Jack Straw has spoken of the "mental crisis" brought on by the breakdown in his parents' marriage, the onset of deafness and the death of his baby daughter more than 30 years ago.
In a serialisation of his autobiography, Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor, in the Daily Mail, Mr Straw catalogues a childhood during which he once found his father trying to kill himself in the family kitchen.
The former home and foreign secretary and Labour Party veteran said that his 33 years as an MP have been marked by "traumas and tragedies, sorrows and disappointments".
In the book, he speaks of running away from boarding school and being caned by his head teacher, after which he concluded: "The best way of surviving was to be numb inside. It was an approach I adopted until my mid-30s."
Mr Straw and his first wife, Anthea, lost their baby daughter Rachel in 1976, three days after she was born. It is a blow from which, Mr Straw writes, he has never recovered. "I very rarely cry. It made me cry to write this, 36 years after this poor, innocent, beautiful little girl's passing," he says.
The couple were separated soon after, and Mr Straw married his second wife Alice in 1978. After a flight to Paris, he found he was deaf in one ear.
"Suddenly, everything came to a head. [I had] the sense that I was not worthy and that everything I had achieved was bound to be taken away from me … I fell into a serious depression, accompanied by terrible nightmares."
But regular psychoanalysis, Mr Straw writes, has been key to getting him back on track. "I'm in no doubt that but for his help I would have found the challenges of my adult life very much more difficult."