I’ve been a blogger for 2 years but this particular article was really painful to write because it describes one of the darkest and most painful periods in my life.
This article is my attempt to pay back my dues for being so lucky to find my way out of depression before it was too late. It’s not a trailer. It’s my whole story. I hope it helps many good people like me and you to get out of their “black holes”.
2 years ago, depression brought me on my knees and kept me there for 6 excruciating months. But when I found a way to beat it, it only took me 2 weeks to get back on my feet*. Today I’m trying to explain how I did it. I’m not saying that’s the only way to beat depression – just that it worked for me, and it worked quickly. Although I can’t promise it will work as quickly with you, I will tell you exactly how I did it and why I think it worked. I deeply hope it can help you beat depression too.
In 2015 I quit my well paid job as a brand manager to pursue my dream of being independent and owning my own brand. I was extremely naive and unprepared for how hard this road was. I only had 6 months worth of savings and hoped I will make things work despite not having any idea what I want to do for a living and time not being on my side. I thought my enthusiasm will compensate. I worked day and night – din’t rest, didn’t exercise, didn’t socialize, didn’t sleep much. I was literally all-in because I didn’t want to go back to being a “corporate slave”. Chances are, you’ve heard this story somewhere else before and know it doesn’t end well. It didn’t for me, too.
Betting all my cards on starting my own business and making it work in 6 months was Russian roulette. One day in the end of June 2015 I got one rejection too many and everything fell apart. I remember feeling crushed and defeated for the first time in my life. I had suddenly lost all hope and desire to try any more. This had never happened to me. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to read, to meet friends, to enjoy food, to watch movies, to play guitar, to draw, to blog. Everything I had adored until then started losing its meaning. It took me a month to realize I was suffering from a major depression breakdown. But before I did, came all of the symptoms:
- Complete insomnia (for months)
- Severe digestion problems (I could only eat bananas and biscuits)
- Crippling indecision (It took me hours to decide what to wear or whether to pick up the phone)
- IQ meltdown (I lost my job, could hardly form complex sentences and started forgetting words)
- Devastating regret (I was heartbroken for everything I haven’t done and haven’t tried as I was sure I would never get another chance to do and try it)
- Absolute numbness (I watched my family cry for me and I couldn’t feel a thing)
- Panic (I was incessantly trying to read and to think myself OUT of depression and it only kept making things worse)
I was hopeless. It was so hard and I felt so trapped that my mind started telling me the world would be a better place without me. I had never admitted this before writing this article but I was suicidal for 5 months. I spent 5 months looking for a way to end this agony. The only things that stopped me from taking my own life were fear and the aforementioned indecision. Not love for my family, just fear. I hated myself for this even more. No matter how long I make this article, words could never in a lifetime do justice to the suffering I was going through. Of course, the fact that you’re reading this article hints you might know the feeling.
But believe it or not, I’m still here. And this article IS a happy-end story. Because one day I did something new and for the first time in 5 months I felt a change in my brain. A bit of the burden in my chest lifted. I felt hopeful and calm – very briefly but it was still unbelievable and unexpected as I had not experienced a positive thought in 5 months.
For 5 months I had read every article, taken several anti-depressants and tried every meditation technique, exercise and therapy I found online and nothing had helped. Until I stumbled upon another depression survivor on the web named Douglas who said he tricked his own brain into believing he was OK using a certain type of visualizations. This sounded like nonsense, of course, but I was so desperate that I kept reading. He elaborated on what he did and how his subconscious reacted. I gave it a try that same evening. Call it luck or help from above but I felt it did something in my brain. The next morning I repeated the visualization technique, then made a habit of doing it twice a day.
In a week I could sleep again, in another week I could eat and exercise*. Only a month after I started the visualizations, I felt good strong enough to look for a new job and quickly found one (any job would do at that moment, I just wanted to get out of my apartment). I can’t describe how grateful I was. Before finding the visualizations, I honestly thought I might never be able to work again.
As I’m prone to introversion and depressive thoughts and I feared depression might come back, I decided to give it all I have to dissect HOW on Earth I recovered and WHY.
Every single psychiatrist I went to told me I would need 6-12 months to start eating, sleeping and working again. That is IF I started recovering today. And I had only been getting worse over the last 5 months. But here I was, a week after starting the visualizations and everything was starting to change. The night I tried the visualization technique, I felt a burst of energy and motivation after just 10 min. of practice. And I hadn’t felt motivated and energetic for months.
The visualization technique itself is so simple that most people I’ve shared it with haven’t tried it because they think the way out of depression must be very complicated and tough. Otherwise they would have guessed it themselves, right… Don’t be that guy. It’s pretty simple, actually. Not easy but simple.
