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How to Move Forward When You Feel Like Your Life Is Over

Stormy Night

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

At seventeen years old, baseball was my life. I played on the top summer Connecticut baseball teams, constantly practiced and trained, and dreamed of being a starter for the high school varsity team. Junior year I was on varsity but didn’t get any playing time, so I was putting all my hopes and dreams into spring of my senior year.

When I went to college showcases, I was one of the standout players and I received many letters in the mail from interested colleges who wanted me to go and play for them. I had scouts coming up to me saying, “Wow, you are an incredible hitter and ballplayer.”

Senior year, I did extremely well in tryouts. In live scrimmages against other teams, I was one of the only players on our team to consistently hit well.

In the last scrimmage of tryouts, I crushed a double against a Division I college-recruit athlete, one of the only players on my team to get a hit off of him. As a soon-to-be college athlete, I was one of the best players in the league.

Unexpected News in the Locker Room

On the bus ride back to the locker room after the final day of scrimmaging against another team, I was on cloud nine. I’d had a good game and had proved myself. Years of hard work and sacrifice were finally coming to fruition.

The coach took out the list and read the names of the players who made the team.

My name wasn’t called…

I was cut.

I was beyond devastated—I was destroyed. On the drive home, all I could think was, I’m nobody, I’m nothing, and I’m worthless. Those horrible thoughts kept playing in my head like a broken record.

I had all of my self-worth caught up with being on this team.

The Dark Night of My Soul

When I got home my parents were loving and supportive, but I pushed them away because I was so upset. I isolated myself, terrifying thoughts running through my mind:

I’m nothing. My life is over. I will never be able to show my face to the world again. All my years of hard work are wasted.

With all my self-worth flushed down the toilet, my dreams gone, and embarrassed to the full extent possible, I was ready to take my own life. I was ready to kill myself.

Have you ever been so zoomed in on something that you completely lost yourself in it?

That was exactly what I was experiencing, and because it was ripped from me so unexpectedly, I truly no longer wanted to be alive.

Senior year turned out to be the worst year of my life after everyone told me that it would be the best year. The happy endings we see in movies don’t always exist in reality. At the time, it seemed like my life had become a nightmare from which I couldn’t escape.

I went to the garage, grabbed the rope from the workbench, and considered hanging myself from the tree out back. But just before taking my own life, one last spark of hope came to me that said, “Put the rope down, go up to your room, and go to sleep. You will get through this.”

Thankfully, I listened to that intuitive knowing that came to me.

When You Feel Like Your Life is Over

We all have things that we care passionately about, sometimes to an unreasonable and unhealthy extent. While our individual situations and circumstances are vastly different, feelings are what connect us and are universal. The feeling of devastating loss is the same.

When those things that you care about most dearly are taken from you for reasons beyond your control, you don’t need to go to the extreme like I did.

Through discussions with hundreds of people in travels around the world, extensive research, and my transformation over the last seven years from someone literally on the brink of suicide, I’ve discovered proven tips and insights you can apply to get through your dark night of the soul, that moment when you feel like your life is over.

Take it one breath at a time—literally.

Put down the million and one things from your past that you are upset about and the billion and one things in your future that you are anxious about and simplify life down to one moment, this moment.

Just before I was about to hang myself, I used individual breaths to take me out of my downward spiral of self-hatred.

Keep it in perspective.

The tendency of the human mind is to zoom in on situations and lose perspective, especially when your heart and soul are involved in the outcome. We live in a huge world with a vast array of possibilities, and even though it doesn’t seem like it at the moment, your best days are ahead of you and your life is not ruined.

Instead of trying to think positively, shift back to neutral.

When you are that depressed—at rock bottom, with no hope like I was—the last thing you want is to be overly positive. Imagine driving your car and instead of putting it into drive, you are slowly shifting from reverse back to neutral; instead of fighting your thoughts, choose to be the observer of your thoughts.

Recognize what’s happened is not a reflection of your worth.

Your self-worth is infinite, and it’s not dependent upon external circumstances such as making or not making a team or getting a job, nor does it depend on what others think of you.

Know that you are loved.

I know it may not feel like it, and I absolutely understand the feeling of embarrassment that you’ll never be able to talk about what you are going through, but even when you feel most isolated, I promise there are people who still love you dearly.

Remember that there is a hidden opportunity in every setback.

When one door closes, another one opens. You can use setbacks to your advantage and a crisis is an opportunity for a breakthrough.

Realize this situation serves a purpose.

