Important Please Read: The guest and host in this episode are not medical professionals, psychologists, counselors, therapists, or anything else remotely related to that. The story that you're going to hear is unique to the guest and her situation. What we discuss in the episode is not intended to be taken as medical advice. This episode may have some information that you can take away and speak to your doctor about. Any medical decisions you make should be under the direct supervision and direction of your doctor, and not because some podcast made it sound like a good idea.
Brooke Siem is unlike many of our guests in that she's not a veteran. However, her story is one that sounds all too familiar to many veterans.
Brooke's father passed away when she was 15. She suffered from anxiety and depression after his passing. A child psychologist told her that there was little she could do for her besides prescribe medication. By age 18 she was on 6-7 pills per day. She remained on these drugs for about 15 years - half of her life at that point before realizing that the drugs weren't working.
What happened next completely changed her life, although it wasn't an easy road to travel down.
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Scott DeLuzio: 00:03 Hi everybody. This is the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14 Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Brooke Siem. Brooke is unlike a lot of our guests on the show in that she isn't a Veteran. I met Brooke a couple of weeks ago at a conference where she shared her mental health journey and I feel like her story might resonate with some of the people who listen to this podcast. So, I wanted to have her on the show to share that journey. Now, before we begin, I want to make it crystal clear to everyone who's listening that neither Brooke nor I are medical professionals. We're not psychologists or counselors or therapists or anything like that. The story that you're going to hear is unique to Brooke and her situation. The things that we discuss in this episode are not intended to be medical advice or anything like that. This episode may have information that's beneficial for you and that you can take away and speak with your doctor about if it applies to you and your situation. Ultimately, any medical decisions that you make should be under the direct supervision of your doctor and not because some podcast made it sound like a great idea. Okay. So, I think the lawyers will be sufficiently satisfied with that disclaimer. Brooke, welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brooke Siem: 01:28 You know, it's a fantastic disclaimer and I think that you should just record that for me and then I will broadcast it before anything I do ever because it saves me a lot of headache from having to interject it later on. So, my name is Brooke Siem and if you find me on Instagram or on the internet, I come up and I am a professional chef. I owned a bakery in Manhattan then I was on an episode of Chopped. And meanwhile, that's not at all what my life looks like today or it's not really what I care about deeply. I'm writing a book right now, specifically about getting off of antidepressants. And so, I've spent the past two years pretty much in a deep creative writer’s hole, just trying to untangle my past and figure out why, when I was 15, I was put on these drugs. What happened that led to a point when I'm 30 and I was ready to just be done with this world. And yet, I was being treated for depression. And so, I've spent the past three years thinking about this topic, the past two years writing about this incredibly uplifting topic. And yeah, I'm happy to be here and just brighten everybody's day. [laughing]
Scott DeLuzio: 02:57 And so one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show is because through talking to other veterans, I found that the VA, which is where a lot of the veterans go for their health issues and sometimes they will just throw pills at a problem to see if it will go away. I know for me, this isn't necessarily a mental health issue but I've shared my own story on this podcast before where I went into the VA with breathing troubles. After running some tests, I was prescribed antianxiety medication. I knew I wasn't suffering from anxiety other than from the fact that I couldn't really breathe easily. So, I basically refused to take the medicine that I was being prescribed and after doing some research into the symptoms that I was having, I basically found out that the certain stomach conditions like heartburn or just indigestion or things like that could give you shortness of breath and experienced the same kind of symptoms that I was having.
Scott DeLuzio: 04:02 So, it totally wasn't anxiety and it turns out that I needed an antacid and not antianxiety medication. On another occasion, I had knee pain from an injury when I was in the military and the VA doctor told me to just stay off it for a few weeks and take Advil if the pain got bad. Fortunately, I had private insurance at the time so I went to a civilian doctor for a second opinion who determined that I needed to have surgery to correct the problem. Now, Brooke, this is not about me. This is about you and you have a story that you started to get a little bit into that probably mirrors some of these issues where you are prescribed the antidepressants and you’re prescribed medication at a young age and then you stayed on them for quite some time. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that with us and that whole journey that you went through?
