Depression: How You Label Determines How You Feel

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:

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

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.

Pura vida.

[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 500 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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321 Replies to “Depression: How You Label Determines How You Feel”

  1. Good for you for putting the last part in your post. I really appreciate you saying clearly that this is subject that you don’t want to be made fun off or taken lightly.

    I also am inspired by your blog and would like to say keep up the good work.

    Regards

    Stuart

  2. People dear to me have attempted suicide. It is the hardest thing to help someone who feels so helpless. Thanks for this article. It will mean the world to a lot of your readers.

  3. I want to share the biological underpinnings of feeling bad, both theoretically and personally.

    The problem: Stress, both psychological and physiological (also known as inflammation), has overwhelmed your system with stress hormones, which over time forces your body to shut down.

    The solution: Tim mentioned great ways to decrease psychological stress. Friends and family. Understanding that your current state is not your fault. To decrease inflammation, which will make you feel much better all around: AVOID ALL STIMULANTS. This is critical. Sunlight (Vit D supps if winter). Magnsium supplements. Lithium orotate 20mg(OTC, a tiny dose; found in many vitamin stores). 7-Keto DHEA (extreme cortisol reduction.) Omega 3 fatty acids. Grass fed meats (Eat lots of protein). Fruits and vegetables. Avoid all junk food, minimize starches.

    If followed this regimen will decrease symptoms very rapidly.

    Good luck.

  4. Tim, thanks for this post. I am a psychotherapist and have read your book. There is good solid advice in what you posted. People need to take this seriously. Best, Peter

  5. Great post! One of the better articles I’ve read about depression. I have always shied away from that word and I think you explained why much better than I. The labeling point is very good for those on the down side of things right now. The key is to find solutions. Again, very good post.

  6. Yup. It’s very true that a problem is not the problem. Is how we think about the problem is the problem.

    If something we normally think that’s a problem happen, we can choose to think it as a problem but something else we love or something that gives us power. That itself will not make the problem hurting us in our life.

    Alex Liu

  7. Good post. And some of the comments are extraordinary.

    As some have already pointed out, clinical depression is a genuine physical condition that is categorically different than the natural rhythms Tim was talking about. Tony from NC’s analogy between clinical depression and diabetes is a very good one. This is a topic that hits very close to home for me; my wife has been wrestling with clinical depression, along with acute anxiety, for several years.

    The mental affects the physical, as the physical affects the mental; the distinction between the two is a bit artificial.

    Mental/behavioral approaches to clinical depression can be very effective. Therapy is the most obvious of these, and approaches like Gratitude training, etc. can also work quite well. Robert Anton Wilson created several techniques on this front (outlined in Prometheus Rising) that seem to be a few generations ahead of anything else I’ve seen.

    At the same time, medication can be absolutely necessary. It is for my wife. Once in a long while she’ll miss a day’s medication for some reason. On those days, she employs everything in her extensive arsonal of mental/behavioral techniques to keep herself in a positive mindframe. It generally works, but when she takes her medication the next day, she realizes that she’s operating on an entirely different plane than she was able to reach without it, even with all the extra effort she’d put in.

    She may not need the medication forever. I think it’s possible that the accumulated changes of the mental/behavioral approaches could eliminate her physical imbalances. But for now, to even get to a point where those approaches can really help, the medication is an absolutely necessary tool.

  8. Tim – a really wonderful post from you. In the hypnosis and NLP community we’d use the word “framing” instead of “label”, which is totally irrelevant because they are just words. My point is that I completely agree with you and I encorage people to go learn NLP so they can get the manual on how to work their brains more effectively.

    Heath’s death was very sad indeed.

  9. T, I love your blog and your bright shiny spirit. Until one has suffered from depression in a clinical sense, its easy to put it in the be around friends-be grateful-count your blessings sort of category…Clinical depression is paralyzing. It’s nearly impossible for people in this condition to will their way out…it is particularly troubling and difficult to tell someone who is in suffering to change their perspective//or lift or think their way out, as brain chemistry has a lot to do with why their perspective is indeed limited.I am a big fan of yours and appreciate this post, though it reminded me a bit too much of Tom Cruise’s comments to Brooke Sheilds…much love, regardless! xoJ

  10. I have taken medication for depression for 4 years and it helps me live a normal life. I have normal ups and downs, but I get up from bed and brush teeth and go out every day. Before the medication I could not do that. Everything seemed pointless, even eating, and I really love to eat. But even thinking about what to eat was too hard. I could concentrate on TV for two minutes, I didn’t sleep well, did not wake up, everything looked gray (literally). I cried and was agressive. Now I do not have migrane or stomach pain. I can even be in company of other people.

    I have quit madication two times and I then get manic. Buying, traveling, drinking and sex! Paying all the debts and trying to repair relationships takes years. But being manic is so much fun!

    If you moods don’t hurt you or other people much, it is ok. But real depression, even mild as mine is really a hell on earth.

  11. T… We cannot assume that his passing is due to suicide at this time. What the most pressing issue here in not depression per say but rather HOW we look and treat depression as well as other “disorders” that the medical and pharmaceutical industries have given definitions to. We have become an Instant Gratification society that believes in immediate, magic cures. Feeling anxious, take a pill, feeling blue, take a pill, heck.. ill give you a pill to help elevate the symptoms from the other pills.. You ever wonder why people need so many pills? they do not.

    Heath had 6 drugs prescribed to him because he suffered from Insomnia and anxiety. Its pretty well known that these so called “legal” drugs are abused significantly more the illegal drugs. Heath had those 6 different drugs prescribed to him. Did each of the Doctors who prescribed these drugs know about the effects mixed with one another? What are the results if you mix 3 different sleep aids with 2 different anti anxiety medications mixed with over the counter drugs and a weakened heart from previous heroin issues and missing his 2 year old daughter?

    I had the pleasure of knowing Heath and he was not suicidal at all.. Or have our doctors just become modern day legal pushers doing the bidding of the Pharmaceutical industry. the media will paint this as a depressed person who may have taken his own life when really what happened was he was killed by greed and negligence.there is something going on here but it is not from a celebrity who was going through a rough patch but rather a victim of negligence and the failure of a broken system unable to protect one of its consumers.

    ###

    Thank you for your comment, Brian. These are very good and valid points. It’s important not to jump to conclusions, and the media portrayal just triggered this topic on the blog. I don’t want to imply that the only possibility is suicide, as it could very well not be the case.

