This happy-looking shot was taken in 1999, when I almost destroyed myself.
In this post, I’m going to talk about suicide, and why I’m still on this planet.
These are stories I’ve kept secret from my family, girlfriends, and closest friends for years. Recently, however, I had an experience that shook me — woke me up — and I decided that it was time to share it all.
So, despite the shame I might feel, the fear that is making my palms sweat as I type this, allow me to get started.
Here we go…
A TWIST OF FATE
“Could you please sign this for my brother? It would mean a lot to him.”
He was a kind fan. There were perhaps a dozen people around me asking questions, and he had politely waited his turn. The ask: A simple signature.
It was Friday night, around 7pm, and a live recording of the TWiST podcast had just ended. There was electricity in the air. Jason Calacanis, the host and interviewer, sure knows how to put on a show. He’d hyped up the crowd and kept things rolling for more than 2 hours on stage, asking me every imaginable question. The venue–Pivotal Labs’ offices in downtown SF–had been packed to capacity. Now, more than 200 people were milling about, drinking wine, or heading off for their weekends.
A handful of attendees gathered near the mics for pics and book inscriptions.
“Anything in particular you’d like me to say to him? To your brother?” I asked this one gent, who was immaculately dressed in a suit. His name was Silas.
He froze for few seconds but kept eye contact. I saw his eyes flutter. There was something unusual that I couldn’t put a finger on.
I decided to take the pressure off: “I’m sure I can come up with something. Are you cool with that?” Silas nodded.
I wrote a few lines, added a smiley face, signed the book he’d brought, and handed it back. He thanked me and backed out of the crowd. I waived and returned to chatting with the others.
Roughly 30 minutes later, I had to run. My girlfriend had just landed at SFO and I needed to meet her for dinner. I started walking towards the elevators.
“Excuse me, Tim?” It was Silas. He’d been waiting for me. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure,” I said, “but walk with me.”
We meandered around tables and desks to the relative privacy of the elevator vestibule, and I hit the Down button. As soon as Silas started his story, I forgot about the elevator.
He apologized for freezing earlier, for not having an answer. His younger brother–the one I signed the book for–had recently committed suicide. He was 22.
“He looked up to you,” Silas explained, “He loved listening to you and Joe Rogan. I wanted to get your signature for him. I’m going to put this in his room.” He gestured to the book. I could see tears welling up in his eyes, and I felt my own doing the same. He continued.
“People listen to you. Have you ever thought about talking about these things? About suicide or depression? You might be able to save someone.” Now, it was my turn to stare at him blankly. I didn’t know what to say.
I also didn’t have an excuse. Unbeknownst to him, I had every reason to talk about suicide. I’d only skimmed the surface with a few short posts about depression.
Some of my closest high school friends killed themselves.
Some of my closest college friends killed themselves.
I almost killed myself.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I said to Silas. I wondered if he’d waited more than three hours just to tell me this. I suspected he had. Good for him. He had bigger balls than I. Certainly, I’d failed his brother by being such a coward in my writing. How many others had I failed? These questions swam in my mind.
“I will write about this” I said to Silas, awkwardly patting his shoulder. I was thrown off. “I promise.”
And with that, I got into the elevator.
INTO THE DARKNESS
“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
– Mexican proverb
There are some secrets we don’t share because they’re embarrassing.
Like that time I met an icon by accidentally hitting on his girlfriend at a coffee shop? That’s a good one (Sorry, N!). Or the time a celebrity panelist borrowed my laptop to project a boring corporate video, and a flicker of porn popped up–a la Fight Club–in front of a crowd of 400 people? Another good example.
But then there are dark secrets. The things we tell no one. The shadows we keep covered for fear of unraveling our lives.
For me, 1999 was full of shadows.
So much so that I never wanted to revisit them.
I hadn’t talked about this traumatic period publicly until last week, first in a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), then in greater depth on Derek Halpern’s podcast.
What follows is the sequence of my downward spiral.
Reading the below, it’s incredible how trivial some of it seems in retrospect. At the time, though, it was the perfect storm.
I include wording like “impossible situation,” which was reflective of my thinking at the time, not objective reality.
I still vividly recall these events, but any quotes are paraphrased. Please also excuse any grammatical/tense errors, as it was hard for me to put this down. So, starting where it began…
- It’s my senior year at Princeton. I’m slated to graduate around June of 1999. Somewhere in the first six months, several things happen in the span of a few weeks:
- I fail to make it to final interviews for McKinsey Consulting and Trilogy Software, in addition to others. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong, and I start losing confidence after “winning” in the game of academics for so long.
- A long-term (for a college kid, anyway) girlfriend breaks up with me shortly thereafter. Not because of the job stuff, but because I became more insecure during that period, wanted more time with her, and was massively disruptive to her final varsity sports season. What’s wrong with me?
- I have a fateful meeting with one of my thesis advisors in the East Asian Studies department. Having read a partial draft of my work, he presents a large stack of original research in Japanese for me to incorporate. I walk out with my head spinning — how am I going to finish this thesis (which generally run 60-100 pages or more) before graduation? What am I going to do?
It’s important to note that at Princeton, the senior thesis is largely viewed as the pinnacle of your four-year undergrad career. That’s reflected in its grading. The thesis is often worth around 25% of your entire departmental GPA (English department example here).
After all of the above, things continued as follows…
- I find a rescue option! In the course of researching language learning for the thesis, I’m introduced to a wonderful PhD who works at Berlitz International. Bernie was his name. We have a late dinner one night on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. He speaks multiple languages and is a nerd, just like me. One hour turns into two, which turns into three. At the end, he says, “You know, it’s too bad you’re graduating in a few months. I have a project that would be perfect for you, but it’s starting sooner.” This could be exactly the solution I’m looking for!
- I chat with my parents about potentially taking a year off, beginning in the middle of my senior year. This would allow me time to finish and polish the thesis, while simultaneously testing jobs in the “real world.” It seems like a huge win-win, and my parents— to their credit —are hugely supportive.
- The Princeton powers OK the idea, and I meet with the aforementioned thesis advisor to inform him of my decision. Instead of being happy that I’m taking time to get the thesis right (what I expected), he seems furious: “So you’re just going to quit?! To cop out?! This better be the best thesis I’ve ever seen in my life.” In my stressed out state, and in the exchange that follows, I hear a series of thinly veiled threats and ultimatums… but no professor would actually do that, right? The meeting ends with a dismissive laugh and a curt “Good luck.” I’m crushed and wander out in a daze.
- Once I’ve regained my composure, my shock turns to anger. How could a thesis advisor threaten a student with a bad grade just because they’re taking time off? I knew my thesis wouldn’t be “the best thesis” he’d ever seen, so it was practically a guarantee of a bad grade, even if I did a great job. This would be obvious to anyone, right?
- I meet with multiple people in the Princeton administration, and the response is — simply put — “He wouldn’t do that.” I’m speechless. Am I being called a liar? Why would I lie? What was my incentive? It seemed like no one was willing to rock the boat with a senior (I think tenured) professor. I’m speechless and feel betrayed. Faculty politics matter more than I do.
- I leave my friends behind at school and move off campus to work — I find out remotely — for Berlitz. “Remote” means I end up working at home by myself. This is a recipe for disaster. The work is rewarding, but I spend all of my non-work time — from when I wake to when I go to bed — looking at hundreds of pages of thesis notes and research spread out on my bedroom floor. It’s an uncontainable mess.
