Confirmation: Amines Are Like Drugs :P

Had to go out for dinner on Sat night to a wood-fired pizza restaurant. Dinner was delicious, as expected – and the food reactions were awful, as expected. *sigh*. It didn’t help that I made the mistake of eating a GIANT BOWL of rocket salad before realising that oops, yeah, rocket =/= lettuce and while lettuce is pretty fine for me in moderate amounts, rocket is on the DEATH DIE DO NOT EAT list >.< Urgh.

So, two extremely sleepless nights (less than 4 hours each, I think) on Sat and Sun, and then Monday evening I was just hyper as anything, feeling like I’d been drugged πŸ˜›

Interestingly, amines seem to amplify the function of my critical brain while diminishing my creative brain; I definitely can’t write while reacting to them. Sat down to try and it was all like, This sucks, This is stupid, That word is horrible, I hate this book, etc. I really just *couldn’t* get into the character’s voice, and this is a character who’s usually dead easy for me to voice. Super mega frustration.

And also interesting, part of the anxiety was amplified. Not the fear-of-the-dark, that’s separate to regular anxiety and seems to be triggered partly by a huge amount of salicylates, and partly by sustained low mood (i.e. feeling flat, tired, or otherwise negative for several days in a row – something that can be triggered by lack of sleep, which is triggered by amines, so the amines can be partly responsible for the fear-of-dark, but not directly, and certainly not after only one meal, even though it was a GIANT amine-heavy dose), but the regular, plain-old variety that’s the precursor to depression: feeling like I suck, second-guessing everything I do and especially say, and running old conversations/highly-negative moments on repeat obsessively.

It wasn’t *bad* this week, only just enough to notice it was happening, so I’m totes fine, but it IS definitely interesting. Because a lot of that kind of thinking is fear-of-judgement based, which is uber-critical brain, right?

ALSO interesting was that I powered through my marking at hitherto-unheard of speeds: I marked an entire class set in a couple of hours on Sat night + Sunday, and then another entire class set just on Monday alone – AND I didn’t even stay up late to do so, I finished it all by 8 o’clock.

You guys. That was weird.Β 

I am NOT a fast marker. It’s usually laborious and slow and tedious, and getting through two sets in essentially two days? I have NEVER done that before.

And guess what marking involves? Yep. Uber critical-brain oriented.

So it seems like amines basically affect me like a stimulant for my critical brain. For marking, that can be a great thing. For shutting up the critical brain and letting me sleep, write, or not be anxious? Not so great.

And now I want to go to a bunch of research about possible links between depression/anxiety and critical-brain activity.

Related but random other observations:

  • Writers are more neurotic as a group than other creatives. Why? What specifically is it about writing that makes our mental health vulnerable?
  • My critical brain seems to throw tantrums when it thinks I’m ignoring it. If I’ve done a lot of creative work and regular work but no hard-thinking work lately, I’m a LOT more susceptible to anxiety/self-doubt.
  • Could this type of anxiety be critical-brain overload, such as I seem to be getting when eating amines? Could writers combat critical-brain tantrums (anxiety, self-doubt) by letting the critical brain out to play, exercising it by doing, say, some soduko or something hard and thinky??

Where’s a good researcher? I need to pay someone to investigate this for me.

So anyway, to give this some semblance of a conclusion… Amines: Not For Amy! Unless I want to stay up really, really late and get some marking done πŸ˜›

In Which Words Occur

Lo and behold, I’ve been eating ‘clean’ for two days, and even though Tuesday I still felt exhausted, I was no longer epically groggy, and actually managed to write about 1200 words before bed. So yeah. Looks like I can either cheat on food (or even not just cheat, but push the boundaries a bit), or I can have words :\

On the one hand, it kind of sucks that writing is the first thing to go. On the other, it’s SUPER nice to actually KNOW what’s going wrong with my body after all these years, and getting a good sleep at night is INCREDIBLE, and now at least I have control over what is happening, which, wow, those of you who have stuff go wrong with your body will know, control is an incredible gift.

Being food intolerant sucks, but of all the things it might have been, at least it’s the one that puts the control firmly back in my court, and I am so, so grateful.

So hopefully tonight, more words! πŸ™‚ How Not To Take Over The World is at about 16k out of about 70k, and as this is a rewrite, I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the year. I probably won’t release it until after Sanctuary 3, though, so you won’t have to wait as long between books 1 and 2… Or then again, I might just release it. /shrug. Freedom is a heady thing, ha πŸ˜€

(I realised the other day that if I can manage to release 3 titles per year, as I’ve done this year, it will still take me ~30 years to publish everything I think of as a ‘current work’ >.< And of the three titles this year, none of them were actually written this year, and publishing them ate into my writing time, sooooooo….. *cries* Too many stories, insufficiency of hours! πŸ™‚ )

I’m Not Depressed, I’m Just… Food Intolerant.

Truth (sadly). Turns out that not only is the mild depression I’ve been prone to since having postnatal depression with my first baby attributable to food, but so are 99% of my other health issues. Even the joint pain that’s caused by Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is, it turns out, exacerbated A LOT by food.

Long story short, around Christmas last year, I stopped being able to breathe properly and was short of breath for over a month. I wasn’t too stressed, I’d had days like that before and it always passed – but after a month I was fed up and figured I should get it checked out by the doctor. (Short, I am keeping this story short…) Cue a bunch of tests, including a positive blood test for celiac disease, a gastroscopy, a colonoscopy, etc etc etc. And every time, the results came back: yeah, you’re all inflamed and your body’s mildly unhappy, but there’s nothing really WRONG.

