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”
Thank you for this. It’s genuine, sound, and appropriately pragmatic. You truly care about (and know) your fans and it shows — what makes this post effective is your honesty and compassion.
Thank you Tim. I honor your courage in sharing all of this.
Excellent post about a subject that is not discussed enough by “successful” people. Thank you Tim for opening the door!
ESPN author just posted an also fantastic article titled “Split Image” about the role social media plays in constructing a perfect life and making others feel inferior because of our projection. Well worth the read.
Thanks Tim, this is great.
“While there is life there is hope” Stephen Hawking
Appreciate you bringing up the topic Tim. I almost walked in front of a moving vehicle so I’m familiar with the feelings of hopelessness.
The purpose of my comment though is to spread awareness of a partial solution to dealing with depression. It’s one I’ve used to go from a 92/100 to 50-55/100 on the Burns Depression Checklist in 4 months where 100 is extreme depression and 0 is no depression.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). At first, it may sound overly simplistic but the basic premise is that when you are anxious or depressed, your thoughts are distorted (e.g. Everybody hates me, I’m a completely worthless piece of shit etc.) which makes you feel hopeless, worthless, and all those other horrible feelings. If you can identify the ways in which your thoughts are distorted and then replace them with rational response, you’ll start to feel better.
It’s helped me tons and I haven’t seen too much discussion around it on the web so I figured posting it here would get some eyeballs on the topic and help some folks out. I still have a long way to go in improving my thoughts but for further reading I HIGHLY RECOMMEND EVERYONE DEALING WITH ANXIETY/DEPRESSION/SUICIDE/MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IN GENERAL TO READ THE FOLLOWING:
the first/top answer by Amin Ariana
2) Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
Dr. David burns is the protege of Dr. Aaron T. Beck, Father of CBT
Tim, I’m so glad you shared this experience with us. It really resonated with me. The harder I push myself and more I strive to achieve, funnily enough the more sensitive I become to failure, and the more trapped I feel the minute things appear to be impossible. Your story is a reminder that there is always an out, which doesn’t necessarily lead to failure. Thanks for the inspiration to keep my head up!
A good friend of mine killed themselves a couple of weeks ago leaving behind two children, 5 and 9. She was a single mom so she was the center of their universe. There were so many people that loved her at her memorial service that they couldn’t fit inside and the line to get in extended outside to a crowd that was left to mourn outdoors. Suicide creates a million times more problems and hurt to those left behind than anyone actually feels themselves. I know it may not seem like it, but the dark times always pass, and the good times come that you would have never traded for anything.
Tim, this is a really great article. Suicide and depression has had a profound on myself and many other people I know. This may be your best article yet. I will be sharing it with as many people as I can.
Thanks for sharing.
Awesome post,Its really brilliant i never red before.
From the bottom of my heart, Tim I thank you. 6 months and 23 days ago the love my life, my younger brother, took his life. Guess what?? His name was Tim. He was beautiful.
I was the last one in our family to speak with Tim, which was the day before he left us, and the same day that he researched 70 websites seeking instructions for how to kill himself. When I learned of his death I could barely breathe. All I could think of was that I failed him. How did I miss the signs? Why didn’t I do more? How could Tim not feel how how loved he was? He had so many people at his funeral that the service could not start on time because the line stretched outside the church down the city block. He was so cherished that his former employer dedicated a conference in his name. He always loved others more than himself, and I think that if he knew that taking his life would have shattered so many, he may made a different decision that day.
Thank you for your courage to share your story online. It is healing. If there are others like my brother searching online for tips on how to end it all, maybe they will come across this post and pause. You are a good human being Tim.
Thank you so much for posting this!
I consider myself to be a fairly balanced person, but in moments of despair I admit to considering suicide. Fortunately, I never went through with it and I’ve come out on the other side seeing what a wonderful gift life is.
Thanks Tim for this article. It will save lives and Thank You for sponsoring me when I powerlifter. This article made me think of our mutual friend Greg at Black’s Health World who unfortunately took his own life several years ago. Thank you for having the courage to write this much needed article.
“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.” <- Thank you for this.
I wouldn't want for my friends and family to have to feel the pain I currently feel in life as is, let alone 10x that!
Thank you for this. It reminded me of my own bouts with suicide and I want to know I appreciate the courage it took to share this.
Man, this is so on point. My mom passed away this year and I suspect it was a suicide.
I will have to work through this pain and darkness for the rest of my life.
This was a moving post and I admire your courage in sharing this story. I really like some of the practical tips; they are good reminders of things I think are important to incorporate. Thanks so much for writing this!
I’ve had really bad periods of depression throughout my life… At 13 I would sit up nightly with a handgun in my mouth … From 22-25 school frustrations and a breakup had it so I had no energy to get out of bed….I haven’t had a suicidal thought since 2008. I employed a lot of the same tatics you recommend … Daily exercise in particular and regular social contact. Two other things that totally helped
1) I’d keep track of the number of suicidal thoughts I’d have in a day week or month…. Just like with a startup I figured it was the best metric to measure the time between thoughts and then come up with a strategy to increase that time frame …. In the beginning it was trying to go from 2 minutes to 10 minutes, but once I started to build a better awareness of my moods and how they change I could increase to hours then days weeks and I’m now going on 7+ years.
2). Vitamin B3- I accepted that part of this was just biological, but I refused to go on anti depressants because I knew my dad did that and he was still having depression issues. I came across some case studies that suggested that depressive thoughts were actually just the result of a niacine deficiency (B3)…. I started something called a niacine flush and also switched from coffee to green tea as I noticed that coffee was causing big mood swings due to the fatigue of the crash….
I also noticed that every suicidal thought happened when I was tired … So I figured…. No mental fatigue… No suicidal thoughts …. It’s worked well.
One last thing…. Hang around happy people!
Brave man and fearless writing.We live in such a ‘masked’ world – I love it when someone speaks out with such force that ours masks dissolve leaving us face to face with reality and truth. Great read 🙂 Sandra
Thanks Tim. You uncovered an important subject that needs more blog posts and ‘coming outs’ like this one. There is a sense of addiction to being suicidal and unhappy. I believe it should be treated as a severe form of addiction and prevented as such.
