Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hypochondria, Hypoglycemia and Happiness

Consider this an addendum to my post titled "Reasons Why Mental Illness is Hell - A Guide for the Layperson," in particular an extension upon reason #6: Opinions.

If you have spent any time being mentally ill, you may have come across various proponents of the idea that food can affect your mood. I do not have a problem with this idea per say, and am actually quite sure, despite any medical expertise of my own, that food does indeed affect your mind as much as it (or anything else you ingest, digest, etc.) can affect your body. The brain is a part of the body, after all, and a very important part at that. Consider the effects of alcohol or drugs, for example, on human behavior.

My problem is with the people who use what amount to scare tactics in regards to the effect that food can have on your health.

There is a big difference between a gentle nudge in the direction opposite that of the donut and toward that of the broccoli in the interest of gradual and long-term health and the startling shove from behind that comes from "former sufferers" and other advisers in a multitude of shape-shifting forms who suggest and warn that, for example, blood sugar problems such as reactive hypoglycemia can be overlooked by doctors and misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, causing you to eventually develop diabetes, have a panic attack, then a heart attack, die, then have a large, malignant, cancerous tumor discovered during the autopsy on your fat, fat body, so you better stop eating anything that is not approved on the list that you can read in the e-book available from the website for only $24.95.

You can imagine the affect that such statements have on someone who is already stressed and anxious, not to mention a little obsessed with, well, feeling stressed, anxious and obsessed. You want to feel better. You're obsessed about that, too. You see all of these symptoms, your symptoms, listed, the same ones, over and over again, from these different sources, along with the same warnings of dire consequences from eating the wrong foods and proclamations of better health if you only make these few important yet drastic changes, so you stop eating sugar, which sucks, absolutely sucks, and you buy whole grain wheat bread, which has anyone noticed is dry as hell and tastes sorta funny?, then you find yourself developing a new reflex, that wrist motion of turning over cans, jars and bags of food to check the little black-and-white box of nutritional information. You realize that sugar is in pert-near damn everything, and a whole hell of a lot of it is in your favorite foods. You scourge the internet for information. You wonder if, and what, you should eat. You wonder if you will have a panic attack if you have some simple (or "bad") carboydrates (or "carbs"). You wonder if you should take your medicine. You wonder if you can trust your doctor. You wonder if you can trust your (new) psychiatrist. You wonder if you're going to develop carpel tunnel syndrome in addition to bipolar disorder and reactive hypoglycemia from flipping over cans, jars and bags of food to read the nutritional content. You read, and wonder, and worry, and you feel...just.....worse.

Then you remember a few words of wisdom that you're pretty sure have been around a lot longer than the internet, or diet books, or even the diagnosis of either hypoglycemia or bipolar disorder:

1.) Everything in moderation.

2.) This anxiety attack too shall pass.

3.) Don't freak the hell out.

That last one is hard to do, but the first two help with it.


Amanda said...

You know, it sucks, because no one really knows why the hell we get all these mental disorders, and for all we know it might be acute hypoglycemia! Frankly, I've found that I start getting manic when I eat better and exercise more, which to me feels really good, much better than being depressed. But I've started to think that the eating/exercising habits are a symptom more than a cause - I do better when my mood improves, and therefore I eat better, feel healthier, have more energy, lose weight, etc. I'm so sick of all this! I just want to get back down to prepregnancy size and not feel out of control all the time! and, most of all I want to be happy, and it's been so, so, so long since I've been that.

You know, all the opinions out there and all the information is really hard to sift through. I have a friend whose brother had a mission partner (sorry for the long string of grapevine) who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For years he took medication, and nothing seemed to improve. Finally some doctor discovered he was allergic to geletin, and that was causing his symptoms, and the medicine, which had geletin in it, was making it worse. After he cleared that up and stopped eating anything with geletin in it, the symptoms went away. Wouldn't it be nice if we were all that lucky? Sigh.

Amber said...

It is frustrating because depression is pretty darn easy to recognize, but mania gets so confusing, especially hypomania. To think that we could be going through all this hell and it could be some crazy (or, I guess, not crazy) thing like geletin, for pete's sake! Makes me feel like something out of an episode of House; I don't know if you watch that show.

I've never been pregnant, so extra kudos to you because I can only imagine that up-hill climb.
Eating better may improve my physical health and maybe my emotional health, but not being able to eat what I want (sugar, bread, etc.) is making me ANGRY as all hell! Also, a little sad. I actually got misty eyed earlier this evening thinking about not being able to eat a Snicker bar.

Amanda said...

I'm not sure if it's my medication that's doing it or if it's just leftovers from my third pregnancy, since I began taking this medicine about a month after Laurence was born, but I've been fairly allergic to chocolate ever since. I get severe headaches when I eat it,and that makes me extremely sad. I try very hard to avoid it most times so that when I can't avoid it, it doens't affect me so badly. Since it's not the same all the time, that makes me think it probably has more to do with the medicine than any after-effects of pregnancy.

But isn't the idea of being allergic to chocolate terrible? Especially if it's something you develop, rather than something you're born with. Bleagh.