This post was not planned.
But… I have lost two close friends from both high school and college to suicide, and Heath Ledger’s unexpected death, which shows all the signs of suicide, saddened me on a profound level. It just shouldn’t happen.
To paraphrase Dan Sullivan: the problem isn’t the problem. It’s how you think about the problem that’s the problem.
Here are three concepts that I and others have found useful for preventing the inevitable ups and downs from becoming self-destructive thinking and behavior:
1. Depression is just one phase of a natural biorhythm and thus both transient and needed…
Energy and interest are cyclical. Nothing can peak or sustain red-zone RPMs forever. Normal people exhibit alternating periods of high-output and low-output, the latter being recovery periods during which depleted neurotransmitters stores regenerate, fatigued neural networks recover, etc..
The symptoms of depression often just reflect a system undergoing routine maintenance.
Fixating on the symptoms as “depression” becomes self-fulfilling and can lead to a downward spiral. Don’t jump to conclusions. Having recurring down cycles is natural. Thinking about them as unnatural, and the poor — sometimes devastating — decisions that follow, is what does the damage.
2. How you label determines how you feel.
Don’t use the term “depression,” which is loaded with negative and clinical connotations, without considering other labels that might be more appropriate. “Loneliness” or “isolation” are two common substitutes which are not just more precise but more actionable (the term “depression” doesn’t suggest a solution).
In their fascinating study “Would you be happier if you were richer?”, published in Science, Princeton professors Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, found that perhaps the best indicator of happiness was frequency of eating with friends and family.
If you have to chose one activity to produce an emotional upswing, start breaking bread more often with those who make you smile.
3. Gratitude training can be used pre- or mid-depressive symptoms to moderate the extremes and speed the transition.
It’s frighteningly easy to develop pessimistic blinders and lose sight of the incredible blessings and achievements in our lives. This is common when a single identity — for example, job title and function — leads you to measure self-worth using one or two metrics (like income or promotions, usually in comparison to others) dependent on some variables outside of your control.
Recalibrate your perspective, and prevent over-investment of ego in one area of life, with scheduled gratitude training that takes a holistic inventory of the positive people and achievements in your life.
None of this is intended as medical advice. If you need help, there are people waiting for your call, both friends and professionals:
Hotlines in your state can be found on this page
Sorry for the somber topic, but lifestyle ain’t much without life.
Statistically, out of the millions of people who visit this blog, a fair number will consider or attempt suicide. I want to know that I at least made an effort to prevent such terrible loss.
Be safe and be optimistic. There is a lot to be grateful for… and just as much to look forward to.
[P.S. This is a serious post for me. I can take a good verbal jab, but not on this one. Please no poor humor or nonsense in the comments, or I will permanently blacklist you from this blog with no exceptions.]
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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322 Replies to “Depression: How You Label Determines How You Feel”
this is a great post I gotta say.
Once in a while I also feel somehow unmotivated and undriven, but thats a normal biorhytmic thing like you mentioned above.
My tip for people which are looking to fight their depression is: Start doing some sport! Sports helps keeping your body healthy and erases all your problems for some hours. Don’t forget the happiness you feel when you just defeated you friends in a match of soccer, no matter if it is just for fun or not. At least that helps for me when I’m unmotivated, tired and undriven.
That’s a good point Ricardo. I feel when people say that “sport just isn’t for them” they haven’t found their sport for their type. There seems to be a difference in people who prefer the team sports and the individual sports such as rock-climbing and surfing. These both have their individual advantages and both make for a chance to connect with different communities.
I really have felt a sense of belonging playing different sports and also being around a strength training community that lifts together. It has made an impact on my depression
Low times are not only normal, but we need them. Pain, unhappiness and depression give us a reason to get up and do something. Somewhere I read that the best way to deal with pain whether physical or mental is to pay attention to it, study it, accept it, really feel it, rather than ignore or try to distract ourselves from it. Only then can we deal with it.
“This is the greatest moment of your life and you’re off somewhere, missing it.” – fight club
As someone who suffered badly from depression i can recommend in addition to the post above, varied exercise, cutting back on stimulants like caffeine and taking natural supplements 5http (tryptophan), chromium, and HDA (from Tamarind root). These really really helped.
If you live in the Northern hemisphere where there is a lack of light in winter, full spectrum bulbs are great.
Are these all available in Australia? What kind of affect did these supplements play? Just curious for use
Thanks for that, Tim – useful & timely, & I think you may be right about how you label your mood affecting the mood itself. Have you noticed how much the pharmaceutical industry is making off these so-called “disorders” that didn’t exist in any medical textbook 30 years ago?
A much needed post at this time of year. January always has the potential to be a down month. Nothing to celebrate, no money (after spending too much on the multi national corporate that is xmas.) etc…
I surround myself with the people who are closest. THose who know and love me and value me for who I am. The meals with family and friends is so very true. Exercise is also a winner.
I then have to trust myself and believe that the up-turn is just around the corner.
I have suffered from clinical depression most of my adult life (I am 55). Its important to distiguish between “normal” highs and lows, blues, etc., and serious clinical depression requiring medical intervention with medication and/or talk therapy.
The NIH has good info as a starting point if you want to learn more and do a self-evaluation. Our society has a poor understanding of the disease and stigmatizes those of us who suffer with it. Comments such as “you’ll get over it”, “let it go”, etc., are not helpful, can make things worse, and are based on ignorance and stupidity.
I enjoyed Tim’s post, and Jeff’s clarification. I’ve never had depression, but have had plenty of down cycles – some lasting a while. Whilst I’ve not had these prolonged down cycles for a very long time, when I did it was most certainly not depression. Conversely, friends who have had clinical depression needed professional help (chemical and consultative). Saying to a genuinely-depressed person that they must cheer up, or “you’ll feel better soon” is naiive and unhelpful. To Tim’s point, someone on a down cycle, even a prolonged one, calling their state of mind depression is equally unhelpful. Many commenters here have added good advice, as has Tim: spend time with people who make you smile, get fresh air + sunlight + exercise, invest in sleeping well, meditate, practice gratitude (it’s flat-out weird how forcing yourself to practice gratitude makes you feel legitimately grateful).
Thanks for the sobering post on a tough subject, and one that we don’t really tend to discuss all that often in society.
For anyone who might be looking for some inspiration I just posted a discussion on my site that I recently had with Scott Rigsby.
Scott is the FIRST physically challenged double amputee athlete to complete the Hawaii IronMan Triathlon.
He is truly an AMAZING human being and someone who dramatically turned his life around from depression and despair to “doing the unthinkable.”
Apologies in advance if you don’t allow links in your comment section.
Thank you for your timely and heartfelt post. Normal ups and downs are part of life, but some people get stuck in the downs due to no fault of their own. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol only makes it worse. Dr. Amen has a great website about brain research that can help explain why some people get stuck in their depression and can’t find a way out. http://www.amenclinics.com/
There are so many avenues of help available for someone who suffers. Unfortunately, if they are already stuck then they are not going to be able to advocate for themselves to get the help they need. I really appreciate your suggestions and the follow up comments. I hope someone who needs help reads this, or someone who can help a friend takes some action. Keep up the terrific posts.
