If you been following the news this week, you probably heard about the suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide is not something we talk about much, it’s almost taboo. If you’ve been reading my blog over the years, you probably picked up on the fact that I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. And today I am going to talk about it more. Not only have I had thoughts of it, my wife has too. I used to tell myself that I was just being logical and considered all my options, with suicide being one of them. Then the things got worse and I entertained it more. It wasn’t until last year that I got some real help and things began to change. My wife and I have been going to therapy for maybe 12 years now. She started going, and I followed. After seeing two terrible therapists, we found one that was phenomenal. And then recently, one that was the one for us.
Now that I recollect and look back, it’s bizarre that the first two were probably depressed themselves. I think back and they gave us no improvement in the feeling of hopelessness. In fact, they made it worse with their “traditional” therapies. So much has happened since those early days.
A few weeks ago I posed the question to the universe, “can you be depressed and not even know it?” The instant answer came back was absolutely. And I believe most Americans walking around are in that state, almost like zombies. We hurt, and our support system gives us bad information, or we medicate to numb it, all of which makes it worse in the end. It’s like borrowing money to pay off loans, in the end you are fucked.
I’ve learned that most of our pain originates from our original primary caregivers which are usually parents. When the pain you receive as a baby, child & teenager comes from them, it begins. Your supposed support system is the problem, and you should be able to go to them for help. When we are babies, we instantly cry when something upsets us, and we move on in the next minute. After the age of 12, those tears stopped for me. I was talking about this the other day to a friend. I told him I hadn’t cried from age 12 (when I was planning to run away) to around age 30. He thought that was impossible. I did however remember one time I did cry for a few minutes. I was in the hospital, all alone after brain surgery. My leg was paralyzed, and it got to me. The numbness went away for a few minutes, and I balled.
I had stopped feeling, and at the same time was chasing extreme emotion. I went from rock climbing, to mountain biking, to downhill racing, to dirt biking, etc. Each time I’d immerse myself in the new hobby, and better myself at it as quickly as possible. Then it would become mundane, or difficult, and I’d jump to the next one. That’s when I met Sim, my soulmate.
I was around 30, and our relationship moved quickly to living together, forced by her terrible family. Her stories of hardship were surreal. I didn’t know how to deal with it, how to connect to it on an emotional level. Slowly she started dealing with it in her way, and that was to go into a deep, deep depression, the kind where you can’t even get out of bed. I helped however I could, picked up the slack in our life, but I didn’t know how to help. She felt she had no reason to live, nothing excited her anymore, life was nothing but darkness. Who knew I was headed there soon? One day I gave her an ultimatum, get your shit together or we are done. And it worked, she got her shit together and looked for help. That’s when I began to fall apart.
I got into computer gaming. Like other hobbies, I jumped into it head first playing up to 16 hours a day. That went on for 4-5 years. How Sim stuck with me through that time, I don’t know. Eventually she gave me the ultimatum which I had given her. And so I stopped. Having a HUGE amount of free time, and not being ok with that, I jumped into the next thing which was this company. And I’d have to say this was the start of me moving on with my life and dealing with my shit. That was in 2009.
The hobby of welding and fabricating became consuming. I soon was working 14-18 hour days 7 days a week. Really I was working 24 hours a day. Sleeping, or trying, consisted of thinking or dreaming about design and this new job. The creative aspect was insanely helpful. It was such a great outlet for my hidden pain. I was regularly turning thoughts into reality. The process was like being reborn, and I got hooked on it, always wanting to top myself. Within 2 months of making my first piece, it became a full time job. Then came problems. People wanted more and more stuff, and my lead time grew. The more orders I got, the more anxiety came. I typically change hobbies at that point. But I had orders to fulfill with deposits given.