    Thanks again,

    Tim

  12. Tim,

    As a published biochemist I can tell you that taking any medication should be a last resort. Doctors are quick to simply write a prescription (and another and another) before making sure a strict regimen of proper diet and excercise is followed first. As patients we need to be educated consumers. The pharmaceutical business is just that..a business (note that profit is in the treatment and not the cure). These days FDA is extremely understaffed so above all we need to inform ourselves of our condition and potential alternatives to meds. Let me clarify that I am not against taking meds. Although a physician’s goal should be to ensure a healthy lifestyle first. The follow-up may be a plan to be weaned off of any absolutely necessary medication. If you haven’t already read Andrew Weil’s best-sellers they’re terrific! With and undergrad degree in botany and MD from Harvard he is an expert in natural remedies and the mind body connection. [www.drweil.com] If only allopathic Western medicine were more in sync with total healing (not just a quick fix to alleviate symptoms) perhaps we’d have a much healthier society mentally and physically.

    -vh

  13. Hey Tim,

    Your book has been a HUGE inspiration. At least a dozen people that have taken my advice and read your book said it changed their.

    Because of you, I am selling my stuff and heading to Argentina for a mini-retirement. Looks like you were just down there but if you will be there in May to July, I’d love buy you a celebratory beer and hit up some clubs.

    Sprock

    ###

    Thanks for the kind words! If I end up going to BsAs during that time, it’s a deal 🙂

    Tim

  14. I too liked this post but for some reason I was particularly struck by the p.s. What a great additional lesson for us all…to ask for (and demand) what we need. Thanks Tim!

  15. This is exactly what Anthony Robbins describes in chapter 9 of Awaken the Giant Within, “The Vocabulary of Ultimate Success.” A life changing book, but especially this chapter.

    The bottom line is that the words we CHOOSE to use to describe and categorize our experiences determines how we feel about them. This gives us the ultimate power of choice to choose words that empower us to feel as fully and completely how we would like to feel.

  16. I appreciate the post and all the previous comments. I’ll just tack on a couple of additional thoughts and resources that some may find helpful.

    In my experience, the mainstream medical community is both lacking in adequate diagnostic tools, and is too quick to prescribe. I’ve read that 1 out of every 6 women’s doctor visits (to all doctors – not just psychiatrists) results in a prescription for anti-depressants. That seems pretty out of control.

    It’s been explained to me that SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by tricking the body into thinking there is twice as much serotonin in the system as there actually is. This tends to be sporadically effective since it’s fully possible that someone’s serotonin level – even when doubled – is inadequate.

    Further, mainstream medicine is perfectly willing to prescribe these medications without doing any diagnostic testing to determine if there truly is a serotonin (or any other) deficiency. I feel that this is for all practical purposes unethical.

    In contrast, a naturopath may be more likely to order blood, urine and saliva analysis to determine the presence of neurotransmitter and other nutrient deficiencies, toxicities and imbalances – and only then prescribe supplements or medications as appropriate, and follow-up to ensure they are being absorbed.

    For anyone interested, the lab that I got my testing done is at http://www.neurorelief.com. They can refer a doctor to order the testing. Of course, it is unlikely that insurance will cover the expense, however I feel it is worth every penny. What is more valuable than your peace of mind?

    While I agree with what others have said about exercise, fresh air, friends, family, attitude and more, if you sense you may be suffering from a temporary or chronic chemical imbalance, why not try to find relief by testing your body for what it really needs before resorting to meds with all their known side effects?

  17. Duality of world, the way we conceive it (negative-positive, ying yang, night and day etc.), leads to consider the existence of duality as a principle imprinted into the neurological mechanisms (hardware) of our brain. There are lots of clues of that, and I believe it is a logical consequence of the duality of the (our) world the way we perceive it (and a premise at the same time- or maybe just a premise!?!).

    in short, the brain is NOT indipendent at all from what you think about it- if it is sick (DEPRESSION), a lot of that (not all) is clearly influenced by WHAT you think about the sickness itself (and NOT just the other way around).

    now, thats premised, please take a better look at the neurological basis of depression, specifically to its interrelation with so called (very badly defined) attention deficit disorder- things are a little more complex than what looks like, still not too complicated necessarily-

    i would recommend you to take a look to the site and book of this very knowledgeable new york psychiatrist http://www.gettingunstuckthebook.com

  18. Hi Tim – thank you for addressing this issue with your sensitive post. Suicide is a terrible thing. And I had no idea how common it was before the Internet, particularly among teenagers.

    If it will help others, I don’t mind admitting that I have contemplated suicide in the past. I was suffering from PTSD and part of that is severe depression.

    Before it happened to me, I assumed that people who committed suicide preplanned it. Then, I saw a knife and I suddenly had this urge to harm myself. It was quite terrifying.

    I knew it was wrong and harming myself would have a devastating affect on others and luckily I managed to stop myself from doing it and get medical help. I felt like that a few times afterwards, but I knew it was wrong and the feeling would pass if I ignored it.

    If anyone does have the same strange feeling or urge that I had, they should get help as soon as possible. If you don’t have friends or family around who can help – go to your GP, or call one of the numbers that Tim mentioned.

  19. duality of the perceived world (night-day, good-evil, ying-yang etc.) is likely mirrored (or generated?) straight in the neurological mechanism of our brain-

    in short, as Tim implies, what you think about the brain or its sickness, influence it- thats true for every social reality, think about financial bubbles for example..

    that premised, I wanted to stress that things may be a little more complex than what seems to be written in today’s post (which bby the way I think is right, per se)

    take a look at this knowledgeable new york psychiatrist website (and book)- It is about the two-way interconnections between depression dissociation and so called attention deficit disorder (“so called” because thats a very bad and misleading definition of the phenomenon)

  20. third time I try to post a totally decent comment- possibly useful-

    depression in many cases can be a little more complex of a phenomena- in particular it becomes so when it interconnects with other behavioral conditions, like attention deficit (very bad definition) and dissociation- there is dense research and results in this specific field, just very hard to find out about it- one possibly useful place is this one http://www.gettingunstuckthebook.com

  21. Thank you for this.

    Living life as in the performing arts brings a huge amount of ups and downs but I try to remember where the richness of my life really is. Generally, it’s right in front of me and I strive to be awake and aware enough to really see it.

    Thanks again.

  22. One of the best responses to Heath’s death I have seen.

    Hadn’t dared to comment on these issues on my blog before, but now I will so I can link back to this post.

    The treatment suggestions in these comments are equally fascinating.

    Most of the self-help is Tony Robbins, or NLP.

    There is a bunch of naturopathy, diet, exercise cures.

    And a bunch of “clinical depression is a different entity entirely” comments too.

    Personally I think medicine is much too quick to make a dividing line between “psychiatric/biological illness” and “psychological / personal development issues”. The problem then becomes if you shift the line one way you get underrecognition. If you shift it the other way you get disease-mongering. There is more grey-zone.

