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Ask HN: Combating thoughts of suicide/depression
20 points by rfnslyr on July 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments
In the best point of my life (job/my own place/done school wise), I'm always in the same state of depression and I'm finding it harder and harder to keep everything together and keep pretending.

I can't stand being around ANY people at all ever for whatever reason, I find myself almost in tears at multiple times during the day and its not for any particular reason.

I stopped lifting and bodybuilding. I don't have any ambition left in me to devote the slightest thought towards it.

Everything is good for about one or two weeks, then I break down, recoup, and repeat and try to channel it into my work or relationships. I can't do it anymore and I don't know what to do.

I'm not happy and it's hard pretending to be. I can't think happy things. Chaos invades my mind at all times.

I feel lonely constantly. You know that feeling you got when you fell in love with the girl of your dreams? You know that feeling when she has to leave for even the shortest time? It's the worst feeling ever, that's what it's like all the time. I could be out having the greatest social time and it makes me feel even more alone.

I've been doing well with it for the past few years but now it's gotten to a point where I truly don't believe I'll make it for another few months.

I don't enjoy any facet of life anymore.

If you have thoughts of suicide you should talk to a doctor as soon as you can. Depression is horrible, and things probably feel hopeless at the moment, but depression lies and things can be changed.

There are some excellent, evidence based, modern talking therapies. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is probably the most well known. You may need some medication and support until you're ready to get started on CBT.

Discussion about depression treatments can be frustrating. People sometimes try to make a distinction between types of depression - "My depression can't be treated by a talking therapy because it's not just in my head. It's real, it must have an organic cause, it must be a weird balance of brain chemicals". This is not true. While we don't know a huge amount about depression or about medication to treat it we do know enough to do a good job for many people.

Obviously I'm not a doctor and this isn't medical advice. But you really should go and talk to a doctor as soon as you can. It'd be great if you could make the appointment today.

May I ask what country you're in? Feel free to not answer this question.

Advice from experience: Get professional help as quickly as you can.

Sadly I've had more than one friend die from suicide, and in one case my friend assumed that he wasn't troubled enough to really need help — which is what did him in.

Suicidal thoughts are much more of "red alert" situation than episodes of depression or feeling isolated.

I don't know where you are, but in the US you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

1. Tell a friend right now. (I'll wait. Call now.) 2. See a doctor and start psych meds today. 3. Get an appointment with a counselor this week. 4. Check in with your friend every single day for the next 90 days. 5. It will be ok. Hang on.

I felt very similar to you at one point in my life. Like most people the reason you are depressed is because you have a idea/vision of what your life should be like and because it isn't that way, it is upsetting you.

We are products of our rituals/habits. To change my thinking and spawn out of my depression I realised I had to take consistant action. So, now I spend an hour every day working out and another hour listening or watching something inspirational. Then, I start my day.

I would highly suggest you watch some of Tony robbins' seminars on youtube.

Get a dog and walk it often. The dog will make you happy, the exercise will make you feel and sleep better, and you will meet other dog owners who are happy to talk to you about -- dogs!

Volunteer your time to help others. I believe the only way to be truly happy is to help others. Try to treat everyone as if they were part of your extended family.

Watch this video at least once a week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRMogDrHnMQ

the dog thing is a great point, they have such loving energy

I wanted to add a comment here because I'm seeing a lot of well intentioned but terribly uninformed comments, especially along the lines of "get a new hobby, set some new goals for yourself, do something you love!". If you haven't been through it, it's something that's very difficult to understand. People with depression often suffer from anhedonia. A lot of human drive is set on reward and goals, which is why things like MMOs are appealing and addicting. In addition, in healthy human beings, you get a rush of dopamine upon this kind of reward, so it's perhaps realistic for someone who is just "feeling down in the dumps".

It's not realistic with someone with serious depression and especially with anhedonia. You don't want anything. You don't feel pleasure, you don't feel relief, nothing changes when something "good" happens. Nothing is fun, and you can't even tell if you like something, if you hate it, or if you're neutral. It is the worst sensation imaginable, and hard to explain to someone who has not been through it.

It's easy to see how living life breaks down at this point, and a more immediate and serious solution is needed. You can't just pull yourself up and motivate yourself because nothing means anything anymore.

