on why I am so happy now

Every February, I dove down into murky depths. All through my 20s, and well into my 30s, I moldered. All month long. It happened, in moments, all through the years. But mostly, it was February. I dreaded the ending of January with a physical clutching. I know where I’m going. I don’t want to go there.

For weeks on end, I stumbled through fog as thick as beef stew that has sat in the pot for three days. Of course I groped for the hand nearest to me. I longed for connection.

But I clung. Every connected conversation felt IMPORTANT. I wrote every revelation and worrying questions in urgent black lines on white paper. One year, my last year of teaching, I filled a thick black sketch book in six weeks. Nothing went undocumented.

It’s not as if there was much to write about, actually. I spent a lot of time, when I wasn’t teaching, on the couch in my rental apartment. That couch as stiff and starched as the styrofoam base for wedding cake displays in windows. I sunk into that couch for entire weekends, watching marathons of the San Francisco season of The Real World. I wanted to be them.

For exercise, I walked the treadmill in my own apartment, going nowhere, listening to the world through the television. I forced myself on it, on the days when the voice in my head chanted You’re fat. You’re fat. You’re fat.

You know when you pour milk into tea, and the white slowly swirls and clouds, until it is no longer tea and milk, but milky tea? I was more milk than tea most of the time. I was that clouded.

There were glimmers of light, shining patches of it.

Becoming a high school teacher taught me who I was, from the inside out. I couldn’t believe that anyone could like me when I started. As I brought up passages of The Great Gatsby in classes, and saw the light of understanding go on in some teenagers’ eyes, I awoke a little more each time. Teaching literature allowed me to carve out a definition of what it means to be human. I began to feel more human.

Still, there was the weekend I spent with the hood of the sweatshirt up, nearly covering my face. As I graded papers in a conference room as the kids took the PSAT, I sucked on the ends of the ties at the throat of my sweatshirt until I had gnawed the plastic ends off and left them a shredded, sodden mess.

I didn’t know how to live. Everything worried me. Nothing felt good.

No matter how often I wrote “Be happy, dammit!” in my journal, I just couldn’t see the surface.

I remember a conversation from those years, the worst years, one February day in my late 20s. I told my friend, who was a counselor, quite calmly: “I know that when I die, I will die by my own hand. It might be soon. It might be when I’m 93 and I pull the plug on the machines to which I’m strapped. But I’ll kill myself.”

She was horrified. So am I now. But that’s all I knew then.

I wrote so many suicide notes, only to crumple them up and throw them across the room in fury. None of them was good enough for me as a writer to be my last words. Strangely, my perfectionism saved me.

That didn’t make those Februarys any easier.

I couldn’t see beyond it. I couldn’t see beyond it.

Certainly, I didn’t know this one was coming into my life. How could I have known her exuberant joy, her vivid imagination, the feeling of her cuddling into me on the couch? If only someone could have told me: “Just wait. A better life is coming.” I didn’t know Danny would appear and make my days such even joy. I would have thrown away the pen I put to paper to write a suicide note if I had known the tiniest glimmer of the love he gives me.

Books are the reason I am alive. I read stacks and stacks of them through my lonely childhood. In college, I read every word Virginia Woolf ever wrote and felt so not alone. And reading her mind in black words on white paper, I somehow sensed that I didn’t want to walk into the river with stones weighing down my pockets. I wrote instead.

Therapy helped. I think everyone should do therapy.

I grew better every year. And somehow, I knew that these pernicious feelings, the grey wool blanket that covered my mind, wasn’t really me. In my better moments and months, I was optimistic, laughing, and alive. Even when I was weighted down, I could always laugh. Except for Februarys.

The February before I started therapy for the first time, I was laying on that stiff, uncomfortable couch, watching television. Sesame Street came on. I was so low that I sat through the entire episode, remembering the joy I felt when I was a kid, watching Bert and Ernie. Big Bird came on and led a group of kids in chorus in Central Park:

“Sing, sing out loud
sing out happy
sing out proud.

Don’t worry that it’s not
good enough
for anyone else to hear.
Just sing.
Sing a song.”

I sat up and wept as I watched, singing as loudly as I could in my empty apartment. Yes. I wanted to sing my song.

(You can imagine that the first time I sang this song to Lucy, which I do nearly every day now, I wept again.)

I’m singing my story now because I want you to hear your own.

You see, therapy helped. More and more friends helped. Teaching helped. Books helped. Every little bit of growing older and moving to New York and discovering the self I was meant to be? It all helped.

But I struggled with depression until 2005, when I was diagnosed with celiac. It turns out it had mostly been the gluten.

Take a look at this piece in Psychology Today, “Is Gluten Making You Depressed?” The answer just might be yes.

“Researchers have long observed an overlap between celiac disease and depression. Reports of depression among celiac disease patients have appeared as early as the 1980s. In 1982 Swedish researchers reported that “depressive psychopathology is a feature of adult celiac disease and may be a consequence of malabsorption.” A 1998 study confirmed that about one-third of those with celiac disease also suffer from depression. Adolescents with celiac disease also face higher than normal rates of depression. Adolescents with celiac disease have a 31% risk of depression, while only 7% of healthy adolescents face this risk.”

The body of someone with celiac reads gluten as a toxin. When we eat gluten, the body sends out antibodies to attack. Those antibodies, over time, end up destroying parts of the small intestine. Without the ability to absorb food correctly, we also miss out on essential amino acids and vitamins that regulate mood. Did you know that serotonin, the chemical responsible for regulating our moods, is made in the small intestine? 95% of serotonin produced is made in our guts. That means if something is going wrong in our guts, something is going wrong in our brains.

And that doesn’t just mean depression can be caused by celiac. It also means panic attack disorders, obsessive control disorders, social phobias, and possibly even schizophrenia can be caused, or at least exacerbated, by undiagnosed celiac.

Once I gave up gluten I have not suffered with depression again. In fact, some people like to complain to me on this site and elsewhere: “You’re so damned happy all the time. No one is capable of that much happiness.”

Believe me, once you have been through the darkest days, and you feel light flooding the room instead, you choose happiness. Certainly I’m not happy all the time, and our life is not even halfway to perfect, but underneath any small anxiety or disappointment is the thrumming, loud rumble of knowledge of where I once was.

I once was lost
but now I’m found.

And once you’re found, you want to stay found.

“I will never be able to describe the new joy of being alive, floating out there in deep water, knowing I belong in that great, vast oneness.” Xeni Jardin

So you’ll have to excuse me if I seem so damned happy now. It’s a choice, a daily, constant, conscious choice, to choose to be alive.

I have not written a suicide note in over 15 years.

I never will again.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, deep-seated anxieties, or disordered thinking of any kind, and therapy is not helping, medication is not helping, and nothing seems to work, PLEASE seek out a celiac diagnosis. Go to your doctor, your naturopath, your psychiatrist. Find someone who is willing to work with you on this. Also, remember that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a real disorder and can cause these same symptoms. Seeking help ould change your life more than you can imagine.

134 comments on “on why I am so happy now

  1. Ellyn

    thank you for writing this. My celiac diagnosis came at the very hardest time in my life (dealing with a child with chronic illness) and I honestly believe had I not gone gluten free I would have gone over the edge during that time. I’m not saying those years were easy, but I was able to cope. The old me never could have.

  2. Jaime {sophistimom}

    Wow, Shauna. Thank you for being so open. I am sure that what you do has already changed lives in ways you can’t number. I can only imagine this post will do the same.

    Beautifully written.

  3. Katy

    You are awesome. Thank you for writing this. Though I still need antidepressants even with my gluten-free diet, I love that you are helping bring to light the connections between nutrition and mental health, and I lovelovelove that you are telling your story. Congratulations on reaching this side of the woods, may you relish your hard-earned happiness every single day of your life.

