How I did it
I told you I would share candidly exactly what I did to recover from depression. This is the section of the book where instead of giving you principled parables and stories, I tell you exactly what happened in the first 18 months of my depression recovery, which I did mostly alone. There were, of course, a few key figures in aiding my recovery, whether they knew it at the time or not. My therapist Evan Maw, now retired, was instrumental in helping me establish a positive mental framework by helping me remove some limiting beliefs and mental habits. One of my best friends since we’re 15, Justin was always there for me. When I was at my lowest I was basically a lifeless sad guy, a 24-year-old bummer, and Justin was still dragging me along wherever he could. I think him kinda forcing me to hang out when I was down really kept me from losing my mind. I’d be remiss not to include my mom and my dad, who didn’t really know how to help but gave me attention whenever I needed it and checked in on me. My mom is the one who set me up with a therapist in the first place. I told her that I needed help, and the next day she called someone she knew from work, I was in his office Monday morning. Saved my life. There are a few other key figures who’ve helped me tremendously in the early goings: Tony Robbins, who’s taught me so much about self awareness, business, money, and purpose and continues to enlighten me, Tai Lopez, who taught me the benefits of reading, marketing myself online, and networking, the philosophers and authors of so many great self help books, and surely others who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, helped me along as I escaped my mental hell.
I’ll say that even 4-5 years later, I still feel the sting of old wounds once in a while. I don’t think that ‘overcoming depression’ is about ridding yourself of it forever. It’s about developing control over it. And it’s a practice – like anything difficult, it requires practice.
The first 12 months
From when I began my depression recovery that Monday morning in Evan Maw’s office mid-2014, I noticed significant improvements in 6-month increments.
The same week I went to my first therapy appointment, I ordered a book on Amazon called “The Greatest Salesman In The World” by Og Mandino. I was watching a Lakers practice interview on Youtube when Kobe Bryant, still an active player on the Lakers at the time, mentioned Og Mandino during this interview and I noticed and looked him up and ordered his book. I started reading that book like it held the antidote. I finished it in a day just to keep myself alive another day, and proceeded to read it every day for 10 months. I told myself in 10 months I’d be a free man. I quit my job working as a night janitor for a small janitorial business. I was helping a friend with marketing his bar online and I started traveling and busking (playing guitar and singing for money) on the weekends because playing music is something I’ve always done and I figured that would give me peace. It definitely did help. It was all I had. It gave me hope and time alone with my thoughts to reconstruct my framework. I had nothing going on at home. I was 24 living alone in an empty 3-bedroom house on the outskirts of town surrounded by trees. I had just broken up with my girlfriend of four years, I had two friends, I had zero girls coming over. I did have a cat. Parker was a tremendous blessing at that time. The cat was saving my life most of the time.
Finding Kundalini Yoga
While I was out playing one weekend in Monterey, California I got to talking to a lady who told me she was a yoga teacher for people struggling with MS. I was new to yoga at the time but really into it and she told me to check out this type called Kundalini yoga.
I found a few videos online and got super into it. I attribute much of my fortunate development to Kundalini yoga and I thank God for that divine encounter all the time.
Kundalini yoga incorporates not only yoga postures but also chanting, meditation, and breathwork. The reason Kundalini yoga is so helpful for people with depression is because it forces you to reconnect with your systems: Your physical system, your emotional system, your mental system, and your spiritual system. The practice of breathwork hyper-oxygenates your cardiovascular system, which boosts mood and energy tremendously, in fact even just 60-180 seconds of hyper-oxygenation creates an intensely euphoric feeling similar to being high on cannabis. I trip out on my own hyper-oxygenated blood every night before bed!
The meditative aspect of Kundalini yoga helps you process your emotions as they come up and either you can pinpoint their origin, meaning trace them back to the more significant occurrence in your memory and the feeling that was associated with that moment, or you can observe the emotion and decide what to do with it. It also trains your mind to come to peace with itself. This combined with the breathwork makes your meditation practice the ultimate training center for your psychosocial strength. The chanting is good too. I don’t know the explained science behind it but it’s something like the body is made up of 32 trillion cells that are essentially energy units vibrating at a frequency, and certain sounds tune your frequency, so when chanting these mantras you begin to lose track of your conscious effort to produce the sound and you essentially drift away from space-time awareness. The more seriously you take the aspects of Kundalini yoga the better this part of the experience tends to be.
