“Just get out of bed!!!! You have nothing to be sad about!”
I am incapable of getting out of bed right now, so that’s a non-starter. If I manage to brush my teeth, today is a win. Perhaps I can send an email too. Former CEO unable to brush his teeth or write an email, with zero discernable explanation. Awesome (literal eye roll). Shortly following, I initiate my daily cycle of deep shame and self-loathing for my disappointment in myself, which today is reiterated by someone who cares about me with the “get out of bed” comment. She doesn’t understand, and well, how could she? I don’t even understand, and I AM me. I’m starting to believe that I just may be right about my perceived worthlessness. After all, those who love me even agree now. Deep blue morphs to black. With my loved ones telling me I’m worthless, thoughts of suicide start again. They get more specific and planned each week, which I'm guessing is bad.
Bright side is that it is almost 10am. At 11am (opening time) a nice man at Applebee’s will help me mask this negative self-talk and numb my emotions another day. Perhaps then, I won’t do anything stupid (oh, the irony). 3-4 doubles should work, at least for a while. The living room comments escalate in fervor and tone, “How can you be so lazy?!?…(internally) Yeah, I don’t know either.” Make that 5-6 doubles, I guess; today is going to be rough. This cycle goes on each day for about a year, and somehow, I am managing to stay mostly employed, not get hospitalized, and not get arrested, which is both a blessing and a curse. Turns out that my well-meaning bartender buddy wasn’t really helping much. Once the black reaches total darkness, I check into rehab, against my ego’s better judgement. A few months later, I go ahead and try rehab a second time (for kicks, of course). Turns out that once isn’t enough for some of us to get it.
“Focus on the breath...be in the present moment”
U.S. Army Veteran tough guy, and I’m in rural Cambodia breathing. Breathing. Sober 40 days, which turns out to help depression a bit - go figure. So, I keep breathing, to see if it does anything. For 4 weeks, I breathe and do yoga. My second time ever doing yoga is 4-hours a day in rural Cambodia at a 4-week yoga camp. After a while, I am starting to get better at meditation and yoga; my cynicism starts to erode. The constant stability of breath evokes a strange sense of calm. I’m having a hard time worrying about the past or future, because I’m always focused on the thoughts, feelings, and emotions at the present moment. I’m not ignoring the feelings; I’m indulging them, non-judgmentally, and seeing what I can do improve things. This seems hyper-counterintuitive, since my problem is that I was feeling too much, but it turns out not to be the case (I’ll save that explanation for another story). They call this mindfulness, in case you want to read a little more on it. In business, I always make decisions rationally (sometimes too much so), but with my own emotions, I previously found myself caught in a whirlwind of past, future, “oh no,” “this is awful,” and SQUIRREL!!! My brain needed a complete reboot and some new tricks to get it back in line when it wanders. This experience has made a profound difference.
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
With this recommendation, I took the rehab team VERY literally. I changed everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Went to Asia for 3 months to study Buddhism. Moved to a new state. Quit my job, with no money and no plan. Stepped away from friends and relationships. “Look Nick, we meant change SOMETHING, not everything,” they said. I thought sarcastically, well you shouldn’t have given me the quote then; you know I tend toward extremes. Even having sarcasm in my head was a massive improvement from the blue/black chapters. That was missing for a long time. I was confident that my interpretation was precisely correct for me personally, though not recommended for most. The foxhole I designed was reinforced by barriers and land mines in the form of relationships, environment, and familiarity. The whole stage was set for years, and only complete change could potentially bring me back to happiness. This new life seems to be working out well, so far. Over 90 days sober, and no self-loathing or darkness in sight. Now and then, a day still touches light blue, but then I remind myself...focus on the breath. Who knew? It just seems too simple.