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”
Yup – that was long but it was worth it. Thanks for sharing 👍 Loved this sentence (in particular): “If think about killing yourself, imagine yourself wearing a suicide bomber’s vest of explosives and walking into a crowd of innocents.” Great piece, kudos. Warmly, Sally and Tanya.
Thank you. So many people think that their problems are insurmountable. Me included. Thank you for helping people understand that there is always a way out. Thanks for being so brave.
Thank you for writing this Tim, I just woke up and it really made my day. I know this comment is going to get buried under hundreds of your other fans but this is a topic that’s very important and relevant in my life at the moment.
I am graduating from college in May and am totally lost. My father is sick and has not been getting better. My (now) ex-girlfriend decided that she was ready for a different guy. The weight of these problems, and various others, had acclimated over the past few months to seemingly unbearable proportions.
Then I decided to go to therapy. It has helped immensely. I love all of the things you talk about in your post. However, I think that you missed out on a huge point. Everyone should go to therapy. Whether you’re depressed, neurotic, or totally “normal”. We all have problems and we all don’t always know how to handle those problems.
By going to a therapist (that you like and are comfortable with), you can just talk about your life to a third-party, unbiased, professional that will help you perceive things in a new way. I like to describe it as playing racquetball with a very helpful wall. You hit the ball against the wall and it says: “Good shot! Hey maybe if you try rotating your hips a bit you can get more power out of your swing!” To which I reply: “Wow, I never thought about my relationship with my ex like that before!”
So like you said in your post, it’s easy to get lost in the abyss when everything (seemingly) comes crashing down. As friends and mentors have reiterated to me when I have told them about the rough patch I’m going through, the important thing is to hold on. The sun will always come up tomorrow and things will always get better.
The important thing is when things get hard, be honest with yourself and the ones you care about. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, being ignorant of the people who are willing to help does.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it.
I suffer from major depression, I live in SF, I’ve been following you since your start and this by far is the most important piece of information you have distributed.
Bravo, Tim! Am thankful for you, and your willingness to share this deep dark secret with the world, to open many eyes about this topic that most turn a blind eye to. This post is the beginning to saving many lives.
BTW – My only regret of the past few years was not wrestling you at Stephen Pierce’s house in Texas at that gathering of marketing minds. We joked about going outside and wrestling in the lawn, but didn’t. Maybe a match will occur somewhere in the future. LOL!
Thanks for the courage. Something similar happened to me as well. It turns out that the most amazing things in life originates from our worst nightmares. 🙂
For me it was a slow process of learning how the brain works, began to take classes and learn how the brain functions from a neuroscience and psychological perspective ( it just happened one day). i came upon a lecture of an nlp instructor and thought the idea was trivial but as im an adventurous guy decided to test the reprogramming on myself. i thought at the time i had little to go for but slowly as the need arouse used it to taler my dwindling foresight. I started to exercising and remove porn from my life as disconnected and left a 4 year relationship. it took many tries and various failed attempts but i found myself in an unknown part of my life, family and friends did help and being part of a triathlon racing team helped immensely. The biggest thing that changed me is controlled amounts of modafinil. I didn’t realize i had so many blocks in my subconscious, it forced me to see my subconscious blocks from an different perspective and find a way toward my goals. I soon after, reorganized my life , revamped my startup and resigned from my position and am venturing toward my endeavors.
Thank you for posting this, Tim. It took incredible courage to write, and I really respect you for it. As a teacher, I have had past students confide in me their pain and struggle. Thank you for the resources you posted. I will definitely pass these along. <3
Thank you for this, Tim. What happened to me is what similarly happened to you, only earlier in high school. In hindsight, I wish I had reached out for help long before it came to me in the form of my loving mom putting me in a mental health hospital for teenagers.
Keep doing what you do. Sending love, hope, and tactics to keep us going. I’m fighting with you too.
I haven’t had the courage to get my “S” stories in full print yet, but I know the time will come… This was so great. Thanks for caring as much as you do. So many young men and women will be touched by this. Wow. xo
Thank you for this. We lost my son’s Dad in 2011 to Suicide. While I still struggle to grasp how or why, it hasn’t tainted my ability to be grateful for the years he spent as an amazing Dad to our now 19 year old son. We openly communicate about how or why regularly and I feel that being able to comfortably speak about the awkward way suicide makes us feel is the best way to pull those out of the darkness so that we may help one another cope. I will share your notes with my son today….
Wow, I was very impressed on your article. Wanted to reach out to you. We are loosing one paramedic/EMT to suicide every 2.5-3.5 days as is estimated in the US alone. In Canada the numbers are also very high. I’ll pass your article on to some friends. If you would like some more information on this The Code Green Campaign is doing a lot of tracking and awareness in this field. And some of us are looking into the causes for this rise in suicide as it appears to be an occupational illness now.
Thanks for this. This is why I look up to you.
Great post Tim. I too believe that our consciousness persists after physical death. And who knows if how you die might determine the circumstances of your next adventure? So I’ll err on the side of the Norsemen and take the precautions necessary to enter Valhalla. To die fighting is a glorious death. 😉
Postsecret.com is also an amazing resource
Tim, this was remarkably helpful and timely. You are a brave and helpful man. Thank you.