Brooke Siem: 04:59 So, my father suddenly passed away when I was 15, and it was 2002. I grew up in Reno, Nevada. It was not a time when we had much beyond dial up internet and there wasn't necessarily the opportunity to go on Instagram or Google and find the latest like woowoo things. So basically, what happened is my father suddenly dies and I naturally grieve, perhaps not in a way that was particularly convenient or obvious to the adults around me because it wasn't like I was crying and openly talking about how sad I was. I more or less just shut down. And that continued on for a period of time that was long enough to be very concerning for all the adults around me and so, six months or so went by whatever it is and
Brooke Siem: 05:58 I was taken to a child psychologist who eventually told me that there was nothing she could do and that I had an anxiety and depressive disorder and that I should be medicated. Actually, she didn't tell me that. She called my mom and told my mom after not communicating anything to my mother during the time. It's been interesting how some of this stuff works and I've tried to go back in time to the early 2000s and Nevada law trying to figure out why my mother was told that I needed to go on drugs but that she was not informed of any of the happenings within our sessions. HIPAA is a thing, client patient confidentiality. I was also a minor and I can't find anything that really tells me what the actual law was at the time.
Brooke Siem: 06:48 So, suffice to say, it just happened and my mother still grieving herself. I was an only child and she didn't really have any other options. What else was she supposed to do? So, she took me to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist’s job is to prescribe drugs. And so, they put me on a cocktail of antidepressants and then it took a while for us to find the right ones that didn't create such terrible side effects right away that I couldn't be on them. Eventually, we found a few that worked. And then a series of other problems started coming up. I started to have a lot of symptoms of thyroid issues and so they took me to an endocrinologist and my thyroid was low. And then I had this mysterious stomach illness for years where I would just be walking on the side of the road and I would just throw up like just like walking, walking, walking, puke.
Brooke Siem: 07:39 And so that was concerning. So, we went through a series of tests and more medication got piled on. And so, by the time I was 18 and ready to go to college, I think I was taking six or seven pills a day. And it wasn't that we didn't have reason for any of these things, I suppose. But nobody ever really sat back to like look at the greater landscape of what was going on in my life and asking if maybe the deep sadness and the depression is a result of grief. Now my father, he was actually in Vietnam and he had some pretty severe mental health issues that I don't really know where they came from but there was a clear argument for some sort of “genetic link.”
Brooke Siem: 08:31 So, I think that's a big reason why we didn't really just pass it off as grief because I was of a person who had his own struggles. The same thing with my stomach and all these things, maybe the fact that I had really terrible stomach issues was because I had gone through a loss and I was applying to college and my whole world was being pulled out from under me. And no one ever really asked that. And neither did I. It was the early 2000s and I was under 18 and I was trying to get a really good SAT score and you just do what people tell you to do at some point when you are a kid. And so then, I go to college and ultimately, I moved to New York and there was just never a reason to question any of the medications I was on.
Brooke Siem: 09:19 And a big reason for that was because I went on medication right at the start of puberty; I was a little bit of a late bloomer. So, I effectively came of age and my mind and body developed while I was drugged. So, by the time I get into the real world and I'm an adult, I have no frame of reference for how I should be because the only frame of reference I had was as a kid and it was before my father died. So, I just assumed I had developed into the appropriate person and that everything was fine. I don't know; I just operated under that mentality. And then I had similar experiences with doctors, where if you can even get past the insurance system, which kind of limits your choices for medical professionals in this country,
Brooke Siem: 10:08 I had a series of terrible experiences with psychiatrists in New York and ultimately, I just went to my GP and he shrugged his shoulders and basically said whatever and gave me whatever I wanted. I didn't abuse the system but he never questioned the fact that I came to him and was like, I'm on these six things. And so, I just kept taking them again because I was still 100% depressed while I was on these drugs. And so, I just made what I think is a natural assumption that if I was this depressed on them, how the hell could I operate without them. It never occurred to me that maybe either the drugs are wrong for me or that I was experiencing something called Discontinuation Syndrome. There's a lot of evidence suggesting that the efficacy of these drugs decreases over time.
Brooke Siem: 11:03 So for all I knew, I was just taking a sugar pill but also not really because when I did get off them, the withdrawal experience was like so beyond hellish that there was clearly something going on in my body. But I'm not the doctor here, so I'm just chugging along. It wasn't until I was 30 that I was starting to have some pretty scary suicidal thoughts and tendencies and I was at a point where I thought, I cannot do this anymore. And I didn't even really know what this was. It was just like, whatever it meant to be alive, I didn't feel like I could do it. And so, I was a little bit quirky, so I was going about my own little quirky self-management ways of life, which included calculating a day of my own death.
