Hello and Welcome to episode 98 of the podcast,
It’s school holidays here so I’m desperately trying to type up this weeks show notes before one of my children needs food for the millionth time today (not a small feat).
***Trigger Warning: I really need to mention that this episode contains some talk about sexual violence that some people might find deeply upsetting to listen to. If you have been a victim of sexual violence and need some support, please check out the support services available to you wherever you are in the World. If you are in Victoria, Australia, here is the link to Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault, you can also contact Reach Out which is a nationwide service on their 1800REACHOUT number or 1800RESPECT for the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service.***
Recently I put a call out for anyone with an incredible plant-based healing story they’d like to share on the podcast and received the following email from this weeks guest, Indi Hopkins and after reading her story, I knew immediately I had to have her on the show because so many are deeply impacted mental illness and the impact mental illness has on all facets of their lives (if you’re reading this and you have a great story or know someone who does - email or message me as I’d love to share your story!).
Here is Indi’s story:
In 2009, at the age of 21, I had my first major psychological breakdown. I had struggled for 9 years at this point with undiagnosed bipolar disorder (type 1), and panic attacks. I found myself in a mental hospital, experiencing a complete break from reality. I was desperately addicted to drugs and alcohol, and my diet was as bad as it can get. I also smoked a pack a day. I was 225 lbs, had chronic fatigue, chronic pain from arthritis, as well as almost constant headaches, severe skin issues, and my digestion was terrible. It was not as fun as it sounds. :)
I spent the next several years trying to figure things out, and fight through the extreme highs and lows of bipolar disorder. I spent months at a time in depression so low, that I was quite literally battling for my life on a daily basis. My doctors put me on every medication, and combination of medications that you could think of. I rarely experienced relief, and when I did, it was short lived. Instead, I experienced side effect after side effect... such as tremors, and gaining 40 lbs in 2 months while on lithium. Or quickly losing my eyesight while on another medication etc.
I had joined a twelve step group to try to get clean. It took a while before it stuck, but eventually I strung together 2 years of sobriety, or clean time. I was still very ill physically, and by this time, had developed fibromyalgia. The fibro in conjunction with suicidal depression almost killed me. I remember standing in my kitchen, just sobbing, because I had no idea how I was even going to make it through that day. It was only the guilt of leaving behind my family, and my dogs that kept me alive.
One night, I went to pick up another member of this recovery group I was in because he had asked for a ride to a meeting. When I got there, he didn't come outside, so I knocked on his door. He invited me in, and wanted to hook up instead of going to a meeting. We had hooked up before, but I didn't want to that night. It pissed him off. I lost count of how many times I said no to him. But it didn't matter. He took what he wanted, despite my protests. He left me bruised all over, and even more broken than I'd ever felt before.
This was before the "me too" movement. And the group didn't really know how to handle it I guess. I was shamed and shunned out of the meetings, and he was defended.
I then spiralled into the worst anxiety and depression I've ever experienced. I had panic attacks on a daily basis, and was unable to go into public places without panicking. I basically withdrew completely. I leaned on the psychiatric community for support during this time, and was in and out of the hospital several times.
I finally reached a point where I realized that medication was not going to save me. I was desperate to find other answers to relieve my bipolar disorder, as well as lose the tremendous amount of extra weight that I was carrying. I came across a video about a raw vegan diet for bipolar recovery. That was where my health journey really started. I switched to a fully raw vegan diet for 4 months, and lost about 35 lbs, and felt better than ever. I tasted happiness for the first time. Not mania, but true happiness. It was my motivation for pushing forward. After that time, I bounced around between a vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian diet for a year or so. I'd avoided watching videos on animal welfare, because I didn't feel ready to face it. But one day, I finally took the plunge, and watched a video on the egg industry, and the baby chicks being ground alive. After that, I watched several more videos on different industries within animal agriculture. I went vegan that day, and never looked back. This was in March, 2015.
Since then, a lot has changed. Because of my primarily wfpb diet, I began to feel like a different person. For the first time since I was a kid, I had boundless energy. And I needed to find an outlet for that... so I started hiking. Pretty soon after that, I began trail running. I was still quite over weight, and only ran short intervals at first and built up from there.
Around the same time, I discovered yoga and meditation. And my mindset was improving quite a bit. The same girl who introduced me to yoga and meditation, also recommended that I try out a self defense class. She knew that I'd been sexually assaulted, and was still dealing with left over anxiety from that. I finally agreed after a few months of her trying to talk me into it. I was terrified that I'd freak out and start crying during the class. But eventually I made it to the class, and that changed everything for me.
My instructor took his time with me, and didn't overwhelm me. I continued to come to classes, and took an interest in Muay Thai and boxing. I finally made it to one of his MMA classes, and saw Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. It's an amazing art form. He was grappling with another woman, and I found it fascinating! Somehow, they were almost evenly matched. I later found out that BJJ is designed to help smaller, weaker people, defeat larger and stronger attackers using technique and leverage. I became obsessed, and still am to this day, 3 years later.
Over the last 4 years on a vegan diet, I've worked on dialing in my nutrition. At times, I have a harder time sticking with what I know is best for me. But I'm incredibly persistent, if nothing else, and have continued to move forward. I eat mainly plants, along with vegan naan, high quality breads, pasta etc. As a busy entrepreneur, it's been a struggle to cook at home at times, but I've been finding ways to make it work. I avoid oil, and sugar at home, and try to avoid it as much as possible while eating on the go.
And now, after 4 years of a plant based diet, I'm healthier than ever! I've lost 85 lbs, and am in the healthy BMI range. I'm stronger than ever, and toned from years of grappling and trail running. I also got my blue belt in jiu jitsu about 6 months ago! I still struggle with bipolar disorder, but nowhere near as much as I used to. My mania and depression are much less severe, and don't last nearly as long. My anxiety is also less intense, and non existent most of the time. My skin issues have gone away, unless I slip up and eat some vegan junk food :) My digestion is on point, and that's amazing. I rarely get a headache anymore, and I have more energy than anyone I know. Oh! And my fibromyalgia completely went away after removing dairy from my diet.
Life is good now. And it all started because of a vegan diet. It was a long, winding road... but here I am. And I'm so grateful.
And I'm grateful for you, and your amazing podcast. I love hearing stories from your guests. It always gives me a good dose of hope, and motivation. Thank you for sharing their stories, as well as yours. And thank you for taking the time to read this.
Much love, from Virginia (US)
Indi has been through so much and to see her looking and sounding so vibrant, happy and ALIVE brought me so much joy. Check out Indi’s Before and After photo along with some of the beautiful photos she has taken whilst trail running below.
Indi’s 3 Biggest Tips For Those Wanting To Make The Switch:
Practice Self Love
Think Of Food As Fuel Rather Than Entertainment
Find A Sport Or Activity You Love To Do.
If you’d like to FOLLOW Indi on social media, head over to Instagram and search for: Jiujitsu.chickpea
If you happen to live in the Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Radford area and have an adorable doggo who is in need of some positive/kind dog training, check out Indi at her website: Positive Outcomes Dog Training.
Thank you so much Indi for so bravely sharing your story with me and the listeners of this podcast and thank you all for listening and supporting this podcast by sharing these plant-based, health transformation stories with your family and friends on social media, by leaving a 5 Star Rating and kind Review over at iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, by Liking, Commenting and Tagging these stories online and by supporting me financially to create this podcast over at Patreon. Every bit of support helps me to spread the word about the healing benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet and to all of you, I am eternally grateful.
Wishing you incredible, plant-based health and healing,