- After 2-3 months of attempting to incorporate my advisor’s original-language Japanese research, the thesis is a disaster. Despite (or perhaps because of) staring at paper alone for 8-16 hours a day, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of false starts, dead ends, and research that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Totally unusable. I am, without a doubt, in worse shape than when I left school.
- My friends are graduating, celebrating, and leaving Princeton behind. I am sitting in a condo off campus, trapped in an impossible situation. My thesis work is going nowhere, and even if it turns out spectacular, I have (in my mind) a vindictive advisor who’s going to burn me. By burning me, he’ll destroy everything I’ve sacrificed for since high school: great grades in high school got me to Princeton, great grades in Princeton should get me to a dream job, etc. By burning me, he’ll make Princeton’s astronomical tuition wasted money, nothing more than a small fortune my family has pissed away. I start sleeping in until 2 or 3pm. I can’t face the piles of unfinished work surrounding me. My coping mechanism is to cover myself in sheets, minimize time awake, and hope for a miracle.
- No miracle arrives. Then one afternoon, as I’m wandering through a Barnes and Noble with no goal in particular, I chance upon a book about suicide. Right there in front of me on a display table. Perhaps this is the “miracle”? I sit down and read the entire book, taking copious notes into a journal, including other books listed in the bibliography. For the first time in ages, I’m excited about research. In a sea of uncertainty and hopeless situations, I feel like I’ve found hope: the final solution.
- I return to Princeton campus. This time, I go straight to Firestone Library to check out all of the suicide-related books on my to-do list. One particularly promising-sounding title is out, so I reserve it. I’ll be next in line when it comes back. I wonder what poor bastard is reading it, and if they’ll be able to return it.
- It’s important to mention here that, by this point, I was past deciding. The decision was obvious to me. I’d somehow failed, painted myself into this ridiculous corner, wasted a fortune on a school that didn’t care about me, and what would be the point of doing otherwise? To repeat these types of mistakes forever? To be a hopeless burden to myself and my family and friends? Fuck that. The world was better off without a loser who couldn’t figure this basic shit out. What would I ever contribute? Nothing. So the decision was made, and I was in full-on planning mode.
- In this case, I was dangerously good at planning. I had 4-6 scenarios all spec’d out, start to finish, including collaborators and covers when needed. And that’s when I got the phone call.
- [My mom?! That wasn’t in the plan.]
- I’d forgotten that Firestone Library now had my family home address on file, as I’d technically taken a year of absence. This meant a note was mailed to my parents, something along the lines of “Good news! The suicide book you requested is now available at the library for pick up!”
- Oops (and thank fucking God).
- Suddenly caught on the phone with my mom, I was unprepared. She nervously asked about the book, so I thought fast and lied: “Oh, no need to worry about that. Sorry! One of my friends goes to Rutgers and didn’t have access to Firestone, so I reserved it for him. He’s writing about depression and stuff.”
- I was shocked out of my own delusion by a one-in-a-million accident. It was only then that I realized something: my death wasn’t just about me. It would completely destroy the lives of those I cared most about. I imagined my mom, who had no part in creating my thesis mess, suffering until her dying day, blaming herself.
- The very next week, I decided to take the rest of my “year off” truly off (to hell with the thesis) and focus on physical and mental health. That’s how the entire “sumo” story of the 1999 Chinese Kickboxing (Sanshou) Championships came to be, if you’ve read The 4-Hour Workweek.
- Months later, after focusing on my body instead of being trapped in my head, things were much clearer. Everything seemed more manageable. The “hopeless” situation seemed like shitty luck but nothing permanent.
- I returned to Princeton, turned in my now-finished thesis to my still-sour advisor, got chewed up in my thesis defense, and didn’t give a fuck. It wasn’t the best thesis he’d ever read, nor the best thing I’d ever written, but I had moved on.
- Many thanks are due to a few people who helped me regain my confidence that final semester. None of them have heard this story, but I’d like to give them credit here. Among others: My parents and family (of course), Professor Ed Zschau, Professor John McPhee, Sympoh dance troupe, and my friends at the amazing Terrace Food Club.
- I graduated with the class of 2000, and bid goodbye to Nassau Hall. I rarely go back, as you might imagine.
Given the purported jump in “suicidal gestures” at Princeton and its close cousins (Harvard appears to have 2x the national average for undergrad suicides), I hope the administration is taking things seriously. If nearly half of your student population reports feeling depressed, there might be systemic issues to fix.
Left unfixed, you’ll have more dead kids on your hands, guaranteed.
It’s not enough to wait for people to reach out, or to request that at-risk kids take a leave of absence “off the clock” of the university.
Perhaps regularly reach out to the entire student body to catch people before they fall? It could be as simple as email.
[Sidenote: After graduating, I promised myself that I would never write anything longer than an email ever again. Pretty hilarious that I now write 500-plus-page books, eh?]
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage…”
– Lao Tzu
First, let me give a retrospective analysis of my near obliteration. Then, I’ll give you a bunch of tools and tricks that I still use for keeping the darkness at arm’s length.
Now, at this point, some of you might also be thinking “That’s it?! A Princeton student was at risk of getting a bad grade? Boo-fuckin’-hoo, man. Give me a break…”
But… that’s the entire point. It’s easy to blow things out of proportion, to get lost in the story you tell yourself, and to think that your entire life hinges on one thing you’ll barely remember 5-10 years later. That seemingly all-important thing could be a bad grade, getting into college, a relationship, a divorce, getting fired, or just a bunch of hecklers on the Internet.
So, back to our story–why didn’t I kill myself?
Below are the realizations that helped me (and a few friends). They certainly won’t work for everyone suffering from depression, but my hope is that they help some of you.
1. Call this number : 1 (800) 273-8255. I didn’t have it, and I wish I had. It’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (website and live chat here). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish.
If you’re outside of the US, please click here for a list of international hotlines.
Sometimes, it just takes one conversation with one rational person to stop a horrible irrational decision. If you’re considering ending your life, please reach out to them. If you’re too embarrassed to admit that, as I was, then you can ping them “just to chat for a few minutes.” Pretend you’re killing time or testing different suicide hotlines for a directory you’re compiling. Whatever works.
Speaking personally, I want to see the gifts you have to offer the world. And speaking from personal experience, believe me: this too shall pass, whatever it is.
2. I realized it would destroy other people’s lives. Killing yourself can spiritually kill other people.
Even if you’re not lucky enough, as I was, to feel loved by other people, I think this is worth meditating on.
Your death is not perfectly isolated. It can destroy a lot, whether your family (who will blame themselves), other loved ones, or simply the law enforcement officers or coroners who have to haul your death mask-wearing carcass out of an apartment or the woods. The guaranteed outcome of suicide is NOT things improving for you (or going blank), but creating a catastrophe for others. Even if your intention is to get revenge through suicide, the damage won’t be limited to your targets.
A friend once told me that killing yourself is like taking your pain, multiplying it 10x, and giving it to the ones who love you. I agree with this, but there’s more. Beyond any loved ones, you could include neighbors, innocent bystanders exposed to your death, and people — often kids — who commit “copycat suicides” when they read about your demise. This is the reality, not the cure-all fantasy, of suicide.
If think about killing yourself, imagine yourself wearing a suicide bomber’s vest of explosives and walking into a crowd of innocents.