Here is what I did: I visualized that I’m feeling better and starting getting better. The only catch here is:
- Understanding WHY this works, which will give you the logic behind it and the faith it could help you too (otherwise it will never start working)
- Learning HOW to do it right (otherwise you’ll give up before it starts working)
THE VISUALIZATION TECHNIQUE
The human brain is both amazingly powerful and amazingly simple. It has two main frequencies of work – conscious and subconscious. Out of millions of years of evolution, only the last 10 – 12 000 have been governed by the conscious mind. It’s easy to imagine most of our brain capacity and potential is still hidden in our subconscious. And it is. The subconscious rules all of our emotions, thoughts, feelings, enzymes and hormones production, etc. Depression is a therefore a problem of the subconscious mind, not the conscious one.
Depression (as OCD, anxiety attacks, etc.) is a reaction of the subconscious brain to excessive stress. I can’t bold that sentence enough: A person is depressed when their subconscious has undergone or is undergoing too much stress.
To recover, you only need to unwind and relax your mind. Which sounds really hard if you’re depressed but this visualization technique will give you the tools to calm it down.
WHY does stress cause our brains to malfunction? Because those millions of years of evolution have trained us that STRESS = DANGER. In small or unfrequent doses, stress improves our concentration, reactions and pattern-recognition to escape danger. So it’s in fact a good thing. In small doses, that is. But nowadays we’re constantly overworked, underslept and unhappy, making us more stressed than we’ve ever been. Stress accumulates in our brain until it takes it out of order. Today we feel constantly stressed which means our subconscious feels in constant danger. Our brain logically shuts off non-vital functions like metabolism, sleep, emotions, serotonin and endorfins production (happiness hormones). They are not crucial for our survival under extreme danger. You don’t need to be happy or to digest well when a bear is chasing you (that’s the levelsof stress you’ve put your mind under)
It sounds silly, but depression symptoms, a.k.a. your subconscious shutting non-vital body functions, is just a defense-mechanism. Our subconscious takes everything literally. It doesn’t make a difference between real danger (the bear) and too much stress over a too long period (tough year at work + a breakup).
Don’t hate your brain for doing what it does. In fact, now that you know how it reacts to stress and that this reaction caused depression, you can try to turn things around. Just like I did.
HOW VISUALIZATIONS WORK
As we mentioned, your subconscious takes everything literally. It has no eyes. It cannot make a difference between real danger and feeling in danger. But here’s the key: This is equally true for positive emotions. It makes no difference between what’s real and what’s vividly imagined. If you can picture being on the Eiffel Tower in Paris down to the last small detail, your brain believes you are there. That’s why you can feel the same emotions, as if you were really there.
Let’s say it again: If you can really make your subconscious feel you’re not in danger and you’re getting better, you’ll start getting better.
Now we’re left with HOW to trick yourself into believing you’re not in danger:
Your subconscious is the far faster and more powerful part of your brain. To use its power, you just have to listen and speak in its language. It doesn’t speak English. It speaks through our intuition (emotions, pictures). And it doesn’t understand English, nor any other human language. Again, it understands emotions and vivid images.
If you intentionally project a different reality to it though visualizing things differently, it quickly starts doubting you’re in such grave danger. And it starts seeking proof that you’re in fact getting better.
Here’s how I did the visualizations:
1. Visualize your life with no sign of depression. Picture it down to the last detail – what kinds of things you do, with whom you do them, how you look, where you hang out, how you feel, how you’re dressed, how have your thoughts changed, how much energy you have.
2. Engage all your 5 senses. Picture what the air feels like on your skin, what your favorite person’s perfume smells like, what that delicious desert you’re eating together tastes like, what that great song you’re listening to sounds like. Remember – you just need to briefly forget this is not real and pretend that it is. Imagine you’re an actor/actress and you’re playing a movie scene. Only for a minute or two.
3. Do it in the present tense. Ignore that this reality is only present in your head and try to visualize all of this happening NOW. It’s all in front of you and it’s amazing. You may feel silly at first, but it’s powerful. And if this made me believe I could sleep and eat again, why not help you recover too?
4. Be patient. At first the visualizations won’t come naturally to everyone, so you might not feel them working right away. But learning how to guide and affect your mind is worth every bit of your patience. It changed my life forever. In my case 2 weeks* were enough to get me back on my feet and get me the best mental shape of my life. In your case it might take more, but when you feel it working, time won’t matter. You’ll know you’re on your way to recovery and you’ll feel relaxed and motivated to keep on.
5. Feel free to take it further. There are no boundaries here. Visualize your life filled with positive people, adventures, great friends and lots of love. Anything that makes your subconscious feel better, so it starts releasing the happiness hormones again. The serotonin and endorfins produced in those brief visualization sessions will start to balance your thoughts and emotions again.
