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”
A very thoughtful and eye-opening read…I have been following you Tim since about 2009 and now you are more human to me than any other “personality” that I read their books, follow/listen to. Being “overwhelmed” is a common feeling and you have connected the “feeling” to suicide for me. I have always pondered why someone would commit suicide, for many of the after-effects you point out. I think I get it now. I am a little OCD, make those lists every day for work and personal life, get spazzy when I can’t seem to focus and get things done so if I imagine that feeling multiplied by 10, I think I may understand why a person would get to that point. My husbands father committed suicide well before I ever met my husband but when he told me this, I could never process it. My hope is that this gets more reads and we as a society try to look more for the signs and support our loved ones, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Simple steps and getting support are key. People who don’t even know you love you.
Thank you for this Tim. I’m currently at university, I experienced depression in the first year and I’ve recognized it in a few of my friends. It’s so reassuring to know that a man I respect as much as you experiences the same problems of depression and procrastination that I do.
Thanks for sharing your experience and your thoughts. I think this can go beyond suicide and is applicable to people who are suffering from depression.
You provide some great ideas for folks who are looking for a way out but can’t think of how to do it. Depression, like suicide, also affects the lives of those around you, and not in a good way.
Thanks for helping address this issue in such an insightful way.
Tim, you are more beautiful than ever in your openness & vulnerability. So beautiful. I had some very specific life events kick me into a phase of suicidal ideation a few years back.
A very black comedy element of the experience is that one of my best friends is a very gifted researcher & practitioner in the field of suicide prevention, so I knew all the boxes I was ticking and how far I was gone to be considered a serious risk to myself. I didn’t want to speak to anyone I knew about where I was internally & I didn’t want to speak to anyone else about it either.
One guy saved my life with this; “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength.” He didn’t love me like a friend or partner, he was a holistic health practitioner I went under duress from my dentist…this guy was so filled to bursting with life & joy & love, I could just feel that he loved me for who I was in a perfectly pure and unencumbered way.
I left the session and couldn’t stop wondering,”how the fuck can someone be so fucking happy? How can he be so incredibly alive?” He emanates love & joy with the openness I’d only ever seen in very young children. This one guy, just by being himself, shone a light into my own darkness pulled me back out of it.
Anything I ever accomplish in life is thanks to him, because he reminded me to keep coming back into the light until I no longer needed reminding.
Thank you for doing such a good job of describing how little things can become very big problems for someone whose mind is not healthy. The self-management tips are good, but they are not enough for people like me who require medication for major depressive disorder and anxiety. I know, because I tried managing without medication, and it was a disaster – and actually dangerous. Going back on my medication changed my perspective 180 degrees rather quickly. So I would add to this post, please speak with a medical professional about whether you need medication. If there is no shame in taking Lipitor or Viagra, there should be no shame in taking Lexapro.
Very important post and quite moving in places. I drew a lot from the last section and also the suggestion that we do not believe ourselves.
However, I do have a issue with the idea of the people you love and how much you will hurt them being a solution or a trick for getting out of an episode. I have barrel a good many years with my own share of suicidal highs and lows and to a lesser extend on any given day I still can. However, I have noticed that when I am in states similar to what you described above there is almost a sense of insanity that accompanies the experience. Anything rational or positive is usually chewed up the the overwhelming nature of what I am feeling. Obviously I have thought about my loved ones in these times and perhaps that is what has kept me from doing anything extreme, but often these thoughts of there love can conjure up a profound sense of guilt and shame to the tune of: these people love me so much and I am think such thing or this is a betrayal of them. In a way the very fact of their love becomes ammunition for my sense of disgust with myself and my lot. So the idea a pact with another person alleviating this intensity although well meaning a perhaps useful for some, would only offer fickle support when I am in such a state. My own strategy is simply holding on a observing what I term an emotional form of madness until the weather clears. Earlier in my life this was much more difficult than it has become, as I had little evidence that such episodes would pass, but now I can see the edges of them much more clearly and I have seen them last as short as an hour. The trick for me is to put one foot in front of the other and then repeat on the other side. Suicide is a permanent solution to a very temporary state of being.
I wish you and anyone else reading this continued freedom and long lives.
Thanks for posting. This took courage.
The silly sausage that I am accidentally put my own tips in the facebook comments so I’ll repost here.
Thanks for sharing Tim. Sorry you had to go through that hellish time.
I agree with all the tips you gave. Below are some strategies that I’ve found have worked for me after going through a bad mental patch early last year – not to the extent that you went through, but I definitely felt like I was falling apart. Also, I have burned in my brain the horrific image of a friend’s coffin being lowered into the ground after he committed suicide a couple of years ago, so I know all too well that the only way is up. (If you’re ever worried about someone’s mental health, ask them if they’re okay. Sometimes you just never know.)
But I will say upfront that a psychologist helped me greatly. She explained that I was going through a time of unstable moods, and I just had to get through that time and get better, rather than beat myself up for not being superwoman. To focus on small, day-to-day achievements. I really do recommend talking to a good psychologist, if it’s possible. In Australia, Medicare pays for a large chunk of the fee, but I don’t know if people in the US have the same opportunity. I also have to admit that after years of trying to avoid it, I finally went on mild antidepressants (temporarily), and they made a surprisingly huge difference. I still feel like me and I still have emotions, but I feel more normal, have more energy and can think more clearly. However, there are lots of little non-medicinal things you can do to help yourself too.
-Firstly, know that all the little things add up, day by day. Skipping a 20-minute walk outside may not seem like a big deal, but going for that walk makes a big difference. I tell myself I’m going for a walk outside for my mental health rather than for my body, and that diffuses the pressure of thinking I have to run and push myself. Often I end up running anyway, but it’s more likely to get me outside and enjoy my surroundings.
-Try your very best to get good quality sleep. This means having clean sheets, having a shower before going to bed, putting on nice comfy pyjamas and going to bed as early as you can. And not sleeping next to your laptop!
-Cut down on sugar, carbs and cut out alcohol. But you can’t just cut down on something, you have to replace it. So I frequent iquitsugar.com and thehealthychef.com for good recipes. (There’s a great GF carrot cake recipe on the latter!).
-Instead of eating lots of chocolate, chips or lollies to calm your nerves, drink tea! And, never underestimate the nourishing effects of sharing your thoughts with an empathetic friend over a hot cup of tea!
-Try doing some hands-on activities. Baking seems to get me into a good headspace. I have to focus on the recipes rather than the thoughts in my own head, and have something yummy to eat and share with others at the end. I once read that if you’re feeling down, do something nice for someone else.
-Journalling is really helpful. Having a brain dump, on paper or even on a pages or Word document, shows you what’s on your mind. Write the stuff that seems silly, or that you’re scared to write down. Otherwise, avoidance fuels anxiety.
-If you’re a musician, get out that instrument! Play your feelings! Or learn to play along with your favourite song! I find that playing music slows down my overwhelming thoughts and has a meditative quality.
-Meditate or do breathing exercises. Again, this seems like a tiny activity that can be skipped, but putting in the effort is worth it. I downloaded the guided meditation app “Headspace” after hearing Kevin Rose recommended it in a podcast with Tim. Andy’s voice on the app is really calming and comforting!
-Keep your surroundings clean, and tidy. Take things out of messy cupboards and put them back in neatly if you have to. Get out a sponge and clean a dirty wall if you have to. It gives you a sense of achievement, AND makes things easier to find. I always feel less anxious after I do that.
-Keep your hair clean (especially if it’s long). Having a good hair day makes a world of difference!
-Spend more time with positive, understanding people, and less time around people who make you feel bad about yourself, or are generally negative. That also goes for the people you let into your head via the media. (eg Avoid watching bitchy people on TV or reading tacky news sites). I find listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast and the Osher Gunsberg podcast put me in a good mood, and I can listen to them while cleaning or baking. Osher’s had his own struggles with anxiety, so he often talks about that in the intros and offers some of his own good tips.
-Listen to your gut, know what works for you, and write your own list of tips. Refer to your document as often as you wish.
-Avoid social media, or at least, passively hanging out on it. It can mess with your head. I find Pinterest to be okay because it’s more aspirational for me. I can use it like a vision board, rather than use it to compare myself to others.
-Avoid comparing yourself to others. If someone else has a personality trait or skill that you’d like, then put steps into place to learn that same skill if you can, but know that it’s not helping anyone to glumly sit in your room and think you’re not as good as that person you went to primary school with.