    You have hot-line phone numbers for professional help. Can I add a resource for people to stay safe taking sleeping pills…

    http://www.SelfHelpSleepingPills.com

  23. Saying to yourself, “I’m depressed” really is a sure way to stay that way. I think it helps to distract the mind by, say, doing something else mentally engaging enough to distract the negative self-talk or boost self-esteem. Maybe try helping a friend or loved one with something important or teach something you’re good at. Moods can change very quickly.

  24. what we say to us has a strong effect sure on our brain (on us!)-

    but lets not forget depression is NOT out of nowhere- it has to do with (perceived) reality- it is a way to stop and try to think better- sometimes the solution is about seeing reality more accurately (saying to yourself…) some other time it is about changing reality (for real!!)- and most of the times it is both things at the same time!-

    depression is also, neurologically, about chemical un-balance in your neurons- if you are on the right track of changing things, it makes a lot of sense to consider medications as a SHORT TERM tool, in order to speed up the re-balancing of those chemicals: in a lot of cases depression (hardware) goes with OTHER “software” problems (like low selfesteem) which could sabotage an healthy change process in its infancy- in those cases it could make sense to shut depression down artificially and let the new changed lifestyle sink in (goal being stopping meds asap) in our psychology (software)

  25. Hi Tim

    I am a new subscriber and also interested in the subject of depression. A helpful guide for individuals and their friends and families is to look for these symptoms:

    1. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, ect. that don’t go away.

    2. Negative thoughts repeating over and over.

    3. Thoughts that being gone or dead would be better than this.

    4. Actually thinking about dying.

    5. Making plans on how to take your own life.

    These symptoms can happen in this order or not and over a period of weeks or months. These are my own observations. It is wise to seek help if any of these are present. Unfortunately, for those suffering from clinical depression, these thoughts are a symptom just like a cough is a symptom of a cold. The brain is an organ of the body just like all the others and can get sick – the big difference is that the brain will effect how you think and feel. That’s the tricky part. I do agree with the positive advice from everyone on how you look at things. It’s important, though, not to overlook that if that is not enough, getting help should be the next step.

    Thanks for your post – it has gotten some great comments!

  26. akams razor ! circle of life, teach the children…… all have a really profound meaning now, as if they did not before!

    i got really depressed and did not even know.

    after being abused as a child, after loosing 2 very close friends, i learn’t you can only trust your family!

    so i spent all or most of my time looking forward keeping out an eye for problems, to the point that due to some odd coediences (sp) and a bit of misfortune i managed to work myself into a right state when my son started secondary school. i shut out my wife, one of my 2 boys and went hell for broke. Linda, mark, David, Emma. i love you very much!

    and Davids dad says , David you better behave,

    I hope somebody learns from this,

    Life’s what you make it! and if you don,t or don’t know how to make it, excercise, join in, stand tall, smile and if all else fails seek help. professional if necessary.

  27. Tim,

    Great post, especially with all the rain we’ve had this month in San Francisco. I definitely agree that meals with family and friends keeps you happy.

    You have a great attitude towards life. Keep up the good work. You’re making a difference in other people’s lives through inspiration and common sense. Loved the book.

    Off to dinner now with friends!

    Doug

  28. My own conclusions on the emotions that we respond to is that they are entirely a result of the desires that we have and how well we fulfill them. If we meet or exceed a desire then we experience positive emotions. If we fail to fulfill a desire then we experience negative emotions. Unfortunately this causal relationship is unknown to most people on the planet. Emotions well up seemingly for no reason and we spend a great deal of our lives responding to those emotions instead of dealing with the underlying problem: managing our desires.

    Many of us have desires that are simply impossible to fulfill and yet we don’t know this. We keep knocking ourselves out to do the impossible and this continually triggers off negative emotions. Nothing will make you feel bad quicker than wanting the impossible right now. In the end this struggle against impossibility leads to depression and sometimes, tragically, suicide.

    To counter depression you have to get clear about what things you desire. If you regularly feel depression it is because you want too many things that you don’t have the competency to fulfill. Sometimes you need to develop yourself but sometimes what you want will always prove impossible. When you recognize that you can discard that desire or at least live in awareness of the difficulty of accomplishing it.

    To recover from depression go back to what you can do well. Do the things that you have ability to do easily. This gets you firmly grounded and puts you back in touch with your strengths.

    This article gives some easy to do tips on getting back that grounding.

    http://www.nickpagan.com/blog/12/breaking-the-spell-of-depression/

  29. I agree, great post. I think a lot of people who suffer quote from depression are just unsatisfied with their lives and are looking to have people be interested in their lives. Its a way to get attention but in the end it more self destructive then they realize.

  30. Thanks for a great post.

    I just found this blog and am really enjoying it. I always enjoy intellectual seriousness about serious topics.

    On depression–the quantitative + emotionally sensitive approach really opens up most people toward new realities. Well done!

  31. Thanks Tim,

    Loved your book. This was a great article. I saw Nick speak at my church a few years ago. Very inspirational.

    Thanks for keeping this concept in simple terms: eat with friends, watch your labels, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It works, if you work it!

    Best,

    Robert

  32. Tim,

    Thanks for touching on this subject which affects millions. I think too many people are numbing out from life with alcohol and drugs and other addictions to stop feeling the pain of their life. We are living in a society that seems to be connected by all the electronic means but yet you see the loneliness and isolation around you on a daily basis. I teach high school students and it is so evident in their lives. Everyone wants to love, be loved and understood.

    I have spent years in therapy undoing the faulty thinking and feelings of low self-worth as a person subjected to incestual abuse by an alcoholic father. My faith in God is what pulled me through most of it. I have been in the suicidal stage.

    I am 52, unemployed, subbing in a school district going to different schools daily. My husband is unemployed also. These are not circumstances I thought I would be in at my age.

    I have found that eating right, exercising are critical when you are going through struggles.

    Watch what you see on TV, surround yourself with positive people, music, books and do something to feel you are making strides to get yourself out of the situation you are in. Just don’t numb yourself out of life.

    This too shall pass.

    Jeannie

  33. People’s views on depression and reaction to people who are going through it have an immense effect. Some people don’t feel that anyone cares. Then they get to a point where everything builds up and they can’t stop crying and just want to die. Some of the lucky ones succeed.

  34. Hey tim,

    like the others above I want to thank you for the way you handled the topic of labelling. Yeah I have a few labels and none of them make me feel great and so I don’t use them – I don’t want to be an expert on mental illness – and I don’t ever intend to be to be a text book study for anyone.

    So in general terms I have dealt with depression for most of my life. I accept that I have long episodes of depression – I feel depressed – it is part of the usual cycle for me – but I don’t ever want to say “I am depressed” That dis-ease does not define me absolutely – I have a different name. I also worry how we are led into echoing the words of others – “I suffer from depression” Yep is it something we struggle with under suffrance but I am prepared to survive it – well I do my best.

