Years ago, I had a best friend who I connected with on levels that I never did with other people. It felt like my first soul-mate, if such a thing exists in a platonic way. Every night I’d hop the fence surrounding his studio (he wasn’t allowed to have visitors past 10PM) and we’d spend the entire night talking about society, the nature of people and how exactly we were going to win at life.
One morning, he had stayed at my place after a night of wild partying and told my mother all about how well his exams were going, and how his future was looking bright. Then he walked out the door and we never saw him again.
We were supposed to meet that night, but somehow I couldn’t reach him. I don’t know how the idea came into my head, but after a long night of phone calls with his girlfriend’s sister and some of his best friends who all helped looking for him, I came home and told my dad I had a feeling he hung himself.
I don’t know why that popped into my head. On a rational level, we both agreed there was no reason to think something like that after one night of not being able to reach him. But I don’t know... everyone somehow felt something was up. And the things he said to the people who last heard him were cryptic and didn’t sound very positive.
2 days later I got the call from one of our best friends confirming that was actually what happened. I don’t know where the guy got the courage to call up all of our friends and tell them, and it’s an amazing testament to his character that he did that for us.
Instead of crying, I was in total shock. I could only calmly thank him for the call and say some awkward, practical things. Even though I had intuitively felt it, I could not believe that my best friend was gone. I spent the rest of the day with a close friend doing what we always did when something sucky happened: Drink and smoke. (If you happen to read this, thank you for being there for me during that period.)
But no matter how much I drank, I stayed sober. There was nothing in this world that could make me forget that my best friend was dead. There was nothing that could make me believe it was true either. And things got worse after that. Somehow, suicide seemed to be contagious in our city. For the next couple of weeks, Bruges was plagued by teens killing themselves. Most of us used to be good friends at some point (or still were). It amazes me how strong we were for a bunch of kids going through puberty to be able to deal with that shit.
And my way of dealing with it was full of contradictions. On one hand I started loving life even more, treasuring it, living twice as hard. Not only because I now had to live for 2, but also because living life twice as hard had always been his spirit. So if I wanted to honor it, I now had to live three times as hard. On the other hand I was constantly moving away from life. I retreated into more drugs and more alcohol. I spent my nights listening to Layne Staley and Chris Cornell on repeat (2 of my heroes who ironically, died from overdose and suicide) and felt like they were the only people who understand how I felt.
I despised organized religion and didn’t believe in heaven, but if I could’ve sent a carrier pigeon straight up to the stars, I would’ve sent him a letter hoping he would read it while partying it up with some naughty angels. I often imagined him looking down at me while I was doing something, and asked myself “Would he approve of my behavior? Would this make him proud?”
And throughout the years, as my own life got better, I started to realize how much he was missing by not being alive anymore. He never got to meet any of my girlfriend(s), let alone all the other women that might’ve become his. He never got to experience the band that I started with him actually grow a fanbase.
Sometimes I entertained the thought of trading places with him just so that he could spend another day on this earth. Every other week, I found myself at an amazing party thinking “If he had been here, he would’ve had the time of his life.” Or I’d read a book and think “Whatever he was feeling at that moment, this thing that I read right here, may just have been able to turn his misery around. If only he head read it...”
And it’s exactly for that reason, that I put this blog post together.
Whoever you are, if you are contemplating suicide, or if you think you know someone who is considering it… Please urge them to read the next parts of this post. Every single one of them is an amazing, true story, of someone who once felt just like you. Normal people who were on the verge of, or actually did commit suicide, but somehow survived it.
And this is what they have to tell you:
The first time I tried it, I was 12 years old. You read that right, 12. It’s not something that’s commonly talked about, but I know a surprisingly large group of people who were that depressed at such a young age.