(Short, short). I’ve suspected for years I had some sort of food intolerance (official allergy tests came up blank; sinus scopes showed the same as the rest of my insides – irritated, inflamed, nothing else to see) and tried to do an official elimination diet in the last quarter of 2015. However, elimination diets are BLOODY HARD, you guys. VERY, VERY HARD. So I didn’t make it.

But this time, with the whole not-breathing thing and the scopes done etc etc, I kind of had reached the breaking point, where SOMEthing needed to change, and this was the only probable thing I COULD change. So I started the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Elimination Diet (which was later affirmed by a dietician as being the Correct Elimination Diet For My Symptoms, so that’s nifty and helpful #oops #dontdietwithoutadvice #doasIdonotasIsay O:)). That was about three months ago now, and… Yeah. Guys? I am pretty much literally intolerant of FOOD. >.<

So this sucks, but I’m getting used to it, and I’ve made it nearly a whole week now without a food-related breakdown, so that’s progress, and my symptoms are manageable, and the most, most, MOST important thing? I CAN SLEEP.

I’ve suffered from apparently-random insomnia and disturbed sleep for YEEEEEARS. (Yes, had sleep tests done and been checked out for sleep apnoea too – conclusion? No apnoea, but yes, definitely something wrong, more investigation required >.<) Turns out the culprit isn’t stress, or lack of exercise, or even temperature (though I do struggle to sleep when it’s really hot). It’s amines.

Amines are a natural food chemical that, if your body is normal and sane, are actually quite healthy for you. They’re formed by the breakdown of proteins in food. But they’re known to be a trigger for migraines, and, in my case, a bunch of other fun symptoms too. So I pretty much can’t each chocolate, or any of the fruits/veggies on this list that have an A next to them, or a bunch of other really tasty things, like cheese. Which… is really sad. Because I like food. And I like cooking. And I’m kind of a low-key foodie. *sad faces*. Oh, and you see all the Ss against those foods on the list? Yeah. Can’t have too many of them, either. Thank goodness I’m okay with the Gs >.< (I also have to cut out gluten (though I’m hopeful that once my insides heal, I’ll be able to tolerate small amounts), and can’t have more than a few serves of dairy a week. URGH.)

*flail*

I’m at the fun end of the project now where I’m trying tiny amounts of random amine-containing foods every couple of days, to see what I can tolerate. For example, tomato sauce (ketchup) on hot chips for one night? Totally okay. A second night in a row? NO SLEEP FOR YOU, SUCKER!!!

Vinegar, which is supposed to be one of the worst amine triggers? Seems totally okay so far. Salt + vinegar chips for 3 days in a row was perfectly fine, mayo doesn’t seem to trigger, and I even tried vinegar salad dressing once and it seemed to be okay. Lemon juice, though? One decent squeeze, maybe a tablespoon, on some (GF)pasta was enough to keep me up for several hours past bedtime with insomnia, and disrupt my sleep for the rest of the night.

Bodies are weird, y’all. WEEEEEIIIIIIRRRRDDDD.

And some things I’ve just decided I can live with. The anxiety that manifests as nyctophobia, which I had as a kid but grew out of and then returned full-force with the postnatal depression and seems to be here to stay? It seems to ease when I eat exactly zero salicylate-containing foods (the Ss in that link – so, like, nearly all fruits and vegetables >.<) – but avoiding salicylates entirely is murderously hard, and makes me cry over my lack of food options at least twice a week. So – and I’m shocked, this is so bizarre – for now, I’m actually choosing to cope with the nyctophobia, because it’s easier (?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!) than trying to live without salicylates (which I still have to regulate and can’t overdose on, but some is waaaaaay better than none in this instance). And there are other things I can do too which down-regulate the anxiety – making sure I see the chiropractor and exercise properly often enough to keep my joints in place,* getting enough sleep – which, WOW, SO much easier without amines!! So yeah. Just going to cope with that one for now.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, I will obviously do the professional thing and say ‘see a nutritionist who’s experienced with food intolerances’, which is a giant case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. There is also a lot of good information on the Fed Up website, which is based on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital diet. And as an FYI-relating-what-I-was-told-and-not-in-any-way-shape-or-form-making-medical-recommendations-because-I-am-NOT-A-MEDICAL-PROFESSIONAL-Y’ALL, I was *told* by the community nutrition nurses that Fodmap is the recommended diet for bowel- and digestive-related problems, while the RPAH one is recommended as the first port of call re: elimination diets for people with ‘other’ symptoms (e.g. sinus problems, mood issues, behavioural issues, joint problems, cognitive issues, sleep disruption, skin problems, etc etc etc).

So. Yeah. Food intolerant. It me. It sucks, tbh, but not as badly as, say, being in a coma** or having a life-threatening disease, or even just a life-endangering disease like celiac, which they first thought I had.

And you guys? Wow. This sleep thing that everyone’s been telling me about for the last three decades? WOW. 10/10 would recommend.

Sleep?!!? IS MAGICAL. WHO KNEW.

 

* Anxiety + bad joints (for whatever reason) are actually pretty closely linked, the theory being that when you’re all out of alignment, your subconscious homeostatic brain is aware of this and spends its life running interference to protect your spine/neck from damage – so you’re essentially getting low-grade warning, warning signals from your brain constantly without a logical, external cause that your conscious mind can attach it to, and this manifests as anxiety – generalised and non-specific dread and fear – the feeling that something is wrong without something specific to attach it to. (Of course, there are plenty of other reasons for anxiety too!!)

** I know someone in a medically-induced coma rn. It’s… wow, yeah. If you have prayers/good vibes to spare, they could use some. <3

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical person or a doctor or a thing that is in any way, shape or form qualified to give health advice. I’m simply sharing my own experiences. Don’t sue me. La.