-Learn to monitor your thoughts and break them down into small pieces. Ask yourself, “Is this a helpful thought?”. I’ve heard Elon Musk say in interviews that his work strategy is to “Boil things down to their fundamental truths, then work your way up from there”. I know he’s talking about projects there, but I find it a helpful strategy for everyday situations.
-Read “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. I also found reading “Life After Death” by Damien Echols to be incredibly inspirational, and it made me really appreciate the outdoors! (He was unfairly put on death row for 18 years, but was released a couple of years ago and now makes art).
-Be kind to yourself! Know that you’re going through a rough patch and you’ll be strong again soon enough! This sounds cheesy, but it works. 🙂
Thanks for posting! So very important.
In middle school through college I battled through depression. At that time of my life it was all I knew. The more I read about it, the more I glorified in it. I felt beautiful and creative in my depressed. Like in an abusive relationship, I couldn’t and wouldn’t find help. In high school, I had turned to self-hurting, not to kill myself but to feel pain to cut into the numbness. I would cut myself just to know I could bleed. I would secretly feel empowered running my fingers over my healing cuts.
Its may be silly but it wasn’t until I was introduced to a movie that I could break through this downward spiral. The movie was so vividly beautiful and made me feel again. It pains me to think it couldn’t save the actor that made it to be. Whenever, I feel the dark waves creeping back in I will watch it like a prescription and it makes me cry. It makes me feel. I am proud to say that now at 29 it has not been as dark for me for many years. I does get better.
Movie- “What Dreams May Come” starring Robin Williams
This post is another customizable resource /checklist for when our brains are out of whack.
“Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up”
Tim, thank you so much for sharing this. I had suicidal thoughts 15 years ago, but my new puppies helped keep me tethered. Now, 15 years later, I’m dealing not only with the loss of my two dogs, but my marriage, all within just a few weeks. At times (most times), I feel completely unmoored, lonely and lost. Talking to people helps, but my friends and family can’t be by my side 24/7. So I’ve found that the next best things are walking in the woods, and discovering amazingly honest, sometimes brutally honest, but always helpful resources like your post. Thank you again.
Thanks for sharing Tim. You truly are an inspiration!
Well done, man. It’s refreshing to hear your story and know that the best of us struggle with this kind of stuff. Your practical list is well worth printing out and acting on. Thank you for taking time to write this out.
Telling this story took balls Tim. And you’ve managed to impact me in a way I’m still processing. You took yourself off the pedestal and said to the world “I am human like you!”
Tim, I have great respect for your accomplishments. I have respect for your tenacity and your perseverance. And you are a human being. You finally managed in this one blog post to make me understand the meaning of “he puts his pants on one leg at a time.”
If you ever find yourself in need of some friendly stranger to talk to, my email is in the detail line — really. Thanks for putting yourself out there.
All my best,
Tim, this did it for me: “You have to realize that depression doesn’t last forever” (from your Reddit AMA).
Words fail me. Thank you for sharing. Really.
Brave and beautiful post, Tim. I agree that movement will move you to a better place. Love and thanks, Michele
Thanks for your honesty Tim. As a mom, I find being able to teach my kids positive coping mechanisms as soon as I can before the stressors of school and life start affecting them is so important. These are excellent strategies that I can talk to them about.
It is important to share and discuss with others. The more that speak up about this, the more it becomes a common issue and the medical fields will be able to treat better. The struggles one goes through. It hits home for me on so many levels. I just wish there were more supportive groups everywhere. Thank you Tim.
Well done, Tim.
I feel like this post is strange timing. I won first place in a entrepreneurship competition this past Friday, and recieved one of those big checks for $50,000. I received a call two days ago that I am being disqualified for being an alumni. Although I recieved permission from a professor. Now that the provost is involved, the professor is denying he told me this. I feel I’m in a similar fight (nothing suicidal).
When I won the competition I called Stephen Key, my mentor in the inventRight program and was so excited. He was the one who turned me on to you. Both your books helped me win this competition. The first thing the judge said to me was ‘sometimes it just take a simple idea’. My idea is a device that teaches correct lifting form. Anyway, I’m going to continue to fight Hofstra University but it’s me against a professor.. I want to thank you for the inspiration in your posts and book and hope you have some advice.
Much respect Tim for having the balls to write what you never wanted to write about! Times are dark for all of us at times, not quitting is key… And we all have stories just like that, which for us seem to be unsolvable but for other People might be just a minor struggle.
What I took out of the post is not making things bigger than they are and just start doing what you can today towards the solution of the Problem/Trouble, etc.
In consequence I have just cleared my desk at work and start all fresh now to not move the whole mountain at work, but to get it done bit by bit… that is all I can do anyways.
Many thanks for sharing Tim. Very appreciated.
Michael D. from Germany
Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
Is a good book.
You need a therapist.
First, thanks for this. The feelings of depression and helplessness I’m familiar with, but I’ve fortunately never got to that point where taking my own life seemed like a real option. I recently had the unfortunate experience of trying to resuscitate my 15-year-old neighbor after her ultimately successful suicide attempt. In my whole life, I’ve never wanted to go back so much to talk to someone, to tell them that I cared (and we were not close- barely knew each other), to remind them that, as they say, “it gets better.” In short, the point about the effects of suicide on others is well made.
Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I wish I could have helped more.
Thanks Tim for the great post. It helped me a lot to deal with difficulties I’ve been facing.
Tim already brilliantly gave tactical tips, for adding on strategic, in 2 words:
1) “Long term involvement” to achieve a “dream”
2) Inside a “stable team”.
Both notions in the large sens.
2 cent tips and thoughts mostly for driven, entrepreneurs, type-A personalities:
First to know it’s very common, actually surprising how often historic genius like Napoleon Bonaparte and many others, were too on chronic suicidal planet.
Detail oriented, high IQ, perfectionists, etc… have ability to receive more informations and so attention fatigue, analytical fatigue, understanding fatigue, decision fatigue… and all highest levels they have ability of methodology to reach but rarely reach because of limited execution level related to their lack of resource of delegation and stable teams around.
That notion of “stable team around” is the key.
Napoleon Bonaparte was mostly suicidal in his youth and this stopped when he had constant 3 writers simultaneously around to dictate instructions, laws, thoughts, etc…
On perfectionism, Leonardo Da Vinci has quote:
“Details make perfection and perfection is no detail”.
Trying to convince a brilliant perfectionist for happier “low expectations” and “minimal effective doses” on results, just don’t work in the same way the security of the cage won’t replace the excitement for an eagle who already perceived highest heights and look from sky of snow-covered summits.
That’s why the proverbe “Ignorance is Bliss” has many level meanings.
Or why all brilliant people are addicted to their daily meditation to On/Off and retake full control of the beast.
And the other “cliché” of “Don’t be so harsh and demanding on yourself” doesn’t work either.
Because kindness and morality of accepting diversity of human beings, make it easy to not be harsh and demanding to others, but impossible to not be demanding to oneself because it’s very hard to not go to what you can see and reach.
Michael Jordan had famously said to Tony Robbins:
“Everyday I’m demanding more to my self than anybody can humanely expect.
I’m not competing with somebody else, but with what I’m capable of.”
Who could say there could be compatibility with “happy lower expectations” and this quote?
And when that category are aware of the causality between highest achievements resulting from that detail oriented brain which is harsh and demanding for perfection and the process and final compromises to reach the “right puzzle of elements” called “perfection”, asking for lower expectations is asking to kill those 2 elements with direct causal relation.
So practically it’s only possible to manage this beast category of brain which creates simultaneously opportunities, success and… misery.
This is why I hear Tim often repeat rightfully limiting to the indispensable 2-3 things to achieve in 1 single day.
And meditation to train the beast to accept this 2-3 executions and to renounce to the other curiosities and creativities in reach, but to avoid absolutely, if not nothing will be done.
So the long term solution:
1) Accepting once for all the price to pay for this category of genetic Brain and being brilliant.
Accepting that the fastest Ferrari must pay a price to not be as comfortable than a Roll’s Royce.
At least fully understanding there’s no rational to complain about “higher-lower” /average mood and maniac-depressive states when accepting that this is standard category of misery for that type of brain.
That if you want the speed of Ferrari, got to accept also the misery of vibrations under the seat and back pain.
2) The essential difference between temporary teams for a specific result, and stable teams for a long term outputting system to produce.
(team in the large sens)
Only the latter makes happy.
Napoleon Hills cites as happiest people between all billionaires / “successful” people he analyzed being:
– Thomas Edison
– Andrew Carnegie
And generally when the genius has created stable teams around, AND is in “producing process”. Output of real products in sens of “object” possible to touch or take in hand.
