How to survive hell


Ground zero. You don’t feel alive anymore, or maybe you never did, and you want it to be over. You don’t want to feel miserable anymore. You want to go to sleep and wake up in thirty years, feeling refreshed and happy.

When you’re depressed you’re convinced your suffering is forever.

I need you to consider the possibility that you might be wrong.

Your depression might be lying to you.

Your suffering might be endless.

It might not.

That’s your starting point. The beginning of the road out of hell.

I need you to know it’s okay to hurt yourself to find relief from the anguish you’re feeling, just make sure it’s a pain you inflict without leaving permanent wounds. I recommend squeezing ice cubes as hard as you can.

Drowning in the Sea

A good way to think about life itself is to imagine it as an ocean.

An endless series of waves until it takes you away forever.

Waves are unpredictable.

Some waves are larger than others.

You could be lucky and see no tsunamis in your lifetime.

Or unlucky and be swallowed whole year after year.

The further you sink the harder it gets to swim to the surface.

But even when you get there and you’re lucky to find a raft, life may hit you with another wave …

If you’ve ever wondered why people give up on life.

This is it.

They are at the bottom of the ocean.

Crushed by the insane pressure.

A place where no-one can hear you scream from the pain you’re in.

A place devoid of light.

A place without direction.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

Every direction is the same.

The pain is constant and everywhere.

How do you survive rock bottom?

The Swamp of Guilt

You’ll have to make it through the Swamp of Guilt first; the guilt of burdening other people with your shit.

The Swamp of Guilt is its own special kind of hell.

One wrong move and you feel like you’re drowning again, and each time you try it gets harder and harder to find the motivation to give life another shot. You barely have the energy to do much of anything, let alone the herculean task of making it through the swamp.

You’re going to need a rope to make it through.

“But Rob, please understand, I can’t fucking accept the rope!”

Are you suggesting we just stand idly by while your house is burning down? Do we not need call the fire department? Do we not let them roll out with all their gear and hose the fires down? Bring in police to secure a parameter? Call medics to attend to the owner’s every need?

It’s an imperfect metaphor, I admit, because unlike real life the firemen will only help you hold down the firehose and provide the tools you need to save the house. They won’t do all the work. But to even stand a chance against a fire of that magnitude you must call for reinforcements.

You need all the help you can get your hands on.

People helping you with basic chores. People taking you out of the house to stretch your legs who don’t mind you staying silent. Therapists who understand the danger you’re in. Any and all help must be made available to you.

In the ideal situation you would only be concerned with fighting your depression. But we know only a few get lucky like that. Communities are resilient that way, individuals aren’t. Making it through life alone is a death sentence. Do your best to enlist all the help you can get.

Depression is the emergency brake of the nervous system.

It’s a survival mechanism unlike any other.

Whatever the reason for its activation, a good therapist will help you understand what’s going on.

Depression in someone who is Bipolar requires a different approach than does a depression born out of nothing or grief.

How you drift to the surface is unique to each individual.

The key thing to understand here is to unburden yourself in any way possible.


What’s the alternative to seeking help?

Death will come to take you.

The end of sense perception.

An unknowable outcome.

Death lies in uncertainty.

This is what I know.

If it wasn’t for my GP / doctor intervening when I knocked on his door, barely capable of speaking, I would have died. Full stop.

I lost almost 15% of my weight because I didn’t have the strength to clean, feed myself, or do groceries on most days. I literally had a friend bring me food on occasion and ate peanut butter with a spoon. I didn’t really feel hungry, I just knew I’d die without food.

I did the embarrassing thing and moved back in with my parents and spent the first two years of recovery just trying to keep my space clean, with varying degrees of success.

I gradually removed things from my room that took up mental space to ease my guilt somewhat. This process took many months. I’d say it took more than twelve months before I could see the floor again on a regular basis.

I then moved on to making sure I could throw my clothes into two large hampers instead of directly on the floor. The effort remained the same, but the outcome, a cleaner bedroom, made a difference to my mental health.

I was unable to work.

Dirt poor.

Dad bought me those hampers. Food. Clothing. Shelter.

My insurance paid for me to see a trauma specialist.

My friends did everything they could to keep me around.

I wouldn’t have made it without all that support and neither will you.

If you really don’t have anyone to help you, stick to finding ways to unburden yourself as much as possible and commit to finding someone, anyone.

I continued to make small changes, which, over time, added up to being able to work again in some capacity.

This is the road you’re walking and must commit yourself to. It’s a slow, maddening, process. It’s the only play you’ve got left.

Take one moment at a time and stay the course. Best of luck.

Published on August 7, 2020