My mental health has always been a roller coaster, and the past few weeks have definitely been tough.

I can’t sleep because my brain won’t shut off. So I spend hours in bed replaying situations in my head, worrying about every little thing, and putting myself down. Then you get stuck in a loop.

What if I hadn’t done this? What if I did that? I should have said something. I should have kept my mouth shut. Over, and over, and over.

I’ve been letting depression rule my life, and I’m feeling trapped.

I’ve realized that a lot of things I do daily are habits that make depression worse. So, I’m going to try and be more aware of them, and change as much as possible. I know it will be difficult, but hopefully this can help make a difference.

Reaching for comfort foods

It's always tempting to reach for comfort food when you're feeling low, but it's a habit that can make depression worse.

Study after study after study confirms this, yet we keep reaching for comfort foods (I’m definitely not innocent here either). Research seems to revolve around two main issues: saturated fats and excess sugar.

In 2015, a study on rats published in Neuropharmacology found that rats fed a diet filled with saturated fats developed changes in their neural chemistry. Particularly, a lower response to the chemical dopamine—the right balance vital for both physical and mental well-being.

And it’s not just rats.

The University of Michigan studied a group of 12,000 people in Spain and found that those with a higher trans fat consumption were more likely to have depression—42 percent more likely than those who ate a small amount of trans fats.

A dietary pattern comprising vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish, and whole-grain foods (traditional) was associated with a lower likelihood of depressive and anxiety disorders, whereas a dietary pattern comprising processed and “unhealthy” foods (western) was associated with a higher likelihood of psychological symptoms and disorders. Better diet quality, as measured by the diet quality score, was associated with a lower level of psychological symptoms. Associations were apparent after adjustments for a wide range of possible confounding variables, including age, socioeconomic status, education, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors.

Association of Western and Traditional Diets With Depression and Anxiety in Women

Let’s not forget sugar.

Another 2015 study looked at over 70,000 women who weren’t experiencing depression. Those consuming a diet of foods with a higher glycemic index—including those rich in refined grains and added sugar—had a greater likelihood of depression.

Researchers couldn’t pinpoint an exact mechanism, but one thought is that overconsumption of sugars is a risk factor for inflammation and cardiovascular disease—both linked to depression. It could also lead to insulin resistance, which has been linked to cognitive defects—similar to those with depression.

Too much (or too little) sleep

We all know that a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our mood (cut to me snapping because a fork is in the wrong spot or having a meltdown because my shoe won’t stay tied). In fact, the inability to sleep is one of the most defining symptoms of depression.

But some of us often suffer with the opposite issue—staying in bed and sleeping the day away. Simple things, like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed can seem impossible. And sometimes, they are.

Depression can impact sleep, but sleep issues can also trigger depression. Poor sleep is another of the habits that make depression worse.

Physical or emotional trauma and metabolic or other medical problems can trigger sleep disturbances. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue. With fatigue, you exercise less and that leads to a decline in your fitness level. Eventually, you find yourself in a vicious cycle of inactivity and disturbed sleep, which causes both physical and mood-related symptoms.


Avoiding sunlight

Depression can make you want to curl up in bed in a dark room and sleep the day away. Unfortunately, this robs you of much-needed vitamin D, which has been shown to be beneficial in treating depression. Plus, sunlight is a natural mood booster that triggers your brain’s production of serotonin.

If you can’t get enough sun, you might consider investing in a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp. I’ve been tempted to try this, so let me know if you have any experience with them.

Avoiding physical activity

Neglecting physical activity may seem like the best thing to do, but it can actually make depression worse.

Depression can make the simplest of tasks seem impossible—showering seems like climbing Everest. It can make you seem lazy, when that’s just not true. Depression weighs you down, making you feel chained to your couch.

It might take all of your energy, but sometimes just a five-minute walk can make a huge difference.

If I’m feeling like it might be a tough day, but I’m not completely weighed down yet, I’ll put on some good music and take Atka and Kiska out for a quick walk. Most of the time, I come back with a more positive outlook.

Start small and set goals. Feeling okay after walking for five minutes? Add another five!

Social isolation

When things are overwhelming, it’s natural to want to crawl into your little dark hole and hide from the world. Plus, if you’re dealing with a chronic illness, you already feel like a burden on your family and friends. But these are the times we need support the most.

A study on social support and stress showed that social isolation is associated with increased morbidity, start and relapse of depression, mood disorders, and several medical conditions.