Brooke Siem: 11:59 Then doing some math and those things that you do on Tuesday night. But I had done it, you know, we can get into that in a second. But you know, ultimately, I wandered over to my window and I lived on the 30th floor and I had very consciously avoided that 30th floor window for years because the urge to just fall out of it was too strong. And then one day I went over and I opened the window and I pried open the screen that was lodged in there and I stuck my body out as far as it could go. And I started doing the physics and a little math trying to figure out how long it would take to hit the ground. And that's when all the gears in my head suddenly came to this screeching halt.
Brooke Siem: 12:45 I had this realization that (1) this is not how someone who's being treated for depression should be acting and that (2) I never really made the choice to go on the drugs or to stay on them. And so, I just had this fleeting, curious thought that was like, who am I if I'm non-medicated, what is underneath all this? And so, I decided to get off the drugs and three and a half years later, I can say it was the best decision of my life but let's just say it was a not a graceful 18 months.
Scott DeLuzio: 13:30 Sure. Yeah. And coming off of anything that you've been on for that long, I have to imagine is just not going to be fun for anybody. I want to circle back to something that you were talking about, how you calculated how much time you had left in terms of when you might pass away based on all of these different tests that you might find online, from insurance websites and things like that. And I know this because you talked about this at the conference that we were at. I have a little bit of insight into how you came about this calculation but the how isn't so much what I'm interested in. Some people might listen to what you said there and in terms of how you calculated how many days you have left and all this type of stuff
Scott DeLuzio: 14:26 and think that you're looking forward to that date in the same way that a kid might count down the days to Christmas or whatever. I don't think that that's really what you're saying necessarily with that date. Maybe it was when you first counted down, but in a strange way, if you know how much time you have left, to me anyways, this would be my kind of mindset, anyways, if you know how much time you have left, it acts as a reminder to not put things off that you could do today or in the more immediate future. Basically, to live life to the fullest because that way you're thinking to yourself, there's a fixed number of days ahead of you
Scott DeLuzio: 15:15 and we all have a limited supply of days left but we don't typically think of how many days we have left. So, some of us live life as if we have an endless supply of days that are left. So, to us it doesn't really matter if we didn't get to travel to that place that we always wanted to go to or tell that person that thing that we've always wanted to say, because we can always do it later. But knowing that there's a fixed number of days ahead forces you to be more on top of those things and act more intentionally without those types of things. That kind of the experience that you found with yourself when you ultimately came to that number or that date and put it on the calendar, is that what you felt?
Brooke Siem: 16:00 No, I would say maybe at points that's how I felt. In the beginning it really started as an exercise, simply more because of the morbid curiosity and I really was so dark at that point that I just wanted to know that it was going to end because I had like this nebulous thought that like ultimately I was in charge of my own fate. If I wanted to take my life, I could. But I also wanted to know that if I didn't take such an extreme final step that the pain would still be over. There was a deep need for me to know that this was temporary. And so, I went through and I literally just took probably about a dozen life expectancy tests from life insurance websites and Buzzfeed and I just averaged the results and put them all together and I was given this date of November 6, 2069 which is a Wednesday.
Brooke Siem: 17:05 And it's like the concept of having a handful of days left or in my case at that point, it was well over 19,000 days left. That's a number that is a little bit nebulous and it's hard to actually conceptualize and it's big enough that you don't really notice when little pieces of it are counting down. So, what I decided to do was actually schedule it in my calendar because I felt like if I wrote something down and I honored it as a thing I had to do, then it would hold a little bit more weight and it would feel a little bit more real. So, Google calendar lets you project out as far as you want. And so, I was able to schedule the day at my death that I think it's at like 12:00 PM on a Wednesday.
Brooke Siem: 18:00 It only takes an hour. So, the good news is that I'm only dead for an hour and then I’m back. But it sits there and now it's there and it's there forever. And what started to happen, was that knowing that I had this date in the future that was certainly coming, it helped take the edge off of everything because what I had been struggling to find was relief for so long and I really needed to know that the pain I was feeling was temporary. And so, I was in charge of my own life, if I wanted to take my life, I could but that didn't quite feel like the answer, that felt like I was far more in charge than I should be and what I wanted was just to know that any natural life that there would be relief.