Because soon or late the demanding brain won’t accept the 2-3 things in day if a system can produce more with less misery.
3) The analytical planet of “ressource allocation” and “risk aversion”… sorry this is for later and older businessmen, not entrepreneurs.
The “I test before” and the new strange considering Warren Buffet or the “late Richard Branson” as entrepreneurs, is big mistake and confusion between businessman and entrepreneurship.
The “burn the boat to take the island” and risk takers are the only real entrepreneurs. Which doesn’t mean they’re crazy irrational and don’t meticulously analyze their variable ressources. They don’t “test before” with “risk aversion”. Why? because they have “dream” and “vision”.
And so see their “ressources” as highly variable in time, and then don’t allocate as in the “fixe ressources to allocate” approach.
Businessmen are less happy than entrepreneurs those with a product/object to touch.
Dream and having a vision to achieve is not compatible with staying too deep and long in the measuring and analytic world.
Bruce Lee’s quote: “If you think too long about a thing, you’ll never do it.”
So again, long term involvement inside a stable team, to achieve dreams and visions.
“Total freedom” has a price of misery for the absence of long term structure to achieve dreams and make impossible possible during a long term planned process.
We need often what we don’t want, and apparently “responsibility” and “structure” we think to not want, is needed for homosapiens.
Few men want spontaneously to marry, and think the “Male” is a gene spreader as the good mammal he is programmed to be.
Many are surprised to be happier after marrying and having children that again spontaneously are “responsibilities”, “costs”…
Because we need “long term involevments” inside “teams”, whatever field it could be.
Children for some…
Going on March for Elon Musk…
Creating “Tools” for Steve Jobs… (who cited as click the article on Condor energy efficiency compared to humans and others… and the fact that the same human “with bicycle” suddenly became the most efficient. So humans are there to create “tools”.)
(and his ad “crazy ones”.)
This is an important post and I admire you for sharing your story. I think it’s going to help a lot of people. I know it has helped me. Unfortunately there still is a huge stigma around depression (and other mental health problems) which causes shame, and this shame actually maintains the problem. I took control of my experience with depression through a number of strategies such as professional help, behavioural activation, social connection, and mindfulness. Different things will work for people, but what I have mentioned will work for most. I would also highly recommend a book called The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb. It’s a book about using the neuroscientific knowledge of depression to reverse the downward spiral and move towards stable wellbeing. Thanks again and all the best to everyone x
Tim, this is such an important article and I want to thank you for having the courage to write it. I’m glad you’re still around buddy!
Thanks for sharing Tim. It’s so easy to think that successful people like you don’t suffer from depression or suicide thoughts. I fight my depression regularly and it gets in the way of my success in business all the time. Here’s what I’m doing right now that is helping: first thing in the morning, I journal about how I’m feeling and just free write everything out. Then I set the timer on my phone for 2 minutes and just breath, trying to keep my mind blank. Then I do another 2 minutes of visualizing a great outcome for the day and how I want the day to go. I don’t get to it every day, but I try to do it as many days as I can. It does help and I can tell that my days are getting better.
I went through my perfect storm about 3 and half years ago, just before I turned 40. It was a combination of a marriage breakup (we’d been together since I was 19), a failing business and then a sense of overwhelming failure.
I still clearly remember the night I stood next to an overpass on a motorway willing myself to jump but not being able to. It was the thought of leaving my son without a dad that stopped me. Since then I have managed to turn so much around, but it hasn’t been easy or smooth, but I battle on.
I’ve found meditation and mindfulness techniques plus seeing a therapist invaluable. I found the exercises in the book the happiness trap to be the most beneficial on a day to day basis.
Thanks for writing this post Tim, its incredibly important that mental health isn’t swept under the rug and having high profile people talk about it will make a huge difference in stopping that happening.
Most suicides and suicide attempts are a temporary crisis of hope. 90% of people that unsuccessfully try never attempt it again.
Great post Tim. I just got news yesterday that a good friends son who is 25 had killed him self. I have lost 5 friends in the last year due to suicide. All were men in their late 40’s. It is an epidemic in our society that no one is talking about and needs to be addressed.
I had a crisis of hope in 2007 when my Real Estate business collapsed due to my integrity and refusal to be a crook in a crooked business. Fortunately I met the girl of my dreams that week. A beautiful blonde with big boobs that played in a stoner metal band. A couple of weeks later I closed my Real Estate business picked up the guitar again after not playing for 4 years and got a copy of The 4 Hour Work Week and changed my life. Life has been awesome ever since.
I have been struggling with depression for the past 15 months (yes…15 months). Even the thought of being in bed in the morning or afternoon freaks me out, just thinking that I was exactly like this a year ago. And before that, I’ve been having issues for 1.5 years because of a personal traumatic event which had me crying in the morning (7am onwards) and at night. And before that it was a few years dealing with a high pressure job. And before that, several years in high school dealing with growing up…to the first point when I was 10 and had my first attempt. I had to see the school counselor and my family, we ended up moving out and switching schools.
Even today, as someone in my mid-20s, I still get the thoughts. Especially in the past 15 months having to move back to my parents. No one, except for 1-2 people, has really bothered to email to me to see how I was. I have 13,000-15,000 followers on Twitter, won several awards at work, my name is recognizable when I add it on my resume and yet, only a couple of people have bothered to send a personal email asking me how I was. How is it possible to be like this, and still feel so lonely? There is an upside – which is I realize how much family is important to me. And then I realize that as long as I keep this to myself no one is going to know..
Anyway thanks for sharing your entry. I’ve definitely had those dark days, and I am trying to cope in a healthy way. Just taking steps getting there (first step – have the motivation to even read and reply to my emails…before, it would take me weeks to even reply to a personal email).
Raw, brave and honest…………..commuicating our stories helps dis-empower depression itself. It thrives on the person being isolated.
Dude, my respect for you has just multiplied. Thank you for sharing your journey and addressing the real stuff. – SMM
Adding to the list.
Depression is literally an altered state, bearing this in mind tells you two things. 1. Just like having a designated driver you SHOULD get help on this. 2. Just knowing its an altered state can remind you that there is something about the situation you can’t see right now or that something is out of proportion.
The next tip is to identify what stories you keep telling yourself. While it is true that sometimes we need to accept hard truths, I would challenge you to ask yourself. Would I ever say this, like this, to someone I love?.How would you tell someone you really loved these hard truths? This way you’re not running, but you’re also not being a dick to yourself.
(Please bare in mind that the self talk we practice comes out to the people we talk to when we least expect it, even if we don’t mean it, so practicing this love to yourself will also make you more loving in the long run to others)
Thanks! I really needed this.
I’m going through recovery from Chronic Hypervitaminosis A (from Cod liver oil misuse), an established symptom of which is “Suicidal Ideation” accompanied by severe intracranial pain.
This comes in episodes of 2-12 hours, and can last entire nights.
Not very fun, as you can understand.
Exercise and Reading (esp. Seneca), and logically dissecting that feeling through Writing have been my tools to deal with it.
Your work has helped me a lot, especially how you identify and dissect emotions like fear and excitement, and pinpoint their causes, and apply rational judgment to them.
Will be useful for the rest of my life (25 y.o. now), so thanks a lot! 🙂
Url says “http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/05/06/how-to-commit-suicide/”, which could be a bit misleading.
I’d prefer if it said “how-not-to-commit-suicide”.
What do you think?
Important and powerful stuff. Good you wrote it.
I come from a suicidal family. Dad and step-father both committed suicide, Mom made an attempt that left her paralyzed for 30 years before she finally died. First time I considered suicide was when I was 7. Last time I considered it with any seriousness was 12 years ago, while undergoing cancer treatment.
The one thing that has always stopped me was #2. What it would do to family, friends, people who were invested in me and my survival.
Remind people that there is more to consider than their own pain. None of us is an island.
Thanks for writing.
In my darkest periods I have found only one thing that can bring me out, even for a short period, and that is noticing someone else’s grief.
I’m the hippy always radically pulling off the road to rescue wildlife and escaped pets. Seeing another in pain or need brings me to life, makes me forget myself and act to help.
Paying attention to other people’s behaviours or even just asking questions, being personable with others can help you to help someone else and in the end helping others builds self-worth, connectedness and love.
Also I’ve learned to be open. Tell someone, “I’m really sad this week, I’m really angry or I’m just offing lost right now”. Most people care, but they assume everything is ok because we spend so much time pretending so.
Good timing.. “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.”