When puberty hit me, it got a lot harder. There were a lot of deaths in the family. I became seriously ill, and there was a lot of drama in my life. I had no idea who I was anymore and how to deal with all those things. So they just kept piling up and I grew more and more depressed. Every day I got up thinking “This day is the one that’s too much for me. I don’t want this anymore. I can’t do it. Let it stop.”
Small things in my environment starting giving me ideas for how to end it. Passing traffic for example. Luckily, I didn’t do a lot of research before I did it, and my attempts failed. After that, I mostly stayed alive because I didn’t want to hurt the people around me. That was the sole motivation for me to not try it again. But as the years passed, somehow things started to change for me. I learned to deal with heavy stuff or what to do when I grew depressed.
And then one day, when I was 19, I suddenly realized I was actually happy. It was crazy because I would’ve never believed that was possible for me.
So much has happened to me now that I survived past the age of 15. Some of those things were not that fun, some of them were normal, and some were the most amazing things I’ve ever felt. But the most important thing of all, is that the way my life feels is the complete opposite of what I always used to feel like.
Now, when I wake up and my first morning grumpiness has passed, I actually think “Yes! I am looking forward to this day, to this week, to this year.” And that feels amazing. Sometimes it feels like the years just fly by because life is fun now, even with the setbacks it sometimes includes.
I’ve graduated, and the studies I did were able to quench my constant thirst for knowledge. I found a job I love to go to every single day, where I’m able to do my own thing and feel fulfilled. It’s fantastic.
I met my first love and fell head over heels for him. It’s indescribable how it feels to get to know someone so intimately and share yourself with them. And the sex of course 😉 How fun!
I got so inspired by some images that I got them tattooed on my body.
I started living abroad and experiencing different cultures on the inside and outside.
I learned new languages and became new versions of myself.
I learned to appreciate my own country more by being in different ones, only to return and get to know it in a totally new way.
I started becoming friends with my family. Like a bunch of full grown adults that are able to talk with each other without being restricted by family hierarchies. I became best friends with the sister I used to have a troubled relationship with.
I enjoy all kinds of new music I never knew existed and went completely ballistic on big festivals.
I became physically stronger. I climbed my first mountain. I floored a man 3 times my size with the self-defense moves I learned. And the euphoric rush that came from engaging in sports that I never felt before.
I learned how to dance and move my body in new ways.
And all of that, are things I would’ve never have experienced in this physical world, if my suicide had actually worked out the way I wanted it so badly to go at the time.
I was doing my first year of university for the second time, but the truth is that I was mostly just staying in bed and playing League of Legends. I almost never ate any food, and if I did, it definitely wasn’t healthy. I never went to school or left my bed. I had no friends except for my depression.
At one point I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to say goodbye to my shitty existence. I felt like a complete failure. Someone who was completely wasting his human potential. My mother is a doctor, so we always have a lot of medication lying around the house. I took what I believed was a lethal dose and woke up in a pool of my own vomit. Somehow I had survived.
I never took my finals. Nothing had changed though. I still felt like shit, and my interactions with women constantly felt like a simple reaffirmation of the fact that I actually was shit.
Because of my constant focus on feeling rejected, I took a different way out this time around. I researched how to seduce women on the only place that ever felt like home to me: the internet. Even though I was a total shy introvert, I stumbled upon an online community that warmly welcomed me. And that’s when it started to go well for me.
In the last one and a half year I’ve done all kinds of crazy shit in different cities. Sometimes stupid shit (like running down an escalator in the wrong direction), but it always made me feel alive.
• I’ve kissed girls within 5 minutes of knowing them.
• I had 2 long-term relationships and several friends with benefits
• I am blessed with the most awesome relation ship in the world right now.
• I actually had my first kiss ever right after a suicide attempt, can you imagine?
I started to get into zen philosophy and became more and more peaceful and happy, until at some point happiness actually became my default state. Which is crazy, considering where I came from. And for that alone, every day feels extremely special to me right now.