If you don't have any first hand experience with depression, please check out this comic from Hyperbole and a Half: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-par...

It may seem goofy but it actually helped some family members of mine make a major breakthrough in understanding what I was going through.

The only suggestion I can give you is to see a psychiatrist now, and educate yourself about the side effects and long term effects of different medications so you aren't trapped on something that turns you into a zombie. Look into Nootropics and supplements - there is stuff that really can help and isn't total BS if you do the research (examine.com). The mental health care system in most countries is awful, and people are generally awful about understanding it, so sadly I basically had to do everything myself and be my own advocate. Which was awful when I was feeling so bad. So I don't envy you in the least. Best of luck.

Yup. I second your comment RE Anhedonia. It is more-or-less impossible to do anything when your drive and motivation have evaporated. I know that I have never suffered from the problem particularly badly, because I have always been able to lean on the habit of routine to get me out of bed in the morning and get me to work, (and when I am at work, I normally do OK) although I can well imagine how it must feel if the problem starts to exceed the ability of these coping mechanisms to contain the practical fallout.

It sounds like you're doing OK financially. My advice is to pack up your stuff, rent out (or terminate the contract on) your place, quit your job, and travel. It will change your life, and when you come back you will be more you than when you left.

The rationale is that an office-work centric lifestyle in a city is only one option. Quite frankly; the way many of us live is stupendously artificial, and it's not surprising the body sometimes rejects it. In the west people are raised to follow that path, with tremendous social and family pressures to continue. Soon, you can find your self-worth tied up in what are essentially the worthless trivialities of a treadmill existence. There can be a tremendous amount of social pressure to keep going. However, that's not for everyone ... it's tremendously valuable to see and explore others and meet people from other backgrounds before committing yourself to 20-30 years more of the same. You can always come back to it. Trust me, I took 7 years out of the rat race and unexpectedly that experience helped me to come back so far on top I quit after another two and don't expect to ever return. (PS. I'm not fabulously wealthy, I'm just a different person than I was)

Try it.

Another thing to check is diet, exercise and environment - it's easy to get depressed if you sleep weird hours, don't move, don't get enough sunlight / fresh food (hint: a lot of what is sold as fresh isn't really, eg. pretty much all juices, much fruit, and prepackaged salads/sandwiches. Ban sugar and sugar-with-caffeine). You seem like a rational person - if in doubt, try changing some aspect of things awhile and see if it doesn't improve.

I'll give you a clinical, theoretical solution and then a visceral one. You have to sincerely try different things until you figure out what works. I've learned that negative emotions are unnecessary and habitual cycles in our body (usually muscular tension and poor breathing), thoughts (repeated sad songs we sing to ourselves, etc) and feelings (depression, anger, etc). There's not necessarily anything behind it but the existence of the cycle. Once negativity costs us enough, it's natural to think there is some deep underlying issue when really the vast majority is bad habits that you can simply train yourself to break.

Viscerally, the nicest way to say it is that you need to get perspective. Go volunteer as a mentor for inner city youth at the boys and girl's club and instead of spending your time being sad at home, just man up and use your time to help people that have real problems. There are so many people that are dealing with life and death struggles every day and a successful, college educated guy can make a huge difference. Also, this will give you perspective on what is important in life and teach you about the real world and growing up.

This is the worst possible advice you could give an actually depressed person. I am incredibly distressed that in 2013, on an "enlightened" site like HN, we have people posting drivel like this. Nothing you said is "clinical" or "theoretical", it is life-coach bullshit. You say depression is a "feeling" like anger, which highlights just how little you know.

OP doesn't need to "man up", he is a man and life is tough. He needs help. The two posts above this one direct him to useful resources, therapists and an emergency line.

I struggle to understand the drive to post in threads where you're not qualified to comment. Especially when you're dealing with a vulnerable person who is in pain.

