(I've been pseudo-journaling here, but decided it was time to graduate to an actual journal.)
Hello. I'm a 25 year-old woman in Ohio. I live alone with my two cats in an apartment. I don't have a lot of money, but life is currently not bad. I am on SSI for, ostensibly, bipolar and agoraphobia. I have very low energy, am sleepy most of the time, and basically can't deal with the stress of even basic everyday obligations. But I've discovered that my problems are, in actuality, endocrine-based. Thus, they can (probably) be fixed. By this time next year, I fully expect to be a completely different person. It's time to reclaim the life I should have had all along.
So let's do a run-down of how I wound up here on MDA.
I'd been flirting with the idea of going paleo/primal for nearly a year before I actually started. Last spring, I was diet-shopping and came across paleo by chance. It sounded doable and pretty healthy. It did not set off my bullshit detector like most diets. It sounded sustainable, and didn't sound overly restrictive. I thought about it. Then I decided it was time to get serious and lose some weight (this was around May) and I started working with a personal trainer I was friends with. She was really gung-ho about wanting to help me, but she was also really into low-fat everything and chronic cardio. I strapped on my big girl pants and started doing a ton of exercise even though it sucked and I hated it. She told me to buy a lot of low-fat products, eat mainly dry chicken breasts and fruit and salad and plenty of "healthy whole grains". Basic CW.
I honestly sort of thought that her diet advice was bullshit, based on what I had been reading about paleo, but I didn't quite have the knowledge or the self-confidence to go all the way with it against the trainer's advice, so I ended up eating oatmeal, a fair amount of vegetables, lots of nuts, egg white omelets (I know, blech), very little fat but still 2% milk, apples, a lot of tuna.. Basically, a CW "balanced" diet that was not especially satisfying. I felt morally good that I was able to suffer through this diet without cheating, but that's about it.
With the daily workouts kicking my ass, and the obsessive counting of calories, I was able to lose about 15lbs and get down to 245ish. Then I started slacking. Then I eventually stopped talking to her. Quite frankly, she kept spouting a bunch of fat-phobic bullshit about how I'd love myself so much more when I wasn't a big tub of lard anymore, and how I'd finally be hot when I'd lost a ton of weight. Really insulting stuff! I did not (and do not!) subscribe to the idea that fat people are worthless and inherently gross and ugly. I LIKE my body, even though it's large. I wanted to lose weight so I could be healthier and do more physical things without being exhausted and out of breath. And I really resented her trying to fill my head with self-hatred to "motivate" me. Fuck that! The negative messages along with the exhausting exercise and crappy diet drove me away pretty quickly.
Fast forward to the holiday season. I had maintained ~250lbs without trying since my fall off the wagon in May. Then I stayed at my dad's house for thanksgiving and ate about 5 packages of Ho-hos in one day. Then ate way too many homemade cookies (some with CRISCO!!) and restaurant food over the next month. Gained 10lbs rapidly and knew I needed to do something. My dad also gained weight in that time and decided he wanted to do Atkins again soon, because he'd had good results with it in the past. Great! I decided to do Primal with him for moral support and solidarity.
During all this, I had been trying to figure out, from a medical perspective, why I felt like crap all the time and couldn't ever seem to rest adequately. In May, I gathered up my nerve and went to see a doctor in a big fancy hospital. I told her that I have PCOS and thought I might have hypothyroid and maybe even Cushing's Disease as well, and asked her to please take blood tests so we could figure out what is wrong with me. She basically took one look at me and decided I was a delusional hypochondriac who was wasting her time. She flat-out ignored every one of my concerns and refused to do any blood tests.
In November, I went to another doctor, and finally had blood tests done to check for hypothyroid (along with a test for antibodies) and even got a thyroid ultrasound. The doctor said my levels were "fine" and that my thyroid was "slightly enlarged", but whatevs. He did not recommend that any further action be taken.
Frustrated and still without answers, I decided to go a different route. I decided to get a sleep study.