Really brave of you to come forward and talk about this Tim. I’ve had my own problems with mental illness and 4 suicide attempts, the last one being exactly a year ago. I learned from the last experience (many of the same lessons you did) and have grown. I still have my problems, but now I am focusing on helping others instead of wallowing in negative thoughts. I am now a certified life coach and consultant and am building a website for people affected by mental illness. Sure, I still have my bad days, but the good far outweighs the bad.
I think about my family and all the people I can help with my story and it feels great to have some purpose.
Thanks for writing this!
First I have to say this was just an amazing post. It takes a lot of balls to be able to post this for millions to read. It takes balls for anyone to even share it with a close friend or therapist. So my hat goes off to you.
(Long Book of post Ignore if busy)
Background: Entering 4th year of medical school. WIll be pursuing Psychiatry for a speciality. Obsessed with fitness, all aspects from strenght, body sculpting, diet, and how it all ties to mental health as well. Recently launched a website to help dispell some myths of fitness, share the massive amount of experiments I have done and the struggles as well as highlight other people and there sturggles and what got them through.
I have bought all your books and they have been fantastic. Listen to the podcast and will be getting the TV show since i can’t seem to help myself so thank you for all of your resources. I feel this post eclipses them all. Mental health is something that is glossed over so easily by most and yet the paradigm is so wrong. Its seen as weakness and something the person just needs to deal with.
I used to even be one of those that beleived that. Even though struggling with some health issues, lead to a state of depression secondary to medical conditoins. My path into fitness instead of making me feel better actually has grown a new monster of body dysmorphia and depression.
I was slated to be a surgeon but my psychiatry rotation changed it all. It highlighted the need for mental health and a paradigm shift. And how wrong i had been for many years. I look forward to diving into this specialty and area full force. And I plan and helping making large shifts in thought for everyone.
Practical tips for anyone who made it this far:
Write down your successes no matter how small. They seem to disappear when something goes wrong. They become completely overshadowed. This is a nice reference for dark times.
Get up and move. Even if you feel your body is full of lead and the daylight is darkness. Move for 10min and reevaluate how you feel. If it helpled keep moving. Walk, lift weights, yoga, anything
Talk to someone. A therpaist, family member significant other, a hot line. Again any place that you can start to get those feelings and emotions out. Just get them out to someone. Let them help you talk through it. They may not even need to say anything.
Feel free to ignore this because its a link to my site. But its a perfectly timed interview with an amazing woman who suffers from depression and through fitness and working out she has not only changed her body but she has learned a great way to keep her depression at bay. Please feel free to check it out. I think it dovetails nicely and she is fantastic. She went into a level of detail I did not ask for. She is amazingly strong and I feel her story can help many many people. (I see I shouldn’t put links. Contact me if you would like to read it) (thewhitecoatfitness)
I hope at least some of this helps. I appreciate anyone who read this. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.
Tim if you read this thank you for everything you’ve done,
I would suggest “Awareness” by Anothony De Mello. It’s one of my favorite books. The best part is that, it’s not long its something like 80 pages. If you are struggling with other people or anything else, READ THIS BOOK and read it 4 or 5 times ideally that month you start reading it. Try to understand it, some of the things he says might sound selfish and shocking but have an open mind and if you do so, believe me you will change. Forever because nothing really does matter. (You’ll understand this lasst part after you understand that book)
And loved this post Tim.
I’ve been there, more than once. Overwhelming fear of failure and rejection has dominated much of my adult life, along with battles with depression and being in an abusive relationship for the better part of 5-6 years. My growth and recovery has come in bursts. I totally agree about diet and exercise – my demons are much more likely to take over if I haven’t exercised in a few days. I love the book Radical Acceptance, it helped me a lot. I’m currently reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I wished I had read it years ago, when I was struggling to pass the bar exam. 2 failures and I believed i WAS a failure, not meant to practice law. And more depression, hopelessness, and downward spirals. Now I am learning how to see my failures as stepping stones to success. Mindset and beliefs can be very powerful – we can think ourselves into and out of depression. As you mention, expressing gratitude is a powerful method of changing our thoughts and beliefs. Thank you for sharing your story.
Hey Tim, just to let you know the Tony Robbins audio appears to be broken. Maybe its just my computer but I’m getting a message that says “Video can’t be played because file is corrupt.”
So much respect. Thanks for sharing Tim.
Thanks so much for this Tim.. I have a great respect for you and the people you surround yourself with. I’ll share this with my friends and hope the wisdom spreads. Keep it up.
This took a lot of courage. Will always be a fan of yours, Tim.
Have much to comment on this but will keep most to myself. I appreciate your honesty and sharing. Tears have been streaming since the first few words and anyone who has experienced the same kind of despair knows why. It does not take much to set it off. I’m glad you were able to “win”.
Thank You Tim . . I would like to recommend “The Tapping Solution” and “The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief” by Nick Ortner. The benefits Are Amazing!!! There is also A Documentary by the same name. Love and Peace to All
Cool post! I would add taking naps to the list. What a great way to reset. Set your cell alarm for 20 mins and off you go. You’ll feel great afterward.
Thank you for writing about this. As a volunteer EMT in a small rural community, the level of depression and suicide attempts would surprise people. Also, someone very close to me suffers from depression and has contemplated this. It is a struggle for these people, and as more people are educated, we can bring peace and understanding and reach those people who feel lost.
whilst this article is good and is necessary it, as does most articles, makes the mistake of assuming that suicidal people have loved ones who care about them. You can not make that assumption. Some people, like myself, don’t have anyone.
I have no famiily and no close friends. I’d been through hell and lost everything. Four years ago I attempted suicide and was found not breathing and heart stopped. They brought me back to life and i was in a coma for a week. I had 10 brain seizures, my heart had stopped three times……. i was in hospital for a few months. I was serious about ending my life and was disappointed that I’d failed.
Now my life is better but I still feel that there is no future for me. it’s been a tough few years getting over the suicide attempt as I was very very ill and had side effects. People were not supportive at all, in fact a couple of people i’d known for many years unfriended me. My partner left me a couple of weeks after I came out of hospital.
What do you do when you feel there is nothing for you in the future? When I was younger I had faith that everything would work out. when I got down and was worried I’d tell myself that it will all work out and be good. I worked hard, was very ambitious, was a success before losing it all. Now I’m nearly 50 and I don’t think there is a future for me. I was wrong, it didn’t all work out. So I don’t have that to make me feel better.
Calling a lifeline number is futile, at least where I live, they can’t and don’t help much at all. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any close friends or family. And I no longer can just hope and have faith that it will all work out in the end, because the end is now.
There is hope man. Hold on. Maybe find someone you can love and help. Someone with even bigger problems than yourself. Someone in poverty, Someone with mental illness. Sit down and listen to their story and life and make a commitment to help them in their life. put your creative energy into helping them. you might not have anyone right now but someone in the world needs you and wants your help, and if you ended it, they wouldn’t be able to receive that help. with love and peace, ben
I am happy to find someone local to you who will come along side you. Where are you located? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t give up, there’s someone close by who cares. There really is.
Great stuff Tim, Thanks for writing this.
Thank you for finally going strait for it. I read your stuff about stoicism, productivity, paranoia etc. even stuff from 4hww like writing down your worst fear and breaking it down (worst case scenario) and it always. I was suicidal for several years during high school, mostly from isolation, a horrible narcissistic controlling parent, but in my case I was young and kept this thought in the back of my head that I still had 50 years to keep trying. Anyway, got away from home and family. Depression, severe depression is still my nemesis, I fight it nearly every day. Sometimes the very things that should give me joy are what frustrates me-angers me-makes me feel hopeless-depressed….like kids and a loving husband. For me, no amount if reasoning and pep talks work until 1: I go for a walk, or a swim, or the gym 2: write it all out in my journal. Yes, my journal is a bunch if shit I would never say to anyone. But once stuff is out, the burden lifts a bit. 3: drink a ton of water and take fermented cod liver oil (or any good vitamin d supplement)
Vitamin d in way bigger doses than the RDA. It’s magical. If I skip a few days, I know it. 4: follow the slow carb diet. It works wonders. If I stray, I get depressed-sugar swings, bloating, grogginess, weight gain, etc. all will get you on the standard american diet.
These are the things that help me. Oh, yes, and be sure to have a supportive, loving, energetic positive partner! If you have anything less, get out. Don’t put up with drama.
I’ve suffered with depression since I was 17 and last year was really bad. I wanted to kill myself quite often, because of things that aren’t such a big deal to me now.
Meditation, morning pages, following a morning routine, taking care of my health and knowing I can do more than the average are all things I learnt about through Tim and they have been really helpful.