  4. Sophia Savich

    Dear Shauna,
    A profound thanks for what you wrote. I know this, I am you, you are me. Had I committed suicide, I would never have healed my relationship with my daughter, known my precious granddaughters, met my Richard, or traveled around the world with a backpack! Even though I have been off of gluten for a while, I recently tried some “gluten free oats” and the symptoms came right back: a physical depression experienced bodily, crying for every little thing and creeping anxiety. I couldn’t believe it because the oats were gluten free. I remembered and immediately stopped having oatmeal for breakfast. I’m back to my happy and balanced self. Thank you, thank you for giving words to my experiences!

  5. Nicole

    Lord, that hit a note.

    I’m currently going through the process of Leaky Gut syndrome. It’s a crazy sounding syndrome, that you’ve probably heard of, where basically my Celiacs had destroyed my body so much that it’s now fighting itself as the “toxins” from all sort of foods (lactose, fructose, sulfites, etc.) leak into my bloodstream.

    Thank God I’m figuring this out now, a mere few months shy of my 30th birthday. But I can tell you, I spent no less than 8 years on my couch or in my bed, alone. Unhappy with the happiest life a gal in her teens and 20s could ever ask for. The past 5 have been spent with the most wonderful man in the world pulling me up from it. And we are now, together, trying to get me back on the right track.

  6. lisa

    Definitely worth writing about, proud of your courage for doing so! As the granddaughter of a psychiatrist and part of a club I never wanted to join, Survivors of Suicide, a support group for those left behind when a loved one took their life, in this case my father, this topic is all too relevant and nothing to be ashamed of. That said, after enduring many trials, heartbreaks and sorrows I cling to the Creator of my soul, Jesus, and know that I would be nowhere without Him. Not about man-made religion but about a relationship with the One that gives me eternal life for we are all just a blip on the radar of eternity. Many will come to the end of their rope for one reason or another and it is important to reach out and seek that help, there’s always hope with each breath that we breathe. So glad light is being shed on the connection between gluten and depression and feeling very blessed that our child was diagnosed with CD as a child and spared a lifetime of suffering. My heart goes out to everybody that is still in the throes of seeking the source of their woes. GF Girl, you are an awesome inspiration to so many, including me! Keep on keeping on! Many blessings to you.

  7. Emily

    I am so happy you came through, share your experiences and help so many people. Your family is so lucky to have you, just as you know you are to have them!

  8. Jill

    You changed my life when I bought your book the day it came out and I read it cover to cover. Even though removing the gluten didn’t rid me of my depression, your stories have shown me the way. I hope to someday be that happy. YOU are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your life, stories and most of all your family with us. It means more than you know.

  9. Amy

    God, thank you for the realness. When I was in my 20s my dad committed suicide. I was so dumbfounded by this thing called depression. How could anyone feel that low. Then at age 34, after the birth of my second child, I ran into some fun health issues that brought me tumbling down. And for the first time-I got it. I got how you could feel so lost that ending it seemed semi-reasonable. That was a scary thought. And through slow mindfulness, meds, and yes therapy-I came back out and made a simple promise to myself that no matter how tough life gets-suicide is never an option. We can do hard things (as Momastery states so well). And oh yeah-going gluten free has aslo helped….Thanks for your honesty.

  10. D. Mila Bulic

    Thank you so much for this. Though I don’t have celiac I have left the gluten (and most other grains, too) behind for good. I suffered from major depression from which I no longer suffer since going gluten free.
    You are really brave for posting this and I’m sure your words will help many.
    I’m glad you stopped writing suicide notes–the world would be a far less nicer place without you in it.

  11. cindy

    I’m so happy you wrote about depression associated with Celiac Disease! It seems to be a subject not too many people want to touch on. It is very real and can be a very dark place to be in. I suffered similar to you. I tried many different medicines but they always made me feel worse. Something told me that it wasn’t true depression because the meds were making me feel crazy. Following a strict gluten free diet along with B-complex, B12, magnesium has freed me. Keep telling your story – you probably will save someone’s life someday! God Bless!

  12. Yours truly in shared experience

    Hello,

    I have been a gluten free person with a Celiac’s disease diagnosis for 3 years.

    I have also been suffering large bouts of depression in recent years, but I always assumed they were from “appropriate causes”.

    I do not read casually often but I felt the need to read your blog straight through from beginning to end…
    Hopefully you would be willing to tell me/us one thing… why February?

    Thank you so much for sharing and writing this blog, it was helpful and riveting.
    – Yours truly in shared experience.

    1. Jeanette

      yours truly,

      it may be because February is at the end of winter; I have not only chronic recurrent major depressive disorder, but I also have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and am always worst in the winter; I have a special lamp that I use for 20 minutes each and every morning from fall equinox to spring equinox. It simulates sun, and keeps the SAD in check for me. I used to get bad before Christmas, and not improve until April or May.

      1. shauna

        Yep. February is a hard month because it has been winter for so long. December has all the holidays. January is new year. February? Mud and dark still, no real sight of spring. It’s certainly possible that my celiac and eating gluten triggered SAD for me. But clearly, there are quite a few of us who have experienced hard Februarys.

  13. Rachelle Mee-Chapman

    Four years ago I started eating gluten free. At the time I had chronic daily migraines that weren’t making me suicidal exactly, but I certainly didn’t feel much like living. I fought depression day in and day out — especially in February. Now, after reparing my gut, healing my liver, replacing my iron, upping my vitamin D, and shoring up my adrenals (all collateral damage from the gluten intolerance), and yes, therapy, I am anti-depressant free for the frist time in decade. (In Seattle! In February!)

    Thank you for sharing your story in a multi-dimensional, honest way. And for yoru book, which helped me through those first early months of eating gluten free (in Copenhagen! without PCC!)

    May others hear this story to and find new hope.

    Much Warmth,

    Rachelle

  14. Colleen

    Thank you for writing this (and every other word you have written!). This is what, no doubt, countless people will refer to in the future when they tell their story of how they finally beat their depression. This is my story too, since i was SO young. And finally, FINALLY. some peace. I will link to this when anyone questions why I don’t want “Just a tiny bite”.

  15. Alex

    Wow! This post has helped me a little bit more, on my journey of self forgiveness and healing. I was a grumpy, unhappy, angry teenager who got into trouble constantly for my bad moods and temperament. Of course, punishment and being yelled at only made me worse. Now I realise why I was so ‘awful’ and I am not going to let ,yself believe that I am an ‘awful’ person. I am on top of the world nowadays and cannot believe how good it feels! Thank you for adding a little more knowledge and reasoning into this journey I am on right now!

  16. Alex

    I should have added in, I am extremely gluten intolerant and going off gluten has brought me out of the bad state I grew up in!

  17. Jenn

    i’ve finally really quit gluten. at least in large forms. i’m not sure i’ve got all the additives out yet but i’m working on it. but i’m wondering how long it has taken you (or anyone else who happens to read this) for the fog to lift? it’s been nearly 2 months. the end of february. i am feeling exactly how you describe. so desperately low… i want to feel the lift that people feel when free of gluten. i am waiting for it to come.

    1. Traci S

      Hi Jenn.

      Check out the Celiac Foundation/Medical sites online for a listing of all the additives that are really wheat, barley or rye in disguise. Any amount of gluten can trigger a response in your system if you have been diagnosed with Celiac or gluten-intolerance/sensitivity by your physician or naturopath.

      My journey back from the brink after my Celiac diagnosis took the better part of a year while I worked to heal all that had gone wrong with my body as a result of the Celiac. My physician found I had vitamin/mineral levels out of whack. And, I had been sleep deprived for the better part of four years (would wake up at 3 and not be able to go back to sleep). As my Celiac came under control, vitamin/mineral levels returned to more normal ranges and I re-learned how to sleep through the night, the fog began to clear. I was also going through huge up-heaveal in my personal life so that might have contributed to to the length of time. Talking to someone I trusted during that time also helped me see outside myself and reconnect with the positive and the light in the world. As Shauna said…therapy helps.