That’s effectively what it is. Even if you “feel” like no one loves you or cares about you, you are most likely loved–and most definitely lovable and worthy of love.
3. There’s no guarantee that killing yourself improves things!
In a tragically comic way, this was a depressing realization when I was considering blowing my head off or getting run over. Damnation! No guarantees. Death and taxes, yes, but not a breezy afterlife.
The “afterlife” could be 1,000x worse than life, even at its worst. No one knows. I personally believe that consciousness persists after physical death, and it dawned on me that I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things. It’s a terrible bet. At least here, in this life, we have known variables we can tweak and change. The unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno or far worse. When we just “want the pain to stop,” it’s easy to forget this. You simply don’t know what’s behind door #3.
In our desperation, we often just don’t think it through. It’s kind of like the murder-suicide joke by one of my favorite comics, Demetri Martin:
“Someone who commits a murder-suicide is probably somebody who isn’t thinking through the afterlife. Bam! You’re dead. Bam! I’m dead. Oh shit … this is going to be awkward forever.”
4. Tips from friends, related to #2 above.
For some of my friends (all high achievers, for those wondering), a “non-suicide vow” is what made all the difference. Here is one friend’s description:
“It only mattered when I made a vow to the one person in my life I knew I would never break it to [a sibling]. It’s powerful when you do that. All of a sudden, this option that I sometimes played around in my mind, it was off the table. I would never break a vow to my brother, ever. After the vow and him accepting it, I’ve had to approach life in a different way. There is no fantasy escape hatch. I’m in it. In the end, making a vow to him is the greatest gift I could have given myself.”
As silly as it might sound, it’s sometimes easier to focus on keeping your word, and avoiding hurting someone, than preserving your own life.
And that’s OK. Use what works first, and you can fix the rest later. If you need to disguise a vow out of embarrassment (“How would I confess that to a friend?!”), find a struggling friend to make a mutual “non-suicide vow” with. Make it seem like you’re only trying to protect him or her. Still too much? Make it a “mutual non-self-hurt” vow with a friend who beats themselves up.
Make it about him or her as much as you.
If you don’t care about yourself, make it about other people.
Make a promise you can’t break, or at the very least realize this: killing yourself will destroy other people’s lives.
PRACTICAL GREMLIN DEFENSE
Now, let’s talk day-to-day tactics.
The fact of the matter is this: if you’re driven, an entrepreneur, a type-A personality, or a hundred other things, mood swings are part of your genetic hardwiring. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Below are a number of habits and routines that help me. They might seem simplistic, but they keep me from careening too far off the tracks. They are my defense against the abyss. They might help you find your own, or use them as a starting point.
Most of this boxed text is from a previous post on “productivity ‘hacks’ for the neurotic, manic-depressive, and crazy (like me)“, but I’ve added a few things:
Most “superheroes” are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.
Here are some of my coping mechanisms for making it through the day:
1) Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. E-mail is the mind killer.
2) Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh like this) and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.
3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.
4) For each item, ask yourself:
– “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
– “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”
5) Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.
6) Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.
7) TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.
8) If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.
9) Physically MOVE for at least 20 minutes each day. Go for a long walk, lift weights, take a free online yoga class (YouTube), anything. Ideally, get outside. I was once asked by friend for advice on overcoming debilitating stress. The answer I repeated over and over again was: “Remember to EXERCISE daily. That is 80% of the battle.”
10) Follow a diet that prevents wild blood sugar swings. This means avoiding grains and refined carbohydrates most of the time. I follow the slow-carb diet with one cheat day per week and have done so for 10+ years. Paleo also works great. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fat. High protein and low fat can give you low-grade symptoms of rabbit starvation.
11) Schedule at least one group dinner with friends per week. Get it on the calendar no later than 5pm on Monday. Ideal to have at least three people, but two is still great medicine.
12) Take a minute each day to call or email someone to express gratitude of some type. Consider someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time. It can be a one-line text or a 5-second voicemail.
Congratulations! That’s it.
Those are the rules I use, and they help steer the ship in the right direction.
Routines are the only way I can feel “successful” despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, hit snooze, nap, and otherwise fritter away my days with bullshit. If I have 10 “important” things to do in a day, I’ll feel overwhelmed, and it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, I can usually handle 1 must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2-3 hours a day.
And when — despite your best efforts — you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, never forget: Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes. When I’m in the pit of despair with new book projects, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
TO WRAP UP THIS LONG-ASS POST
My “perfect storm” was nothing permanent.
If we let the storms pass and choose to reflect, we come out better than ever. In the end, regardless of the fucked up acts of others, we have to reach within ourselves and grow. It’s our responsibility to ourselves and–just as critical–to those who love and surround us.
You have gifts to share with the world.
You are not alone.
You are not flawed.
You are human.
And when the darkness comes, when you are fighting the demons, just remember: I’m right there fighting with you.
The gems I’ve found were forged in the struggle. Never ever give up.
P.S. If you have tips that have helped you overcome or manage depression, please share in the comments. I would love for this post to become a growing resource for people. I will also do my best to improve it over time. Thank you.
If you occasionally struggle like me, these resources, videos, and articles might help you rebound. I watch the video of Nick Vujicic quite often, just as a reminder of how fortunate I am:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Dial 988 or 1 (800) 273-8255 (website and live chat here). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish. Outside the US? Please click here for a list of international hotlines.
My recent interview with Derek Halpern – The core of the conversation is about how to overcome struggle and the above suicide-related story, but it also includes business strategies and other lessons learned. My apologies for the weird lip smacking, which is a nervous tic. I thought I’d fixed it, but these stories brought it back 🙂
15-Minute Audio from Tony Robbins – I asked Tony for his thoughts on suicide. He responded with a very insightful audio clip, recorded while in the air. It covers a lot, and the hilarious anecdote about the raw-foodist mom at the end alone makes it worth a listen. NOTE: Of course, NEVER stop taking anti-depressants or any medicine without medical supervision. That is not what Tony is recommending.
Listen in the player above, or download by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
The Prescription for Self-Doubt? Watch This Short Video (Nick Vujicic)
Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You
Two Root Causes of My Recent Depression – This article is by Brad Feld, one of my favorite start-up investors and a world-class entrepreneur in his own right. It’s just more proof that you’re not alone. Even the best out there feel hopeless at times. It can be beaten.
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. This book is not nearly as woo-woo as it might seem. It was recommended to me by a neuroscience PhD who said it changed her life, then by another cynical friend who said the same. It is one of the most useful books I’ve read in the last two years. It’s easy to digest, and I suggest one short chapter before bed each night. For those of us who beat ourselves up, it’s a godsend.
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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1,272 Replies to “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide”
You are one of the only non-musicians that I consider an idol. Thanks for your help, I hope someday I can help many ppl as you do.
no matter what, get sleep, at least 8 hours. crucial. eat healthfully as you recommend, and go no more than 3 hours without eating. make sure to take nutritional supplementation to feed your nervous system i.e. full B-complex, magnesium, herbal support, etc. exercise daily is like making sure you sleep and eat. A MUST!
This is likely the most important thing you have or maybe will ever write. Thank you.
I can guarantee that it will save at least one life and as the proverb goes, “He who saves a life, saves the world.”
My heart goes out to all the people – family, friends, strangers, and first responders – who have witnessed the tragic ending of a life by suicide.