You’re amazing, Tim. Very courageous and thoughtful of you.
It may be a coincidence, or not, but after reading this post, I read in Betsy Piez’s post in WSJ book club that, “…when an individual decides to stand up, it inspires others to do the same..” Beautiful share, and I think it is fantastic that you want to be a resource to help others. I love the love. 🙂
Wow. THIS post is an incredible resource. Ive battled with this my entire adult life and when it has been bad, it’s like being held at gunpoint. There is NO PERSPECTIVE when I am IN IT. Two things (that may seem obvious but are invariably important): 1- I find that having someone to call and ask “am i ok?” can be lifeline and 2- Having a pet helps me return to a grounded place. I live alone with my labrador and there is no question that caring for him and being loved by him has staved off some very real tendencies of thinking the world is better without me.
The best advice I can give to anyone who is reading this who is in the contemplation stage is to know that you’ve just reached a stage of pain that exceeds your coping skills at the moment. You can quickly learn to cope and recover. Reach out to someone, anyone and talk about it. People can help you.
That being said, there are two books that helped me immensely when I was struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Overcoming Worry and Fear by Paul A Hauck
Overcoming Jealousy and Possessiveness by Paul A Hauck
Both are books on rational emotive therapy. They are short, only about 100 pages each, but very powerful.
I was in debt with no income and going through a divorce at the same time. There is life, love, and happiness even though you might not feel that way at the moment.
Again, reach out and get help. You are among many people who have experienced the same problems.
Thanks, Tim! That definitely needed to be written on the interwebs! I can add to that the more general realization that there are things worth living for – sometimes as simple as the beauty of a sunset.
Thank you for sharing this.
Sure, my medicine vs depression is…code, code, code…create, create, create…
Thank you, Tim. This was a brave post.
My youngest brother (also named Tim) killed himself last November. Tears still sting my eyes when I think about it.
Let’s talk about a perfect storm. He was a Sgt in Kent County Jail, a place he worked for over 23 years. He ran a BJJ school. You were actually one of his heroes. He had a wife that won beauty contests and ran the Mrs. Michigan pageant. He had four amazing children, one engaged to be married in June, 2014.
In March, 2014, a Kent County task force came to his home at midnight looking for illegal drugs. He had a Medical Marijuana card, but it made him feel funny, so he didn’t use it (though he needed it for pain – another story). There were no drugs on his property. They charge him and three other officers anyway. They all had MM cards.
His life spiraled out of control. The jail put him on leave. Now he had no money and, I learned, his finances were always shoestring. They offered him a deal – plead to a felony and he’d get a minimum fine (or something like that – I don’t recall and don’t want to look at all my notes).
This dragged on for months. He eventually found his wife cheated on him. They tried to fix their marriage. He became despondent, calling me often to tell me his kids were going to starve and nobody would hire him.
We did what we could. We thought he was getting better.He seemed chipper when he visited my brother – the day before he hung himself.
A witch hunt by the local constabulary killed my brother.
The thing is, his funeral was packed. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye – and any of them would have helped if he just reached out. All he had to do was ask any of us.
All he had to do was ask. All he had to do was tell us what he was thinking.
We would have done anything.
We could do nothing, because we didn’t know.
He didn’t ask.
I’ll miss him forever.
That’s the perfect storm.
If you’re sad, please – just ask a friend to talk. Tell them. We’ve all been depressed. Many of us have thought of suicide – it isn’t uncommon. Please stay with the people you love.
We don’t want to miss you forever, with aching hearts and tear-filled eyes.
Thanks for listening.
Tonglen meditation. Horrifying is an understatement, but the harder and longer metal is beaten, the stronger and more aligned all its parts become.
Thank you for writing this Tim. 8 years ago I was coming out of a bad relationship and ended up overdosing on pills. It was the stupidest thing I had ever done in my life. I was fortunate that in a single moment of lucidity, I downed half a bottle instead of a whole bottle of codeine.
That entire experience changed my life and how I look at ‘impossible situations’ now. It’s good to know that you are helping to raise awareness of this very real problem. More people need to realise that help is available and reach out for it.
Your best post ever, Tim. Awesome job.
Thanks Tim. A tool that I use a lot is to watch motivational videos on youtube or read a book that inspires me. I was there once too, and now I’ve overcome the depression and suicidal thoughts by making a decision that life is worth living and whatever I may be feeling now will pass. Also, look around and be grateful for the little things, like your favorite food, or your favorite beer, or you a favorite tv show, or your sister, brother, or significant other.
Thank you for posting this. One of the best resources I’ve seen on depression has been the Live Through This project. http://livethroughthis.org/
Early on, I wasn’t helped by professionals giving advice when they’d never experienced suicidal depression. I think it’s a lot more meaningful to hear the stories of people who’ve been there, and come back to realize how meaningful a life can be.
Thank you so much for having the courage to post this. Could not have been any easy time, but I’m sure it’s going to help.
