5 Steps to Cure Depression (Without Killing Yourself)
I've contemplated suicide several times over the past year, simply as a means to get rid of the crushing, monotonous feeling that is depression.
I've never been clinically diagnosed, but around this same time last year, I knew something was wrong. Seriously wrong. And that my life was at stake.
Everything felt pointless, meaningless, and overwhelming. I had no interest in any of the things I previously found enjoyable (writing, dating, seeing friends). I used to be the type of person that never let anything stop me, much less my disability or wheelchair, but now I had lost any desire to invest in my future.
It got so bad that a few months ago I wondered if I was just dying at a really really rapid speed. The form of muscular dystrophy I have isn't known to shorten my lifespan, so I wondered if maybe something else was going on, because my mind and my body were literally falling apart.
But I finally noticed a bit of a change this past week – someone asked me how I'm doing and I wanted to say, cheekily, "well, I'm not depressed anymore!"
I doubted whether this was actually true, because I've certainly been fooled before, but the feeling has been sustaining. I still have moments of feeling down, but they seem to be shorter lived. In my most recent counseling session, I was surprised to hear myself say, "I guess I'm kind of excited about the idea of sticking around a little bit longer."
We recapped some of my coping strategies from this past year, and I thought "huh, maybe all that shit worked?"
Because I thought I was is digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole, but it turns out I was actually healing, and I didn't even know it.
If you are in the same boat, here are the things I did that I believe really made a difference:
#1 Make Some Stupid Decisions
I mean, if you regret them, you could just go forward with your initial plan of killing yourself, right?
I did a bunch of stupid shit this year, including:
filming myself talking about the personal details of a breakup, and then posting it to YouTube
filming myself telling my (married) assistant that I have feelings for her, and then posting it to YouTube
Taking an insanely high dose of marijuana (10mg) for my first time trying it
Before you go searching, the videos for #1 and #2 have been removed, but you can watch my good friend Meghan roast me for idiotic move #3.
The point here is to do things out of your comfort zone – things you thought you would NEVER do. You've only got one life, so might as well try everything before you go, right?
#2 Talk About It, Like, Super Casually
First off, fuck the Suicide Hotline. I really don't give two shits whether Jeremy from Virginia thinks I shouldn't kill myself.
I hate the idea of the Suicide Hotline, and that we tell people to call it. Like suicidal thoughts are this horrendous thing that we need to be super duper careful & cautious around. Like you just wake up one day and are literally one step away from taking the plunge. No dude, it doesn't work that way, and everyone making a huge deal about it doesn't help.
We should treat suicidal thoughts like we treat having gas. We know that it just happens occasionally, it goes away but will probably happen again, and it's a little embarrassing but we can laugh about it with our close friends.
One of the first things I did when I had these dark thoughts was to tell my friends about it, but not in a "hey I need to tell you something serious" kind of way. More like when they would ask how I'm doing, I would say "you mean other than wanting to kill myself?"
And I was quite the annoying twat this year with my friends. But I didn't care – a girl I dated gave me this advice for how she got over her depression: call a friend and just get it out, and the next day call another friend, and the next day call another friend. Just keep rotating, so people get a break. It worked for her, and it definitely worked for me. One of my friends started answering my calls with a dry "are you about to kill yourself?" which always made me laugh. The fact that that kind of humor exists in the world made me not want to leave it.
And yes, I know not everyone has such close friends, but it's so easy to change that, which is WHY I have created such AMPLE resources to help you with that at datingcoachonwheels.com (100% shameless plug).
#3 Create Absurd Art
We've all seen the clichés about the distraught artist, right? There's a reason they exist.
Someone had told me about Casey Neistat a while back, and I had refused to look him up, thinking it would just take time away from making my own shit. But in the spirit of "do everything you thought about doing before killing yourself" I gave in, and I'm so glad I did. I was INCREDIBLY inspired by his hustle, commitment to his work, and of course, his fascinating vlogs.
It made me think of how to create my own vlogs, when I didn't have the hand dexterity, strength, or frankly, the budget to carry around his fancy equipment. I did massive amounts of research, went through tons of trial & error, and created a solution that I could use 100% independently (I attached the camera to my wheelchair) to create a vlog of my journey with depression.
I loved the process of filming and editing my life, and I honestly believe it is the BEST content I have ever created (seriously, check it out). I learned so much about video production from this experience, and I still use those learnings as I work on another project I got serious about in the past year – 2 Boys 1 Chair – where my gay assistant helps me get dressed, and we talk about hilariously inappropriate topics (okay, let's be honest, we basically just talk about sex).
