Tired of traditional talk? People pontificating about this or that? The left or the right? Sometimes the truth is just off lost in the noise. Having learned life lessons the hard way, Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency!
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Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.
CHUCK: It’s been an incredible week. It’s been a week of a lot of change. It’s been a week of a lot of turmoil and it’s been a week of a lot of loss. I have to say I think about Straight Talk Radio and know that we’re going to talk about some of the things in life that are perhaps tough to talk about, some of those things that can really pull at our heart strings, but most of the time, I like to have shows that are what I refer to as fun and uplifting, and I’m not saying that today won’t be fun and uplifting, but today will be different. Today will be clear, today will be poignant, because we lost a great entertainer and a great human being this past week with Robin Williams.
I have to say that hearing about Robin Williams, hearing about his loss, hearing about some of the challenges that he was facing in life really brought home some things for me. Most of you that have listened and listened on a regular basis to Straight Talk Radio know that I made some really, really incredibly bad choices back in the eighties and in 1990 my life collapsed. And I have to say even though I thought I was mentally healthy, there was a point that I considered suicide.
I will never forget in Boise, Idaho, in 1990 when I was half way across the country from my family, realizing that life as I knew it had changed, and the cards, so to speak, the house of cards, and the big illusion that I had created was pulled. I thought to myself, “It would be better if I weren’t here,” because, frankly, I didn’t want to face what I had to face. And I’ll never forget picking up the phone directory in a hotel room where I was, and, of course, in those days it was the yellow pages, it wasn’t Google, but I picked up the yellow pages and I started calling psychiatrists, psychologists, proctologists, I didn’t care. If it started with a P, I needed to talk with somebody. I’ll never forget because it was really quite irritating. Here’s what I got; I put the phone up to my ear and I got, “You’ve reached the office of Dr. Such-And-Such. Our office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I’m sorry you’ve reached us after office hours, but at the sound of the tone if you’ll leave your name and number and a brief message, we’ll be happy to give you a call and have a nice day.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “Have a nice day my ass!” I’m thinking about offing myself and that’s what I’m hearing. I heard that once, twice, three, four, five, six, the seventh time I actually got a human being, and frankly, I thought it was the answering machine. And when the rest of the message didn’t continue, the guy on the other end said, “Can I help you?” and I said, “Yes. I need to talk to somebody,” to which he said, I’ll never forget, “Oh, I thought you might be my wife. I’m running about 15 minutes behind. I was supposed to come pick her up. If I had known it was you, I wouldn’t have answered the phone,” and I’m like, “Well, boy, that’s really a great thing to hear.” And then I said, “I’m considering suicide,” to which he said, “Let’s talk.”
I honestly don’t know if I got a psychiatrist, a psychologist or the janitor. I had no clue who I talked with, but one thing he said to me was profound. He said, “Son, you have made a terrible mistake, but you are not a mistake.” And now some 25 years later I can still hear his voice. “Son, you’ve made a terrible mistake, but you are not a mistake.” And then he proceeded to say, “The choices that you make tonight and tomorrow will set the tone and set the standard for your life moving forward and the legacy you’ll leave for your two children. Make those choices wisely.”
Robin Williams’ death leaves a tremendous void not only in the entertainment industry but a void in our hearts and it opens the door, sad as it may be, to talk about suicide, depression, anxiety, issues that are significant in so many people’s lives. So I have to say as somber as I have set the tone for this show, I am so excited to have Dr. Cindy Brown as my guest.
Dr. Cindy is an internationally-known behavioral specialist. She holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and has been licensed in the State of California, a beautiful state. She’s been licensed as a psychotherapist since 1994. She has had an incredible career and extensive professional and personal experience with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide, treating patients as well as dealing with issues in her own family’s experience. So, Dr. Cindy, I am thrilled to have you join me today extensively to talk about issues of depression and anxiety and suicide. Thank you for joining me.