Getting Emotionally Focused Therapy with my husband (and it would work with a lover/girl/boyfriend) with a therapist who had experience working with trauma and experience with body-centered therapies finally helped me learn how to really connect with another human being, my third husband, and that made me so much happier in life. We are wired for connection and when that connection is truly fulfilled, it’s a game changer. So much out there tells us we should be able to be happy alone but our bodies tell a different story.
This EFT (not tapping) has huge amounts of clinical data behind it. One bit is that couples one-year post-EFT are actually happier than when they completed EFT. The process creates a positive feedback loop for connection. Here is the website for Dr. Sue Johnson who developed EFT. I owe her my life and my happiness.
Tim, I feel your opening up and greatly appreciate your courage to do what you can to help others. I wish you all the happiness in the world.
This is absolutely one of the best articles I have read. Tho I am saddened by what you went through, I love that your reaching out to help others. I myself work for “The Hopeline” which is a suicide crisis center among other problems people are suffering through. . Depression and suicide is one of our biggest subjects people call or chat in for. They always ask me what can I do, to stop feeling this way? They see no hope. The points you said for yourself to do daily is so encouraging and correct. If you don’t mind I am going to print them off and keep them right by my desk to offer these to people when they call. It’s so heartbreaking to me when I see despair and I am thankful for people like you to speak up. God bless your sweet sweet mama and the work that you do. You do matter and you did have a purpose.
Fantastic piece Tim.
A family friend committed suicide a month ago. I think he felt quite like you did at your time of crisis: Feeling a failure and not believing/knowing how sad his family and friends are at his loss.
Unfortunately, he did not the get lifeline you got ….. I’m very glad you Mom called you. Mom’s rock!
Serendipitously, I am attending a course on Positive Psychology and Life Coaching and hope to have a practice up and running by end of Summer.
One of my main goals is to develop online and face to face courses for schools and colleges, to provide people with tools and techniques that will help them get through life’s crises – which none of us escape – but can manage, without losing hope for the future.
I’m a firm believer that positive psychology skills should be part of the school experience, providing people with the ability to manage and/or know how to get professional help in times of emotional difficulty.
The last thing I would want is to minimize people’s difficulties, but there are some very simple techniques (either working with someone or on your own) that can help us put our feelings/situations into perspective. By using techniques such as time/distance perspective, you can create some mental space and clarity, to help you make more positive and healthy decisions .
I think you have a done a great service to a lot of people with this article Tim, I hope Sllas reads it!
You’re a good man, Tim. Thank you for your honesty. Although we are flawed (I do stupid shit sometimes), the grace is, like you said, that we are not alone. 👊
Tim — Thanks so much for your post. Your willingness to open up about your dark times is admirable, and it will undoubtedly help those who are going through dark times themselves.
It especially resonated with me, as I likewise went to Princeton. At a young age where so much of my identity was wrapped up in being “successful,” which meant stellar grades and pleasing my teachers/professors, I struggled on-and-off throughout college dealing with the stress in an environment with lofty expectations and high performers.
I hit one of my darkest periods senior year leading up to the thesis and made the tough decision to take a year off halfway through senior year. I just did not have the emotional strength or energy to continue. The year off did give me some perspective and allowed me to return and finish. A mindfulness meditation course at the Princeton counseling center during my last semester also helped, as well as reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance book that they recommended.
College was often a lonely and dark time. Early on in college I had gone to a psychologist, and later a psychiatrist and a Princeton counselor. I started taking some medicine (didn’t help), and all the professional help convinced me there was something truly wrong with me. During the particularly tough semesters, I would hole myself up in my single dorm room with the shades drawn to sleep and watch movies, anything to escape my reality and my feelings of shame, which would snowball.
While I eventually got through it and rarely go back to that dark place, I am somewhat shaped by the experience. Even though it’s been over 10 years since graduating, I believe I am more cautious and anxious of a person, as I fear things could spiral out of control again if I’m not careful. So, I can’t completely say I’ve come out totally stronger because of it.
In my opinion, schools, particularly those filled with high achievers, should not just exclusively teach facts and disciplines. They also should address the reality that its young students are also learning how to be human beings, what values are important to them, how they see themselves. Emotional intelligence and inner wisdom and peace are just as important to “success” in the real world (probably more) than learning facts or studying, and are critical for happiness. Yet, schools, from the earliest level through universities, generally avoid this. At the very least, they should have a supportive environment for growing human beings to have a constructive dialogue and be aware of resources to help them cope with the many challenges of growing up.
Finally, I think a year off before or during Princeton is a wise thing and should be more the norm than the exception. Stepping away from the bubble of schooling, gaining perspective, and being exposed to other experiences off the treadmill of high academic achievement should help many young people mature, deal with the many challenges of college, and get more out of it.
Thanks again, Tim.
Thank you. With Infinite love and gratitude.
BUT HAS TIM FERRISS DONE ACID. HAS JOE ROGAN DONE ACID? NO! Get it done gents, fnord.
Thank you! I’m so grateful that I read this. I feel like I’m in a similar situation as you were and after reading this I KNOW everything is possible.
Thank you Tim. Though that part of my life is passed I have certainly fought the demons at the gate and almost lost that battle.
