My Story

I’m now Selin again - but the much-improved, better-than-ever version. I’m thankful for the pain. Without it I wouldn’t be me. Selin Kiazim

I come from a culture that does not see depression as a ‘thing’ – legitimate, common, or otherwise. Up until 2017 I regarded myself as very strong-minded: I brushed it all off; nothing bothered me; I could work through anything in my head; I was fine getting through things on my own.

The trigger for depression, for me, was a broken heart, and with this heartbreak came an immense amount of pain and guilt. I tried so hard to shake it off, once again and as I always did, but I couldn’t get through it this time. My depression just got worse and worse, to the point I couldn’t eat – as a chef, this was unheard of for me. Friends and acquaintances would say to me: ‘you look great, you have lost so much weight’. This hurt more than anything: how could they know the pain I was feeling inside?

This depression came at a time when my career was taking off. I was on national TV, and people were coming from all over to try my restaurant Oklava and they all wanted to chat to me; and I just wanted to cry. I cried every day on the way to work, and just before walking into the restaurant I would pull myself together, put on a front, play the boss for the time I was there, and then cry all the way home. At my lowest point I cried during service a few times. Crying was my only release for the pain, but it was a temporary release – it simply wasn’t going away. No one could get through to me and no one could help me. This was the point I knew I had to get help; all I wanted, so badly, was just to be Selin again.

I took the step and found a therapist I could connect with, someone who, from reading her website bio, I thought I could relate to. For the first time in my life I really spoke up about everything I felt inside. Initially, my sessions were consumed with my heartbreak, but slowly I moved onto talking about other relationships, work, life, well-being – the important stuff. I discovered things about myself that I never knew were there.

The most important lesson from therapy was self-care: I learnt to put up boundaries and have a work/life balance. Slowly but surely, over the last few years, I have accepted that working constantly does not help – it’s the chef’s go-to, I think, when they are feeling down, but throwing yourself into work is only a temporary fix. At some point you need to stop and just be with yourself.

I now see that my best and most creative ideas come to me away from the kitchen, and if I don’t put trust in my staff they can’t excel and I can’t function. I have come to understand that my (culinary) obsessiveness is not helpful for anyone, least of all me.

I continue to work on myself. Sometimes I get it wrong (but I now know we all do), but I have the tools to work through it now. My advice to anyone, especially my colleagues in the hospitality industry, is: speak to someone. You will know when it is the right someone, because it will all come pouring out. It’s ok not to be ok – it’s so simple, yet somehow so hard to admit.

I’m now Selin again – but the much-improved, better-than-ever version. I’m thankful for the pain. Without it I wouldn’t be me.

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