      Wishing you healing for your body, mind and spirit. You are a one-of-a-kind person with a unique set of gifts and talents. You are of value to the world and worthy of love.
      Traci

    2. Chimene Macnaughton

      Jenn-

      Don’t give up. I quit gluten three years ago at the start of Feb as a one month challenge to myself. I picked the month purposely (shortest). I faithfully kept a food journal the entire time and at the end of the month, I actually felt HEAVIER in my body than when I started.
      I had read all the studies and info saying that it can take six months to a YEAR to rid our guts of all the garbage, plus repair, plus re-instate a more balanced gut flora…but I guess I thought it would be more like a treasure map, where you’d get physical and in my case I’d hoped psychological “clues” along the way as encouragement.
      Anyway, I needed it bad for a host of reasons, not the least of which was mood stabilization, so I pressed on. One of the things that helped me THE MOST was an elimination diet to cut out SUGAR, including even most fruit sources. I did this as a push toward a baseline, or re-start for my bod, my gut because one of the major pitfalls of going gluten-free is adopting foods that are higher on the glycemic index than what you were eating before. Stick with it, keep a journal to record moods as well as foods, know that there IS a lifting and shifting (mine took over 3 months and that included daily Bikram yoga and some PTSD counseling just to keep things fun!)
      Six months in, I knew I was never going back. A year in- my body was the leanest it had ever been, my mind bright and sharp.
      Don’t give up.
      xoxo

  18. Bec Pennington

    i cannot agree more. i shared this, and hope many see it, because i know this story from a personal standpoint as well. pregnancy seemed to severely exacerbate my gluten symptoms, but i didn’t find out i was intolerant until i had two children. i found myself desperately hoping to miscarry so i could kill myself without the guilt of taking an innocent life with me, yet all the while believing that i was probably depressed because i was pregnant. what a catch 22!
    i suffered more from the neurological effects and more difficult to diagnose symptoms growing up, like early-onset “arthritis”, unexplained seizures, hallucinations, low-functioning/abnormal immune system (i had full-blown chicken pox 3 times and still have no immunity to the disease), numerous food allergies, far below average weight and height development (i weighed 40lbs at one of my well-being visits at age 9), and even a false diagnosis of autism in my very early childhood.
    my mother’s hyper-awareness of our problems (my sisters are also celiac) made me feel worse as i entered pre-teens and high school. she did the best she could, but without a proper diagnosis, the countless vitamin pills, enzymes, and improper dietary restrictions did nothing but make me feel worse – and make her look like she had munchausen syndrome.
    when i finally stumbled upon the truth, it was hard to believe it, and i had such knots in my stomach just thinking about yet another incredibly difficult and debilitating diet. yet now, 10 years later, i watch others struggling with such Darn Familiar symptoms, and i want to say, “just Try it. just Try this for real and see. could it hurt? and what if it helps?” is it Worth it? worth not feeling like dying is a better option? oh, yes.

  19. Mindy

    Thank you for this post. This is my 1st February without gluten. My 1 yr anniversary is coming in April. This is the 1st February in many years that hasn’t been blue for me. I’m so much happier now. I’m pretty sure I’m an undiagnosed celiac. I don’t need a diagnosis to tell me that gluten hurts me in so many ways.

  20. Melissa Nunes

    I didn’t think it was possible to admire you any more, now I know it’s possible. I have been feeling very low for the past two years. I attributed this feeling to age, now I’m not so sure…if its possible to be happy by changing food, I would be stupid to not try it. Thank you for being so honest and open. Thank you for sharing your husband and daughter with the world.

  21. Kario

    I can relate to this in so many ways. In fact, my depression was so deep even after meeting and marrying my beloved husband and having two gorgeous daughters, that I fantasized about locking us all in the car in the garage and dying together so that my children wouldn’t have to face the pain of a mother’s suicide. It was the naturopath whose help I sought to find an alternative to my antidepressants who diagnosed me with gluten intolerance. Within six months I was off gluten and antidepressants and since then I went back on the meds for one short bout of about six weeks. What I discovered was that, in addition to being allergic to gluten, many of us have the inability to process B vitamins (either as a result of the autoimmune function or as a co-occurring phenomenon). B-vitamins help us detoxify our bodies as well as providing us with much-needed energy – I wrote about it on my blog here http://the-writing-life.blogspot.com/2010/02/detox-ifying.html if people want more information. Since I have been on on the correct dose of methylated B vitamins and off of gluten, my life has made a complete 180 degree turn and I hardly recognize the sad, lonely person I once was. I am so glad you found the courage to share this story. I suspect it speaks to many more people than you will ever know.

  22. Harriet

    Wow how powerful and insightful! I’m sorry you suffered so to the point of knowing you’d kill yourself. It’s a very esoteric and miserable place to live. Yes therapy helps and you learn how to get out if your own way. I am happy you found a cause, Danny and Lucy. You have a wonderful life and a wonderful career you created from despair. Be proud of yourself and thank you for sharing such a personal journey.
    Now you can help me with my rare disease of histamine I tolerance and mast cell activation. It was frankly easier when I couldn’t have gluten. It was frankly easier with a broken neck.
    We all have the dark place and we all suffer. It makes us stronger to reclaim our lives and live them. Continued good fortune.

  23. Julie

    oh thank you for this, your words could have been mine and I feel like I am reading my own story here. It’s so painful and healing to read and to know I am not the only one who has been there.

  24. Tess

    Just hearing that you are not alone speaks more than anything I know. I used to think I was crazy until I realized all these fears of death and dying came from gluten. Who knew? Your story is very inspiring, I just want to thank you so much for writing it.

  25. Lisa

    Yep! My celiac symptoms were mostly neurological, numb fingers, toes, brain fog…etc. But the thing I noticed the most after going gluten free was that my moods stabilized! No more overwhelming bursts of anxiety, fear, or anger. Now, when I get accidentally glutened, I can feel it in my mood…then the next day I see it on my skin. It brings such peace now, when one of those moods wipes me out, to see the skin reaction the next day, and then it is a physical reminder and I realize it ISN’T me…that mood wasn’t me…it was just gluten.

  26. Kristin Stevenson

    Beautiful as always Shauna, you are so inspiring. SO obvious why you are here to share and keep us moving, thank you, K

  27. Patti Cheatham

    Dear Shauna,
    This is possibly the most important piece of writing you have ever “put to pen”! I know just the person that I am going to refer to this. There are not enough words to express my thanks.

    Bless you and your family!
    Patti

  28. bramble

    Shauna- I have loved your blog and your writing since I first found it not long after being diagnosed as “gluten intolerant”. So much of what you have stated in this post is a beacon for people who are lost in that fog of betwixt and between. I have never fit “the profile” and have been lucky to possess an extra dose of serotonin but while still consuming gluten I do remember some very dark and difficult days. To all and any that wonder, it DOES get better once your body is not working so hard to battle itself (unsuccessfully, I might add). Thank you for being a positive, informative and generous soul who has been a shaft of light in a gloomy sky for many of us. Keep being happy and enjoying your life, it is a gift of which it is evident you are most appreciative and there isn’t a thing wrong with that! Best wishes!

  29. Elizabeth

    Thank you! When people ask me what my symptoms are if I eat gluten and I tell them “First, I get irritable, then I get depressed, and then I have pain all throughout my body.” They are so surprised to hear gluten can exacerbate, if not cause depression. I think the mental health implications of gluten is a message that needs to be heard. I too haven’t been depressed since being off gluten despite very trying life circumstances. Your sharing of your beautiful life — with its unique joys and sorrows — is such a gift.

  30. Faith

    Thank You! This is so important. This brought tears to my eyes…I shared those haunted February days… and it always felt so hard being my birthday is feb19th and I always felt such fear and despair, when it was expected I should be celebrating. Finding out I had celiacs saved my body mind and soul. I was finally in that place where everyday I felt as if I was just dying. simply had lost my spirit finally and dying… and maybe that is why I too feel so happy more often than have i have ever known. You captured all I’ve felt so wonderfully. So sensitively. I thank you for opening up and sharing this with me. HUGS!!
    Faith

  31. Nikki

    Thank you so much. In the grips of allergies, celiac, and pain, sometimes days do seem dark. I’m so glad you found your light, and that you’re helping other people find theirs 🙂

  32. Lauren

    This is huge. Huge and so important so thank you. Thank you for your wonderfully honest perspective. Thank you for your amazingly optimistic outlook. Thank you for the hope you’ve given me and so many others.