The chanting can feel a bit culty if you’re not into religion or spirituality at all. But who cares? Why is it bad to do something culty? Who let the squares write the rules? When it comes to spiritual practices, I tend to be open minded because I want to know if something I haven’t tried yet will work for me. And if it helps me liberate myself from negative thought patterns and mental habits and empowers and makes me feel like a mystical ninja while I do it, then you can bet I am going to do it. I’m into it, the people who do it are liberated, spiritual, vibrant folk from all walks of life.
I practiced Kundalini yoga for the first year without ever going to a single class. Just Youtube. It was helping me so much and it was nowhere to be found around me, it wasn’t until I moved down to Southern California that I was able to find it. And then I got really into it, once I connected with the community and the culture. That was in 2016. Even when I moved away from Southern California, I remained connected to the Kundalini yoga community and still to this day because of my attendance and involvement with Sat Nam Fest, which is a Kundalini yoga music festival. I’ve attended every year since 2016, I’ve blogged about it, and volunteered last year. I intend to continue attending every year if at all possible. It’s my favorite vacation of the year. It’s super weird and I love it.
Kundalini yoga is a safe place for you if you need something like this. I don’t care if you do or not, but you should definitely at least invest in a breathwork practice. There are plenty of approaches to this. Holotropic breathwork, Wim Hof method, or just practice breathing in and out your nose full deep breaths nonstop for a minute, 3 minutes, 7 minutes. Just practice it and see how good it feels. That alone will change your life. And you’ll feel like a bruce lee type wizard character while you do it. It’ll give you this secret superpower of intense energy, emotional spike, improved focus, anytime you want it.
There’s an easy to read book I recommend if you’re interested in breathwork, and it’s called The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath by William Walker Atkinson. You can get it on Amazon Prime for like 5 bucks. You can probably find it on your iBooks for 1.99.
By 18 months I thought I was cured. I was living a fulfilling lifestyle, and starting to thrive socially. But my lows were still too low. I hated feeling like I was at the will of my depression, and when it decided to take over I was back to hopelessness and despair and ruining all my progress. It wouldn’t last long, but it would completely paralyze me, disable me, despite all my hard work to reframe my mind and practice positive thinking and productive habits. I’d get behind, lose money, lose deals, and have to play catch-up.
Like I said, every six months I noticed improvement. That never really changed, my life was improving and my level of inner peace and self awareness was improving, but my ability to hedge myself against the downside still needed work. Maybe that’s because it’s naturally a later step in the process. But that’s been my most recent undertaking, not just emotionally but also in business and in life – catching a downtrend at the start instead of at the bottom and correcting course beforehand.
That’s what I do with my mental game now too. At first sign of a downturn, I get on the floor and start meditating to pinpoint the emotion, track it back to its origin, forgive myself for it, and move on.
In 2017 I had one of the best years of my life socially, spiritually, and financially. I had an amazing social circle, lots of cashflow, had a great thing growing with a prolific woman I really liked, and I was even crushing it with self development content online – really living my best life.
I was training Brazilian jiu-jitsu about 5 days per week – I started in September 2016 and became obsessed immediately. There were some really tough times in the winter of 2016 and I attribute a lot of my emotional fortification to learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’m still an avid practitioner and highly recommend it if you want to feel like you can defend yourself or if you want a challenging new sport to try that is super fun.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu for depression
Brazilian jiu-jitsu for depression has been very instrumental for me. Jiu-jitsu is a system of systems designed to dominantly control and manipulate the limbs and head of an attacking human, or willing opponent. As such it teaches concepts of redirection, deflection, defense, and strangulation. These concepts can be used just as well in application against the many varying attacks of depression. (IF you catch my drift.)
