The story I’ve never told about how I know you can recover from being suicidal and go on to live a happy life. Plus food tips to get you started to beat depression.
In addition to this story, at the end of this episode I’ll share with you the best ways to use food to beat depression and help get your emotional life back on track.
OK enough hints from me, let’s get on with the story. It’s a big one.
My inspiration for this story
A very short time ago – last week in fact – I learned that one of my favorite rock singers ever, Chester Bennington, committed suicide. And I was pretty shaken for days afterwards – not because I was close to him, because I wasn’t. I never actually met him, although I was fortunate enough to see him live in concert about ten days before he died. Not because I didn’t love his singing, because I did. But because I thought to myself, ‘If Chester had known what I know, maybe he wouldn’t have had to die’.
So Chester this episode is dedicated to you. As well as to anyone who is experiencing the kind of debilitating sadness that can end in a life ended way too soon.
That’s why I’m sharing with you a very personal story that I’ve never shared before. I want to tell you exactly why I can help people who feel they’re broken. People who feel so unhappy, that suicide looks like the only way out. And I’m sharing this because if this even helps one person listening, then it will be worth it.
This story is about depression, and about how you can absolutely one hundred percent overcome it. How you can kick it to the curb so that it never darkens your door again. Yes you can beat depression and I will tell you how to start.
The first time I was depressed
The first time I was very depressed that I can remember, I was about eight years old. All I remember is that I was sitting on the bed in my parents’ room, holding my dad’s revolver on my lap and wondering if I could pull the trigger. I must have seen TV shows with people shooting each other or something. I mean I don’t know how else I could have known at such a young age how to use a gun. My dad never showed us how to use it. And I don’t even remember how I knew the gun was in there. He must have taken it out at one point, I don’t know.
There’s a lot from my childhood that I don’t remember because although on the whole it was a happy childhood with travel and lots of animals and all kinds of very good things, parts of it were not so good. One event in particular when I was about three years old was blocked from my memory until many years later – but that’s another story.
Anyway I was sitting with this gun on my lap and obviously I didn’t pull the trigger. But I can remember that I wanted to. I really wanted to – but I thought I wasn’t brave enough. It took me many years actually to realize that by deciding not to pull the trigger was the brave decision. It takes a lot more courage to face your fears and try to move past them than it does to obliterate everything with a gun shot, a jump off a roof or whatever.
Playing dolls house with a child psychiatrist
At some point my parents took me to a child psychiatrist, because my teachers at school were worried about me. They were worried for good reason because I was crying all the time. At least, that’s what they told me. I don’t actually remember that, fortunately, but it must have been true. I mean, why would they lie, right?
So I went to this child psychiatrist and we basically played with a dolls house for an hour and he’d talk to my parents afterwards. I remember him asking me to tell him about the relationships in the family. He’d ask things like, “What does the dad do when he comes home?” and “What does the little girl think about her brother?” That kind of stuff.
I don’t really remember if it brought any benefit, I mean it was good to have someone to talk to. But I didn’t feel any different afterwards. The doctors told my mom that I had a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ and that it was kind of tough luck, really, because nothing much could be done apart from perhaps drugs.
Then I discovered theater
Things gradually got a little bit better at school, mostly because I discovered theater. I found out that when I was performing on stage, everyone wanted to be my friend afterwards. It didn’t last long – only as long as the run of the show. But still it was a start. And I don’t remember any other big incidents with guns or anything. Just an overall sadness which at the time I’d channel into writing journals, as I imagine many teenagers do. I wrote a book as well – two books actually, one for children about a magical world, and one about a girl who ran away from home. I never tried publishing them, but I did enjoy writing.
My life got gradually better when I made some really good friends in high school. I went to college, got a theater degree, still with rocky highs and lows in terms of mood swings though. For a while I thought I was probably manic-depressive or something, because that’s what it felt like. I’d have huge highs and huge lows.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself in Paris, France. If you’ve been listening to this podcast you’ll have heard about several of my adventures those first few years there. More are coming, by the way, just to let you know!