Dr. CINDY: You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here and to really be able to talk about this subject because I think this occurrence in the world right now is really a wakeup call for a lot of people that struggle with this but that are really afraid to come out and talk about it because it’s been such a stigma to talk about being depressed or not feeling right in the head or feeling like you don’t want to be here.
CHUCK: Yeah, and I have to say, you’ve had personal experience in your life and certainly I have considered that. I think if I’m wrong, please correct me. You won’t offend me, by the way, with anything that you say, but from my perspective, I think many people at some juncture in life, I’m not saying it’s a pervasive thought, but in some juncture in life think about, “Life might be better if I’m not here,” or give some cursory thought to suicide like I did so many years ago. So, what’s the stats on that?
Dr. CINDY: Well, in my experience, for myself, and I’ve had thoughts of it and I’ve had different feelings about it over the years, actually ever since I was a small child, and it’s not really talked about but I ask my clients all the time. It’s one of the protocols we have to do as a psychotherapist is really explore how people feel about their life and about being here and living out their life. I don’t think there’s any stats on how many people think about it or not, but in my experience, most people have a thought like, “I want this just to stop.” Not necessarily, “I want to go kill myself in this way. Or I’m going to kill myself.” It’s something about just stopping the pain or stopping the struggle or the challenges they have and I think a lot of people have those thoughts.
CHUCK: You know, that makes perfect sense because on a regular day-to-day basis that thought today is nowhere close in my consciousness, but you’re absolutely right. I talk about choices and consequences and what motivates choices and in a lot of cases, I’m going to say, they’re ego-driven, either, “I want to avoid pain,” or, “I want to gain pleasure.”
Dr. CINDY: Right, move toward pleasure, absolutely.
CHUCK: Right, so if I’m not moving toward pleasure, and especially if I’m looking at pain and that pain seems to be very real and very pervasive right this moment than the avoidance of pain might seem– Let’s put it this way, suicide might seem to be the lesser of the two pains, and the elimination of that one that we don’t want to face.
Dr. CINDY: And a lot of people bounce back and forth. And especially with technology these days, which is a really interesting topic to talk about, what technology, social media, that instant gratification is doing to ourselves, there’s this contrast in life between getting attention and getting feedback and acknowledgment instantly or not instantly and what it does to our brain chemically. And then there’s other times when we’re not getting feedback so there the contrast is there’s loneliness or there’s emptiness. So I think chemically in this day and age, we have extreme contrast between things that have us moving toward pleasure or away from pain all the time. In a more extreme way and in a more chemical way.
CHUCK: So, okay, this is a radio show and from a radio perspective, obviously, people are going to be listening to that so I get moved toward pleasure, I can see that, or I could see move away from pain, but when you talk about, I can also understand when you said, “Oh, boy, it happens a whole lot quicker.” Listen, everything happens quicker now, especially than it did 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, but when you talk about it chemically in our brains, kind of connect those dots for me.
Dr. CINDY: Well, what happens is when we’re stimulated by some type of acknowledgment, feedback, especially in Robin Williams’ instance is that he’s in the media spotlight. He’s getting feedback all the time from audiences, from reviewers, from the box office, from getting auditions or being rejected. So that’s a certain amount of getting attention versus not attention. In the brain, we have neurotransmitters and endorphins and chemicals that get stimulated when we get attention or when we don’t get attention. And what happens is when we’re waiting for that, it stimulates it and it turns it on and when we’re kind of empty and waiting for it again and it’s not coming, then we don’t have those feel-good chemicals. So we as practitioners, I help people try to stimulate those feel-good chemicals without having to get feedback from other people. How can we really stimulate ourselves by doing things for ourselves? We’re not dependent on other people and what happens is when we depend on other people and we’re not getting that, we can get depressed. Chemicals can be reduced and we can feel depressed.
