The Road to Recovery: Debbie Hampton

by Shandi Pace

 

Debbie Hampton has dealt with depression her whole life. Like most growing up during the 1960s and ‘70s, her family wasn’t very open about discussing their feelings. Naturally, this became a problem as she had zero coping skills moving from adolescence to adulthood.

Unfortunately, Debbie also had several family members who had depression and committed suicide because of it. After witnessing multiple deaths from suicide in her family, she started to get the impression that it was the easy way out.

“When you suicide in your family, that becomes a suggestion…My answer to life’s hardships to my high school boyfriend breaking up with me, or anything was to try to commit suicide,” Debbie said.

After marrying her high school boyfriend, Debbie followed him so his career could grow. This emotional support involved moving around the United States. As that was happening, Debbie felt small and hopeless. She was a stay-at-home mother raising two children and didn’t know what else there was for her to do.

In between the time of her two sons being born, Debbie’s older brother became sick with AIDS during the first wave of the epidemic. She took care of him for two years before he passed away. The grief of losing her brother added to the pain she was already experiencing in her marriage.

As her husband’s job got better, it turned him into someone who was more controlling at home. This emotional abuse combined with her brother’s death led Debbie back into depression with a choice to make. She decided to get a divorce and move to North Carolina with her sons. When Debbie’s boyfriend at the time cheated on her, she tried to commit suicide for the second time in her life.

This time, Debbie gave herself a serious brain injury and went into a coma for a week. When she woke up, she was severely impaired and couldn’t speak, walk or remember certain things. “To me, it [the brain injury] was kind of a blessing in disguise because it forced me to start over,” Debbie said.

The next few years for her were about recovery from the depression, the trauma and the loss she experienced throughout her entire life. That’s when Debbie decided she needed to get away to have the time to think in a new setting.

Debbie took a trip to Hawaii with her other brother. During that trip, she went snorkelling and was almost swept away by a current. Debbie managed to swim to a nearby sailboat and saved herself from drowning. To think, just six months earlier, Debbie had tried to take her own life. Now, she was fighting to save it and her immediate instinct was to live.

“It occurred to me that I wanted to live. That my innate instinct was to live and that all this chatter in my head had been convincing me that I wanted to die and that life wasn’t worth living,” Debbie said.

Debbie finally realized that she was the one who had control over her mind. This understanding led her to have a whole new lease on life.

Once she returned home, Debbie began learning everything she could about brain rehabilitation. In the midst of her recovery, she decided to write a memoir titled Sex, Suicide and Serotonin: How These Things Almost Killed and Healed Me. Writing about her life at this stage in her recovery allowed for a more detailed and honest book, even if she didn’t know it yet.

“I’m glad I wrote it when I didn’t have those filters because one of the things that people say most often about it is how honest it is,” Debbie said.

Debbie also created a website, The Best Brain Possible, where she provides helpful information for others about how they too can rewire their brain for the better. She regularly posts blogs relating to brain improvement and continues to be a well-known voice in the mental health community.

For more information on Debbie Hampton and The Best Brain Possible, check out her website.

 

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