In contrast to low social support, high levels appear to buffer or protect against the full impact of mental and physical illness. The relationship between good social support and superior mental and physical health has been observed in diverse populations

Social Support and Resilience to Stress

It may be tempting to withdraw from the world, but don’t. It’s just another habit that will make depression worse.


Rumination is a common habit that makes depression worse.

Oh, the rumination trap.

Have you ever spent hours replaying the same situation over and over in your head? Sometimes, you’ll even dwell on it for days or weeks.

That’s rumination.

I struggle with this a lot. It is really difficult for me to let things go—my mind is constantly running.

At its core, rumination is all about problem-solving, which is essential when trying to overcome a problem. The problem lies when you just can’t let it go. When you’re still thinking about the problem after already developing a plan.

People who ruminate are much more likely to develop problems with depression and anxiety, and those problems are hard to overcome for someone who fails to change ruminative thought patterns. Rumination is also connected to many different forms of self-sabotage

Psychology Today

So, how do you get through the rumination trap? It’s easier to say than do, but you need to find an activity that fully occupies your mind. Some days, this is really, really difficult.

I can be happily reading a box and suddenly feel myself slip back into the trap. There are times that I’ve been ruminating for several minutes, but it takes me a while to fully realize.

Neglecting personal hygiene

Some days, taking a shower takes everything out of me—especially days I wash my hair. I won’t lie. There are times I’ve gone several days without a shower because I just didn’t have the energy

When you’ve struggled with an eating disorder or body image issues, showering can also be a trigger for those negative thoughts. Some days, it’s easier to stay in your sweats.

Do you have habits that make depression worse?

Depression can make it feel like your world is collapsing around you, and daily tasks can be tough. Here are top habits that make depression worse.

Today, I’m doing something scary.

Really scary.

I’m stripping down for the internet.

Okay, not completely, but it’s about to get raw and real. And probably a little all over the place.

I’ve debated going off of many of my medications for awhile. Particularly the ones that mess with my metabolism or are mostly to counteract other meds. I’ve ended up in this loop of needing med one to help with x, but it causes y. So then med two helps with y, but causes z. It’s a vicious circle, and I end up this mess of symptoms.

I talked to my doctor, and while he wasn’t completely on board, he’s okay with me stopping almost half of my medications (five, to be exact). A few I had to taper, which I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. But, today’s the day.

Today’s the day I’m no longer taking them.

The most notable end? Prednisone.

I’ve tried to stop prednisone many times before. I don’t feel that it really helps that much, plus I’ve put on 40 pounds while taking it during the past two years. Every time I’ve tried to stop, I’ve had a new type of flare—something that I wasn’t taking prednisone for to begin with.

So, I’ve had to start taking it again. It’s equally heart-breaking every time.

This time, I’m not going back. Not for several months at least. I need to give my body time to adapt, and hopefully I’ll be able to manage symptoms in other ways (and finally fit into my clothes again).

Each week, I’m going to do a wrap-up post. What went right, what went wrong, how I’m feeling, and my progress back to my pre-prednisone self.

Along with my physical health, my mental health has been terrible lately—which is only made worse when I look at where I am now. It makes me want to skip the gym and cozy up with a glass of wine instead.

But I used to love working out, especially running.

It was my daily escape. When I learned that my knees were shot and I’d need to find a replacement exercise, I didn’t want to. My physical therapist tried to convince me to start swimming, but who wants to put on a bathing suit when your 40 pounds heavier than what feels like you?

Hard pass on that one.

Plus, it’s just embarrassing when you don’t feel like yourself. It can be difficult to put yourself in front of people—self-care goes out the window.

Physical health and mental health can be so closely tied. You neglect one, and the other decreases as well. Then you end up in a downward spiral that seems impossible to emerge from.

So, today, I’m saying goodbye to the meds that I feel are inhibiting more than helping at this point. I know my body is going to need to adjust, and it will probably be a difficult process, but I’m optimistic.

It will probably take me a few weeks to figure out a format, so let me know if there’s anything else you’d like updates on while I transition.

After I was diagnosed with Celiac, I didn’t go out to eat for months. I was still learning and knew that eating out would be an extremely stressful experience. After a few months of reading everything I could about Celiac disease, I finally felt confident enough to eat out.

I thought I was doing great. Asking the right questions. Letting them know it would be very serious if I got even a crumb of gluten. I enjoyed my meal and couldn’t wait for my next dining experience.

Until a few hours later, anyway.