For my entire life, my sleep has been long, deep, and completely unrestful. I would usually sleep 10-12 hours a day, dream vividly the entire time, and wake up feeling like I'd been run over by a bus, basically exactly as tired as when I went to sleep. I never actually felt refreshed upon waking, ever. I was also completely unable to keep to a set sleep schedule, always going to bed and waking up at different times. I could NEVER wake up in the morning. I also slept just as poorly at night as in the middle of the day, and felt just as exhausted on 2 hours as I did on 12. So, I thought, maybe this was a sleep issue. The sleep doctor thought it might be apnea, since apparently women with PCOS are very likely to also have apnea (interesting and apparently true -- I was also annoyed that no doctor had told me this before).
Well, long story short, I didn't have apnea according to the data. This bummed me out because it meant I still didn't have an answer. At the follow-up appointment, my doctor first suggested that I try melatonin and light box therapy. Then he conferred with his superior and decided that, scratch that, he instead wanted me to just try harder to get on a set sleep schedule and maintain it through sheer force of will. To just try super hard to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day for 3 weeks and then come back. And if I still couldn't do it, they would refer me to a psychologist, who would tell me about how to relax at night, and only use my bed for sleeping in, and how to have good sleep hygiene. As if I haven't tried these things a million fucking times in my life, and as if I have never heard them before. Thanks, but fuck you. I decided to follow the original recommendation and not bother coming back.
I picked up some melatonin and started taking it. To put it plainly, it worked. The melatonin is able to knock me out within 2 hours. I found out around this time that people with Bipolar tend to be super-sensitive to light, and that any tiny bit of ambient light in the evening can keep you from getting tired. The fact that I rarely lay down in total darkness unless I am already about to crash (and that I always felt tired but not tired ENOUGH to fall asleep at night -- super annoying) jived well with this idea and made a lot of sense. So, with the melatonin, I can tell my body when the right time to sleep is even if it can't tell by itself. It became my first solid tool on this crazy journey.
After my awesome experience with the sleep doctor (not), and my subsequent luck with the melatonin, I decided that the time was now. I rolled up my sleeves and decided that I would continue taking the melatonin, start sleeping at night like a normal person (since now I was able to), change my diet to something low-sugar and low-inflammation that I could sustain long-term, and try to get healthy, once and for all. I wanted desperately to fix what was wrong with me. I wanted to be able to sleep normally and actually feel energized during the day like I'm supposed to. I wanted to fix my extremely obvious hypothyroid symptoms even though I was told that I was "fine". I wanted my body to function the way it is supposed to function! I already knew I had PCOS and I knew that that wasn't right; that something was wrong in my body. I wanted to fix it, but doctors were not helping at all!! So I decided to do it myself. And so that's why I'm here.
So far, I've learned about healthy fats vs unhealthy fats (and now I cook with coconut oil and butter exclusively). I've learned what exactly is wrong with grains (and I no longer eat them). I've learned about iodine deficiency (and now I take iodine). I've learned about adrenal fatigue (and now I take raw adrenal cortex and will soon be taking an adaptogen to help even more). I've learned about leptin resistance (and now I am following the leptin reset program). I've learned more about what different supplements do (and now I take a bunch every day, and can describe how each one affects me).
Lots of good things are happening, and this is only the beginning. It has only been a month! I am now primal for life, and the good stuff will only keep coming. I feel absolutely no desire to eat bread or beans ever again (aside from my beloved carrot cake, ilu bb!!<3) let alone any sort of low-fat sugar-bomb bullshit. I no longer consider processed "food" to be suitable for human consumption, and it does not tempt me one bit. I will admit that I still eat peas and carrots as main staples in my diet. Maybe that's not the best thing, but I think it's ok for now. The main thing is that I don't feel deprived or weakened when eating this way. I can do it longterm without worrying about starving myself to death or losing muscle mass or ending up vitamin deficient or losing bone mass. I don't have to exercise until I long for death. I WANT to keep doing what I'm doing! And so I shall.
So far, after 35 days, I have lost 16lbs (most of it in the first three weeks, and basically none since then, though I am still seeing smaller measurements and feeling muscles and bones that were previously covered by fat).
I will update this journal whenever I have something to say!