    The language and the labels are so important in the way that we can all work to limit the stigma of whatever it is that others want to label what we deal with. I don’t want to be a victim I want to be a survivor. And sometimes when I think about it – there are days that I am grateful that I have had to struggle and surivive, deal and cope. There are many wonderful things in my life, many people and experiences that I would not have had the joy of with out that big black dog in my life.

    Thanks for the thoughtfulness of your blog

  35. Possibly a bit off topic this but I hope that it may help somebody else who finds themselves in the same or similar position I was in 18 Months ago.

    1982 I was 12 years old and the local thug, stealing swearing picking a fight with who ever I could, Kicked out of school and sent to a reform school / borstal in Gloucester where I was abused where ½ the school staff later received various Jail terms for offences against children. Not a very nice childhood, but it taught me to fear a few things, the social services just read the news. Schools and divorce.

    Me and my ex wife moved house in order to get our child into a new better school, they did not want him as he had a statement for delayed development. One problem after another.

    Finally they call in the social services, what a bunch of incompetent morons suggesting this and that problems at home, well my wife was having an affair.

    Talk to the local scout leader he has had great positive dealings with our son , School reply ‘that’s not our job’ Social services ‘Somebody in the office will do that’. (6 times I asked)

    Depression coming on now, I could feel the blood start to boil over, head of care at this school had the same surname as head of care in Gloucester.

    Took my son to a children’s man who could find nothing wrong apart from feeling isolated in this new school.

    Worked out the wife was having an affair (which for a Christian type hurts possibly more than for others).

    Finally this member of staff at this new school suggests I am abusing my son in some way to the social services and then tells me that an abuse allegation has been made.

    Social worker ‘we think foster care might be appropriate’

    Now what should I have done?

    So I speak to the scout leader and get him to ask me to quote a statement on his behalf ‘he wants contact with anybody concerned with my child’s care as soon as possible before somebody makes a big mistake’ My wife just could not give a care always going to work.

    So I go to the school on my own pull one out of the bag, tell the meeting of about 8 staff including the social worker I am recording the meeting, a 20 minute speech I had prepared itemising all the things I felt they had done wrong, how their suggestions were causing so many problems at home. The fact I had done this and that to help but nobody was taking my suggestions seriously, oh and the scout leaders comments, I hate these meetings anyway and I am really struggling not to really fly of the handle.

    Put my recording on a disk and took it to the head of the last school asked for some help.

    Finally I suffered a nervous breakdown. Come out of hospital and a fortnight later my wife runs off with a pensioner.

    Nearly back in hospital but no I have children to care for who I love very dearly.

    Fortunately I’ve got our children.

    About a year later now and guess no problems at this new school. Social worker could not run away quick enough, Mental health care closed everything, now from the new school ‘We think your son might be on the autistic register’

    So if the odds are against you do be afraid to do what’s morally right. Despite it seeming there is not a light at the end of the tunnel suicide is a bad thing. I for one feel so a great deal stronger now.

  36. Tim,

    This is the first time I have read your blog. I knew it was sitting here in my in-box. I was feeling really low and wrote out “50 ways to leave your life”, since I’ve already left my so-called “lover”. I’ve got an “in the process of” ex-husband who’s been living off me for 7 years despite my trying to get him to end his money losing business. His favourite saying is “I’ll do it later”, at least it was until I stopped bothering to ask him to help out. For years, he hasn’t contributed one red cent to vacations, dinners out, nanny (who I had to let go because I couldn’t afford to support him, her and 2 kids), kids’ activities, mortgage, cars, you name it. He has a scary temper, yells at my kids and I over the smallest things, and tries to lay the guilt trip on me for his shortcomings (like it’s my fault I don’t make enough money to support a Nanny, which basically seems to me like one wife hiring another wife to do even more work so he doesn’t have to!) My Mum has Alzeimers, my Dad died, my sister has cancer, my dog died last year, my brother is like my “ex” (but fortunately not married so only can hurt himself), my lawyer is incompetent, unethical and greedy, and I have debilitating neck and back pain that the doctor seems to think is not a problem, even though it hurts so much I break down and sob (and I’m not a wimp – I had 2 kids without any medication in my 40’s!). I have no support network, I am totally on my own. (your friends will listen to your sob story for only so long – and they’re certainly not going to replace the 100’s of thousands of dollars your “ex” leeched off you). I have 2 young girls, one of whom is turning out to be rude, mean, demanding, greedy and abusive, just like my “ex” – and she’s not even a teenager yet – arrrrgh! I think that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t want to live to see her grow up to be just like him! On top of all this a third party is trying to wipe me and my business out. I’ve been pretty good at picking up self-help stuff over the past year – meditation, chi-gong, pilates, massage, music, herbal tea, healthy food, going out with friends – but I just can’t seem to “keep my chin up” and bury all this deep inside anymore.

    So, anyway – that’s what brought me to your blog. It’s a nice distraction, but given that I’m a person suffering from some pretty obvious low self esteem problems (how else could I have stayed in such an abusive relationship?), there’s only so much I can do on my own, and I don’t have a huge circle of friends. So I guess one observation is this – I agree, you must absolutely, absolutely surround yourself with positive individuals. I left it way too long, and it is threatening to destroy me. As tough as it is for me now, I haven’t for a second regretted leaving my “ex”. (Aha – I found one positive thought to be grateful for tonight!) For anybody in an abusive relationship, please, please don’t suffer for seven years, end it after a year at most (the relationship that is). Abusive people don’t change (except for brief periods, when they know they’ve pushed you too far, then they say “I’m sorry, I love you” in such a way that you later want to nominate them for an Oscar, but at the time you buy it hook, line and sinker!)

    Anyway, thanks for reading. Perhaps somebody else will read this and feel like they are not alone – there are actually some people still alive who haven’t worked everything out but haven’t taken the ultimate “end the pain” step. Yes, I’m wavering but likely have a little more tolerance for suffering if I can find some competent physician to prescribe me some effective “happy drugs” to get me through this. I feel a little calmer now. Think I’ll go book that doctor’s appointment tomorrow!

    – Cara

  37. Cara,

    I was reading your post and it hit that you are really suffering from matters that may seem insurmountable. It may appear there are no options, but there are always options out. The journey out of these hards times is what makes you the unique individual that will one day be something very important to someone else and possibly the world. Its hard to say what our purpose in the world is and how we may impact others positively. It may being there at one second to help an individual redirect their actions to achieve greatness or it may be becoming a world leader. Each has just the level of importance in the grand scheme of things.

