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Cabin fever can lead to self-medication with food

April 17, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 410 lbs.

Last week: 406 lbs.

Start (Dec. 17): 470 lbs.

Total lost: 60 lbs.

I keep placing “sunshine” on my daily list of positives when the sun is out. Even then, I continue to find myself in a dark place this time of year.

With the long winter almost over, tax day reminds me of finances, which always give me stress, especially after learning last week that it’s going to cost $700 to fix my car. I hate money problems.

I also hate this time of year. I’ve been suffering from cabin fever for almost three months, and it’s getting worse. There is no spring break in my world, so there’s no hope I’ll get better any time soon. My spirits could be lifted if I took a small break, but where would I go? I can’t afford to travel. And spring break in the Adirondacks doesn’t cure cabin fever, not with fresh snow on the ground this week. So I’m stuck with the urge to self-medicate with food.

I didn’t want to write a column this week because I’ve been so depressed lately, and I figure you don’t want to hear about it. I’m sure you need a pick-me-up right about now, and I’m sorry I can’t provide it this week. I gained weight. On Saturday, I broke under several layers of stress, and I haven’t fully recovered. Even though I’m back on track with my diet, I’m on shaky ground and I feel as though I could break at any moment. I want to run away and hide.

Two years ago, I lost 40 pounds, starting a diet on New Year’s Day and ending it three-and-a-half months later. In mid-April 2012, I lost control and didn’t recover for more than a year. I’m thinking this is just a bad time of year for me. It could be taxes. It could be lack of time off. It could be cabin fever. I’m not sure. All I know is I typically medicate myself with food, but I can’t do that this year, not while I’m in this fish bowl called the Lake Placid Diet.

I go through short periods of depression once in awhile. That’s normal, isn’t it? I even find myself enjoying the melancholy. It’s a good time to reflect on what’s important in life. But the depression is always deeper in March and April.

Before starting this column, I shut the blinds in my office, closed the door and turned off all the lights except for a warm antique desk lamp my mother gave me. It’s just me, the light, and the computer, and I’m doing what I like best — writing. It’s therapeutic.

Here’s my dilemma. I don’t want anyone to read this column, but I have to file something this week. I want to give you something uplifting and inspiring, but how can I honestly submit a piece that’s all smiles and roses when I don’t feel that way? I owe my readers the truth, don’t I? And the truth is that I’m not happy this week.

I have an urge to drive off in my car alone and keep going until I reach an ocean. Even then, it may not be enough. I may have to keep driving up or down the coast until I feel better.

Food’s always been my answer to depression, not alcohol, illegal drugs, medication, therapy or religion. I keep rubbing my eyes, searching for answers and not finding any. I just find more questions and the uneasy craving for food, knowing all the time that stuffing my gut won’t solve a thing.

Still, it makes me feel better in the short term. Over and over, one day after another, giving myself a high with food, kept me going for years. But it’s an addiction I want to break, one that the Lake Placid Diet was designed for.

Music helps. I’m also finding that exercise keeps my mind off my troubles. A walk in the middle of nowhere is peaceful and it helps, as long as I don’t have to trudge through any more snow.

I feel as though I’m on the verge of giving up the Lake Placid Diet, but I know I won’t. I can’t even take a break from it because I know I wouldn’t recover for months. It’s times like this when I feel alone, helpless, embarrassed, inadequate, vulnerable.

The only reason I’m letting anyone read this column is because I think there are others who may be feeling the same way right now. And I’m positive a lot of people who get depressed use food to self-medicate. My message is, “You’re not alone.”

I spent years looking forward to dinner as the highlight of my day, and on weekends, it would be breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would just eat and eat and eat. It was a time to enjoy food behind closed doors, leaving the stresses of everyday life for a short time while I indulged in the guilty pleasures on my plate, feeding myself well past the feeling of being full. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, and I don’t smoke or do drugs. Food is my addiction.

I spent Tuesday unable to function, and I wanted the kind of help an alcoholic gets at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I get a lot of support from family and friends, but what I needed on Tuesday was a sponsor, someone who has been through the self-medication phase and fights the urge, just like me.

I’ve been invited to join the local Overeaters Anonymous group that meets in Saranac Lake every week. I’ve been putting it off because I’ve felt in control of my appetite since I began the Lake Placid Diet. But I feel myself slipping away. Maybe it’s time to reconsider and try a meeting.

I can’t promise that when I see you next I’ll be out of this funk, but I will promise to try not to self-medicate with food. And I’ll still be seeking that sunshine until I finally feel better.

Contact Andy Flynn at


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