Hate to humblebrag, but I got blocked by Brian Cuban (@bcuban) on Twitter !
Anyone else achieve this milestone?
Who is Brian Cuban? EXACTLY.
great post Tim.
Thank you so much for posting this. I have lost friends to suicide, and maybe discussions that you have started will help somebody to choose to stay alive for their family and friends’ sake.
Sharing you story is courageous, I know because I come out about living with a mental illness in my own community. It’s a good first step, I challenge you to keep going, us your skills, resources, and connections to do something that really matters. Learning to shoot guns and investing in urber look fun and are great means to an end, I sense you might be looking for something to really change the world. Trust me there is a lot of low hanging fruit in mental health.
As both a patient and a professional in mental health care. I see system plague by expectations of poor outcomes, and massive inefficiency. On that jails people or referring people to a rescue mission with a week of medication, know they will be back in a few days. But worst than that I see a common pattern people who feel they are alone, when in fact as many 1/4 people will be diagnosed. I see people who believe that they are worthless or their experiences have made them less than.
I’ve heard many in silicon valley use drug, burning man, etc to increase creativity and reach the outer potential of reality. There is a massive untapped creative and divergent potential among people with mental illness. That society is throwing away by pathologizing. Those that learn to blend or harness is can live normal and even extraordinary lives, some have changed the arc of history. Teaching people to live with mental illness and harness it instead of fear it, is critical. Looking at it as variance instead of pathology. Most important learning that they not alone.
Storytelling and peer services are critical for systemic change.
If your look for a few places to start contact me.
Thank you for this post. Powerful stuff. I think a lot of successful people have flirted with suicide at some point. As you put it, they’re “weird neurotic creatures who do things.” Your advice is spot on. I know from personal experience.
25 years ago, I spent a year focused on suicide every day. I was wracked with pain all day long obsessing over what a failure I was. When the sun went down, I couldn’t sleep because I kept obsessing over what a loser I was. Divorced. Business failure. Etc. The pain was intense and constant. I escaped via your method #2 above. But I didn’t figure it out. I finally went to see a cognitive therapist. I told him I was thinking about suicide constantly. It was the only way I could see to get out of the unbearable pain I was suffering.
Then he said the magic words that may or may not have saved my life. They put me on what I now call Epictetus’ pathway. I’ve never looked back… because looking back is a killer. He said, “John, you can’t kill yourself because you’ve got two young daughters. Do you know what it would do to them? It would cast a dark shadow over the rest of their lives. It would leave a permanent scar on their soul or psyche. They need their Daddy. And you’re a very good father from what I can tell.” That was it. I realized at that moment that suicide was out of the question.
When you rule out suicide, it means you’re choosing to live. That’s important. You are intentionally choosing to live. And if you’re going to live, why the hell not go for it full on. I had dealt with the possibility of death and self-obliteration for a year. I’d faced down that Cheat. Could it get worse? What did I have to lose? But I didn’t know what to do next. I just knew there was a next. I had a brain, a will, a unique set of talents and I’d discovered that there are lots of great people in the world.
I figured I could use some good advice getting started. It was pre-Tim Ferriss days, so I bought David Burns’ book “Feeling Good.” Burns taught me what I was doing wrong, how to lose that attitude (far easier than I thought) and think pragmatically. Robert Fritz “The Path of Least Resistance” was also helpful. I’ve had an incredible life ever since.
Cognitive therapy aka 21st century stoicism was the key. Since I’d chosen to live, I decided to go big, to pursue goals I’d been afraid to pursue before. Burns and others taught me how to take smarter risks. I learned the value of perseverance. If you keep pursuing your long term goal, you find that one day you surpassed it and didn’t notice. You’re already off on the next adventure. I’ve gotten knocked on my ass plenty of times since my dance with the devil. But now I knew that’s just life. Ain’t no bed of roses. And who wants to lie around in a bed of roses anyway? Each time I came through a better, smarter person. Well, at least I came through it because I had the tools to deal with hard times. I’m not perfect. When I screw up, I tell myself, “Hey you’re not perfect. You’re human. Humans make mistakes. Big deal. Get back up and into the game.” If I caused anyone a loss, I do my best to make it up to them. It works.
Thanks again, Tim. Reading your post added great value to my life, e.g. in helping me know how to be there for my high-achieving kids when they run into trouble. Like I said, there are lots of great people in the world. You’re one.
thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. Your story which is similar to my “perfect storm” but also to one of my close friend/classmate’s, who sadly did die and didn’t have that one in million miracle to stand in her way. I suffered the most I ever have this past year, but also came out stronger than ever, and know that I am going to contribute so much to this world. But also thank you for your tips. I have so many interests and things I want to do right, (and also things I kinda have to take care of), that by the end of the day, nothing got done. Nothing ever gets finished. So, I will use your awesome advice about the one thing to do, and blocking out that time to do it. Thank you again!!!
So glad you wrote this; 51 yrs old with two kids under 7 and I can’t catch one fucking break for a job – over 120 applications/rejections. My wife and kids are set with the insurance money – I spend 50% of my time thinking of ways to die. I held on to your article just to read and reread. I guess I am too big a coward to be a coward and check out.
Thank you so much for sharing this. Just last week I came close to taking my own life on 2 separate occasions its been a rough few months for me. Its funny how the universe works I only just seen this email today but last week I listened to the Eofire podcast you did with John I can’t remember what you said but it made me laugh which was an amazing feat believe me.
That day I was talking to my older sister about what is some good positive music to listen to and she said Jazz. Then I remembered your podcast and how much it has helped me and how much i enjoy it. I started talking about it with her and out of no where I told her I was going to reach out to you and she said what for and I said I duno! And here I am writing this comment now. (I wouldn’t have reached had I not got the email) synchronicity maybe!
I have only just read what you had to say on the subject before and you have changed my mindset completely about taking my life it has really resonated with me. Lets just say you have hit the nail on the head with some of your points on why not to do it!
Keep up the good work Tim you are a true inspiration and a great role model to me and the world.