6. Write it down. Our minds are speed-runners, especially when we feel in danger. Writing makes doing the visualizations slower, which in its own turn makes them more mindful. The first time I felt the change happening in my brain, I wrote the visualizations down. For the first week, I wrote them anew every day, then I started reading the old ones, updating them once a week.
7. Do it twice a day. Trying to trick your brain is tricky itself. First, it needs repetition and devotion. Don’t skip and if you accidentally do, NEVER skip twice, until you’ve recovered. The best time to do it is when you wake up and before you go to bed. That’s when you’re sleepy and when your mind’s logical resistance is weaker. Your subconscious is more open to “inception” when it’s more relaxed.
8. If you can’t visualize, try this: Pick a small object at home, hold it in your hand and study it from all sides for a minute. Then close your eyes and try to visualize every detail of it. Repeat 2-3 times every day and try changing the objects if you want. This will make you better at visualizing.
Another trick that will help you learn to visualize is gratitude – it works like magic. Being grateful for only a minute or two, 2-3 times a day, at a specific time. I do it when I wake up and go to bed, and when I’m in my car back from work. It also produces those same hormones of happiness that relax your stressed mind a bit.
Here’s how I practice gratitude: Several times a day I try to feel a small “touch” of warmness inside of me. I’m grateful for being able to see something cute or beautiful or nice around me. Something very small – like watching the leaves dance in the wind or seeing someone smile, or enjoying a deep breath of air. There’s so much wonder around us to feel grateful for. You can even be grateful you found my website because I’m doing my utmost to help you recover and get back to your happy self.
Don’t push yourself to be super-grateful if you still feel unhappy, just experience some small glimpses of the goodness of life – that’s all you’re aiming for. This will trigger your imagination and motivation and in a few days you’ll be able to feel truly happy for a few seconds or even a minute. Keep practicing and you’ll soon be able to do the whole visualization technique.
DON’T DO IT ALONE !
This is so important that I’ve put it separately.
You need help and support. Depression is an cruel enemy. Find a depression partner or a mentor to walk along you, step-by-step, until you can “walk” by yourself. Preferably, someone who understands what you’re going through (any experience with depression is a great benefit) and will try to keep you calm and relaxed, no matter what. Remember, all it took for me to recover is to DE-STRESS. Ask your partner to make sure you remain calm and hopeful. It can be a friend or a family member, or someone you’ve met briefly but is familiar with depression. Your partner can even help you with visualizations by asking you questions about what you see and feel.
If you don’t have such a person, please DOWNLOAD THIS GUIDEBOOK. It will walk you step-by-step through my whole routine while recovering – my visualizations, my self-talk, the physical and mental exercises I did – the few crucial habits I practiced to speed up my recovery.
I don’t collect emails, I just try to help others suffering. There are 5 concise chapters in the Guidebook and each focuses on a simple habit that helps you take control over your mind chemically and psychologically. Visualizations are one of them, as well as stress reduction, keeping yourself busy, physical exercise and regaining your self-esteem. I try to explain how and why I believe those habits work on the human brain and give you my step-by-step program for applying them.
NOTE: To keep writing, I need to take time off my paying job. Please consider donating something as little as $9.90 if my efforts have helped you or someone you love. Those funds are what’s helping me help others. It’s probably less than what your breakfast usually costs for something that can turn your life around, if you give it the chance it deserves.
If you CAN afford to donate, please let me know – JUST EMAIL ME at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a donation link. Thank you and love you!
To everyone that supports my efforts, I also send a gift – my copy of Ekhart Tolle’s New Earth – the book that has given me 95% of my understanding on what causes depression and how to avoid relapsing. It gives you such insight into depression and the way your brain works that it’s mind-shifting. Of course, I found it AFTER I recovered. What I wouldn’t give to have had it when I was depressed 🙂 My copy is yours to read, along with the Guidebook. I might not be able to respond to email until mid-March, as I’m traveling with no internet connection in Central America, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
So that’s it. That’s my story. In order not to sound esoteric, I have put the reasoning and logic behind this specific visualization technique and its incredible effect on your mind. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
Many people ask me if I’m still feeling OK and depression-free. Two years later, I am happier and calmer than I’ve ever been. I have a steady job as a copywriter that pays well, I am the top men’s fashion blogger in my country and have my own brand of men’s accessories called J.Griffin Accessories:
If you don’t believe my story, PLEASE give the visualizations a try for a week. You will feel the difference. Don’t blow your chances on recovery because you’re skeptic. We’re all skeptic by nature but right now you need to be open-minded and hopeful, more than ever before.
Sending you all my love and support,
You will do it!
* DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is true and complete to the best of my knowledge. As I am not a therapist, I cannot guarantee specific results. The results from applying my methods may vary from person to person. But I’ve done my best to explain how and why they worked for me and I’m deeply hoping they can help you with your recovery too.