    A little about myself. I grew up in a divorced family during my turbulent teenage years. I experimented with drugs and petty crime as a teenager. I although had a good foundation that set boundaries for me that basically kept me from doing crazy stuff. My mother died of cancer and prior to that basically lived most of my life in a state of druck anger. I did go to college, made a good living as partner in an Investment company and finally married be it after 40 years. I still have struggles like the breakup of my business with my real estate investment partner in a business that was very rewarding and lucrative at the time. Generally, I have been able to deal with these minor distractions and even in my lowest of times contend I am blessed. I grew up with a heavy and somewhat overbearing Christian background and I do personally believe Jesus saved me from myself. (Please do not hang up yet!)

    Not knowing you other than the email descriptor of your life, I usually would not make any assumptions, but I believe you are reaching out and need someone to talk to. I am not a professional shrink and do not really confess to have the clinical answers for you. However, I urge to consider this and not take offense at the suggestion.

    I was brought up to believe there was only one thing I was not to ever consider. That was taking my life. I was told that God put me here for a very important purpose and that I would know why when I got to heaven. However, it was not my right regardless of my condition to ever take my life. I could make many choices good and bad, but this was unconditionally unacceptable. Therefore, in all down spots of my life this boundary has always been there keeping me from even considering such a move.

    I urge you to accept this boundary and take steps to make your journey out where you and become your god given destiny. I can tell you are a very smart cookie and there is a very important purpose for you in this world If you want to chat, my email is deas at my website listed above. (afraid to put it out on the web due to spam).

    PS When I am really down I play a little Bible lottery. I pick it up and turn to any page and see what it tells me. The difference is that I usually win at this lottery!

    You can look me up as Deas Nealy and will find me as well if you want to chat.

  38. Based on the last 3 posts I see a need for a whole new discussion to be started – 2 people pour their troubles out and another jumps in to offer support. Well done but wouldn’t it be great if this took place somewhere obvious rather than buried in the comments area of a single blog post?

    I think the most inspiring thing about Tim’s post isn’t the post itself but the massive response it generated. Thanks Tim.

  39. happiness is something that you do, not something that happens to you. simply living your life and expecting to be happy is absurd. like all good things in life, happiness is something you have to work for. sure, like success in business, it may seem to come so easy for some people that it seems unfair. i think the main problem is that most people are afraid of the changes required to do so. but its definitely there, if you want it.

    where i am now is void of the security blankets we build around ourselves and believe me, it is SCARY. but i work everyday at sucking up my fear and following my heart. after years of resisting (yes, u are resisting), i have finally found my peace of mind.

  40. whoa, what a post. I don’t really have answers for anyone here, as I continue to live in this crazy flow of life we all seem to share together. However, there are infinite directions in which to proceed, and anytime that anyone thinks they have something completely figured out and understood, you can be sure that there are many, many more things to learn and observe.

    enjoy.

  41. Women lie, men lie, numbers don’t.

    Logic is hard.. I’ve been struggling for too long.. thank you for giving me all the tools to succeed.

    I’ve been recently labeled bipolar.. and i’m just fine with that 😀

  42. Tim, great post and I can say with 100% certainty I experience the major peaks and valleys you mention in this post.

    I’ve been following your blog only for a few months now and have definitely been very impressed with lifestyle design. Now that I have a chance to comb through older posts, this one hits home the most….

    I’ve definitely had days where I wanted to do nothing more than hide under the covers in bed. Hearing that this feeling is normal is a great relief. (I don’t actually sleep all day or try to, but the feeling is there sometimes)

    Anyways, thanks for the post and the advice, like most of your other posts I find them extremely relevant and useful.

    Cheers!

  43. Tim,

    as man who passed through a lot of depressions, i can share some experience.

    I’m form european part of Russia, Moscow, so depression is one of the common state here, especially during criss period, and because of short day light time in winter.

    Morning

    0. After wake up and before stand up. 5 minutes of meaningless laughing. Or if its hard for you, gratitude training.

    1. Cat like stretching in bed

    2. Morning exercises

    3. Deep and intense breathing.

    4. contrast(2-3 temperature cycles) shower, finishing with cold water.

    During day

    Sure that what we think is determines our mood and emotions, so I modify “The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment” in this way:

    -Be aware of what are you thinking about. If you complaint to others, thinking negative about situation, or beat yourself — change wrist.

    !But if you immediately change your vision on situation, make compliment to yourself or feel gratitude like in “gratitude training” — wrist is remains same.

    After work, before supper.

    1. good hot shower, to washout workload of mind and body, and few second in cold water to refresh all systems.

    2. If you don’t pray before food, feel gratitude for yourself that you fetch/prepare it ))

    Before sleep

    1.You can do like in article “Relax Like A Pro” or if you not ready for such steps, drink small amount of hot milk with honey.

    2.Try to count all great things which happened with you during day and/or all great things which you have done during day.

    3.Also feel that next day will be awesome!

    During week will be good to make any kind of fitness or dancing, to refresh mind and body. And get some kind of eustress.

    In critical situation(and this greatly helps me) make some kind of catharsis:

    []loud gibberish(speak with friend on language which you don’t know) about all problems and bastards, which you know

    []beating pillows(alone or in company), with soundtrack. Rammstein is good for this, but use your preferences

    []Osho catharsis meditations: dynamic meditation, kundalini meditation, no mind meditation.

    This help to me, and to most of my friends all over the Russia. Hope that it will be useful for 4HWW/blog readers.

    Konstantin

  44. >> “Loneliness” or “isolation” are two common substitutes which are not just more precise but more actionable

    How are they actionable? What if you don’t have any friends at all and are really introverted? I’ve been trying for years to deal with this but nothing ever changes. Somehow all the people I meet have more than enough other, better, less lonely people in their lives. I guess there must be others but they probably sit at home depressed (or lonely and isolated, whatever 😉 and I never meet them…

  45. Hey buddy, if your smart enough to find a great book like the 4hww, you are not alone.

    You are part of a tribe of thousands, hell millions I bet at this point.

    Everyone can make and meet friends.

    What are your hobbies, interests?

    Feel free to email me,

    Sweeney

  46. It took me more than 20 years to realize my depression even though my mother died from indirect consequences of that condition (alcholism and prescription drug addiction…so generously provided by the local GP, who, as with all of the GPs and FPs in rural areas in the 60’s and 70’s, probably created thousands of housewife ‘addicts’ without any knowledge of psychiatry or mental illness).

    There are a lot of behavioural recommendations here, and those are great and supplemental, but TRULY, we have to all acknowledge that this term ‘depression’ is a negative, derogatory and shame-filled term; my physican prefers to call it SERATONIN DEFICIENCY,,,,and likens it to a diabetec….would you BLAME a diabetic or discriminate because they need insulin to regulate their blood sugars?? Highly unlikely. THe same should be sunderstood about people who suffer from anxiety and depression. The sooner we reach that realization, the sooner people who suffer in silence will not feel stigmatized..

