• Next to Nature

Overcoming Depression, Eating Disorders, and Insomnia Through Better Nutrition

Updated: May 23

I made the decision to share something I’ve tried, for the last decade, to delete from my personal history.

I have never really discussed this openly. I’ve never wanted to. Not because I felt it might show weakness, but because I wanted to forget everything about certain times in my life. The triggers, the anger, the sadness, the self-doubt, loneliness, all the emotions that took over during those dark phases.

But why delete it?

I never wanted to be what someone labeled me. I did not want my past to give others a reason to define me, as society so easily does. I truly wanted people to see me as a kind, plant loving, animal loving, earth loving gal who accepted everyone for who they were, just as much as she accepted her own flaws.

And why share now? What changed? Where is this courage coming from?

Lately I have felt I’m being dishonest with myself and others. I didn’t fall into the health field because of the work I started doing 3+ years ago. I have been learning about nutrition and emotional trauma for at least 17 years. It’s not in the last five or so, like my experience has been shown. People have to feel safe and connected with me if they are going to trust my advice for wellness and support.

I have been sharing ‘my story’ as to why I decided to pick up my life in Nashville, head North, start a business with my fiancé, and now recently open my own health store. Even more lately, I have been asked to share my “why” to “my story.” Leaving out a big piece doesn’t make sense anymore. I give advice to people, not only because I care for their wellbeing, or that I’ve done hours of research and studying, but also because I’ve lived many of the circumstances people are coming to me for help with. I do not want any young person, adult, or family member to be in the positions I put myself, that I believe now could have been avoided or handled differently just by understanding the impact of what was put in my body.

I have been depressed. I had two different types of an eating disorder. I had insomnia. My heart almost stopped beating. My organs almost shut down on me. I had pain in my body daily. I was on several medications for treatment. I’ve wanted to give up on finding answers and help. This was over a 10 year or so period in my life. Thankfully, in the beginning of 2015, everything started looking up and massive change and improvements took over in my life.

When I really began to understand nutrition and how certain foods/ingredients harm or help your stomach, mind, brain, thyroid, adrenals and so on, I really started to take control, in the right way, of my life and lifestyle as a whole.

I read my old journals I kept from 2003. (My teen years.) I started reading them and immediately said “heck no! I’m not sharing this misery.” I had to talk myself through the message I want to make today. Wew, I actually hit the publish button for you to read this!

I was lost in my youth. I called my condition “mind games” as I did not know how to help myself. I even wrote about being depressed and my close friend noticing and not knowing how to deal with me. We were only teenagers.

My lack of proper nutrition and the mis-understanding of it led to my illnesses.

In high school I was diagnosed with anorexia. I was tragically under weight. 

I think my lowest, and when stepping on a scale in complete shock, was 89 lbs at 16 or 17 years old. I remember thinking, “No way I dropped that low. I wasn’t really trying to lose more today.” Eating 500 calories or less a day running 4+ miles will get you there though.

I told myself if I do this, if I’m this size, I won’t have to worry about others' opinion of me, they will just notice how important kindness for others is and that’s all I want. I worried too much about what others thought of my home life that being the perfect size rendered me capable of much more than what was around me.

I wrote about how I hated looking at myself, I always felt fat. Food was my enemy.

I got obsessed with counting calories instead of nutritional facts. I got obsessed with working out. Wanting to be at the level needed to perform what I thought was the best.

Today, I don’t even look at the top half of labels, I only ready the ingredients. That is what really matters. I also do not workout. I haven't in years. I stay moving, walk the dogs, or practice yoga. Movement that aligns with what my body needs.

Minimal nutrition dwindled my body, but I didn’t know it until it was too late. I went fat free, sugar free, diet this, diet that, and before I knew it, I was running myself for miles and miles a day, with no ounce of healthy food to sustain me. I got so good at running that I ran in flip-flops on a gravel road, for miles. I can remember pushing myself so much and using my self-talk so negatively, I did not allow myself water or breaks to rest. “Just keep running so you stop thinking about everything. Just don’t eat today so you don’t gain another pound.”

My malnutrition stomach controlled my brain, and it did not allow me to feel the proper emotions. Constant brain fog, emotional pain, and self induced trauma controlled me.

Within my journal I wrote, “I know I need help. I decided not to eat today so that when I go to the doctor tomorrow they will see for sure I need help.” I started a new journal from there because I ended up being put in the hospital that day. It was in May, 2 weeks before the end of my sophomore school year. I wrote, “The Doctor told me the lowest heart rate they had seen before death of a patient in my condition was 25bpm. Mine was 30 that day.” A heart rate of 30, while up moving around.