Anyway I was working as a singing waitress slash coat check girl in a very bizarre but fancy French restaurant. I’ll share more about that in another story – but for now let me say that at this time, I was having a pretty good time. Life wasn’t perfect but I did have fun. However I was about to take a deep dive into my lowest low ever.
But then along came the guy…
And it started, as these things often do, with a guy. A very attractive, magnetic guy who to this day still carries a torch for me, as the saying goes. If I’m to believe his family. Anyway one night my friend – I’ll call her Mabel – invited me to her sister’s house for dinner on Christmas Eve.
Now you have to know that dinner on Christmas Eve in France is a big deal. It goes on for hours and the food is of course amazing. We sat down to eat at about one in the afternoon and we didn’t get up till about eleven at night. The amazing thing was that because each course was very light and we had breaks in between, I actually didn’t feel overstuffed. I felt quite good.
What made me feel even better though was that as soon as I sat down to the table with Mabel and her family, I saw the most gorgeous guy looking right at me. I’ll call him Jean. Our eyes met and that was it. It was like being hit by lightning, like the world stopped and there was no-one else there but he and I. I imagine the rest of the family was like ‘oh boy, here we go’. It was very obvious to everyone that there were some major fireworks shooting across the table.
A whirlwind relationship
So of course we wound up getting together. I think he called me the next day or something, I can’t remember. What I can remember is that we had a bit of an intense, whirlwind kind of relationship. I went to his house and basically never left. We were together all the time, we were massively attracted to each other, and our physical relationship was amazing.
Mabel’s family were really happy about this, because they already knew me, and Jean was the son of my friend’s sister’s husband, if that makes sense. So it was like I was going to be part of Mabel’s family, which was very cool. They could all see that it was pretty serious. And everything happened really quickly. Everyone took it for granted that we’d marry, have kids and all of that. We were that magnetised.
A week into the relationship I went with him to the south of France to meet his parents as well as his daughter (from a previous relationship) who was I think about 8 or 10 years old at the time. His parents loved me, his daughter really took to me straight away – and I to her. All the family were doubly happy because Jean was a bit of a wild guy and they felt that I was the perfect person to…I don’t know, bring him a bit of stability, I guess.
A powerful connection
So for those few weeks we had an incredible relationship. I felt like I’d finally met the guy for me, and all of that. Four weeks went by that felt like four days, and though that might not sound like a long time, sometimes that’s all you need. When you have a strong connection with someone, you just know, right? Have you ever felt upon meeting someone that you just have this very powerful link to them somehow? That’s what this was like, with of course all the romantic stuff thrown in. And the power of a very intense physical attraction too.
The beginning of the end
But Jean had a real cruel streak. I didn’t know how cruel until one night, literally in the middle of making love, he says to me that it’s over. What timing, right? Sadistic, I call it. Well I remember feeling like my insides had suddenly frozen solid. The first thing I said was, “Why?”
His response devastated me. It wasn’t because he didn’t love me, because he said that he did. He said that he loved me deeply. It wasn’t because his family didn’t get along with me, because they adored me. He actually said, “Because I’m not a good person. I’m not good enough for you, and you deserve someone deeper than me who will be true to you and love you the way you deserve to be loved. I’m just not a good person and I’ll only end up hurting you and you deserve better”.
Well, I was devastated. He was basically breaking up with me because I was a good person. In his last relationship before me, he’d had affairs, and he was telling me that he couldn’t be the good kind of man that I needed. It was because he loved me so much that he was breaking up with me.
The suicide attempt
I didn’t know what to do – I cried, I pleaded, I told him I loved him, but he wouldn’t change his mind. So I thought, ‘I can’t take this. This is just too much’. I went to the kitchen to get a knife, took it to the bathroom – this was the middle of the night – and I used it on both my wrists. It didn’t hurt – I found out later that if you’re in a bad enough state, you feel no pain. I can remember that it was harder to draw blood than I thought so I had to do it several times.