The drive is that I've had serious bouts of depression in my life and this is the advice that got me out of it. it's far from the worst possible advice! validating depression as important is often more harmful than helpful. Think it through a bit - what's more likely to make you more depressed? A) being told you're so screwed up you need professional help so jot down the number of a suicide hotline and a qualified therapist or B) being treated as an equal that doesn't need coddling and given real world advice that might actually help yourself and others and maybe even be fun? Think about that and related ideas... how many people do you think jumped off the golden gate bridge because some guy wasn't sufficiently sensitive on some internet forum? how many people end up with gradually increasing symptoms of depression because of this cultural inclination to distance ourselves and focus on the negativity until we've had enough "therapy", when often the best solution is to get out of bed, break the cycle and let ourselves heal in peace? That can be the hardest thing in the world, but engaging in life is really the best solution. Do you really think that IF OP needs therapy or an emergency hotline, that the best solution is to get that advice from some random strange on HN?

OP is obviously collected and intelligent enough to write a coherent post on HN about this. I gave direct, actionable advice and I'm saying that OP is a smart, capable person with the ability to do good in the world who doesn't need to be coddled like a 12 year old. How likely is it that when one is asking HN for advice, one hasn't heard this same boilerplate drivel? I took time out of my day to think out both of these posts and try to find something original. OP has probably been trying to deal with this many different ways and maybe my way isn't his way, but it's more likely to be helpful than some crap you can find by googling depression for 5 minutes. I chose to get involved for that reason and I'm here participating in the thread for followup if it resonated with OP. The therapy and emergency hotline approach is obnoxiously bad - great advice if your employee comes to you and you want to avoid legal entanglement, not particularly good in reality... if you're at the point of posting on HN, you probably have thought about going to a therapist right? So are you really helping or hurting by giving that advice, probably for the 100th time?

"man up" means acting according to typical masculine values of practicality and altruism : get out of bed, go find someone with real life and death problems and help them. It means just think about the next hour or the next minute and do something helpful for other human beings. This builds a support network, fires the social parts of the brain, level sets how bad things can get in the world and how much one smart guy can actually matter and gives a direct resource (boys and girls club) to follow up.

... also I explicitly discussed the intellectual, emotional and physical aspects of depression in there... it's a self reinforcing loop.

Having dealt with depression and anxiety for the past 12y, meditation was key to keep me sane.

I've learnt (although I still have my ups and downs) that to get better, you have to get rid of bad habits and stick to a "healthy" plan; ie. 1) Try to regulate your sleep time 2) Exercise 3) go out in the sun or take vitamin D supplements 4) meditate

Hope you get better


I can empathise with your position.

Just this morning I came up and out of a bout of depression that had been holding me under for the past 4-6 (ish?) weeks - possibly the worst bout that I have had for the past few years.

The feelings of loneliness were certainly there - as were the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty and chaos - there was a lot of cynicism and hatred also, almost entirely turned against myself, again, to the point where I too was starting to worry about my capacity for self harm.

As a person who (at least nominally) values rationality, I found (and still find) the irrational and unpredictable ups and downs of my emotional brain to be immensely irritating and frustrating. Perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is that - even knowing perfectly well that the depression has no rational basis - we are unable to do anything meaningful about it.

Indeed, it was not until this weekend just gone that I felt able to reach out to my family and ask for help - I needed to recover from the depression in order to ask for help recovering from the depression! fking stupid-a*s brain! Who designed this stupid thing, anyway!

Funnily enough, reaching out to strangers is often easier than reaching out to those we know and love - particularly when the issues are as emotionally loaded as these. Personally, I found the Samaritans to be particularly helpful (email jo@samaritans.org for help).

The usual advice that people give is pretty good: "don't suffer in silence", "reach out to your doctor to get help", "diet", "exercise" and so on, but you and I both know how difficult (impossible, more like) following that advice is in practice, and how mind-blowingly irritating it is to receive it when you are down in the dumps (so apologies for repeating the bleedin' obvious).

Anyway, posting here was a good start, so kudos for that, anyhow.


Depression is a very serious issue. I suffer from it as well (for many many years). I think it's important to have outlets and manage it in a healthy way. This is a list in no particular order: Meditation, Acupuncture, Exercise, Medication, Life Coaches, Other Holistic Methods. Different things work for different people. It's important too not to isolate yourself. Try to connect with folks in an honest way even if it's something small. Denying it or presenting a happy face is what we are all taught to do, but honesty will open you up to connections that you need. You won't connect with everyone, but other people are out there. Treat yourself well and take care of yourself. It is a sickness that we have to address, despite what ignorant people might say. Take care of yourself.