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, yoga, and meditation. Why? Because each is a way to find yourself. Each gives you an opportunity to see who you truly are. That who you are when you’re on the brink of death. Each literally trains you to die over and over again and get better at overcoming your fears and traumas. And each is helpful to do when you’re down and out. You always feel better afterwards. It never fails. I’ve dragged myself into class and left happy every time. It is mood boosting. The cardio, the camaraderie, the aggression, and even the live-or-death aspect of the game.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is about moving your body in a way to solve a series of problems. Yoga is about moving your body in a way to solve a series of problems. Each is a total stress test practice.
In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you are facing a problem that is dynamically changing its presentation based on its expectation of your next behavior.
This is a perfect stress simulation for you, because in order to succeed you need to become comfortable under pressure and comfortable operating within a margin of risk.
In yoga, you are moving your body to overcome the obstacles in your own mind to restore it to union with your body and your spirit. To become one with your self is to win. In yoga, you are your own opponent. But the goal is the same: Pinpoint the problem, overcome it with either skill or will, and integrate what you have learned so that problem is never again a problem for you.
What else do I have to say about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu’s impact on my life in regards to my depression? It’s given me some of the best friends I’ve ever had. It’s given me tremendous self confidence, which has been tremendously beneficial in many applications. It keeps me in shape. It adds a certain distinguishing element to my character. I’ve also begun to rather enjoy the “don’t fuck with that guy, he does jiu-jitsu” comments.
It’s a blast, man. Even if you’re really big or really small, you’d be surprised at who is in the gym training right now. People from all walks of life.
So yeah, I guess I do recommend it if you’re looking for something to do. Maybe you’ll love it. Everyone does it. If you want to know what’s a good gym to go to in your area, get ahold of me online and I’ll Google it and tell you which one I’d go to if I were you.
I had a pretty large ecommerce venture go awry at the end of 2018, which, (regardless of its actual size) ended up costing me everything I made up to that point. It was my own shortcoming, so that hurt quite a bit. But up until that point I was so gung-ho about business that I didn’t care about taking on risk. I had gotten used to the pain and just wanted so badly to hit something big. It looked good until it wasn’t – I took it on the chin, and it pretty much knocked me out.
Do I regret it? I regret making the mistake, but not taking the risk. All the money and time I have invested in my learning and on creating and marketing different products and services has been well-spent, even when it was a mistake. And even though it would probably seem like a lot of money to most people, it’s still nothing compared to how much the most successful people in the world invest in themselves. I’m trying to fix my life by creating things that can grow beyond me. I don’t mind failing 10 times to get one thing to pop.
This past year and beyond
In 2019 I cleaned house, trimmed off all the fat, started with a clean slate. Decided to build wide this time. I picked up a few digital marketing clients, moved into a small apartment, started playing music again, doing jiu-jitsu, grooming new social circles, dating one person, working on creative projects with more people. I’m calling it ‘enjoying life for a second without all the social pining and signaling.’
My point isn’t that I did better and better every year: My point is each year it was easier and easier to deal with the hard times.
The roller coaster becomes less and less volatile every time. I did a submission-only grappling cage match in front of 700 people a few months ago on September 28, 2019. It was my first time. I was cool as a cucumber for the most part. You think me 5 years ago would be doing that? No way. There’s no way I could’ve handled that amount of pressure emotionally. I would’ve cracked way early. But I’m so conditioned to listen to my emotions and process them and redirect their meaning that I’m handling stressful situations like they’re a piece of cake that would’ve dwarfed me on my best day 5 years ago.
I’m not saying I don’t wrestle with challenging emotions, but it’s not so much over the big things anymore – it’s with the less noticeable things now – more sophisticated and complex aspects of my cognitive behavior than before. I’m turning over the smaller rocks now to see what other critters and creepy crawlies are still living in my psyche.
Now I’m consciously seeking out new challenges to help me grow. Expanding my social circle, including new business partners in my work, collaborating with as many creators as possible, deepening my relationships, accepting new challenges, and competing in as many new environments as possible. Controlled risk exposure.