I’ve followed your writing from the start, but it was my wife that told me about this particular post after it was posted to one of her professional occupational therapy mental health groups on-line. It really resonated with me. I was a straight A student at school, I’d been assessed with an IQ of 176 at the age of 12, but when I hit A-Level suddenly I started to falter. I applied to Cambridge to study mathematics but I didn’t get selected and then I got 2 As and 2 Bs at A-Level which threw me into a deep depression. I got a place at another top university, Durham, but during the first term everything started to spiral out of control and I ended up in a dark place with whispering voices in my head and suicidal thoughts starting to creep. I was in therapy, and I had just enough support to tell my tutors and my parents. I came back from university for a year. It was a tough time. My parents wanted to help, but they didn’t really know how. I had a few months of cognitive behavioural therapy, and that got me to a point where I was more stable, and I managed to go back to university and repeat my first year. I had more support going back to university and I ended up with a 2:1 and I could honestly say that I was okay with that, which was a victory in itself.
I feel that depression and anxiety is an immutable aspect of my personality and something to be managed rather than fixed. And managing it is a daily discipline, like brushing your teeth. I recognise all of the coping mechanisms that you describe, and if I could go back and give a single piece of advice to my 16 year old self, it would be: Exercise, and exercise hard. Boxing is something that helped me a lot because the training is so hard that it pushes everything else out of my head for a short period of time, and sometimes that is enough to give me the break from myself that I need.
Thank you for writing this post. The world needs more people to be open about mental health.
Hey Tim – as a college senior who is struggling with a thesis and with the relatively recent loss of a friend to suicide, thanks. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough and can hopefully help save lives.
Tim, Thank you for sharing this incredibly insightful and brave post. I’m sure you understand how much it means to be able to see that others have gone through the same experience and most importantly, come out of it and survived. Thank you.
Thanks for posting such a personal account of a very important subject. I too went through a dark phase during uni days, triggered by failing one subject!! In hindsight it seems trivial, however at the time it was enough to push me into a dark hole of isolation, feeling like I was the only person in the world who failed. Due to the love and support of my brother I was able to get through. Your 12 tips above are great, and will add them to my daily routine.
As life is a journey, the black dog likes to visit now and then. A few things I find useful are:
Remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE – talk to someone or reach out for help,
BE GRATEFUL – for simple things eg. sunrise / sunset, birds singing, we tend to make life way to complicated
SHIT HAPPENS!! – Try and learn from the experience and move on, it makes you more resilient
BE AWARE – when your riding high on the wave of life, there will be an event of equal magnitude that will ground you. When you are down, the reverse will happen. Ideally you want to minimize the swings.
Hope the above makes sense and someone may find useful
Thank you Tim, this is a lifesaving post. Important for people struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide and the people who love them.
Tim, you have continually surpised me with your honesty and intellect. Thank you for posting this as I have experienced similar chapters in my life and gotten through it. Reading your post reinforces why you are on my mount rushmore of gurus and life coaches – even though I only know you through your blog, books and content you distribute. Thank you Tim.
Thank you Tim. This means alot.
Thanks Tim. This is hugely important. I’ve been there, several times. I actually used – tactically if you will – several of the countermeasures you mentioned. But they didn’t really work. Not really. When I reached that stage, I became totally self-centered, if that makes any sense. So the effects of my death on others really didn’t matter to me. I was committed to doing it, but didn’t. Why? Everyone must find their own way. Mine was: I’ll just choose to live one more day. What’s one more day? And the next day: I choose to live one more day, then that’s it. Then, just one more day… Eventually, perspective returned, and the thoughts of suicide receded into the background. So for me, the strategy turned out to be “just one more day”. Maybe I was just lucky. But maybe it could help someone else. The main thing was not to think of it as a strategy to not do it – because that just keeps it at the forefront of your mind. It was just to go on, one more day at a time. I hope this may help someone. Thanks again for the post.
Thanks for sharing this Tim.
My brother’s had bad depression for over 3 years now ever since he was expelled from dental school for repeated failure. He’s been on and off meds and has just developed schizophrenia. He’s contemplated suicide aswell but yea I just don’t know how it’ll pan out. Its really tough for our family. Long term mental illness is the worst possible illness.
Thank you for sharing this.
I would like to add “consciously establishing certain habits” as a coping strategy. The one habit that made a huge difference for me personally was thinking about negative things objectively and positive things emotionally.
I know that this is impossile when the depression is at its peak, but usually there are days that are not as bad as others. On such days I did refine my mental models by reading books.
For some reason, things got better (magically?) over time for me. There are still times when I would say that I am depressed(more than just the being-sad-feeling … with an actual feeling of hopelessness). The now-really-bad days are still manageable though, and I can still tell that I am in the middle of a depression … and that I should not make any important decisions. That is not how I remember the really-bad-days-back-then.
I cannot be 100% sure, but I like to think that positive thoughts did make a difference. Fooling myself by reframing bad things DID NOT WORK … at all. What did work was reading books like “Abundance”, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” and stumbling over Pickup material (FastSeduction / Mystery Method … stuff like that). None of those things made an actual difference for me. There are no successes, I hate my job and cannot get laid … but I guess depression is 90% a medical topic and maybe 10% one about situational facts. I suppose hope did something medical over time.
I love that there is a part about mood swings. Unfortunately I do not see a lot that is applicable to my situation, but it is the one thing that in my life that is still unsolved and might get me in trouble in my day job.
Thanks for this post, Tim. The subject line gave me chills and I had to wait a couple of days to read it. Earlier this year I sat down in front of my computer and found myself sweaty palmed and shaking as I wrote my almost suicide moment for my newsletter. Like your story, mine was unknown to my friends, family and acquaintances until I sent it out.
I have had moments of sadness and experienced depression during my life but I’d never been suicidal until I had children. It wasn’t the children that drove me to the brink, they were the reason I didn’t go through with it. It was post-partum depression and anxiety. It took me three years to fully recover and I used many modalities to recover my health.