It feels like the universe has given me a second chance to live when I wanted to die most and -albeit with some delay-, I grabbed that chance with both of my hands. Kinda like the way I grab my girlfriend 😉
If I had to some up what’s in my head right now in one sentence, I’d say “I went to hell and back, and I’m sure as hell not going back there.”
I was in my last year of high school, but I rarely ever attended. Even though I was heavily depressed, I didn’t actually realize it. Then one day it just clicked. I didn’t see the point of living on this planet anymore. My parents were on holiday so I had the house to myself for 2 weeks. After spending the whole night on my computer doing god knows what, dawn was coming and I could hear the city coming back to live again. The sound of people driving to their jobs.
I felt incredibly, incredibly sad. I was completely alone in the world. Half a year earlier, I had broken up with my boyfriend after he cheated on me. I had all the wrong friends, so I trusted nobody. I was fucking up my studies, and every day my parents and myself confronted me with everything else I had already fucked up in this life. Nothing made sense to me anymore and I couldn’t think of anybody in the world who would miss me if I was gone.
Suddenly, something happened. I stopped feeling anything. I calmly walked to the kitchen and took all the pills I could find (mostly painkillers and my mom’s anti-depressants) and chased it with what was left of a cold cup of tea that was still on the table. Then I literally started waiting for my own death to come, and I felt surprisingly calm and relaxed. I went outside to the balcony and watched the sunrise (I know, sounds like a scene from a movie) but I couldn’t see a lot because there were too many apartment buildings blocking the view.
In one of those apartment buildings lived my big sister (we weren’t actually related, but she changed my diapers when I was young and always felt like a big sister to me) she was busy getting her daughter ready for school and called me up because she saw me standing on the balcony and could feel something was wrong. I told her I had taken a lot of pills and that I loved her.
5 minutes later she had broken in (she had a spare key) and was taking me to the hospital. I passed out on the way there. They pumped my stomach and kept me in the hospital for a week.
I woke up in a hospital bed and started thinking of getting a tattoo. The next thing I thought was “Hey, that probably means I’m happy to be alive.” I quit school, dropped all my friends from my life, and kept staying depressed for the next months, but a lot has changed since then.
• I got my degree in web design just 18 months later.
• Earned my driver’s license
• Got into contact with my dad again. We now have a normal relationship with each other instead of a destructive one.
• I became a certified make up and special effects artist and got a job at MAC cosmetics (which had always been my dream).
• I traveled to the top 2 countries on my bucket list (Ireland and Japan) and I literally cried when I got to both of them.
Wherever I go, there’s always this little voice in the back of my head that reminds me I have gotten a second chance in life. And that’s probably part of what made me achieve a lot of things I always dreamed of. I think a lot of survivor’s have that. I’m not sure because I don’t know any. Other than you, my ex and my 2 best friends, nobody knows. Most of my friends would never expect me to be a survivor. And I’d rather keep it that way for now. But if my story on your blog can help anybody find new hope in life, then I’m all in 🙂
I first started getting suicidal thoughts when I was 8 years old (!) and they stayed with me for 35 long, gruesome years. On the outside, it looked like I had a great life and had it all together. But on the inside, it felt completely different.
My entire life, I spent trying to figure out why I felt so fucked up, and how to fix it. I tried everything: books, therapy, coaching ,workshops, techniques... I became a therapist myself and started studying these things because I thought that learning about how mental problems and traumas worked and how to help others would help me figure out what was wrong with myself. But nothing helped.
It felt liked it was going to be like that for ever. The pain. The shame. At one point I found myself ready to jump in front of a train.
Last November I was so tired of it. I told my wife I was sorry but I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave myself an ultimatum. I was going to give fixing all of this one more shot, and if it didn’t work this time, I saw no other option put to end my life.
I went to the doctor and a psychiatrist, but they did not want to prescribe me the medication because a common side effect was suicidal thoughts.
Then one day, I remember it good, on December 6th, everything stopped for good.
