WARNING: Reading this article and following the suggestions included may or may not help your mental health. I can only speak from my personal experience.
Most days, I wake up feeling empty. I lie in bed dreading my existence for about an hour. Then, I pick up my phone to distract myself from the human condition long enough to get my day started. It’s usually not a very pleasant process. But the morning after my Hot Fry induced nightmares, I woke up feeling relieved. I spent the night stressed out, scared, annoyed and angry, and suddenly I was pulled back into my calm, sunny room. This was the key. I realized that if I could make dreaming consistently unpleasant, I could train my mind to enjoy waking up. At first, I’ll just be happy to escape whatever stressful dream I was trapped in, but eventually, I might just be glad to be awake and living in this beautiful world.
A few weeks ago, I had a night full of awful, stressful dreams. Morning came, the sun shined through my window, and I awoke safe and sound in my bed. A little alarmed at first, I was quickly put at ease, knowing that what I had just experienced was only a dream. I told a friend about this, and they asked me if I’d eaten anything weird the night before. “Well,” I replied, “I didn’t really eat anything all day until about an hour before I went to bed when I ate a whole bag of Hot Fries by myself.” Yes, I spent the day refusing to put food into my body and then dumped four servings of processed crap in my gullet to satisfy my dopamine cravings. If it wasn’t obvious already, I was pretty depressed. But that’s not important yet.
My friend told me that spicy food is known to give people extremely vivid dreams, specifically nightmares. Satisfied with that explanation, I forgot about it for a while. A few days later, I saw a cartoon character reference the spicy-food-nightmare phenomena, so my mentally ill brain took this as a sign that I shouldn’t write off my Hot Fry experience just yet. I had a higher calling or at least some light delusions.
Following this realization, I spent two weeks eating Hot Fries before bed and recording the results. The results were exactly what I’d hoped for. I had horrific dreams, woke up in a cold sweat and had a much easier time getting started and going about my day. As of writing this, I haven’t eaten Hot Fries in a few days, and my dreams have returned to their normal state of extreme weirdness and occasional horror, but I still wake up every morning delighted to be a part of this world. Most importantly, I know what to snack on if I ever (when I inevitably) fall back down this pit of despair.
But is that really what’s most important here? There’s no guarantee it’ll work if I try it again, and it’s even less likely to work for you, a completely different person. Researching the spicy-food phenomenon after the fact, I found that there’s little evidence to support it. Spicy food may influence our dreams, but not many studies have been done. It’s entirely possible that the Hot Fries only gave me bad dreams by proxy, that I believed in it enough to give myself nightmare-inducing placebos. However, this doesn’t make the experience any less real or meaningful in my eyes. Call it psychology, magic, or rewiring of neuron pathways in my brain—I woke up in a good mood this morning. That’s all I care about.
If you think you know how to fix your depression, your relationships, your dysfunctions-you probably do! Other people can only offer you so much. Ultimately, the answers to your problems already reside within you. Spend enough time listening, and you’ll understand. For me, it was Hot Fries. For you, it might be a diet, a serious conversation or a week alone in the woods. Of course, it doesn’t have to be so unconventional-we could all benefit from some therapy. Maybe all you need right now are some new antidepressants. The important bit is that the answers have to come from you. Your friends, family, and medical professionals will always offer advice from their own flawed perspectives. Don’t let anyone make you doubt your convictions. You’re the only person who knows who you really are. You’re the only person who knows what you really need.