I’ll spare you the details, but it was not a pretty first 48 hours. Followed by weeks of brain fog, extreme joint pain, and bloating—all my joy came crashing down.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I continue to learn every day. If you’re just getting started with the gluten free lifestyle, here are my top 5 tips to avoid being glutened when eating out.

Take care when choosing a restuarant

Restaurants aren’t created equal, especially when it comes to food allergies or Celiac disease. Before I go out to eat, I always use the Find Me Gluten Free app. It’s a free app that lets people review restaurants, share gluten free features, and vote if it’s “Celiac safe.”

If the restaurant isn’t on Find Me Gluten Free, you don’t need to write it off. It just means you have to do a bit more research. I’ve often found good information on Yelp and Google reviews.

If you can’t find the information you need, don’t hesitate to call the restaurant. A manager, and sometimes even a chef, will speak with you on the phone. When making a reservation, it never hurts to note that you have Celiac so they can be prepared.

Related: From Pastatarian to Celiac | My Story

Ask for your food to be brought out separately

It’s not uncommon for waiters to stack plates to bring them all out at once—it’s just more efficient. A tiny crumb or bit of sauce can easily fall on your plate and make you sick. I’ve been to a few restaurants where the manager brought my meal out while wearing gloves.

Visit the bar with caution

It’s rare that I’ll order a cocktail or other mixed drink when I’m eating out—there are too many opportunities for cross-contamination. Between the cocktail shaker and garnishes, gluten is everywhere. Wine is typically my go-to to stay safe.

If you do decide to indulge in a cocktail, be sure to ask about the type of liquor being used. Sometimes, they’ll use a different liquor than what’s listed because they ran out. Let the bartender know, and usually they’ll pull out a clean cocktail shaker and garnishes from the back that haven’t been touched.

Ask the right questions

If you want fries, make sure to ask if they’re done in a dedicated fryer. Gluten is not destroyed in the fryer. Also, don’t trust reviews stating a dedicated fryer. A few months ago, I went to a restaurant specifically because they had a dedicated fryer. Typically, they do. But on this day, they had a special and had used that fryer, contaminating it. They weren’t going to be able to clean it until the following day.

Color me devastated.

Pizza is also a high risk for cross-contamination. Ask if the pizza is cooked on the same surface as regular pizza. If it is, it’s no longer gluten free. Check that the pizza cutter and toppings are also separate.

Is the pasta cooked in a fresh pot of water? Restaurants will sometimes use the same pot to cook multiple batches of pasta—gluten free or not. It will make your meal take a little longer, but it’s always worth it for your safety.

Related: Fast Facts about Celiac Disease

Get serious with your waiter

If you have Celiac, NCGS, a gluten/wheat allergy, etc., make it known. If you just order “the burger with a gluten free bun,” many restaurants won’t take your request seriously. You’ll get the gluten free bun, but it’s unlikely they’ll change gloves and take other proper precautions.

Having anxiety, I can get overwhelmed and forget things when I’m ordering at a restaurant. I love this Gluten Free Dining Card from Good for You Gluten Free. Just pull the card out of your wallet, show it to your waiter, and give yourself some peace of mind.

What are your best tips to avoid being glutened when eating out?

Eating out is a treat that can stress out people with Celiac disease. Here are five tips to avoid being glutened when eating out. | Chronic Conversations

I’m terrified of online service dog communities.

I thought breed-specific Facebook groups were intense—until I joined service dog groups.

I came into the service dog world with very minimal knowledge about service dogs. I had no intentions of getting a service dog (or prospect, as I later learned is the correct term before it’s a service dog in training).

I joined my first group, eager to share my adorable girl, what she does for me, and the other things I wanted to train her for (I learned these are tasks). My adorable, floofy Kiska—how could anyone say anything negative about her?

Kiska the Great Pyrenees | It's Dog or Nothing

Within seconds, the comments started coming in.

“Great Pyrenees should never be used as service dogs. Do you even know anything about the breed? (ahem, see me over at It’s Dog or Nothing.)”

“Umm… you don’t have a service dog in training. You have a prospect.”

“Your dog’s collar is in the wrong position. And don’t get me started on the vest.”

“Did your puppy pass a temperament test? Did you meet with a professional trainer??”

If it hadn’t been against the group rules to the delete the post, I would have. Instead, I just hid and hoped for the best. I don’t mind being educated, but please don’t be condescending, which is how it often feels.

Trying again

A few months later, I had a question about Kiska’s vest. I was struggling with the fit to keep it from shifting to one side or another. I figured, what’s the harm in sharing a video asking this question? I just need to know how I can fix this harness.