  33. Cheryl

    You are speaking to my heart! I have become a different person since cutting gluten out of my life, most days the physical changes fade in comparison to the changes in my outlook. My world is very different from yours, but once again, you have put words to my story, thank you!

  34. Tiffany

    Shauna,
    When I saw this I just started to cry. To think there could be hope in such a simply way is such a wonderful thing. I have been suffering for so long and have had no hope that this would ever go away. Never did I ever think there could be a connection until I started searching for anything, anything to help other than prescription drugs. I’m certainly starting this gluten free diet immediately and can’t wait to get your book and read it as well! Thank you so so much for putting yourself out there to let people like me know that I’m not alone.

  35. Kate @ Eat, Recycle, Repeat

    Thank you for sharing. I could feel the heaviness and pain in your writing, and I suffered something similar in my early twenties because of eating gluten, sugar, and processed foods. Now I’m much happier, lighter, and I seek out the joy in life. It’s a wonderful gift, and your were one of the people I looked up to when I needed guidance along the way. I admire many qualities about you – your happiness, your celebration of life, your writing. And thank you for always having the courage to share for the majority of us who need to hear it, despite the trolls!

  36. A

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. My son is in the hospital. He tried to kill himself last Tuesday and came very close to succeeding. He was in the ICU for 2 days, observed medically for 2 more and was moved to the psych ward. He’s struggled with depression for YEARS. He’s been in therapy, tried meds, etc. My daughter and I both have celiac. His blood test came back negative 3 years ago and he won’t explore it any further. I wish I could make him, but he’s 19. I can’t MAKE him do anything.
    I can, however, share this post with him and hope…

    Thank you.

    1. shauna

      A, I am so sorry about your son. I hope that my words can help him, even a little. Be sure to tell him (and I’m going to add this to the post) that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can also cause this kind of bleak depression. If his test came back negative, he still could have this. Perhaps you could talk to the people taking care of him and ask them to not give him any gluten for a week? Let me know if I can help.

  37. Nancie McDermott

    Thank you for writing this. Images too. Thank you for posting it. Thank you for sticking around long enough to break through the ice and burst out into the sun, so me and the rest of us can know you and enjoy this place so much more on account of that very thing.

  38. Tracy & Kim

    beautiful writing…. as beautiful as you are inside and out.
    Have you heard Pink Martini “sing a song”? They are fabulous and that is my favorite song. I sing it often, too.
    Big hugs and love to you

  39. susi

    thank you for sharing, i met you at davids class when my daughter was young and i loved your energy then… i read parts of your first book with tears in my eyes… thank you for sharing….

  40. CJ

    Oh my goodness…
    I’m too shaken right now to look up the study – but will certainly come back to read it…

    I’m of Swedish heritage – my grandfather and at least one of his brothers committed suicide. Three of four siblings in my family have celiac; depression has most certainly been an issue. I’ve always blamed it on the lack of light during our long Northern winters.

    Thank you for ALL the sharing you do – Lu is pure joy!!

  41. Joanne Armenio

    Wow – thank you for sharing your story. I have been reading your blog for a few years and you’re always so upbeat! Sounds like you walked through a great deal if pain to get to the other side where Danny was waiting for you. Wishing you peace…

  42. MargieAnne

    Dear Shauna, you are very precious. I was diagnosed as non-celiac a few years ago and put my fears to rest as I considered them to be verging on paranoia..

    Over the years I went from slim to sad and fat. 2012 I changed all that when I decided to lose weight by cutting out wheat. A few months later I read a significant book which confirmed my no wheat choice. Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis. He also has a blog with many wonderful stories describing how going wheat free has changed another life. My husband read the book and has been wheat free for more than six months. Initially I lost 50 pounds and he lost about 20 pounds just by removing wheat. The loss is easy to maintain without wheat but I do have to work at it a little more to continue to lose weight.

    He is 77 years old and I am 74. If only I knew earlier in my life that wheat would be like being drip fed poison day after day. Not enough to kill me but enough to make life not worth living much of the time.

    We are proof that you are never too old to make changes.

    Thank-you for reminding me how much wheat affected my mind and mood.

    Blessings

  43. Melissa

    Thank you for writing this. Like you, I suffered from bouts of depression, did the therapy thing, even did the drug thing for a bit. Once I was diagnosed with Celiac and corrected my diet, all of those mental health issues that had been dragging me down cleared up and I can think clearer now and I no longer dread my brain winding up or sinking too low.

  44. Molly

    Thanks for a beautiful and important post. Celiac disease and gluten-intolerance are so firmly associated with GI symptoms in the general imagination, but many people I’ve talked to about it have spoken about mood-related symptoms. I’m just at the beginning of going gluten-free and was deep in the dumps for months before that. Finding out I have a disease has been the best thing to happen to my mood in a long time, actually! Until I fully heal, I’m determined to keep my sense of humor strong and keep my eyes glued to the bright side.

  45. A scared mom

    This strikes a nerve with me. My second son is/was sensitive to foods as a younger child and had to be wheat and dairy free for two full years for his system to heal. That was over 6 years ago now and he has very dark moods and has talked of killing himself several times and he’s only 8. I know that a poor diet affects him, but never put it into a perspective relating directly to depression like you had. We have had him observed and talked to several times because it scares me completely and each person said he is normal and shows no other signs of depression or suicide. He’s been tested for celiac and of course it’s been negative. This will definitely be on my radar as he gets older. We are already 60% gluten free but I know it doesn’t matter if he truly is sensitive. Thank you for sharing this as it definitely will help others see another side as foods do affect everyone differently and you have made a very positive impact on the gluten free community and changed many lives in the process. I’m very glad you are still here as I’ve been following your site for over 6 or 7 years and you have made a difference in my life and my kids!

    1. shauna

      Thank you. Your poor son. And you too, Mama. Get him tested for celiac again. But realize too that there is non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which can absolutely cause depression like this. Talk to a doctor who understands. And let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  46. Sarah

    This was a great article. Thank-you for sharing your story. I was diagnosed 2 years ago and am so grateful for a new chance at life. I suffered for over 20 years. The last few years I dealt with feelings of anxiety, though I wasn’t anxious about anything. It was so weird. Once I was gluten free, those feeling just disappeared. I felt such a sense of peace as my body cleared the toxins. I felt like my body stopped fighting against itself for the first time. Food definitely affects mood in crazy ways. So glad that you are feeling better now.

  47. Carrie

    Thank you for this post, Shauna. Your bravery and your honesty are incredibly touching. I am dealing with many of these food issues with one of my kiddos. I didn’t know about this side of gluten. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you opening my eyes to it. Hugs, Carrie

  48. Theresa

    Thank you.
    My daughter’s anxiety was her only symptom of her coeliac condition. It has improved dramatically since her diagnosis. I am so fearful of where she would have been if we hadn’t picked up her diagnosis as a result of her sister having obvious physical symptoms that made us test the whole family.
    Thank you for your bravery in sharing with us, and in helping so many. You make a difference to so many lives across the world through your words. Be proud of yourself!

  49. MR

    Shauna, it’s great that you feel comfortable “putting it all out there” but there is a VERY dangerous implication here: the implication that abstaining from gluten can cure depression.

    You know you have a loyal following and that people take your word to be truth, so it belies my mind anyone would imply something like this. You are not a doctor and you are not an RD; if I were writing this, frankly, I’d be worried about a lawsuit.

    Yes, when people give up gluten they sometimes feel better — because they are eating foods that are naturally gluten-free like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Someone with real, clinical depression will not be cured by giving up gluten and to even suggest or imply that on a public forum strikes me as irresponsible at best, malicious at worst. Clinical depression can not be cured.

    Is there a study out there that you’d like to cite about people who have celiac disease AND depression? Those people are out there. Had you shared something like that — or perhaps cited some quotes from a medical expert — this might be a balanced, credible piece of writing.