    Don’t discount medication in the treatment of anxiety and depression. I still have my ‘dark’ days…but most are ‘normal’ and I can deal with more stress and upheaval than I ever thought possible…even more so than people who are not ‘depressed’…most days, I am the best I can be.

    But, just like someone who has lupus or herpes or shingles…we can have ‘flare-ups’ and it can take some time to get back to normal. But we DO get there. And life is SO worth living. Life is like a box of chocolates…

  47. Hello Tim. Enjoyed reading your post. I’m a counsellor and psychotherapist and work with many people who come in with “depression”. The question that the client and I initially need to figure out is where on the spectrum of depression does their experience sit. On the extreme end you have people who are in bed for 20 hours a day and stop eating and become semi comatose. On the other you have someone who’s in a bit of rut in their life because of their circumstances. Here’s where the problem is they can both end up getting the same diagnosis and treatment. Clearly someone just in a bit of rut doesn’t need antidepressants and CBT, but just needs to sort out their situation and way of viewing it. Hope that adds something to your post.

  48. I just bought How to Stop Worrying and Start Living cheers Tim

    To be quite frank, i think a really effective way to get (non clinically) depressed people out of their funk is to teach them project management.

    Also, fresh air.

    Really sorry about your friends… My uncle committed suicide too, and i don’t think that a gratitude list could have done much to help past a point. Sometimes major mending is needed.

  49. Hello Tim,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and think these are all very good suggestions for handling “depression-like symptoms”. However, I have to play Devil’s Advocate on your theory of what depression is.

    My girlfriend was diagnosed with depression by doctors when she was a teenager and put on anti-depressant medication. She used the medication but struggled with issues of depression throughout her high school years. She finally decided to quit the anti-depressant medication and try to conquer her so called “disorder” herself. Through techniques similar to the ones you describe above as well as yoga and eliminating bad relationships, she has come a long way towards conquering her depression without harmful prescription drugs. This is where my thoughts on depression differ from yours though. I have always been fascinated by human interactions my whole life and have spent a great deal of time simply studying people as well as my own personal research into human behavioral tendencies. I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of people and their behaviors. What I notice in my girlfriend when she has episodes of “depression symptom outbreaks” is different than just a person without a history of depression experiencing a down cycle in emotions. Her episodes are unlike any other emotional down swing incurred by people throughout life. Although I personally cannot pinpoint what exactly is the difference, because I know her so well I am able to pick up on that difference still. It is different than when she is on her period experiencing PMS symptoms, different than when she is simply upset by an event that occurred in life. This is why I believe depression is a real thing and not just a thought process. The power of the mind can be used to control the symptoms of depression but ultimately I believe there is a mechanism in place that is not controllable in those who suffer from certain types of depression.

    Any thoughts?

    1. I believe I agree with you. I posted asking his thoughts on the physiological side of depression, and his thoughts on the different chemical imbalances found within the brains of those who suffer from depression on a deeper level. My girlfriend has also been diagnosed with depression and is currently on medication for it, though I think they’re still in the phase where they’re trying to find out how much or how little will work for her. I also believe there is something else at play here and I’m definitely interested in hearing Tim’s perspective on it.

  50. Thank you for sharing this. Very helpful.

    A number of family members and friends of mine have battled clinical depression for years. My firm also represents veterans, many of whom are in similar situations. It is heartbreaking to see and sometimes experience the struggle. Again, thank you.

  51. Thank you Tim for your sobering words and words that I can relate to. I remember a time in my life when I couldn’t get out of bed I couldn’t move I couldn’t do anything the pain was so so horrible. And I knew that socializing and getting out was the only way I was going to get out of this deep dark hole I was in. But it took a lot of friends and family to get me out. it’s not easy. I didn’t want to be around people. But thankfully for my faith and my persistent friends and family the spark finally ignited and the joy slowly returned to my life. So don’t give up on your friends that can’t seem to get out that deep dark hole because they really need you to pull them out to help them see the light. I think God for those people that were there for me 🙂 life is good and I enjoy it every single day 🙂

  52. So pleased to find this post…as I am one of those who experience debilitating depression. It’s tough when people tell you to “just change your mind and be happy!”, displaying the knowledge gap between those who believe depression to be only a prolonged bad mood.

    When I am in those depths, there is no way to see beyond them. I don’t want help, I only want to cease existing. I feel that there will never be a day when the sun shines only for me. In fact, it’s like the sun has burned itself out and there is only darkness forever. There are no “happy thoughts” to be found, no one to lean on and be there when I’m going through those times, because I have already alienated my entire support system. They don’t see my illness as a social one, only a personal one, and their feelings get hurt when I act like I don’t want anyone around.

    I know all this. I have intellectualized until I feel my head will explode. I have found no easy fix to *not* ending my life. Yet I seem to hold on, day after day. I see my dogs and know that if I choose to die, I must kill them first, because I could never leave them behind, wondering what they did wrong. And that’s one thing I can never do: harm an animal. So THAT’S what helps me hold on.

    There is no quick fix for depression. It’s not a “bad mood.” It’s the mind turning against itself, clamoring for it to kill the body and set it free. It’s a terrible sickness for which we (the depressed) know there is no cure. My doctor has only just begun to understand the truth of this illness. As a writer, I have been able to describe it to him in poetic ways, in concepts that go beyond the clinical. It’s what I call a “convulsion of darkness,” and we cannot stop convulsing.

    Now I’m medicated (despite others’ exclaiming that medications make us into robots). I would rather be a smiling robot than a corpse. The hardest thing to do with a depressed friend is withhold all judgment. I gaurantee that most of us cannot do it. We don’t truly understand what it feels like, and so offer thin platitudes and weak reasoning. Sometimes it’s enough to just BE THERE. You don’t have to provide answers, or dissuade us not to end our lives. If you’re with us, you’ve already taken an enormous first step. Just don’t fuck it up by saying, “Everything will be all right.” 🙂

    1. This is great, man. I have someone very close to me right now struggling with a deep bout of depression and I’m really trying hard to understand and just be there for her. It’s not something that I have really experienced on that level so it’s difficult for me to understand how I need to react and what I can do. Do I try to make it better? Do I just listen? Your post was helpful in that regard. Thank you.

    2. Great points for those of us who have suffered from long term, and severe depression. There’s no quick fix. While intellectually we can understand that optimism may give us a more positive outlook – there’s often no happy thoughts to be found! This is just one of many strategies that can start to improve your life when struggling with depression. Good luck Christian and thank you for sharing!

