Now I’m not one to normally heap any kind of praise on colossal media conglomerates. Mostly because I don’t even know what “conglomerate” means. Anyhow, up here in Canada tomorrow is
being billed as Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell is a big hotshot media company that is working with a number of Canadian celebrites (yes they exist) to help bring awareness to Mental Health. These celebrities have been brave enough to share their very personal stories and struggles with mental illness in the hopes of removing the stigma that it’s something anyone should feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s hard enough to even admit to ourselves that we might have a problem that we can’t fix on our own. Add the fear of telling family, friends, and employers and before you know it there’s just another layer of stress wandering around in your brain.
So what the hell are we doing on a food blog talking about mental health? Well, it’s my darn blog first of all so try and stop me. But also, it’s something that has no doubt affected everyone at some point and it’s something we still almost never talk about. I’ve been debating about writing this article since this summer when Robin Williams commited suicide. As a child of the 70s and 80s there were no bigger comedians for me to idolize than him. His death was a shock to most people and it was a hard blow to my emotional gut. I wasn’t so shocked though. It felt like I could always see a deep sadness and loneliness to him that he let peek out every once in a while and, to be honest, I could relate to it cause I had seen it in myself, even from a really early age. His death just shone a light into my brain highlighting what I always knew was in there. Some of my earliest memories are of me at 4 or 5 sitting and crying, just freaking out about the idea of death, an infinite universe, and my inability to understand an eternal afterlife. Fun times for a kid right? It led to many questions I would ask grownups (none of which people could really answer), a crap ton of nightmares, and many moments I would spend alone in my room just freaking out. As an adult it’s shown its ugly head in the way of panic attacks that wake me right up from sleep and have my heart racing and my brain just freaking out. I also shut myself off from people pretty often. I used to drink too much but I have now replaced that with eating like a grotesque pig when I am feeling down and out.
Friends of mine would probably tell you I am a pretty funny guy. Enemies of mine would tell you I am a paranoid jerk. I’ll get them for that, hopefully before they get me first. The thing with any person I’ve ever known who I would consider funny is that they’re also the saddest people I’ve ever met. I can’t speak for them but I often have this feeling like I am outside of “society” or something. Like I am watching a movie that I can’t turn off. I guess the easiest way to describe it is to say that I feel like I don’t fit in, as if my brain works in a different way from everyone else’s, an intellectual and emotional outcast if you will. That’s the thing too; my brain NEVER shuts off. So if I am feeling bad about something I play over dozens and dozens of scenarios in my head and live the real emotions of things that haven’t even happened yet and may not ever happen. It’s a great way to beat yourself up and end up believing that you are completely alone because you think in a different way, or at least you believe you do, even when surrounded by loving family and friends. Sometimes in times when I am actually with family and friends at parties or wherever, is when I feel the most alone. I have trouble breathing and just generally get really agitated. When I’m alone and down it’s as if I am paralyzed by sadness. I can just sit there and tell myself I want to get up to do something and next thing I know 2 hours have passed and I am still just sitting there. And then there’s the eating…
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t actually buy junkfood so I don’t really eat much of it. I just cannot control myself when I am around food when I am down. If it’s a meal I like I take 2nd and 3rd helpings. If there does happen to be junk around I’ll tell myself ok just a couple chips from the bag. 10 minutes later I’ll still be standing in front of that open pantry cramming most of the bag right down my face. It makes my brain feel better which when I realize what I’m doing makes me feel worse. That makes me reach for cookies and a GIANT glass of chocolate milk and then we take a slippery ride down the shame slope. Hence why I avoid buying this stuff but it still makes it into the house from time to time (I’m looking at you lovely and talented lady friend). Part of the problem with my depression is that I always looked for a reason as to why I was depressed. Had a bad breakup? Gained weight? Someone I cared about died? Ya, those can be triggers that get a bout started but I’m 40 now. I see that it’s a cycle that doesn’t need a reason to, well, cycle from up to down. It just keeps happening. Man, when I’m up I am cooking good stuff like crazy, hitting the gym like mad,writing 2 articles a week here, doing activities with the kids and working on abstract paintings. Life is great. When I feel bad all that is gone. I manage to empty the dishwasher and it feels like one of my biggest achievements in my life.
I went to a counsellor in my early 20s. I thought about suicide when I was a teenager. I mean, a lot. Where I grew up it seemed like every few months I was burying another friend who killed himself. In a deep, profound, soul baring moment with my counsellor I looked over to her as I was speaking, and crying, and realized she was f**king asleep on me! I walked out of that so angry, so, so angry. I was determined to use this as the catalyst to turn my life around and stop feeling so sad about life. It worked for a long time, surprisingly. Then as mid-life approached and the reality of just how damn hard parenting is, the cycles of sadness came back as strong as ever. Doubts about my skills, or lack thereof, as a father are on my mind every single day. I look in the mirror and I don’t see the young hunk anymore. I see a quickly aging, older guy who could be taking better care of himself. I don’t think about suicide anymore for the last 20 years so that’s a good sign. But I know my depression affects my kids. So, I know I need to get my shit together and admit that I need help. There should be no shame in that but even as I write this I am dreading talking to my family and friends about it once they see this. I usually confine these talks my other friends who get the same feelings. Our depression is our own and we protect it. I don’t want to talk to anyone else about it.
Going to the gym does really help immensely. The problem with sadness like this is that it isn’t always easy to get your ass in gear to get to the damn God foresaken, loathesome gym. I need to stop eating vast amounts of food and work on my portions, even on the good stuff. I need to cut out the junk. The brain when you’re down is screaming out for tons of carbs and sugar. It needs a shot of seratonin to boost the mood. Who doesn’t though, right? So that’s when I binge on the high carb and high sugar stuff. But I finally want to break this cycle once and for all. First things first; I am pushing myself as hard as possible to get to the gym at least 4 times a week. I am going to still try to get food that makes my brain feel better but avoid the garbage. Gotta try to eat complex carbs like whole grain stuff. Get me more Omega 3 in me. Some of that vitamin D too. I try to avoid supplements since my research tells me that all is does is cost me a bunch of money to make fancy pee. There’s cod liver oil but good God man! That stuff leaves a horrible taste in the mouth, and soul, even in capsule form. Oily fish is good, mushrooms, and tofu. Ok, tofu ain’t happening here though. It’s been known to lead to uncontrollable urges to peacefully protest stuff, even things you agree with. They say caviar is helpful here too but hey, if I could afford caviar I’d already be about 67% happier anyway.
That’s just the start. I know I need to maybe sit and talk to a pro and work out what’s what and all that. I just figured this was an important piece that I needed to write both on a personal level and in the broader sense. None of us should ever feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed that we need help for stuff that just ain’t going right in the brain. If you feel anything like how I’ve described I hope you can take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. There are millions of people around the world who go through it. There are numbers to call if you need to talk, use them. Hell, if one of you feels like you got nowhere to go for help then send me a message on here. They don’t get published anyway unless I approve them. I’d be happy to direct you to some place that can give you a hand. Ya, so I feel like this is awkard and all but hey I go through depression. Let’s talk.
Categories: Phood Philosophies