He may not have discussed suicide in the open until now but he’s helped at least one person not fuck everything up.
A good company in the UK helping this cause:
Campaign Against Living Miserably
like Alexander commented below- after my suicide attempt i FINALLY got the professionals i needed to help with my bipolar disorder. PROFESSIONALS are so important you really do need an objective person you can “run things by” and to get the “yucky’s out.” medicine is there because we need it. too many times our brains are missing a chemical or two that medicine (like insulin for diabetics) replaces.
I have finally found a book i recommend “FRESH HOPE” BY BRAD HOLFS. he takes you from diagnosis to recovery and he is a recovering bipolar patient.
thank you for being so honest with this subject so many of us are scared to talk about
Very strong post! Been there, 6 years ago. And had almost the same circumstances like you. It led me to a point, where I end up calling the psychological support at my university (here in germany, many universities provide that).
Just by talking to an outsider helped a lot. They also advised, to write some kind of journal. And this helped out, too.
I think, there is a thin line in one´s thinking-process, where suicide comes from an option to the only one solution. And besides counting on a trigger from the outside (like Tim´s mum) one should set triggers for themself to stay on the right side of this line. And the best triggers are described in the post and the comments!
I’ve suffered with depression since I was 17 and last year was really bad. I wanted to kill myself quite often, because of things that aren’t such a big deal to me now.
Meditation, morning pages, following a morning routine, taking care of my health and knowing I can do more than the average are all things I learnt about through Tim and they have been really helpful.
He may not have discussed suicide in the open until now but he’s helped at least one person not fuck everything up.
A good company in the UK helping this cause:
Campaign Against Living Miserably
I lost my daughter in Jan 2015. Your term perfect storm echoes our counseling sessions. The aftermath is devastating. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been a big fan for a long time, I’m a bigger fan today. I will meet you one day and thank you in person.
I struggled on and off with suicidal thoughts for many years in my teens and twenties. It was your point #3 (There’s no guarantee that killing yourself improves things) that made the difference to me. I was watching the movie Groundhog Day, and there’s a moment where Bill Murray is tired of living forever so he commits suicide, only to wake up in the same situation. He does this again and again in a montage that gets pants-shittingly funny, and the same thing happens: he keeps waking up in the same situation.
That did it for me. What if I killed myself, and…nothing changed?
No hell. No heaven. No annihilation. Just right back to where I was before.
I would feel really STUPID. Embarrassed. I’d have taken the most life-altering step possible, and it would have done NOTHING AT ALL.
I could not accept that possibility. So I put away the idea of suicide. And when it came back, which happened occasionally), I remembered that lesson: it might not do a damn thing.
Thanks for sharing, Tim. Well done.
I had settled into my morning routine when I saw this one come up. It had me from the start … and now I’ve literally left the Bloomberg terminal where I do my work, to write you this thank you note.
I was sixteen when I attempted. Pills. Thank God I was not the planner you are.
When my parents found out, they pretended it didn’t happen. In fact, they yelled at me for being selfish and then promptly left me alone.
So I almost tried again. But somewhere in the crevasses of my brain, I realized that I didn’t really want to disappear – what I wanted was to feel loved by people who are supposed to care.
Fuck it, I decided. Ok, so maybe things were miserable at home… but I was going to make it. And I wasn’t going to allow anyone, anymore, to tell me how miserable of a person I was (story of my life since I was six). Luckily, I had a couple of friends who really loved me and a deep sense of adventure that had always simultaneously gotten me into trouble and given me great moments of joy.
Fourteen years later, it is really hard to remember that dark place I was in. When I left for university, I was given the freedom to grow into the woman I wanted to be. I traveled. I made a ton of friends. I started up businesses, national conferences, and directed plays. I eventually landed a dream job investing billions of dollars around the world in stock markets, an endlessly intellectually fascinating career that has also given me room to travel.
What saved me was latching onto a hunger in me. This hunger sustained me when things got tough, propelled me to take on big challenges, and eventually pushed me forward. As I started to flourish, so did my confidence (and arrogance) and things kept getting better. Eventually, life taught me to be humble and giving, too.
It took me about a decade to finally build the mental and emotional tools to be really resilient.
I write this having just gotten back from Maui, where I was for the last five days. My body is nicely tanned from surfing and cycling, although I do have a rather unfortunate tan line on my arm. But it’s all good because I was there doing what I love. I am training now to compete in the World Championships for 24 hour solo mountain bike racing in October – a sport I took up last year (Tks 4-hr Chef).
Audacity and a few key relationships saved me. Love and strong mental tools allowed me to flourish.
Thank you for writing this post. It took courage and I know it will be valuable.
Keep doing the good work, Tim.
PS. I turn thirty on Saturday. This was my Facebook post from Maui:
I turn thirty this week. I thought you might want to know that I have not gotten married, own no cats, and feel not the slightest anxiety about this – even though I gather my ovaries are shrivelling up and dying inside me with each passing moment.
A friend recently told me it is silly to be anxious about birthdays. She said growing old is a privilege – one denied to many.
My one intention for this year is to just live the hell out of life. That is everything. And enough.
Here is another reason why you are one of the most kick ass people on the planet, thank you for still being here and sharing your story. Thank you for your courage and you are not alone.
I have been down that path of a few times because of not knowing how to take physical, mental, spiritual, care of myself. The woes of childhood, years of self worth issues would bring depression and anxiety to the raw surface are various times my lowest points 1999, 2007-8, and most recently in early in 2013. I was so close to that edge where looking up painless ways on the internet. The pain tried to convince me that decision was good idea. What woke me up? I thought about the people I would leave behind even at the time it wasn’t an immense population but one of the most important my 1 year old nephew. He deserved better than my own lack of self love/care. I am lucky because without seeing his face in my mind I know I wouldn’t be here. Connection to others and extreme self care are the two pieces are essential to staying above the waterline. I still fall short at both at times but now know what I must do consistently for my survival. No one knew in 2013 I was that close the edge. Afterwords when I would share, people asked why I didn’t reach out? You don’t always reach out in a look at me I need freaking help. I reached out in an obscure way by calling or talking to my friends/family just to connect, got out of the freaking house and restarted taking care of myself one small bite at a time. I am happy I did and happy you did too! I know your post will help more than a few and grateful that you decided to to stay and share who you are with the world.
Much love and gratitude. Jen <3
The best post you have ever written. I became a fan after reading the 4 hour body because your never-ending inquisition about life inspired me so much. I have lost so many family members and friends due to suicide and I cannot honestly say I have never considered it myself. People tell me “wow I can’t believe you lived through all that, you are so strong and positive!” and I usually, in a matter-of-fact kind of way, laugh it off responding with something like “just one day at a time!” or some kind of generic bullshit line (which I stopped doing). Little do they know about the deep darkness that almost devoured me on so many occasions in my life. What kept the monster at bay? A five year old. I was a nanny for a 5yo about 12 years ago and to this day I remember that moment that changed everything. I was sitting in the car, ready to take the 5yo (sitting in the back seat) to pre-school. It was a particularly hard time in my life and for a moment before I started the car I held my breath as to not burst into tears, I did not want to upset the 5yo. A moment of silence passed and then the words: “Do you know what I tell myself when I’m in trouble? This too shall pass.” Word for word. From a 5yo!!!!! I sat there and couldn’t stop the tears from running down at that point because this was the ray of light that I needed. I needed it so bad. Thank you for this post, I know that it will be helpful to more people that you can imagine. We are all human, and that is one thing we seem to forget. Humans fail, but humans also have an inherent survival instinct which I found to be the one of the last sources I had to tap in to. This leads me to another helpful habbit I developed over the years.. Comparison. There’s two kind of comparisons you should utilize: (1) Think of the worst time/moment in your life, even if you think the current moment is worse, and realize/admit to yourself that you got through that. You made it. It passed. Try to learn from past experiences by tapping into that source that helped you through it, whatever it was. Find ways to make what helped you before, better. I know this is a very general point but we all HAVE that capability to be resourceful. I agree 100% with ‘a healthy body houses a healthy mind’, that is where you should start. I started running. It works. Mini goals turn into bigger goals which then turn into success. (2) Compare your problems/issues/troubles with people who had/have it worse. There are sooo many examples. General history books are a great start. Look at those who has failed but didn’t fail to stand up again. Look at the starving children in Africa! Just try to imagine yourself in an unimaginable situation in life. See? You should lift yourself up and dust yourself off because people in worse situations than yourself have survived, have CHANGED THE WORLD, helped OTHERS while in agony themselves. DO NOT let anything cloud your mind, and if you should find that it does, just know that clouds passes on too. Do not compare yourself to someone who has never shared their pains – how can you possibly attempt to compare an open book to a shut one?? Sadly so many people seem to think that by looking strong from the outside, they accomplish something (a good image, etc.), while in reality it makes others feel like failures and it takes away from the hope that could have been offered: that everyone has a cross to bear. Hold on to something, to a sunny day, to your family, to your friends, and don’t ever forget to show your appreciation. Tim, many thanks for sharing your pain. Hero status in my books, no matter what lies beneath – we all have an iceberg beneath with the potential to sink our titanic, some of us are just better at lying/pretending than others.
