“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
About Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis is a professional speaker and the author of several books. He has done keynote speeches internationally and is a sought-after expert on self-leadership, anti-bullying, and overcoming adversity. Jeff frequently speaks to high schools, colleges, nonprofits, organizations, associations, conferences, and businesses. He’s been to five different continents and has a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.