I think Anthony Robbins has an incredibly accurate “take” on depression and negative emotions in general. One of his principles is that you aren’t “depressed” — rather, you are “DOING depression.” Meaning, you are playing a recipe for depression, through your physiology (how you are breathing, how you are sitting or standing, what habitual facial expressions you fall into, etc.), through your language (how you are representing things), and through your focus (primarily the questions you are asking yourself).
In other words, “depressed” people tend to find ways to be depressed — through habitual patterns of physiology, language, and focus. Someone depressed tends to slump, to move very little, to breathe shallowly, to have a sad or slack facial expression, to stare vacantly and turn inward, etc. They also tend to frame things in poor language (as Tim pointed out, the very term “depressed” is poor and self-inducing language). And they tend to ask poor questions, which directs their focus inappropriately. Rather than asking what they can be grateful for, they ask “why does this always happen to me?” or things like that.
And some people get really good at playing their habitual recipes for depression.
The good news is, for most, you can break up those patterns and replace them with new ones.
The first and easiest step is to change your physiology. Emotion comes from motion. Just MOVE. Make yourself SMILE. Even if you don’t want to. Make yourself BREATHE and move around and open your eyes. Put on some music: It’s hard to be depressed if you are dancing.
The second thing to do is change your focus. Figure out what negative or unanswerable questions you are dwelling on, and change them. Ask a better question, create a better life. Instead of “Why did so-and-so leave me?” ask “What could be really good about this?” and “What can I do NOW to create a better life, a better me?” and “Who do I love and who loves me, and how does that make me feel?” and “What’s really great in my life right now, and what excites me?”
Create new habits of movement, of physiology; create new language where your old language isn’t serving you; and create new habitual questions.
So many of those we have lost to suicide would be with us still — and they would be with us HAPPILY — if only they had been able to break up the internal recipes they were playing that were causing them to fall into habitual depressive states.
Side note: I think it is revealing that Tim points out one of the best “recipes” for happiness as being eating with close friends and family. Such an environment almost ensures that you will be in a more energetic, “up” physiology, sitting up (rather than slumped), smiling, laughing, breathing, eyes open, gesturing, etc., as well as ensuring that you are not falling into looping negative inner monologues. Your physiology is changed; your focus and questions are changed; your language is apt to be more lively and less negative or caustic. You are moving, breathing, smiling, laughing, talking about things that interest or excite you.
No wonder it helps make you happy.
There isn’t any conclusive evidence, yet, of suicide but thank you anyway for bringing up this topic. Indeed, what is lifestyle without a life…
The best decision that I had made in my life, which freed me from Depression (although it still comes like a thief in the night), was to commit myself to a man with the optimism of a kid.
This is an issue very close to my heart. I’m a student at a top UK university, but of Irish birth (as my name indicates) and my mother has Bipolar Disorder, sometimes termed Manic Depression. Last year I very nearly made a suicide attempt, which is a horrible thing to admit to. The effect of pharmaceuticals on psychiatric care does have some benefits, Olanzapine which my mum is on has made her life livable, but however the sure number of people on Prozac and other such drugs for what is merely sometimes an inability to appreciate that life sometimes needs downtime. As a physics student I certainly know that nature is cyclic, it is this that makes nature work. I’ve lost a few friends to suicide, and almost lost my best friend to it too, and this is a very ‘sad’ time of the year as my grandmother always observes to me. Depression is something that has given me the capacity to feel more, and being sensitive to the world around you is a mere facet of being a highly intelligent individual. I want to share one anecdote, which I feel is probably the best thing I can say. I was at a coffee house with a girl i just met, and an old friend, and about 40 mins into the conversation I remembered why I had recognized her face, she had lost her boyfriend to suicide, about 3 weeks before that. She also typical of her sharp intelligence told me (as I was just recovering from some severe depression, or downtime, or whatever you want to term it) that I wasn’t my emotions, that I wasn’t the state I identified myself with. I thank her to this day, for that observation. We are not our personalities, we are not static, we are like vectors not scalars (to use a mathematical analogy) we improve, and change and adapt. Thank you very much Tim Ferris.
I’m sorry that you have lost friends. It’s odd how some celebrity deaths can really affect us. I was surprised to find myself crying when Princess Diana died, for example.
I find it really interesting and helpful that you make a distinction between depression as unactionable and other labels as being more actionable. I have always found action of any kind the best way to alter an emotional state.
Tim, I do think this post will help some people. Thank you.
I lost my husband to depression several years ago (he was 31), and while I think the advice you’ve given here is one part of the solution, it’s not the whole thing, especially for people with chronic severe depression – the kind that lasts for years. One of the issues my husband struggled with was thinking his depression was his fault, and that he should have been able to handle it on his own, when he really did need help in order to be able to help himself. He finally went to a doctor, and was beginning to see that it wasn’t a personal failure, but that’s when he killed himself. Sunshine, exercise, and attitude will do a world of good, but if you can’t pull yourself up enough to do those things, and you’ve felt depressed for a long time (as opposed to the normal lows you’re talking about), it might be time to seek professional help.
It’s such a tragedy when someone takes their own life because of pain they feel powerless to escape, or because they can’t see what a brilliant light they are in the world.
There is so much truth in your words here, Tim.
As someone who’s survived the black dog of depressive illness – and it is an illness, it’s not a weakness as some might suggest – I can speak from personal experience of the dark depths that exist in the human psyche.
It’s important to realize, though, that when one is in the midst of a depressive episode, one really can’t think straight. Seen from the clarity of distance, suicide isn’t a rational response. But when one is swimming in the dark muck of depression, rationality takes a back seat to the avalanche of pain, loneliness and despair.
For me personally, I can attest to the fact that properly prescribed medication and cognitive behaviour therapy quite literally saved my life. Were it not for an insightful physician, a gentle-yet-firm therapist and – yes – the pharmaceutical industry, I would probably not be here typing these words and enjoying Tim’s blog.
Does that mean that I never get “down” or feel “the blues” anymore? No, of course not. But, as Tim mentions, those are naturally occurring cycles and I now recognize them as such, rather than perceive them as the possible beginning of a downward spiral that could last, well, the rest of my life…
Good words, Tim. Thanks.
I appreciate your addressing this problem. I have been blessed to not have a great deal of depression in my life, but there were some difficult times. I completely agree with your comments. Its sad that folks cannot see the joy in living in both the good times and bad. I really appreciate your passion to free individuals from their perception that they are trapped. Depression is a trap and giving advice on how to escape it is very thoughtful of you.
Until you lose someone to a tragedy such as suicide do you really understand what your true problems are. If more of us would take charge of their lives and make changes they would truely appreciate the voyage that life presents.
Take care and thanks for all your insights.
I remember reading the stories of two young people who committed suicide because they had dug themselves so far into debt that they couldn’t see any way out of it. And on the flip side, we constantly see wealthy celebrities battling depression. Goes to show that you can’t define happiness using someone else’s standards.
I think the other thing to consider is that there is a distinction between a cyclical downtime, and clinical depression. I think maybe Tim was drawing a distinction in his post between the two, but I don’t want to put words in his mouth.
Shooting from the hip, I’d say 90% of people on anti-depression drugs aren’t having depression. They’re just experiencing some downtime and need to get out with friends, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or stop and think about what they can truly be grateful for. However, if they start calling it depression, focus on all the bad things in their life, and start taking anti-depression drugs, then it creates a downward spiral.
On the other hand, there are those that truly have clinical depression and may benefit from anti-depression drugs (as well as the things mentioned above).
