A recent report from the CDC showed that three out of five teen girls shared they experienced persistent feelings of hopelessness in 2021.
While this statistic is staggering, I listen without batting an eye. Why?
I was one of the three.
I believe there are many things contributing to adolescent hopelessness, and while there are differences between the world of today and the world when I was diagnosed, the treatment options haven’t changed. The treatment options available in the 90s are the same being offered today, 30 years later: medication and therapy.
Unfortunately, those limited options are not treating the root of the issue, and in some cases, may make things worse.
I’ve created a list of contributing root causes to my depression, in hopes that it will help someone take a closer look at potential factors that are not being offered through traditional treatment. The information I share is widely studied and should be well-known, yet it is not.
And our teen girls continue to fall through the rabbit hole of darkness.
Common contributors to teen depression:
1. The oral birth control pill. I was prescribed this in 8th grade due to a heavy menstrual flow and anemia. Within a year I experienced debilitating depression, which is not uncommon, according to the research. The pill depletes B6, crucial for creating serotonin, supporting mitochondrial function, the methylation cycle, and maintaining the gaba/glutamate balance (which we need for calm feelings). The pill affects the gut microbiome, increases enhanced intestinal permeability, and because over 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, this is another risk factor for depression. The pill depletes magnesium, which is needed for the gaba/glutamate balance, among so many other mood-benefiting needs. There are indeed a myriad of nutrient depletions occurring from oral contraceptives. Because the pill depletes the very things needed to counter hormonal issues and premenstrual stress, it is no surprise that a further imbalance occurred in my body, leading to depression symptoms. While for some people this may be a useful tool, ensuring there are enough nutrients available to make up for the lack is crucial.
It’s the time of year when people are setting goals, creating self-improvement plans, and looking forward to change that sticks. As a health coach, I know that creating changes that stick have to do with small, sustainable habits. I like to practice what I preach, so I created some small steps that I can focus on this year. I share in more detail on my latest podcast episode here.
My word of the year is renewal, and all five of these are ways I can focus on renewing my mind, my body, and my soul!
Start my day with at least 20 grams of protein in my first meal. Protein is crucial for mental health and neurotransmitter function, but most of us don’t get enough – especially at breakfast. So while I don’t have a set breakfast time, I make sure that my first meal includes sufficient protein. When that happens, I have more mental clarity and less sugar cravings throughout the day.
I’m doing intense trauma therapy. I am working with a counselor who specializes in EMDR, a therapy that helps to reprocess trauma at the brain level, which creates safety in the entire nervous system. Ironically, after all my podcast episodes centered on trauma, I didn’t realize I had complex PTSD until this fall, so I’m looking forward to correcting some core belief systems that are based upon the lies that trauma and shame told me about my place in this world.
Build intentional muscle. I move my body 5-6 times a week for mental health reasons, and I usually choose yoga and walking as my favorite forms of movement. But new studies are showing the anti-inflammatory benefits of muscle as we age, not to mention how it benefits insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial function. My plan is to do strength training twice a week on top of what I already do, in a way that supports functional movement and longevity… and my husband was my inspiration for this one, which you can hear more about in the latest podcast episode.
Read the Bible in a year. My faith is important to me, and I read a lot. However, in 2022 I spent much more time reading research articles and fiction than the book that is foundational to my belief system. I’m going back to the Bible Recap plan, and I’m looking forward to seeing God’s faithfulness in a new way, which happens every time I do a plan like this, no matter how many times I’ve done it before.
Take a break from food at least 12 hours every day. I recently learned that less than 10% of Americans eat in a 12 hour window, while the majority of Americans are now considered metabolically unhealthy. There is something to be said for taking a break from food to let your body digest and assimilate and utilize nutrients. It’s beneficial for so many systems in the body. For females, I don’t recommend going longer than 16 hours from eating on a regular basis, and definitely not during the luteal or menstrual phase of the cycle. But most women can benefit from a 12 hour fast every day, though it will be different for everyone.
Programs this year:
I will be hosting three day reset groups periodically throughout the year for anyone who wants to try a fasting-mimicking approach through a food-based system from the company Plexus Worldwide. It contains bone broth, protein powder, collagen soup, and other antioxidant-packed products designed to give your body a metabolic overhaul. You can look at more details and ingredients here. Email me for a special discount code!
I will continue to utilize the online month-long Feast 2 Fast program on Facebook, with in person group opportunities in East Texas. Stay tuned for that information. Our first group will launch in February.
I’m still available for 1:1 virtual coaching. Let’s put together a New Year goal sheet for you and your unique body’s needs.