I started with antidepressants and stayed on those for about 6 months. They really stabilized me. I knew I was done with them when they started to make me dizzy. I changed my diet. I cut back on drinking alcohol. I slept and slept and slept. During the worst period, I needed a minimum of 12 hrs of sleep at night and 1 hr during the day to keep my emotions stable. I found a chiropractor who specializes in stabilizing the body through neurological retraining. I still see her. I created what I call radical self-care rituals from using lovely essential oils and creams after the bath to giving myself a pat on the back for any little win that I experienced throughout the day. I also learned how to practice energy medicine. I use this on myself all the time. The modality I learned is, Accunect. It’s based on Ancient Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. I had small children so I crawled on the floor a lot. That’s so great for rewiring the brain. The list goes on but all of it adds up over time and really works! The trick was to do things so differently that I formed a zillion new neuropathways in my brain. I now bypass so many of the triggers that send me into my Abyss.
I love that you are talking about this topic. Just this winter I created an audio class called, From Brink to Breakthrough: Spanning Your Abyss. It’s a combination of energy healing and practical tools to build a bridge over that dark place inside of us. I was going to leave it and move on to another project but your post makes me realize how very important it is to give voice to and to create effective resources for those of us who carry this abyss. We are not alone and we are not crazy. And we can thrive.
Thank you for your very thoughtful and candid piece on suicide! You asked for resources, so here are my top 2 beyond getting enough rest, exercise, sleep, and avoiding toxic people. 1) Once you find one you like, join a Recovery International Group organized by Abraham Low Self-Help Systems. (While not recognized as the founder, Dr. Abraham Low’s principles are very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy). Dr. Low set-up these groups back in the 1940s and 1959s so that people could maintain their mental health beyond the doctor’s office or hospital. His basic notion is that temper (either angry — “you are wrong” or fearful “I am wrong”) is the bridge between our inner and outer environment, and through catching ourselves in the act by “spotting” we can learn to control temper, and hence, symptoms. He doesn’t mention Stoicism, but being classically educated in Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised if those teachings didn’t have an influence on him. For those without insurance, it’s nice because it’s pay as you’re able — optional $5 contribution per meeting. I think they continue to run after all of these years because his teachings work. It’s not uncommon to meet people who have been going for 10, 20, 30, and in one case 40 years, to maintain their mental health after having had severe depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse issues, chronic or acute physical illness, and just unfortunate things happening. (Once you get going, later meetings serve as a tune-up). 2) Read the Irvine’s book, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Provides a nice alternative to Hedonism and a framework for a nice way of living.
P.S. Thank God for the library notice and your mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms! 🙂
My uncle commited suicide. I saved him and I was with him during the rehabilitation.
What I’ve observed was, SHARING is the key to salvation. You have to/ must / should SHARE how do you feel with someone.. Kevin Briggs TED talk might also be useful
I’m sending this to my Sisters to ask them to read it then make me a promise.
Thank you so much for this article. I am a high achiever and right now everything seems to be falling apart all around me. I have been struggling with depression and anxiety for several months now. Thoughts of just ending it all have been going though my mind for weeks, and while I am not about to take that step (I have a daughter and lots of family and friends I don’t want to hurt) I am struggling to make the thoughts stop. I am so glad that you listed some practical steps to work past this, and even some of the comments have been helpful for me. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone!!! Thank you for bravely speaking out on this!! And I thank the Lord for leading me to this article. A Facebook friend whose posts don’t normally show up in my newsfeed posted a link to this and, somehow, it ended up in my newsfeed. I am very grateful to them for sharing and to you for writing this. Thank you!!!
Tim, thank you for your candor and sharing your strategies. When I was struggling with serious suicidal ideation, people, including mental health professionals, came up to me and said things like, “You just have to learn to love yourself,” and “You have so many people who love you.” I know they meant well and what they said weren’t wrong, but in that moment, it actually made me feel even more pressured and suicidal. What saved my life was a simple yet unusual suggestion from my friend, who had also gone through severe depression: “Have you tried taking a shower?” What?? A shower?? True, I’d been so depressed that I hadn’t taken a shower in like a week, but still… I thought of it as I sat on the toilet, staring at the shower stall right next to me and decided, what’a hell, what do I have to lose? So, I took a shower. The result – it didn’t wash away my troubles, but it bought me two minutes of break from my suicidal mind that was snowballing in negative thoughts, and that was all I needed to survive that day.
Never knew we’d have something in common.
I had a breakdown and looked at life very bleakly when I realized I wasn’t cut out for college. My mom noticed I wasn’t doing well and send me to spain for 2 months to live life on the slow lane.
I never graduated. Stumbled from one job to another.
But guess what.
I’m now working at a Fortune 500 company as a network expert. I have a loving wife and beautiful kid. We speak 3 languages at home. I’ve surprised every one of my friends and family members! Right know I feel more accomplished than I ever did.
This was a great read. I only wish my brother would have had these tools to help him! Thank you for your honesty about the darkness that we all sometimes feel.
Was this post in response to the May 7, 2015 article about a UPENN student/athlete?… very sad story of someone who wasn’t able to be saved…http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story. Thanks for sharing Tim, now if only those in need would read and be helped.
Tim – thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.
When I was at my most impulsive suicidal worst and wanted to spare my loved ones a sudden demise, I arranged for an embarrassing corpse. I wore the torn/stained underwear, the bra with a safety pin, or even a marker smiley face on my belly or thigh. I simply could not be found that way, and gradually realized that meant that I cared what happened to me.
Sensational. I never went as far as you, but pondered suicide many, many times, in 2001. 2 years after your melt down. The thing is if you don’t pay attention things spiral out of control, independent of your problems. The key is to get help while you work on yourself, and you’ll release the thoughts and feelings, and yes, you’ll get happier, and you never know how brilliant and famous you’ll become through dealing with these demons. You’re living proof dude.
Don’t think I could respect you anymore than I do right now. Thank you so much for sharing. You just moved in to a whole new sphere of influence and it’s beautiful to see. I truly think this will have a great impact and save lives. Thank you for your outstanding courage and for making the world a better place.
Amazing post. Thanks Tim.
Wow. The world is strange. I’m going through a divorce. I’m having some health problems. I can’t sleep and it’s 2:30 in the morning. I’m thinking about blowing my brains out. And bam. I open Facebook to which I have one friend. My youngest son. l follow Glenn Beck and here is this story. Thank you for the light and courage to go on another day.