Soon we had a shop with employees. The machine began to get more complex every day. Then it became a machine that would break daily, and we had to fix it. Next we were stuck in this ship that was on fire daily. And we couldn’t get off. Success is a double edged sword. The more you have, the more you have to figure how the hell you’re going to get it done. Sleep, breakfast, lunch, breaks, days off, become a luxury. Just as few days ago we had a business lunch at this Chinese food place right next to our old shop. I mentioned how I’d never been there before, even though it was a block away. I never took lunches, there was no time, or I didn’t make the time.
The thing with a new business is that you must learn how it works on the fly. You do that by making mistakes and hopefully learning from them. Pain is the best teacher. When the pain comes to often, many people want to quit the job, or sometimes life. It’s so ironic. You have people dreaming of owning their own business, thinking it’s easier, or you’ll make more money, or you get to sit around and tell people what to do. Well it’s quite the opposite. A successful business owner works more than anybody at the company typically, especially in the beginning. Although it can feel very fulfilling, I’ve learned that I do not get fulfilled by external events or things. That comes from inside, from me. And it’s mostly from allowing (or forcing) myself to feel, and having social contact with others where we have DEEP HONEST FACE-TO-FACE conversations.
Part of my depression was not expressing myself. I would avoid difficult situations, or not tell others how I really felt. Each time that diminished who I was and stole a part of my soul.
Seems many people these days are chasing fame. They want to get famous. Part of me wanted that and still does sometimes. For years now I get compliments on a regular basis about our designs. You think that is something you want, but when you can’t accept the compliment because you feel insecure or not worthy of it, that becomes a problem. I believe people chase fame due to a feeling unworthiness. Most likely they feel they didn’t please their parents. So pleasing the world might fix that? Nope, it’ll make it worse. When Alec Baldwin called me and said “Greg your designs are amazing!”, a little voice in my head said “I am not, you are wrong.” I equated the designs as me. People do this sort of thing all day long. They say “nice car” or “nice outfit” and the response is usually “thank you”. That is superficial. My soul would rather hear “you must have worked hard to buy that car”. Why say thanks to “nice car”? I didn’t design the car, I didn’t make it, it’s not me. But I did work my ass off to earn the money to get it.
The more success you get, the more of your day, week, month and year is booked. That can be overwhelming when you want to take a day off, or have a much needed vacation. It can feel that there is no escape. Then you realize when you wake up, you aren’t excited anymore, in fact you may dread it. You long for the weekends. Then on those days you are so busy, or ridden with anxiety, you don’t get to relax. Often drugs and alcohol abuse go hand in hand with depression. They can be the vacation from your feelings that you need. But in the end, they do make things worse as your problems pile up even higher. All of our moments and interactions are filtered through this pile of problems sub-consciously. When you start to really deal with your stuff, you feel it happening. Your triggers become apparent, and you find a way to deal with them.
I told Sim years ago that every time she spent time with her sister, she came back angry. That got directed at me. Years later she told me the same thing. Every dealing with my immediate family left me angry 2-3 days later, and that lasted a week or so. I wasn’t angry at them, I just got angry at Sim and everything around me much quicker. The last 5 or so times I visited my family for a get together, I was hyper conscious of what was going on (that came with distance from them). What was completely normal to me years ago, was not anymore. I saw the utter disfunction, anger, co-dependence, and sadness amongst them all and was disgusted with it. I was like “holy crap, I can’t believe I thought this was normal!” Any mention of real feelings was discouraged strongly. And my sister’s young children were absorbing it for the next generation to carry the torch.
Somehow Sim and I became the outcasts of our families. We saw the problems, spoke our mind, that was not accepted, so we departed. Setting your boundaries in any relationship is extremely important. Those that can’t respect your boundaries will cause massive problems for you. For us right now, we have ended relationships with those that can’t respect us. If you are working hard on making yourself a better human, you need to learn to respect yourself. And how you do that is your journey.
So for the people struggling with depression, know that you are not alone. Like I said, I believe most people in the country are in the same boat. Below are some things that helped me greatly. But do know that this is a very difficult journey. Pain is big part of it. It’s kind of like when anesthesia wears off after dental surgery. You go from numb to ouch! You might miss the numb sometimes. I do right now.