And my intention was very clear. It wasn’t to die, although I definitely wanted to die in that moment. My main thoughts were something like, ‘This will get his attention, he’ll see how I can’t live without him. And everyone else will see how I really need help and I need it NOW. This will get them to take me seriously’. Now when I think of it I cringe, but at the time that’s how I was feeling. I was desperate.
He came running into the bathroom of course, probably totally freaked out, and he called Mabel who came and got me. I won’t say all the details, but the short version is that I wound up in the hospital for two weeks, on antidepressants and seeing a psychiatrist daily and all that.
That experience was something else, which I’ll probably talk about in another episode.
Is depression hereditary?
I later found out that several family members of mine – I won’t say who – had tried to kill themselves. One went up onto a rooftop and almost jumped, but fortunately they called someone who talked them out of it. The other, well I know they didn’t die but that’s all I know. And there were others who were severely depressed on and off for pretty much their whole lives, but again I don’t know the details.
All I do know is that I was told that depression is hereditary. You know, that it’s in your genes so you can’t help it. But you know what? I don’t have it anymore even though it started when I was small, and although it was throughout my family since they were small, my kids are now teenagers and neither of them have it. Ha! It stops now, and it stops with me.
What happened to Jean
But before I tell you how it stops with me, I want to briefly share what happened with Jean. He never came to see me in the hospital – well, noone came, I think they weren’t allowed – and when things got really bad for me I went to the states for a while.
And wouldn’t you know that Jean then wanted me back. I could literally feel him calling me from France. After a few months in the States, I did feel that I needed to go back to France and finish things up, tie up loose ends, as it were. And I did go back with Jean for a very short time, but by then so much had happened that I just couldn’t make it work. I remember him picking me up from the airport and me thinking, ‘Hmmm, this doesn’t feel right anymore’. My trust had been broken, as you can well imagine.
So I wound up leaving Jean, although I’m still in contact with Mabel. Which is how I know that even today Jean still carries a torch for me. I got under his skin and he’s never forgotten me. To be fair, I haven’t forgotten him either, though perhaps not quite for the same reasons. Even Jean’s daughter, who only met me once as a child and is in her early twenties now, has reached out to me and wants to see me.
I am going to try and see her, because none of this was her fault. Mabel told me that I was probably the first person who really saw her when she was a child, who really connected with her in a way that other people hadn’t. So I do owe it to her to go and see her.
Would you know this about me if you met me?
Now the reason I’m sharing this story with you is because if you look at my website, or if you’ve met me in person, you would never know that I was once that depressed. I’m usually described as bubbly and bouncy and all of that. You’d know that I’m a rock singer, that I like to have fun, that I’m a bit zany and that I jump all over the place. You’d know that I like to laugh and see the crazy side of life. But you’d never know that I had once really wanted to die.
When I was told by doctors all those years ago that I had a chemical imbalance in the brain and that there was no cure as such, I believed them. But I am living proof that you can overcome depression. You can beat depression.
The question of course that you might be asking is how?
Well, I tried a lot of different things but there was one thing that really worked consistently. Two things actually. But first what didn’t work. Or to be more exact, the things that worked to an extent but that didn’t quite eradicate depression in the way that I needed.
First I tried ‘talking therapy’, as in traditional psychotherapy. That was awful, I really didn’t like that. I had a friend who had been having that kind of therapy for years and she never changed. Now I’m not saying this can’t work for some people because I believe it can. I’m sure there are some excellent psychotherapists out there. It’s just that it didn’t work for me, and I saw several people. It was great to have someone to talk to, but I felt like all of the soul-searching and navel-gazing wasn’t really solving the problem for me.
Again, that’s just me and it might be perfect to help someone else. I’m just saying that it didn’t provide me with a long-term solution. It didn’t wipe out depression like my final solution did.