CHUCK: So, this is interesting and, of course, now, man, I want to go with the next question so bad and the music pops up and it says it’s time for a break so we’re going to take a break, but you really let us down an interesting path. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. My guest is Dr. Cindy Brown. She is an absolute expert when it comes to what takes place and how we deal with issues of depression and anxiety and suicide so, Cindy, stick with us. I’m looking forward to our next segment. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Stick by, we’ll be back in a moment.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and we are back with Dr. Cindy Brown. Dr. Cindy Brown is the author of the award-winning book The Cinderella System and a contributing author to Power and Soul. The creator of two best-selling audio workbooks. Let me say this, Dr. Brown is, Dr. Cindy as I want to call her, has extensive professional and personal experience with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide, and our show on Straight Talk Radio is dealing with those very real and deep topics that have clearly been brought to the forefront with the loss of Robin Williams and his suicide.
Dr. Cindy, when we were finishing up the conversation before we went to break, you made a comment and I want to ask you about this, and I’m going to paraphrase this. You said that obviously when we receive external feedback, and especially if it’s positive feedback, people appraise us and appreciate us and so forth and it triggers chemicals in our brain, endorphins, or whatever the chemicals may be, and it makes us feel good.
Dr. CINDY: Yes.
CHUCK: But when we’re not getting that and we know we like to feel good, then the void of that creates the potential for depression because we don’t feel good, we’re not getting that external…
Dr. CINDY: Right. The chemicals are less.
CHUCK: Right. So, I have a very dear friend who since childhood was painfully abused in childhood and fundamentally rejected. So the issue, if you want to call it the issue, the issue that she deals with is that desire to be wanted. She wants people to want her and, of course, the way that typically happens or has has been external. When the external’s gone, that forces you to have to rely on the internal, so I have to ask you in your capacity, how do you, maybe that’s a simple question with a complex answer, but how do we help people or how do we get people to find that internal satisfaction so that what happens externally doesn’t throw us off of our center?
Dr. CINDY: It’s such a great question. Some of the main work I do with my patients and clients today is to help them create self-love and I know that’s kind of a cliché topic, how do we love ourselves, but it’s really true. To be able to give yourself feedback with what’s called self-talk and the ability to talk to yourself – I’m not talking about the people that may have schizophrenia or a psychotic disorder that hear voices, making them do things that may not be good for them – I’m talking about that we can actually have a conversation with ourselves and internal voice that can talk back to us to give us good feelings. In the Olympics we have athletes and we have performers that use this technique all the time to give themselves feedback like, “Good job! We’re doing a good job.” In the case of your friend there, she could use a way of talking to herself to kind of calm down the emotional part of her that may feel unwanted or unloved from childhood experience.
So I teach a lot of people to understand their parts. We’re not just one dimensional, we kind of have a few different parts. We have the ego part. That’s really representative of us feeling either superior or inferior. We have an emotional part that’s all about our feelings, our past experiences and our needs. And then we have two kind of adult parts. One’s very positive, one’s more negative, and one’s more like a saboteur and I teach people to understand and work and integrate these different parts in order for this committee that I call it to work together.
So when you have a voice in your head, or a voice that’s kind of, you know, some people talk about the man on the shoulder.
Dr. CINDY: You know, that voice, it’s good to be able to talk back to it, but in a loving way. Just like, “No, I’m not going to listen to that. I’m not going to listen to the dark voice.” I’m sure Robin had a lot of voices in his head, a lot of emotional stimulation, especially because of a recent diagnosis, Parkinson’s, which can really play with your mind as far as chemically and emotionally and psychologically. So, I think it’s really important to understand that you can manage this if you have the techniques and tools. And it’s not a crazy thing. A lot of people talk to themselves and it is actually very beneficial to understand that you can do this.
CHUCK: It’s funny when you say, “A lot of people talk to themselves.” I’m not really an astrology person, but I’m a Gemini and I jokingly say, “I have some of the best conversations with me that you can imagine.”
Dr. CINDY: Yes!