Brooke Siem: 18:56 And so, in scheduling this date, suddenly I had a guaranteed day of relief. I had a guaranteed day when all of this would go away. And so, what happened is that that temporary nature started affect various aspects of my life. I thought that maybe it would make me feel a little bit more like spontaneous or that I would blow a bunch of money on an epic trip or something. But nothing like that really happened. I still went about living my life the exact same way but the shift happened in these little moments. So, I noticed that if things were really bad or things were good, I had a sense of them and an understanding that that situation was temporary and that had a dual purpose because it both really helped make all the negative things a lot easier to handle.
Brooke Siem: 19:56 Because if I was in a bad situation with my business or if I was on a slow subway train, whatever it was I knew logically that this would end, it would have to end not only because the situation inevitably was going to end one day but then also my life as a whole would end. And oddly that thought felt really comforting just to know that it was all going to end. On the other hand, the temporary nature of things also started to affect all the positive things in my life. So, if I had five minutes to sit on my couch and pet my dog before I had to be somewhere, suddenly those five minutes felt a lot more precious than they did before. And so, I was able to put a barrier between my reaction and the situation because I knew that it was temporary. And that's what started to affect my life in a more positive way; it was just that my reactions weren't as extreme and I started to focus a little bit more on the positive things, which is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do when you are deeply depressed but it was a little teeny trick. 1% better.
Scott DeLuzio: 21:18 I think that's what I was getting at with when we were talking about how much time you have left and how it acts as that kind of reminder not to put things off, but I think the way you're putting it actually makes a lot of sense too, because those little moments, things that you may not even think of normally, petting your dog, for example, you're sitting there scratching them, petting them or whatever and it's just a thing you're doing. It's almost like a reflex and you don't put much thought into it but when you look at it as, I should value this and treasure this moment, you do it with a little bit more intention and you pay a little more attention to what you're doing as opposed to scrolling Instagram or whatever while you're also petting the dog. You might be a little more focused on whatever it is.
Scott DeLuzio: 22:11 If it's playing with your kids or talking to a friend or something, whatever you're a little bit more focused and intentional with that. So, I like how that initially morbid thought turned into a positive for you and helped you see the little moments in life and appreciate those a little bit more. That was pretty interesting. You also were talking about how you didn't really go off and do anything crazy, blow a lot of money on travel or things like that. But you did take a rather significant trip. Do you want to talk about that?
Brooke Siem: 23:01 Yeah, sure. So, when I first did these calculations, it was like 2014 so, I still had another two years being fully medicated. And then what had happened is when I was about to turn 30, it was 2016; I was definitely trending more towards the dark from the light all the time. And I needed to get out. That's when I was doing physics calculations from my window. I had this realization that I had no idea who I was without these drugs. I sat on that thought for a little bit. And then right around the same time though, what happened is, I got an opportunity to travel with a program called Remote Year and Remote Year, an organization that's effectively a glorified travel agent for working professionals.
Brooke Siem: 24:02 So, the idea is that you and 70 strangers all pay one company to deal with your travel and your accommodations all around the world for a year. So, when I found out about this program and I drunkenly applied one night. I got in a big fight with my business partner and I was really mad. And so, I just applied for a program that was completely not at all something that my life was set up to handle. But, you know, sometimes you fantasize when you're drunk. And that's what I did. The shocking part was that I started making it through all these interview processes. I wouldn't say I was lying but I was definitely fudging the truth about my capabilities of leaving and I kept making it through all the interviews and the next thing I know, they offer me a spot.
Brooke Siem: 24:55 And so, on the one hand I have this realization that I've been medicated and drugged my entire life. On the other hand, I have this opportunity to blow a bunch of money and do something I may never get the opportunity to do again. And it was the combination of the two that was the catalyst for me actually getting off all of the drugs I was on because I realized that my life desperately needed to change. And I knew that if I took this opportunity to travel, even though I had no plan of how it was actually going to work out, I knew my life would never be the same after. And at the time all I was looking for was something different. I didn't have any particular inclination or care like what it looked like. It just needed to be different.
Brooke Siem: 25:45 But at the same time, we were traveling to a remote island in Thailand and Cambodia and all these places where I was not really sure that I would be able to get the drugs I was on in the countries I was in. And so, I made the choice. I had about four or five months from the time I got accepted into the program to the time when I was supposed to get on the plane. And I said, all right, I'm going to take this time and I'm going to at least try to get off all these drugs so I can get on the plane and not have to carry a suitcase full of prescription medication with me. And so, that's how everything started. And so, I started detoxing off of all of these drugs, which was just like one level of hell after another.
