Two weeks ago, I made the incredibly dumb mistake of eating leftover pizza for three consecutive meals. I had forgotten what happens to me when I eat large quantities of white flour and dairy. All I ate and drank for 24 hours was pizza, coffee and water. Before I ate the pizza, I was content and generally rocking out at life. By pizza meal number three, I was convinced that I was the biggest professional failure to ever grace the blog-o-sphere.
In a depressed panic, I started researching job re-training options. Ever since I hacked off all of my Barbies' hair as a wee bitty babe, I've been interested in being a hairdresser. I called five beauty schools.
I also started looking into dental school, as I was convinced that since I haven't become famous as a writer, it would be better for me to spend ten years in dental school to become an orthodontist. I barely passed Advanced Placement Biology in high school, but never mind that. The pizza convinced me that I would love and care about the anatomy of the human mouth, and that I would one day buy a second home (I don't own a first home) with the proceeds gleaned by tweaking the teeth of New York City's elite pre-teens.
The pizza told me that because I am not Malcolm Gladwell, or Sloane Crosley (she's Joan Didion's book publicist and has published two bestsellers of her own, books in the genre of self-effacing humor essays that I should be writing), and because I cannot hustle like Mandy Stadtmiller ("hustling" to me means running to catch the train), and because I work behind the scenes for a website that has a rather utilitarian consumer function, that I was a total failure and a loser, a nobody with no possibility of ever getting anywhere professionally.
This is despite the fact that I have a great job. I have steady income as a writer and editor, which is not normal. I actually like my boss, which is also not normal. I sometimes laugh out loud at things that my freelance writers write. I am this freak of nature who has a long-term job in a field known for its revolving cast of personnel. How does that, even in a small way, make me a failure?
It doesn't, and that is my point. After pizza meal number four, I cried and surrendered to a good night's sleep. I woke up and drank three big glasses of water. I ate my morning oats with raw almonds and unsweetened rice milk. I pooped out all the pizza, and I felt like a human again. Holy smokes. At least I bounce back to normal quickly.
This was not the first time that a large quantity of white flour or sugar made me delusionally depressed. Candy and ice cream have accompanied me into every single nadir in my lifetime. There was the time when I delved into a universe of desperation when I was 21, which was preceded by sitting in my pickup truck alone shoveling chocolate pudding into my mouth with chopsticks.
Then there was the time when I took to sucking down pints of Chocolate Peanut Butter Coconut Bliss ice cream while working. That was when I literally shut down virtually all human functions except for getting myself to the office each morning.
Also note the time that I almost got beat up because I had eaten only a bag of Twizzlers that day, and in my infinite sugary wisdom, I thought it would be totally effective to mouth off at a man who was twice my size.
I find that if I eat sugar or white flour combined with complex carbs and non-dairy protein, I'm OK. For instance, if I eat a meal containing a substantial quantity of vegetables, a protein and a whole grain, I can eat a slice of cake for dessert and not feel it. However, if I eat cake instead of a meal, my blood sugar will dramatically rise and fall into a torpor of self-loathing that can only be described as "the depths of hideousness."
The takeaway here is that if you are prone to depression or anxiety, it would behoove you to track what you are eating around the times of spikes. You may find that there is a pattern, as I did. I am not suggesting that avoiding certain foods is the be-all and end-all of depression cures. For sure, there is a time and place for medical intervention. Nevertheless, even if you are successfully medicated, food can, and probably does, affect your mood.
Do you suffer at the hands of certain foods? Let's pool our experiences so that maybe somebody who is depressed can find a well-rounded solution to her depression.
Chaya is giving away all the candy that she is not eating on Twitter: @chayakurtz