I graduate from school (high school for americans) in about 2 months and I often find myself feeling slightly depressed. Most of the time it’s because I’m scared about the future and making bad decisions that will bite me in the ass later.
Many of the people we look up to or follow on twitter or whatever never speak about their low points, people don’t realise they struggle just as much as you do. So thank you Tim for being very honest and open about you own experiences.
There is an app called iCBT. It’s a mechanism that lets you fix your self talk. I use it daily.
Thank you—so much. Best treatise on suicide survival I’ve read since William Styron’s vulnerable little book “Darkness Visible”. This may save lives.
An important thing you say is that distress and despair, which can seem permanent and eternal, often pass. When the roller coaster ride of my own life has taken a sickening lurch, it has helped me to remember the words of Lao Tzu: “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”.
Tim, thank you for this post. I especially appreciate the remark how an event you may be unable to recall 5-10 years from now can feel like a black hole you’ll never escape from. Years after the event, some may experience shame in the thought of hurting themselves over something that now seems insignificant. But at the moment, the strangling thought loop creates the perception of only one permanent option. Forgiving and showing grace to yourself is important.
Whenever something comes up that may lead to a period of depression, it’s helpful for me to ask myself if “this” will matter in 10,000 years. Failing at a relationship or making a mess of your finances or a work project is a bump in the road of life, which in the end makes our story one worth hearing about. I believe our relationships and how we treat others will make a difference 10,000 years from now. Something as simple as a smile or an “I love you” to/from a family member, friend or significant other releases an energy that will never be extinguished.
Incredible article and I wish I had read it a year earlier. This is/would have been a great blueprint to help.
We should definitely strive to get this into as many hands as possible.
Thanks for the post Tim. I lost someone close to me and appreciate your comments.
I heard the short podcast from Tony Robbins and am about half way through your interview with Derek Halpern. I have to say that I had no idea that you went through this, but on the other hand it is not too surprising. People who spend a lot of time measuring themselves are bound to have some disappointments. Knowing you through your blog and books I have come to understand that you hold yourself to a high standard.
Thank you for not going Hemingway and delivering all this great content. I am appreciative of it and so are so many others. If you ever get to feeling the same way I hope you collect the positive comments from this and review them over and over to know that you are making a huge difference in many lives.
My mother went though a long bout of depression which I still don’t fully understand. However I do feel after these episodes I can empathize with her much better.
I have a tribe of people that read, follow, listen to, learn from and pretty much commune with (even if it’s only through books and stereo speakers). You, Rogan, Kyle Maynard, and a hand full more motivate me on a daily basis to live life to it’s fullest and not get too caught up in the trials and tribulations of living and breathing. That said, as much as I love and respect all of you, this is the first time I have ever commented on anything from any of my tribe.
A few months back Kyle Maynard posted a video on his own depression and it made me feel the same way. Here is a guy with congenital amputation that seems to achieve everything he sets out to do. Just like you, he is an inspiration for so many and yet it’s easy to forget he is human. It’s so easy to get caught up in believing that people who achieve at the levels you guys have are built of something different; that you all have some sort of steely resolve that the rest of us can only dream about. But when Kyle posted that video about how he feels like a failure, like a fake, and when you post something so relieving about yourself, it allows the rest of us to connect with you on a different level. I’m sure I am not the only one, but posts like this give me a renewed sense of resolve to keep fighting the good fight and not let life get me down (for too long).
And FYI, I love the Mexican Proverb. Since you posted it on Facebook a week ago or so, It has run through my mind every time something has seemingly gone wrong.
Thanks So Much!
Thanks for sharing and encouraging 🙂
What saved me was my dog. I didn’t think any people would be permanently scarred any more than they had scarred me, but my pup is innocent, and gets traumatized if I so much as leave her at a boarder for more than a day. Once I came to grips that I couldn’t just desert her, I tried thinking of someone I trusted to take her. I’ve had pets killed while in others’ care. I stayed to take care of her. She’s truly a rescue who rescued me 🙂
I still have some of those questions you highlighted, and they really sting at my much older age. I keep trying though. I’m often not very focused, but I’m practicing some of your tips from previous writings, books & podcasts – you *have* helped before, whether you realized it or not – and I get things done, sometimes not what I set out to do, but I’m getting better 🙂
Wonderful commentary, Tim!
I think you’re speaking the truth, in showing how suicide is violence against others. I think it might help to encourage people to seek community – as I understand it, a significant amount of depression and spirals can come from being isolated, where perception about your own self worth can get ever more distorted. I invite you to explore and encourage people to find community. Part of community is healing, but also helping others can get you outside of your own head.
The other thing you may want to explore, is look at the hard data for the risk of how psychoactive drugs can set chemical changes in the body that can result in physiological depression. I don’t know the stats, but I’m pretty sure there’s not only correlation between psychedelics/psychoactive drug use and depression, but also causation. I’d challenge you to dig deep into the stats, and consider pulling coverage of psychedelics from your media. Not only can they cause depression, but they’re increasingly regulated. My instinct says that there’s a disconnect between offering (excellent) advice for dealing with depression, and then having a comment link in an email that leads directly to a post of exploring psychedelics. It was ironic, but I think it highlights.
Even if there wasn’t causality with depression and psychedelics, I’m pretty sure most/all counselors would agree you have to be really, really careful – any psychoactive experience could become a crutch. If you care about the quiet person in the background (the suicidal), then the value of basically promoting psychedlics/psychoactive experiences, on the whole, may not be worth the casualties. (i.e. those who see the exploration and say hey this is ok if tim ferriss is exploring it).
And I’m also pretty sure that anyone with a pre-existing potential or tendency for mental illness, depression – especially bipolar, etc. – that the risk level is far, far higher.
So if it’s a life or death matter (it is), perhaps worth considering distancing yourself from whatever is your writing is perceived as promotion/blessing of psychedelics — i.e. not your intentions, but the way it actually comes across to the slient visitors who also happen to be suicidal, or for whom psychedelics could trigger depression and suicidal behavior.
It’s absolutely the case that with some of the new designed legal synthetics, it has definitely triggered suicidal and death-causing behavior.
There’s a lot of joy to be found in healthy adventure where there might be some risk, but where the essence is not poison – as I understand it, basically all psychoactive/psychedelics cause a dysphasic poison reaction of some kind. So if it’s biologically poison, regardless of the “experience”, it’s probably not a good idea.
Growing up in foster care was a byproduct of drug addict parents and it led to years of depression, self doubt and feelings of inadequacy. What helped me out of the hole is perspective. Always know that no matter what happens someone had or has it worse than you and still contributed to the world in a positive way.
Side note to Tim: your first book changed my life, thanks for not killing yourself.
Kudos to you on an extremely brave and open post Tim! You’ve done some crazy things in life, but this is one thing that took real courage!
This is quite possibly the most courageous piece of writing I’ve ever come across. Thank you so much for sharing this Tim. I recently loss a friend to suicide. I’ve also had some dark times in my past, though thankfully I’m in a much better place now. Your writing really hit home.
Thank you for writing this, especially the part about blowing things out of proportion. I’ve heard you speak on podcasts about feeling like you’re not making enough of a difference (paraphrased), but stuff like this definitely changes lives. Forwarding this to all of my friends.
You made me cry. That’s good and OK.
Remarkable and brave, Tim.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m glad you’re still with us.
I just happened to wake up early and saw this article on Twitter. It alone has probably saved me (for at least today).
I think about committing suicide every day. I’ve thought about it every day for over a year. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since high school and it’s only gotten progressively worse. I’ve seen professionals. I’ve been hospitalized. Nothing seems to work (and the hospitalizations make it worse). I began having incidents of self-harm a few years ago. They subsided for a while but have come back with a vengeance about 6 months ago, especially after my best friend abandoned me. I’m thinking about doing it right now at work. I’ve been in a terrible corporate job for 8 years now which has contributed to the depression tremendously. I write suicide notes while I’m at work. They’re more like journal entries and actually seem to help a little bit to get those emotions out.