CHUCK: Especially, I have to say especially, in business when somebody does something wrong and I really need to have that conversation with them, I will have the conversation with me in the car because I can do anything I want–
Dr. CINDY: I do that, too!
CHUCK: Oh, my Gosh. And the HR people can say nothing to me. Nobody hears it, nobody can say anything. I can say anything I want. Then I can have the right conversation and it’d be okay.
Dr. CINDY: Yes.
CHUCK: Let me ask this question, because I think you really teed this up nicely. Now, with all kidding aside, Robin Williams obviously did have multiple voices in his head. I mean, they came in and out of his mouth and he was brilliant, but one would assume that at a certain point, when you get pass the entertainment factor, that the reality is that those parts, as you call them, were all interplaying to ultimately help him make the decision that he made. So, neither one of us knew him personally, but what types of warning signs would the average person, would I look for with my loved ones if by chance they were having those conversations and maybe they were going a little on the dark side?
Dr. CINDY: Yeah, I mean, that’s definitely if somebody’s actually talking about it. It’s interesting when you look at the statistics, especially for the older population compared to the younger population around suicide is that the older population seems to not talk about their plans or things outwardly, hide it more, isolate more versus a younger population that may act out, may post something on Facebook, or call people up, or joke about it, or do risky behavior acting out. The elder population seems to act more in and isolate and hide and be afraid of being a burden, so I think what we can look for is somebody isolating, somebody deciding to start cutting off being around other people.
The latest article I just saw was that he spent 18 hours before locked in his room with the blinds closed. He had blackout curtains and he really isolated. I remember my father doing that before he took his life. There was a lot of isolation, a lot of pulling away. Just to share some experience, my father took his life a year and two months after my mom passed away. One of the risk factors is a loss, somebody being in bereavement, especially my parents were married for 49 years before my mom passed and that’s definitely a risk factor. But before my father passed, I could see that he was removing himself emotionally. I saw him at Christmas time and he took his life on January 6, 2009, and the last time I hugged him, he pushed me away and that was a significant sign to me that something was going on. So I think that’s important when you see a loved one or you find yourself that you are withdrawing from people and again, warning signs are that when you stop wanting to connect with other people because you’re actually contemplating leaving this Earth so you can’t stay too close to them because it hurts you. I can kind of see that looking back at it right now what my father was doing, unknowingly in a way.
CHUCK: Right. Now, Dr. Cindy, we’re taking a bit about risk factors and we’ll call it for the older population, that would be me since I’m 57, at least moving in that direction.
Dr. CINDY: Yes, exactly.
CHUCK: But I would assume some risk factors, and it’s an assumption, would be change in medical condition. That was certainly something with Robin Williams. Loss of someone very close to you, a spouse or someone that is very close.
Dr. CINDY: And depression.
CHUCK: Or the possibility of the loss of your identity through your job.
Dr. CINDY: Yes, retirement. Robin Williams had just– His show hadn’t been picked up. He had a TV show and it had not picked up for the next season, so definitely that, financial issues… But depression being one of the no.1 risk factors is something between 75 and 85% that people that have depression, which is loss of motivation, inability to connect with other people, a recent doctor visit within the past 30 days. They say that’s one of the huge risk factors, financial concerns, not wanting to be a burden and wanting to hide any kind of medical condition. As a person’s medical condition worsens, people seem to think about it more. I don’t want to do– Again, when we talked about at the beginning of the hour was, “I don’t want to face this. I want this to stop.”
Dr. CINDY: Apparently, the article that I read about Robin Williams’ last day was he couldn’t even get out of bed. That last 18 hours was he felt that he couldn’t get out of bed according to his assistant that reported that.
CHUCK: Now, let me [23:33] this and I know we’ll be going to a break here soon, but when we talk about depression, to me depression happens as precipitated by something, and you enumerated some of those things that would cause depression to take place, but is that an inaccurate assumption? Is it possible or natural for people to just to become depressed? Or is it… And of course, we go to break.