Thanks for sharing it Tim, many of us had a chance to experience it directly or indirectly in one form or another. That’s what makes us human after all.
Thanks for that post. Last year was devastating for me. I changed jobs four times, dropped out of two different grad schools, and lived and three different apartments. Adjusting to these different changes was, at times, devastating. I was on medication briefly, which helped, but the biggest help came from staying as involved in my life as I could — I talked to friends, kept trying new things and shared my difficulties. Now, things are much better.
Thanks for posting on depression as a natural part of the life cycle. One of my professors said it best, nothing is permanent, both pain and happiness fade and return. Such is life.
The day I realized that I was the author of my own negative self-talk absolutely changed my life.
If it was ME that was coming up with this negative, self-defeating criticism, that hurt no-one but me…well, I could certainly stop doing that, and focus on the good stuff.
The main thing that got me out of my depression that was caused by my uncontrolled anxiety (I hate to say “anxiety disorder.. that implies I had no involvement with creating my own situation) was realizing that as long as I don’t fear the fear of something, the actual “thing” isnt so bad. I would cause myself needless worry by being scared of the thought of having a panic attack again. When I forced myself to re-experience one, it wasnt as bad as I remembered, and that gave me a little control.
Thanks for a thoughtful & timely post.
I know how you feel. the news reminds us of our own experiences with the subject. A friend committed suicide after spending the weekend with us and making jokes about doing so, which we didn’t take seriously enough. So much left unsaid. Let’s hope for Mr. Ledger’s family’s sake it was an accident. Prayers to them.
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Wow! I, too, was hit by the death of Heath Ledger although suicide was not something I’d considered. Your post and the following comments hit the nail squarely on the head – depression is a state of mind not an infection that can be simply treated with drugs. I applaud your efforts, Tim, to deal with this very real issue. I, too, have been labeled at various times in my life as “depressed” and it always depressed me to be so labeled. From now on, I pledge not to use that label and to seek out family and friends and other “natural” solutions to my funk.
As a lifetime genetic sufferer of chronic major depression, it often isn’t possible to pull yourself out without drugs. After an extended period of depression, your hippocampus actually shrinks, making it a physical disease. As far as I have been able to find out, it does not grow back. Yes there are dips in everyone’s life, but real major depression is like a pit that you cannot climb out of. Would you treat schizophrenia with gratitude therapy?
Compassion is a beautiful thing. Thanks for writing about this topic that effects so many people on our planet
As someone writing a guideline for existentially-depressed youth I can relate to this post personally.
We all need downtime yet we’re swomped with the always-on mentality. From inspirational quotes to people who see you as one dimensional worker bee. Depression is a signal that somethings wrong and needs fixing, and sometimes thats just spending time with loved ones and letting the body fix itself.
As a reader who was recently diagnosed as “Bi-Polar” – (the newfangled name of “Manic Depression”) – I can relate to extreme highs, and deep lows. On the one hand, I agree that when one labels oneself or is given the label of “depressed” it is self fulfilling. On the other hand, the new label – “bi-polar” is not descriptive of the behavior.
One thing that has been a struggle has been overcoming the “diagnosis” – sure, a lot of my life is clearer now that I understand my cycles were a heck of a lot more extreme than the average person.
One book that helped – and I recommend, especially to readers of this blog, is “The Hypomanic Edge” – subtitle: The Link Between a little craziness and a lot of the success in America – by John D Gartner. Very insightful. It’s a good read for anyone interested in the psychology of visionaries that shaped our country.
After reading it, I realized that the extreme swings allowed much more energy and creativity, and that the lows can be managed – Now I feel blessed.
My two cents regarding the best natural cures: Exercise, Good nutrition, good sleep, and of course, good social and family support.
Thanks for the post, and the opportunity to comment.
Thanks for posting on such a sorry and impactful subject this morning… may it reach someone and prevent another tragic outcome.
Thanks for this post. I never expected it and was even surprised to know it helped me. When I was in high school I was suicidal. Depression is something I struggled with for years and thankfully was able to over-come and live a happy life. But there are times when I’m down and because of the past…I panic. I don’t want to go down that spiral again.
After reading your post as simple as the suggestion may be, I never considered the way I label my feelings. I feel immediately better knowing next time I feel ‘down’ I won’t call it “depression”. You’re exactly right when depression suggests no solution…at least not a positive one.
I’ve read your book and put so much into place in my life and business. I’m 28 and I have 2 businesses that can run without me and I get to spend each day with my wife doing whatever we want. I have a lot to be happy about and thankful for.
But I want to thank you for helping me create a lifestyle that leads to happiness and for incredible insight into handling my depression next time it arises. For the first time in a long time I’m not scared about it.
It looked like suicide, but I really hope it wasn’t; I thought of him as a very sensitive and mature person, and a role model for many young people.
As someone who has struggled with clinical depression for several years, your suggestions don’t ring true for me.
For me, depression IS a steady state — not just one phase of a natural biorhythm, not transient. Believe me, I tried for months to rest saying, “I’m not depressed, I’m just a little burned out.” On month 7 of sleeping 15 hours a day, it was time to face that I wasn’t going to rest my way out of my malaise.
There was nothing really “wrong” with my life. I had a lot of things going on that I was grateful for. I’m sure, if it turns out Heath Ledger did commit suicide, we’re going to hear a lot of the same things we heard after Owen Wilson’s alleged attempt: He had so much going for him, what did he have to be depressed about.
To me, that’s, like, the definition of real depression — everything is going well, life has it’s normal ups and downs, and you still feel like crap for months on end.
I agree that people throw the word ‘depression’ around blithely, when other words are more appropriate. If someone close to you dies and you feel bad, you aren’t so much depressed as sad, which is a normal transient emotion. If your only personal association with the word ‘depressed’ is how you feel when something tragic happens in your life, it is hard to wrap your head the kind of continual agony that leads to suicide.
BUT… I don’t think that the people who say ‘depressed’ when they are really just lonely/sad/burned-out are the same people that are in danger of killing themselves.
AND… in my experience, there are a lot of people who are saying they are just lonely/sad/burned-out, when they really ARE suffering from clinical depression. These are people who could really benefit from admitting they are depressed and getting medical and psychological help.
It should also be said that not everyone who is clinically depressed is suicidal. There are a lot of people for whom medical and psychological intervention can help to alleviate crippling-but-not-fatal cases of clinical depression.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can agree that people should avoid the word ‘depression’ IF they are referring to a transient emotion. But if you’re suicidal or if your negative feelings don’t alleviate with time and changes in circumstance, then avoiding the word ‘depression’ isn’t going to help, especially if it keeps you from facing the problem and seeking professional help.
Tim, that was an excellent post. Your concern for others is awesome.
I really appreciate this post.
Good tip on the gratitude. I once did an exercise where I listed out 5 things for which I was truly grateful every morning for 30 days. The trick is you can’t list the same thing more than once. It worked wonders in my life.
I lost a friend & colleague of mine last year to suicide, leaving his young wife and a baby daughter behind. It was a huge shock, also made me realise that not everyone has the ability to manage and cope with their emotional unbalance.
I wish more people could see such great advice as the gratitude training, and can reach out to seek help when needed.
I’ve been kind of a lurker here for a while. I enjoyed that post and I agree with what you have to say, and laud your attempt at advocacy.
Could I link to this article on my blog?
Of course. Please do.