Do you ever have the feeling you just don’t do holidays as well as other people? Or maybe the holiday season hasn’t gone as you wanted it to?
We’ve had a difficult fall, as I’ve been dealing with some heavy past trauma I didn’t know I had. My Christmas spirit has been minimal. I don’t decorate like crazy anyway, but this year was half-hearted at best, featuring an old artificial tree with busted lights, a couple nativity sets.
I ordered a few presents on Amazon when I was sick in bed with the flu, and we took our kids to Six Flags for an experiential gift, instead of loading them up with more toys they won’t play with more than once.
I waste a lot of time scrolling social media. I look at other people’s decoration pictures, the baking reels, the cute creative reels, the smiling kids in their matching Christmas clothes… and I worry my kids are missing out on something this season. We didn’t do enough. They’ll resent us.
But then I offer myself a different perspective. Our family has spent many evenings in the last month cuddled up on the couch together, watching The Chosen. Richard and I have spent numerous nights, practically every night we can, connecting and sharing – often with hard conversations, but mostly making memories I will treasure forever.
See, I might have made a mistake sometime in September. On a morning walk, I asked God to show me His love in a new way. And boy, has he delivered. I’ve seen his love through the raging tornado of my past trauma, because out of my brokenness comes his promised wholeness. I’ve seen his love through friends who have checked on me and offered a listening ear. I’ve seen his love through the unconditional love and support of my husband. I’ve seen his love through the three very chill, very laid back kids I’ve been gifted.
And I see his love through the gift of Jesus.
As Paul David Tripp writes in his Christmas devotional, Come Let Us Adore Him, “What sense would it make for God to go to the extent of sending his Son to be born for our sake, and then abandon us along the way? Since God was willing to make such a huge investment in his grace, isn’t it logical to believe he will continue to invest in his grace until that grace has finished its work?”
It’s okay that I don’t have an Instagram-worthy living room. It’s okay that my kids didn’t decorate Christmas cookies, that they didn’t see lights, that they didn’t get the usual amount of cousin and grandparent time this year. It’s even okay that they got more screen time than I’d like (it pains me to say that one out loud).
What matters to me is the lesson I’m learning… THAT is the most important legacy I can pass on to my kids, something they can hold on to through any of life’s plot twists.
His grace and unfailing lovingkindness don’t run out. There is no limit. I haven’t reached capacity. I continue to pull from that well of living water, the kind that never runs out, because he can’t be anything other than who he is – a God who sees, who rescues, and who creates life from death. Over and over again. He did it for me. He can do it for you.
I was medicated for bipolar disorder for 18 years. Ten years ago, I went off anti-psychotic medication. Eight years ago, I weaned off my remaining medication, an SSRI antidepressant.
Today, I am mentally healthier than I’ve ever been, particularly in the last five years, since I have been (mostly) gluten free and eat a lower carbohydrate diet. In fact, my husband would agree that since I changed my eating habits, there has been more of an increase in my mental stability. The times that I consume a bit of gluten here and there, and eat a little more carbs than usual, I typically start to sense some mental instability creep up. The connection between gluten, carbohydrate content, and psychiatric disorders has much clinical evidence behind it, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I always feel the need to offer a few disclaimers before I share more of my story. Number one, I never encourage anyone to go off medication cold turkey or without the support of a medical professional. Unfortunately, many medical professionals don’t offer much caution in the tapering of medication, so there must be more of a support team in place, in my opinion. Going off medication cold turkey can lead to many unfavorable side effects and can often lead to a person feeling worse than they did BEFORE medication, so it is a very bad idea.When I weaned off my last med, I had a support team in place, and I had established many health practices that had me in the best physical shape possible. It wasn’t a quick decision; it took a lot of detailed planning and prayer.
Number two, every mental illness manifests differently in every individual who experiences symptoms. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999, back when they still called it manic-depressive illness and didn’t distinguish between bipolar 1 or 2 as they do now. The symptoms I experienced at the time met the diagnostic criteria. Unlike most clinical diagnoses, diagnosing a mental illness means checking boxes on a list of symptoms, not looking at a blood test – and definitely not a brain scan. Because of that, and because I no longer experience the same symptoms, I consider myself to be in remission from this illness.
Here are the symptoms I experienced at the time that categorized me with bipolar disorder: periods of depression, lasting longer than a week where I felt fatigue, loss of interest in regular activities, sadness, apathy, worthlessness, and an inability to get out of bed at all. I also experienced symptoms of mania and hypomania, which meant that for short periods of time I felt increased energy, euphoria, an inability to sleep or slow down, racing thoughts, distractibility, and an increase in risky behavior and impulsivity.