Dr. CINDY: It’s important thing, we’ll pick up on that.
CHUCK: That’s an important question and I think one that we’ll need to talk about. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. My guest is Dr. Cindy Brown and this is a critically important show. It’s sad to have to mourn the loss of Robin Williams, a great comedian and a wonderful human being, but at the same time his loss gives us the opportunity to talk about things that affect so many people. So stick with us. Chuck Gallagher, Straight Talk Radio.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Thanks for sticking with us. This is an incredibly important show. We’re dealing with issues of suicide, depression, anxiety. My guest is Dr. Cindy Brown. If you want to know more about Dr. Brown, go to www.drcbrown.com, Dr. Cindy Brown. She is a best-selling author and an internationally-known behavioral specialist and we have been talking about the incredible loss of Robin Williams due to suicide and issues of depression. Dr. Cindy, before we went to break, one of the questions that kind of pops in my head is, as you were talking about depression, to me depression would happen as a result of a change in a situation. But perhaps that’s not entirely accurate, so help us understand depression.
Dr. CINDY: Yes. Depression can be both chemically caused. It can just come on [chuckles] as far as you can just wake up in the morning, nothing’s in your head, and you just feel like you don’t want to get out of bed, you don’t want to open the curtains, you don’t want to step outside of your bed. You just want to stay in your bed. A lot of people talk about that, you just have this feeling. So, chemically it can come on in that way. Hormonal changes, especially women and men both have hormones, very powerful hormones and when they’re not in balance, it can definitely affect depression. I know for me, I’ve had chemical depression my whole life as well as situational depression. First my mom passed away and then my father took his life a year or so later. I was in a lot of pain working through that. I think the hardest thing is for people that have chemical depression and situational depression and I think with Robin Williams that probably was the case. I think with people with suicide that choose to complete that in that way probably have both a lot of times. The studies have showed.
So, chemical depression can be handled in a certain way and situational, we talked about some techniques as far as handling a way of managing your thoughts. So situational kind of remedies for depression have to do with us managing our thoughts and our emotions and then managing our lives so that we can build good chemicals and feel good chemicals in us, so we can talk about some of those remedies. But as far as chemical depression, I’m a psychotherapist so I do a lot of talk therapy, but a psychiatrist who is M.D. that works with medication can work with somebody to find the best chemicals that will go in their body to interact their hormones and their chemical makeup. They say it’s a science, but it’s a very complicated science and I find, when I refer my clients out who have depression, it’s a hit or miss thing. We’re always trying to figure out the right cocktail because no chemical going in our body is the same in any one human being. They can kind of think and I think that’s especially with the older population is when we try to treat depression as well as anxiety with chemicals. It works differently with different people. I’m not sure if Robin Williams was on medication. I know he self-medicated for many years as a lot of people do, as I did over the years with either alcohol or caffeine is one that people use a lot for depression. A lot of people that have depression use coffee or tea or whatever in the morning to get them going and that’s a form of self-medication.
Dr. CINDY: I was taking ephedra for a long time because I couldn’t get myself going in the morning. I had severe depression and I got hooked on diet pills for a while, which has a lot of ephedra and guarana, I think it’s called. That’s a way of medicating. Then you want to feel differently so you drink some alcohol, a cocktail in the afternoon, or you come home at night and you feel lonely or you feel isolated so you drink a cocktail, or you get online or something like that to create chemicals to feel better. So, there’s ways of handling chemical depression on your own, by self-medicating, or seeing a psychiatrist as far as getting the right chemicals for you. But there’s also a lot of natural remedies.