Thank you for posting this.
This is an amazing read. I also overcame this kind of struggle and no one knows about it. But what helped me through was thinking of all the amazing and wonderful things I wanted to see and do. And I told myself I’d never be able to see or do them if I’m gone. So I changed my mind set to want and accomplish those goals. Also I spent a lot of time hiking some beautiful trails and just taking in the beautiful nature scenery. Just seeing natures beauty made me appreciate life a little more. It’s all easier said than done sometimes but it’s possible. Thank you for writing about this.
Thank you for sharing. Suicide creates so much shame. To stop it we must talk and be open about how it has effected us. Survivors live with the guilt of what they could of,should of or might of done to stop their loved ones pain. I will share with my friends and share posts like this often. If I save one life in reaching out it is worth more than all the money in the world.
Simply THANK YOU! Just want to have the extra tool to help my son, when he gets into a desperate day or situation! Has attempted a few times, I’m afraid one day he will be successful & won’t make it!
The woman, the Friend,his wife betrayed him in a huge way! Kids involved. This events have nearly destroy him emotionally, mentally & physically!!! It has taken yrs. for him to have a relationship! Just three wks. ago he was at it again!
Thank you so much for sharing this. Glad to know I’m not the only one.
I am a Crisis Negotiator for the police dept. I work for. The public commonly refers to us as Hostage Negotiators, but we deal with so much more! Suicide being one of the crisis we deal with. With that said, I want to say this was a very good read with good information. Daniel M.
Thanks Tim for writing this. My teen son’s best friend’s father (and neighbor) committed suicide less than a year ago. It’s been a trechorous 10 months and I worry about my son and especially his best friend as they grow up and navigate the Rapids of life. I will save and print this blog post to use as a resource. Thanks, again.
This was excellent. Great insights. Thank you. I have a couple of books that have helped me: in important ways:: Compassion and Self Hate: An Alternative to Despair by Theodore I. Rubin and Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E. P. Seligman.
I’ve never read a more honest and gritty account of what it is like to be suicidal. Thank you for your honesty.
The way my mind screwed with me during the worst of my depression was horrifying and fascinating all at the same time. Like you, every situation, event or conversation became a mountain to overcome and more proof that my life was never going to get any better EVER.
The weird thing was I didn’t want to commit suicide. I really didn’t. My mind “went there” all on its own. Thank God I forced myself to tell my husband and my therapist and made a promise to them that I would always tell them when the thoughts would come.
Asking for help, following through with what the doctor and therapist asked me to do, being honest with myself and those closest to me and learning to be patient, gentle and kind to myself saved my life.
Now, I’m in the middle of a career change, happier than I’ve been in 10 years and loving my life. Thank God!
A couple of things I want to add; I currently have a neurological disorder that causes me to jerk when I try to sleep. It is only partially under control. I sometimes have thoughts of suicide at night when I am sleep challenged but have not come close to carrying them out. Your article has given me additional reasons not to. Second a few years ago I was taking a medication that had depression and suicidal thoughts as a side effect and it affected me big time. I came closer to actually committing suicide during this time that at any other time in my life. This is one thing everyone should check out is the side effects of the medications the are taking. What is crazy is that some medications that are supposed to help depression actually can make it worse in some cases.
Thank you for sharing, Steve. You are so right how medications can affect us. Have you ever tried supplements targeted to feed the brain? There are some good products out there that can help without side effects. Chiropractic care has also helped people I know, as well as myself. Yes, chiropractors have treated people diagnosed with disorders by the medical profession. It’s called a disorder when they don’t know how to rid the cause. God bless you in your quest for answers.
So very goid. I will start today thank you
It takes a lot of courage to admit when we feel broken. Suicide is not the cowards way out as so many people think. My aunt, my favorite aunt, took her own life last year a few days before my birthday. I know she didn’t remember the date. She was in pain and from what we found out, felt backed into a corner just like you. The heartache she left behind was massive. Lives were forever changed. My oldest daughter had often thought of suicide, she was in counseling a few times to help her work through her feelings, after she witnessed what suicide leaves behind she told me that she could and would never do that. Suicide is something that is near to my heart because no one should feel like they are better off out of this world. My aunt was the most caring and, we thought, happy person. I only wish that one of us would have noticed or that she would have reached out to the numerous people that loved her.
In my case, I wasn’t about to commit suicide, but had a fair depression myself lately. It started when a relationship I relied to much on for my vision of the future came to a not entirely unexpected end. Just in a time when my self-esteem was at an otherwise all-time low.
It’s just as you said – it IS a big deal for the effected person, even if it seems like a minor thing to others, or even in retrospect.
For month, I was devastated. The worst part was the sensation that I would never be able to experience happiness again in my life. What kept me going was _knowing_ that with time the pain would decrease – even if I didn’t believe it at times.
It was during that time, but after I passed the lowest point, that I learned about something called affirmations, and tried them myself. For weeks and weeks, I repeated to myself, mumbling, speaking and writing: I, Franz, will become happy again!
And then, just two weeks ago, just like that, from one moment to the next, I suddenly realized that indeed – for the first time in half a year – I was happy. (I started crying right then and there, on the middle of the crowded street on a busy evening on London’s Piccadilly Circus.)
The thing I learned from being depressed is this: It feels like you will never stop feeling so bad. And in some sense, I find this to be true. But the thing is – you will not be quite the same person anymore. I for sure am not. I left my depressed self behind as I grew out of it.
This may be a thought you can hold on to. But it sure takes a heck of a lot of time.
Thank you, Tim, for taking the time to share your success. 😉 I reviewed some research on suicide in my music therapy undergraduate work. The indirect and latent result of that work is a kid’s book series intended to give hope and purpose to an elementary-aged reader. I’m hoping these lessons will be used for reference in later years or perhaps stay in their memory. You can preview the books on fb at the website below and get them on Amazon. I make no mention of suicide; rather I use the term “life coping skills”. I welcome your feedback. May God bless and be with you always.
Thank you Tim!
What I think helpes me most in times of depression is to just accept whatever friends, families or even strangers offer you to get out of your dark reality for a moment.