Another great avenue for creative expression is stand-up comedy, which I also took up fairly seriously this past year (check out my work in Seattle & Miami). Depression breeds fantastic comedy, and I discovered my dark, masochistic version of it through this experience. It's totally normal to go to an open mic and talk about depression, and in fact, it's kind of strange if you don't. I think comedy also forces you to laugh at yourself, and as a wonderful friend told me, it's hard to be laughing and depressed at the same time. (side note: posting a super depressive/suicidal Instagram post is actually what got me reconnected with that friend).
You can even take it one step further and invite all your friends to viciously roast you for your 30th birthday, as I did. It doesn't matter what you do (or if it's any good, see #1 above) just don't let this energy fester inside of you – get it out into the world.
#4 Live With Your Sister
For one, I was not able to use the restroom on my own for 2-3 months, because I could not bear any weight on my left leg. And two, it gave my sister a reason to move from New York City to Seattle, because I really needed the help. We've been living together for about 4 months, and while there have been tremendous challenges (she writes about them here) I'm certain it was a huge factor in lifting me out of my depression.
We haven't lived together for 15 years (half my life) and we've always had a distant relationship, so we've basically been getting to know each other all over again, and realizing that we are more similar than we think. We started sibling therapy, which is hard work, but rewarding, and hosted a waffle brunch for about 35 of our close friends.
My sister is very social, and randomly has people over for dinner throughout the week, so I get to benefit by just showing up for home-cooked food and great conversation. Plus, having her around meant I had somebody to eat meals with, and someone to chat with before going to bed. Plus, she comes as a package deal with her dog Caesar, who is the most annoying but most adorable dog ever.
I know not everyone has this option, and family situations are often riddled with toxicity. The point is that it's incredibly comforting to just have someone around. More and more of us live alone, and it's a major contributor to the depression epidemic. This is hard to change immediately, so as a baby step, if you spend your day pretty isolated, just take a 20 minutes to stroll in your neighborhood – I've started doing this, and I usually don't even talk to anyone, but I feel better. I think our minds need this type of implicit signal that we are not alone, and it's not something you can get online – it has to be the real thing.
#5 Get A Fancy, Expensive New Mattress
Seriously – if you can't afford it later, you could just kill yourself, and then it's not your problem anymore.
I cheaped out on my previous mattress purchase – some foam piece of garbage from IKEA. I figured it wouldn't really affect me because I'm so lightweight (just 89 pounds of PURE MUSCLE, jk) but it 100% does.
I just switched to the all new Purple 2 mattress and OH MY GOD IT'S LIKE SLEEPING ON A FUCKING CLOUD. I wake up feeling refreshed and rested, instead of feeling like I just rolled into a brick wall. I think even Oprah recommends investing in a quality mattress on her "Top 5 Pieces of Life Advice" and she's a smart person or something.
#6 Become A (Lazy) Meditator
But BRUH, you said only FIVE steps to cure depression…
Yeah, for the fucking clickbait title – you gonna man up and finish the job, or quit like a fucking pussy?
In line with the above sentence, allow me to tell you about meditation.
Meditation is scientifically proven to improve your mood, yet so many of us don't do it. Why? Because most people teaching meditation are fucking idiots. They put all these rules around it:
You must be seated
You must keep your spine straight
You must not move
You must keep your attention moving/on your breath/etc.
You must do it for a long period of time
Honestly, I'd rather kill myself.
I have tried & failed to develop a consistent meditation habit for YEARS, and it was always because I would get frustrated and feel that I was doing it wrong.
The truth is that there is no wrong way to do it. It boils down to 2 simple steps:
Focus your mind on one thing (your breath, nothingness, etc.)
Try to notice when your mind wanders, and then return to #1
That is LITERALLY it. Trying is the only requirement. Yeah, you get a fucking participation award for showing up, and you're allowed to gloat about it (see next sentence).
I have missed maybe 2 days in the past 2 months in my meditation practice, which is more consistent than I have ever been. I do 7 minutes (worked up from 5) every morning, right when I wake up, while I am still laying in bed, because it is so damn comfy (see #5 above).
Some days I fall back asleep, and wake up to the sound of the timer ending.
Some days I feel like my mind is all over the place.
And some days I feel really centered and aware of my thoughts.