CHUCK: Now, let me ask this question, and I want to go back before we get completely into the remedy side, so it’s easy for people to talk about someone else, not necessarily about themselves. So, let’s keep it to Robin for the moment, I say that like I knew him. I did know him through the movies, although What Dreams May Come was such a poignant movie that he did, such a poignant movie. But, outside of that, you made the comment the material that you have read said for the past 18 hours he had been in his room, isolated himself. What does a loved one do when they find someone who has obviously moved into such a severe depression that those things take place? Do you try to intervene? What do you do? How do you help the person that you care about without coming across as a jerk and saying, “Well, you just need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and get over it,” which does–?
Dr. CINDY: I think it’s a very tricky thing. You can’t really prevent anybody from doing what they want to do. I mean, if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it, but you can come in, offer some food. A lot of times people will isolate and stop eating or sleeping well. Encourage them to get out in the sunlight. Sometimes you don’t want to do that. Vitamin D is really important for depression. Encouraging them to take a shower because something about, I know for me, was a huge thing, just get out of bed, take a shower and I would feel like 50% better. Encouraging a shower, bringing some nice food that you know they like, that you know that the chemicals and the energy and the food, strawberries or chocolate. There are some foods that actually boost serotonin and help bring in the good chemicals. Bring a pet in. We have found in studies that interaction with animals boosts serotonin and oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone which actually helps you feel loved. They use pets in hospitals and in prisons now with incredible results so bringing a pet in, encouraging them to do things they like, but again, the person is going to dictate if they want it or not and if they accept it and if they’re improved by it.
CHUCK: I guess, I’m thinking in my head, I’m kind of thinking… I might save the reveries for the last segment that we’re going into, but I really have two very strange questions in mind. And this one I think is probably going to generate some controversy and I can almost see in the Twittersphere that I’m going to be blasted for what I’m getting ready to say, but it’s almost as if we treat our pets more humanely than ourselves. If we have an animal that we deeply care about and they become very sick, and you go to the vet and the vet says, “Their quality of life is going to rapidly deteriorate and here’s what’s going to take place,” we act kindly toward our pets.
Dr. CINDY: Yeah.
CHUCK: But we don’t act kindly toward ourselves and I don’t, for the life of me, get– I understand if somebody is in the last stages of life and is incredibly painful and uncomfortable, why we are so as a society hung up on hanging on to every moment as opposed to recognizing that a little extra Propofol will sort this all out not so uncomfortably.
Dr. CINDY: Yeah, and I think again, we talked about sometimes people get to a certain place where they can’t even think about anything that is happy or hopeful or anything that would help them take themselves out of this dark place. There is no remedy for them when they get in those places. The only remedy is, “Make this stop. Make this stop! Make this stop, I just want it to stop.” That’s a scary place to be. I think that people need to know that when you’re getting close to that place, that’s when you start, “What can I do?” and you think about that you won’t have your life anymore and what that will do to you.
CHUCK: And for the person that says, “If you’re in that dark place,” and you say, “I won’t have my life anymore,” to them I would think they’d say, “Thank God! I don’t want to have my life.” But the thing, Dr. Cindy, that’s hit me, and it really did so many years ago, is what is the impact of me not being here going to have on the people that I do care about? How does it impact my wife? How does it impact my children? What are they going to experience when I’m gone? I may think they are going to experience, you know, it’s going to be better, but the reality is ending your life with suicide has a ripple effect and right now we’re talking about that ripple effect because of this loss.
Dr. CINDY: And that’s the tipping point, and that’s the tipping point, I think, and I think about when my father made that choice, I think what happens is for a while you think about that when you’re in maybe a better place. You think about what the repercussions, I know it stopped me many times, even going down that road. It was like, “Oh, I couldn’t do that to my patients. I couldn’t do that to my friends, I couldn’t do that to my siblings that have already gone through with my father. I couldn’t do that,” and definitely, I refocused. I would say, “That’s not going to happen,” but I think what happens with people that do complete is they go into a place where they don’t even think that. They’re so numb they don’t even have those thoughts. Stopping the pain is greater than that. They surpass it.