    Again, yes, it’s nice that you decided to share your story, but that is all it is: your story…as a result of which, people might get sick or hurt.

    1. shauna

      People know I”m not a doctor. And the literature on celiac and depression is wide-spread and well-documented. I’m not writing anything here that is new. I linked to the Psychology Today piece and the Scientific American piece. If you doubt their veracity, that is your own choice. And I am always, always saying to people that they should go to a doctor to be tested for celiac before abstaining from gluten. Ask therapists and doctors you know. Google scholarly studies on the connection. This is a real issue. It’s too bad you had to inject such a nasty tone and threats on a piece such as this.

      1. MR

        I’m sorry that you interpreted the comment as nasty or threatening; I assumed that by opening comments, you were open to civil discourse and respectful disagreement.

        I simply pointed out that this is a one-sided view, which you are certainly entitled to do on your own blog, but when you are also dispensing medical advice (“seek a celiac diagnosis”), you breach dangerous territory.

        As someone who has experienced actual, clinical depression, making changes to one’s diet is only a piece of the puzzle, a puzzle that I truly believe should be left to the real medical experts.

  50. judy

    wow, i relate to your story on so many levels. thanks for the sharing and the insight about the connectedness of these two things.
    that, and you are a damn talented writer, girl.

  51. AmandaonMaui

    This post touch so much. I have been waiting to really write out on my blog what I’ve been going through but I’ll just put a taste of it here to share with you and your readers.

    I’ve always had some level of generalized anxiety. I have always been afraid. When I was 18 I started having very recognizable panic attacks. I would wake up with them in the night. I thought I was going to die on more than one occasion. Having my partner then really helped me stay alive. He learned how to bring me back down from the brink.

    My health was alright then in other ways, but I was still suffering digestive issues that I thought were just tied to lactose intolerance. But, no matter what I ate I just got sick.

    A few years later I finally eliminated gluten from my diet after doing an elimination diet. It worked. I haven’t intentionally eaten gluten since. My health is much better. My skin is clearer. My nails and hair are stronger. My bones, teeth, and everything feel stronger. My shaking hands are now steady. And, my anxiety has been greatly reduced.

    But, my obsessive, controlling perfectionism has not yet fully gone. In fact, the last year it was worse than ever. It sent me into a terrible state from which I am just now emerging. After six months of horrible pain in my body, mind, and spirit I sought help from a therapist. I made the decision to release myself. My partner supported me greatly, as always, and helped me rediscover happiness without the torture of perfection. I thought I was happy before, but it was a horribly tortured version. I don’t ever want to go there again.

    So much is changing for me now, and some of it is scary. But, they’re all good changes and I am learning to understand my fear and where it comes from. I am learning to cope. I am so ready to be more than just gluten free. I am ready to be truly free.

  52. Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW

    Thank you, Shauna, for this revealing look at the devastating mental effects of celiac. I’ll never forget watching my 11 year old daughter go from happy go lucky and trusting to withdrawn, suspicious and depressed over a 10 minute period after eating a croissant. I also wrote about my patient’s experience with gluten making her suicidal in my new book The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out. No mental health training prepared me for this revelation but it is so important!
    My daughter and I are now gluten free.

  53. Oconnee

    Dear Shauna, this piece really struck a chord… and happily reminded me how radically different my whole approach to life is now than it was in my 20s. I still watch February approach with an ever so slight frisson of dread – although I never realised until now that other people shared my aversion to this particular month! – but these days it’s more of a ‘hello old friend, here we are again… let’s do this thing!’ than an ‘oh god, i don’t think i can do this’ response. Acceptance. It’s a gift. Giving up gluten was part of that process, but so were a change of scenery, a talented and caring therapist and a rediscovery of the pure joy of physical exercise. People tell me, ‘you’re so much happier since you’re with [my lovely bf]’ but i tell them ‘No. It was being so much happier that ALLOWED me to meet him’. I count him daily among my blessings, but it was choosing to be happy that allowed me to let down my guard enough for him to walk in…. All this rambling just to say ‘thank you’ for your bravery in writing – and hitting post! – on this post. It’s nice to be reminded:-) Much love to you and yours. e

  54. Eileen Weigand

    This is such a brave sharing of your life. Knowing how you suffered, but found the key thing that led to your being released from depression is leading me to think more about my life and what I nourish myself with. Medicine has a way of lumping us all together I think. In 2007 I was offered anti-anxiety medication after the shooting here in Blacksburg, VA. Then, after a full physical, it was discovered I live with diabetes. Diabetes was causing my anxiety and depression. Just a few weeks ago I spoke with my doctor and complained of nausea- incessant nausea. He prescribed Nexxium- which I would have to take for the rest of my life. I’m 43. I am going to go off of gluten- it will begin this weekend to see what my body does- I know it takes a few months, so I will be diligent and your site will be a place I find other alternatives. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  55. manuela garcia

    Dear Shauna,

    Thank you for such an honest post. It cannot be easy to write about such intimate feelings, but I imagine that it feels liberating to share your personal transformation.
    I am concerned about people being too careful or apprehensive about talking openly about the relationship between food and illness, be it physical, mental or emotional. I think we are all adults, we know you are not a doctor, we know you are not saying, ¨hey, if you are depressed, you must suffer from celiac¨. Let’s be sensible. Let’s put fears of lawsuits aside, and let’s all communicate openly. In the future, there will be studies linking all sorts of ailments to the way we produce, manufacture and eat food. I think the best we can do is share links about those studies, as you did, tell our own experience, as you did, and let adults decide which professionals might be able to help them.

  56. Cynthia

    Such a powerful essay! I was 53 when I was finally diagnosed as gluten intolerant and had spent the 10 previous years suffering with insomnia, depression and panic attacks from low serotonin levels. Going off this poison has saved my sanity. Unfortunately for me 53 years is a long time and the damage to my GI tract seems to be extreme, I can only hope that more people can figure this out sooner in their lives than I did.

  57. Kathryn

    Thank you for writing this. The only thing I would add is that it might be possible that depression could be connected to gluten intolerance. I am not celiac, but am gluten intolerant. I suffered depression from a fairly young age until my mid thirties when I found good therapists and drugs. I feel even better now that I have been off gluten for many years.

    I don’t know if there was any connection to the gluten intolerance as it was connected to being a learned behavior in my case, but again I feel even better having been off gluten. So, a diagnosis of not being celiac shouldn’t be the final word on this – I think.

  58. CL

    Thank you, this is extremely well written. I shared this, in hopes that those who are suffering will happen to read it and that it will shed some light into a dark room.

  59. Melissa

    Thanks for writing this post, Shauna. I read your blog periodically and perhaps I’ve commented at one point or another, but in either case, it’s been awhile. But this post made me want to comment, made it imperative.

    It may have been 15 years since you’ve suffered from the type of depression and suicidal thoughts that you experienced, but it is still a very brave and important thing to talk about considering how taboo the subject of mental health is.

    I’ve never been diagnosed with celiac disease, but I find that I definitely do much better than I ever have before I stopped eating gluten. It’s been a year and a half now, and I have to say that this is the first winter in a while that I don’t remember feeling down. If celiacs is genetic, then I’m sure that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is, too, and since I stopped eating gluten, I’ve always wondered if the people on my mom’s side of the family have celiac / non-celiac gluten sensitivity because several of her siblings either completed or attempted suicide and had / have other issues related to these illness. It’s a thing I might have to just wonder for the rest of my life because someone who meant a lot to me isn’t here to get tested anymore.

    So thank you again for writing this piece and speaking out about the connection between depression and gluten. And of course, keep being happy. We all need more happy. 🙂

  60. Kimberly

    I read this post before I had breakfast, so I made scrambled eggs and veggies instead of toast. I’ve had steamed cauliflower, and blueberries for lunch, and lots of coffee because it’s my comfort and I’m scared. Now I’m a shakey, light-headed mess. Is this really me? How am I going to do this? And most of all…is there really a way to live free of anxiety, fear, depression, and pain? I feel old. And alone.

    Thank you for listening.

    ~K.