The only time I feel OK is when I’m with a few good friends or trying to work on pursuing my passion. But even then does the depression and anxiety get in the way and hinder my enjoyment with my friends or stop me trying to work on something better. I feel like I don’t know what to do. I have no plans to do anything at the moment, I’m just more afraid of when the pain and struggle become to much for me to handle.
Thank you for writing this article Tim. It’s always good to know that we’re not alone with our issues, especially when it’s someone as respected as you.
Please be good to yourself. This thing you are passionate about – set some goals to do more of it. Start a blog and write what you’re feeling. You are not alone.
Hundreds came to my brother’s funeral when he killed himself. Every one of them miss him.
There are people who will miss you, too. Work is work – we all hate it. Corporate jobs are the worst! Write down some of the really stupid things that happen at work. Read Dilbert.
Please be good to yourself.
I was in a really similar place a little over a year ago. I was working 60+ hours a week for a poisonous company, went through a truly horrendous parting with someone, and let my social circle near-collapse. I was having multiple-times-a-day suicidal ideation at one point, which was particularly difficult as I rode a train to work every day (twice a day, I’d have to bite my hand or pinch myself as the train pulled up to distract myself as I imagined throwing myself on the tracks). I ended up trying to self-medicate with an anti-depressant that then triggered a severe psychiatric emergency. That took a while to get sorted, and was Not Fun Times.
At some point, right around the worst bit, I made a really important discovery: I am not my depression, or my anxiety, or my OCD, or anything else of that stripe. Whether those things are due to genetic or environmental brain differences, childhood trauma, or whatever… they are. Not. Me. Any more than I would be a broken leg, if I had one. And I had been identifying with them as if they *were* me, and letting them run the table of my life.
And I’m going to venture a guess that your depression and anxiety are not you, either, not the real you, and so they aren’t fit to dictate terms about how you live your life.
Humble suggestions in addition to what Tim posted, based on what sounds like shared experience:
-Find a new job, if it is impacting your mental health. It does not matter if that seems unfeasible for some reason, or what the benefits of staying appear to be. Look at it this way: if you walked into work every day and your co-workers came up and started gnawing on you physically, and the floor was covered in rusty thumbtacks, you’d have left a long time ago and no one in the world would have said you’d made the wrong choice. That people put up with the psychological equivalent of this, or even congratulate others for it, is a symptom of cultural insanity. I’m saying this as somebody who nearly lost everything to a completely toxic work environment: find a new job. You have a RIGHT to an environment that does not wreck your mental health.
-Remember that you are NOT the depression or the anxiety. Those are, ultimately, *physical* issues with physical causes, and remembering that can help. I hit rough patches every now and again and reminding myself something along the lines of “Okay, my brain is doing something chemically weird right now” can take a lot of the power out of whatever is going on. Meditation, some cognitive behavioral work, and some movement-based stuff (specifically the Alexander Technique) also really helped me get outside of my own head enough to realize how futzed up a lot of my thinking was.
-Be kind to yourself, man. You didn’t ask for this load of crap, no matter what your life has been like; it got dumped in your lap. Be kind to yourself the same way you would somebody else going through this same thing. Keep pursuing that passion and going out to see good friends, even if the anxiety or depression makes it difficult. One thing that really helped me along these lines was to pick a thing that I’d wanted to do for a long time but was scared of and just force myself to go do it. Shake off some of that shell I’d let build up around me. For me, the first one was paddle-boarding off the local coast, and it made me happier than just about anything I’ve ever done.
And you have a right to do things that make you happy, and that bring you real joy. Life is short enough without making it shorter, and while you’re here, you have a right to do things that bring you joy.
Good luck, man. I’ll be pulling for you.
I cant thank you enough for your thoughts and wisdom. I have had indirect exeperience with an individual very dear to me whom through his time confronting and struggling with bipolar disorder had multiple times underwent sucidal ideations. This is knowledge you share here, has played a critical role in my life of late and for remining me of the strength and will to endure hardships I thank you.
I think the most important thing with depression especially when it’s caused by a specific event but rather a long term feeling of “nothingness” is to know that despite what you feel, or how little you feel, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel always. Whether it takes a year to get better, two years to get better, five, ten or more- the wait is always going to be worth it and the feeling of nothingness will pass. No condition is permanent, no feeling is final, and it will get better.
What kept me alive was the fear that instead of killing myself, I’d end up like the guy in Metallica’s One video. After coming up with my latest plan, I would ask myself if there was ANY chance I’d end up like the “armless, legless wonder of the 20th century” from “Johnny Got His Gun” (and, if I did-and somehow managed to find a way to communicate, would anyone care enough about me to let me die? Because I definitely didn’t believe that.).
I would also like to note that my brother had killed himself 7 years before my lowest point, and even knowing how much it hurt all of us, I still believed everyone would be better off without me-even though I KNEW first hand how they would actually feel. I had also been in and out of therapy since age 14 (so about 15 years at the worst point) and on and off antidepressants so I KNEW it would get better-I’d experienced it MANY times already! Depression and its cohorts can distort any and everything and it’s CRUCIAL to keep trying to do ANYTHING it takes to get better.
Thank you for sharing Tim. It’s vital that those of us who survive tell our stories. It’s equally important for those of us who have managed with an “average” life and those how have overcome and created greatness. We all matter: your story reaches millions more than mine but mine lets everyone know that it’s ok to be average too. And, without your blog, I wouldn’t be sharing my story today. I’m also incredibly grateful to Silas for encouraging your share. I hope he knows how important it was for him to ask.
Thank you for your courage in writing this. I think you’re saving lives.
What has helped me get out, and most importantly, permanently stay out of the black place where there seems to be no way out:
1. Diet. No blood sugar swings, and optimizing for serotonin and beta endorphin. A great book on this is Potatoes not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD. This changed my life. No more every day struggle.
2. Mindfulness meditation. Changes the brain in beneficial ways and makes acceptance easier. Everyday staple.
3. Therapy. Or, Schema Therapy in particular. Love its approach. It’s based on both psychoanalytical and cognitive behavioural therapies, and also mindfulness. Somehow it incorporates the best of all of them. Can’t say enough good of this one.
Thank you Tim Ferriss. Thank you.
Thanks for this, as someone who many people would consider as having their shit together, it often comes as a surprise to them that I’ve been deeply depressed. Nevertheless, I’m myself always surprised, and in a way inspired, when people I follow, and who I consider to ‘have their shit together,’ share their stories of depression and thoughts of suicide. It such a necessary reminder/demonstration of the non-discriminating nature of it all–that it doesn’t always wear a familiar face.
I’ve found comfort in a life devoted to finding balance through all of that mentioned in your post: meditation, exercise, yoga and especially developing the ability to pay close attention to when I begin to isolate myself so that I can counteract the behavior. After many years devoted to self-improvement and mindfulness, it’s become much easier, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ups and downs and dark moments. But, I’ve learned that it’s more about taking it in stride and understanding that it’s not scary or permanent, that it’s perhaps, just normal. One final point, I now live in NYC, but one of my favorite yoga instructors when I lived in SF shared her story via a TEDx talk. After having fallen in love with her classes and her ‘peaciness’ I saw her talk and was, at first, completely dumbfounded. At the time it was so hard to reconcile the person I knew with the story being told. Much in the way that your post just has, it helped me understand that some of the most successful life-livers have found their way because of a deep, dedicated effort to find happiness. Learning to Live: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSYPONtkClQ
It’s great to see a post on this topic written by someone who’s actually been to the edge of that particular cliff, ready to take the final step off the edge. I’ve seen too many articles written by self-professed “experts” (many of them eminently qualified psychologists and mental-health professionals) but unless you have been there you have NO idea what is going through the mind of someone in this state. I HAVE been there and I wish I’d had this post to read back then, although I probably wouldn’t have taken much notice of it at the time.
Great post Tim and to anyone who is in the same, or similar, situation, never, EVER feel embarassed about how you’re feeling. Try to get the strength to talk to someone. It isn’t easy, I know I felt like a failure and admitting that failure to someone else was the hardest thing in the world, but give one of the numbers Tim quoted a call. They’re trained to listen, they won’t judge, they’ll let you say as much or as little as you want.
It doesn’t matter how dark the tunnel is right now, there IS a light at the end of it. I know there is. Tim knows there is and so do many, many others.