This might not be a universal solution, but one interesting book that might help is "The Power of Now" http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Now-Spiritual-Enlightenment/... as it deals with mind's tendency to degrade into negative thoughts to the point where those negative thoughts and emotions are controlling. It's an older title that any library would have.


Get professional help immediately. Any/all of your reservations against doing so are misplaced.

We can't tell you what meds to take, which exercises to do, which foods to eat or avoid, or what lifestyle changes to make. Different people experience depression for different reasons, and for _no reason at all_.

See a pro.

Excuse me but, it seems you have quite a good opportunity there to live well. Why don't you travel? Travel will open your mind up a lot, maybe you will find something that will change truly your life, maybe isn't money, maybe isn't a woman, maybe is helping other people or, maybe is fighting a war. Who knows.

In your place I would be traveling pursuing the adventure of my life.

I know it is cliché but you should start doing something you really love. That is at least what works for me. Trying to figure out your priorities also helps, ask yourself what it is that you want most badly at the moment. Is it a romantic partner? Is it friends? Is it a better job? Just play your own psychologist for a while.

Please email me. I would really like to talk to you about the burden you bear. tom at blendah.com

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Math 16:26

I am a mental health professional in training. There's a lot that can be said here, but I will keep it to what I think are the few most important ideas I can communicate. If these don't work for you, please comment here and let me know your thoughts.

1. If you intend to kill yourself or someone else, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It is a crisis hotline for suicidality. Even if you are highly doubtful that it can help, make the call. Everyone who is suicidal is highly doubtful there's a better way, almost by definition. And yet this number does help the vast majority of those people who do call it. It's worth a chance.

2. You seem to be describing a "major depressive episode." This is not something you should try to address only through self-help or HN (though taking the steps you have taken was an excellent move in that it is going to help you find the next ones to take).

For one thing, there is a physiological element that medication may be required to address. For another thing, the very faculties that you would use to try to help yourself are almost certainly hindered and distorted while in this depressed state. Your problem-solving abilities are likely compromised. Your ability to see alternatives is likely compromised. Your sense of realism in evaluating your situation is likely compromised.

You should seek professional help - from a professional counselor, clinical social worker, clinical or counseling psychologist, or psychiatrist. I would say the same thing even if you were one of those things.

3. There are barriers to seeing a professional for many people. It might be money, it might be stigma, it might be bad experiences in the past, lack of motivation, lack of information, feelings that it won't be helpful -- it's different for different people.

Also, some people will see a therapist one or two times and then decide that therapy didn't work. Therapists are like graphic designers, software engineers, carpenters, or any other profession -- there is variable quality and variable styles. And even among the good ones, some of them may just not a fit for you.

But I assure you there are competent therapists that you will feel a connection with. In fact, most therapists are pretty solid people to sit down with, and they won't have their feelings hurt if they turn out not to be the one to help you -- they'll want to help you find that one.

So consult with a professional. Make a call. Schedule an appointment. Tell them where you are. And if they suck or you don't like them, go try another one.

4. Depression can cause hopelessness, and it feels real and appears real -- that the world is actually that way, that life will always be that way. You can't trust those thoughts and feelings. You've got to take some steps in spite of them. Recognize that it is as if you are under a dark spell. Resist the influence of that dark spell as you try to get it lifted.

5. As I said above, I will check back here tonight to see if you reply to this. Odds are good that you are skeptical about some or all of what I've said here (though if you're not, that's fine too). I can't provide therapy (and this isn't therapy), but I can help with this kind of process of seeking information and exploring your options.

Edit: 6. (Forgot to add...) You should be very very careful with drugs and alcohol right now. Many people who are depressed but not actively suicidal take their lives when under the influence.

This is not a brain hack. This is not something you can or should fix yourself.


Please see a doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist.

I am exactly like that but I am a teenager

How are you doing, rfnslyr?


Email me at [yahwehagape at gmail.com] if you want to explore the possibility of it being a spiritual bankruptcy. Feeling a lack of meaning in life can (and should) be remedied by finding meaning in life.

You can't get any better advice than from Napalm Death:

1. Change your life.

2. You suffer (but why?).

Something in your life-arrangement is wrong. Fix it and move to something you enjoy.

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