They all count, as successes. I use an app called Insight Timer, which has a customizable timer and tracks your meditation streak (fo' free!). It has a lot of other cool features like guided meditations, connecting with other meditators, etc. but honestly I'm just addicted to keeping my streak alive. Gamify ur life, bro. (sometimes I share my streak on my Instagram story)
If you are looking for more guidance on meditation, the best place to go is Dan Harris' podcast, called 10% Happier.
#7 Get a (Cute) Counselor
My previous counselor was a man whom I respected and looked up to, but ultimately, when we were talking about women, we were both shooting in the dark, because neither of us is a woman.
My new counselor is the type of woman I am most interested in. She is sweet, down-to-earth, and yeah, super cute. Relax – she's married.
That hasn't stopped you before…
Fair point. But I'm better at understanding boundaries now (see #1 Stupid Decisions, above) and I have no intention of trying to date her. I understand we have a professional relationship, and I value that she can guide me towards attracting women like herself into my life. Why fuck that up?
Look, all I'm saying is that you have a choice as to who you select as a counselor, so make it a good one.
Oh yeah...I guess I should probably destigmatize going to counseling? I'm not sure if that's still a thing – I'm pretty open about needing/going to counseling. I guess I prefer the term counseling as opposed to "therapy," as the latter sounds so clinical, when it's not really.
Counseling is pretty great, and you should do it because emotions are. like. tough, dude. Like I said, I even go to sibling counseling with my sister, and it's helping us finally have a better relationship (check out her blog post about it). Plus, it's super easy & time efficient now with apps like BetterHelp, which is what I use for my individual counseling. I love that I can video chat with my counselor once a week, and that we have a private messaging thread, which is available for me 24/7 to write out my feelings (usually when I am freaking the fuck out). Writing is very healing, as it is another way of getting the feelings out.
I highly recommend BetterHelp – they even have financial aid options if that's a barrier.
#8 Abandon All Hope
I saved this one for last, because it's probably where I'll lose you. Honestly, I'm still wrapping my head around it.
My counselor introduced me to this idea of giving up hope, because it seemed that much of my internal angst came from the fact that I had not found "the one" yet. I'm 30 years old, I've overcome tremendous challenges and insecurities to date tons of women, I've even become known around the world for helping others find love, but dammit I still haven't found that deep partnership that I crave. What the fuck, right?
Turns out I had bought into the belief that it. will. happen. Hollywood certainly tells us that it will, with so many examples of the brilliant disabled guy attracting the cute, witty girl (Forrest Gump, The Theory of Everything, Me Before You etc. etc.). And so does real life (see Sean Stephenson, Nick Vujicic, Shane Burcaw).
But maybe that's not going to be my story.
Maybe my story will be one of multiple partners in multiple parts of the world, with everything being open and transparent and consensual with everyone involved (side note: polyamory/non-monogamy is looking real interesting lately).
Or maybe my story will be that I actually never find that partnership. It does feel a little sad to think about that, but I find that if I can sit with this sadness, and ultimately be okay with that potential reality, it doesn't own me anymore.
Does this mean that you stop trying for the outcome you want? Hell no! I'm still on dating apps, flirting with an ex over email, probably going to cyber with a girl on Instagram in the next few days (don't judge, okay? It's a thing!) and about to go approach women with my friend who has terminal cancer (what the fuck is my life? 😄)
This just means you give up your attachment to a particular outcome. And the only way to realistically do that is to get REALLY comfortable with the idea that it may not happen.
It's almost like you are doing both – trying and working hard towards your goals, while at the same time coming to terms with the possibility that they won't materialize. This is actually tremendously liberating, especially with dating, because it allows you to meet people where they are, instead of forcing them to fit a certain sized box that you are trying to fill. It allows you to explore and enjoy each person for what they bring into your life.
I know this philosophy is contrary to the typical American ethos, and totally opposite the self-help bullshit you see on the market, which says you only need to believe enough that you can achieve some outcome. But it WORKS, man.
Not in the way you typically think it would – you're not going to be suddenly flooded with pussy by adopting this approach (I am talking to a slightly higher number of women than usual right now, but let's see what happens when they read this post! 😂) but you will feel much more at ease.
And that my friends, is the whole fucking point.
PS you should 1000% check out Pema Chodron's book on this, called When Things Fall Apart. Whenever I am feeling down, I just play the audiobook from where I left off, and somehow, it's always exactly the message I need to hear.