I was looking outside at a demolition side. People were taking down a wall, and something went wrong. And other wall fell down with it, and it completely crushed the 2 construction workers. I ran around hoping to save them. It was the most gore thing I had ever seen. Blood, guts, bones, crushed skulls. It was so disheartening that I couldn’t bring myself to reanimate them. And I felt terrible that as a person, I could not even help other people save their lives. (Even though they were probably beyond saving from the second that wall hit them.)
But something happened that day. I saw it. There was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing to fix. I saw that, when I became overwhelmed with emotions like that, I gave meaning to them. I created the illusion that my life was horrible and had lived in that illusion for 35 years. But I didn’t have to any more.
When I stopped pushing away my emotions, the feeling was gone. And it was gone for ever. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel suicidal anymore. I remember one time since that day, when a depressive feeling came up, but I observed it happening, I could watch it happen in my body, and let it pass instead of letting it catch me.
After 35 years, I finally see things for what they are. That’s how long it took me to find freedom. The reason for that is because I never understood the basics of reality. I did not see the difference between what was real and what was an illusionary interpretation of reality I created for myself. Now that I grasp this simple truth (though a hard one to accept), everything is clear to me. I had no idea how profoundly large the impact of a such a small realization could be.
Now I often see the same thing with clients in my coaching or therapy sessions. I see the stories that they create for themselves. I do not disagree with their thoughts, but I don’t feed the stories either. Going through this experience myself has given me a deep sense of grounding from which I can now help other people who feel like I used to feel (or worse).
(Side note from Pep: This is something that I can definitely relate to. I was depressed for more than 15 years myself, and I now also observe that the cause was a mental illusion I created for myself. A subjective interpretation of the world that didn’t serve me, and that I can always replace with a better one. And meditating is probably what caused the change for me.
What also struck me about Roel was that he is the only person who was okay with using his real name in this article. There is clearly still a big taboo on suicide or suicidal thoughts in our society that begs to be lifted. In fact, when researching this article I got into contact with a whole bunch of survivors who lived happy lives, but didn't want to share their story with anyone. Even from the original 10 people who wanted to be in this article to help people, most decided to back out in the end. It's a very uncomfortable subject to open up about in our society where expressing your most intimate feelings is already largely a taboo, especially for men.
If you ever think about suicide... Please talk to someone. Even if it's a stranger or a hotline. You are not alone in this. Just from seeing how many people reached out to me, I've come to conclude it's a very common thing to feel that way.)
Ever since I was little, my life was seldom stable. I grew up in poverty and my mother had several mental issues and a suspicious paranoid personality, so I frequently fought with her.
I was living with my girlfriend and my first born daughter at the time and it was a constant struggle to raise her on little money. I cooked and washed dishes for minimum wage and I often worked for 60 hours a week to support her. Shortly before Christmas (her birthday) I was fired and I had almost no money to get her any presents.
We lived in a crime-ridden neighbourhood and our house was robbed on more than one occasion, leaving us with less than we already had. My music career was going nowhere either. I had just released my first album, but it was a colossal financial, and critical flop.
On top of it all, my girlfriend left me and took custody of my daughter. I couldn’t take it anymore. My entire life I had worked harderthan anyone I knew, and it had only led me to more misery and depression.
I could’ve died right then and there with nothing to show for my life. But less than a year after trying to swallow a lethal dose of painkillers, one of my mixtapes was discovered by a world-famous producer.
Since then I’ve sold 172 million albums world wide. 2 of them were certified diamond. I traveled the world. I’ve received fifteen Grammy awards and became the only artist to win it for 3 consecutive LP’s. I became the first rapper to ever receive the academy award for best original song. I’ve acted in movies, wrote books, started my own record label and a non-profit foundation for other kids who grow up in a disadvantaged situation like I did. I’ve been called the 9th greatest MC of all time, and 13th on the “22 greatest voices in music list”. 82nd on Rolling Stone’s immortal list, and was elected by Vibe Magazine’s readers as “best rapper alive”.