People immediately started commenting on the video about how the reason for shifting was beyond obvious. I took pictures showing that I had tried that and it didn’t work, but I’d still get comments about how I was wrong.

I no longer post in that group—or any service dog group.

I get it—sometimes

I really do. A lot of service dog handlers are angry and frustrated. People are bringing pets into places they’re not allowed and are threatening their dog’s training—and their own health and safety.

Service dogs cost thousands of dollars and take years to train. I’d be beyond pissed if someone’s dog attacked Kiska, deterring her ability to work for me. Over the years, I might become a tad snarky. But us new handlers need help.

Kiska the Great Pyrenees | It's Dog or Nothing

Things I understand

Educating about ESAs vs. SDs

There’s a right way and a wrong way to educate here. In my small time in the service dog world, I’ve learned that most of us newbies genuinely want help. We’re disabled and aren’t getting help from our doctors. We don’t know where to start because we know there are so many frauds out there.

We don’t want to end up on the next scam site.

I’ve seen people just starting to consider a service dog use the term interchangeably with emotional support animal.

Yes, they are 110% different.

But some people honestly don’t know they’re using the terms incorrectly. Please educate us. Tell us the difference between the two, or send along an infographic. Please don’t start berating us for confusing the two. We want to learn the correct terms so we can continue the education, hopefully improving the lives of service dog teams.

Educating about ADA vs. FHA

I was so proud of myself for learning about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and thought I had it all figured out. Then I learned about the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and realized there are so many loops, twists, and turns.

I’m not going to even try to explain the differences because I know I’ll mess it up.

This can be a confusing topic—even for experienced service dog handlers. Help us understand and walk us through it. Then we can help educate the next group.

Things I Don’t Understand

Criticizing gear

We all have our own opinions. Personally, I like to keep Kiska’s vest fairly simple. To-the-point patches and not a lot of distraction. Plus, I think “cleaner” vests look more professional. But that’s just my opinion.

Kiska the Great Pyrenees | It's Dog or Nothing

There’s no reason handlers have to hide or repress their personalities. Want a rainbow vest? Do it. Want unicorn patches? Go for it. Considering decking your service dog out in Harry Potter gear? You do you. (Also please tell me where you got the things because I need them.)

Breed shaming

Experienced service dog handlers will tell you to choose one of the Fab Four—Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and Smooth Collies—and for good reason. In general, these breeds are more likely to have the required temperament of a service dog (which less than 1% of dogs have).

But there are always exceptions to the rule. Too many people are made to feel bad because of their chosen breed. And sometimes—like with Kiska—the dog chose the role.

The dog’s placement

I recently saw a photo of a handler and her large service dog at a restaurant. The dog was laying at the handler’s side, in the aisle, rather than under the table (a lot of handlers’ preferred placement). But the caption didn’t give any context.

Was the dog tasking? Was this the trained placement? Is the dog still learning how to tuck? Maybe it was just completely disgusting under the table.

We don’t know. All we see is a cute dog behaving at a restaurant—what seems to be empty at the moment. But instead of positive responses, she received many snarky comments about the dog not being under the table.

There was still plenty of room in the aisle, so the dog was not a fire hazard or altering the state of the business. And there’s no law saying service dogs need to be under the table. But people still had to criticize her.

There were several commenters I wanted to high-five for their awesomeness, and one that I wanted to give a crown to for this thought: Service dogs are medical equipment. If it was a wheelchair instead of a dog, would people still be throwing a fit about it?

Probably not.

To sum it up, please be gentle with us. We’re trying. We’re learning. And a huge thanks to all the amazing handlers out there. You’re not recognized nearly enough.

I'm terrified of online service dog communities. Sometimes, it feels like the cons outweigh the pros—but there are supportive handlers out there.

I started Chronic Conversations as an outlet for me. For the majority of my life, I’ve been extremely quiet about my physical and mental health issues. As I started seeing other people open up, I decided to do it myself.

At first, it felt like I was complaining or seeking attention. But then I realized how many more people were in a similar place.

I soon realized how therapeutic it was. I was able to put aside the nagging thoughts about “being a complainer,” and look at it more objectively.

At a young age, I decided to become a vegetarian. For me, it started with the texture.

I can remember sitting at the table sobbing over a steak or a plate of scrambled eggs because I didn’t want to eat them. I was somewhat aware that they were animals, but I was only six or so and didn’t fully make the connection.

However, I was certain that I did not like the texture, and I wanted nothing to do with them. The only meat product my parents could get me to eat was chicken, and even that was a struggle.

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