I’m am truly grateful for you sharing such a deeply personal story like this in such a truly reflective and solution focused way. The more people who ‘have a voice’ such as yourself that do this will create a space for those ‘without a voice’ to feel comfortable in sharing their story.
Mental health issues, be it illness or crisis, are so widely prevalent but too rarely talked about openly and I believe the more often you tell this story the stronger part of the change you will be.
I’m undertaking my own piece of work around this in the New Zealand construction industry, where I work, that has the highest rate of suicide in a country that has the highest suicide rate per capita in the OECD. It will be slow going but reducing the number year on year is vital for the future of the industry and our men.
Thank you for being an amazing person Tim. Thank you for sharing your mind and story with us. Thank you.
Miranda – NZ
Beautiful post and important resource you’ve provided – relatable, witty and gut wrenching. I shared with all 3 of my children, and also my sib.
I love you, every time I come across your stuff, it touches a deep place in my heart. Thank you for all your material. Btw I just discovered Andrew Weil’s breathing exercises and sure enough I get to the bottom of this post and see an interview you did with him. You’re the best Tim.
Thanks Tim. This is just so un-talked about, even though I’m sure ts so much more common in people who have ‘made it’. Thanks for the courage to admit it, I’m sure it will help many individuals suffering but also help break the stigma
I’ve lost my brother & my father to Suicide & although I’m not going that way, I’d like to see
People gather together to unite our resources
For this awareness issue and to help people find the healing they need
I was at the same school and same place in ‘99. Late Feb through early April of that year were the toughest times of my whole life. So glad we both came out on the other side. Love, light and respect.
Fantastic post Tim, thank you. Many similarities for me with the culmination of my university education sending me spiralling into a 10-15 year battle with depression. I feel the tide tide is changing on society’s attitude towards depression, we are starting to help each other more and more. Writing and sharing stories like this is a massive help for so many of us. Peace and love. Mike
Thank you for sharing. I am, and have been, in a dark season of my life for some time now. I am well aware of how easy it is to forget that others are experiencing similar scenarios, and am guilty of doing just that. However, when I see someone such as yourself, whom I perceive to be an individual who has their proverbial shit together, admit to their struggles – that speaks to me. It not only makes you seem much more “real”, but it also reminds me that I am not alone. I have admired you for your accomplishments and perceived uniqueness for years. Now I admire you even more for admitting to those weaknesses and using them to help others. I am one of those others and I cannot thank you enough.
Tim, thanks so much for sharing such an important and incredible message. I will be sharing this with the people I know and love. You are right on the mark with your message on everything. Ganel Lynn Condie, another motivational speaker also speaks about this very important message that suicide in fact changes the lives of those family members and friends left behind. I’ve experienced suicidal thoughts myself and have had a couple of friends commit such. I now realize there is so much to life and have chosen to stay. Mental illness is indeed tough, it’s a matter of making the most out of life with such.
Tim thank you so much for this. I’m finding myself in a strikingly similar situation. In my senior year of undergrad at a university in Canada, I’m waitlisted for my dream law school. Everything I sacrificed to win in academia now feels wasted because I have to ride a wave of uncertainty and no good alternatives I’ve given myself in terms of a backup plan, I contemplated suicide for a while considering myself a failure. However reading this, Buckminster Fuller’s moments when he contemplated suicide, and opening up and telling someone about it has steered me away from the final solution.
Thank you for steering me in the right direction.
Thanks for posting/talking about this. Exercise and lots of it helps me deal with depression the best.
Thank you, Tim!
If I did not embrace comedy/humor, I would have been a goner. In what I consider as one of the darkest time of my life, the show The Big Bang Theory saved me. Subsequently, my growing interest in stand-up comedy and American talk shows (Conan, The Daily Show, and YouTube videos of Johnny Carson featuring Don Rickles) carried and lifted me throughout the many failures that followed.
Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you’re speaking out to help others.
My former triathlon coach committed suicide and it still makes me sad.
His girlfriend wrote a book about him and the proceeds go to benefit an organization that helps veterans.
[Moderator: link sensitively removed, due only to blog policy.]
Keep up the good work,
Thank you for your post!! I just came across it on LinkedIn. This really impacted me. Thank you for being brave to share your story and your practical defenses! Is it so similar to my own. I didn’t know ‘successful’ people also dealt with only being able to deal with 1 to-do per day. Despite what I’ve learned about depression, I still label myself as lazy because I can get paralyzed with an average person’s to-do list, which only adds to the snowball of shame and lack of self-confidence. Hearing you have similar struggles will help me stop being so hard on myself. One thing I did want to point out, when I copied the link to this story, to share with someone, the URL address includes “how-to-commit-suicide”. It would probably be best if it used post title “Some Practicle Thoughts on Suicide”.
It’s not a popular opinion but I believe people should have the right (lawfully and culturally) to commit suicide. It would go a long way to removing its stigma. If it were considered a right, not something shameful, perhaps my mother and brother would have spoken out and not committed suicide. If suicide were condoned then people would discuss their suicidal wishes more openly. If people didn’t have to risk confinement in mental hospitals they would speak about the desire more openly, leading to more counseling or at least sayong goodbye. It would mean so much for me to get to say goodbye. And if suicide were legally assisted rules could be put in place about counseling and notifying family, and I might have. It’s a fact of life that everyone dies and thus you will lose everyone. It’s a painful truth to accept. Let’s not pretend that all you have to do is ask for help and everything is is guaranteed to improve. For those who get abandoned and have no support, you say don’t do it, suffer so others can not lose you a little longer. I’m not sure that’s fair. I set my mother and brother free. Freedom is the biggest and most important act of love you can give to another. Cherish them while they wish to be around, love them when they leave. Just my 2¢. You might say I have some experience.
Thanks for the post. I commend your courage. Also, I Want to clarify that I am not encouraging suicide. It is a major factor in my own struggle with suicidal ideation. But if it is not condoned, then sharing your suicidal thoughts feels like risking losing the ability to exit the pain. Many people (myself included) prefer to keep access to the freedom to commit suicide than risk losing it by sharing their thoughts with others. Suicide in these circumstances results of unfinished business and a lack of preemptory counseling. Condoning suicide with a rule of counseling and notifying loved ones will have the effect of more people accessing help or at least saying goodbye which would decrease the pain in the wake of the suicide. Telling people not to commit suicide is missing the point. People don’t want to die, they want to enjoy life. But life isn’t good for everyone, right? So telling them they have to keep suffering just won’t work. Instead, tell them that you will do whatever can be done to maximize their happiness, where happiness exists on a spectrum of happy to miserable, and if the best that can be accomplished is suicide to prevent misery, you won’t remove the option. Then the real conversation starts.
Thank you, Tim. I needed to see this today, more than you can possibly know.
Dear Tim Ferris, you have got to know you didn’t fail anyone. You really didn’t fail anyone. It would have been totally fine not to share this ever, the amount of grief you went through- it doesn’t ever have to be shared. we are glad that you did. But you have to know, you didn’t fail anyone. You didn’t fail anyone. You really truly did not fail anyone by not sharing your deepest heartache. You really didn’t. Wishing you all the best. 🙂
Whenever I feel really down in despair I find riling my 3 little kids up by shouting ‘never retreat, never surrender!!’ And then they start smiling and laughing and repeating it. I find it does 2 things 1. Reminds me I have 3 little kids who love me and who I love and need me, and 2) hopefully instils in them in a comical way that they should ‘never retreat, never surrender’. I’m an entrepreneur that’s had ups and downs and almost felt like I’d lost in life. Please anyone think to yourself ‘never retreat, never surrender’ and to me that doesn’t mean you have to finish whatever bs is getting you to feel so bad but to never retreat from the big game of life, it doesn’t matter if you bankrupt yourself, just remember you can and WILL come back. I’ve never told anyone that’s why I shout that out, so welcome to it world…
Thank you for sharing your story. It is very well written and worth sharing around the world.