By now, you probably realize that this story wasn’t written by someone I had contact with (even though I’d love to). I paraphrased it from research I did and reading Eminem’s biography “The Way I Am".
If he hadn’t survived that night he first tried to commit suicide, none of this would’ve happened. Just imagine how many millions of lives in the world would’ve been different if Eminem hadn’t gone on to continue improving his craft. And he's not the only one. Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to commit suicide when he was 12. Oprah tried it multiple times. Even those people who went on to accomplish extraordinary things had moments in their lives when they felt so worthless that they couldn't find a reason to keep on living anymore.
They may seem gifted now, which may prompt you to come up with excuses like “Em had talent, I’m not good at anything.” But don’t believe any of that.
They. started off like any one of us. Probably even worse. It was hard work, patience, and a little push from lady luck that put them where they are today. But even if you could only get 2 of those 3 things, and achieve a tenth of what they've achieved. That would still be a phenomenal life, that’s worth living without a doubt.
When I was writing this thing, I wrote an email to Tim Ferriss ’ assistant to ask if I could have quick chat with him about his suicidal past (now that I read it, that doesn’t sound like very polite offer, I’m pretty bad at being tactful with people sometimes).
What I didn’t realize was that he had actually written a blog post himself, detailing his story. You can read the whole thing on his website, which is obviously worth a read.
Here’s a shorter version based on that source:
It was his senior year at Princeton and a lot of things were starting to go wrong for Tim. It was hard for him to get a job, he became more insecure in this period and lost his girlfriend. One of his thesis advisors was unreasonably hard on him, and finishing the thesis, which is viewed as the pinnacle of your four-year undergrad career, started looking like an uphill battle. He had found a solution to deal with this that involved taking some time off, but the advisor was furious and put even more pressure on him by threatening him.
While spending a lot of time isolated from his friends because of all the hard work he had to do, he stumbled upon a book about suicide. Suddenly it’s the one thing he was excited about researching again. A solution that gave him hope. By this point he was past deciding. In his own words:
“ 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.”
If you are not familiar with Tim's life after suicide, here’s just some of the things he went on to achieve after he decided to stay alive:
• Four #1 New York Time bestsellers
• Creating a lifestyle for himself were he automated a business that allowed him to travel the world and do what he loved while allegedly working only 4 hours a week.
• He was listed at #6 in the “Top 20 Angel Investor” rankings for 2014
• His podcast, featuring high performing people from all sorts of walks of life, is often ranked #1 across all of iTunes, exceeded 150 million downloads and has received “Best of iTunes” awards.
• His blog (one of the only 3 that I read), is ranked in Inc. Magazines “19 Blogs You Should Bookmark Right Now” and #1 on the Top 150 Management and Leadership Blogs list. And was voted Wired magazine’s “Greatest self-promoter” of 2008
• He became the first American In History to hold a Guinness World Record In Tango
• Became national Chines kickboxing champion
• To be honest, the cool things he’s done with his life are simply too numerous to mention, so if you’re interested. Just read his books 🙂 After choosing to stay alive, they might inspire you to make sure the part to come is so awesome that it makes the past more than worth it 🙂
My Own Deathwish
I've struggled with a victim mentality in every area of my life for the first 20-something years. I was heavily depressed, but unlike the other people in this post, I never actually tried committing suicide.
I can clearly remember a night-time ritual I used to have when I was around 17-18 years old. Every night I went to sleep and I wished that the following morning, I’d wake up and my life would magically be different. I wouldn’t be so sad any more. I’d be in a different world where I did not hate everyone and everything. I’d be good at the skills I was learning instead of sucking. I’d be irresistible to the other sex, and somehow I’d find a big with a billion dollars in cash that would enable me to be financially free for the rest of my life.
Looking back now it’s ridiculous to think how much time I spent wishing for those things to happen instead of actually making them happen.
