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I’m Mikhaila Peterson. I’m a podcaster, writer, mother and CEO. I’m thriving now, and that’s what’s important, but here’s a brief description about what most of my life has been like:
I was chronically ill until I was 23 and then suffered from SSRI withdrawal until I was 25. When you’re chronically ill, it’s all encompassing. Nothing else matters as much as being healthy. Sick or injured people have one goal: how to not be sick or injured.
I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was 7 but my symptoms began at 2 years old. It took 5 years to diagnose. I was put on immune suppressants (Enbrel and Methotrexate) that I injected myself with twice weekly starting when I was 8. I was diagnosed with severe depression (later bipolar type 2) and medicated with SSRI’s when I was 12, but had symptoms of mental illness since I was 8.
When I was 14 I was chronically fatigued and started getting itchy all over my body. A sensation like mosquitoes were biting me everywhere. When I was 17 I had my hip and ankle joints replaced from the arthritis that wasn’t being kept in check by the medications I was on. My rheumatologist said it was the worst arthritis she’d seen in her 25 years of being a children’s rheumatologist. I spent a year on a high dose of OxyContin (on top of the other medications) to keep me from killing myself because of the pain. It was like walking on broken bones for a whole year. Then I withdrew from OxyContin which was extremely unpleasant. The ankle replacement was installed slightly crooked and I ended up in chronic pain for 10 years because of that – less pain than with no replacement – but certainly not good enough.
When I was 21 I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Hypersomnia – a fancy description for chronic fatigue. I couldn’t stop sleeping. I was fitfully sleeping 18 hours a day and exhausted for the rest of the hours. I had restless legs so badly that I couldn’t sleep well – probably contributing to the fatigue (and a side effect of the SSRI’s – something I didn’t find out until later). Then the chronic itch I’d had for 7 years turned into a rash and I got blisters on my body. When they started to get to my face I decided I was going to figure out what was wrong with me or it was going to kill me.
My right wrist was headed for a joint replacement, I couldn’t sleep on my shoulders. My joints and skin were literally disintegrating, I couldn’t stay awake, and I was beyond depressed. I was in hell. The medical system that I had been faithfully following from the age of 7 onwards was not helping. However, it did supply me with Adderall. I started taking Adderall for the fatigue and it worked well enough to keep me awake but had really nasty side effects – no appetite, no sense of humour, wired, no short term memory. I constantly researched what could be wrong with me after that. I researched anything that could help me figure out why I had this rash on my face.
In the fall my mother dragged me to a naturopath and they suggested an elimination diet. I didn’t understand their list of foods. Why were lemons okay but not oranges? Why were some nuts okay but not others? I had read that Celiac disease can cause dairy intolerance so I figured I’d give an elimination diet a try but I’d do it my way. In September 2015 I removed most foods from my diet. I was used to eating Japanese food and Chinese food, Indian food, and I ate out most of the time. I had a typical standard American diet. Removing foods was not easy. I was living with roommates who poked fun at it and I wasn’t sure about it myself. I actually enjoyed eating foods so cutting down was difficult. I didn’t know how to cook with limited ingredients either. I was in university.
I cut out any food that I thought could possibly be inflammatory or cause an immune response like an allergy. Dairy, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, sugar, processed foods. I went down to a diet of greens, some root vegetables like parsnips and sweet potatoes, and meat and fish. Nowadays this is somewhat similar to a restrictive paleo diet. In a month my rash healed for the first time since it had begun years prior. 3 months later my fatigue and depression lifted for the first time I could remember in my entire life.
My depression – the most debilitating of all my symptoms including the physical symptoms – had never budged in my whole life. I had never had relief from it. And three months into that diet it lifted. In November 2015 after the depression lifted I stopped all the rest of my medications including the SSRI I had been on for 11 years. I discovered later that seemingly innocuous medications like SSRI’s need to be weaned down. Slowly. They do cause severe physical dependence. I’d weaned down over a period of only two weeks. Some people need years of weaning. I was probably one of those people. A lot of the time when people stop SSRI’s the withdrawal is misdiagnosed as a worsening of their original psychiatric illness.