The design of the human body is amazing, and the immune system never ceases to blow me away. Its primary job is to scan the environment and tolerate. It is constantly scanning, for our protection. It then decides what it wants to tolerate, and what necessitates an attack back. It’s a beautifully protective design.
Mold, pollen, trees, grasses – these are not new things to the human body. We have always lived in community with our natural world. So what is the deal with seasonal allergies? Why are so many people struggling, and getting worse and worse from year to year?
It goes back to what your immune system is tolerating.
We are exposed to a myriad of foreign substances every day. Yes, we have the natural world. Yes, we have viruses and pathogens the body is protecting against. But now we have outdoor air pollution, synthetic fragrances in everything indoors, pharmaceuticals, medications and supplements with fillers our body has to figure out what to do with, pesticides on our food, food that isn’t really food, and all manner of chemical/toxin exposures from beauty products and antibacterial soaps and sanitizers that disrupts the microbial balance. Whew!
We are overexposed to foreign man-made substances and underexposed to the natural world. We don’t get nature time, play in the dirt, or live in close proximity to a variety of animals. We have a decline in vaginal births and breastfeeding, which decreases microbial diversity as a result.
Most of your immune cells live in the gut. So any damage to the gut impacts the way the immune system is able to function optimally, but a failure to function optimally… creates more damage to the gut. It’s extremely cyclical.
It’s no wonder you go from living and tolerating all manner of foods, substances, allergens… then one day in your 30s or 40s you realize you have an abundance of skin issues, digestive problems, food reactions, and allergies gone wild! The allergy medicine that you used to be able to use with no problems seems not to work as well, and you experience brain fog and confusion when you take it.
It is all connected.
The good news is we can restore immune health. We can restore nutrients, and we can support our body’s desire to be in balance.
But we have to be able to look beyond the presenting symptoms and question what is driving them.
Taking an allergy pill will not remove the reason your immune system is creating a histamine response. Blocking histamine receptors doesn’t block your body’s need to protect you through the release of histamines. So it only works for so long, and as always, your body creates a compensatory response, at the expense of increasing risk of cognitive decline and glioma (well-documented side effects of long-term use of antihistamines).
So what do I recommend?
I love using quercetin for supporting the body at the root. Quercetin is a flavanoid naturally found in apples, blueberries, and kale. It helps the immune system respond to outside threats, and can act as a natural antihistamine by stabilizing the release of histamines. But the benefits go beyond symptom relief. It may even have anti-inflammatory effects, as well as help promote healing to the intestinal lining by creating a tighter junction and reducing likelihood of enhanced intestinal permeability. It’s a two-for-one value! To get started, I really like this brand, one to two capsules a day. Give it two weeks to take effect. When it is combined with bromelain, like the version I recommend, absorption is enhanced. QBC Plex by Solaray is another great option.
For kids, I really love Snifflex by Creekside Naturals. It’s inexpensive and works. Other options are D Hist for adults or D Hist Jr by Ortho Molecular Products, but those are typically more expensive, and if you have more than one child with allergies, it really adds up!
Boswellia is derived from frankincense, and it can reduce allergy and even asthma symptoms (clinically studied to reduce symptoms in 70% of those studied). There is much research available on Boswellia as an anti-inflammatory alternative to NSAIDs, which do quite a bit of damage to the gut by increasing enhanced intestinal permeability and breaking down the mucosal intestinal barrier (which we need for protection). Taking 300 mg, 3 times a day is a beneficial dose for reducing asthma-like symptoms.
Two other options to try are Stinging Nettle, 500 mg, 2 times a day, or Butterbur, 100 mg, 2 times a day (which can also help alleviate migraines as well).
As always, this information is used for educational purposes. Talk to your practitioner before you start any new supplements, especially if you are on other medications. Please do your own research. Instead of asking “Dr. Google,” I like to do a search such as “Butterbur Pubmed” to see what kind of published research is available. We live in an incredible era with published research available to all, so don’t buy the medieval dialogue to “leave the research to the experts.” That language is best left in the Middle Ages, and has no place in the modern, educated society.
I did not reverse chronic disease dynamics in my family by simply listening to the experts and nodding my head. I played an active role in my healing journey and that of my children, and I was thankful for the experts who partnered with me along the way and encouraged me to research on my own as well. If a practitioner is unwilling to work with you or laughs at your research (yes, this has happened to me), then it’s time to find someone new.