Tim, I appreciate your post and it helps, as I’m going through a bit of a rough time right now myself. As a fellow Costa Rican traveler, I think your sign-off – Pura Vida – and all the meaning behind it is something good to keep in mind when we have our bad moments.
I wish you well and remember – Pura Vida!
This may be the most beneficial post you’ve ever made, Tim. I wasn’t exactly sure where you were coming from before….I got a taste of cockiness which may have been my own misguided judgment. But this post, has got me firmly in your corner.
This is great stuff….a great message. I am proud of what you have contributed and will pass it along to my circle….as I loving break bread with them.
Steve from H.B.
Thanks for this timely post. I live in the great white north of Michigan and have some issues with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). What it has taught me over time is that it is okay to be less productive on those dark and gloomy days (like today). It’s okay to stay home on the weekend, curled up on the couch. It’s okay to not be a rockstar all the time. That’s natural, that’s nature. Sometimes you’ve got to hibernate.
Plus, I more than make up for it in the summer!
This line, from the movie “Bullworth” is both humorous and still worthy advice:
“Never make life or death decisions when you’re feeling suicidal.”
Tim: You really are very special. Thank you for everything you are! “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” Boy if that ain’t you in a nutshell – then I don’t know what is!
My condolences for the loss of your two friends.
Tim, Sorry for the winded post but its great to see compassion and serious recognition of the awesome power that depression can have if its not handled correctly. More people should be alert to the fact that its not unbeatable. I was first diagnosed at 16 with ‘clinical’ depression and from there began a long and intense downward spiral – being told by my parents, doctors, counselors, and myself that I was ill and had to find ways to live with my illness. I was institutionalized twice for major breakdowns. I was medicated through most of my 20’s and into my 30’s on large dosages of anti-depressants. I couldn’t feel anything, happy or sad, unless I drank or used other drugs, further pushing me down the spiral. Every time I took the pills morning and night, I’d be reminded of my lot in life – I had this disease. Then one day while sitting in the latest round of group therapy that I’d been coming to for 2 years, gathering with the other depressed and decidedly diseased, it hit me: how will sitting here convincing each other we’re sick and its not our fault ever help us get on with life? All this approach has done is exacerbate the so called disease and interfered with most of my existence! In a moment that felt like a scene from a Hollywood comedy, I stood up and announced that I had enough being ‘depressed’ and that I was going to take responsibility for my thoughts and my moods. I was finished with medication and with this circle jerk of cajoling each other into escaping life. Looking back the reactions from the group were quite priceless. Some (doctors included) thought I was crazy to suggest it, and others wanted to come with me. But the main point is I did it. I went out to live. I went to a downtown boxing gym and started boxing without ever having thrown a punch in my life. I read every feel good book I could get my hands on using the techniques I discovered to realign my focus from being sick to being alive. I’ve been pharmacy and psychiatrist free for 3 years and have never felt better. In the last 2 years I’ve lived and enjoyed more life than I ever had before – traveling Asia for over a year, aligning my work with my passion, developing incredible relationships with people from all walks of life, and doing things I’d never had the balls to dream of doing 4 years ago. Of course I have bad days, but that’s the beauty of it – what’s most important for me is can feel the bad days along with the good days.
Thanks for this forum Tim!
Awesome Bro! You are my Hero!
Great post! I have dealt with pretty severe depression, both with myself and family members. I too hope this post will help a few of the millions of readers out there.
Tim, thanks for the post. I was quite saddened to hear about Heath on the news as well.
Do you care to share any of your lowest points, and explain what you did to overcome it?
For me, I’ve always found that if I take some time to think about what is really bothering me – and how it can be fixed – that immediately helps a lot. Also, I find learning something new after that point helps to bring my mood up quite nice.
I’m really grooving with life right now, but it wasn’t always like that. I lost almost everything after 9/11 and was reduced to borrowing from family to pay the bills while I worked cleaning grocery stores at night. That was a rough, rough time and it included some treatment for depression.
I wouldn’t wish those dark moments on anyone, where you wish you were almost anywhere other than in your own skin. All I can say is, nothing lasts forever and there are ways out. Life is worth the living.
Thanks for this post, Tim.
I just wanted to add something to people out there struggling with addictions, as I did for many years and I’m only 29.
If you struggle with addiction and can find the resolve and courage to slay that demon – it will become your greatest achievement. In return, the universe bestows a life to you – so brilliant it’s impossible to perceive.
Take the first step and remember, the way you feel today is only today. It is never a reflection of forever.
Wishing brilliance to all in 2008.
“Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”
Excellent post and comments. I would highly recommend any of Dr. John DiMartini’s books and programs. His wise approach is useful for anyone wanting to be more in life incl those who deal with depression, mania, or grief. In short to over-simplify, any time we live in an extreme state (on either end of the scale) we are not seeing the full situation and we are setting ourselves up to fly back to the other extreme. We are most inspired and successful when we realize that out of all good, comes bad and vice versa. He has a process that allows you vividly see this at work in your own life. It is Einstien’s theory in real life practice. Check out The Breakthrough Experience or Count Your Blessings (which is about how to SEE the gratitude in your life.) His own personal story is quite inspiring too.
This topic is real personal for me. Took me 15 years of a painful, bumpy slide downhill to hit rock bottom. Had to make that awful choice. Thankfully, I’ve got good friends that took my pain seriously. Now, I am grateful to be alive typing this comment.
As an outsider it may be impossible to tell the difference between a natural cycle and something worse. After such a close call, I always assume worst case, even from a casual comment.
If a friend is in enough pain to talk with me about it, I always make it clear I am available to talk 24 hours a day and urge them to see a health professional. And I call them and insist they call me, to see how things are going, frequently.
I would like to add one more thing to the great info in the above post and comments. Don’t underestimate the importance of nutrition from quality food sources. Quality food sources being difficult to come by, Vitamin D-3 and fish oil were key factors in how I got my life back. I can definitely feel the difference between being in a natural cycle or down mood and what it was like to be severely depleted, nutritionally.
There’s some great information and quality research at the Vitamin D Council.
I’m not a doctor. The is all personal experience, not medical advice.
Very touching and deep post, Tim. Thanks for sharing these great tips and inspiring your readers to include tips (like writing out 5 things to be grateful for every morning for 30 days)!
Connecting & helping our fellowmen & women is one of the best uses of the net & blogging that I have seen.
I once heard my friend Richard Bandler, the creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) say:
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem!”
Based on what the stock market is doing, all this advice is really going to come in handy. (I wish I were joking.)
Thank you for this post. It is sorely needed. In a country that practices “sickcare” rather than “healthcare,” the industry tries to give normal fluctuations a label. In turn, we all walk around diagnosing ourselves and each other, running out to buy the latest pharmaceutical “miracle.” This is not the answer.
I was in the entertainment industry for years and see the strain it can take on you mentally and emotionally if you don’t surround yourself with good people, stay away from drugs and take care of yourself. I was saddened to see the news about Heath Ledger.
On a lighter note, I enjoy your blog and the lifestyle you espouse. I had all the same thoughts and couldn’t understand why people thought I was crazy. Your book gave me that moment of clarity.
I appreciate all the things you are accomplishing and for your call for people to live their best lives. Keep up the good work.
