Improving my mental health was like untangling a Gordian knot.
The concept was simple; I was aiming for a straight, unkinked rope at the end of the day.
Simple, NOT easy, but possible.
Seemed impossible, but I did it.
I managed to do it. Let me be clear, it was fucking hard. Literally, the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. But now I have a map of how I did it, so I wanted to share it with the world.
This is the process of how I drastically improved my mental health. I’m NOT saying this will be a blanket solution for all 8 billion humans. This was my solution and is my story and I want to share it.
My Three-Step Process
- I became consciously aware of the knot. In other words, I came to the realization I had suppressed emotions from my past that was keeping me in a perpetual fight-or-flight response. The clinical word for this is trauma.
- I loosened the first loop of the knot. Which looked like clearly articulating + experiencing my suppressed emotions.
- I untangled the whole knot. Which was accomplished by releasing and integrating the bulk of my suppressed emotions.
Bringing Awareness To The Mental Health Knot
In March 2015 I started my journey to improve my mental health. It wasn’t until four years later that I started step #1 – awareness of the knot. If I were to do it all over again knowing what I know now I would start at the trauma school of thought in order to improve mental health. That was the root of the problem for me – I spent 4 years hacking at the branches.
The amount of waste and “false positives” I encountered was absurd. 6 Tony Robbins seminars and over a dozen of standard therapies I listened to all the “Hustle Porn” content in the world, but none of it would move the needle for me until I addressed the root issue; suppressed emotions.
I remember the exact date (February 10th, 2019) I became aware, or at least heavily entertained, the idea that I had suppressed emotions from my past that were causing the bad habits I wanted to phase out so severely.
It was this article written by the author Tucker Max about how he used MDMA-assisted psychotherapy back in 2018 to work on his suppressed emotions that gave me the insight. If Tucker didn’t write this, I literally would have killed myself – I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Max.
After I read that article, I sent this email to my therapist at the time asking her if we could switch from talk therapy to addressing trauma instead:
That blog post was so important to me because he had a quasi-similar upbringing to me:
- There was money, not Bezos money, but enough to label yourself upper-middle class
- He was never marginalized for his sexuality (he was straight like me)
- He was never marginalized for his gender (like me)
- He was never marginalized for his race (like me)
- He was never sexually abused (like me)
Yet he clearly had deep-seated emotional issues, just read 10 pages from “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” and you’ll understand.
It was a storyteller that was on a similar journey to me that made me feel validated; he saw my pain and gave me permission to acknowledge that it was there. After reading that blog post I started to entertain that in order to heal myself I had to target the trauma.
For years I told myself I couldn’t have had it because of my upbringing.
There was no financial scarcity, sexual abuse, or standard marginalization in my household yet this is what occurred to me:
- My father made my bedroom the first seven years of my life the hallway with a slanted roof so he could use our spare room (the guest room) to jerk off in, in peace. The house was small and I would continually smash my head against the slanted roof that my bed was tucked into. Dozens of times I asked my father to move me into the spare room but he refused. He told me it was the best thing for me and the family.
- My father, to no fault of his own, became sick with the lung disease Pulmonary Fibrosis when I was 12 and spent the next 7 years of my life (until I was 19) in and out of hospitals, dealing with a lung transplant, and then ultimately dying after the transplanted lungs begun to be rejected by his body. There was a three-year stretch where we spent every major holiday inside a hospital room because of all the complications from the double lung transplant.
- My brother developed severe alcoholism and by age 17 was getting blackout drunk 3 nights a week, sometimes on School nights as a minor while being physically violent. Not too people, but many inanimate objects like household refrigerators, mailboxes, and furniture.
- My mother disassociated from the situation. Effectively her nervous system shut down, and the words “I love you” were spoken to me often, but were never felt. Her body was cleaved from all positive sensations and could barely work. To this day she still sleeps 12 hours a day and doesn’t know why – shit she’s not even consciously aware of her perpetual lack of energy despite of drinking at least two large cups of coffee a day.
- My grandmother physically abused me while my dad was on life support after receiving his lung transplant.
- I was severely bullied at age 12, to the point of getting perpetual death threats all while being cornered at the back of my bus with no place to escape.
Trust me, I’m not here to play the victim. The point of this article was to bring to light the pain and reality of what happened in my past. I’m no longer worshipping my wounds, I’m here to turn them into scars.
Loosening The First Loop
After becoming aware of the knot I spent the next two or so years trying to loosen the first loop. That shit was HARD. Here’s why.
It’s an experience to loosen the first loop. It’s the moment when you FEEL your emotions. While writing the draft of this multiple people asked me to add in “what my mindset was” during it.