The last thing I will mention for seasonal relief is homeopathy. To be fair, I don’t have as much training in homeopathy as I do in nutrients and supplements using nutrients from food. But homeopathy has been my family secret for five years now, and it never fails in symptom relief. The two that I’ve used successfully are Boiron Histaminum Hydrochloricum 30c pellets and Rhinallergy Tablets. Pellets are great, because you can just drop a few of them in your mouth and let dissolve under your tongue. The tablets are a little trickier to drop into your mouth without touching the outside, which can take away some of the benefits. Homeopathy is great, because it’s heavily diluted and safe for a wide array of ages, and I never have side effects other than relief. Because of the increase of antibiotic resistance, homeopathy is gaining more favor from many traditional practicing physicians, though more study needs to be done and it still may be viewed as “quackery pseudoscience” for some practitioners.
Please remember that chronic stress increases the release of stress hormones and will put your body in a vulnerable position to fight back against invaders. When stressed, everything will look like an attacker and your body will respond accordingly. Your body’s job is to protect you, and it is always on your side, even if it doesn’t look like it.
Finally, if reading this has made you realize that it is time to take your health in your own hands, I would love to help you walk through that empowering journey. Contact me and let’s see what we can learn together!
For most of my life, I didn’t view my trauma as Trauma. Yes, I was diagnosed with PTSD; yes, I dissociated; yes, I struggled with nervous system dysregulation… but I minimized my trauma.
It was just one thing that happened to me on one day when I was a child. It wasn’t ongoing. There are people who experience much worse than me.
When I minimized the trauma, I minimized the effects.
Everyone dissociates once in awhile, right? It’s not uncommon to view yourself outside of yourself when you look back on memories, right? Everyone has episodes of depression during April, right? We all are just waiting for the next big tragedy, right? None of that really MEANS anything.
That’s what I believed.
Add to that thought pattern all the ways we talk about trauma: we use phrases like big T, little t… say things like, “real trauma is only seen in war veterans…” or “trauma is just part of life.”
I minimized my trauma, and I minimized the effects, over and over again.
In high school I wrote an essay about the unique scents of each season and the memories attached (it actually became a finalist in a state writing competition, you know I have to throw that in there). In this essay, I described how the scents of spring felt sad to me because they reminded me of my grandpa’s traumatic death on my front lawn. Even when I wrote the words at the age of 17, I didn’t understand the effects of that trauma the way I do now.
Now I understand that because of that trauma, I dissociated often. I stared off into space randomly, sometimes in the middle of engaging conversations. In the early aftermath of the trauma, I was frequently sick with stomachaches and infections, namely tonsillitis and bronchitis. When an emergency situation arose, I froze, and watched everything that happened outside of my body until I felt safe to return to it.
None of this was intentional, and that is important to understand when we are talking about trauma. These responses were the ways that my brain protected me from a repeat injury. These were signals from my brain to my body, so that my body could go on alert and keep me safe in the way it was designed to.
We all, at some point in our lives, will experience trauma. It may not impact your brain and body the way it impacted me. But it will happen, and it will impact you, if it hasn’t already.
Joy is the antidote to stress. While stress shuts us down and sends negative signals to our HPA axis, joy opens us up and helps us to rest and digest. So often we get stuck in the same way of doing things, the work-eat-sleep repeat schedule, that we don’t make time for fun and joy!
Even though our brain is wired to focus on the negative, having something to look forward to is a tool that can help our brain focus on the positive. I do this with my youngest child on the way to school every day, because he’s slow to get moving and always says he doesn’t want to go, even though he always ends up liking it. In the car on the way there, I say, “It’s going to be a great day today. Can you think of three things that will make today great?” One day, he was excited about taking his Avengers backpack to school. Another day it’s because we were going swimming right after. It’s usually pretty random, but his answers often inspire me to look beyond what I would normally say as well.
I think this is why I put so many books on hold at the public library. Do you know how much excitement I get when I receive an email that says that the book I had on hold is available? (And even better that it’s free!) We do the same thing with online shopping orders and deliveries. I love to make plans to eat out at a fun restaurant with my family on the weekend, or even plans to pick up takeout. It gives me anticipation that feels good.
The serotonin theory of depression has been extremely pervasive in how we discuss mental health, though no comprehensive review has ever fully broken down the relevant evidence.
At first glance, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) method of keeping serotonin in our synapses longer is pretty revolutionary.
But that’s assuming that an issue with serotonin at the brain level is what is causing depression.
Unfortunately, current research is showing that depression and mood issues are not simply related to serotonin alone. There are MANY other factors at play, chronic inflammation being a key role, along with other epigenetic drivers.