Being hospitalized in high school was so many emotions for me. I knew I needed help, I wanted to be “normal.” I kept a pretty detailed record of treatment in the hospital. I actually do not remember most of it today. I didn’t know how to get out of it on my own. I didn’t know how to get my head right. I lived in a big lie. To myself. To others. Lies about what I was doing. Lies about how I felt. That is very much part of the depression.

I regret so much of those years though because I missed out on so much of experiencing “life as a teen.” I missed out on so much over the next 10 years of my life because the depression and eating disorder would creep in at the low points and derail so much I had going.

For those of you reading this who knew me during those stages of my life. A piece of my heart has always held tight for you. I wish I could have been the best me when we were together. I missed out on so much. I chose food and workouts over friendships and hangouts and relationships more often than I care to admit. So many times all I wanted to do was get home by myself eat and torcher my mind for not having the strength to be social. I literally had no energy and no willpower to learn from my actions. It was brutal. I hated myself and choices. My stomach lead my brain away from happiness in my heart.

I can remember being told, “Gain some weight and you’ll be the prettiest girl there is. Gain some weight and you’ll be the best basketball player we have.” I didn’t want to be that girl. I was afraid of the attention I would get “being the prettiest girl.” I did not want that. I was afraid of relationships, and love, and getting hurt emotionally. But being the skinniest girl who needed help was okay? Again, I was my own enemy. I just wanted to be everyones best friend. I can also remember hearing, “You’ve gained some weight, you look so good.” Also the worst one can hear during that struggle. But what do you say to someone dealing with depression and addictions like that? There are so many emotions.

I recommend all parties in a family with someone struggling seek professional guidance. Even one word can send someone dealing with emotional trauma down an unfortunate path. One word, so be mindful.

It is also so very important to understand the things you say to children, especially around food. Food should never be a reward or punishment. For example, “if you eat this, you’ll get that,” or “if you don’t eat this, you can’t do that." Food is simply for nourishment, not a bribe or behavior correction.

Words are so powerful. They can work against the “weak minded.” I was weak. I use words as my strength now that I know what they hold.

I turned to scripture for peace and guidance. In the picture above, I share the versus I wrote going through treatments and doctor visits. Faith was my key. I got my tattoo in college… Faith. In myself, that I am strong enough, smart enough, worthy enough of happiness and good health.

Self-care has looked very different for me over the years, but I practice it today in ways that keep me grounded in my vision for better health, for happiness, for my future.

Through college I was in and out struggling with food and depression, and only when I felt out of control, of my life, did I revert to the one thing I had control over, the high of damaging my body over food. Even as I type this I am having trouble saying it. I overate just to throw it all up. That got my heart rate going like a workout. The workout I craved when all I wanted to do was run for miles and miles like I did with the previous type of eating disorder and stress release. The damage this does on the body is unfathomable while doing it. That’s part of what you want to do. Harm yourself for what you allowed yourself to do in your life. Vicious.

My depression was deep. I feared it most of my life. I fought it because I was determined not to live with it like I had seen it take over the lives of many around me. I had it, with a smile on my face, but erosion in my stomach and mind. I also had times in there I was great! It wasn’t all sad, lonely, sick. When life was good, life was pretty good. I tried harder to put better things in my body. Then, when it was bad, I was bad.

Growing up, I refused to be the girl with “daddy issues”. My sibling had that hung over him all of his youth, I denied it for myself. My Daddy had issues, I did not have daddy issues. Anyone who tried to tell me differently got a quick reaction of defense. We learn a lot in our childhood. The things people say, “If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up just like your…” That has always legitimately angered me. Be mindful of the way you word things to children and teens.

My college years continued to be up and down, but mostly difficult for me. Mentally I was unstable. Physically I was a complete mess. Bulimia was in full force at this point. I would spend so much money on junk food just to send it down the toilet. I hit a low after one episode my throat, neck, and face swelled like a cantaloupe after several hours of purging. I thought I was going to stay like that forever. I remember holding my dogs and crying for hours on the floor, praying for answers and healing. I don’t remember how I got out of that rut, but it came and went through a few years even after that eye-opening event.

After years of studying the gut brain connection I realized just why and how I slipped into my cycles so badly. The crap I was putting in my body. Cheap food - even if I thought it was healthy. It was cheap crap. I work so hard now to educate others on proper nutrition because I actually thought what I was doing was good for me. Products are labeled to make you think they are healthy, but if you don’t go deeper into that product, you just fall in the marketing trap of “better for you.”