Brooke Siem: 26:39 I mean everything from your typical shakes and sweats to having very intense, almost visions. It wasn't hallucinations in the sense of seeing things that weren't there but it was like constant intrusive images passing through my mind, at an incredibly fast bloody and violent rate while I'm walking down the streets in New York. New Yorkers are kind of angry as a concept but this was a level to which I had never experienced. I had my physical body completely changed. My eyesight changed. It actually got better. My hearing intensified like crazy. My skin got super sensitive, so I started having all these really weird skin reactions. I couldn't wear clothes I used to wear because the fibers irritated my skin.
Brooke Siem: 27:37 The way I tasted food totally changed. I had episodes of rage so severe that at one point I bent a metal ironing board in half. I weigh about 120 pounds and some Hulk level of rage but it was what I think was happening. And there's really not a lot of research on the science of withdrawal. We have some studies that have been analyzed lately like going over old studies that have been done that they're pointing to the fact that people are having a really hard time getting off these drugs. As far as I know, there has not been any study about the actual physical or the actual physiology of what's going on in your body when you're trying to get off these drugs.
Brooke Siem: 28:31 But my hunch is just that, I went from a brain that was literally operating on autopilot with these meds to one that had no idea how to react to anything because I hadn't been clearheaded for 15 years. And I think every system just exploded all at once. And that lasted for a long time. It lasted for a solid nine months to a year after I'd stopped taking all drugs. And so, it wasn't just a matter of getting the drugs out of my system. It was a matter of completely inhabiting a new body that had to learn how to operate in the world. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like going through puberty twice, the weird hormones and all sorts of things going on.
Scott DeLuzio: 29:21 Well, it could because there's definitely a lot of changes that are taking place when you're going from living every single day on these drugs and having the, I don't want to say crutch necessarily, but maybe the benefit of whatever it is that they're providing for you. Then the next day, all of a sudden, you're no longer having that there. And so, I can almost see how it's like learning how to walk all over again. It's like a whole new experience.
Brooke Siem: 29:55 It is. And I will say though that I struggle so much sometimes with this topic, especially when I talk to other people because it's clear to me that I've just had piss poor luck with psychiatrists. I know that there are a lot of really good doctors out there who care about their patients and would not tolerate some of the things that I was told or put through. I don't necessarily think that I didn't have someone sitting across from me in an office who was just purposefully evil but I also know that they weren't really listening to me and they weren't taking in the broader spectrum of my life. So, the drugs that I was on, in particular are notoriously hard to get off of as far as my understanding goes. There are some antidepressants that aren't as difficult to get off as the ones that I was on but still there was only so much I could taper down before I was stuck with the minimum viable dose for some of these pills.
Brooke Siem: 30:59 There were things my doctor could have told me that I know now in hindsight, in order to help manage these symptoms. And she didn't. And so, I know that there are a lot of really hellish withdrawal effects for people who are taking high doses of these medications and then stop cold turkey. That definitely happens. There's a reason why tapering exists and why it should be deliberate. But there's still a point at which you do have to extract yourself entirely from those medications. And it's not as easy as when you first start taking them. And that's the big question. And the big concern that I have with the way we prescribe all these drugs for people is because we feel our pain so much and we want immediate relief but we don't have the forethought about what our life looks like and how we build a future for ourselves that is not fully relying on these medications.
Brooke Siem: 31:55 Because these medications are not designed for long-term use. They're designed for short-term use and we have stopped treating them like that. We're entering a time now where people are now on the drugs for 10, 15, 20 years. I was part of a very early generation; I was part of the first generation of adolescents to be medicated. But my story is getting more and more common and the science is not there to back up what's happening and the anecdotes are not there to back up what's happening and people are just starting to, from my perspective, they're starting to wonder what's going on, what the other options are while also feeling fully, chemically dependent on these drugs.
Scott DeLuzio: 32:40 And like what you were saying before, I think it's society in general that wants that instant gratification. It's the Amazon or the Netflix type of situation where I want to go buy something today on Amazon and I want it on my front porch tomorrow morning. I want to watch a movie, so I'm going to go on Amazon or on Netflix and I'm going to watch it right now because I want to watch it. There's no more driving to Blockbuster and getting a movie or waiting for it to come out. You turn on the television and you start watching because you want it now. And unfortunately, a lot of people take that same attitude with their health, whether it's mental health or physical health or whatever, they want a solution for it right now.