- Decide to do something about it! Or don’t and stay stuck.
- Read up! There are a zillion books on the subject, but do know they will not fix you. I love Audible.com as they read to me on my drives and walks. Here’s some of my favorites on the subject: A New Earth, The Power of Now, Getting the Love you Want, The Untethered Soul, The Surrender Experiment, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
- Be honest in your communications with others. Not talking about social media or texts as I regard that as not real. I mean face-to-face conversations. When that voice in your head says that you should say something, do it. When you walk away from a conversation with the voice in your head saying you should have done something, go back and do it. Not doing it is minimizing yourself which sends you back down the hole of sadness.
- Find something that makes you feel great inside and do it regularly. This does not include sex, drugs, alcohol, buying things, etc. If it makes you healthier and / or helps the world, that is a plus!
- Find a reason to wake up in the morning. Great coffee was mine for a long time! So was U2’s song “It’s a beautiful day.”
- Meditate daily, do yoga, or try a float tank weekly. Right now I have an unlimited float membership and do it every couple days. After my floats I am usually anxiety free for a while.
- Seek those that love you unconditionally, avoid people that don’t, especially ones you have long histories with. My therapist says she doesn’t allow her clients to see family members if they are part of the source of their problems. She fires clients that don’t listen. That would be like an alcoholic going to treatment, then they head to the bar afterwards. It destroys any hope of change.
- Talk about how you feel with those you can trust, not those who will betray you. And seek therapy, whether it’s alternative or traditional. Get it out of you! The wealthiest and most driven people often go to therapy on a regular basis.
- Cry! I cry all the time now! Let yourself do it if you feel the need to and you will feel better.
- Take breaks from technology like your phone, computer, tablet, etc.
- Seek peace, not happiness. Being positive all the time is not sustainable.
- Remember everything we and others do deep down is about wanting to be loved and give love.
Well I have to run, I have therapy in 15 minutes!!! Please comment if you want to, and remember, I am not a licensed therapist.
Well, it’s been a strange past couple days. Sending my story out into the universe to read, and getting a big reaction, all of which was positive, wasn’t expecting that. Almost a 1000 people have been to the blog post in the last day. Having that in my mind, then going on with my day as that is stirring. Although it is strange, I does feel like it was the right thing to do. A pressure was released inside. I started this blog by pouring my heart out, and people gravitated to it for some reason. I am not looking for sympathy folks, just starting a dialog as it’s better to talk about it, than hold it in.
After the newsletter went out with some new designs, and the blog post, we had a ton of people comment on the blog post, and a bunch of inquiries for product. Strangely more people clicked on the blog post and responded. But that tells me it struck a chord with others.
Years ago songs started to get stuck in my head. The kind of stuck where I go to bed with it playing and wake up the same. It got to be annoying after a few days. Listening to others became difficult as I was listening to the song too. The first song was Mother by Pink Floyd. After a few days I decided to grab the Wall album which I had for years, and to play it. I was driving away from my house and the lyrics spoke to me and my situation. I broke down and cried. Holy shit, there is a lesson in this song for me. I didn’t remember the lyrics, but as they played, I realized the roll my Mother had played in my pain. After listening to it, the song stopped in my head. Wow…
And months later, more songs began to play, most of which I didn’t know very well at all. I would buy the song on iTunes and listen to it alone. Always it would bring be to tears and I’d have an epiphany about my life and past. One of the songs was Waiting for the End by Linkin Park. I don’t think I had ever listened to this song. After some looking, I found it and the same thing happened. This time is was speaking to my sadness and lack of feeling. So with the crazy day I am having right now, I just played the song randomly. Then I remembered the singer Chester Bennington also hung himself recently. Wow again…
It’s odd how my brain works. Or is this the universe guiding me? I know this isn’t a weird coincidence. It’s happened maybe 20 times now, and each time I was going through something emotionally and the answer was in the song. I’ve decided to explore this more. I used to dream of being a musician, but as I got hammered by life, my desire faded. I recently bought a guitar and keyboard and started playing again. The first song I put together was so sad, it made Sim and I ball each time we listened to it. After that I felt much better. Music has always been my greatest talent, at least I think so. I had plans to go to music school in Hollywood as a teen. But my brain tumor got in the way. After recovering from that, my Father decided not to help with tuition, and I continued to work for him and his dream. But after quitting and pursuing my own thing, life became a roller coaster ride. Having a stable job was a piece of cake, although unfulfilling. The work I do now is challenging daily, but I find I need to be challenged, or life becomes blah. Without a serious challenge, I am just waiting for the end to come…
Join the discussion 23 Comments
Very useful post!I love this: “Seek peace, not happiness. Being positive all the time is not sustainable.” Thank you for sharing your experience, lots of lessons taken.