That’s the whole point. I didn’t have one. I was experiencing my emotional and physical sensations. There is no “mindset” to emulate, there is no Tony Robbins incantation to get you there. There’s no David Goggins Youtube clip you can listen to in order to feel your emotions.
I had to uncondition my attachment to my thoughts (apperception) and recondition my conscious mind to bring its awareness into my internal body.
I remember the exact moment it happened.
Before I talk about that moment in November of 2021 let me back up – context is needed here.
Nearly 10 months ago I tried to kill myself. I was not walking toward the exits of life, I was sprinting toward them. I wanted off this ride.
At that point, in late November of 2021, I had spent the previous 6.5 years, over $60,000, and used 34 different kinds of therapies in order to heal my anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
200 hours of yoga teacher training. Flying across the country to six separate Tony Robbins seminars over the course of three years. 5 trips to a Ketamine Clinic in Buffalo, NY. I could add in 30 more tools and therapies; literally.
It WAS my part-time job.
And the pain only got worse. The Knot was getting tighter even after becoming aware of it.
Imagine applying to get your first job for six years and as time went on you kept getting LESS far in the interview process, not closer to an offer.
I mean what the fuck.
I spent more time, money, and effort on healing myself than I did on all of my higher education. I’ve tried therapies the majority of you haven’t even heard of. I’ve committed felonies (consumed schedule one substances) all in the name of reducing suffering.
I felt like I outworked 99% of the people that will ever step foot in a therapist’s office yet I had worse results than all of them.
It all crescendoed in November of 2021.
I broke a bone in my foot while doing CrossFit and things started spiraling from there. I ballooned to my heaviest weight of 202 pounds (at 5’8’’). My focus was blown to bits and I could not do my work. I was slamming White Claws before noon with my Zoom video turned off during my online class with Bloomtech.
I was done.
There would not be a third trip to the psych ward.
This suicide attempt would be simpler; buy potassium cyanide off the dark web. No ordering a shotgun from Cabella’s website – too many people could stop me if I took that route. Again.
Order it, then just wait for it to be delivered to my house in an inconspicuous package.
Spoiler alert; I didn’t consume the poison.
Grace stepped in.
As cliche as it is, my mother’s love saved me.
Lily Potter has shit on my Myra Conley. Harry can go fuck himself.
This is what happened…
One night, after I committed to ending it all, I said my pain out loud to my mom.
She didn’t know at the time.
Shit, I didn’t really know at that time – but that’s what I was doing.
I, in an unfiltered and authentic way, articulated ALL the pain I felt over the years. I identified my emotions, labeled them, articulated them, and FELT them. I escaped the prison of my mind and for once dropped into my body – the source of the pain.
At that moment everything changed.
I had an experience that was undeniable. I loosened the first loop of the Gordian Knot.
I kept hearing from authors and podcasters in the mental health space that “you need to connect to and release your suppressed emotions”. Intellectually I understood what they meant but on that fateful night in November, I lived it.
When I woke up the next morning the crushing emotional pain was reduced by 80%
Suicidal ideation? Gone.
Imagine the equivalent of losing 60 pounds of body fat literally overnight, going from a bloated 210 pounds to an athletic 150. It was undeniable. I had my answer.
There was hope, shit this wasn’t just hope, it was the beginning of the end of my suffering.
I started with journaling. I had to reteach myself how to articulate the emotions I was experiencing in real time. Every 10 minutes I wrote down what emotion I was feeling.
“I’m feeling happy”
“I’m feeling sad”
“I’m feeling calm”
“I’m feeling guilt”
Over and over and over and over and over again.
The point was to drop out of my head and into my body to FEEL. My unlock was articulating my feelings in order to experience them.
I was conditioning myself to step out of the torture factory that was the monkey mind and was conditioning myself to relive inside my physical body. This process wasn’t immediate, but after 12 months of hard work, it’s starting to become automatic. I’m no longer trying to mend my mental health, I’m just maintaining it.
Untying The Entire Knot
My untangling process looked like this: I did yoga four times a week. I balled in the therapist’s office this time around because I was actually connecting with my emotions. I continued to journal like a madman.
I doubled down on therapies that helped me bring more awareness to experiencing and releasing my emotions, specifically Somatic Experiences and MDMA-assisted therapy.
Those two tools are a whole separate post, for a separate time.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which tools I used to untie the knot. What did matter was I taught myself how to untie that first loop and kept at the untangling process with all the tools I used.
The most important part – it will never get that kinked again. I’m sure of it.