Scott DeLuzio: 33:26 And a lot of these things don't have a “right now” solution that's really appropriate. Even in situations like you experienced when you are grieving the loss of your father, maybe it was appropriate to have some sort of medication to help you get through that situation while you are also working through it in some other way so that you didn't have to be on it for over a decade. And just continue living your life thinking that this is just what I need to function. There was that one event and lots of people are depressed after the loss of a loved one, that's totally normal. I am speaking from personal experience, there's definitely a grieving process that you have to go through.
Scott DeLuzio: 34:20 If you're just told that there's something wrong with you in addition to grieving, that's probably not the best solution for you. During all this time, especially when you were coming off of the medication, did you have any kind of support network in terms of family or friends or things like that? People who are around to say, “Hey, it seems like there's something not quite right; is everything okay?” Or help you with all of this.
Brooke Siem: 34:58 Um, yeah, so I want to circle back to the grief comment in a second and I'll answer this question first. So, I've been very lucky to have supportive people around me but as anybody who's been deeply depressed or experienced a deep trauma, sometimes it doesn't matter. Like, at the end of the day, it's still you and it's still your pain. I knew I was never going to be on the street and I had a roof over my head and I had someone I could call and all of that was so valuable. But at the end of the day, it was still ultimately up to me to really decide to take the steps to heal all of this. However, I did a fairly unconventional form of counseling that I credit with helping me through all of this.
Brooke Siem: 35:55 It ties into the whole grief thing. So, there are, if you look at the symptoms of grief and this symptom of depression, they're nearly identical. And so, it doesn't surprise me at all that we confuse one for the other, especially when there's very much a hierarchy of grief in our society. A mother who's lost a child is “allowed” to grieve for a very long time, whereas a child who's lost a stuffed animal is supposed to get over it. Now in each of their individual worlds, that might be the biggest loss they've ever had. I think that so much of our society is in constant grief and we are constantly grieving all of the things we've lost. And you know, for me, the biggest pieces of grief I've had, aside from losing my father, have been where I was a very serious ballet dancer and I broke both my feet when I was 18 and that was the end of the longest
Brooke Siem: 37:03 relationship in my life. It was the thing I cared about the most and it was suddenly gone. And the amount of grief I felt from that, I didn't know that I was grieving but I was. And so, you throw that on top of everything else. And when you think about careers or you lose fights with friends that ultimately end up parting ways or leaving a house you loved your place you lived in and think about the amount of change we experience in our life. I imagine that this happens so much with the Vets, it's that you have lived in this one world and you're suddenly pulled out of it. There is a grieving process that is happening there that I think for pretty much all humans all the time is being confused with a lot of really deep depression.
Scott DeLuzio: 37:52 I definitely agree with that 100%. A lot of the Vets that I've talked to, none of them really phrased it as grief necessarily. But just the transition from military life back to civilian life after they get out of the military, it's almost like they don't know what to do with themselves. In the military, their day was planned at this time you wake up, at this time you eat breakfast at this time, you do this at this time and you do that and your day was planned. Everything that you do is planned where you need to be and all that kind of stuff. And then you become a civilian, it's just like, do whatever, come if you want, go if you want. And it's all cool.
Brooke Siem: 38:36 How in the hell am I supposed to live like this? It's just too much. It's asking you effectively to be a different person and therefore if you're being a different person and that implies that a part of you has been lost, there's a saying sometimes like it's thrown around in ballet called a dancer dies twice. Because it's all about the loss of that career. That usually happens at a very young age as opposed to a lot of other professions. And it strikes me as particularly relevant here. What happened though is that because I didn't have the greatest luck in traditional talk therapy or with the traditional mental health world. And again, like I got shit luck. A lot of people don't; I know plenty of people who love their therapists to death but I had to go out and find other ways to help myself.
Brooke Siem: 39:27 One of the things that I struggled with always was like I'm a pretty private person and I really liked my home and it always felt so strange to me to physically go into an office and sit there in front of someone for 45 minutes under a clear hierarchy of relationship. I was paying someone to listen to me and it was their job to inform me of things that were supposed to help but only for 45 minutes. And then we were done. And then I had to go back into the world and go into my life and wait a month. I don't know. It never really quite worked in my head. And so, what had happened was that my mom was listening to her radio show and there was a man named Edward Mannix who came up on this show and he's a self-described spiritual counselor.
