Guest blog post by Rachael McCaskill (www.rachaelmccaskill.com)
I didn’t have an easy childhood (I don’t think many of us did!). My mother was chronically ill and my father worked 3 jobs. I had been a victim of date rape the summer after high school and was struggling with relationships. I was attending a really good pastry school and worked at a cafe 4 days a week. All while living at home with my fighting parents and angry younger brother. I had severe insomnia, migraines and was having panic attacks daily. Needless to say, my mental health was suffering. The option to start taking psychiatric drugs was a quick and easy decision when I was 18.
I was consistently on several psychiatric and pain medications for the next 12 years, including clonazepam and Lamictal. At one point I was taking 8 different drugs each day. I felt I needed to take these pills to be a functional member of society. But, they didn’t do that…I spent my 20’s medicated, suffering and avoiding almost everything. For years I was told by psychiatrists that we just needed to find the right combination of drugs for me to “feel better”. I started to realize that medication was not the answer for me.
At 30 years old, the chef in me became interested in the farm to table movement and I started to eat a lot of locally grown foods. I felt good from eating them. From there I learned about ‘food as medicine’ and did a lot of online research to learn to recover from lifelong physical and mental ailments. I began experimenting with my diet, with the goal of slowly coming off of medications and healing my immune and digestive systems. I learned about how our gut health is directly related to our mental health. A lot of my research showed that I would benefit from more B vitamins, healthy saturated fats and high quality protein to be able to support me coming off of medications. Even though I was a vegetarian, my intuition had taken me this far, so I kept with it and decided to start eating some local, pasture raised animal products.
One of the foods I found most helpful to help keep my energy up and was easy to consume during withdrawals was bone broth. A cup of chicken broth with high quality sea salt was so incredibly mineral rich that it nourished me through some tough transitions. Another top food I recommend to improve gut health and to support us through tough emotional times are naturally fermented foods. These good bacteria and enzymes will start to multiply as you consume them regularly and create “happy” gut flora, which studies have shown create a “happy” brain. It’s amazing the changes that happened from adding in these nutrient dense foods. To help with sleep and the sugar cravings I would eat a tablespoon of unrefined coconut oil before bed. At this time the only food I removed from my diet was refined sugars, as I learned that these types of sugars would feed the “bad” bacteria and were known to cause migraines. As time went on I learned more about what my body wanted. I listened to it and was grateful to actually be feeling what was happening in my body in a positive way.
My constitution seemed to change with every new nutrient dense food added, every medication removed and every step in sync with my intuition. My body changed so frequently, that I had to look at each day like I was a new person, experiencing life from a new perspective. It took a couple years to come off all medications and a couple more years to find balance in my diet and balance in my constitution. Nourishing my body with nutrient dense foods during all these changes helped to keep me grounded and focused on my well being. I am so grateful for the energy and time spent learning about my physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It was the catalyst to the incredible transformation that has happened for me.
Anytime we make significant changes to our lifestyle, our bodies and minds will also make significant changes. Whether that’s through diet, coming off/changing medications or adding a spiritual practice. Every change is extremely powerful. Which I find to be very exciting! The one constant in life is CHANGE. If we can go with the flow and listen to our intuition, we’ll be able to grow and heal through the challenges presented to us.