What helped me was seeing a Doctor and getting on the right medication, after many failed attempts with previous medications. Going to Church was a big help. And forcing myself to be around people even when it was the last thing I wanted to do, helped to pull me out. I also called close friends to share what I was going through and they would bring me back to myself.
At my worst, I was homeless, had been left by a man I loved with all my heart, which made me feel completely insecure and lost.Most of my family had rejected me as well, so I had to send my child to family because I couldn’t function well enough to even take care of my own kid. Sure, there were days…moments, that I wanted to die. I felt like a loser and burden. I felt guilty even eating food the homeless shelter offered.
It took time, and a lot of hard work. But I did get myself out of the hole I was deeply buried in. Now I have a GREAT job, am feeling stronger and more confident. I still struggle sometimes but have tools now to help and bring me back to thinking more on the light rather than the dark. I recommend CBT. That was a big push to get me thinking in a way that creates positive progress.
Please don’t give up, whoever you are out there. It gets better, I promise. Find what works for you.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.
Tim, finding your podcast has led me to many wonders, the first one being about the research being done with psychedelics and depression which I listened to last year. I have eliminated most other podcasts because I find such value in paying attention to yours, and because being in a severe depression has my brain slowed down to where I can’t take too much input. Reading this article just now had tears forming in my eyes in recognition of your recognition. It means so much to have someone I admire tell his truth. Thank you…I am hoping I get to a place of entering life fully again soon. Betsy Bradfield
Beautifully said and so important to hear. Just the thought “Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think” really drove it home. We love you Tim Ferriss.
Thank you this was incredibly important for me.. I needed to be told of the damage that this can cause. I cried a lot thinking about how devastated my mother and brother and relatives and friends would be. The pain my mum would have to endure at my funeral is too much to bear. I couldn’t do that. I’d rather live and make sure those around me can live at least more joyously than devastate them. I do want to have hope and a better future. It’s just so scary that I can’t really think of how it could be better. But like you said.. got to wait for the storm to pass and stop giving into my shitty harmful thinking. I hate this shitty thinking ruining my life. It should just piss off and go to hell and stop destroying lives. There’s a lot we can live for. We got to keep going please.. pls don’t give up everybody. I know how insufferable the pain can b.. but please.. we can make it pls
Very powerful! I found this to be extremely beneficial and want to thank you for this contribution to the world.
This was a great article, Tim. Thanks for being so reflective and open about your experiences. I am a literacy educator, and it breaks my heart to hear of teens and college students who believe that suicide is the only way out. This is a poem that I wish I could send to everyone who is thinking about suicide:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Thanks for all your great work. It would be great to see published dates on your blog posts because I believe that would provide good time perspective for us readers. Peace!
Thank you for sharing such a powerful post and for being so damn honest that others in this global community feel that they can share their experiences too. Years ago, a friend of mine J committed suicide when she was only 20 years old. She had barely begun to live her adult life. That is something that has stayed with me for a long time.
I live in a country that has the highest youth suicide rate in the Western world and I hope that we keep pushing for solutions in the area of mental health and never, ever stop.
From my own personal experience with mental health issues, these are things that have helped me (combining with exercise, healthy eating, socialising, medication if you need it):
1) Personal power: Moving from a disempowering position to an empowering one. It seems obvious, but some people who suffer from depression may have been in disempowering positions in their life for such a long time that they do not recognise it. Approaching life from an empowering position and operating from there helps to prevent that downward spiral. Just practising that in every area of your life, so that you end doing it automatically.
2) Problem-solving: I think that children should be taught this in school as maybe it would help them in the future. Knowing that there are multiple solutions to every problem and being able to solve problems before they snowball helps prevent stressful emotions. Knowing which problem to solve too – if you solve a big one, you can eliminate alot of smaller ones.
3) Truly know yourself: What is your dominant way of moving through the world? It’s helpful if you know that to see how you can balance that with your other senses so you don’t get overwhelmed. You can also figure out other peoples dominant styles, which makes it easier not to take things personally.
4) Universal connection: I feel that depression breeds on isolation and this separateness creates despair. I feel that, especially now in our world, we need a powerful connection not just to our loved ones, but to strangers globally and to the natural environment around us.
5) Keep going deeper into the positive spaces: Relaxing into those positive spaces in your life and just to keep going even if things do not make sense, work out etc. Some of it won’t, but just keep going. Some people need purpose, passion and meaning in their lives and inspiring things to anchor them in this world. Figure out an upward spiral that is difficult to break.
You are powerful. For J x
PODCAST HAS BEEN ERASED!!!!!!!
Sorry to use all caps for attention. But the fact is, the podcast mentioned twice in this article (in which Derek Halpern interviews Tim) is no longer available, and my internet searching skills didn’t manage to find a copy.
The transcript is still available, but it’s not the same.
I think THE INTERNET deserves to have this podcast. If anyone has it please post a link. it has to be in someone’s computer. I wrote the podcast owner but I’m afraid he may have lost it (yes, this things happen).
Thank you, John. I will check on this now.
Thanks man, now it works everywhere.
I’m a father of 2 kids and for years I’ve wanted to pass on to you the bullet points on what I’ve learned about having kids. I’m not looking for help, a plug, a promo, a book deal, friendship, money, support, a job, a coffee, or anything else. Just to pass you the bullet points of the painfully learned general lessons, just in case you ever want to have children, or want to understand childhood (something that really puts things into perspective). Again, I don’t want anything. I just had to do huge research to rise mine, because I didn’t know shit, and have a few conclusions that fit into two pages. If by any odd chance you want to see it, just write me one line to the email I submitted for this and my prior message.
your right. suicide is just taking your pain and multiplying it dozens of times and passing that pain to others. Not fair on them at all.There is always hope and a way out of depression.
For me, medications have been absolutely necessary, but it was my mother asking me every night if I had taken my meds, that saved my life. My psychosis and depression lifted very slowly, but they they did lift. And I am so grateful to have the life I have.
Depression essentially comes from being locked up in your mind or the false belief that you are only your thoughts. Once out of your mind for a second you become free of mind drama and start appreciating and celebrating life as it is. The mind will never be satisfied with what is currently going on it’s always living in the past or future (it’s job is to do that actually) and nothing is wrong about it, it’s just that we are over identified with it as ourselves. Anyway meditation first thing in the morning is wonderful. I contemplated suicide for a long time and only meditation and yoga made me much happier that the idea of killing myself became so unnatural and weird.
Tim. wow. Such courage to present yourself so openly here, especially when looking back at the happier narrative you presented to the public through your books. I am so glad you found a way out.
We all have backstories that we want to keep hidden. I seriously considered suicide in my late 30s during a very tough time. I remember going to a store and looking at guns. I had two young children at the time with no thought of the legacy my action would leave for them. Thankfully, the storm passed.