While over 77 million Americans are prescribed psychotropic drugs in the US (which is a number greater than any other developed country), with 45 million on antidepressants, we still have climbing rates of depression and anxiety, and prescriptions are being written for children as young as two.
A new systematic review and meta-analysis, published this week in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests that depression isn’t a chemical imbalance of serotonin or really anything to do with low serotonin at all.
My grandma was never told “I love you” growing up.
She eloped with her childhood sweetheart when she turned 18, then struggled with infertility for years before she had a procedure done that allowed her to give birth to my uncle, then my mom. She wasn’t a perfect mom, but she began to break the chain. I never once doubted how much she loved me. She told me and she showed me. I miss her.
My other grandma was a mother before she wanted to be. She was the caretaker for her siblings, devoted to them to the point that she put her own dreams on hold. She gave birth in a twilight sleep, and wasn’t “allowed” to comfort her sons when they cried (according to her, that wasn’t how things were done). She wasn’t perfect, but she did the best she could and offered the gift of laughter and joy, especially to her grandkids.
My mom married young and mothered 3 kids under 2. She was always present. She taught me that it’s okay to cry and feel. It’s okay to be anxious, it’s even okay to be depressed. It’s okay to feel big feelings and not know what to do about them. It’s okay to not perform and fit the mold you are expected to fit. It’s okay to be a little inappropriate at times, because that’s just keeping it real.
My other mom by marriage sacrificed the freedom of her youth to give birth to her son. She blazed a trail bravely, choosing single motherhood as a teenager, despite advice of others advocating for the alternative.
I never anticipated to be ushered into motherhood and adulthood at the same time. It wasn’t how I planned it. I’ve never lived alone. I don’t remember what it’s like to not be “on call.” Showering or going to the bathroom in peace is always a luxury. But my road was paved by strong women who overcame generational bondage and trauma. They did hard things, made choices (some good, some bad), but they laid out the bricks to walk a better journey than the ones who came before them.
As mothers, we break chains. We build upon what went before us… all the good, bad, and really bad. We change patterns. But mostly, we learn as we go. We make mistakes, and we ask for forgiveness. We strive to do better.
I am who I am because of the ones who came before me. I am grateful for my time with the mothers no longer here on this earth and for every spare second I can get with the ones who are. I hope to continue to break chains and build upon their foundation of strength, love, grace, and hope.
Beyond the brain health benefits, beyond the physical health benefits, moving your body is a way to intentionally connect to it and create space for safety and healing and growth.
When you have trauma of any kind, when you have body image issues or a history of disordered eating or disordered exercise behaviors, when you are fighting a chronic disease or are consumed by depression or anxiety… the last thing you want to do is intentionally connect with your body and be present with it.
For this reason, I hold a deep appreciation for movement like yoga or slower, low impact exercises. When I was a runner only, I could escape from the racing thoughts. I could “beat my body into submission,” by pushing harder, increasing my miles or my speed. But in yoga, where the moves rarely change, or when I’m walking slowly through my hilly neighborhood, I’m trapped in my thoughts – and my body. I have learned to lean into the discomfort of being present with my body, instead of punishing it for not acting how I want it to act.
I heavily dislike anyone promoting that you shut down the signals your body sends to you. I recently saw two shirts pop up in Facebook ads (thanks algorithm) that bothered me on such a deep level. One shirt read, “FIT: F*&% I’m tired” and the other read, “Shut up, legs, you’re fine!”
Listen. If I’m tired, I probably need to rest or make an adjustment in my schedule. It is simply unhealthy to keep pushing forward. If my legs are hurting during a workout, I probably need to take a breath, ask my body how to provide it further support. Exercise is an incredible tool for growth and healing. It’s a hormetic stressor that can create stress resilience.
It is not for dissociation and punishment.
Moving my body is a way to engage, not disengage and dissociate. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is be present and move with the body I have – not punish my body for what I don’t.
Movement is therapeutic, it’s a celebration, and yes – it can even be a form of worship.
What a joy to intentionally flood our brains with endorphins and serotonin and GABA and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. What a gift!
Exercise and moving your body isn’t just something that impacts your physical health. Like with the act of eating, your mindset matters. Your thoughts matter, and they send signals to every cell in your body. Using your time of movement to renew your mind, renew your thoughts about your body, and celebrate what your body can do goes beyond simply pumping your arms and legs and getting your heart rate up.
I love moving my body. I love connecting to it and creating space for safety and healing and growth. I DISLIKE shutting down the signals my body sends me.
Remember: every thought you think is a chemical messenger that brings information to your cells, positive or negative. Partner with your body; don’t punish it.