I've never really been suicidal before.
I always thought moods like that - thoughts like that - were reserve for 'them' - never 'me'.
Over the past couple of weeks, close to the launch of Choose Happiness, these thoughts finally moved from being for 'them' to being experienced by me.
A pit of isolation, an obsession with hating myself, and a years-long story finally coming to an end all added up to be a little too much for me to handle.
So, like any normal person, I found myself somewhere I didn't want to be and I was looking for a way out.
At first, it was nothing serious. Just constantly telling myself I want to die, paired with small fits of angry outbursts.
But as time went on, and the thoughts started to gain some momentum, and my perceived connection to the world dwindled, I started to feel like there was no way out.
I didn't want to eat.
Or leave the house.
So I didn't.
And it got worse.
AND BEFORE I KNEW IT...
I HAD CONVINCED MYSELF THAT I WASN'T CONNECTED TO ANYTHING.
About two weeks ago, I called kids help phone for the first time in my life.
I'm not sure why I need to specify that it's the first time in my life.
Oh wait, I actually do.
BECAUSE I AM ASHAMED TO ASK FOR HELP.
And I'm ashamed to admit when I have asked for it.
I've always been terrible at delegation, and in general, I take pride in being able to do everything myself.
As I am slowly starting to realize, this is a pretty darn backwards way of thinking.
You don't get any bonus points for doing it alone.
We are all deeply connected to everyone and everything.
Suffering is easiest to indulge in isolation.
I realized that my headspace was far from normal when my sister said it's not normal to be thinking about dying all the damn time.
I asked for help to change it. I asked safe friends for support.
I OPENED MYSELF UP TO RECEIVING HELP...
AND THERE IT WAS, AVAILABLE RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE I CAN SHARE WITH YOU IF YOU'RE STRUGGLING.
THIS IS THE FIRST TAKEAWAY FROM MY JOURNEY:
1. ASK FOR HELP FROM SAFE PEOPLE.
Because you can't look at yourself without bias.
You can't look at yourself objectively. Only subjectively.
By definition, you are your own subject. By definition, it's impossible.
And, share the opportunity to help with someone else.
Despite what depressed, low-energy you may tell yourself...
The safe people in your life would love to help you.
In the exact same way that you love to help those you love.
The second part of this is about actually taking the help.
It's about actually listening.
It's about actually making the change you don't want to...
But know you need to.
See, your friends can offer you all the help in the world.
But until you make a change...
NOTHING WILL CHANGE FOR YOU.
Let me repeat that...
UNTIL YOU MAKE A CHANGE...
NOTHING WILL CHANGE FOR YOU.
Your friends are there to be helpful to you.
They're there to guide you.
Ultimately, they realize that you're the best guide for yourself.
They know you're the one that knows what's best for you.
The really good friends will empower you to guide yourself.
2. YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH
ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME THING.
Not taking care of your body - disconnecting from it - is the most limiting symptom of feeling depressed.
This is most dangerous because it creates a downward spiral.
Once you start feeling shitty, you don't want to take care of yourself.
So you lose energy.
And you become less able to take care of your self (and body).
And what was normally easy appears impossible.
WITHOUT ENERGY, YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING.
I don't know if I have ever found myself properly fed, rested, exercised, and relaxed...
While also feeling completely disconnected from everything.
Some emotion, or some intense pain convinces me to neglect my body...
I get convinced that I am separate from it - or at least can be for a bit...
But it's wrong every time.
Every fucking time.
For me, one of the easiest illusions to fall into that causes me to neglect my body is that I can't take a break from work.
I think that if I take a break, I'll be inadequate. I won't get enough work done. I'll be worthless.
Yet, I forget that to get work done, I need energy.
And energy comes from my body...
So I need to take care of it.
The best help you can get when you feel down is support for your body.
Even if you continue to feel just as garbage mentally...
If you improve how you feel physically...
There WILL be an improvement in how you feel mentally...
BECAUSE YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WORLDS
ARE DEEPLY INTERCONNECTED.
The last lesson I have to share with you might be easy for you to grasp now...
But for me to fully grasp it...
It takes time.
For me to fully understand this idea, I need to spend time suffering.
I need to spend time in pain.
I need to spend time hiding from the world.
I need to spend time believing I'm inadequate.
I need to build up enough shit in my life to want to break free of something.
Because when you have something you need to break free of...
When you have enough of something bad that you don't want in your life.
You don't need to be convinced you need to change.
You just do.
3. CONNECTION IS THE BEST INSURANCE AGAINST DEPRESSION.
RESILIENCE IS SECOND.
The best way to prevent yourself from being depressed and isolated is to commit to connecting with people, organizations, and activities you enjoy.
The deeper you are connected to the world, the harder it will be for you to fall into depression.
But there is a final point here I want to finesse with you.
Beyond deep connection is resilience.
Becoming resilient ensures you can handle the bad times.
You don't downward spiral because you catch yourself right at the top.
Being resilient to the shit life throws at you is a great way to prevent yourself from getting down.
Grit is a powerful defence against getting sucked into depression.
The thing that accelerated my downwards spiral the most was stopping writing.
I stopped sharing with the world because I didn't think I was good enough.
Despite all the love you've showed me, I convinced myself that what I have to make isn't good enough.
Now, it's time to break through that.
My greatest focus now is empowering myself with the confidence to share every day.
Because if I'm constantly sharing with you, you'll be able to see if I'm depressed.
You'll be able to tell me.
When I'm disconnected, there's no one to tell me.
Now, I'll be able to catch it early.
Cheers to happier times my friends.
I hope these ideas can help you better understand your own ups and downs.
Dedicated to your happinesS,
JOHN SAMUEL GRAY
P.S. If you haven't already picked up a copy of my new book, Choose Happiness, click the link below.
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