Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Feed Me Sane

I can't but think that there is a direct link between my food intake and me mental state (DOH!). For various reasons, my intake has become rather repetitive. Part of this is the reason behind last week's endoscopy (I have scar tissue in my esophagus which makes solid food more than a little uncomfortable to eat) but partly due to sheer habit/OCD/rigidity- it seems a pattern when I have free reign over my food with nobody to be accountable to, that I fall into the habit of eating the same "safe" foods day in, day out. Without a conscious effort to eat something new/different, I end up eating the same meals endlessly. The longer I DO this, the higher the chance of my intake dwindling- it becomes such a habit to eat exactly XXX for lunch, that it is just too tempting to start cutting corners here and there.

I haven't cut corners much at this point, but I have noticed a HUGE difference in both my energy levels and mood over the last month when I moved into my apartment and am wondering if the sheer monotony of my diet is playing a role- my food choices are not 'unhealthy' per se, but I know enough about nutrition to know that eating the level of intake I do each day makes it hard enough to cover nutritional bases, without the added kicker of having the exact same foods each day.

I kind of want to avoid talking too much about food itself because this isn't a food blog, but I think it's important for me to start actually looking at EVERY aspect of what's going on right now and trying to figure out this cloud of depression. Whilst at the same time not brushing it off as purely diet-related when it could be a multitude of things.

But, back to food.

It doesn't matter to me how it tastes or what form it takes- if it meets the criteria that my ED'd brain says is "safe", I eat it. Carbohydrates I eat in the form of whole grains because I am terrified that without carbohydrates, my serotonin levels will drop and lead to binging. It's all very black and white, classroom-style...and it's boring as hell. Food isn't enjoyed- it's mapped out, almost "prescribed"- set times, set calories, set protein levels, set portions of XYZ. All with very specific purposes in mind. And it's worked- I haven't had a major medical crisis since working with the "damage control" therapy. I haven't really moved beyond that approach either (though that was never their goal). My brain hones in on certain nutrients (protein and fiber) for day-to-day comfort/satiety, whilst ignoring longer-term health impacts of a well-rounded diet (hello phytochemicals, antioxidants, EFA'S!)

Why is this relevant?..

Because it's starting to really impact on my life. No, no major medical crisis, but I guess after several years of subtly depriving your body, it starts to fight back. Bodies aren't designed to have *just* enough to tick along from day to day, and life demands more than just having the energy to get up and dressed. A nourished brain can do amazing things- a starving brain struggles to make sense of the world, of people's words, of rationalising, thinking, hoping, dreaming.

I have been ignoring this for the last couple of weeks, and it hasn't been until today when I realised quite how tired I have been lately that I started to wonder. I could well be barking up the wrong tree. The energy levels, nausea, etc could be an effect of a very real depression, but I know from experience that when I am eating more variety and a higher intake, there is a dramatic difference in how I think and feel.

Food for thought (or just needing some food for my thoughts).

What things do you eat that are truly enjoyable for you?


Something else I wanted to write about. I've been blogging daily for a while, and since I was admitted to hospital, it's kind of taken a back seat. A huge part of this has been due to the depression thing. But also because I am now working with the "Intensive Home Treatment Team" so I can be at my apartment, rather than in hospital right now. They visit me at home each evening (sometimes 2-3 times a day) so that is taking a huge chunk of my energy and time. I also feel really ungrateful because I'm not sure it's helping. I don't know. I am in such a "funk" and I just want to slap myself and say, "snap out of it" but I can't seem to shake this cloud over my head. I haven't felt like writing lately- not because I don't want to WRITE, but because I really want to keep my blog both honest and recovery-focused, and right now am finding it hard to do both at once. Hospital is being discussed because I've been struggling to make use of the treatment and they are concerned about where things are leading. I want this home treatment to work out and am so frustrated with myself right now- they come and they are GREAT but it's like there is this wall between me and them. They make suggestions about things to do or try and my brain just screams, "what's the point? what does it matter if I do a pottery class? it's all a waste of time". I am, of course, perfectly aware that a pottery class would be a pretty damn good start at 1) getting me out my head for a couple hours a week, 2) giving me *some* kind of focus other than food/depression, 3) would be a great stepping stone to then moving on to do something a couple days a week (volunteering, school, etc) but right now it just feels beyond overwhelming to even take a shower, never mind go out and be sociable/productive.
I guess all I can say about this is that I am being as honest as I can be, and trying to just hold on. I want to say that I've never felt like this before, but I think I have- it's just hard *right now* to see beyond the current waves and see that I can get through this somehow.

What helps you feel better when you are feeling hopeless?

Again, apologies for lack of comments. My internet will be sorted on Friday. YAY!


Anonymous said...

I kind of get where you're coming from. The last week I've been feeling depressed due to my periods, but I haven't wanted to blog or do much really.
I really enjoy eating sandwiches. You can have healthy fillings and to me it's comforting.
My Dad always makes me feel better. He just seems to know what to say. Also watching some sort of comedy on TV helps me relax and takes my mind off things.

