The Decision to Go AIP for Anxiety
I’ve been a little nervous to post lately. I’ve made another shift in eating that I am hoping (fingers crossed!) will help reduce inflammation connected to my anxiety.
I’ve been nervous because it means I have to talk about the big A and the big D words. Anxiety and Depression. These two words have so much stigma attached to them, and for the most part, people who have never experienced them have no idea what they are like.
I can’t just “take a deep breath in and breathe out” all of the problems that my brain can’t stop thinking about. I can’t just “buckle down” and let go of my fears. I know most of my fears are irrational, trust me. The reasoning part of my brain is still fully functioning. But they are still there. I can’t just “chill out,” “calm down,” “de-stress,” “pop a pill,” or “get over it.” And when you ask me to, you are being incredibly insensitive. And if you think I can’t do my job because I have Anxiety and Depression, then you are dead wrong.
Some people associate these two words with the word “incapacitate.” For some, Anxiety and Depression do just that. Some can’t get out of bed. Some have a hard time functioning. But for me, I’m still running at full capacity over here, even if half of my brain is refusing to come along. I guess I’ve been nervous because this means opening up, “coming out,” and becoming more vulnerable. Maybe its a fear that some employer may read this someday and deem me incompetent because of my mental disorders (which is illegal, by the way). But I need to explain all of this for a reason. (And first let me apologize for the non-food pictures. I went hiking and everything was so lovely that I had to share it with you. Also, Nature helps with my anxiety, so it seemed appropriate.)
My Anxiety and Depression haven’t gotten any better since winter (and usually I do perk up a little in the sunny summer). It’s a bit concerning, so I’m worried that whatever it is that is causing my brain to malfunction is getting worse.
And by malfunction, here’s what I mean:
I have fifteen minutes before I need to leave the house and I spent 2 minutes of that in the shower. The other thirteen minutes I spend crying on the floor because I can’t find the left shoe of the ONLY shoes that will match my outfit. Then, I spend five minutes ripping off outfit after outfit until I can find an outfit that matches the pair of shoes that I do have.
And today I couldn’t even imagine going through that routine. So I stayed home. I’m lucky that I have some great freelance gigs to work on so I don’t actually have to leave the house.
(But it’s nice to leave the house every once in a while. Especially when I promise the two-year-old we were going to go see the horses. I’m also lucky that two-year-olds are flexible human beings that love swimming almost as much as horses.
Thank goodness we have a pool in our complex.)
For me, anxiety feels like impending doom…all the time. My body tenses up, sending signals to my brain that SOMETHING is not right. As a ten-year-old I wrote this in my journal: “I feel like something bad is going to happen today.” And that’s my base level almost every day. Some days it’s just a low rumble in the background. And some days it rises with the stress level and work load that I have. Some days I have to take a break, and others I push through it the best I can. It helps that I also have a perfection complex, so letting anyone down or turning in work late just isn’t an option for me.
Then there’s the irrational fears which my brain knows are irrational, but my body and emotional center feel very keenly. Like driving on the freeway, left turns, my husband or baby dying, me dying, driving off the edge of a cliff. Just to name a few. These fears might be similar to a normal person’s, but I don’t have an off switch, and each panic attack ends up being an existential crisis.
It’s just life.
But I noticed that when I stopped eating grains, that my symptoms lessened and I could function much better, at least on the inside (since the perfectionism keeps me functioning on the outside). And it made me wonder why. I accepted it and moved on, but now I’m back to that question. I’ve always suspected that inflammation could be a factor, but visiting a doctor takes time and money, and my experience has been that I don’t ever get the right answers–just a prescription to cover the symptoms.
(Which by the way, I’m not medicating and I never will. I’m happy that it works for some people, but I just can’t go there if I still have other options.)
I’ve recently been reading quite a bit about the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and I’m wondering if it might help my anxiety. Nothing on the internet says that it will, but the AIP is supposed to reduce inflammation and helps with issues like leaky gut, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, Celiac, to name a few. I’ve done some research on inflammation and anxiety/depression, and guess what? It’s definitely linked. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I have an autoimmune disorder, but since eating grain-free has improved my mental health so much I thought I might as well try. Going AIP for anxiety will hopefully help.
Which freaked me out because do you know how restrictive the elimination period is for AIP?
No grains (got this).
No dairy (got this).
No nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc)
No nuts or seeds.
No legumes or beans.
No unlimited fruit. Limit: two pieces a day. (got this!)
No spices that come from seeds (coriander, peppercorns, etc.)
I felt doomed.
I woke the first day and said to myself, “What the HECK are we going to eat???”
And then I made sweet potato hash-browns with onions, olive oil, and some leftover rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods. And it was good. It was more than good. It was amazing.
And then I thought, “Okay. We’ve got breakfast down.”
All morning I was having anxiety about lunch. “What the H am I going to eat???”
And then I made a lemon shrimp salad with basil-avocado pesto.
And mushroom cauliflower Alfredo sauce.
I think I’m better at cooking new things on AIP elimination. I’ve definitely had to be creative and use loads of spices, so I think I’m learning how to actually cook. Its a great side effect.
I’ll be keeping track of my mental health and let ya’ll know if it starts working. After 6-8 weeks I can start reintroducing the foods that I eliminated, to see if any give me problems. I hope and pray still get to keep tomatoes, because I planted over 60 plants in other people’s yards this summer. 🙁
I’m sending some special prayers to heaven for that one.
Update: It’s taken me a few days to post this because I’ve been freelancing a project that had a tight deadline. I’m on Day 6. I do think my mental clarity is sharpening, and I’ve been able to release emotions while having anxiety instead of holding them in, so I’m seeing that as an improvement. But the biggest difference so far?
I’ve lost 7 pounds.
Without even trying.
Eating a high fat (good fats!), lower carb diet, with NO calorie counting. I’ve always eaten low carb since starting Paleo, so that wasn’t new, but the high fat and no calorie counting has been amazing. I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, and weight loss is a joke unless I run 3 miles a day, hike for 2 hours, and dance to YouTube Zumba videos for 45 minutes while cutting my calories to 1,500. I’m not joking. I’m wondering if something is going right in my body finally!
That’s a great side effect, even if this doesn’t help my anxiety!
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