All the best,
I read a comment above that said cutting out caffeine can help. I could not agree more. I have given up all caffeine in the last year. Right about the 20 to 30 day mark I just felt so good about myself. I was on a current high before I cut out the caffeine but the change was huge and sudden. I couldn’t get dressed in the morning without thinking hey you look good today. That for sure was not a normal morning process for me. I don’t want to sound vane but I found myself lingering in front of the mirror. It was almost like I was viewing myself for the first time. “Who is this handsome man in the mirror?” I had random thoughts of how good today was going to be. I would feel so strongly about it that I would say it out loud to myself…”today is going to be a good day.” When I was thinking about new things to take on my first thought was YOU CAN DO THIS CHRIS! No self doubt just solid self confidence. The only thing I can think it’s linked to is the caffeine fast I have been on. I recently told a friend of mine about it and he has had the same effect. I think he even said he feels more productive. He said he thought he would be too tired to work at the level he needed to but he found that he is less tired and twice as productive at work. I am convinced the change is due to no caffeine. If it is all in my head I don’t want to know otherwise. Haha.
You know Tim, this was very touching, I wish you had written it just about six weeks ago when I lost a good friend to suicide and my grandmother passed away, I had some problems with this myself. My respect for you has been raised considerably for this post.
Thank you for the post. This is actually the first time I comment – I just had to.
One of my high school friends are depressed. I know what you said about the term, and I totally agree, but there really isn’t a better word. It’s a typical sad story of not getting over her ex-boyfriend, abandoning her friends, having a lousy job.. you name it. In the last couple of weeks she’s started to talk about killing herself, and even though I’ve tried to take her to a psycolgist, she has refused. I’m one of the few friends she has left, and we’re not even living in the same city. It is so hard to see her “sink” like this, and I can’t do a lot but to listen.
I totally agree with you regarding the problems and opportunities of labeling oneself. It sure made me feeling better:) I’ve given her the link to this post, and hopefully she’ll read it.
Thank you so much for bringing up this sad but important question. You’re not only helping those in that particulary situation, but those around as well..
Here a quote from my favourite author on this subject:
“All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.”
I read with pleasure other comments in tune with this motto, including Bandler’s quote above. I highly recommend Robbin’s books as a cure.
I have been suicidally depressed many times in my life.
My ‘ah-ha’ moment that has since prevented any serious depressions came during an evolutionary psychology class in college.
One hypothesis is that depression could not have made it down the millions of generations of humans and their ancestors unless it *served* you somehow. If it was hurting you (and your chances of mating), it would have been selected out of your genome. But there it is, to this day, strong as ever.
The explanation could be that depression occurs when your belief system is incongruent with your local band of families (unfortunately in modern times, your band is registered by the brain as the entire society, making this incongruency easy to trigger). Look at the nonverbal communication of depression – your body slows down, your motivation decreases, your goals disappear, you become weak minded… what do all these nonverbals communicate? “There is something wrong, I need attention, the band needs to stop and figure this out”. In effect, the band needs to stop, focus on the depressed individual, and make adjustments. In many ways related, the nonverbals are very similar to those offered during an infection and illness.
When I learned that depression was trying to serve me, to do something beneficial for me, I completely changed my attitude. Now I know that I need to focus on getting more connected with my ‘band of families’ (friends, real family, etc) when I feel depression sneaking in.
Depression can be your friend 🙂
Great post, and I agree with most everything you say, and the follow-up comments. As someone who has suffered from depression, I feel compelled to say that the poster who stated, “…depression is a state of mind not an infection that can be simply treated with drugs.” is not entirely accurate. For some it may be just a state of mind, but for many of us it is also a chemical imbalance that is VERY successfully treated with the right combination of medications AND changes in thought. I tried for several years to just “change my state of mind” and “snap out of it”, trying everything from exercise to a positive outlook to long vacations, but after months and months of angry episodes, mood swings (I’m not bipolar), loss of interest, fatigue, suicidal thoughts, etc., etc., etc., I visited my doctor and discussed my options…I chose to try an antidepressant. I also exercise, meditate, try to stay positive, and generally try to take care of myself like everyone else. The combination, I believe, has literally saved my life. I know drugs aren’t for everybody, but when it’s a chemical problem, telling someone to just “change your state of mind” is like telling a diabetic to “just WISH your blood sugar levels to stabilize”. Not likely to happen. Just my $0.02 worth.
Tony, the last line is an excellent analogy. As overprescribed as anti-depressants are, there are cases where a combination of drugs and behavioral therapy are needed in tandem. The lesser chemical imbalances, as noted by others, can often be corrected with dietary modification and thought training, but serious clinical cases do exist.
Thanks for the comment,
Just wanted to say that this post was especially good and helpful. Hopefully as tragic as the loss of Heath Ledger is it isn’t compounded by learning that he felt no other option than to take his own life. That will be especially difficult for his young daughter in years to come. We all have hard times and how we deal with them defines us but there are differences between hard times and serious depression that goes beyond the ebb and flow of our mental states. Let’s hope that Heath’s death wasn’t by his own hand and if it sadly was that it makes others take a mental inventory not only of themselves but of those around them. Money and fame, kids and material wealth don’t exempt a person from sadness and shouldn’t deny him or anyone else of their right to feel sad.
Hello Tim and Fellow Blog Readers…
This is the best Blog Post i have ever read…
Maximiliano – Latin Athletic
I’ve also had friends close to me commit suicide and my mother has attempted and been hospitalized several times because of extreme depression and risk of suicide. And you are right that this is topic that is and should be somber.
I think my middle school gym teacher had one of the best lines or explanation for why not to commit suicide, and it was, “Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”
Also, thank you for providing the help numbers. Those are great resources, I believe the two major ones listed, and I know many state numbers also offer Spanish help. Those numbers are there to help, and they will do anything they can to help anyone who calls regardless of language. In my own city one of my friends made a full two hour (successful) search to find a hotline volunteer who spoke French for a caller who got out number on a bottle opener.
I think the best cure for bum days is simple. Two words: Fresh Air (or Get Out).
I have had bum days and forced myself to go for a hike. I’d find the local trail, cry my way over to it, hike for an hour and sing along with the radio, while sipping my fruit smoothie on my way home.
It’s not a permanent solution, but the more you do it, the more effective long-term it can be.
Staying inside until your humid, gloomy home starts to smell like your own BO does no good. Your skin gets pail and acne sprouts everywhere.
Go for a nice long walk and you’ll get some color back in your cheeks and your chemicals will balance like never before.
I am grateful for your comments and the link to a great research article. I’m a professor of psychiatric nursing for the largest nursing school in the country and I know the struggles beset our culture when we instill false values. I’ve learned that I don’t really need a big house, or a new convertible. But I can experience these things by leasing a home, buying a used convertible…if those are the things I deem important. But they no longer are. What I know to be important (and this is stressed in that very research piece), is the EXPERIENCE we have every day. Don’t focus on being alone, or not being wealthy. Know that true joy comes from how we live each moment…with our friends, the people who care about us, a bike ride in a beautiful place.
Thank you for your insight and inspiration.
Moving to France in two weeks, thanks to your book!
Tim, I agree totally with your statement about the cycle of biorhythms that body goes through. My wife has noticed in me–she actually sees it before I do, as some of my down-biorhythm behaviors are unconcious and I only notice them when she points them out. Things like extreme light and sound sensitivity, lethargy, irritableness, show up in me when I am beginning a down cycle.