Last summer I was experiencing unemployment and one of the biggest crisis of my life and I felt like there was no way out of this. I was spending the majority of my time in bed or wandering around aimlessly.
When my flatmate knocked on my door one evening – I was still lying in bed – and ask me to join her and some friends playing Volleyball (although I have had no experience) I couldn’t even say “yes” to her since I felt all my positive energy was taken away. But I didn’t say “no” eitherl, so I got out of my bed and spend an evening out of my room.
The feeling of letting go, and experiencing fun, companionship was massive. It was the turning point for me.
And now, when I feel bad and start to getting in a downward spiral I try to just follow the lead of people who are offering me leadership. This can be as simple as a homeless person who asks you for something to eat and you buy it for him or someone on the streets asking you for directions and you take them there.
What I mean is:
1) If you can’t find positive things in your reality, take a step back and be part of someone else’s reality and you might realize that you still have a lot to give.
2) If you can’t say yes, because you don’t have the energy to do so, then at least do not say “no”! This is half the battle!
Thank you, I’ve been back in the darkness lately after suffering a series of health issues and trying to be true to myself.
For exercise, anyone who sees planning to exercise, like myself, more stressful than it really is. I world suggest a physical job that you can challenge yourself at.
Do not make the mistake though, that I often have, of letting work consume you. Although you may feel better when all you do is work and think about work and money, this is can become a VERY DANGEROUS coping mechanism.
I thought I was finally cured of all my emotional issues when in reality I was hiding them and purposely using the anxiety to further my ability to complete jobs in less and less time. By about 2 months prior to my 1 year anniversary at this employer, I could no longer turn the anxiety off and had all but completely fried my nerves. This led to alcohol and drug use to help to keep hiding my problems, and I was beginning to suffer from paralyzing flashbacks whether asleep or awake, and began avoiding sleep altogether. Before it all boiled over there was 6 week period in which I lost close to 50 pounds and had only slept 43 hours TOTAL. And while I receiving all the praise I always wanted (and was told by several people that I deserved it) my supervisor and coworkers noticed that I was hiding an awful lot and seriously injuring myself to keep pushing. In December (our busiest month) I drank maybe 2 gallons of water throughout the entirety of each day, by March I was drinking close to 6 gallons in 5 hours and was constantly severely fatigued.
The outcome was a massive anxiety attack in which I had gotten complete tunnel vision and my skin was completely flush and fingers turning blue with a heart rate beyond 180. I snapped, in one instant everything I was hiding from surfaced and the only thing I could hear or feel was my heart racing harder and faster with each minute. That attack, quite simply, saved my life. I’ve not worked since then as my body is still struggling to repair itself and every day is a challenge in and of itself.
Since, I have been active in several support groups and testing the waters in designing peripheral devices for video gamers with limited dexterity. Though I have no money the work on this idea that will help others aides me to feel better about myself as I’m doing something that is no liner strictly about myself.
Again thank you for this post it helped to reorganize by perspective this morning.
Really good article….. My father’s suicide came totally out of
The blue. He apparently had all the preparations
tied with a neat little bow. Prepared the police to retrieve
his body and clean up the mess. Unfortunately, he hadn’t
Planned me waking up and seeing him shoot himself
in the head. One moment’s desperation changes
everything and everyone around you.
Glad your Mom called. I always wondered what would have happened if I awoken one moment earlier . Reach out
Tell someone your thoughts. Don’t be embarrassed. We all have those days. Just some worse than others. Someone does care. Even if it doesn’t feel like it at that irrational moment.
So here’s comment #822. I was recently jettisoned from a relationship with narcissistic woman, for whom I’d moved from Virginia to California at my expense to be with. I lived with her for nine months – nine months of her criticizing me and me being in a perpetual state of confusion at her lack of empathy for my feelings. It is a blessing that she ended it. I know that. And yet, I truly loved her and so have moments of despair and sadness that nearly overwhelm me, that make me think death would be preferable to continuing to feel this pain. I would never take my life, but for the first time in my life I understand how someone can get to the point where it becomes an option. When this morning was like that, I reached for a printout of Tim’s 12 copping steps and reread them for the umpteenth time. They helped; it helped. Feelings are temporary, awful and strong as they can be at times. I will not give in mine. I have blessings in my life to be thankful for, and blessings continue to come my way. This post of Tim’s was one.
Something that is important for people struggling with suicide to remember as well is that not only will your death change someone’s life, but your life changes someone’s life whether you realize it or not.
I attempted suicide, and obviously it was hard for me to pick up the piece of my fractured mind and life afterwards, but living now has done so much more for me than death. I don’t share my experience with others, but I put all my effort into making someone’s day better–even in the smallest of ways. I may not always value my own life, but if I can make someone happy–even for a fleeting moment–I know I have changed their life. And maybe, possibly, I have saved their life. Your actions have a ripple effect. Yes, in death, but most importantly in life.
I am a christian woman a field advocate for afsp an a survivor on both sides of this suicide coin. Love your passion and brave approach to educate and embrace others. Would love to be part of what your doing. Proud of you!!!!#
First off, thanks for being so transparent, Tim. Like you’ve said before, just when you think you’re starting to be too transparent, you just may be getting it right. I think this will help a lot of people, brother.
I’m in the military, so we are constantly bombarded with suicide prevention training. I have also had several close friends take their own life. That being said, I think it’s important to constantly be attentive to our friends and family and make sure to prevent suicide as much as possible within our ability. Obviously we can’t control the actions of others, but we can know what to watch for and be there for people. And another thing, I’ll just say that the most dangerous thought you can have is to think “I know that person really well and they would never commit suicide”. It can happen to anyone. It’s not beneath anybody and it can often be prevented if we pay attention.
why does it matter to you people who kills themselves or not?
Tim, thanks so much for such a vulnerable and honest post…this was really amazing. (I’ve been here myself.) I’ve found through the years that when we share our experiences honestly with each other, we lift each other up. You were the inspiration for me to begin the journey towards better health through diet and exercise, and your podcasts and blog posts continue to inspire me. Keep up the great work, and thank you especially for such a heartfelt and personal post–I can’t imagine this was easy to write and put out there.