This post was brilliant, real, insightful and courageous! Thank you for sharing your road to recovery.
You’re welcome, glad it helped!
Thank you Sallie.
That took some courage, thank you.
Thanks for your extraordinary post, Greg.
We met a couple of years ago when my partner and I were visiting AZ and, being such a fan of your design and fabrication, we had to stop by the shop. You were very generous with your time and it was the highlight of our trip.
I see you have links to social platforms and assume you’re comfortable with anyone forwarding this blog on these platforms?
Also want to share it with colleagues at The Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge MA, where some brilliant clinicians are doing boundary-breaking research on suicide. Jane Tillman, in particular, will be moved and motivated by your writing.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings here.
Thank you Steve, I guess it did. Maybe that was why I was so nervous!
And hello again Mark! Yes you are welcome to share the post. Thanks … Greg
Greg, I greatly appreciate reading your authentic intimate story and your rock solid great advice. I have shared similar experiences with crazy-sad-nasty upbringing, many years of self doubt and starting and running a small business, which is successful and has it own issues that require consistent owner’s attention. Now that I’ve become “successful” and shed all those people who would pull me down, I have the freedom to shed tears at my desk with office door closed, and let off steam in private as needed, and take care of myself better than I ever had before. Life has turned out pretty well and I manage the winds of disappointment with full knowledge that there will be a time when it will have passed over, under, around or through me. When it’s done, I will be standing up straight and enjoy another sunrise and sunset with the love of my life, my business partner and loving husband ( who can get the best of me if I let him, so I don’t, and he’s still OK) . Please carry on, always upward and onward, taking breaks to cry as needed or withstand the winds of disappointment. You are stronger then those winds and you do know they will pass. You and Sim can keep challenging and protecting each other; it makes for a fuller and more satisfying life!
Your products are ingenious and different.
Thank you so much for sharing. I have learned that we strive for perfection and happiness in this world but we look for it in material goods and others. We will never find it there. When we turn to God, we start to be filled with hope and understanding. I have been at my happiest when I pray often and truly trust and believe in God.
Greg, this was an amazing post for the pure reality of depression, thank you for sharing!
Great read, insightful advice. It helped me. A printout is under a magnet on my fridge.
Thank you so much for taking the time to put your thoughts to writing. It looks like you worked your ass off to get all of your thoughts organized. Well done and much appreciated. Every word of your description of work described me to the t.
Thanks so much.
Kansas City Design
Greg, great post. Inspirational and informative. Thank you so much for having the guts to write what could help so many others.
Greg, I met you by phone when you ordered from our company and thought he is just an artist; deep in thought, deep into his projects and now what I was really hearing was depression. I am a survivor of family abuse and know how hard is it to love and respect myself. I was always concerned about you and then glad when you had staff ordering – thinking maybe you were just over worked. Thanks for sharing and putting those thoughts to rest about you. You are right; we are never alone, should seek help when we feel helpless and learn to love with self respect. Thank you for the post.