Great post. As someone who has been caught up recently in a maelstrom of bad circumstances, it’s very important to remember that this too shall pass. I often invoke the thought of what such an action would do to my family. Those two points carry me quickly past any rumination on the subject. To quote Churchill (I believe), “When you’re going through Hell, don’t stop. Keep going!!”
Tips for becoming/staying a high-functioning depressive:
1. Make your bed every morning as soon as you get up. This one small thing can make a huge difference. It means you are up. It mentally closes the bed off as an option and in it’s tiny way means you have accomplished at least one thing. It starts the day off with something productive and can mean A LOT considering its simplicity.
2. Take time EVERY day to do something just for you, for fun, something that makes you happy. I’m not talking HUGE, just something simple- 30 minutes of uninterrupted Family Guy, cooking a nice meal, taking a bath, read a few chapters–whatever works for you. STOP, and DO IT. Taking care of ourselves becomes a last priority when we are busy, and we can easily lose track, finding out too late that we are at our breaking point.
3. Get adequate sleep. I swing between insomnia and over-sleeping. Making yourself have a regular schedule of sleep can help in the long run. Lack of sleep only intensifies everything- making us reactive and unable to cope/think logically or clearly about situations.
4. Be incredibly careful about taking prescription drugs and meds. Many can cause depression, anxiety, etc. and if you are already prone, you must responsibly discuss with your physician the risks and side effects to make an informed decision. You have to be your own advocate in medicine (doctors only know what you tell them sometimes) and make sure you are aware of where you are emotionally– where the thoughts and feelings are coming from and if taking your prescription is becoming a problem. Your doctor can discuss alternatives if you feel like you are spiraling. (To give you an example: I suffer from intractable migraines- many migraine meds alter your serotonin levels and can cause MAJOR lows, some can cause panic attacks–these types things can be especially dangerous for those who are already “at risk”.)
5. Do something in your spare time (or better, for life) that is about other people. Taking the focus off of yourself, out of your head and your self-talk and making your action about helping others and doing some good in the world in a very obvious way can provide a much needed lifeline. I happen to do pro-bono architectural work because that is my close to my heart, but there is something for everyone. When we do something to improve the lives of others, it reminds us that maybe we do have a reason to be here and keep going.
I can’t begin to thank you enough for posting this. I’ve battled suicidal thoughts (and attempts) pretty much my entire life. I know I should seek professional help, but something about doing so seems disingenuous to me for some reason I still can’t comprehend.
Nevertheless, I HAVE found a couple methods that seem to help me in particular:
1) Since a great deal of my suicidal thoughts and general depression stems from feeling like I’ve never accomplished enough, I have a list of really awesome moments from my life that I’ve compiled that I can look back upon to remind myself of just how much I HAVE done. This gives me some promise as to how much more I can potentially enjoy in the future, even if I feel like I’m wasting my life right at the current moment.
2) Studying nutrition, nootropics, and brain science (thanks in part to “The Four Hour Body”), I developed what I call my Emergency Depression Snack Kit. I actually just used this to great effect last week when I was dangerously close to committing suicide. The snack kit includes:
–Dark chocolate (to increase endorphins that fight depression)
–Blueberries (to increase serotonin, responsible for our feelings of self worth)
–Any drink with a B-vitamin complex (to increase the energy that depression drains from us)
–Green tea (containing L-Theanine to reduce stress)
I still need to test this formula a bit more to see if it needs tweaking, but taking this in the past has helped my mood do a complete 180 inside of 2 hours.
Well done Tim.
You may do more good this with than you’ll ever know.
I admire you.
Tim, thanks for having the guts to write this post.
I’ve acted on suicide plans twice and thought about it many times. It’s hard to express the black tunnel of despair that covers me when I hit that point, and I’m now terrified at my lack of consideration of any implications for those who loved me – all I wanted was for it all to stop being so painful and hard, and I’d persuaded myself that as such a worthless person they wouldn’t miss me that much anyway. I was failing at everything, and felt like I was in freefall.
Only several months later did I realize how warped my lens was. What saved me? The first time, I was too broke to buy enough aspirin to do more than make my ears ring and vomit for a night, and I was embarrassed enough at facing my roommate and the dorm advisor that I had to fake the ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, it was dumb, I’m fine’ just long enough to snap out of it. The second time, I’d gotten a pile of movies to watch while I polished off both bottles of scotch. I have to thank the performers from the bottom of my heart, because it is their work that sucked me in to the stories, made me laugh, cry, and want to see what came next, so I never got around to finishing the booze.
Any actors/singers/performers out there who have bleak moments when you figure that you’re not working on a cure for cancer: you may have been the ones that saved my life that day, and I thank you more than you can know.
Now, I’ve got an agreement with myself. After 40 years of this, I can recognize, at least a little, when I’m spiraling down and know that these are the demons talking. When I feel this way, I will postpone until the weekend, or until next month (and sometimes it’s just an hour) to see how I feel then. I have notes to myself to ‘find out what happens next’ to try to pique my curiosity. After my parents’ deaths, I have a better idea what my siblings would go through, and I can’t make them do that. Exercise helps a lot, adequate sleep helps a lot, and when I need to get awful images out of my head, some medication. Talking (typing) about it helps too; thanks again, Tim.
You kicked ass with this one. Especially for ADHDs, (I bet you’re one as well), in the latter part of STOPPING PROCRASTINATIONS.
My father committed suicide when I was 16. I had kind of put it away in the back of my mind, and never fully grieved his death. Came back to haunt me years later…took a long time to figure out why I had so many irrational emotions, and took a year of healing and discovery to fully complete the process. Thanks for your courage.
This was a perfect reflection on suicide- non-judgmental, thoughtful, and constructive. I attempted suicide seven years ago and everyday I’m incredibly grateful that it didn’t work. Mine was a slow simmer of a painful year with a toxic guy that led to a boil that was shocking even to me. I often think about how quickly it happened- I didn’t think about my family, friends, where I would go, etc- but really, there were signs all along the road. I was pretty far up my own ass. I had stopped thinking about anything but my own romantic, torturous, flailing life a long time before I took any pills. You get depressive tunnel vision, you know? If I hadn’t isolated myself, in this irrational reality I shared with that guy, maybe I would have recognized all of the people and things I love. I try to see the world with bigger eyes now.
It’s amazing at the things we hide for “fear” of “embarrassment”. I typically skim over your newsletters but this one stood out. I’ve experienced extreme depression and came close to suicide, twice, in my life. What I discovered is that it was linked to the events going on in my life:
1) I was freshly a teenager and my life was collapsing around me: parents were newly divorced, my grandmother had just died, my mom pulled me out of school to “home school” me, and I had been forced to take care of my year old baby brother (excessively) on a day to day basis.
2) I was a sophomore in college and my girlfriend of 3.5 years left me for her boss, a few weeks after Valentine’s Day in 2005. Mind you this was after I had bought a cheap ring to propose to her, but she said, “If you’re going to pop the question, you better not give me a cheap ring.” Instead, it became a “promise ring” that she left on the counter the day she walked out on me.
I was so distraught and crushed by what happened, that I failed ALL of my classes that semester and secluded myself from the world. I didn’t have any other dating experience so I was completely in the dark as to what I should do. My friends had to come check on me because they thought I was dead. A lot of people I hung out with abandoned me because I was “sad all of the time” and they couldn’t deal with it. I had a handful of friends who did everything they could to stand by my side and help me through the slump. They knew it was a phase and wouldn’t last forever.
One day, something inside of me broke. A switch was turned off and I had 0 fucks to give about anything. I went from being weak and depressed to strong and mechanical. That also drove people away because I “lacked emotion”. It took about a year and I finally leveled out and was back in the middle again. I never thought I would be “myself” again. For about 2 years, I was a wreck, but grew a lot in that span of time.
I still struggle with “emotions” and a lot of times just “turn my brain off” to avoid emotionalizing things and getting inside my head. My wife is frustrated a lot of times because she relates to people on an emotional level, and if I’m not emitting any kind of emotional frequency, she can’t connect with me. I understand that it’s difficult to connect with me, but I’m trying to accomplish a lot and pave a way for us to live a life of freedom where we’re not shackled to a desk every day. I think part of the problem is I function like a machine: on or off, 1’s or 0’s. I don’t know how to hover around the middle. I’m hoping that I figure it out one day. In the meantime, I continue to work on myself and the habits/traits that are unhealthy for me.
Anytime I see someone in distress, I reach out to them and try to be an ear to fill and a voice of reason when necessary. Life is difficult. What is trivial for one person is everything to another. We’re all in this together, so why not reach out and extend kindness to one another? You never know whose life you’ll change.
Thank you for sharing your story.