Brooke Siem: 40:22 And she was listening to him and she said, I think you need to contact this guy. I waited a while. I waited until I was so desperate that I was ready to try anything because I was rather hesitant at his claims. I didn't believe that karma and gratitude journals were going to cure me and all that crap. So, I just couldn't really get there. And then I got to the point where I was willing to try anything. And so, I ended up making an appointment with Edward and we ended up working together and all of it was done remotely. So, he has a particular technique that is rooted in the idea of self- compassion. So, this is a fairly common mindset if you're into certain kinds of meditation or even certain kinds of talk therapy; they talk about the inner child or the inner twin or all sorts of things with the idea for me that really resonated so much that there were all these little pieces of me all over.
Brooke Siem: 41:32 From my entire life there were snapshots of myself and who I was and things that had happened to me and the pain I had felt in. So, through the process, what you do is you imagine yourself taking the part of you that is so hurt. So, if you're like my 15-year old self when my dad died or whatever it is. And then there's a process of self in which you effectively sense a little strange to verbalize, but you talked to that wounded part of you in the same way you might go help a child who's fallen down and scraped their knees. The amount of compassion we can have for a child, especially even another women's, not even our own. If they fall down and you say, I'm so sorry you're sad.
Brooke Siem: 42:21 I am so sorry you're in pain. I'm so sorry that happened to you. We have this compassion that bubbles up inside us for children when they hurt themselves. And yet when we're children, something hurts us or even more blasphemous, we're an adult and something hurts us, we shut it down. What this process did was it allowed me, in the safety of my own home, which was key, over the phone, it wasn't like I had this person in a suit tapping her pen glaring at me. From the safety of my home, my own home, I was allowed to work with myself and learn to have compassion and verbalize it and identify my feelings in a way that I had never felt like I had the freedom or ability to do.
Brooke Siem: 43:15 And this just blew open my notion of the idea of healing because what happened is I would have a session and then maybe I'd have a few really bad days where it almost felt just like if you walk on an injured leg, if you try and run on an injured leg and it hurts too much, right? Even though it's still healing, it's like all the gunk just came up. And then I would start to feel a release and I just did this over and over again with this counselor for a year while I was traveling. And by the time I finished and I was about to go back to New York after this year, I had this deep understanding that this depression that I thought was going to last for my entire life, it was gone. And I don't say that lightly, it was gone and it has stayed, gone. I have not had a single depressive episode in three years since I've been off these drugs. I have had very bad days but that does not turn into a bad life. And that's the difference.
Scott DeLuzio: And I think that's an important distinction to make there. That one bad day is not going to completely sidetrack and derail the whole progress that you've made. Whereas, it may have done that previously perhaps.
Scott DeLuzio: 44:43 So it looks like we're actually coming up on time here and I know we had talked about this offline a little bit but you said you have a book that's coming out and hopefully you can share a little bit about that. If you have a release date or if it's still in progress then we can leave that part out. Tell us a little bit about that book.
Brooke Siem: 45:11 Yes. So, I spent the past two years effectively writing this story. It will be my second book. I've done this once before. I'm very familiar with the process and it's a real slow process. So, I actually think I finished my third draft today more or less. It's going to get sent off to my editor, hopefully by the end of the week. There is no release date at the moment. I have made the choice to carefully tool the book before totally shopping it around. But I am seeking representation. If there's anybody out there? However, the way I aim to get this book out and get it out big. I'm doing everything I can to make sure that it's the best story and the best message I can possibly tell.
Scott DeLuzio: 46:09 Alright, great. And when it does come out, we'll definitely add links to the website to let people know where it is and share it on social media and all that other stuff to help you out with that as well. Before we go, do you have a place where people can get in touch with you, either social media or website, things like that?
Brooke Siem: 46:36 Yeah, so my Instagram is just @BrookeSiem, which is my first and last name. My website is BrookeSiem.com. Instagram is probably the best way to get ahold of me on social media. However, I've been very consciously stepping away a little bit. Instagram likes to show you a lot of false reality, so prefer to live in the real one.
Scott DeLuzio: 46:59 Sure, absolutely. That's a better place to be living is in the real world, I guess. Just so people can follow along your journey and maybe find out a little bit more about you and your book and upcoming things that you might have going on. I'll link to all of that in the show notes. So, thank you very much for joining us and sharing your story.
Brooke Siem: 47:27 Thank you so much for having me.
Scott DeLuzio: 47:33 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com we're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @DriveOnPodcast.