  53. An important and necessary post, Tim. Thank you. I have lived with bipolar disorder and through clinical depression, and I’m on a lifelong mission to destigmatise both, so I applaud posts like yours. Fortunately, I’m a natural optimist, and even when I’ve been at my worst, I’ve thought it might get better, and it often has. If I could get just one other patient to embrace that way of thinking, then all the time I’ve spent sharing and talking about the disorders will have been worth while.

  54. Again you have wrote exactly the perfect words and with excellent timing! Depression has been the bedfellow of my gratitude. Merci.

  55. As the Late and Great Zig Ziglar used to say (paraphrasing): “It is our duty EVERY day to perform on ourselves a “checkup from the neck up”…. To eliminate ‘stinkin’-thinkin” … And to adopt an “attitude of gratitude”. Everything that occurs is nothing more than the way we interpret it. Focus on what’s good and important. Take nothing personally. Great post Tim.

  56. Hi Tim,

    I think it’s important to distinguish between natural life lows – crisis times, sadness caused by external circumstances, etc – and clinical depression. Clinical depression is a disease, and not one that goes away by adjusting to an optimistic outlook and using different labels.

    I have extremely optimistic, positive friends, who still suffer from severe and disabling clinical depression for prolonged periods of time. Same with things like exercise etc – there are various strategies that can somewhat help alleviate the symptoms of depression, but they’re not a magic cure. One of my friends does sports professionally, and still suffers from severe depression, which honestly, shouldn’t happen if all it took to avoid it was a bit of exercise, a bit of gratitude and a positive outlook.

    It is true that a lot of natural life states are medicalised, and this is important to avoid, and I think in cases like that, this advice is useful. But in the cases where depression is clearly a severe medical condition, hereditary, and something to do with brain chemistry, it’s not useful to dismiss it like this. Clinical depression is not part of a natural cycle of highs and lows, it’s a disease, and can be a very severe and life-threatening one. Medication can be helpful, so can a range of interventions, including things like exercise, mindfulness training, regular therapy, etc.

    Even though depression clearly has a hereditary component, we’ve never been able to precisely nail down a specific set of genes that cause it. However, there are some really amazing proteomics tests just coming out of research (Prof Sabine Bahn’s lab at Cambridge is doing incredible things in this space). They use mass spectrometry, and they can tell from a blood sample whether someone has depression or bipolar, even what medicines they should be taking, and can also be used for tracking recovery, based on different levels of proteins in the blood. So, it’s a real physical thing, it can be tracked, it can be overcome. Just not by optimism alone.

  57. Tim –

    I know you’re very much into biology and so forth, so I was curious: How do you think chemical imbalances in the brain effect depression?

    I ask because I’ve known several people throughout my life who suffer from frequent bouts of depression. I’m personally a very positive and optimistic person, so I have trouble understanding it and grasping the concept, and when I discuss it with these friends and family I tend to suggest many of the things you’ve stated above. Unfortunately I’m told “You just don’t understand. It’s a physical problem as well, I can’t just think positive thoughts and fix it.” and they become very upset with me and shut me out.

    Anyway, I’m a huge fan and I love your work. I’m definitely curious as to your thoughts and/or experiences with the physiological side of depression.

    Thanks!

  58. One of the most interesting studies I’ve ever read about suicide said that there is a “Suicide Triangle” of emotions that, together, can trigger feelings that life is just not worth living anymore: defeat, humiliation, and entrapment. I face a pretty severe depression once a month, just for a day (likely hormonal; not worth going on meds with side effects for) and to combat it, I do things that make me feel victorious, proud, and free – usually stand-up paddle boarding, weight training, swimming, or hiking in nature. I find that even kicking ONE of those three emotions out the door is enough to keep dark feelings at bay so I can hang on until I feel like myself again. For the days before and after (because it’s cyclical, I usually feel it coming, like a storm), I make sure I fill my body with kale, vitamins, and everything that makes me feel strong and capable. You can’t totally control when depression hits you, but you can hedge your bets by being prepared and taking care of yourself. 🙂

  59. I think this is spot on. I tell very similar things to my clients who come to receive Bioenergy therapy and talk about feeling depressed or chronically sad. Tough times ARE tough, and this life isn’t for lightweights, just being alive is an amazing feat for some people, and we never know what someone is dealing with on the inside, so be kind today – it could be an influence that turns out to be a course correction for saving someone’s life.

  60. Dear Mr. Ferriss,

    You are brilliant at giving advice about acquiring skills, productivity, fitness, etc. But afaik you’re not trained physician. This article is wrong on so many levels and I would actually consider it to be dangerous advice. It shows lack of understanding what depression is. You can talk about lows in life and this advice fits perfectly there but when you talk about depression which drives people into suicide your advice can only make things worse. Telling someone who is depressed that they should put a different label on it is no.1 mistake! Furthermore, by quoting Kahneman you give false impression to lay people that you actually know anything about it. As much as I keep Kahneman in high regards, he would be the first to say that he’s not an expert on depression. Happiness is not the opposite of depression. Yes, “conquering depression” improves quality of life and you could say increases happiness but that is not the same. Please, keep giving advice to healthy people.

    You say: “I want to know that I at least made an effort to prevent such terrible loss.” Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Your effort is counter-productive in this case. If you do feel any responsibility for your writing, the least you could do is change the title and give a disclaimer that this article is not meant for people that were diagnosed with depression but for people who occasionally experience a low. The best you could do is to just take it down and stick to the things you know. You’re great at those and I love reading those posts.

  61. Tim, seriously thanks for putting these posts out there. Without addressing this illness, I feel like depression really starts to become a taboo topic and it shouldn’t be. Several members of my family have had issues with, and as a defense mechanism I personally was drawn into a certain learned helplessness about it (very, very sadly). I felt at a certain point that if someone makes the decision to off themselves that they were going to do it anyway. These posts have helped to educate me and now I know when the alerts are flashing – instead of accepting is possibly inevitable – to jump in and assist gracefully and calmly. Education mitigates risk and the world really needed this, especially from someone with your size of audience.

    Thanks again

  62. Very timely article and I agree we go through cycles. There are definitely methods to get the mind in tune with healthy balance throughout life. Going easy on yourself (in terms of expectations) and accepting life as it unfolds gracefully has really helped me.

    Thanks for posting Tim.