One book that has helped me tremendously is Shad Helmstetter’s book “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself.” This has been a great resource for learning how the words we use affects our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical beings. A cool movie that illustrates well the power of our mind over our body, and the effects of words on our realities is “What the #$%& do we Know.”
Thank you for reminding me that every life must have low as well as high points – it’s something that I tend to forget.
I’d like to tell people that, if they are going through a particularly bad patch, there is probably a suicide prevention line they can call to talk with someone who will truly be there for them, listening and supporting with all their might.
And please don’t forget – there can be medical reasons for depression. If you are very sad for a couple of weeks or more, make an appointment with your doctor.
It was much more serious that depression, not that I am making light of depression. He was having problems sleeping and, as a method actor, he mentally absorbed every bit of toxicity from his characters so he could portray it on screen. He got to the point with the Joker character that he could only sleep about two hours a night.
Well written, Tim.
I think you hit the nail on the head here. What has always surprised me is how, as an outsider looking in to someone like Heath Ledger, it seems as though he has it all; young, famous, good looking, rich, etc.. but clearly that was not the case… this begs the question.. what was missing? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it’s safe to say it is non-materialistic in nature. Along these lines, personally, I take gratitude walks every AM before work- strolling down the street to Starbucks, and walking back ( I live in an urban enviroment) forcing myself to think and appreciate everything awesome in my life – and there is A LOT for all of us. I was pretty bummed out as a baseline before I started this, and you would be shocked at the changes that have occurred. Im no Heath ledger, but I am successful, young, and got a lot of the materialistic stuff. It doesn’t mean squat unless regular maintenance is performed on the inside 🙂
Okay, I’ll stop typing now…
To comment or no?
Here’s a very useful tool book:
Sometime, seriously, it is a matter of the right doctor. If you have a friend in dire straits, do not hesitate to find them good help. It is a horrible muddy murky place to swim out of. Throw out a life ring.
Well said Tim, as usual. Nearly everyone in this country will have at some point in their leaves come into contact with, be related to, or know someone who has attempted or succeeded at taking their own lives. And a frightening percentage reading this will have attempted it themselves. It has touched my life also, and more than once, and it’s devastating. The state of mind that can lead to suicide is no joking matter, and it cares not about a person’s education/socioeconomic standing/political views. I applaud your acumen and concern.
Hi Tim,I am so happy you wrote this post. I was upset as well yesterday hearing about Heath Ledger’s death. I am very thankful you gave resources for people to contact as well as advice. I know about what labels can do and spent 6 years accepting the doctors labeling me as “chronically ill” instead of asking why and what was out of alignment causing my dis-ease. Gratitude is a wonderful tool and the first that started my healing process. It becomes habit to concentrate on the negatives and it is a habit that can be changed once you are mindful of it. I am a huge fan of your book and am glad you took the time out from your regular posts to address a very serious issue. Gratefully, Jenny
Great post Tim! I also enjoyed reading the study by Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman that you linked to. That study didn’t mention that “perhaps the best indicator of happiness was frequency of eating with friends and family.” I’d love to read that study too but haven’t been able to find it through Google though.
Thanks for the post. That conclusion might have been in the Princeton Alumni Weekly review and interview of the researchers. Sorry if I only included one link! I’m not sure where the other is.
All the best,
Amen … you have a gift for helping others to ‘see’ things that are so very important to achieving a fulfilling life.
Everything happens for a reason. So I was sitting at my 9 to 5…feeling blah today. Another entrepreneurial spirit trapped in the corporate condition. Heath’s death had me thinking too..about life..about how we feel…about “depression” and insomnia. I happened to talk to a colleague/friend of mine (who I haven’t talked to in over a year) who has been working for himself for years and he directed me to your book and your site. The twist of fate of that unplanned conversation changed my outlook on my day. I feel re-energized and it was sorely needed today. I also wanted to thank you for the blog because everything you said in it resonated with me and what I was feeling today. I am picking up your book tonight and I’m anxious to see what’s inside. I agree…words are powerful. “Depression” does invoke feelings of helplessness. I find during down times if I just talk to the right person or spend time doing something I love things change, but when I focus on the “problem” I can stay in that down state for longer periods. I think your blog will help others out there, so again, thanks for sharing.
I’ve had one serious bout of depression. It was awhile ago and what I remember is:
1) I felt like utter crap for months
2) I felt like it was never going to end
Although I wasn’t suicidal, it was the first time that I understood why people contemplate suicide.
You just want It to end.
Only when I realized that’s how I felt did it occur to me that I was actually depressed.
I don’t remember when I started to feel better, I just did at some point, gradually.
Opposite of depression? Euphoria. Depression is so painful because of the feeling of endlessness, but euphoria never lasts as long we’d like.
I was wanting a post like that from you and you wrote it. I am in real estate and it hasn’t been easy.
I have been feeling down and hopeless. It seems that anything I try fails. I have ideas and plans but little motivation. Frustrated by the lack of motivation to do the things I think I should do but realize I don’t actually believe it will work. Confused? Yeah, me too.
I have a degree in psychology but I think that was bad for me. I look for reasons to have my down moments instead of seeing them a cycles.
As much as I love your blog I often allow it to make me feel down. As a 36 year old with a lot of ideas and no confidence, I get very little accomplished.
I may be a victim of my own luck. In my life it seems that things came to me and when I push to get things I fail. It might be my filter but I am having trouble resetting it. Recently anything I do in real estate to gain new business works at the beginning and then nothing.
This turned into a whine instead of a thank you. Your post did give me some perspective and you are someone that I admire. If I didn’t have basketball during the week I don’t know where I would be mentally. Now I am just rambling. Once again a great post.
A somber topic, but I appreciate what you wrote. Maybe we should all keep an eye out for friends who might be in need, and invite them over for a meal.
Thanks for this post. I’m so saddened by Heath Ledger’s death and none of my ‘usual haunts’ have mentioned it. I find it so ironic that he had so much that we are supposed to aspire to – good looks, talent, fame, money – yet should hate his life so very much.
A Buddhist teacher that I listened to said that he spends most of his time ‘just listening to people. Because it’s hard, being a human being.’
I get annoyed with our culture that tells us that we are supposed to be happy all the time. If you aren’t happy, then something is wrong with you. By nature, I’m not a cheery person. I’m often somewhat melancholy. But for me, this is okay: it’s part of who I am. It’s only a problem when the people around me tell me to cheer up! It’s different from serious depression, which I know in retrospect that I experienced as PND, and should have sought help for.
I have been thinking about you a lot. Since you make your life very public, I suppose you can do public feedback and connecting as well. If not, I’ll find out.
Let me tell you my story about how I “connected” with you. I was on what I would learn to call a “mini-retirement” from then on. I am from Europe. I had a deal to do in Boston. While officially there is no inflation in the US, I could not find a decent hotel room for less than $ 600. So I did some research and found a 60s yacht on Lewis Wharf for $ 185. I also learnt that flying in and out in three days was actually more expensive than spending the adjoining weekend in New York. So I got a nice loft off Broadway for less than $ 300.
I found myself walking down Broadway early Sunday morning as the city was waking up. I got some breakfast and the NY Times. So when I sat down at my kitchen table, looking at the Empire State Building from the window, in the Times I found a large article about you, which was the only real attention grabber in the paper that day.