    1. shauna

      Kimberly, don’t do it alone. And don’t do it without a plan. Go see a doctor you trust. Ask for a test. Come up with a plan. If you have celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, this could make a big difference. But just going without gluten, if you don’t have this issue, will not take away the anxiety, fear, and depression. Do seek help. (Also, protein with your lunch! Don’t forget the protein.)

  61. Meaghan

    Congratulations to you. Not only for living it, surviving it and thriving, but for sharing it with the world. That takes so much courage. I just forwarded this post to someone I love. Thank you for such a poignant message. Happy days to you and your family.

  62. Em

    I am where you were. I have been taking anti-depressants for nearly a year now, the dosage slowly increasing. I had CBT, it helped a little but not a lot. I keep waiting to feel ‘normal’ again. I am so tired of the floods of sad that sweep my feet out from under me, coming from no-where. I am someone that fixes things. Why can’t I fix this? The anti-depressants have helped a bit. I no longer spend every commute wondering would it be so bad if I just stepped out in front of that train. That’s just a couple of times a week now.
    I have asked to be tested for coeliac in the past, had a feeling that maybe it was lurking. It came back negative though. Maybe I will ask again.
    Do you know what though? Hearing that you came through? That gives me hope. And if this last 12 months has taught me nothing else, it is that any small ray of hope, any slight glimmer, is something to be grasped with both hands.
    Sorry, gone on a bit here. I think the timing of your post was determined by the universe. A sign. Who knows.
    But thank you. And I hope the happiness is with you always.

    1. shauna

      Thank you. Thank you for sharing. And please know that non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause this too. Try getting that celiac test again — there are some false negatives — and with the help of your doctor, go off gluten for a time. If your test is negative, but you see results from a gluten-free diet, then you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. (As far as I know, this is the only protocol for determining it! But your doctor would know more.) And don’t listen to that voice that says to step in front of that train. It’s lying. We want you here.

  63. Christa Reynolds

    I cried when I read this because it is true. I used to lay in my bed everyday from 5pm until 8pm and then just pass out. ( I found out last year I have GSE gluten- sensitive enteropathy.) My husband would say to me: ” You don’t want to spend time with me or your son”. It hurt. I did. But, something wouldn’t let me be happy. It has only been Since Oct 2012; when I ran my 1st Susan G komen 5k did I know happiness. Because I have a cure for what ails me. Be grateful, always.

  64. Linda from Wales, UK

    Thank you for writing about this. I KNOW that what you have written about malabsorption is true. We know that poor diet has much to do with mental and behavioural issues, from childhood through school and prison populations. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case. And no matter how healthy and nutritious their diet, for an undiagnosed coeliac they might just as well be suffering from malnutrition. Villi in our gut, offering a surface area for absorption equal to a tennis court, are just flattened. Not working. We cannot give our bodies what they need – and don’t even know what is wrong.
    When I found out that I had coeliac and cut out gluten I felt so much better. It was like my brain was coming back to life. My memory improved and my mood lifted. It meant as much as curing the physical symptoms.

  65. DamselflyDiary

    Thanks Shauna for your raw honesty. I sent your article to my nephew who suffers from depression and anxiety. Since both his aunts (myself included) are gluten/wheat sensitive there is a good chance he is too. If giving it up would lift him up, it would certainly (hopefully to him) be worth it.

  66. Melissa

    Shauna, I just wanted to drop a note of thanks for writing this entry. I’ve struggled with depression for nearly ten years now and have had many undiagnosed stomach issues along the way. I’ve recently been going through more tests trying to find the root of the problem and last night I discovered there’s a link between depression and gluten. Your entry just confirmed for me that no matter how much I love bread, sacrificing it could truly impact both my mental and physical health. So THANK YOU for writing. And thank you for putting words to a disease I’ve never been able to appropriately describe.

  67. Sabrina Modelle

    Shauna, this is the most beautiful and honest piece of writing I’ve read in a long while. Thank you for laying it on the line. Thank you for choosing happiness, and thank you for being you.
    X

  68. Suzanne in Austin, Texas

    Thank you Shauna for writing this. Our family concurs that the connection between celiac disease/gluten intolerance and depression, anxiety etc. is profound. My older son and I had over the years been in the darkest places and felt every bit of dread and anguish you described. Going gluten free almost six years ago (using your blog as my guide) dramatically changed our lives for the better; thankfully we also had terrific mental professionals tp help. You are a shining, beautiful and positive light for many as we continue to navigate this gluten free journey.

    1. shauna

      Thank you, Suzanne. I remember writing back and forth with you the first year I wrote the blog! It’s good to hear from you here. And I’m so glad you are feeling so much better.

  69. Alex

    Dear Shaua,

    Thanks so much for your warm words. You are helping so many other people!!! I’m addicted to your blog and it gives light to us, your readers from all across the world (I’m from Spain!).

    Keep up the amazing work you are doing. You are blessed 🙂

  70. Pam

    Keep it up! Oh, I know that you’re a pioneer in addressing gluten-free, but the rest of the world is only now beginning to find out about wheat and gluten – doctors have often scoffed our maladies (I’m retirement age). I couldn’t get my daughter to consider a celiac test because her doctor said there was no need! With enough lights shining in the tunnel of darkness, maybe more will find their way back to health. Thanks to you and your family for all you do for the rest of us who are still learning and rely on strong guidance.

  71. Lora

    There is so much I want to say. Maybe one day if we meet again we will talk then. Thank you for sharing your story, Shauna, xo

  72. Jenna

    Yes, yes YES Shauna!
    Thanks for sharing this – I found so many parallels with my own story.
    There were a good few years there where I really thought I was losing it. Anxiety, mood issues, dark thoughts appearing out of nowhere…but I really had no idea where this ‘anxiety’ came from, except that the doctors couldn’t figure out why my resting heart rate was sky-high, my body was weak and exhausted, my nails were falling off and my mind was scattered and frantic – because congestive heart failure sure wasn’t it. They sent me to a therapist, where I told her that there was apparently nothing wrong with me except I felt like my body was going to implode at any moment. She was alarmed and started talking about all manner of disorders I probably had. We went along this path for awhile, thinking I had a very, very deep seated anxiety problem (so deep it was making me poop blood). Two years of this feeling, like I was totally out of control of my body and my mind. Two awful years.
    And then came a left-field celiac diagnosis from a young intern, too new to medicine to have any prejudices and keen enough to have me tested for everything she could think of…
    EVERYTHING changed when I cut gluten out. It was like a miracle. I felt like my whole body went ‘ahhhh…’ and my mind cleared so suddenly I thought I might have dreamed the last two years of anxious fog. I slept, I ate, I gained weight, my skin and nails came back, my hair stopped splitting, my eyes were clear. And WOW did I have some serious mental energy to burn! Hello Serotonin, where you been?!
    I had to have another endoscopy awhile back, and had to gluten-load for a couple of weeks in the leadup…and that old feeling came creeping back. That jittery, unsettled, exhausted, impending-doom feeling. I breathed and cuddled and cried my way through it until it was over, and then – like you – swore to choose happiness and health always. No more gluten. Happy girl.
    So glad you are feeling happy and healthy, and your tummy is squirting all the right hormones again!

  73. Kate O'Connor

    As a research biologist married to a man with celiac, I have a vested interest in these topics. My understanding is that while a link between celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and clinical depression has been demonstrated in some, though not all, studies, the effect of a GF diet on psychiatric co-morbidities is controversial. For example, Addolorato et al. report that there is no significant effect on depression after celiac patients spend one year on a GF diet, and there have been other reports that describe a similar lack of correlation.

    Interestingly (or frighteningly, depending on your perspective), there has also been some evidence in the opposite direction: compliance with a GF diet has been linked with an increase in depression (e.g., Ciacci et al. 2005). Presumably the psychological effects of dealing with a chronic illness coupled with a sudden change to a fairly restrictive diet and the social effects that result, as well as any contributing effects of patients with disordered eating in their histories, are contributing factors to this. This is where you have an opportunity to make a difference, and I realize that demonstrating how you can still eat a rich and varied diet without gluten is one of your goals.