For the next 2.5 years I had severe neurological withdrawal and damage due to the quick cessation, on top of the autoimmune issues I’d just barely gotten under control. Every time I introduced a more inflammatory food I’d have month long reactions that involved neurological pain all over my body, an overwhelmingly unbearable sense of doom, panic, anxiety, insomnia, along with arthritis and the rash. With the even worse reactions I’d hallucinate. In medicine they’d refer to it as visual disturbances most likely due to the brain changes I had on the medications (particularly SSRI’s) I’d been taking. However to me I just saw demons like a kid who sees monsters in the dark. It was hell. I wrote about it here.
For quite a while I thought I’d made things worse by trying to get healthy. I had a baby during that period of time (Scarlett was born when I was 24) and I slowly cut out the carbier and carbier foods as I found they made this sense of doom and my arthritis worse. 4 months into breastfeeding I went from my diet of meat, and at that point just lettuce, to just meat. I knew meat didn’t make me react and give me arthritis. The lingering joint pain I had went away in a few weeks. The itch went away in the same span of time. Within 6 weeks I stopped crying in the morning. 5 months later my lingering anxiety went away. It wasn’t easy. I had cravings, muscle cramps, diarrhea, and I missed food. It was socially awkward. But anything was better than the arthritis and the sense of doom from the SSRI withdrawal.
Around that time, 2018, I got written up in the news. I got posted up and ridiculed about this all beef diet I was on. I was dealing with an autoimmune disorder that was ridiculously horrible and neurological damage from prescribed medication that was even worse. My brain and gut were so damaged that an all beef or ruminant meat (like lamb and bison) diet, what I call the Lion Diet, was all I could tolerate.
At the same time as all of this was going on, as if it wasn’t weird enough to be branded “beef girl” and ridiculed for the diet – my dad Jordan Peterson went viral. He had started my elimination diet in December 2015 when my depression had lifted and he eventually went to the lion diet April 2018. He’d seen the profound changes in me and even though he didn’t understand how it was possible, he tried it for his depression, GERD, fatigue, and gum disease. He had resolved all those and lost 60 pounds. However, when he stopped his SSRI he also suffered from neurological damage, unaware that the symptoms of SSRI were as terrible as they are. Getting off of psych meds nearly killed my dad but he managed it with the diet and a few other things written here. In 2019 I had my ankle re-replaced because it was crooked, and I cured my c- difficile infection that was probably due to multiple rounds of antibiotics years prior. Then I really started to heal.
My neurological symptoms from SSRI withdrawal took 2.5 years to heal but they’re gone. If I accidentally have spices it’s not a catastrophe like it used to be. I’ve been on the lion diet since December 2017. I am not dying of scurvy. I’m healing. I hope in the future I’ll be able to eat plants again without neurological or autoimmune symptoms.
I’m ridiculed frequently for my diet or accused of being a grifter. I’m not. I never wanted to be a diet person. I used to make fun of gluten free people – (be careful who you laugh at!) I was forced into this lifestyle because the alternative was so hellish there wasn’t a lot that was worse. And certainly not a diet.
Now I’m healthy. I’m a podcaster and a mother (something I didn’t know if I would be able to be) and a business owner. I interview incredibly interesting people in a ton of different areas – politicians, scientists, anthropologists, CEO’s, business people, self-improvement people and I also keep health as an element in my podcast because there is nothing more important than that. I want to make health information accessible for people, and cool.
I’m finishing a book, taking care of my family, working with my dad, running a business and sharing whatever interesting things I find day to day. My one rule is: No Stupid Rules. My favourite saying is “could be worse”. I encourage a healthy skepticism for any mainstream narrative – especially the health narrative if you’ve been sick for 15 years even though you’re following all the advice from your doctors. Maybe you need to try something different. I like getting involved in political discussions and self-improvement discussions more than diet discussions, but my main goal is to try to show people that they can improve their life themselves and they have that power.
The information to fix your issues is out there you but you have to search and search and search and search. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t fix yourself.
I have a few facebook groups that are diet oriented: The Lion Diet that focuses on the ruminant meat and salt elimination diet and Don’t Eat That which is less restrictive and about overall health and lifestyle. I have a podcast – the Mikhaila Peterson podcast. I’m very active on Instagram and Twitter.
My logo is a lion with a tie. A civilized beast because I had to be a beast to drag myself out of my chronic health problems, and put up with media trying to paint me as a liar… and because I like to keep things fairly civilized.