I also tried drugs. Those were awful, it felt like living in a ball of cotton. You didn’t get as sad, that’s true, but you didn’t get as happy either. It was like you couldn’t feel any extremes of emotion, everything was muffled. I really didn’t like that, although when I was in such a bad state that I couldn’t think clearly or function, yes in that instance it was helpful to be a bit numbed. So again, drugs are something that can help some people, but for me it was a short-term thing that didn’t lead to any lasting change. They just kind of protected me from myself for a while and enabled me to function in a zombie-like kind of way.
I then tried hypnotherapy. That was interesting actually, because I discovered a very traumatic event that happened to me as a small child – which as I said earlier is another story. Hypnotherapy was very useful for uncovering hidden events so that I could understand some of the thoughts I’d had throughout my life. But once I’d discovered those events, it didn’t help me deal with what I’d call the ‘fallout’. We repress certain events for a reason, and I didn’t get the help I needed to deal with what I now knew to be true.
However this may have just been because of the practitioner that I saw. I do know that hypnotherapy can be very useful for some people, and there are some skilled practitioners out there. So again, I think it could be very beneficial with the right person, but it didn’t really help me feel better. It just helped me uncover certain events that were responsible for me having such a poor body image as a child.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
I did some CBT, short for cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is incredible actually and for me was the next best thing to my number one solution that I’ll mention in a minute. What I liked about CBT was that it helped me uncover limiting beliefs that I had about myself. That was very useful. It didn’t help with everything, but it definitely put me on the right track and I’m very grateful to the excellent practitioner that I had.
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP)
This was probably my number two solution. In a way even better than CBT because it really helped not only uncover limiting beliefs, but also smash those beliefs and replace them with better ones. I think for me, this in combination with the best solution which I’ll mention below is the best way I know of effecting big changes in a short space of time.
Compared to talking therapies, I found NLP to be a huge shortcut to personal development. So I do highly recommend it, but with a skilled practitioner of course. Somebody that you resonate with, that’s very important. And it’s even more powerful if you combine it with my number one best solution, which will come as no surprise to those of you who know me.
The best solution: one I didn’t know I had
The best solution for me was one that I actually didn’t even know I had. It came about when I got into making and eating a lot of raw food, which was about sixteen years ago now. Basically what happened was that one day, I think it was about ten years after I’d started exploring raw food, I woke up one morning and thought, ‘hey I haven’t been really sad in a very long time!’ Like years and years. I mean, I still do get upset and frustrated like we all do sometimes. I may have the odd time of a bit of sadness, but it’s normal and I can choose to stay in that state or move out of it. It’s no longer the debilitating, can’t-get-out-of-bed-all-day thing that I used to experience.
And when I started researching the properties of food as I was writing blog articles, I made lots of discoveries. I discovered that raw food is actually amazing for changing…guess what? Your brain chemistry!
All this time – before my raw food days – I’d been looking for solutions in therapies, in outside modalities…when the biggest help could have come simply from changing what was on my plate.
Chemical substances and ‘brain addiction’
I also discovered that our emotions actually secrete chemical substances that go directly into the brain. I’m going to repeat that because it’s important. Our emotions secrete chemical substances that go directly into the brain. And we get used to those substances as if they were addictive drugs.
I’m really gonna simplify here, OK? Because I don’t think using fancy words is going to help – I want to give you the principle behind what happens so that you can use it immediately. Especially if you know anyone who is depressed.
So if you’re in the habit of feeling sad, your brain gets addicted to those ‘sad chemicals’ that it receives on a daily basis. If you stop feeling sad, without the right support – be it nutritional or otherwise – you can experience a kind of withdrawal from those chemicals. And this can be a strong unconscious drive to experience more sadness so that your brain can get another hit of the chemicals it’s used to! That is huge!
The good news
The good news is that the same goes for happiness, or other emotional states. That’s why people say they get ‘hooked’ to adrenalin rushes. So you get people who are always looking for ways of getting another adrenalin rush, whether it’s through going on scary rides, doing skydiving, bungee jumping etc. Their brain is used to that rush and it wants more!
