I wrote these lessons for people struggling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts, but the advice is just as useful to anyone going through a tough time or just trying to accomplish their goals. If you are fortunate not to know what depression is like, these lessons will serve you well as you work to achieve your dreams. If you’re like me and depression is a significant part of your life, please know that you are not alone. Look at what follows as a battle guide for fighting mental illness written by someone who stands on the front lines. I wrote this so that you will still be here tomorrow.
Four years ago today I almost killed myself. Four years ago I called it quits. The lies were too real, the pain too intense, the hope too hard to find.
At the darkest moment of my life, when I looked over the edge and only saw more pain in my future, it was at that moment, I learned what 1 Corinthians 10:13b truly meant.
‘He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.’
I used to put that verse in my pantry so that I wouldn’t eat the Oreos. Now I’m living proof of the genuine power of that statement. In the midst of the darkness, for a brief second, God gave me a moment of clarity. It was a gift. It was 1 Corinthians 10:13b in action.
When I was ready to kill myself because the depression had me by my throat, God gave me that moment of clarity, just a minute of one, but it was all I needed to endure this thing. He gave me a way out.
Lesson One: Help Yourself
So God didn’t lift me up out of my depression four years ago. I didn’t have a gun to my head, and magically things got better because I turned to God. That’s not what this story is about by any stretch.
I only had a minute, but boy did I make the most of it. In that one moment where the darkness wasn’t consuming me, I raised my hand and told the person closest to me that I needed help. I yelled to my wife and had her come to my bedside where I was sobbing uncontrollably in the darkness.
I told her that if something didn’t happen now, I would surely kill myself within a day. I told her from now on to do whatever she felt was best but to keep me alive at all costs. Then, just as quickly, that clarity faded to the background, and the depression consumed me once again. Kristen took the reigns at that point. She made the necessary phone calls, and my friends worked with her to quickly get me help.
But I’m proud of the fact that the chain reaction started with me.
Raise Your Hand
Men are too proud (read: dumb) to ask for help. And talking about mental health? Forget about it.
Not me, though.
God showed me a way out. He didn’t give it to me. He showed it to me, and I took it, and that’s why I’m still here.
So let me give you a way out. Raise your hand. Admit you’re struggling and alert the person closest to you, the one you trust most. And if you can’t do that, if nobody around you seems to care, call 1-800-273-8255 immediately and talk to them. They care about you, believe me.
Raise your hand and ask for help. Enough hiding, you’re hurting in the dark. Let’s get you some help. Take this advice as your way out; please ask for help.
You see, God gave me one minute of clarity, and I’ve turned it into four years of life, but it’s because I’ve helped myself. You must do things to help yourself and it starts with raising your hand.
Get Help Quickly
If you are feeling suicidal or have thoughts of harming yourself, do not suffer alone.
Find a Community
From that moment onward, for the next four years, Kristen and I rebuilt our life together brick by brick. I had to rebuild my career; I had to rebuild my mind, everything.
I even had to rebuild my relationships. I needed to be around people who supported me and encouraged me. They didn’t need to understand my depression. How could they anyway? No, they just needed to love me for me.
I took the effort to find these people. They didn’t magically come out of the woodwork.
I was honest and vocal about my condition. That left a lot of individuals running for the hills. But the ones who stayed, that was my crew. I lost friends over the last four years. People who didn’t have what it takes to be part of my team. But you know what, the ones that are here, they rebuilt me. They’re the ones who put me back together.
So I assembled my Thunder Buddies, invested in my Small Group, and I was honest with my closest friends and family members about my condition.
I couldn’t do this alone; I wouldn’t still be here. Your community is vital to your recovery. My community keeps me alive to this day.
By the way, if you’re still searching for people who get you, who understand your depression, your pain, your fears, we have a community that’s waiting and ready for you. Please join the Sad Runner Community (currently a private Facebook Group) and get involved. We’re there to love and encourage each other, and we’d like to support you too while you rebuild your life. Click here to join our group.
Additionally, I searched for the best medical care I could afford (which wasn’t much at the time) and didn’t stop until I found someone who got me. So many give up after the first crappy doctor. No, you’re in the business of staying alive now, that means it’s time to not give up on finding the professionals you need. That’s part of helping yourself.
So friends, family, Small Group, doctors, therapists they all were getting graded carefully, and their efforts never went unnoticed. I intentionally built up ‘Team Adam’ and, as a result, I’m still alive today. Even more, life is getting much better for me. But I helped myself, and I assembled the team that put me back together.
Lesson Two: You Matter More Than You Think You Do
This morning my amazing wife left me a simple note on my desk. She thanked me for not killing myself.
But she signed it from her and the others in my life who mattered most to me. That shook me. I realized then that my life matters to more people than me. If I die, it will hurt others, and I’ve made it my life’s mission to help others and make a positive impact on their lives. I can’t kill myself, that’s the opposite of what I’ve strived to achieve.
If you think you don’t matter, you’re wrong. That’s depression telling you more lies. Trust me, from one suicidal person to another, you matter. You’re going to find out four or so years from now just how right I am. You have no idea. Just trust me.
Lesson Three: You’re Not as Special as You Think You Are
Depression and suicidal thoughts leave you in a very selfish place. You think you’re the only one with your problems, think your death would not screw up anyone else, all you think about is YOUR pain and the darkness that consumes YOU.
Over the last four years, I’ve learned that so many people struggle just like I do. I’m not alone, I’m not special, or weird or anything like that. I’m one of many.
Millions of people overcome the same pain we have and live beautiful lives anyway. We can do that too.
What makes you so special that your depression and suicidal thoughts are worse than mine, or the next person? We’re all in this together. And that means surviving is entirely doable. Because I’m four years in and I’m feeling much better. That means you can too! I’m not a special case.