Truly I have no advice to share. There was no one moment that spurred a change. I simply just never got around to it. Then things just started getting better on their own.
Recently on your podcasts and interviews I have watched you have mentioned “the one thing that scares you is likely the thing you need to do most” I feel with suicide this is so very vastly, intrinsically, fundementally, true. Not meaning suicide is hard you should do it! But rather the path that is hard, life, you should do it. Face the hardest part and take it head on and stab it in the throat with a butter knife.
Thanks again Tim
Thank you for sharing your personal experience. In my young life (27 years old), I came to find that deep thinkers attract other deep thinkers. Often times deep thinkers are very prone to depression because they tend to over-think their situation and plan too many negative scenarios.
Considering myself a deep thinker (and I bet many of your followers are too), I had my encounters with serious self doubt as well. One situation that I can clearly remember was me preparing for the GMAT, crouching under my desk crying and telling myself what a stupid idiot I am because I could barely crack the 700 points-mark (if your first language is not English and you are not necessarily a genius, the GMAT is quiet a challenge).
There is a line from a song that always pops into my head in situations like this, which is “the darkest hour never comes in the night, and when it comes you have to stand up and fight”. Whenever this darkest hour comes around, I remember that whatever is dragging me down so bad right now, it can never be heavy enough for me to give up.
A good friend of mine used to be a manic depressive and he once told me, in a inebriated, slightly stoned and medicated state (three things that do not go well together), that his parents were the only reason that he was still alive.
Like the non-suicide vow that you mentioned, Tim, I found that it helps to install an image or a sentence in your mind that is meaningful to you and that reminds you that nothing can ever be bad enough for you to give up. Whenever I start to question the purpose of everything, including myself, I try to focus on the fact that life is simply too rich and full of so many good things that it simply does not make any sense to trade that for uncertainty (or in other words death). This works especially well if you are a super rational diehard like myself, looking to maximize your personal utility function (just to throw in a bit of economics slang).
Finally, I can only say that you are not alone. And I mean that in the way that ,on one side, there are people who are feeling the same way that you are right now and that, on the other side, there are people who care about you even if you do not think they are.
Always remember that there is no point at which things can ever be so bad for you to let go.
Greetings from a fellow deep thinker.
What a post, Up to your usual very high standard. This is why I keep coming back and reading this blog. I salute you sir.
Thank you. Than you. Thank you.
While not suicidal at this time in my life, I needed to hear this today.
I’m thankful for every time you share yourself like this.
I find that taking an inventory of what you do best, even though you think you suck at everything there is something you suck less at, and try to do some of that every day. For me it’s teaching. I’m not a teacher but I have a lot of “useless” info stored up that is sometimes useful to others. Yesterday, in an ice cream shop I was in line with some high school kids when James Brown came on the in store music. I said to kids I didn’t know” have you ever heard of James Brown? He’s the greatest entertainer of all time!” The kids started asking questions about him and one said she was going to look him up on you-tube. I felt great! a teaching moment!! Not in a classroom, not on stage but in an ice cream parlor.
Thank you for posting this.
One thing I would add is that feeling suicidal doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you as a person.
Its a symptom of something not going according to plan in your life. Search for the root cause. That will allow you the opportunity to think of options to change things.
I know this is a large over simplification of the thoughts and feelings that one goes through when stuck in the middle of a depressed state. But its how I try to frame things when I feel that way.
Thank you so much for having the courage to write this. I went through a year-long depression from May 2013 through May 2014 after years of struggling with it intermittently. I had daily thoughts of suicide, but I live with my wonderful boyfriend and couldn’t stand the thought of him coming home and finding me.
I’ve been on antidepressants since the start of my depression but, honestly, I didn’t start to feel better until I committed myself as an active participant in my personal development, rather than the spectator I’d turned into. A big breakthrough was realizing that anxiety was the major source of my depression. I would obsess over tiny things, turn them into mountains in my head, then feel hopelessly overwhelmed. So instead of trying to magically turn my depression into peace and happiness, I focused on stress relief.
When I’m feeling particularly anxious, I climb the stairs in my building a few times or run around the block. Meditation has also proven extremely helpful, particularly those that focus on breathing. There are lots of free 15-minute meditations on YouTube (my personal favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPpUNAFHgxM).
I try to start each day with a simple breakfast, 30 minutes of exercise, and fifteen minutes of meditation. I try to plan my mornings ahead of time so that I don’t have to think or make any decisions–I can just act. The absolute worst thing you can do when you’re feeling low is nothing. It gives what might have been just a light drizzle of worry the chance to turn into a monsoon.
Good post Tim. Good on you for having the courage to write it. Be well.
Thanks for the great post Tim. I am sure it was difficult for you to write but will be a great resource to so many.
I have found that regular different exercises early in the morning tend to help. I had a simliar experience in college as you and I was able to feel a little better just by doing something physical each morning around 5AM. Nobody is usually up then so it is quiet and a good time to mediate and exercise.
I would also try to focus on the most stressful things first before noon would arrive so I could relax somewhat the rest of the day. It didn’t always work but it did take me from having regular panic attacks to just feeling worried.