It kinda set the day, so we got a cab to a large Barnes & Noble store and pretty much spent the day browsing and reading. At the airport, I upgraded us to business class on my points for the journey back to Amsterdam. I read right through the 4 Hour Work Week on the plane. In my discussions with my business partner the guiding question has since been: “Who the …. is going to do this for us?”
Quite transformative. I am a partner in several businesses. One of the things I do is help people develop their leadership. This is why the post by Steve resonated somewhat. I spent a lot of time thinking and looking at the underlying thinking and processes in your book.
I believe the journey you made to get you where you are today is a story worth telling in more detail, because I believe a lot of people need to make a similar journey before they can just act out the stuff in your book in the same way and with the same energy, intent and focus that you do. It would also make more people connect with you, I believe.
The post about the depression was very thoughtful, compassionate and shows your authenticity. The thoughtfulness shows itself in a very innovative way. I take heart from the fact that a leading American thinker- which you are emerging to be- propagates a behavioural remedy for depression rather than a medicinal one! Which made me like you as a human being, which is a prerequisite for liking your ideas better.
We’re at 51º 59’54.77” N 5º 44’04.93” E. If you want jam about this or just hang out for a few days, let me know with 48 hours notice (and reconfirm coordinates). Pura vida y que el viaje quedaria mas interessante que el destino …
(Wow, I need to spend some time in BA, my Spanish is getting very rusty)
All the best, Martijn
PS your stuff is going mainstream: read this month’s Fast Company magazine. Pfizer has implemented a “OOF” button in Outlook (Office of the Future) for 10,000 employees which allows them to immediately outsource non-core work to … VAs in India.
Thank you for the great post and kind words! I’m doing my best, and I’ll definitely join you for a drink next time I’m in Holland! I love it there.
All the best from another rusty Spanish owner 🙂
I read your post for the first time early this morning, and decided that I was too upset at what I read to reply immediately. I think after a little time and after rereading it a few times this evening, I understand better what you were trying to say. So, I’ll try to explain what upset me.
I do agree that the body has natural ups and downs. But that is not clinical depression. I was 15 when the doctor explained to me that clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a physical problem with emotional symptoms. I finally had a word for what I had been feeling for years, and I was still confused. I had a good life, wonderful family and friends, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs, there was nothing for me to be depressed about. She also explained that those imbalances can happen for absolutely no external reason.
To confuse natural ups and downs with depression trivializes the pain and suffering that a person with depression goes through. Calling depression “loneliness” or “just being sad” is also a dangerous form of denial. If you (or the people around you!) deny what you have, how can you effectively treat it?
If I look at your post as a way to handle natural ups and downs, it’s a great post with very good recommendations. It’s just important to know that there is a difference between those ups/downs and depression.
My thoughts and prayers right now to those who are at that edge, contemplating suicide.
Remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I’m standing on the brink looking down, I don’t have what it takes to raise my head, let alone a pretend smile. It’s like you are all well fed, yet telling someone starving to think their way to health. There aren’t words to explain the shame and fear and isolation and sense of worthlessness that go with the pain – and how anyway can I make you understand when you think you have all the answers.
Thank you for your comment. I definitely don’t have all the answers. People with clinical depression, and I’ve lived with several, often need a combination of professional help and medication, among other things, to make the turn. I know it can be incredibly, unbelievably difficult, and I wish you the best of luck. It is beatable.
All the best,
Reading these comments, I must say that Tim has collected quite a community of quality people around this blog. So much genuine humanity and caring… a real encouragement. Bless you all.
I love this post. Suicide was something I seriously considered for a long period of my life, before I met someone who cared enough about me and could see how far gone I was to start showing me the greatness that life, my life, can have. It’s the people your with that make all the difference. Don’t live alone in isolation and strive to always connect with those around you. It’ll make the world’s difference.
Thanks Tim 🙂
I’m from the Philippines and I’ve just recently become your fan since reading your book and checking out your blog. I really find your posts enlightening and full of useful tips.
It’s probably because we have some common interests. I’m into martial arts, too (Aikido, Jujitsu, Kali, Kendo, etc.) writing (I’ve been a business journalist and I continue to write for our company publication), and I like to travel, too.
Anyway, your post about dealing with depression simply shows that the mind is really a very powerful tool. How we perceive the world using our own “logic bubbles” determines how we live our lives and interact with people. It’s like a software program that runs our lives. Gratitude training can indeed help upgrade this inner software so we become better human beings.
Keep up the good work, Tim!
Just my insight on the subject:
a. Changing one’s physiology can help. The way your body moves dictates a lot of this.
b. Having studied some NLP, there are some good ideas in their teachings
c. Anthony Robbins, Cd series have helped many. He has helped many people who were on the brink of suicide- he was one of the first to test/study NLP
d. Seek savvy advice from those you care about.
e. Change your daily vocabulary, you can dictate what you think by what you say(not in all cases, these are merely suggestions of mine)
We all have our down periods, but must try to find a way to use them as fuel for those days when the spotlight is ours. I am not the most familiar with this subject, but do know that what you FOCUS on is what you feel.
I hope this helps somebody out there, Oh on a positive note I just got pics back from a school in NYC that was helped through LITLIBERATION, i love this program and am committed to helping them even further.
Tim, thanks for the post. I feel the same way about suicide and thought Heath’s death was such a loss-especially for his little daughter.
The scheduled gratitude training is great. Two things that helped me when I was very depressed: exercise and helping other people. Both were very hard to start, but doing a little every day was the key. Both activities allow you to get out of your head and ignore the endless stream of negative and despairing thoughts.
Also- drugs. There are a lot of ant-depressants on the market that are pretty effective and some people are predisposed to depression. Some need those anti-depressants to get them jump started. They don’t work alone, but in concert with therapy or support group/network, some meditation discipline and exercise, there is hope.
Tim, I’m glad you posted the disclaimer about the piece not being a substitute for medical care. I did, however, find your blog very good and with a lot to offer. There is so much to be said for being grateful and looking at what IS working in our lives. You made some excellent points about the mechanics of depression…stress does deplete us of neurotransmitters necessary to help us function emotionally “like ourselves.” Having said that, some people are a little short on useable neurotransmitters to start with, and prolonged and severe stress can cause serious issues. Been there, done that. That clinical depression isn’t normal, and requires treatment to prevent bad outcomes. Many people think that a persistent feeling of sadness is the defining element in depression. Not so. ( I’m a Registered Nurse for 20 years, so I know what I’m talking about.)It’s important to recognize that some of the other symptoms of depression that most people are less aware of include: 1) sleeping problems…too much or too little, 2) eating problems…again, too much or too little, 3) chronic tiredness, 4) loss of interest in activities one normally enjoys, 5) loss of motivation and energy. And yes, a persistent feeling of sadness or poor self-worth CAN be part of it, but doesn’t have to be. Thank you for publishing the great information in your blog. Suicide is very tragic. And clinical depression can be very debilitating, but is very treatable. The normal ups and downs…thank God for them. They help us learn and appreciate life more, I think. You state in your book that desperation, such as sudden job loss and other bad breaks, is often the impetus for some very creative solutions and moves into the much bigger, better things.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the poster child for that concept!