The other good news is that there are additional ways of changing your brain chemistry to a more positive one, for want of a better term. There are way too many to list here, but think of things like meditation, EFT (short for Emotional Freedom Technique, also called tapping) and other things.
I’ll talk more about these in future episodes. But for now, let me give you a few amazing food tips to get you started. And these by the way are good for everyone, depressed or not.
How to start to beat depression with food
So, I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that I’d share with you the best ways to start to beat depression. There are several tips here, and they all work together. Some of them are big ones, but if you or anyone you know is suffering, these can really make a difference.
First tip: Scrap the junk food
Junk food messes with your brain chemistry like nothing else. You can’t start to feel happier if you’re ingesting e-numbers, additives, preservatives and other chemicals. Those substances are NOT meant to make you feel great. Some are preservatives and some are put in food to make you addicted to it so that you want to eat more and more of it.
Junk food is meant to be thrown away. Not to be eaten. If you want to feel better, you can’t be eating junk. Period.
Second tip: Avoid processed foods
Processed foods also contain a lot of chemicals, preservatives and other non-food substances which don’t do your brain any favors. Make your food yourself, or buy it freshly made. Whether it’s raw or cooked. If you really can’t make your own food, food that’s freshly made – even if it’s in a restaurant – is better than frozen ready meals and that kind of stuff.
Third tip: Avoid sugar, wheat and dairy
These foods are big ones for messing with your brain power. Not only do they mess with your brain, but they mess with your gut…which is your abdominal brain. Your gut is directly linked to your brain. Our gut produces dozens of neurotransmitters – aka the ‘feel good’ substances that we need to feel great. Things like serotonin, dopamine and other secretions are crucial to both mental and physical health. I’ve written more about serotonin and dopamine in the blog and I will link to that in the show notes.
Last tip: Eat lots of brain food
Prioritize foods that you know are really ramping up your brain power. If you need to know what those are, I’ve written extensively about that on the blog, I will link to that as well. And you can also get yourself a handy pdf printout for your fridge from my site and I will link to that too.
The last thing that I’ll say about this is if you do change your eating habits to start to feel better, you can at first start to feel a bit tired, headachy, things like that. Those are signs of detox, those are signs that the bad stuff is being excreted from your body. It’s leaving your body and you just need to drink more water. I’ll also link to an article that I wrote about detox so that you can know what you might expect and what to do about it. The main thing is you’ve got to get that junk out and the good stuff in.
There’s loads more I could say on this topic and I will in future episodes. But for now though, the last thought I’d like to leave you with is this: If you know anyone who suffers from depression, please share this episode! Let them know that there are solutions! Depression isn’t forever, it really isn’t.
And if you know anyone in desperate need of someone to talk to, I’ll put links to hotlines as well.
If you’d like some of the recipes that I myself used to beat depression, I’ll post the link to my recipe ebooks in the show notes for this episode.
Have YOU got a story to share?
Which brings us to the end of this week’s story – and if you’ve got a true story to share (and you’d like to know what food could have saved the day or enhanced your particular situation), I’d love to hear from you!
Got a question, or a comment?
I hope you have an amazing day. Thank you so much for being here with me to share in my Clean Food, Dirty Stories. Bye for now!
Article on brain food: http://rockingrawchef.com/which-foods-can-help-your-brain/
For your handy fridge printout of what to eat and what to avoid: http://rockingrawchef.com/10-years-younger/
More on serotonin and dopamine: http://rockingrawchef.com/how-to-stop-food-cravings-so-they-dont-stop-you/
Link to recipe ebooks: https://rockingrawchef.com/5-minute-recipes/
About EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique – here.
More about neurolinguistic programming and other forms of therapy: http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/neuro-linguistic-programming
Good resources in the UK: http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/useful-links/categories/suicide
More hotline resources in the US: http://suicidehotlines.com/national.html