  63. Thank you for your input on this topic. It has given me some clarity as I am currently coming out of what I thought was depression but with reading your article I would consider it to be a comparison to others that seem endlessly happy living a life I do not seek. For that reason I need to stop the comparison and realize I’m not them nor desire to live like they do. I choose different struggles and so I shall receive different results until my goals are achieved. Also without the lows how would I know to revel in what is good and not take it for granted. My girlfriend actually sent me this article, knowing how much I’ve been struggling and knowing that I’m a follower of yours. First thing I’m grateful for is her. She took the time to find someone she knows I admire in hopes it might help me in my conundrum. It has. So my first thing I’m grateful for today. Is her. Again thanks for the post and hope to keep following you on your quest to become Jason Bourne. 😉

  64. Interesting view, but depression is much more than simply an outlook on life. Being optimistic is an oversimplification. As someone who has suffered from suicidal depression since I was 14, and who regularly sees friends is not isolated or socially awkward, I can say it’s so much more than what is outlined in this article and I find it offensive to brush it off so easily.

    Is it “normal” to think about suicide on a daily basis? To plan it? While some ups and downs are normal, I’ve never talked to my “normal” friends who have those thoughts. It seems dangerous to discount the serious issues that may be underlying long term, and serious depression.

  65. Tim, thanks for posting this. As a veteran who has lost several friends to suicide, I understand the seriousness and importance of talking about perspective and labeling. After my second deployment I was medicated for depression for years and used my diagnosis as a crutch. It took being brave and talking about it to realize how damaging my outlook about my condition was; fixating on depression leads to… Deeper depression. An honest conversation with a counselor and myself lead me to get off the meds and kick my ass back in gear. Being aware of my ups and downs, but not allowing myself to jump on for the ride, let’s me keep a healthy perspective on things. I hope your post helps someone who needs it.

  66. I rarely ever post on threads like this, but I am sincerely moved by all of the comments I have read (I read them all)…

    I am, to this day, one of the happiest and most optimistic people I know. I have my moments, due to cyclical ups and downs that every human being experiences in their lifetime, but for the most part, I do my best to stay true to who I KNOW I really am. After transitioning from college to post-grad life this time last year (as well as a large handful of other seemingly negative things), I experienced the worst depression I could fathom – depression that I didn’t know actually existed. It took me weeks, after feeling it crawl through my bones for the first time, to finally acknowledge and accept that something was wrong. I ended up seeking therapy with a great friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in years, and it was the best decision I have made in my entire life. Without getting you (the reader) caught up too much in my story, the condensed version of my story is that I am much much better now after 1) a lot of hard work, 2) a lot of research, and 3) a lot of really awesome people.

    Through therapy with a great psychiatrist, I learned that there are 3 types of “depression” genes a person can have: 1) two short alleles of the 5-HTT serotonin transporter gene that dictate a certain level of chronic depression, 2) one short and one long allele that dictate a certain level of depression occurring generally after traumatic events, and 3) two long alleles that dictate that it’s almost impossible to experience heavy or moderate depression in any way. For me, research that assisted me with understanding my brain and myself on a much higher level, also assisted me with conquering my depression. I was lucky with the resources I had to help make it through, but to anyone else going through this: YOU. CAN. CONQUER. IT. It takes a lot of hard work and ambition to beat it, BUT YOU CAN and YOU WILL.

    Here are some things that WILL help. Please know that I understand everyone is different, but I am optimistic a few of these will seriously help you on your journey of conquering depression!

    – remember this phrase and say it every day in the mirror: “I AM NOT THE DEPRESSION.” Depression is a thing that will come and go with the right tools and thoughts.

    – do your best to have an ambitious outlook on conquering your goals. I am a musician and during my depression, sitting down at the drum set was nearly impossible for me to do. It made the depression feel more prominent in my body, but there is ALWAYS ANOTHER OUTLET. For me, working out and spending time at the gym shooting hoops with strangers, was my saving grace. That may not be your outlet, but you’ll eventually find a hobby that seriously helps with finding consistent happiness and positivity.

    – talk to people who will truly listen to you. It’s important to realize that some of your friends won’t want to be your therapist at all times, but a great way to assist with unleashing your thoughts is by keeping a journal. I still write in my journal and it is very therapeutic for me.

    – positivity is key. As hard as it may be to be and remain positive, try as hard as you can. Remember, depression is NOT your reality, and with work and persistence, you will begin to consistently chisel away the negativity.

    – find a good book. I find reading to be (unfortunately) boring most of the time, but reading was one of the only ways I could stand being along. Check out “Feeling Good” by David Burns and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. If you have an aux cord, connect your phone or iPod to your car and get these books via the audible app. I know “The Power of Now” is offered and it is a great way to have the author read your book while driving to your destination! As a teacher with long drives, this was fantastic for me.

    – prescribed drugs are not a necessity, but research proves that they CAN help -most with minimal side effects. Just do your research and remember to be open minded.

    – leaving time in your schedule for yourself is a necessity. Even with a busy work schedule, I left time for the gym, my book, good friends, and stayed away from the things that weren’t making me happy.

    – PLEASE remember, that just like the cyclical nature of life, anything great TAKES TIME. And in this case, persistence as well. Make yourself understand that if you are working as hard as you can to find solutions for yourself, YOU WILL SUCCEED.

    My goal with this is to hopefully assist anyone who may be experiencing any form of depression. Remember, LIFE IS GREAT and it’s just right around the corner 🙂 God bless you!

  67. Thanks Tim! I think this is so necessary to hear, and for those who are ready to hear it, it could be the beginning of a new life.

    As a person who went through “depression” for a number of years, I am so grateful for the person who snapped me out of my self pity and destroyed the label. It was the turning point for me and I’m grateful you have the courage to do that for others. x

  68. I definitely believe everything written here is well and good, but I think it is important to note that clinical depression isn’t part of a person’s normal cycle of ups and downs. Clinical depression is feeling down for “no reason” and the chemical inability to get back up. The things listed here are helpful in treating depression, but someone who has suffered for a long time may mistakenly think doing only these things will treat them. Maybe it will, but if it does not, it can potentially make them feel even more hopeless as they battle with the illness. Friends, just remember that your treatment plan is out there and your pain will go away. There are a lot of people here for you.

  69. Tim, thank you for this post. By understanding the mechanics of biology behind it, it puts it into context and inspires hope more than any prescribed ‘strategy’.

    Thank you again. p.s. Love your serious posts also.They’re important. 🙂

  70. Hey Tim,

    Thank you for sharing. Would you mind elaborating on how your personal journey on how you treated/treating your depression? Ie cbt, neuropharmacology, ect. What other treatments beside your post are you doing to manage your depression? I ask because I have been diagnosed recently. Thanks

  71. “This is just a passing phase, one of my bad days” Gilmore wrote. Depression is just a phase, a hard one. But just keep going and search for help.

  72. Everything is chemicals. When it comes to human chemistry some people are more stable than others. No matter how much mental or spiritual exercising you do, it cannot overcome a severe chemical imbalance in the body.