Tim, Great Post! Depression is just another word for hopelessness. I have a high-school friend battling depression currently. I believe, as you do, that how we view our situation can affect how we feel. I also believe that there are serious physiological issues that should be addressed by competent medical personnel. Just remember that we are only just beginning to understand how the brain operates so choose your doctor carefully and preferably with the help of a close friend or loved one. I am well aware that many who read this may not be spiritually inclined and may take offense to my next observation. But, I also believe that if you are not centered spiritually, the clutter of life can creep in and drain you. Thanks for caring enough about your friends and us to post your thoughts. I hope I can use some of your insights to help my friend.
If Heath’s death was a suicide then I worry, because for some reason celebrity suicides make the word ‘suicide’ cool, like when Kurt Cobain died.
I’ve had thoughts and emotions about ending my life in the past, but that’s just what they were — thoughts and feelings. These things are mercurial. They pass. They only become ‘real’ when we give them a name like ‘depression’ or ‘suicide’ and we link those concepts with others, like ‘solution’ or ‘escape’ or ‘cool’
Except it’s not cool. It’s a waste.
Kudos on tackling such a sensitive and difficult topic.
Tim, please delete my earlier comment -10824 . I just realized that [removed] suicide I referred to wasn’t general knowledge, and that field of study being as small as it is… well, I know it’s only a comment, but it’s a small world… I don’t want to cause offence or upset as I’m sure you’ll understand. Apologies for being a high-maintenance reader! Thank you.
No problem. I’ve removed that part of your post. Good call.
Tim, Great Post. I’ve had a constant battle with depression my entire life. Over the years, i’ve come to understand depression very well, and for me at least, have noticed there is a “family component” to depression. I’ve heard it said that psychologists say “our personality is already formed by age 5.” I know for a fact that how we perceive ourselves is often an outlook or “world view” that is handed down through many generations. For example, people on welfare are often 3rd and 4th generation welfare recipients. For me, it was always my Mom and Dad that were the biggest non-believers in me and my “wild dreams” and “visions” for my life. I grew up feeling the world was at my fingertips, but ironically my parents were the primary ones telling me that my goals were “impossible,” “unrealistic,” and needed to be brought down to earth. I think many of us “learn” depression from other family members. For me, i was raised by a single mom. She is one of the most blessed people i know, and has an amazing “four hour workweek” style life, yet she is also BY FAR, the most depressed person i have ever known.
As someone who grew up battling crazy circumstances to long to mention in this comment section, i offer this as advice to anyone out there suffering depression: 1) FIND at least TWO activities that revitalize you, reenergize you, and heal your spirit. And make sure one of these activities is an INTELLECTUAL/CREATIVE activity, and the other is a PHYSICAL activity. For me, my NTELLECTUAL/CREATIVE activity is creating music in my personal recording studio, and my second activity is bodybuilding/fitness. There’s no better cure for the depression blues than creating an amazing piece of music, or having an intense and fulfilling workout at the gym.
hope thats helpful.
Related article in PsychologyToday. Worth the read:
This is a very interesting post and I really appreciate the humanity and love you have put into it, Tim.
Depression is one of those words that flung around a lot these days and I agree with many of the others here that bad times and lows are very different than that consistent depressive state that lives with you. Sometimes sucking you down, other times sitting there on your shoulder weighing you down just enough to know that something is deeply wrong with you. You’re different to other people, take everything to heart, sink into despair at the state of the world or nothing in particular at all.
I have lived in this place on and off for over half my life, but I have also come out the other side, so in my experience clinical depression does not have to be a permanent state. No matter what the doctors say. Let me say this again, this is my reality. Everyone is different and we are all doing the best we can.
For me, I have always refused to accept the diagnosis that there’s something “wrong” with me, something that I must medicate myself against for all my days. I have never done this, but I have tried lots of different therapists and alternative healing practices and I have over time (with lots of work) come to accept that this tendency to depression is just part of me. I am sensitive and creative and I need to work extra hard to stay in the present, be kind to myself, set my boundaries with others and focus on all the joy I have in my life. Now, I know I can choose to see a “problem” or I can rejoice that I feel so much. This helps my writing, makes me empathetic to the struggles of others and contributes to all the wonderful relationships in my life.
So I agree that lifestyle and the mind can go a long way to treat sadness or depression. We do create our reality and we must involve ourselves actively in life to fully appreciate the gift that it is. Life is hope. Life is pure joy. There is always hope and joy to be had; you just have to look for it.
Love and hugs to all.
First, let me say I am sorry for your losses. Nothing eases the pain…
You might also want to know about a good book out by my friend and neighbor titled, Survivors of Suicide by Rita Robinson. (She is the author of about 12 different titles.)
Survivors of Suicide has been reprinted multiple times and just has been released in China because this problem has escalated.
It is a resource anyone reading might find useful…interviews the experts, talks about the physiological components behind it, and lots more.
Appreciate the personal post and wish you well through your losses.
Thank you Tim – this is (as per usual) a great post. It’s important for all of us to remember our natural cycles.
You’re completely right: it is how we label our moods and the attachment to those labels. Everyone has lows and they are obviously necessary. There’s no up without a down and no high without a low.
Keeping it in perspective and allowing the low to run its natural cycle is imperative for a healthy life and lifestyle.
Thanks again for the post and information. I’ll think about this the next time I’m in a low.
Braindump directed to myself and my 4HWW friends.
When I get depressed I think/know that I am valuable to someone. Even when you do not think you are good, needed, etc. someone cares. Even people that do not know you care about you. In my Christian view, I know that God cares for you (whether you ask him to or not) and me (even though I am not capable of being good enough for God). Also, God does not want you to commit suicide, but he has a plan for your life. Why do you think you have made it this far? Look back at your successes, and your struggles. Be thankful for what you have and have made it through. Hard times teach us things, and many times those who face the most struggles succeed if they decide to. If you do not have anything you feel that is a success or anything to be thankful for, try to put your life in perspective with others that have a tougher life.
Another way to get “back in the saddle” is to DO SOMETHING. You may be able to pinpoint something that is causing your bad feelings. Your feelings may be caused by overwork, fear of the unknown, a problem relationship, et al. If you know (or even if you don’t know) the reason for your feelings do something. Do the thing you fear, deal with the problem (maybe in some creative way, a legal way I might add). If you do not know the cause of your problem, just do what you need to do. ACCOMPLISH something that needs to be done. Getting things done can build confidence, even if they are just some to do list items.
I have been accused, by myself and others, of having ADD or being bipolar. I guess some “Depression” comes along with an overactive imagination and wanting to get the most out of life. It seems like weekly I get the blah’s about something. I normally just head back to my to do list, and knock-out a few things out and I feel better.
I think a lot of problems come from the lack of confidence. A lack of confidence can come from many things. Confidence can be regained by many things. I like to get online and beat a few computer generated players on Candystand.com’s ping-pong game.
Life can be tough. When you face that tough time try to remember to look up and think what can I learn from this. Go find a friend or family member (if you don’t have one contact someone, contact me if you want email@example.com). Sometimes a good talk and a confidence builder will get you on track. Remember there are many people, me included, that care whether we know you or not.
Peace and Love -|- G
Many people do have normal ups and downs. Life’s stressors can cause people to feel blue, unhappy, or depressed sometimes.
But then, there is what is called clinical depression. I have never suffered from it. However, my wife has suffered from depression and bi-polar disorder for most of our 16-year marriage. It is not something you can just get over by thinking about it differently. At least not as far as I can tell. It requires professional help. And compassion and care from loved ones never hurts.
Thank you for your compassion.