Lesson Four: Kill the Nonessential
Fighting depression is a game of energy. You must conserve energy in some places, so you have more to spare in others.
I kill everything in my life that’s not essential to my survival and my mission. I don’t take meetings that waste my energy; I don’t take on projects that waste my energy, I avoid people who waste my energy. Why, so that I have the energy saved up to fight my depression and still accomplish my goals.
Let me be clear if you have depression and suicidal thoughts you do not have extra energy to spare. Save all the energy you can for survival and for that which is most important to you.
Live today with purpose and intention. Don’t waste even one breath on the bullshit. It doesn’t matter. None of it.
I didn’t kill myself four years ago, but I did say goodbye to the nonessential. Now I stay on point, on mission, and on purpose 24/7. Why, because I’m not supposed to be here, man! I checked out. I bagged the run. I bailed. I was ready to go home. This game was over, son!
I’m in extra innings now. Four years ago today, the battle with me and depression came to a breaking point but I survived, and now we’re slugging it out in overtime. Sports fans know that means no wasted possessions and you leave it all out on the field.
That’s how I live my life now.
Lesson Five: Ruthlessly Remodel
The honest truth is that I still can’t say I’m thankful I didn’t kill myself. The darkness and pain are still too real.
But what I can say is that I’m a far better person today than I was four years ago or even 14 years ago. This journey through suicide and depression ripped me apart, but what resulted was a forced remodel, a reimagining of who I am. Some roll their eyes and even walk away from the new me, my values, my vision, my purpose. But I can say, for the first time in my life, I don’t care.
God, me, and Team Adam are all building something cool over here. We’re making the Adam I’m supposed to be. We’re putting together the Adam the world needs and the Adam that God designed long before I took my first breath or even contemplated taking my last.
Don’t take this time to just recover from your mental illness. Don’t let it only be about survival. This season of your life is an opportunity for you to become the person you were supposed to be in the first place. Remodel yourself, turn into the person of your heart and don’t apologize for it. If you were like me, you lived life one way, a hidden way, and you almost ended it. So why not try rebuilding a new way? You’re depressed and have suicidal thoughts, what do you have to lose. Give it a try.
We need more people living real lives of purpose and intent. The world needs the real you to shine. It’s time to remodel and rebuild.
Lesson Six: Live on Fire
Look, I was ready to call it quits and go home. So if I’m gonna stick around on this planet, it sure as hell better be for something good, something bigger than me, something, to quote Steve Jobs, that puts a ‘dent in the universe.’
If I’m here in overtime, living in my post-suicide world, then I’m going to make this world amazing. I’m going to live on purpose, live on point, and accomplish my mission.
You have a purpose, a calling, and just because you haven’t figured that out yet doesn’t mean you should give up. Keep living, keep searching, you’ll find out why you’re supposed to be here soon enough.
But once you find your purpose, your mission in life, then step on the gas and don’t let up.
Everyone within proximity to me knows that I exude passion. I thrive in it. I’m on fire. That’s not the way you’d typically describe someone with severe clinical depression. But that’s me, and I do it intentionally.
I run hot with a passion because depression takes all the feeling away from you. You feel numb to everything. When I’m on fire and running hot toward my mission? That’s when I feel something other than pain. It’s an excellent feeling to have finally, and I hope when you find your purpose you fuel it and fire your engine loud and proud and never stop.
You must pursue your purpose with an intense passion because you deserve to feel something other than pain.
So get to it.
Live on fire.
(Note: If you’ve been searching around for a long time and you’re not sure about your purpose or why you’re here. I recommend you read, “The Purpose Driven Life.” It’s a quick read and it will give you some tremendous insight into your existence. Even if you’ve read it before, give it another try. You’ll be surprised what happens.)
Lesson Seven: Invest Your Pain
The thing I’m most proud of over the last four years is that I didn’t let my pain go to waste. I invested every ounce of heartbreak I had into making a positive impact on the lives of others.
When you choose to invest your pain, then that pain is never a waste.
Give me pain, and I’ll turn it into positivity for others. You cannot beat me when I serve others with the cards I’m dealt. That’s what I do, and that’s what ensures you’re a success in rebuilding your life.
Do not hide your pain. Do not suffer alone. Share it with others. Not just to vent or whine about your condition. Share it with others so that those who suffer know they aren’t alone.
This lesson reminds me of the three Sad Runner Core Objectives:
- Let people with depression know they are not alone
- Motivate and encourage people with depression to keep going
- Teach supportive friends and family what depression is like
Every bit of my pain gets invested in one or more of those three objectives.
When we invest our depression in endeavors that help others, then the pain never goes to waste. There’s no bigger middle finger to depression than using the negativity it brings you to create positivity in others.
Invest your pain in something worthwhile. Keeping it to yourself helps nobody.
Lesson Eight: Keep Moving Forward
We finally come to the last lesson of this long piece. (Look, it took me four years to learn these lessons, did you think it would be short?)
For regular Sad Runner readers, this lesson is no surprise. ‘Keep moving forward‘ is the slogan of the site, I have a tattoo of it on my arm because it’s so important for me to remember.
In all things, we must keep moving forward. If it hurts, keep going. If it’s dark, keep going. If you can’t walk, then crawl but keep going. Keep moving forward because it does get better. And when it doesn’t get better, at that point you’re much stronger than you were before and you’ll be able to handle it.
Keep fighting, keep pushing past your circumstances. The world doesn’t need more people succumbing to depression. We don’t need more suicides we need more lives lived on purpose. And it starts with making these eight lessons part of your life. Live them and defend them against your illness.
Save these lessons, reflect on them, come back to them often. This is how you do it.
This is how you win.
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