It is my belief now that eating disorders take over so easily because the first thing we want to eliminate is “fat” from our diet. I wrote in my journal in 2003, “The doctor wants me eating more fats in my diet. I cannot have anything that says fat-free in my house now.” Our brain needs good fats to thrive. If we keep it from our bodies, it works against us. In complete panic mode. I teach on the important fats like olive oil, coconut oil and coconut butter, avocados, walnuts and fish, for example.

I remember the last time I was severely depressed, shortly after moving to Nashville, my body was shutting down. I felt the worst I ever had, as though I was barely hanging on. I slept about 4 hours at a time most nights. My body didn’t know what to do. I sought medical advice because my stomach and intestines were so damaged. I felt them shutting down on me. I had actually gained 30 pounds over a healthy weight for my body, which was tough for me, but I was so uncomfortable in my body and had given up I'd ever be better by that point.

I started doing more research on ways to heal naturally. I changed my diet and routine immensely. I cut out gluten, sugar, and off-brand foods, and added in nutrients I really needed for brain health and gut healing. After all, that’s really what I was dealing with. I healed my stomach so it could work with my brain better.

I was introduced to Chiropractic a few months after getting on a better path. This changed my life for all the better, which I could talk about that in a later post - maybe! I will say, I remember in that time before I started really taking charge of my own health, I prayed for a Doctor to come into my life I could have a wonderful bond with, like a best friend or partner, so that I could always seek the best advise for my terrible health. I feared I’d never feel well on my own. My grateful heart has learned so much from the man by my side today. The things I needed in my life came in, and stayed in, because I was seeing more clear everything that I needed to have in order to be well.

Many years later, when I got pregnant, that was the biggest transition to the healthiest I’ve ever been. The best I’ve ever felt. I listen to my body more today than I ever have. As a mother and mentor, I take everything I do and teach very seriously because knowledge is power, nature is power. I have energy and passion and hope because of my understanding and connection with nature what it provides.

I feared getting postpartum depression because of my history, so I really took my nutrition seriously while being pregnant and even now still nursing. The female hormones are enough to battle.

I believe it’s why I’m so passionate about helping mothers or moms to be. What we put in our bodies is so very important for so many reasons. The health of our children starts the day they are conceived and is crucial for development until they are at least two. But even so as children go through their teens. Educate them! If we can understand what our bodies need to properly perform, we can better give our babies and children what they need to grow into amazing human beings, with less risk of disease.

I haven’t had a relapse in over 5 years. Since I completely altered what I put in my body and really took the time to understand nutrition as a whole, I stay well. I am an introvert, so I recharge by being alone. Which can often seem like social anxiety for some, but I know my limits and how easily I can get worn down if I don’t listen to my body.

I am constantly telling clients to listen to their body. It sends us messages via aches, discomforts, cravings, or mood swings. If we have those, we need to do something different and help our body heal.

God created the resources on our Earth for us to survive. There is so much misinformation out there it can be so confusing and daunting for many people. Stick to the organic and actual natural stuff. Take vitamins and probiotics, a quality brand. You are not supposed to feel fatigued, bloated, sad, achy, or anxious each day. That is not something you just deal with. You find the root problem and work towards the solution. You find someone to help you learn.

I knew one day I would share my story. I didn’t know when, or how. But I knew I would need to because even one person might need to read it for their life to turn around. It would be worth it.

Some involved in my life might have their side of my story, it’s welcome, but might be irrelevant. It is mine to hold or share. Mine to tell.

If you know me, you might know I try to be a light for others. I was in so many dark places, light is all I want to be. I wake up each day to help people who don’t feel well. For those who need answers and resources.

Food is no longer my enemy. I respect food as it respects my body. It strengthens and heals. Nature heals. I am grateful for each day. I have purpose. I am loved and love life. So, let's shine on.

A few things you may take away from this:

-I chose to share my story for those seeking hope. For anyone who made it through the entire read, thank you. Please let this be for someone looking for encouragement. Depression, anxiety, addiction, self-doubt, tired, weak, in pain… there are answers. There is hope. It may take some time, but there is always hope and healing. 

-Live next to nature.

-Be mindful of what you say to young children and teens about their surroundings. Be mindful around those who are struggling.

-Nutrition is powerful. What we put in our bodies 100% affects our mood and development.

-Ask for help.

-Be kind.

To better health,

Jamie Vess

Founder + Owner Next to Nature

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