I was near tears reading what you wrote here. Thank you for sharing this. You had so very much more to give the world than a thesis judged by a self-important “professor.”
Wow Tim! What a truly powerful story. Years ago in high school I remember reading a poem called something like “Not waving…but drowning”. It was about an old man who waved to neighbors passing by. Although everyone saw him as a happy and kind neighbor, he was really drowning for someone to stop and talk with him. From time to time throughout my life I find myself wondering if individuals, friends, or neighbors are just waving, or are they drowning?
I have a bit of a unique job that puts us in the middle of families coping with the tragic loss of a family member who has unexpectedly taken their lives. I’ve seen how a single act like this can cast a shadow over an entire generation of family.
Thank you for sharing your personal story and thoughts with the rest of us.
Didnt help. Not even in the slightest. Some people are broken beyond repair.
I totally understand what you mean. Sometimes it’s hard to even take the next breath. I hope you will keep going through whatever you are going through. I hear it gets better eventually, no matter what it is.
I hope you will carry on, Daniel445.
Agreed. Me too. Sorry you’re in the same boat. I hope you are well.
Thankyou so much Tim. Thank you.
Thank you Tim. You are a beautiful, brave soul to share and I’m so glad your Mama called.
perfect timing 🙂
Thank you…great words of wisdom as always. I’ve contemplated this route several times. Tried unsuccessful as a kid twice, and recent times (last 3yrs) have gone as far as planned it all out. I read an article similar but not as detailed as yours stating when you commit suicide you are not ending your problems simplify multiplying them 100x and spitting them on all of your family and loved ones…that was a deal killer for me. I couldn’t do that for people I love and care about. Sometimes it’s best to remember you don’t have to be the sole motivation why you do or don’t do something…remembering your worth in the world isn’t always visible or appreciated but you truly do mean the world to someone, I’m sure of that! Thank you for the reminder and action items to keep us on the correct path during our human experience. Much love back @YA!
I needed to hear (read) this today. It’s helped reframe my perspectives on routine shortcomings, failings, and other entrepreneurial difficulties. I guess I’m not the wuss I’ve been making myself out to be (in my head).
It’s been a rough few months & I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. Now I see I’m in excellent company and stronger than I’d realized.
So grateful for your work and this post. Shine On!
Tim, this is Mauricio from Mexico starting my entrepreneurial journey, thank you very much for sharing this with us, what a human being you are!… thanks again!
I have comment about my sexual energy, i quit to all my sad thoughts when i understand that my sexual energy it´s so important for my life!
So much love for you people
I can barely grasp the possibility of what it might be like if the same level of care, concern, and thoughtfulness that are applied to the concept of suicide were equally applied to the decision to reproduce – i.e. the concept of personal responsibility and self-control applied to creating life as opposed to ending it. It’s well and good to reduce present levels of harm, but seemingly so little consideration is given to future harms empowered by social norms that are beyond criticism or reproach. It perpetuates cycles of harm that grow with each successive generation.
It looks like like I’m a little late to the blog, because it was written years ago, but I wanted to comment anyway (even if nobody reads it). My newly 15-year- old nephew who was so close to our family just committed suicide. No warning signs, successfully involved as leader and player in many sports, lots of friends, a very close family who adored him every second of everyday, very polite (but still a teenager), humorous and fun to be around and was thrilled to use his driving permit he received on that day. Almost a perfect life. This was the last person in the world I ever would have thought to exit this world by choice. If he ever knew the unbearable pain and heartache his family would go through, his friends would struggle with, he never would have completed and followed through with this impulsive thought. I’m sure this thought had entered his mind before, but within a half an hour his perfect day an almost perfect life changed forever. His girlfriend had broken up with him (again) and to us it may seem petty and insignificant, but to him it was real, hurt and felt completely overwhelming. This leaves everyone with one question that will haunt us, his friends, the community, but especially his mom and dad. Why?
Thinking about his ‘salvation’ hasn’t even entered my mind because nobody knew his inner pain, could contemplate his thoughts, or judge his immature developing mind. He was young, naive and made a rash decision.
Every situation is different, but this article helped me see what thoughts and rationalizations are contributing to ideations. I appreciate you sharing and helping us all grow in knowledge and compassion from your story. I’m so glad you survived to share it and help others.
I discovered ice climbing, and it helped bring me out of drug addiction and suicidal depression. I needed an activity so intense that it brought me outside myself (the definition of ecstasy) where I “forgot” about my pain and felt connected to the sheer animal joy of being alive. Thanks so much for your post.
Some people argue against using “shame” or “fear” tactics against suicide. Personally, that’s what saved me. Are there better ways? Yes, of course. But when it’s life and death, USE WHATEVER WORKS. If laughing at a fart sound board is what convinces you to stay, then so be it! If imagining a police officer telling your family is what keeps you, then GOOD. Use that.
You’re fighting for your life. It doesn’t matter what weapons you have to use. “If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.” Better to be alive with some unhealthy coping mechanisms and negative self talk than not alive. You can heal from unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I’ll say it again: Fight with whatever you have and whatever you have to. Just. Stay.
Stay for any reason you can, until you’re glad you did. That day will come. Until then, just stay.
After living a life in despair, depression trapped in addiction, feeling half dead, I was able to break free with DMT. Watching your podcasts, especially those with Gabor Mate helped me realign my mind, brain and body over the course of an intense week, all while isolated during COVID. I could not have done it without the valuable insights shared by you and I am still sober and in my right mind 3 months later, learning and healing more every day. Thank YOU!
Need to let you know this one still has legs. Was a good read six years after you wrote it.
While my experience is different – I suspect there’s more going on that drives suicide than your “consciousness” approach can either see or contextualize – it contains some real gems and, if nothing else, the story of your descent creates an experience in the reader of not being the only one. As you know, the logic of understanding that millions of people have killed themselves in the past is meaningless when the mind gets locked in a similar loop. Just like your mom kicked you out of that loop (but didn’t make the problem go away, you had to do that yourself) your blog post helps do the same.
As a long-time meditator and 10 year meditation teacher who has followed you since you first wrote 4HWW I had to laugh that it took meditation to get you to finally crack apart so the deep material can be viewed. All the psycho-help, all the psychedelics, nothing really touched at the core break until you sat in meditation for 10 days. In my view based on what you’ve written since the guidance you have gotten and are getting are not aiming you in the right direction, either. I don’t think you yet view that experience for what it was – the opening that can lead to true healing – based on comments you recently made about it.
You continue to cling to the notion the guy doing the podcasts and writing the blog posts is the real guy. Dig deeper.
If you want to hear someone else describe a similar problem listen to Walter O’Brien’s interview with Dave Asprey. When he talks about working to solve a particular problem set that almost made him insane (I forget what the problem was) he’s describing exactly the same thing. The closer he gets to true ego death the closer it gets to killing him. That’s how it works. As John Lilly so aptly said in “Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer,” “the way out is the way through.”
It’s the Christ story. Gotta die before you get to rise. It sounds like you already died when you cracked. How you view that experience after you come back is critical for growth and only someone who has had it can guide you. Even then it’s problematical if they’ve been taught by others who’ve not experienced it. Care is required in your choice of mentors and many of your current guides are guiding you poorly.
Best wishes to you, Tim. Thanks for everything, including this.
Thank you. This made a difference for me. Problem isn’t solved but it helped.