Depression is often based in un-articulated anger. Anger stems from unmet expectations. Once we realize we have no right to have any expectations the others melt away. Bless you, Tim, for putting this out here for all to read. I am sure you have saved more than one life in doing this. The “Big Secret” each family has is really not all that big, once it sees the daylight.
What a terrific article. Thank you for sharing it. I have been suffering from depression for a few years now. Sometimes the depression comes out of nowhere. It has nothing to do with your life circumstances. It just appears out of thin air like an uninvited annoying house guest in your brain. It is hard to even begin to know how to fight against feelings that you should not even rightfully be having. I have used most of your suggestions to combat it and have had some success. The one thing that I would add to your list is service. That was a tough thought for me when I was feeling as if I couldn’t even get out of my bed but I had prayed for an answer and that was it. I started with small things for my family. Just a simple act that would be something for someone else. It has become my main coping mechanism to continue the fight against anxiety and depression. It seems counter intuitive when you are reaching out for help yourself but for me it is my lifeline.
Shelly, service to others is absolutely a way to fight anxiety and depression–I discovered this myself too. If we can use whatever gifts and talents we have to focus on others, instead of our own tragedy/problems, it provides tremendous healing for ourselves and others. I’m very glad you listed this in your post–it will be helpful to others!
from one of those left behind, thank you. you make it from mother’s day to father’s day to birth day but everyday comes with those moments that are empty. glad you came through for you and those who would have missed you for all their days.
Just one problem with your solutions…if you don’t want to live you won’t take steps to live. You won’t try. So what do you do then?
Thanks for sharing such a sensitive time in your life. I always had a hard time writing about my mothers suicide in 2001 but this post gives me the inspiration needed.
Great article – I am very involved with the AFSP – and I know that sometimes it just takes one person to make a difference – I think you may have accomplished that without even realizing it:) thanks for sharing #EveryLifeMatters
Hi. Long but great …my brother best friend kill herself 11 day ago. You are so right spiritually afect you..is sad is painful. ..Thanks for posting this article
Ask yourself every morning
who am I
how did I get here
do I want to be this guy/girl
I have asked myself these questions for 15 years has made all the difference in the man that I’ve become. It is helped me through all of the problems that I have.these questions of made me a better father and husband
Thank you Tim for all that you do you help more people than you realize
I just read an interesting new article on the topic at http://mosaicscience.com/story/male-suicide
which backs up your paragraph:
“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…””
that it more social perfectionisim than depression which drives people to kill themselves, particularly for males. Anyway the whole article is a good read.
Well written. Great job. Honest, articulate, and raw.
And this is what I know —
We don’t need to be Perfect to help or inspire others; all we need to be is Real!
Tim, I’ve burnt out more this year than ever working on my businesses and starting to live abroad.
I’ve gotten a lot better.
But any time I have a rough day, I feel bad or down, I always remind myself “Even Tim Ferriss has days when he can’t get out of bed”, e.g., from your productivity tips for the neurotic/manic-depressive post.
You’ve really helped inspire me, even through mood swings, haters (watched you videos on those too), travel problems, and more to keep on going and do things like publish my first book on Amazon.
**** all the haters, and thanks for writing this. I know the pain of a thesis too XD.
1. Find people online who write about troubling times who can inspire you. I read you, Mark Manson, etc. because you guys together seem to have an article that always helps me out of whatever predicament or mood I’m in.
2. Again remind yourself that everyone is human, even the super stars have off days.
3. “This too shall pass” – You’ll be happy again, nothing lasts forever.
4. A free tool called MoodGym (moodgym.anu.edu.au) teaches CBT techniques for getting over depression and anxiety for FREE. It has been AWESOME and I recommend everyone check it out.
There have been many times I wanted to call the suicide hotline, but I don’t know if it’s anonymous or if they send police or an ambulance to you. I have been afraid of them tracking where I was. They put you in a mental hospital and don’t let you out. I can’t do that ever again.
The night before I was going to carry out my suicide plan which I spent days preparing very thoroughly, I told myself “let’s just wait one more day” (my thoughts in my head always said ‘let’s’ at the time. In retrospect, I think I cultured my depression into another being in my head. My mind could have been talking to the depression (me), thus always saying ‘let’s’)
The next morning when I woke up, I reached for my car keys and backpack. Everything of importance that would be on my person, carefully packaged in plastic ziploc bags so they wouldnt be ruined by the water. Carabiner and buckles secured to my backpack onto me so the backpack wouldn’t get lost in the tides. I stepped out the door when I reminded myself what I decided on last night. And then I realized I was actually outside, for the first time in weeks (I had locked myself in my room, missing work, classes, you name it).
I went for a walk, thinking that it would be my last walk around my block that I grew up on. Then I went to Taco Bell, thinking that would be the last fast food meal I would enjoy. Then I went to Target, realizing I had to buy some sleeping pills to mix with alcohol before I would go jump. It kept going for the rest of the day, ending with what I considered a final meal with my mom (I did not eat with her during the time I locked myself in).
The next day, the urge to carry out my plan was gone. Instead, I found myself wanting to keep building on the momentum I had the day before (minus the sleeping pills purchase). Before you know it, i’m here 3 years later, doing just fine and absolutely enjoying life.
I never really told my story in public so I guess I kinda got carried away here, but what I wanted to say was for me, “let’s just wait one more day” went a long way. And more importantly, I think developing habits/routine to get yourself out is much easier said than done, but once you do it, the momentum will build up and you’ll come out just fine before you know it (my interpretation of the Practical Gremlin Defense).
Thanks for the read, and thanks for the support.
Thank you Tim
Just…. thank you.
It was refreshing to read an honest outburst like this. I am too a victim and a survivor. But facing this problem at 22 helped me to explore my inner self and be who i am right now. I do struggle, cry, break things and get angry but still I guess depression is definitely a blessing in disguise. I said this because the appreciation for life and it’s meaning I have gathered by exploring myself when coming out of depression has made me an enlightened soul. Am able to appreciate small things and have become more patient.
I am an artist and am working on this topic to create paintings and spread awareness of this issue. People don’t share it and I want more open talks happening around because more the support better the person. Let me know if you can help me in any way on this.