    That said, there is another caveat. As you touched on in your post, there is some evidence (e.g., Ludvigsson et al.) that vitamin deficiencies associated with celiac may be a biochemical contributor to depression. In my opinion, these investigations tend to be more sound than the self-reported studies that are common in the field. However, there are also reports that those on a GF diet may not replace the missing nutrients (e.g., Hallert et al., 2002). Therefore simply eliminating gluten may not be enough. It’s imperative to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet; a challenge for all of us, gluten-free or not. But given the evidence that celiac/gluten-sensitive individuals are dealing with intestinal malabsorption, it is especially crucial in these cases.

    All that said, I thank you for raising awareness and bringing attention to this fraught and complex topic. I will say that any suggestion that eliminating gluten is a wise choice for those suffering from depression is disingenuous at best, and potentially dangerous, given the evidence that a GF diet, especially one without guidance, could result in exacerbation of depression. It also can place undue pressure on those who have both celiac/gluten-sensitivity and depression – if going GF doesn’t make them happy as they’ve been promised, it can be extra devastating. My husband’s story is his own to tell, but I will say that when a cure that’s toted in mainstream mags as being a sure-fire happy pill, it can be very difficult for a GF celiac patient to come to terms with the fact that he is still suffering and still experiencing suicidal ideation even after eliminating gluten, wondering if he is incurable or somehow “more broken” than the subjects of the feel-good tales he’s heard as the long journey of living with celiac begun.

    I encourage those who are interested to read the primary literature. Thanks to the internet, many peer-reviewed articles and comprehensive reviews of the field are now available for free via PubMed and Google Scholar, and lay people have the ability to be more educated than ever before.

    How has my family navigated such an unsure and complex medical phenomenon, with researchers disagreeing at every turn, and anecdotes galore to try not to compare ourselves to? As best we can. We have worked with a team of physicians, nutritionists, and a therapist to deal with these challenges in our little world, and in my opinion, being monitored for all facets of one’s health is the most effective path to holistic happiness.

    So on that last point, Shauna, you and I agree completely. I wish you continued health and happiness, and thank you for allowing me to share my experience.

    1. shauna

      I really appreciate the specificity of your comment, as well as the citation of the studies. Certainly, this is a most complex issue. I did not mean to imply that going gluten-free is a surefire cure, and I think I made that pretty clear. But most folks who are struggling with mental health issues — as well as their doctors — might not even look at celiac as a contributing factor. There are certainly enough anecdotes from people leaving comments here and elsewhere to suggest that it’s worth a shot.

  74. April

    Such a beautiful post. I was married to someone who suffered from depression (who was related to a long line of depressed individuals) and have often thought that diet played a part. I know it’s not a cure-all for everyone but how wonderful is it to know that at least for some people, they can have some control by changing what they eat? Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

  75. Ada

    This is such an important post to write at a time of year which commonly triggers depression (apparently it has to do with rapidly changing hours of daylight). For me, March is the worst month but February isn’t a cakewalk either.

    At the beginning of this year, I decided to significantly cut back all sources of sugar and high glycemic-index carbs, which more or less involves going GF. From past experiences with exclusion diets, I know that I’m not Celiac, but what I have found is that I’m generally better off by avoiding spikes to my blood sugar levels. I am literally more level-headed and my mood is more consistent. So, even if my body can tolerate gluten, I’m better off without it.

    As someone who has gone through bouts of depression and suicidal ideation in the past, I was touched by the raw emotion in your post. In the depths of my despair, I didn’t believe that life would ever get better, but slowly and surely, it is. I think it’s hugely important to have an open dialogue about mental health since stigma can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need. I appreciate that you have initiated this dialogue in a public forum and that you are standing as an example that not only can one survive depression, but that life is rich with wonderful experiences to look forward to. Thank you.

  76. Ann

    Shauna,
    Thank you so much for sharing this beautifully written story. It’s always a surprise when I hear someone else’s words ring so true about my experience with depression. It’s a very isolating disease, even when you know that you’re not alone physically or as a sufferer. I’ve recently started eating a lot more foods with omega-3s in my quest to find a diet-related cure to my Februarys. I’ll be interested to read about the gluten connection too.

    Thank you.

  77. Lisa

    Your post resonates… with me, as well as the many who have posted before me in this comment area.
    My story is similar to most. Years of off and on depression. I was then diagnosed with MS in 1998 – ten years or more since my first symptom. I followed medical protocol to deal with both the depression and the MS. Life gave us a roommate who had a sister with CD and was fighting with it herself. It was easier to learn to cook GF and Dairy free to assist her. I had done lots of research about gluten and MS, but I do not think I would have been convinced to try it had our roommate not needed it.

    Immense change – in me – in my health! I feel a new being! Now, I look at my MS completely differently.
    My month is March! I have been dreading it! This will be my first GF March!
    Thank you for sharing – I have lots to look forward to despite March – and I have MUCH HOPE!
    Thank you, again!!

  78. Jackie

    This story is scary, beautiful, informative and inspirational all at once. Thank you so much for sharing so openly and eloquently for others to benefit from your experiences. It seems so simple re: doctors thinking of celiac as a possible cause of depression and sending their patients to get tested. However, we both know this is not happening regularly. For me it was having my first child born severely premature and small at 29 weeks, 1 1/2 lbs due to IUGR (Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction). There were other symptoms I was going to specialists for as well over the years (alopecia areata, sinus problems, excema, etc.)

    I knew something was wrong and took blood test after blood test, visited doctor after doctor for over 8 years. When I was finally diagnosed and looked all of my previous health issues up, I found out celiac was related to them. A little roadmap which no one was following. I wept when I found the study that linked celiac to IUGR http://www.practicalgastro.com/pdf/October09/BastArticle.pdf. I make sure to tell every doctor I see now to test their patients for celiac if they ever have signs of infertility or any of the other symptoms I had and I try to share the info on my blog for others to learn from. Eventually, I think our efforts will pay off.

  79. Kathi

    Hard to respond to. Grateful you shared. Gives hope.
    I am now on the – I’m so damned happy – part of the continuum.
    I’d like all who are on the dark side to remember – you are not alone, you are loved, there IS light ahead. Don’t give up.

  80. Kim

    I’m much appreciative of this post, truly. Depression is such a hard thing to go through and at times, it can feel like nothing will ever help. Celiac isn’t necessarily a diagnosis as to why depression might be so lingering. But it certainly opens some doors to figuring things out for some people. As someone who has struggled with depression for the longest time (and has had a lot of trouble figuring it, finding a way to make it better, etc), knowing that there can be underlying reasons is so helpful.

  81. Bec

    Hello!

    Thank you for your post! I love reading all of your posts.

    I can relate to most of the way you felt for many years. Going gluten free didn’t really make me feel much better until I combined it with a low FODMAP diet (www.shepherdworks.com.au). This has helped me tremendously. I also went to The Ultrawellness Center in MA (www.ultrawellnesscenter.com). These doctors are incredible as they have reversed many auto-immune diseases, and other problems, which are supposedly incurable.

    Many thanks!

  82. Angela

    I’ve read many places that gut health is linked to all sorts of problems that don’t really seem connected to digestion, but are. If you’re not feeling your best, even if going gluten-free doesn’t help, you can always try taking out another food (or adding one!) to see if it helps. There are lots of different elimination diets you can try to see if a food is bothering you. Thank you for posting this!

  83. Amy

    Shauna, you’ve shed light on something so important here. The scientific literature is easy to overlook in everyday life, for doctors and laypeople alike. It is simply un-reported or under-reported, and the GF diet is considered a fad because people don’t know how insidious and dangerous gluten can be.