Thank you Donna! We have some interesting parallels in life…
Hi Karen, it’s been a while! Thank you for sharing, and you are most welcome.
And thank you everybody else for listening!
Hi Greg, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can’t say I enjoyed reading this because there’s nothing enjoyable about this subject. I have a son that struggles with depression and I feel we’ve gone from ditch to ditch for the last 5 years. This explains his avoidance of family events. Thanks again for posting. Wade
A wise teacher once said “we teach best what we most need to learn,” so your comment about some of your early counselors being depressed strikes a chord.
I’m glad you stuck with it, despite all of the challenges. This was powerful insight from the hard work you’ve done. Kudos and keep at it.
My sense is that creative types tend to be more at risk but maybe I’m just seeing that from my own perspective. I’m currently in a program for depression myself; what I learned is that you have to choose the people that ‘sit in your front row’. Only those that support and respect you deserve to be there. You took the right step by choosing to leave some relationships behind; you’ll be better off for it! Thanks for sharing the things that worked for you. The journey never ends; you have to keep working at it but it sounds like you are on the right track!
Yes Wade, this subject sucks. But not dealing with it is worse I’ve found…
I like that Teresa > we teach best what we most need to learn. I’ve seen that in many professions like accounting, legal, police, etc.
Hi Sara, maybe we gravitate to creativity to fill the void? Or we are naturally inclined to create to express our demons? Look at the Blues, it was born from a tough life. Look at the best painters, sculptures, dancers, many of them were struggling or disturbed. Keep on keeping on!
My Wife of 19 years committed suicide just before Christmas last year. A beautiful, strong, driven, religious woman with adult children and students that loved her very much. Her and I were having problems for a few years, but i always tried to treat her with respect, and love.
We met at a personal growth seminar, and we built a really nice life together…we both had our stuff..we did counselling together as well as apart to try to grow personally and as a couple. As we became more and more successful and established in life, the mechanism of that success created more and more stress that helped mask the internal pain she had..and helped me afford to take on my next “thing” i chose to immerse myself in…
I have had dark times in my life, The only thing that has kept me from taking my life, is the thought of what it would do to the ones that love me..so i learned to…. no matter how hard…tell someone what was up for me….unexpressed emotion is a hurricane in our heads that can become deadly..the storm can slow considerably in our heads once we express whatever is going on to another human being we trust…FACE to FACE..
A few times in counselling, i KNEW she was close to puking out into the universe what she was always so afraid to get out…and sadly, she always slammed on the brakes and stuffed it back inside…this demon is what drove her to the level of darkness that caused her to take her life…
I am so sad, sad for the pain she carried all those years. there is no doubt that this has changed my life for ever. Since I was the one that found her..I have attended several ptsd/emdr sessions with a woman i trust and respect, it has been really helpful..
I was Enjoying your work on your website (as I do often) and came across the post that led me to your blog..Thank you for sharing your story..I have been avoiding writing anything about this for months, but your story was heart-felt, honest, and true…so i thought i would share my story as well, a good exercise for me, and also, maybe someone else….
Thanks again, God Bless
Thank you for sharing Mike. That is tough and my heart goes out to you and your family. My wife and I have had discussions about this and we both feel like you do. Hold on because we couldn’t do that to the other person. But, with that being said, there are levels of depression. Mine is not the worst I guess. Another family member struggles too with this and has tried to end her life 3 times now in some very sad ways. Her pit is so low, I don’t know if there is a chance to come back from it. As cold as it may sound, I think some people are better off not being here. Enduring a lifetime of pain, that’s a hard thing to fathom, especially if you are not severely depressed or manic.
But I do believe in reincarnation, and that my wife and I have been together throughout the ages. I know that I will come back, her too, and we’ll meet again someday. Thanks again for sharing, and it was my pleasure to share. It’s hard, but it needs to be done.