Now that school is over I have applied it in my daily business and personal routine. I have three kids now as well and I realize I need to teach them how to deal with stress and these feelings or they will have to figure them out on their own as well.
Great post Tim…really appreciate you stepping out and talking about this!
As antidepressants may well be considered by some reading this, I want to recommend the book Anatomy of an Epidemic, a scholarly book about the evidence base for psychiatric drugs. I read it after being hospitalized from severe withdrawal symptoms to antidepressants, and wish that I had found it sooner. There are many things we don’t know about these substances, including whether they make some people permanently worse.
Thanks Tim, for sharing this.
One thing you didn’t mention but it is very important in the process of overcoming depression is to understand depression. You can`t fight something you don’t know.
I highly recommend the series of articles published on Art of Manliness called Leashing the Black Dog: My Struggle With Depression.
Even if you don’t want depression I think it is important to understand it because someday it can be used to help someone.
This might be the most profound thing you have ever written. And you write some pretty important things, things that help me move my life forward. It takes courage to share our stories of darkness but it saves lives. I am honored to be in your community and get this kind of offering in my inbox. This is what love looks like!
Thank you for your honesty and transparency in sharing this!
I was touched.
This is an important issue to be talked about, especially for those who are deeply troubled and depressed.
When I am felling out of sorts and troubled, I like to do the work of Byron Katie to restore my peace and centeredness: http://www.thework.com
Thank you so much for writing this article, as much as I find myself saying that after reading anything you write, this time it’s serious. I really needed to hear this right now, as I have been letting the struggles of my academic career dwell in the forefront of my consciousness.
Thank you, TY, TY. Men die by suicide far more than women (in 2013, 78% of US suicide deaths we men) yet we really haven’t got a handle on how to be helpful to men (speaking as a suicide prevention scientist and therapist who works with suicidal people). Hearing real stories (like yours) is the next step we need to move this field.
A couple other notes:
– The Crisis Text Line (text Hi to 741741) is a great resource for people who don’t want to start a phone conversation with the Lifeline.
– The field of suicide prevention is moving towards saying ‘died by suicide’ and ‘kill myself’ instead of ‘committed suicide’ – see http://bit.ly/1FRuP0E
– There are few treatments specifically for suicidal people. One is Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I’ve worked on making pieces of this treatment more accessible – see http://www.NowMattersNow.org
– “Be brave if it matters” – you certainly have! Thanks again.
Great article…I agree with you 100%
Tim, thank you so much for this.
For purely personal reasons, I’m very happy you stayed alive 🙂 You’ve done more for me than many of my family and friends, honestly, and that’s me, just some guy you’ve never met, out in Spain. Thanks to reading and re-reading your 4 Hour Work Week book I’m VERY close to quitting my day job and becoming a full-time blogger.
And for the good of everyone, I love this post and the other one about your “dark side”–I think it’s really important for people to know that those we admire are JUST AS MESSED UP as we are. Probably more. And that probably it’s the obstacles and the overcoming of them that makes them worthy of emulation.
Thanks again. For everything.
Powerful post, Tim. Unfortunately, it would take me just a few seconds to name half a dozen friends and family members who have sought help for depression through therapy and anti-depressants. I don’t know why it’s so prevalent in society, but it’s obvious that so many of us need more help dealing with it. Thank you for writing this post.
I’m sorry to throw content at you, but two of my blog post for American Craft Council give advice for students and artists on ways to overcome fear, anxiety and failures. If there are any artists or craftspeople reading this and having problems, hopefully my posts will let you know that you are not alone. I don’t want to spam you with links, simply google these titles and they’ll pop right up:
A Potter’s Journey: Conquering Art Major Anxiety
A Potter’s Journey: Launching a Pottery Business Venture and Fighting to Keep it Alive
The second post was a lot like your story- losing a long term girlfriend to depression, work piling up, almost running out of money and leaving an organization on bad terms with almost nothing to show for it. After sending my first draft to the ACC editor she replied, “Woah. What happened?”
I kept moving forward and everything slowly got better, and continues to get better everyday.
P.S. Shout out to Tim’s recommendation for, “The “Artist’s Way” Journal. I use it five days per week with a morning breakfast ritual and it’s been a great way to calm my mind and focus on growth.
Thank you so much for this post… I often feel much the way you described because I’m an entrepreneur and achieved a lot, at least on paper, but no one knows the struggles, the failures, the feeling like I’m a total fuck-up… I won’t take things too drastically because I have a family and sons and friends who I love and love me and the last thing I want to do is take anyone to hell with me… but just knowing that this is how you feel sometimes and how many successful entrepreneurs feel, gives me a lot of courage. Its not just me. I’m ok, more than ok, in fact. I feel a huge weight just lifted from my chest and I can breath easier…I vow not to hide from this reality… it helps to be open about it, for me and for others I may be in contact with.. Thanks again Tim for sharing.. xoxo
It’s apparent from the comments that there’s an lot of pain people go through. How wonderful would it be if you have a series to hack emotional/psychological blocks? Thanks for sharing your story and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the name of helping others.