This unexpected and unfair situation you are going through (or have already been through) is the very situation life wants you to experience to get you to your next level. At the age of seventeen, with my biggest dream of being a starter on the high school varsity baseball team shattered to pieces, I never would have thought, from my limited vantage point, that life could get better, but it did.

The truth is you can handle any challenge life hands you.

The temporary feeling of rock bottom will go away when you realize just how connected and important you are. You have a purpose and you will help others.

Why Did No One Tell Me?

I’ll never understand, for as long as I live, why not one person told me that my self-worth doesn’t depend on being on some silly team. The people I went to high school with were as brainwashed as I was when it comes to what really matters in life.

But you know what? I can’t control those people I went to high school with and I peacefully wish them well. But I can control, in this present moment, the experiences and lessons I share with the world. And I’m here to tell you that there is always a solution and a way out, even when you think all possible options and solutions have been exhausted.

No matter how badly you feel right now, you will get through your predicament and end up using it to your advantage. You will find the silver lining and do incredible things with your life.

See you at the mountaintop.

Stormy night image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Jeff Davis

About Jeff Davis

Jeff Davis is a professional speaker, author, entrepreneur, YouTube creator, world traveler, and philanthropist. He primarily speaks to High School and College students. He also speaks at nonprofits, organizations, and conferences. He has shared his practical insights internationally across three different continents. Jeff recently did a well-received TEDx talk in New York City called “How to Fulfill Your Inner Life.”

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  • Scott Jacenko

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for the great article. I too had dreams of becoming a successful pro MX rider. I lived for motocross, I was not told by anyone I had to quit, but it soon became apparent my skills would never be good enough to make any money racing.
    BKI am glad you did not take your life. Our neighbors son took his life at 17 and it was so painful to watch what his family had to go through. It still is one of my biggest fears for my own children.
    I am glad you shared your experience, strength & hope.

  • v71523

    Thank you so much for writing this article and for bravely sharing your story. As someone who has struggled with worthlessness and self-hatred for nearly 3 years, it is encouraging and comforting to know that I am not alone. Your words helped and inspired me. Again, thank you. Blessings.

  • Cloris Kylie

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jeff! I know your work, and now understand how the dark times you went through have inspired you to share your message with young people. Keep up the awesome work!

  • Scott,
    I give you a lot of credit for going after your dreams of becoming a pro MX rider. You gave it an amazing shot and that in itself is an accomplishment. I am so sorry to hear about your neighbor’s son who took his life at 17, the same age I experienced this unexpected setback with baseball. The pain his family went through is unthinkable, that is horrible to hear. I relate to the feeling of isolation, but it would have been infinitely better if he reached out to someone for help. He must have been in an enormous amount of suffering and didn’t know how to get out of it. I wish I could have talked to him before he did that and shared some strategies that may have helped him. I’m sure your children will be alright, you are a great guy.

    I appreciate your kinds words, I’m also glad I shared this experience for the benefit of others. Thank you for your comment and sharing your thoughts, it means a lot.

    -Jeff Davis

  • You’re welcome, I’m so glad these words resonated with you and helped you. I definitely know the feeling of worthlessness and self-hatred. While there are going to be setbacks and down days along the way, you can work your way out of it over time. Continue doing what you’re doing – being part of communities like this and surrounding yourself with the right people. One book that helped me is the Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, in my particular case I didn’t need it for phobias, but more so for the constant anxiety and self-doubt. It’s also a good book for an improvement in the overall quality of your life, if you have time to take a look at it. Thanks for your comment, very much appreciated.

    Jeff

  • You’re welcome Cloris, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. Yes, this experience has lit a fire in me and I’ve made it my mission to share these lessons with as many people as possible. I appreciate it, will do!

  • Natalie

    Jeff, I’d like to congratulate you. I’ve just read this article and watched your TED talk. You are a great writer and speaker as well as a very inspirational young man. I’m writing from England and I’ve been struggling to keep afloat for the past year and a half ever since I had a year much like your final year of high school. Lots of personal disappointments took place in my final year of grad school. I feel I needed to read and hear your words tonight because you have inspired me to keep going. I’ve been too focused on my outer life and neglected the inner. I didn’t realise that until now. Thank you and may God bless you and your future work.

  • v71523

    Thanks for your response and for the recommendation. I will definitely check it out.

  • Shanker

    Hi Jeff,
    I appreciate your well written points. Yes, everyone faces this deprivation at some point of life. The lucky ones get it very late at life that they can handle it rather easily. It is important that we endure this when it happens. Unfortunately, some people turn destructive when deprived. They either destroy themselves or others, especially the ones they perceive to be solely responsible for it. No feeling is permanent. Both elation and disappointment subsides in time.