One faithless night, I could not take it any more. I had spent the last few weeks in my friend’s attic playing Super Mario, eating nutmeg and watching old children’s programs from the 90’s. It was our little retreat from the world that I could not face. And I wasn’t even sure anymore if I’d ever want to be able to face it.
That night, instead of going over my usual wishes that somehow some unknown force would magically fix my life, I just wished that I would not wake up the next morning.
I did want my life to be finally over, yes. I just didn’t want to be the one who actually had to do the work required for it to end. That’s how much of a victim mindset I had. Even my suicide needed to be someone else’s fault.
But as I sat there wishing I would die in my sleep, in a cruel yet ironic twist of fate, I had a severe case of insomnia. As if life was telling me to man the fuck up and finally taking some action myself.
So I ended my miserable life.
But I didn’t end it by killing myself. I did it by hopping on a plane to the other side of the world: the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. And I attempted to start my life from scratch in California.
While the time I spent over there was amazing, it didn’t fix my mental problems in the long run. After that, I still struggled with depression, anxiety and insomnia for the next 5 years.
But I can’t believe how happy I am that my death wish never came true. Because here’s just a fraction of what I would’ve missed out on if that wish had gotten granted:
• Sleeping 8 hours a night, curing myself from an incurable panic disorder (2 things I considered impossible)
• Meeting most people who are now my best friends (with the exception of a few awesome old-timers)
• Meeting my future girlfriends and other people I felt a deep connection with
• Traveling to America, Asia, and exploring other countries in Europe
• Releasing 3 records and seeing the size of the crowds increase every year
• Receiving messages or donations from people who found hope, inspiration or even real change by reading these blog posts or listening to the band I play in. These make my day and my week every time.
• Getting the chance to give a guest lecture at a university without even having a high school degree
• Having a lot of my sexual fantasies come true in real life.
• Threesomes, foursomes, moresomes… But also learning to enjoy my lonesomes 🙂
• Cutting the leaves off of palm trees and sleeping on the beach while listening to the ocean
• Various spiritual experiences and learning to explore them without the confines of religion or dogma
• Trying MDMA
• Experiencing the same sense of oneness without drugs.
• Playing as the opening act for one of my biggest idols and hearing he liked our band.
• Probably a lot more I can't think of right now... These last years have been an amazing ride.
But even more importantly, I would’ve missed out on the some of the most amazing things that are simple, free and happen spontaneously:
• Walking on the beach, in a forest or any street on a sunny day
• Hanging with friends, joking around
• Eating blueberries, Thai food, cacao, strawberries, pussy...
• Listening to music
• Listening to a cat’s purr
• Generally being in the company of animals (including you 😉 )
• The joy of seeing some of my friends creating awesome art straight from their heart
• Watching fireworks on new year’s eve, or the stars on any other eve
• Sleeping next to some I love with every fiber of my being
And that’s ultimately what staying alive is all about. It doesn't always have to be about the big accomplishments. A lot of the survivor's I talked with mainly talked about normal stuff that makes them incredibly happy now even though it hadn't in the past.
Now matter how dreadful, dark and hopeless life seems right now. If you stick with it just a little longer, pick yourself up again every time you fall down and continue to try to improve your mental state, even when sometimes you have no idea what makes it worth it any more.
There will come a point one day, where even the simplest things in life make you happy. I just know it.
Often one of the happiest moments of my day I just walking on the street and breathing. I can’t think of any words I could write that would convince my chronically anxious, heavily depressed younger self that such a day would ever come, because it is almost impossible to understand from his point of view.
I know from experience that when you feel depressed, you can’t stand anybody who tries to tell you that life is beautiful. But that doesn't make it less true.
Sometimes you just have to stick with it a little longer and have faith.
Because as the stories of all the people in this article prove:
There will come a day. And no matter how horrible everything in your reality seems. That day will be more than worth it.
I love you.
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