    I didn’t know, but I suspected for years. I finally went GF and low-carb at the same time exactly 27 days ago. I am like a new person. A lifetime of anxiety and self-medication resolved with a simple dietary change. I didn’t think gluten was a problem. I wanted it to be anything but that. I went GF for my son, who has chronic eczema and hives that will not resolve (my diet is his diet as I’m BFing). Within a week, that feeling of the walls closing in on me, the brain fog, the lack of focus, the unproductive days, the sadness, the chaos of my life went away (well, mostly away, three kids under 5 means some chaos will always be present). When I think back on my life, I wonder if all of my anxiety, mild depression, and self-fulfilling failure prophecies weren’t the result of a lifelong gluten intolerance that was never addressed. I will never know. My doctor dismissed my concerns, but my son’s pediatrician said it will likely be helpful (as will omitting dairy, which I’ve done). He is the first doctor to listen to my case and take it seriously. I wish more doctors would, and therapists.

    The GF/CF diet, and possibly/probably low-carb as well (my brain does not run well on sugar, either) ought to be the first level therapies offered instead of drug therapy. Too often we look to shaming or blaming a depressed/anxious/overweight person for his failings rather than looking to what the body is not getting in terms of nutrition, and how to remedy that first, i.e., fix your gut so your body is getting what it needs nutritionally rather than patching over the problem with drugs that can cause suicidal tendencies and emotional withdrawal even worse than depression.

    Thank you so much for posting this personal story and for including the links to the salient research. I have much reading to do!

  84. Janell

    I have read your blog everyday since it has began. I always take away something. You are truly a wonderful person to share the beauty of your life with all of us, including the ups and downs. My spouse if celiac and we have a 24 year old daughter whom we believe is also celiac but a 24 year old. She suffers from depression and shares the fondness of books, which I believe keeps her whole. This is such a wonderful story for me to share with her. Thank you for this gift.

  85. Denise

    I appreciate the “meat” of this post, but I wanted to comment on the beautiful photos as well. That first one, with the tower and the distant lights and the darkness and the blue hues – just stunning! It’s so well placed to incite the mood of your writing piece, and of course the red-coated Lucy in boots is so quintessential Pacific NW.

    Very nicely done. Thank you for sharing.

  86. Joyce Underwood

    After a week of panic attacks, insomnia, depression, and yes, a lot of Sesame Street, I needed to read this. I needed to hear that it’s not just me. Thank you. I will be inquiring about celiac disease testing on Monday.

  87. Stephanie

    Hi how are you? I know you will bust me for a error soon, was brought up by two teachers, one was an English Lit teacher, teacher of the year she was, in Ill, and my dad taught at SIUE, he has also published mutiple books. I was the one with the learning issues, and now frankly the sensitive stomach, and now due to unknowingly spending 2 1/2 years in a moldy property that I leased for my antiques, I also suffered from exposure to toxic mold that was hidden, I could not see it. Getting sick from long time exposure to toxic molds leaves a person sensitized to much of what before they may have been fine with. At 56 I now navigate through lifes toxic obstacles, like perfume, candles, plug in air fresheners, outdoor allergens, all these things are new to me. GLUTEN-YEAST-SUGAR-there are a host of things now that I will not eat, or can not eat with-out a reaction of one sort or another. Just passing this along to others,,,if you also suffer from other chronic ailments, like sinus, smells, gastro issues, skin issues, check your home and work for air quality. SCHOOLS are notorious for mold issues!! Good eating,,,,,NO GLUTEN here!

  88. js

    First of all, I really need to check your site more often because this month has been excruciating for me. The only thing that stopped me from killing myself 3 days ago was the fear of causing my husband such pain. Had I read this when you posted it I might have felt hope sooner. I have been eating oatmeal every morning for a while, and I’m going to stop and see what happens.

    Regarding celiac and vitamins, though, I have a different story. I have a genetic disease called MTHFR that means that I can’t absorb B vitamins normally. I recommend investigation of this condition for anyone who has cut out gluten (and maybe oats, too) and still feels bad. This condition makes some healthful foods toxic to our systems, and there is no such thing as guessing which one; it could be many different ones.

  89. Heda

    Wow I was perfectly happy until I read this. All the best to you and your lovely family but statistics show that not everyone is blessed in that way and that’s OK. Aunts are great. Long live aunts real or adopted!

  90. Joanne

    Thank you *so* very much for writing this. As someone who has wrestled with “dark periods” for a long time and has just recently begun to own the labels of depression and panic disorder, I appreciate you sharing your story and deconstructing the shame that accompanies depression. I never realized the relationship between celiac and depression/anxiety and am going to look into it- thank you.

    Oh, and now 8 months into it, I truly believe that therapy was the best 30th-year birthday present I could’ve given myself!

  91. Kristen K

    Thank you for bringing to light a difficult subject. After two years of strict gluten-free and one year of strict dairy and sugar-free, my autoimmune conditions are definitely better, but the depression and mental fog seem to persist. I have isolated because of the pain, lethargy and dietary restrictions. I just find it easier to cook my own meals at home. When a friend from the past enters my life, I see how bad I feel, how small my life has become to deal with the health challenges. Small apartment, simple clothes, comfortable shoes, shrinking income, but I keep taking all my supplements, fish oil, clear up the infections and pray for a better tomorrow. I’m grateful for healthy, tasty food, yoga, baths and friends who understand.

  92. CatieP

    Thank you.

    I’m so happy you brought this topic up – and so happy that you are happy now. I struggled with depression, anxiety and occasional suicidal thoughts – unlike family members I never stabilized on a traditional antidepressant. My psychiatrist blamed it on puberty – when the depression lasted beyond the expiration date of that explanation I turned to naturopathic medicine. I felt better than I had for years and with no side effects to boot – but I needed a lot of supplements/vitamins etc to feel that way. When I went gluten free I was able to drastically reduce the supplements/vitamins I took and here I am today. I still have more varied emotions than before – but I think that might be just how I’m built – and perhaps having this range of emotions means that I also have times of greater happiness to go with my times of less happiness/depression.

  93. Cristal

    “Certainly, I didn’t know this one was coming into my life. How could I have known her exuberant joy, her vivid imagination, the feeling of her cuddling into me on the couch? If only someone could have told me: “Just wait. A better life is coming.””

    Yes, this. A million times over.

  94. Susie

    I come from a family that is full of a variety of mental health issues. Depression has visited everyone in my immediate family growing up (including myself), and a few of us have other difficulties added in (ocd/manic/anxiety). We have done our very best to be aware of our issues and get help with them as needed… and we all have found that maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of exercise (especially when we really don’t feel like doing anything) is the best prevention.

    However it wasn’t until my son turned seven that I became aware that perhaps it goes even further than that. My once outgoing, bubbly boy turned into a child full of anxiety and stress (who knew 7 year olds had stress!?). My son began showing signs of autism (almost) he was stimming (uncontrollable movements and sounds which somehow help him control his emotions) and retreating into himself. He began seeing the school councellor who helped him find some techniques for controlling his anxiety, but she could not find any reason for them. His physician couldn’t find anything wrong either, but when my sons anxiety began causing physical symptoms (stomach pain), it was suggested that we eliminate some foods from his diet (namely gluten and dairy).

    Well, it took about 3 weeks and my happy go-lucky boy started returning to me… His stomach aches went away and his stimming became controllable. He was able to use his coping techniques to keep any anxiety and fear at bay, instead of turning into a panic attack with uncontrolled shaking. All was good for a few months, until Christmas came along and I let my guard down and allowed some “treats” and all the symptoms came back. Eliminating them again they disappeared.

    Now, he wasn’t having depression – however it was a pschological effect. Will being gluten and dairy free guarantee that he won’t ever suffer from depression? No. But if there is even a remote chance that it can help him avoid that black hole… giving up a few foods is a small price to pay. (Personally, I think there is a very good chance that it will help him avoid depression as well as other issues)

  95. Meri

    Just wondering what tests you had in order to diagnose your celiac? I know I’m gluten-sensitive and the doctor has suggested seroligic testing and if that’s negative, he suggested HLA typing and the DQ2 or DQ8 profile. Which one did you have? Is it worth it to have these tests to know for sure? Your help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  96. jen

    Beautifully honest. Thank you for sharing. I am also a former teacher who had some “dark days” in my 20s…. On a different note, I’ve been wondering why the comments on your other entries are closed – forgive me if I missed your explanation. Do hope you feel better very soon!!

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