No one talks about suicide.I am a survivor of my mom’s suicide. I was eight. There is a shame to the family when a loved one dies by suicide. Thank you for posting about the pain suicide gives to those left behind. It took me forty years to come to terms with my mom’s suicide-literally. Part of me will never be over it. I used mindfulness to handle my grief. It can also be used to manage difficult emotions. We don’t want to make permanent decisions on temporary emotions. Thank you for your post.
This was beautiful Tim. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for this, Tim, from my whole heart. I really needed some simple guidelines right now. Been following your mental health journey in your posts and podcast for a while and it’s wonderful that you have this post here, always easily reachable.
One weird tip for others that I found helpful at times (when I’m so overwhelmed that I want to feel physical pain to stop the emotional pain) is writing on my belly. The tip of the pen seems to stimulate the need for something physical (although it doesn’t hurt, it raises a similar type of mental alertness that calms/shuts the emotions) — and I write the feelings I feel or other words that come to me, whatever that is. Perhaps something like “hurt, wrong, always alone, unlovable, always hurting others, not important…” And then, with another color, I write ” responses” to those words, as if a loving, friendly person would give them: “caring, shining, kind, creative”… The important thing (for me) is to not force the second part — just give it a chance. If it doesn’t come, that’s okay too. Somehow, the physical stimulations together with acknowledging the difficult emotions and then opening up to care… it can sometimes slowly pull me out of the shithole. Maybe it can help someone else as well.
A tip specifically for Tim: I think it might be helpful to put clickable links in the beginning of this article that take one directly down to the concrete tips and/or the helpline numbers. I was searching for the tips today (literally ducking “suicidal thoughts tim ferriss help”). I found the article quickly but in the midst of a huge emotional crisis, I actually gave up scrolling in the middle of your story (as I’ve heard it and read it before and wasn’t in the mood to reread the whole thing in the moment, as touching as it is). So I only came back now that the storm passed. It’s just a minor thing but I still thought I’d tell you so that you can consider it.
Either way, thank you again, Tim. And keep on going. Your story is so important and I’m amazed at how far you’ve come wrt healing your past trauma. Whenever I hear of your past, I just want to go and hug and protect the little and young Tim… Although you seem to be doing a great job of it yourself now.
Also thank you to everyone else, sharing your tips in the comments. And if you’re reading this while having a difficult time — yes, I mean you — I’m sending you a huge, warm, bear-like hug, and trust me when I say that I want you to live and shine. You’re wonderful and so love-worthy.
I found a doctor who let me try a different thyroid medicine, one that was all T3, the active thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone that makes your brain work and your body feel good. It took some trial and error to figure out the dose and timing. T3 is short acting. Most patients take it multiple times a day to maintain it’s benefits.
I figured out the dose and timing. I felt GREAT! This was the best I had felt in at least 20 years. Then someone broke into my home and tainted my condiments with sugar. Sugar makes me sick. I was going through a divorce at the time and gave just about everything away. After going AWOL, from the first full-time job I had had in over a decade, I realized what had happened and replaced my condiments.
Amazingly enough, I wasn’t fired. Though my home kept getting broken into. I was living on a military annex. The general public did not have access. When I tried talking with my co-workers about my home invasions, my internet being hacked and phones being monitored, they told me that I said my ex was doing it. My ex was living in Virginia. I was in the US Southwest. Since they told me something I new wasn’t true, I figured it was them.
So my co-workers were willing to break respect, courtesy, and trust. They were not willing to risk a show of favoritism or break time-in-grade. I was of the opinion that if they treated me that way once, they’d do it again. I didn’t want to live like that. I quit my job and moved.
I’m grateful for your post. I’ve been sick for 20 years, not because the drug I needed didn’t exist. I was sick because so called modern medicine thinks I don’t need it. It’s like someone being allowed to regulate the air you breathe. And they think oxygen will kill you. None of us can live without the hormone T3, yet most doctors are reluctant to prescribe it.
I’m happy! Happy to be functional again. And overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a job in the age of Covid.
Thanks tor writing this Tim. When I was a young man, depression kicked my ass on a regular basis. I had considered throwing in the towel many times. In my 30’s, I hit bottom. I couldn’t work, rarely left the house.
As I sat on the couch one day, staring off into space, rocking back and forth, I realized I was mumbling something. It was “Why am I letting this happen?” No idea what prompted it, but suddenly a light bulb lit.
Just the fact that I was asking the question implied that I had a choice, something that had never occurred to me. Very slowly, I started to get on top of it. I still struggle at times. That leads me to the meat of it.
I had worked in the land survey business for some time. Still one of the best jobs I ever had. My party chief for a good bit of it became a very close friend of mine. We hadn’t seen each other in some time, so we decided to go get some food and a couple beers. At no point did we become intoxicated, we were too busy talking about stuff we were going to do, like climb Devil’s Tower, etc. After about 6 hours, we were going to call it a night. He missed my driveway, so he went to turn around down the street. We stopped in a parking lot, as we were still yacking away. We were both in good spirits, no sign of anything amiss. I was looking up the street towards my house, and he began to say something, which turned out to be, “Do you believe this?” When he began to speak, I turned to look at him, and we made eye contact, at which point he blew his brains out. I did not see that coming. To this day, no one knows why he did it, including me.
In the aftermath, I saw what it did to everyone around him. His fiancé, his children, his friends, even his ex.
After some time, I made a vow to myself that I would not take the early exit, as I just couldn’t put that on all of the people that cared about me. A couple of weeks ago, the 25th anniversary of his untimely exit came and went. That annual funfest has passed sometimes almost uneventful, and other times with a great deal of difficulty. Yet here I remain, and now I’m on an admittedly slow path to self improvement. Just have to keep moving in a positive direction. But I’m definitely not leaving early. Thank you again for digging deep to put your experience into words. I assure you it will save some people.
My partners ex wife of a year just committed suicide yesterday after several attempts in the past. She leaves 2 children behind that she had no communication with due to her narcissism. No words. But pleased you changed your mind and found your path as you inspire me and may others.
I’ve been suicidal for over 36 months. 12 months ago I found my brother who’d hung himself. It’s harder than ever not to follow him. But the pain he caused my family stops me joining him
I have found Andrew Huberman’s podcast ‘The Huberman Lab’ very helpful, especially the episode(s) on the importance of light and getting enough of it at the right times of the day.
This past winter has been the best I have had in 15 years, largely due to 10 minutes each morning with a £20 light box.
If nothing else he (Huberman) explains in a simple way how the brain works so I could assess the differences that I experienced and whether they were something I wanted to continue with.
Thank you for your post, the impact my death would have on my loved ones is the only thing that has stopped me in the past. Nice to hear that someone else has found the same. I liked your comment “Remember when you’re fighting in the depths of pain, I am fighting with you”
It doesn’t surprise me that Ivy League schools have high depression and suicide rates. It comes from the false notion that you need to be “better” than others…. This is what is underlying everything wrong with the human race… understanding non-dualism, the fact that you ARE the other is the key to communion with the planet… this gets you out of your head and into your spirit. Being well adjusted to a sick society is no measure of mental health. Re-adjusting your priorities to not want to be better or dominant over others is what is really needed.
Thank you for sharing this! It may provide hope for those in similar situations as you. All I can say is to love yourself and do whatever you want. Spend more time with your loved ones and you will undoubtedly win this battle.
Thank you for your candor and dedication to your audience, Tim.