    By the by, how did you work afterwards? What is the ‘best thing’ you received when you came out of that deprivation?

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I always wish and hope that I would be the only one who have hit rock bottom. I never wanted anyone else to feel the pain I felt but the longer I live the more I realize we all have to hit rock bottom in our lives to fully appreciate life and how great a come back can be, Thanks again for an awesome post.

  • You’re welcome, I’m really glad you liked it – thanks for the kind words. I’m the same way, I would never want someone else to experience rock bottom given how painful it is, but we all must live our own lives, have our own experiences, and come to our own conclusions about things. And sometimes that means hitting bumps in the road. On a good note, we can always share with others important tools and strategies to deal with life when things go wrong for them. You said it very well…as the saying goes, a setback is an opportunity for a comeback. I agree hitting rock bottom can be valuable for growth and can be a setup for an epic comeback as long as the person hitting rock bottom knows their self-worth doesn’t depend on the situation. I appreciate your comment very much!

  • Glad you liked the points, thanks for your comment. Hopefully less and less people will turn destructive over time. Feelings do come and go like waves, well said.

    How I moved on was with the help of where I went to college, a small school in Maryland called McDaniel College. A big reason why I chose this school is because my senior year of high school was such a disaster. Wonderful college, lots of good things going on there. It changed my life. Of course I had plenty of ups and downs in college as well, but it was overall much, much better than high school. It had 100% the feel and day-to-day atmosphere of a college campus and the small size allowed me to get to know people and professors personally. I always viewed it as a second chance at High School and McDaniel helped me grow as a person. There are plenty of great schools out there – for me, McDaniel was the right step at that time and provided me with a nurturing and supportive community, especially after dealing with all the pressure in high school. It was pretty funny how in high school they always warned us of how challenging college would be, but the truth was high school was much more difficult than college.

    Great question – the best thing I received after coming out of the deprivation was, ironically, being able to better handle problems. For example, as in the nature of life, later on I experienced more setbacks. Objectively speaking, one could say the setbacks I experienced after high school were worse. But the psychological devastation in high school was so great that it allowed me to end up laughing at these difficult setbacks later on in my life. I had already been exposed to my greatest fear of being nothing so unexpected events had less power over me than they had previously.

  • Natalie,

    You’re welcome, I really appreciate your kind words. I’m happy that my message and words resonated with you. As you know, I completely understand the experience of having lots of personal disappointments – keep moving forward, you’re definitely heading in the right direction and I’m sure you will move beyond this. Sounds like you came across this at the perfect time. Yes, it’s not always easy, but if you put more focus on the inner you’ll be better off. Thanks for the comment, it means a lot.

  • Kid

    That’s very true, the way to knowledge and self awareness is hitting rock bottom, there are some learnings that dont come without some hurt… the only way out is to understand and go ahead…

  • yes well said

  • kev

    Absolutely amazing! Have a lot of self worth I like that! Take it one breath at a time—literally- a lot of people focus on a million thing at time which makes them feel overwhelmed all the time. Perspective is an important aspect in life and it’s important to ensure you never lose your control on it. Someone told me once when I was going through a rough time that hitting rock bottom only means there is nowhere else to go but up! Remember that before you give up! Keep up the good work.

  • Very well said! I’m so glad my points resonated with you. Yes, perspective is crucial, as well as the other awesome points you made. Thank you for your comment.

  • Michelle

    Thank you, I am at the end of myself. Your article is exactly what I needed <3

  • Michelle, very glad the article resonated with you, thanks for the comment. Stay strong, I’m sure you will get through this.

  • Derptard

    You were going to kill yourself because you didn’t make the baseball team? I can’t imagine what you’d do if anything actually bad happened.

  • Mary Obaapa

    Thanks, Jeff. This advice applies to situations beyond your control. What if you feel your life is over due to something you did that cannot be fixed?