Thank you for writing this post. There is so much I could say as someone who battled with depression for years and was eventually led to shamanic healing practices to find what I experienced as a more thorough way of both understanding and bring back parts of myself lost over the years (soul retrieval). What we consider to be trauma in the Western world really is just the tip of the iceberg — as children, every embarrassing moment, every moment in which we are afraid that love and care will be taken from us, is traumatic and a seed for soul loss. We don’t just “get over” these experiences as we grow older – they slide into the unconscious and we simply don’t understand why we remain full of holes as adults. One of the greatest privileges of my life has been being able to conduct soul retrievals for others most days of the week — to see and bring back the child parts of ourselves that we lost along the way that are integral to who we came here to be.
Hi Tim, I read your post and just wept. Wept for having gone through a similar set of circumstances (masters degree) and that dark place where things seem insurmountable and you question whether you add any value or whether it would be better if you left.
That those you love would be better served by your departure.
I was saved by my best friend who saw that I was drowning and she stepped in and helped me see that it’s ok to feel bad, fall over, make big mistakes and that it doesn’t change that you’re important and loved. She reminded me that I’m enough just as I am and deeply loved by my family and friends.
My hands are shaking as I write this. Even to this day, I tremble when I talk about it because I remain overcome with gratitude and that pain that comes from letting go of all the fear.
It can feel insurmountable to talk about suicide because it’s something that people shy away from and try to ignore. That they approach with a chosen denial because of the stigma and the perceived ugliness of it all.
I think people forget that pain is personal as it’s weighted in the perspective of that moment. As in just because someone on the outside can see the situation more clearly, it doesn’t mean the person in the situation is able to see things clearly.
I know for me that wasn’t that things were that bad, but because so many fundamental (what I perceived as fundamental) were in disarray, it felt like being in this dark, personal hell.
Perspective is everything when mired in the fog of your own war.
I wish I knew a better way to express my gratitude for your words, this post, but I keep choking up at the attempt to say how deeply it’s affected me. So, I’m going to just say thank you.
Thank you so much for using your prominence to shed light on this most excruciating and human of struggles. Your courage and compassion are true gifts. Thanks for sharing.
Love you bro for doing what you do! Ditto to Yoga or doing something physical. Showing up to a Yoga class that forced me to be present just to hold those challenging poses helped me a ton. I stopped thinking/worrying.
The clouds lifted a little by little each day. These class became the most important act of day during my most challenging period. My optimism accelerated when I finally joined a running group – these accepting strangers with common purpose – just get a run in – gave me hope. It’s OK to struggle. Like the storm, the class and the run will end soon and I always felt more alive than before. They were nurturing.
Just read your article “Practical Thoughts on Suicide”, Thank you, Tim, for being so open and honest and letting us all share your secret. I have a 20 yr old Sophmore who has been dealing with “non-happy” days as he has called them, and I am definitely going to pass this on to him. Making it “OK” to be confused about your purpose and failures is an important realization that many of us figure out too late. Thanks for all you do to inspire and innovate.
well said Tim I always enjoy your writing and this is helpful and useful for anyone who reads whether struggling in the moment or not.
This is amazing, Tim. Thank you.
Tim, thank you so much for writing this. Those of us who can talk about our depression and suicidal feeling should so those who can’t yet speak will know they aren’t alone. You’ve been a hero of mine for years and you just raised that bar even higher. Great job man.
I’ve been writing about my depression and battle with suicide on my website http://www.sadrunner.com It’s great to see other people speaking out about their struggles too.
You’re awesome as always man. And thanks for not tilting this post ‘4-hour Suicide.’ Appreciate that 🙂
Possibly the most important thing you’ve written to date…but that’s just IMHO.
Hi, here are two resources that works very well in the long term to help change the negative thought habits that fuel depression:
http://www.happify.com (look up the vid from Shaun Achor on ted talks) Fun, slick marketing. It seems a little simple at first but the small positives accrue over time.
This site is fantastic (the ozzie humour is priceless too!). It’s a coherent program (free) that teaches you, step by step, how to turn your own mind around. This is the one I found more useful and powerful in the beginning – stepping into something with a good structure was invaluable.
I took lots of notes and practiced little bits daily. Do NOT underestimate the power of small steps over a long time.
Thanks Tim, I think you have just saved lives.
Deeply grateful that you have posted this. Yoga, for me, has been a life saver in many ways.
Pray. I think we’re all hardwired for eternity by the God of the universe. He sends people and circumstances to bail us out. Just like when your mom called!
Thank you for sharing your story, specifically the part about struggling with your thesis (I can relate and I know a ton of other people who feel the same way).
It is important for people to understand how educational pressures for performance are only subjective. Real success (proven also by you, Mr. Tim) is knowing what you learned from your experiences and applying them to the real world to make a change or impact. Education and thesisi are merely the framework for your own creation and I feel as though people forget this…leaving education as the ultimatum of future success and happiness. Education should be a place of exploration and wonder, not stress. Why are we so stressed out now?
This post can also be related to the toilsome treachery of being unemployed. Being reject continuously allows you to feel hopeless, lost and confused…leading to depression. After opening being rejected 1,500 (at current date), I’m hoping for one YES that will allow me to flourish as a human being. Shooting for the stars to one day land on the moon.