I realize this is an old post, but since we’re still directed here – as someone with vulnerable mental health, who works with others afflicted similarly – I’m inclined to mention…
An important point to look at here is the language still being used around suicide. Criminals commit crimes, but suicide is not a crime. Let’s stop saying “commit suicide.”
Thank you again for all you do and share.
For those who say suicide is taking your own pain and giving it to others, perhaps that’s exactly where it belongs! Most people who are suicidal are that way because of these people!
Wow those tips from Tony Robbins are the best! The one at the end (of the audio) is really a great example of how to help someone. And for sure what you’ve written here has helped and will continue to help a lot of people. Thanks for sharing.
One thing no one is ever told is that depression isn’t permanent, but it sure can feel like it. It also is far more common, particularly among young people, but it passes. One believed cause is a lifetime of slight deficiencies of amino acids and your brain/body is unable to make enough “feel good” chemicals like seratonin, oxytocin and dopamin. Another cause is extreme ups and downs, drug & alcohol use or even caffeine, sugar and carbs can act somewhat like drugs.
diet, exercise and sun have more to do with it than you realize, but “diet” must be specific. Typtophan in your diet over 3 months is good as it will synthesize into Seratonin. Seratonin regulates mood. But there’s also a good chance you are’t getting one or more of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. It is really hard to get enough of everything; Making your project looking at foods rich in each nutrient and hyperdosing on real foods that contain them one at a time and observing effectFixing your adrenal system and thyroid should also be done. The book “Mood Cure” by Julia Ross is a good place to start. Understanding dopamine is also important. No screens and no caffeine for first hour and a half or any kind of dopamine. If you use a reward to motivate you, removing the reward will create less interest than you had before. If you do use a reward system to motivate yourself, randomize it. Andrew Huberman has some good things as well. Yerba matte is good pop alternative or even tea or coffee for two reasons. One as a caffeine replacement it avoids the huge spikes and crashes and jitters that coffee has, and also it has a bit of bitter flavor which resets your taste buds and reduces sugar cravings. artificial sweeteners that are 1,000 times sweeter than sugar and so they use less will mess up your sense of what “sweet” and “normal” is. Avoiding simple carbs for the same reason as alcohol and simple carbs like cereal act like sugars.
I also suggest a complete change of your environment. move somewhere or transfer schools or whatever. When everything is good but you are trying to optimize, When things are so bad you’re thinking like this, don’t change one thing at a time methodically, change everything and get a “fresh start” and reconstruct it one at a time methodically instead. Remove all things that could be a trigger for you.
Until then, use your despair and numbness as an excuse to take risks you wouldn’t normally take, but keep in mind that you will have a “reset” later. Take a nothing to lose attitude.
Try to take all of your bad news at once rather than spread out, it’ll be a relief when it’s done. you wouldn’t sip medicine or taste a pill, you’d down it and get it over with.
another turning point for me was a feeling of anger and resolving to do whatever i could to make my life tolerable. I no longer cared if it was ‘weird” or “different”. Whether that is hypnosis or subliminal messages or self help books or positivity, changing diet or “dopamine reset” or whatever,
Thank you for sharing this, Tim. Those of us who have had children battle mental illness are grateful for stories like these. We live by them. We study them. We take hope from them. Our son was never suicidally depressed, but he could have been; he would have been, ultimately, given a very serious case of bipolar I, with manias that had him hospitalized four times. A quick note on your diet advice: for serious, chronic mental illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Major Depressive Disorder, there is emerging evidence that some period of being in nutritional ketosis (ketogenic diet) can heal the brain from the metabolic dysfunction triggering energy and mood regulation problems. I know you know this because you hosted Chris Palmer, who treated our son. We are the family with the foundation mentioned in the show notes supporting metabolic psychiatry and keto for mental health. Readers can learn more at MetabolicMind.org and our youtube channel. Thank you, again, for sharing dark moments that will bring others light.
Thank you, especially for this one, Tim.
With me its not a question of if I will commit suicide, it is when. I find that picking a date in the future, and giving myself permission to do it on that date if I still feel the same way is helpful. It enables me to endure almost anything and so far times the date has rolled around I didn’t feel like doing it. The rest of the time I spend thinking about how I am going to do it so it will look like a natural event
The National Suicide Line number recently was charged to 988. Easier to remember and to share.
Many thanks, Meghan, for letting us know. We have updated the post.
Team Tim Ferriss
About suicide, depression is often linked and people can empathize. But what about Schizophrenia? I think the average person can cope with suicidality as an expression of depression, but most people don’t really understand what it means for those of us who are struggling with Schizophrenia. And the prevalence is one in ten people who have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia will die from suicide. This is beyond hard. An article like Tim’s can be helpful for many people but please don’t generalize suicidality into the type of struggle exemplified by Tim.
The immense psychic pain of psychosis is beyond what the average person can imagine.
The story at Princeton reminds me of the story of my dear friend who committed suicide in Hamburg, after being the only foreigner ever accepted to the prestigious Hamburger Theater School. Lots of similarities above. Unfortunately, she didn’t get a wake-up call on time. She was found 6 days later in her apartment with cut wrists, dead.
Thank you for sharing your story and for giving your advice. It is very helpful. You might prevent the unnecessary loss of life, at least for some….
I really appreciate your honesty. Its helpful to know that big performers on the world stage are not immune to the darkest of thoughts. I am currently writing a Tedx Talk on “procrastinating suicide”. Dark humor has saved me from the darkest places. If it helps, think of it this way: During deep depression(and even in normal life), many of us procrastinate our most important tasks, so why not procrastinate suicide? Just put it off until tmr! Inevitably we never wake up tmr because its our new today…. so we just keep putting it off. Maybe even push it off until next week, or next year if you don’t work well with deadlines. Then when the day comes, just procrastinate again. Eventually life will get better, and you will wonder why you ever wanted to do it. If life doesn’t get better, then use every tool known to man (gratitude journaling, cold showers, smoke some pot, dance to happy music every morning, ext.) to squeeze every drop of goodness out of it until conditions improve. It will, no storms last forever. Sometimes the humor of making fun of my own procrastination helps me make light out of the apparent seriousness of my so called situation. Procrastination is the ultimate F#ck it, and helps us to not care so much. So I’m gonna put off suicide for a while and work on my Tedx Talk today! Hope this helps, even just a little bit!
Thank you so much Tim. While I’m not going to sucide, the chronic procrastination and not getting anything done has made my life hell for almost last 3 years and I’m also 22. Procrastination, coupled with internet binging(as a easy escape), Poor physical environment for study, Other personal issues etc has made me question my abilities on whether i would actually be able to come out of all this in required timeline. I’ve been through multiple cycles of getting started with full motivation and crashing down to same place after a week or month. Each such cycle of defeat makes me beat myself and tries to create a downward spiral which again takes weeks to recover from. I feel like at this point I have acquired all the wisdom about how habits or behaviors work to mental models to all psychological phenomenon behind how all these pans out but man, Changing your behaviour on ground (after being in all those bad habits) is whole different game. interestingly, I have also come to the same conclusions through these failures and subsequent reflections that avoiding those downward spirals by not beating yourself up starting again with most important 1 thing is good idea. Though only time will tell, how useful they will be. I’m just glad to know that someone like you have also gone through all this.I know it’s more common than I think but still, reading this from you gives me more courage to do couple more iterations!