CHUCK: And with that said, there is such a stigma that seems to be associated with people who’ve committed suicide. We’re going into break but maybe, Dr. Cindy, when we come back, in addition to talking about some of the methods for treating suicide, we can also talk about those of us that may be left behind following that and understanding what took place and maybe not being drawn in to the web of the stigma associated with suicide. This is Chuck Gallagher at Straight Talk Radio, and my golly, we have had some straight talk here. My guest is Dr. Cindy Brown. We’ve talked a great deal about depression, anxiety and suicide in the wake of Robin Williams’ loss. Stick with us, we’ll be right back.
CHUCK: Welcome back. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Thanks for sticking with us. This has been one of those shows where we say it’s Straight Talk Radio and it has been straight talk. We’ve been talking about depression, anxiety and a loss of Robin Williams to suicide. My guest is Dr. Cindy Brown. She is a best-selling author, she is a multi, multi decade psychotherapist. If you want to contact her, you can go to drcbrown.com or you can contact her on Facebook, @Dr. Cindy Brown. I’m sure she would be delighted to connect with you. She has been sought after in so many places, on radio and television programs, talking about depression, anxiety, stress management, behavior modifications, addictions and relationships. Dr. Cindy, it is so good to have you on the show. Thank you for taking the time to join us today.
Dr. CINDY: It’s a pleasure.
CHUCK: You know, we’re talking about, before we get into maybe some treatments, we were talking about right before the last break that suicide has a ripple effect and it also has a certain stigma. It’s hard for people to talk about and yet so many of us in some form or fashion have known in our own lives, as you, have known in our own lives or certainly have known people close to us who have lost loved ones to suicide and sometimes we just don’t know what to say or how to act.
Dr. CINDY: Well, I think it’s two things. It’s like when you know somebody that is experiencing the ripple effect, a loved one or a friend or something like that, you don’t know what to say. You do want to comfort them but… A far as, like me, they have experienced it, I was embarrassed at first, especially being a psychotherapist and everything to actually tell people in the beginning. I made up some story about he had prostate cancer and things like that. So, I think that the best way we can handle this is by talking about it and comforting somebody as if they died in any other way. I think it’s really a shame that some people in the media, either on television, broadcast or even social media people posting their insensitive and unprofessional comments about what they think of Robin Williams as far as him making that choice to commit suicide. I’ve heard things like, “He’s a coward,” or, “He’s selfish,” but nobody has walked in his shoes, nobody knows what he was really dealing with. He has a right as a human being to make that choice. We may not like it, it may bring up so much for us and I think that’s where the anger is. I think people that actually judge and are insensitive to it are really grappling with their own feelings of possibly not feeling in control or feeling in a dark place. They feel like they don’t have a choice or they feel scared of their own choices.
CHUCK: Well, that’s true and depending upon the part of the country you’re from and perhaps your religious persuasion, we’re taught things that, we’re taught, “Oh, suicide is terrible,” and so forth, but the reality is it happens. I saw a statistic, I don’t know if it’s completely accurate, but at least 100 people a day in general are going to leave this planet due to suicide, which by the way I think is incredible, but you’re right; we don’t really know what was going on. We see the persona of Robin Williams, but we don’t know the truth of his experience. And I do want to do two things, but I want to ask one quick question and it’s a little out there. You live in Los Angeles. You are in the place where the media is glitzy and you’re surrounded by it and you might run into people in the street. Do you find that incredibly creative people are more prone to depression or is that just a myth?
Dr. CINDY: Well, there is some studies about creativity meaning the impulses in your brain, and especially as we have seen how Robin Williams does his thing. His brain is always going– There are several comedians that are kind of in that same genre as far as how he expresses his craft. And that can have some indication as far as his chemical makeup in his brain so we talk about musicians, there’s been a lot of musicians that have committed suicides, actors, comedians definitely. It could have some merit as far as the chemical makeup whether it’s ADHD and the neurotransmitters fire faster so chemically he’s more prone to ups and downs. Some people said that he probably had bipolar depression, which used to be called manic depressive.