  • Frankie

    Amazing read. I so need this right now. I especially liked the part about being ‘neutral’ as opposed to ‘positive’ like so many people wrongly advise. I was expecting a house deal of mine to go through where I ultimately would have moved out of this noisy and extremely loud neighborhood I have been in for years. I prayed, hoped, worked towards it with all my might. At the very last second it fell through and I was devastated. Stuck another year in this place due to the contract, agreements blah blah. Point is that it felt like so much distress. Back to the old drawing board might be necessary but at times can be a real pain filled with sorrow, one feels downtrodden Will look to your article for fortitude, thanks again.
    FS

  • I appreciate your thoughts and comments. I definitely feel your pain. There is some kind of silver lining and hidden opportunity in staying in your current neighborhood, it happened for a reason. I know it doesn’t feel like it and I can imagine the noisy neighborhood is very frustrating to live in. With time, something will emerge for your benefit. Shift back into neutral, count your blessings. There are people out there who have it much worse. Your situation is not a pleasant one and I completely understand you feeling downtrodden and upset about this. Claim your inner strength and stay strong, you can get through this. Learn what you can from it and do all that you can to make sure you are out of there a year from now. In the grand scheme of things a year will go by before you know it and you’ll move to a better place. You’ll be alright my friend.

  • Glad you liked the post Mary. That’s a great question. Although you may not be able to change the situation, there still may be things within your power you can do to alleviate the pain. If there is someone you can apologize to (if an apology is necessary) then do that. If there’s something you can do to make up for it – even though it won’t change what happened – do it. If none of these suggestions apply to the situation, the best thing you can do is learn from it. Take an evening, multiple evenings, or as long as you need to reflect on it. Buy a notebook and write down every lesson you can possibly extract from the situation. Then make sure that you don’t repeat that mistake in the future. Another great way to alleviate the pain of a situation that cannot be fixed is to prevent others from making the same mistake or entering into the same difficulty. When we are giving to others and helping others, it transmutes our suffering into something better. So if there is nothing else you can do to remedy something that can’t be changed, learn from it to do better next time. Help other people get through similar challenges and do your best to prevent others from having to deal with it. Even though it cannot be fixed, there still may be something good that can come from it.

  • CIRCA

    Thank you so much for this… I did not want to get out of bed today, but something told me to at least google while under the covers. This got me to wake up early and take a jog to clear my mind. I am a college student who is broke and comes from a family who is also very broke. I live back home now and I am looking for work. As of right now, I cannot afford food, gas, or helping out with the rent just to keep up with school payments. My family is not in a good situation either, I am just grateful I have somewhere to live. My depression has worsened and sometimes I think my life is over (I am only 19). It takes a lot for me to even shower and be productive now. I really like what you said about shifting back to neutral. I am tired of people telling me to be positive when they do not understand my struggles…. I think I need to take some time to reflect and see what my options are. Thanks again.

  • I appreciate your comment, extremely glad you found this article at the right time. I know how you feel. These are difficult financial and life challenges, but you will get through them. I love how you said you are grateful you have somewhere to live. You have already taken a step forward, which is to be grateful for what you have. Stay strong, life has handed you these challenges for a reason and I’m sure you will get through them. Take it a day at a time and do what you can. It took a lot of courage to share this and I believe in what you’re doing.

  • Zayn K

    Hey Jeff. Thanks for these extremely motivational advices. I’ve been screwing up my life the last couple of years ever since I graduated high school. I’m at a stage in life where I recently got kicked out of university and quit my job. I’m jobless with no education and have no idea where to go from here. My depression is strong. I cut off all my friends. I’m just really confused and disappointed in myself. Thanks. Your advices gave me a light glimmer in life 🙂
    P.s I know this is sorta off topic. I just wanted to know the reason they cut you if you were so good?

  • Hey Zayn. I’m really glad the tips in this post have given you hope and light. You are experiencing some setbacks now, but you’ll get past this and look back on it as a turning point. You can use this situation to your advantage by taking a close look at the friends you had. Decide which ones you want in your life and which you don’t, and then surround yourself with the right people. If you can, pick one or two people you are close with and open up to them in a safe, confidential setting (it could be a family member, a relative, etc. It doesn’t have to be one of the friends you cut off, I’ve found having someone trustworthy to open up to can be helpful). There will be ups and downs, but keep pushing forward, trusting yourself, and you will find a solution.

    That’s a great question. To this day, I genuinely have no idea. I know the baseball coaches were also hockey coaches and some of the hockey players were also baseball players, so the baseball coaches had their favorites. For whatever reason, reasons beyond my control, I wasn’t one of the coach’s favorites. My teammates told me that I was an awesome player, I was a college recruit athlete, I did well in tryouts, and my grades were good, so there’s no logical reason. Aside from speculation, I don’t know why it happened. I’ve learned that sometimes unexpected things happen and we have to accept things beyond our control, but there’s a reason for it and if we find the silver lining we will be better off than we were before the setback. Stay strong, you will get through this.