Stef said...

I think it's great that you're delving into the connection between your food intake and your mental state! True, we tend to overanalyze these types of issues, but I think understanding your body and your brain and how they work together is so important during recovery. I know you've gotten into a rut and that you don't ENJOY the food you eat. It's a sad way to live, but I'm so hopeful that you'll be able to savor food and eat what your body CRAVES soon! Don't feel guilty/ungrateful about your home treatment. You deserve the best care available, and if you're not improving it's not because you're a bad person, it's just because this disease has grabbed hold of your life for so long. It's a tough situation, especially when it's coupled with depression. Keep doing what you're doing...hang in there!


Anonymous said...

I just love your honesty in your blog, even when it's not recovery focused. Your writing style is beautiful--I think you would really enjoy a poetry class. It's probably something that would wouldn't have to be so social for either--just kind of something you need to show up and pay attention to--a great start if you ask me.
Your thoughts are so right--you need food for your thoughts, but also for your overall well being, and CONTINUING body function.
Maybe this week you can try to add something different to one of your meals, or change one thing about one meal a day. I am not so sure that variety is as important as getting the proper nutrients though--but I have only one nutrition class under my belt.
I have had the cliff bar (perfect little snack sized) and the almond bar and the other bar you put in the box. Also, the tea. AMAZING. Thank you so much.
Keep your head up, I know you are feeling so low right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to keep fighting. Let me knwo what I can do for you.

Danielle said...

First of all thanks for your sweet comment you left me, it definitely made me smile today.
When I'm feeling hopeless I have a lot of people to turn to for support, and a lot of the feelings go away after discussing everything with someone, and blogging about things always make it a little easier.

Lexi said...

I understand everything that you're going through. For so long, I felt the same way about food. But lately, I've been able to break free and actually enjoy what I'm eating.

How do I find hope when I'm feeling hopeless?
I look at quotes and affirmations. They help me so much. Give them a try :)

Love always,

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you're having such a hard time. It is hard trying to make changes when you are depressed - on one hand you might be right about your intake affecting your mood, because we've all experienced that and there is so much research around things like very low fat diets causing/maintaining depression. But on the other hand, challenging yourself to try new things and improve your nutrition when you are depressed is an uphill battle, it's pretty stressful and it's hard to find the energy for the effort it takes. I hope you can give it a try, I am a great believer in nutritional therapy for psychological problems. I don't want to get all Patrick Holford on your ass though :P
I really enjoy eating (and drinking) chocolate. What a girl I am. Proper dark chocolate though, 70% or more cocoa. I can even convince myself that it's healthy because dark chocolate is full of of fibre and there's been a lot of research into the health benefits of cocoa :P Porridge is one of my favourite comfort foods too.
What gives me hope...I think the thing that helps most is remembering that other people have been through similar and worse before, and have gone on to lead happy lives. I don't think anyone is beyond recovery, although it can certainly feel like that when you are really depressed. It also helps to remind myself that depression is an illness, and that these feelings are symptoms which are not necessarily representative of reality. That helps me take a step back from their intensity.
I really hope you start feeling better soon <3

Syd said...

Ellie, this is a great subject. Especially, the part about what helps me to feel better. For me, I feel better when I'm on the boat. It's my time and there are no pressures. It's pure freedom. I also feel better after a meeting.

As far as what I like to eat--vegetables are my favorite with a T-Bone steak thrown in. I really like Thai food so just about anything Thai makes me happy.

Anonymous said...

Ellie...Ive never commented here before but felt I really wanted to just say ....'I get ya.' When Im not eating properly i now without a doubt that I dont think rationally, I cant concentrate on anything other than food & weight etc & everything just seems so overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that my OCD behaviours/rituals become incredibly worse.
However, add in a bit of proper nourishment & hey presto, suddenly my brain actually works. *sigh* if only we could use this knowledge & apply it to our actions.
Well, I hope you're having a positive outloo on things today. Im in 'sunny' Scotland too so I now that for me at least the somewhat brighter weather helps lift my mood. I say you should totally go & take a book to read in Princes Street Gardens :D
Hugs x

Sheena said...

Hey sweetie~

I am sorry you are having such a hard time right now. I would agree with previous commenters that there is definately a connection between your depression and food intake. I always get so excited to cook and make something new. Eating should be enjoyed and fun, and how can you get excited about the sae thing over and over again.

For me, I love making one-dish meals, like casseroles and pasta. I will layer soy crumbles or chicken with veggies, rice, beans, salsa and cheese. Or layer cheeses, marinara, soy crumbles or ground turkey and pasta. Or make a turkey burger with avocado, butternut squash fries, sweet potato. The options are limitless.

And I know you want to deal with this at home and not in a hospital, I feel the same way, but you need to get better. You need to take a few leaps to do that. Like the pottery class sounds great! I am also very not social, but I just signed up for kickboxing that starts in two weeks and a book club that starts at the end of the month. I am scared about meeting new people, but I hope it will give me more to look forward to.

Please take care of yourself and hang in there! Try to find the joy in life, living and food!