I woke up in my bed two-and-a-half days after taking a sleeping pill overdose, I couldn’t see. My vision was blurred. I was dehydrated. I had soiled myself. Despite having been depressed and suicidal for eight years, this had not been an attempt at ending my life. Rather, it had been a stupid attempt at finally getting some sleep.
I was 21 years old. I had been working nights as a security guard in Banbury, Oxfordshire for two years. From 7pm in the evening to 7am in the morning, I stayed in empty office buildings, science parks, business parks, or supermarkets. I liked being alone, at nights. There was no one around to see my pimply face and how ‘ugly’ I was. My only contact with the outside world was with the guard I relieved in the evenings.
The night shifts disturbed my sleep, so I started taking half a sleeping pill to get some shut-eye during the day. When the effect started to wear off, I needed a whole sleeping pill to get the same effect. I enjoyed the slight psychotropic effect it had, just before drifting into slumber. The lights seemed to dance about and come alive…
After a while, even two or three sleeping pills at a time didn’t really do it anymore. The constant negative self-talk in my head kept me awake. “You’re ugly. You’re disgusting. You’re pathetic. You’re such a loser. Kill yourself.”
A Prison Of My Own Making
How did I get to that point? It was a mindset that crept up in me gradually, over the years.
From the ages of 13 to 18, I would hide in toilets at my school during recess, or down in the deepest levels of the school building under stairwells, or in the library, hiding my face in a book, because of acne.
I was living in a prison of my own making. My mind had convinced me that I was ugly. So ugly in fact, that I was embarrassed to be seen by people. On the plus side, I was such a loner, spending countless hours in the library or alone in my room, at home, that it developed in me a love for reading and learning things.
When I was 6 years old my parents split up, but decided to continue living together, in the same house. The fighting, arguing, and crying was constant. The tension in the house was such that it felt, at times, like living in a war zone.
My father started taking anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants around 1986—a habit he continued for over 30 years—to deal with his depression. He lost his job in 1990, and money became scarce and a source of conflict in our family.
These early experiences with lack and depression turned me on to two important topics: Money and Happiness. Not necessarily the link between the two, but more a questioning of ‘How does one become successful and attract abundance?’ and ‘What makes people truly happy?’
The Accidental Overdose
I ended up working as a security guard, as I mentioned above, and started taking sleeping pills to sleep during the day.
One day I tried taking four or five sleeping pills to finally get some rest. This nearly killed me.
The scariest thing when I woke up from that accidental sleeping pill overdose, wasn’t the realization that I had almost died, or that I couldn’t see. The scariest thing was that in the few days since I had gone AWOL, no one had enquired about me. Not a friend, colleague, family member, or neighbour. I was so unhappy within myself and vicious, negative, and nasty that I had managed to push everyone away. I didn’t allow anyone close enough to see the real me, or hurt me.
I could have died and it would have been weeks until anybody discovered my decaying body.
I decided that I couldn’t go on living like this, being so miserable. Something had to change or I wouldn’t be around on this planet for much longer.
A thought entered my mind. Like a spirit guide whispering to me…
“Go to the Borders bookshop in town and buy books about
‘Happiness’! You will begin your study on ‘Happiness’!”
I liked to read and learn new things, so I went to the Borders bookshop in Oxford, and I asked one of the people working there, whilst looking down at shoes and avoiding eye contact, ‘Excuse me… do you have any books on Happiness?’ They pointed me in the direction of the ‘Self-Help’ section.
I bought three books that day. Your Erroneous Zones, and Total Self-Confidence, two classics from the 1970s, and as I turned around to walk away, I tripped over a small book by Anthony Robbins, titled ‘Giant Steps’. “How ironic,” I thought to myself. I took them home and I got to work, studying Happiness.
I started applying some of the ideas they contained. I did some self-analysis to figure out why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I asked myself questions such as:
- I feel sad because…
- I feel angry because…
- I feel guilty because…
- I feel afraid because…
- Regarding my parents I feel sad because…
I identified my limiting beliefs and negative beliefs about myself:
- I don’t like myself because…
- I feel like a failure because…
- I’m not good enough because…
- I believe people don’t like me because…
Then I applied certain Neuro-Linguistic Programming tools to eradicate and ‘scramble’ these limiting beliefs. Those beliefs no longer had a hold on me.
I did a few more things:
- I wrote down what makes me happy, and what does not make me happy (and proceeded to do more of the former and less of the latter!)
- I wrote down 20 things I love about myself (that was a tough one…)
- I wrote down 20 things I am grateful for
- I wrote down 20 reasons why I MUST become a happier person
- I wrote down my Top 20 Goals
- I wrote down my “Who I Am” list (affirmations for who I wanted to become) and I read those affirmations out loud every day.
I also wrote down a ‘model’ of what a happy person thinks, says, and does, based on my high school friend Cyril, and friendly, down-to-earth, and much-liked guy. And I realized that, unsurprisingly… I was doing the exact opposite.
Suddenly, I was focusing on my future, which was getting brighter, instead of constantly living in the past (where regret, anger, and sadness lived). Things started to shift! I began to meet new people. New, opportunities were showing up in my life. I began feeling more optimistic and positive about life and about myself.
Within three or four weeks, I no longer felt ‘depressed’. By immersing myself in personal development and self-help seminars I was able to turn my life around and find happiness again.
My Strategy For Overcoming Depression
- I got clear on my outcome: being HAPPY
- I modelled someone who was HAPPY
- I got mentors – in the form of books by Wayne Dyer, Anthony Robbins, Robert Anthony
- I wrote down my ‘Who I Am’ affirmations and ‘My Perfect Life’ vision for my life.
These became the basis of my ‘Daily Power Regimen’.
- I identified my limiting beliefs and negative beliefs about myself, life, and people – then I eradicated those beliefs.
- I wrote down my goals, what I’m grateful for, what I love about myself, etc.
- I brainstormed solutions and people who could help me.
- I wrote down what makes me happy, and what does not make me happy.
- I changed my Peer Group! (I cut out negative people from my circle)
- I took massive action towards achieving my goals!
I would later apply this formula to overcoming relationship issues and money issues, too.
Feeling happy and grateful all the time
I taught at a camp for young entrepreneurs recently. Attendees were coming up to me and telling me: ‘You are the happiest most relaxed person I have ever met!’.
One young girl said to me: “Mark! How have you come to be the nicest and most peaceful man ever?” Quite a turnaround from my teenage years, I can assure you.