Things always get better…..
Thanks for sharing Tim, and thanks for the work you do. It has made my life, and I’m sure many others, much better.
I’m really glad you wrote this post. I think one of the biggest dangers of depression and suicide is that so many people just don’t want to talk about.
I’ve struggled with depression since I was a kid. I was raised in a good home, had a super blessed life with no personal trauma, and yet the darkness was a companion of mine most of my life. It’s just the way my brain chemistry works. My go to coping method was busyness and exhaustion. I was busy so that when I was exhausted people wouldn’t ask questions. It wasn’t until I crashed as a young adult that I began to understand that my ‘normal’ was not how life had to be.
The best trick I have started to employ is code words. I have a few words and phrases that I can tell my husband, family and a few close friends so that they know what is going on. They know how to help, like encouraging me to take a walk, make sure I’ve eaten, or sending me out to my studio. And when all else fails, just being with me. They also know what doesn’t help, like asking for a ‘why’ or ‘what’s wrong’ or giving a bunch of emotional coaching to try and fix it. There just isn’t any ‘fixing’ the darkness. Having these code words makes it easier to reach out, because I know there isn’t a black lash, just people who are willing to sit with me as I wait for it to pass.
I would encourage anyone who struggles with reaching out for help to a few code words that let people know, the darkness is coming and I need someone else to know. As you talked about in your post, realizing you’re not alone is half the battle.
Continuing the adventure,
I very much appreciate this article! I wanted to share it with an online support group I’m in, but the URL made me squirm a little. “How-to-commit-suicide” is a bit misleading – did you intend it for individuals googling for an action plan, in the hopes of giving them pause? I imagine that this is the case, and would like to explain it to my support group friends who may not understand… Thanks, Tim. 🙂
Tim – Thanks so much for posting this.
LIke you, I know of many friends, family members and acquaintances who considered taking their lives – and some were successful. I, too considered it in my early 20’s and when I had a particularly rough break-up that I couldn’t see beyond. Fortunately, when I walked into the ER and said, “I need to see someone right now or I won’t be here tomorrow” there was a great team of people to help at Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital.
I feel like that experience – and the months of depression that surrounded it – have helped me relate to friends and family who have been in the same state of mind. I feel like I know the level of support that they need and I make sure I’m there for them – no matter what.
Your blog post does a great job of conveying how easy it is to focus too much on the preferred outcomes of your personal situation and neglect to see all the great possibilities that can come from changing your situation.
Thanks too for providing additional resources that can empower people to learn more, help others and deal with their own situations.
// Quick side note: “How to commit suicide” might not be the best slug for this. That is, unless you want who people google, “How to commit suicide” to find this piece. Then leave it, of course.
This is an incredibly important post. Thank you for sharing this.
I’m an emergency first responder (like a paramedic minus the IV lines) at one of the largest universities in Ontario, Canada. We respond to all 911 emergencies on a campus of over 30,000 people. Of the 50+ calls I personally received this year (our team gets over 800), over half of them were mental health related.
Whether it’s self harm, drug overdoses, suicidal ideations, intentions, I’ve seen it all. Over these experiences I’ve realized there are two things that hold true across almost all of them.
1) It’s an easily hidden population
The worst calls I’ve been to have been the ones where I’m second guessing myself if I’m even on the right floor in residence. The night is calm until you enter the room at the end of the hall to a radically differant scene. No one on the floor would know that their peer had spent that afternoon writing a letter with 50 pills of tylenol and a 40 of bacardi in their system.
2) How many people are on anti-depressants
This extends beyond dispatches that are mental health related. We have to know what medications a person takes and about 75% of people who I’ve treated are on some kind of anti-depressant or have been in the last 5 months.
What I want people to realize is that a) you never know what someone is going through, and a simple smile, wave, or hello, can really change a person’s outlook on life. We have a residence program here called, “how are you? No really, how are you?” to engage students to caring about one another beyond the generally platonic interactions.
And b) that if you’re feeling depressed or have suicidal ideations, that you are certainly not alone and there are so many resources for you to reach out to. As you piece shows, mental health is something we all have.
Thank you Tim. This is a post that everyone needs to read.
As a follower of yours, it amazes me how much I find that we have in common (wrestling, travel, entrepreneurship, and now suicidal ideation). I must say, this is one of the most authentic posts I’ve ever seen, and it is absolutely necessary.
I admire your courage in taking on this issue, and adding it to your personal brand. The stigma around mental illness (especially suicide) can cripple a person’s image; so thank you for overlooking it.
I have nothing but gratitude for you and especially this post. As someone who strives to model my life after yours, knowing that you also have gone through this struggle is without-a-doubt the most encouraging piece of information I’ve learned in the past several years.
Thank you, Tim.
Tim, I’ve looked up to you for years now and you are one virtual friend that has never let me down. Because of you I’ve mastered salsa, make and sell jewelry, do yoga, hike, travel the world, and I’ve written three books (weren’t successful->but I did it), developed and started an ecommerce company, and quit my job (though I had to go back to work :(). The key is that your words reflect God’s light, they are of hope, love, and understanding. They keep people moving and learning, which is the key to life. It doesn’t matter that you fall but that you always get back up. I once had thoughts like this too and I am glad that you are sharing this and helping others. We are all connected. You are courageous. I love you!
