I have rebelled, for over a decade, against the idea that food *greatly* affects personality and mood. I first heard this preposterous idea around the time I was diagnosed with “Bipolar NOS”. Bipolar NOS is “bipolar not-otherwise-specified”. It basically meant, “You don’t fit any of the classifications of bipolar but you ARE really moody so…….”
Thus began a very long journey treating my so-called bipolar. I read books about mood management, took supplements, and even turned to medication. Everything helped a little bit, but not enough.
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that the beginning of major breakthrough occurred: my psychiatrist and I determined that I likely was not, in fact, “bipolar NOS”. Thanks to some diligent charting, we discovered that I was actually suffering from severe PMDD. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s related to your period and it means you’re a monster for two weeks out of every month. Yes. You heard me correctly. I was a monster FIFTY PERCENT OF THE TIME. And it was getting worse. I would feel uncontrollably angry and have no real good reason for it. I raised my voice far too often, for two weeks out of the month. Every single thing that people closest to me did IRRITATED THE HECK OUT OF ME and I felt like a lousy human being because I couldn’t be anything but mean, even though I desperately WANTED to be anything but mean. I would snip and snap and frown and growl and I literally couldn’t control it. It was awful. I was a prisoner of my own self.
My psychiatrist told me the only real remedy for PMDD was a birth control called Yaz, but I didn’t like the idea of messing around with hormones. “You have a boyfriend!” she exclaimed, as if that was reason enough for getting on birth control. “Yes,” I replied, “but we’re not sleeping together.” She gave me a funny look and I was pretty sure she thought there was more wrong with me than just PMDD. But she graciously left that bit alone and proceeded to explain that there really aren’t any medications that can treat PMDD and she REALLY thought I should try the birth control. I told her I would think about it and I left. I wasn’t currently PMSing, so I was half-convinced that it wasn’t as big of a deal as all that because I REALLY didn’t want to be on birth control. Really, really.
I shared the entire saga with my ladies’ Bible study, asking them all to pray wisdom for me. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do the birth control, but I wanted to make sure I was being wise.
And then I hit PMS. And it really was all that big of a deal after all, and I really got desperate enough to go back to my doctor and try the birth control. I actually didn’t care if it WASN’T wise. I was so miserable.
Aaaaaand…it worked!!! For approximately one month! Before horrid, horrid Woe set into my intestines. Guess what? Intestinal Bowel Disease is a “rare” side effect of Yaz. Being a redhead is ALSO rare and I apparently have a knack for experiencing The Rare, whatever it might be. Don’t even get me started on medication side effects and trying to adopt a dog. >_< I am not being facetious.
So, yay, I got the privilege of experiencing The Rare yet again, and I immediately stopped taking the birth control and instead, took to the internet. Because I had had a GOOD month – AN ENTIRE MONTH!!! – for the first time in over a decade and I was not about to let it go that easily. I also didn’t want to experience all of my good months on a porcelain seat. Something had to give and the internet would tell me what it was.
All humor aside, I prayed a lot. I asked God to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me what I needed to do. I knew there was a solution. Something inside me was certain. Certain enough that I was motivated and determined to FIND. IT.
Lo, and behold, I found a bunch of what scientists would condescendingly call “anecdotal evidence”, that women who suffered from PMDD and went off of dairy and grains experienced significantly weaker symptoms OR were completely CURED of their PMDD. They still had PMS, of course, but PMS is like a tiny toad when compared with the hairy beast that is PMDD, and people were rejoicing!
I really didn’t want to believe it. I was already gluten-free and I loved my rice flour. It allowed me to eat bread and pasta and all the delicious carby things. I also adore dairy. Butter, cheese, and cream ESPECIALLY. I was at a crossroads.
I continued asking God for help and, over a period (Ha ha! No pun intended…>_>) of a few days, I grew increasingly convicted about the food approach. Not “convicted” the way Christians like to use that word – I didn’t feel guilty or judged or like I was doing something WRONG. I felt instructed, compelled, reassured. I felt like I *could* be doing something BETTER…and I started *wanting* to.
So I decided to TRY a whole food/ingredient diet to see what would happen. Part of me hoped it didn’t work so I could go back to eating all the junky stuff that I loved. But most of me knew that if it DIDN’T work, I was in serious trouble. I would be looking at quite a long time of being miserable. Like…the rest of my life.
Incredibly, this crazy diet has been working, and I’m not even doing 100% WHOLE FOODS. (There are neurotic people out there who will tell you that milk and sugar are not “whole foods” – and of course, by their definition, those foods aren’t! But my definition of “whole food” is “God made it and/or it’s been around for a looooong time and moderation makes it doable”. I know, that’s a long and wonky definition but I don’t care because IT’S WORKING.
For two months now, I have been happy and reasonable. I still get PMS symptoms, but they are PMS symptoms and not PMDD symptoms. They’re manageable. I feel like one normal woman, instead of feeling (and acting) like two totally different women.
All I did was stop eating food that had preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, colorings, or chemicals in them. I did not go entirely dairy-free, but I cut back significantly. For example, I used to eat cheese every day and now I eat it about once every few weeks. I cook with coconut oil instead of butter. I still put cream in my tea and coffee but I’ve honestly not noticed any real consequence from that.
I still eat bread and pasta (made from rice or potato flour) once a day at most, and I will eat sugar that is IN things, like salad dressing, chocolate, peanut butter, etc. It has to be sugar and not artificial sweetener or – worse – high fructose corn syrup. I don’t eat candy anymore, except for chocolate, and even that only happens about once a day or less.
I feel GREAT. I feel so great. I feel very wonderful and I know part of that is just magnification brought on by how MISERABLE I was before. But seriously people. I’m falling asleep at night. I’m waking up BEFORE 8:30AM! (Those of you who know me, know how very profound that is… :P) And this is the killer: I’m raising a puppy. Yeah, if you don’t know me personally, it’s going to be difficult for you to understand that one, I think. Basically, I used to be an incredibly low-energy person and just the IDEA of house training a puppy made me feel tired. And now I’m training one and somehow still getting enough sleep and not going crazy with agitation and frustration.
I AM ALIVE. The way I’m supposed to be. Man. I can’t articulate to my own personal satisfaction just how much of a difference stupid FOOD has made in my life. Nevertheless, I’m sharing my experience here because anecdotal evidence or not, it’s REAL. I have personally experienced what hundreds of other people have personally experienced: food matters. It affects your body chemistry.
If you feel like God is tugging on your heart-strings regarding this issue, let me encourage you to pay attention. Cos here’s the thing. God is good. He’s “gooder” than food. And I know how it feels to give up the feel-good that certain foods offer, but TRUST ME WHEN I SAY you will feel gooder! (I know that’s not a word; I’m just trying to make a point.) You really will. You won’t miss the cruddy stuff and the good stuff will get better.
Guys. I sat on my couch yesterday and ate three cups of baby carrots. Okay? That’s technically a little outside of moderation but IT WAS CARROTS!!! I couldn’t stop eating CARROTS. CARROTS were YUMMY.
I have nothing else to say. If you don’t want to do it, you definitely don’t have to. I didn’t have to either, for over ten years, and I was miserable. ;)