Dr. CINDY: Right now it’s called bipolar 1 and 2 which is a combination of both mania, which is heightened activity, lots of thoughts coming through, acting out, extremes in behavior, and then the contrast of depression, falling straight down. So when you think about that especially with actors and musicians, there’s always this contrast for being on and off, being in the spotlight, getting lots of attention and then being isolated and getting none and that people get addicted to the attention. When they don’t have it, they fall and their chemicals fall. I think it all makes a lot of sense that you see a lot of creative people or people that are in the spotlight decide to go in one way or the other whether it’s self-medicating and overdosing or they commit suicide by my of other [43:16] means.
CHUCK: Right. We don’t have a lot of time so let’s talk about remedies, let’s talk about treatments. What are some of the things that you can see perhaps outside of lithium or Prozac or what have you, although nothing necessarily wrong with either of those, but what are some of the treatments that our listeners could apply?
Dr. CINDY: Well, I think just on a basic level, I think it’s really important to understand we talked about the self-talk, being able to manage your own emotions because when you’re just by yourself, you want to have that, to be able to challenge your thoughts and know what you need to do in your life to make yourself feel good. So when I work with somebody that’s depressed or anxious, we create a structure. I find that if you can create a structure that you make yourself do. People talk to me about this all the time. “When I’m depressed, I have to make myself do things. I forced myself to do things.”
One of the things with depression is that you have changes in sleeping and eating. I actually forced myself to eat when I’m not feeling very good because when you deplete yourself of nutrition, you actually cause a chemical reaction of depression, so I would tell people to force themselves to eat things, knowing the foods you can eat. I can eat crackers when I’m not feeling like eating or I can eat eggs, but I may not be able to force myself to eat a chicken breast or some broccoli. I would drink a little Atkins drink. Knowing what you can do to force yourself to do that. Also sleeping; studies have shown that when you don’t get adequate sleep that it actually causes another chemical reaction to depression. Depletion of sleep is a big risk factor.
So, you want to find natural remedies. There’s definitely over-the-counter remedies and there’s prescribed medications you can get from your doctor. But, red tart cherry juice is a really good source of natural melatonin and you can get that at Trader Joe’s or other places. Just look for it in your health food store. It’s pretty strong. You only want to take about a fourth of the cup before you go to bed, 30 minutes before, and it gives you a lot of sedative effect. That’s a good remedy for sleep because that’s a big factor in depression.
Meditation and chanting and yoga help relax the body, help relax the thoughts. They actually create, statistics have shown and studies have shown that meditation changes all of kinds of biological functions in the body to help with depression. It’s one of the no.1 things that are now using in a lot of hospitals. I actually used a bio feedback at one point and it was very, very helpful. So, eating healthy, exercise creates endorphins. Making sure you’re around pets and children and family members and not isolating. And also if it’s severe, you definitely need to be assessed by a professional, a doctor, a psychiatrist to definitely get a professional fill in and also for you to get that support you need.
CHUCK: Dr. Cindy, thank you so much. I hear the music and that’s telling us that we’re about to wrap up the show. My guest has been Dr. Cindy Brown and she has been in private practice in Los Angeles for 22 years. Obviously you have treated patients there in Los Angeles, but as well you do help people via consultations. If you want to contact Dr. Brown, her website is drcbrown.com. She is a best-selling author of the award-winning book The Cinderella System. Dr. Brown, thank you so much for being on the show. We have, as a society, experienced a great loss with the loss of Robin Williams this week, but at the same time yet once again Robin Williams has given us one last gift and that last gift is the gift of being able to openly talk about something that stays in the closet for so many people, and that is depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. So, this edition of Straight Talk Radio we will dedicate to Robin Williams, to the incredible talent that he brought, the joy that he brought to us and to the fact that we can have straight talk. This is Chuck Gallagher. Tune in next week.
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