Just have to say Kudos to you for posting this! It took a lot of courage and willingness to be raw and open.
I too have struggled with feelings of wanting to quit in a permanent fashion, and I’m still here so I feel I have something of value to contribute. The two things that helped me get past the dark times are, 1) my love of horses and being in their special presence which is similar too but different that of being around dogs, and 2) working with a Life Coach.
The one always gives me an internal sense of peace by just being around them. The other helped me to not only put things in perspective, but helped me identify what the core issue was and how to effectively neutralize the root cause.
Those are my two empowerment pieces, and I hope it helps someone else who reads this post!
Thank you Tim for this post and as always keep the amazing content coming!
Thank you for the post. Very important. Well done.
Tim, this is a beautiful post. You’re an inspiration to many of us who are struggling to be human. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Great post, Tim – my own suicidal thoughts only came once in life, but like you, it was scarily easy and efficient to plan. Then, plan set, I set about trying other things – knowing I had “plan B” waiting in the wings.
I also really like your point about there being NO guarantee that there’s better life after death (or no life at all). I think of it in relationship to that old saying “You can sleep when you’re dead!” The answer I give: “But what if you’re WRONG?”
This is a very important post. Thank you!
Well done on writing this. It not only makes people more likely to talk about this difficult subject but also makes people more likely to talk about other difficult ones (for example, people probably don’t talk about rape enough).
For me, periods of excessively negative thinking are usually ended by unusually significant insights, as if my brain had been sucking energy into my unconscious in order to solve an unusually large problem. Unfortunately I tend to forget this fact every time another such period comes along, which is partially why I’m writing this, as a reminder to myself!
Keep up the good work,
Outstanding post Tim. Given the # of readers you have and the easily-forwarded nature of email, it’s an almost certainty you have personally saved several lives today. I hope you feel good about that for years to come. Please keep up the effort on all fronts; I enjoy your work. – Mike
It’s takes a strong man to admit flaw. I greatly appreciate this and think you have done a service to mankind and hopefully saved a lot lives in the connection that you’ve just made.
Hey. Thank you for the last blog post on suicide. No really. Thank you. I said it a while ago when I won a quarterly package from you (#TIM04) and I’ll say it 100 ore times. You’re a good man tim, and this post is reflective of that. I’m happy you came out of your brain and spoke what was in it regarding this topic. Thank you for bringing awareness to suicide. I hope the post reaches who it needs to.
I actually wrote a whole article in my own blog about ways to keep going even when you’re dealing with a “low” day [Moderator: link removed]. Many of them, when done consistently, work well to keep the low days at bay. Your tips on diet and exercise echo my own (I’ve personally found a whole foods based, nearly ketogenic diet to be my ideal for physical and mental health right now). I also include setting aside a day to just relax and keeping a clean work area, which I’ve found help to deal with the low-level stress that can build up.
Hi Tim, thanks for sharing this with us. I guess these dark moments are a part of the hero’s journey like you talked about in your talk with Srini.
Knowing my purpose in life helped significantly to get myself out of ending my miseries for the good. Another important thing was practicing the daily ritual as James Altucher recommends. One thing each towards physical (I did pushups), emotional (talked to my inner circle), mental (read non-fiction books) and spiritual health (prayers and 3 min meditation in the morning).
I believe taking care of our well-being plays a big role in killing those demons in our head. Your story inspires me to keep moving forward. Thank you Tim. Happy Everyday!
Thank you, Tim, for being authentic, vulnerable, and compassionate; you are a strong man.
I have lost friends and I had two periods in my life where I greatly struggled with suicide. Now, my life is filled with more joy, peace, and adventures then I ever imagined. I want to reassure people that life does get better, and that struggles can bring awakenings, meaning, and joy.
Now, I work as a therapist, and a common fear I hear about calling suicide hotlines is concerns of being put on a 72 hour hold. I’m guessing if you’re having suicidal thoughts you are probably feeling fairly powerless, and the last thing I would want to do is take choice and power away from you. While I can’t speak for everyone in the world, the counselors and hotline workers I know all want to support and empower their clients. So if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out, you can pretend you’re calling for a friend or a report, if that makes you feel safer. If you’re debating calling, just call, we want to talk with you and support you. It was actually quite sad when I had a shift with no calls, so release any concerns about not wanting to bother someone, because calls make our day. For people struggling, you are making our day by placing that call. I thank everyone who has reached out for support for their bravery, strength, and courage.
Thank you so much Tim. I had the fortunate experience of my mother sending me to a psychiatrist after my suicidal attempt. A lot of what you’ve discussed here immensely helped me in my personal struggles with depression and suicide. Thank you for bringing more attention to this.
Great post – I was at this point as a college senior. My roomie saved me by just making me do stuff – she had no idea I was depressed. I saw so much of this among friends in college. So many things crashing down on folks when perspective/experience is still limited. It would be great if you could get this out to a college association for print in newspapers. I just looked this up: http://www.collegecounseling.org/