You asked for tips. Here’s mine. One thing above all is what helps me move forward when I start feeling this way…. that is:
Help and think about other people.
Much of what I experience is a downward spiral of self-analysis. Unfortunately, I’m doing this analysis when I’m feeling the worst, and that becomes perpetual and self-fulfilling. This is why I stop journaling when I’m starting down that path. Journaling on my own problems just makes me feel worse.
Instead, I get out and volunteer. Find people to help. Turn my focus outward and find people less fortunate than I am.
This is a great way to find perspective and come back to the ground from which you started. It’s also a great way to find purpose and meaning in life, and that starts an upward spiral with both your own thoughts as well as those you are helping.
Opposite to what I hear from friends and the internet, daily marijuana use made my depression and anxiety insurmountable. I can relate to Tim’s story, but I turned to this purported panacea to sooth my stress. It worked at first, but my nightly use, even a hit or two, kept me locked in a labyrinth of abstraction and very subtle paranoia the next day, leaving me less productive and more stressed than before. Now I treat it like the psychedelic and pain reliever that it is — with a clear intention (problem solving, serious R&R, easing stomach flu or food poisoning) and proper set/setting/strain. It’s a sneaky, pernicious habit for some that, if you’re already highly stressed and on the brink, could put you over the edge.
Thanks for posting this. I am now 26, but in my teens and early 20s, I was very close to committing suicide many times. Sometimes we get caught up in our heads and it seems like there’s no relief, anywhere, other than death. As you get older, the things that seemed so bad or confusing years ago end up looking much different. Sadly, far too many people lose hope before getting to the point of being able to look back on it with a different point of view. I’ve now witnessed 4 suicides; 2 friends and 2 family members. It’s absolutely terrible and nothing positive has come out of any of them. If you are reading this and have thought about suicide, please call the number Tim listed and remember, it only seems helpless right this moment, it WILL get better. It seems like such a cliché thing to say, but it’s so true. My heart goes out to anyone going through the struggle of depression, and everyone whose lost loved ones or friends because of it. Thanks for the wonderful, and very important post, Tim.
Incredibly well written and personal, Tim. Nice job! This anecdote from Bucky Fuller is one that always stuck with me when HE was going through a period of extreme doubt and contemplating suicide at age 32, and something inside said to him: “From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”
A noble thought, to live for others!
What do you think about the following passage from VALIS by Philip K. Dick? While it is fiction, it is also strongly autobiographical. The protagonist is Horselover Fat who is actually an alter ego of the author (curiously, Philip Dick is also a character in the book). In the book, Fat’s friend Gloria has sought his assistance in obtaining some Nembutal pills to help her build up sufficiently large stash of the drug to successfully kill herself. He tries to sabotage her by lying about getting the pills so that when she comes to get them he can talk to her.
The passage I quote happens at this point. This is the passage:
In the story, Gloria kills herself shortly after that passage by jumping out of a drug rehab center building.
As I wrote, it is a noble thought, to live for others. I think it might work better if the “living for others” actually involved living for others in the sense of a pursuit of public service of some sort. That is, the pursuit of something that contributes significantly to the welfare of others. However, I can see how someone in the position Tim described, who might feel like they are in an “impossible situation” with no fruitful paths ahead of them, might not even feel like they have enough self-efficacy to do such a thing (of course, Tim would not feel this way today but I am guessing that he would have felt that way at the time).
I find this notion that there might be something after death, a permanence beyond the demise of the body of our consciousness, to be terribly arrogant (though I don’t think it necessarily stems from arrogance but rather from a fear of death). Everything we know points to our consciousness being the product of brain activity. Everything we know tells us that when we disrupt our brain we disrupt our person. No one gives any thought to some essence of an individual worker ant enduring after it is trod underfoot* and yet everything we points to our consciousness being derived from the same neural processes that are at play in the ant’s nervous system. Few of us think that we have always existed and yet most of us seem to have trouble with the notion that we will not continue existing eternally.
Somehow, as we get closer and closer to being human (in some cases drawing the line at human), we special plead for the notion that permanence of our perceived essence (as if said essence could independently from any physical process underlying its emergence) is a reasonable possibility.
How being resigned to not having a special place in nature such that humans and humans alone (or maybe with the addition of a few, so called, higher animals –“higher animals” arrogantly being defined based on how closely they resemble us or how closely they associate with us) are so privileged as to enjoy a supernatural backup of our wetware affects the potential suicide is hard to say. On the one hand, it means that once one is dead one will never get a second chance (not here and not in any possible “afterlife”). On the other hand, some may consider that there is nothing to fear in that an actor will not even be in existence to do the fearing.
* That is somewhat of a hyperbole but true for discussion purposes as it is true for most people. Some people, however, claim to see “consciousness” in everything. I would maintain, though, that when we start speaking of the consciousness of an inanimate piece of granite it is very likely we are not talking about the same class of thing as when we speak of our own consciousness. Indeed, I would maintain, that when we use the word “consciousness” in that way we are stripping it of any meaningfulness. It becomes no more than mumbo-jumbo.
I was reflecting today on how two and half years ago I was fantasizing daily about suicide. My wife and I had been trying to have a baby for 3 years with no success. The fertility doctor confirmed I was definitely the problem and our best bet was expensive IVF treatments.
I don’t know if I would have ever acted in it, but I would constantly think about killing myself. Just taking that escape route and not having to care about being a failure of a husband. Seeing my wife’s disappointment each month when we looked at a negative pregnancy test was so hard on me. I wouldn’t have said I was depressed, but I guess considering suicide is a strong sign of depression.
Flash forward to today (2.5 years later). I have a a beautiful, 18-month old daughter. She is everything to me. The thoughts of suicide were completely banished from my mind the moment I found out I was going to be a father. What’s even better, my wife is pregnant with our second child, due later this year. I realized today that within the span of 3 years I’ll have gone from trying to accept that I would never have children to having two (which is more than enough for now!).
The point being, you never know what’s around the corner, even when it feels like there is no hope, even when medical professionals are doubtful, your whole world could change tomorrow. I’m excited to find out what the next 3 years has in store for me and I’ll definitely be around to see it.
Props Tim. Great post here.