20, 2012 at 5:54 PM

I don't know if this will help you, but it is an easy, non-drug thing to try:

Morning Face Therapy

658638382f2832ea60128251b5b9f025
15 · April 20, 2012 at 7:38 PM

I'll check it out, Thanks!

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