Love the incentive and want to share my story, there are not that many who discussed autism so I want to do my part! You can share my name: Sim Van daele and all the pictures.
I was born with Autism Spectrum Disorder which in the ’90s was still kind uncharted territory. I had my mother compile some of the experiences she had with me as a baby. She noticed straight away that I was different from my siblings. I was inconsolable for long periods, so much so that one time she had to take me to the ER because I hadn’t stopped crying for hours. Throughout my entire childhood, I had sleep issues. Falling asleep was a major issue, when I did fall asleep it was either very light sleep or I had intense night terrors which ranged from 3-5 times each night. Like most autistic kids I had a very low tolerance for all external stimuli: light, sound, textiles, smell. I couldn’t wear clothes that weren’t soft, the labels had to be cut, my eyes couldn’t stand the fluorescent light at school which frequently gave me headaches, loud noises startled or scared me if there was too much noise I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. There were major gut dysbiosis issues as well that lead me to have over 12 antibiotic courses. My mother also remarked I had severe hypochondriac tendencies, which is probably due to the dysbiosis, to begin with.
There were the typical signs of the inability to cope with changes. Like a wrapper or food package changing, then I would refuse to eat it. Any type of surprise tended to overwhelm or scare me. Whenever we were going somewhere my parents had to prepare me in advance with information and explanations of what to expect. My moods were extremely volatile which mainly leaned towards depression/depressive thoughts. My thought patterns always went straight to the worst case scenarios, couldn’t sleep from worry when my parents were out. When we moved houses I was afraid of being alone in the new house following my mother around everywhere she went.
The other very common autistic traits were that I got easily overwhelmed: blocking, freezing, crying, yelling, self-harm. This could be from something that surprised me, didn’t go my way, anything that happened differently than I thought would set me off, anytime I didn’t understand something I would breakdown. On top of that, there was severe anxiety, which would make me freeze like I was glued to the floor. Which came in the form of things that overwhelmed, heights, trucks (or anything bigger than me like horses), unknown environments, fireworks. There were many instances where my anxiety was so present it caused me psychosomatic stress. In elementary school my teacher was prepping me for the fire-drill in a few days we caused me to become nauseous from the stress of fear and had to be excused from classes the rest of the day.
This was my life and the general trend of my life throughout my adolescence. There were better periods in between in regards to my mood where I had a few good days without any breakdowns or aggression. At age nine things started getting worse mentally, which lead to me being diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder. It wasn’t until they tested me for Autism in 2002 at age eleven that I got my official clinical diagnosis. By that time I had already gone through various therapies and the guidance at my disposal at high school was mental torture. It was a bulls-eye on my back that turned the bullies on to me really fast. The bullying plus my father abandoning my sister and me drove me over the edge, deeper into depression at age 12. The subsequent years of high school were the worst years of my life. The anxiety from being bullied at different schools kept me from wanting to go to sleep knowing I would have severe night terrors anyway, they became so severe I tried to escape my room and house on multiple occasions. Attempting to escape through the window or the backdoor. My only refuge for those years was books, TV shows, movies, gaming, and food. I ate my feelings away, I tried to escape reality daily.
In my early teens, I was already thinking a lot about suicide but those years in high school from 12-18 made it a daily occurrence. The suffering of the overwhelming nature of autism coupled with the depression was just too much to bear and I didn’t see a way out. All the doctors and experts told me the same things that I couldn’t get rid of autism or even depression, just manage it. I resented and rebelled that because if that was really the case life wouldn’t be worth continuing. Thankfully I had a supporting mother and stepfather which kept me from making a decision that would end my life.
Confronted with my weight gain, which reflected the way I felt, I gathered my courage and determination to make an effort to turn things around. I changed my diet which was mainly cutting out all processed crap, as I was eating a lot of chips, nuts, processed cheese, bread, sugary drinks which was stress eating. I lost 16kgs over 6 months and my moods starting improving.
The real monumental and life changing improvements started happening when I went low carb alongside an Intermittent Fasting protocol of the Warrior Diet (2010, age 19). At the same time, I started doing body-weight movement outside in nature which boosted my mood and energy. By the following year, my depression was completely gone. My autistic tendencies dropped more and more each month. By the end of 2013, I was going out to musical events, clubs, social gatherings without any issues, doing some events all on my own. The years after 2013 the diet varied but it was clear that too much processed foods and carbs cause irritability, drops in mood (negativity), drops in cognition and mental stability in general. Looking back it’s notable that every time I was strict with what I ate, fasting and largely consuming animal products I felt better. All my best periods in between weight and body fat fluctuations were periods marked by those factors. As soon as I wasn’t strict the cognitive and mood ups and downs returned.
In August 2018 I went strict Paleo, which helped a lot with my cognition. It wasn’t until February 2019 that I got into ancestral/carnivore style through Dominic Rapson (@origins.nutrition) who helped my girlfriend with her psoriasis. Going carnivore really kicked my cognition into high gear. Feeling consistently better. All the stomach, digestive and intestinal issues have been getting better or resolved since. There’s still some healing to be done gut wise as I have a host of intolerances. However, I feel like now I’ve got far better control over cravings, mood, and energy than ever did before. So it’s a worthwhile trade off even if some foods will never be in the cards for me everyday consumption wise.
Listen to Sim’s interview on the podcast here: