By: Braden Orgill
In a matter of four months, I went from researching how to make my suicide look like an accident to living the absolute fantasy of a life I had imagined living since I was a kid. I married the bombshell woman I always dreamed of having, lost 60 lbs., started my own business, quit my boring day job, bought my first home, started a family and continue to create the happiest and most fulfilled version of myself every single day. I won…better yet, I destroyed my 3-year battle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
How did I do it? Simple. I consciously changed the subconscious story that I was telling myself. I rearranged my internal narrative so that life started happening for me, not to me. And before you stop reading – I GET IT! I’ve read my share of rah-rah-rah self-help Tony Robbins garbage and scoffed at it, too. Just like you probably rolled your eyes at the thought of monitoring your self-talk so carefully that all your dreams come true. It sounds overly-simplistic, right? That’s because it is. The answer to all my perceived problems and my one-way ticket out of the seemingly endless downward spiral of uncontrolled depression was right under my nose the entire time. I was just too stubborn and caught up in the lies I was telling myself to bother to look there.
“People don’t believe what you tell them, they rarely believe what you show them, they often believe what their friends tell them, they always believe what they tell themselves.” – Seth Godin
This seems like a good place to put a disclaimer before cancel culture sniffs me out: If you are depressed, anxious, or struggle with suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help. Professional help is healthy. Professional help is necessary. I am in no way, shape or form undermining the work of those who have spent thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars to dedicate their lives to helping you. I am not a mental health professional, I’m just an average Joe like you who is eager to share what he learned after surviving years of suicidal thoughts and self-harm. If you combine what I’m going to tell you with professional help, they will only build on each other.
If you’re reading this, you might find yourself in a (mental) place similar to the one I was in just a year ago. You know, the place where you can’t even get out of bed because you’re so anxious about everything that could go wrong if you do? That’s right, I’m talking about the terrifying place where you feel like you’re suffocating at night when all the external distractions disappear and you’re alone with your own thoughts that you’ve been doing everything in your power to avoid all day? Does that ring a bell?
How about the place where you’ve determined that everyone else has life all figured out and you somehow missed the wave, and it would just be less painful to find out what’s on the other side of death than to spend one more second surviving this awful thing we call reality? I’ve been there! I was there for a long time. I gained citizenship and residency and owned multiple properties in that God-forsaken place. If you find yourself in a place similar to the one I just described, I have some incredible news for you: you are whole, you are enough and you are exactly where you need to be. There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing about you needs to be fixed, replaced, discarded or altered. You are perfect exactly as you are. And my goal is to encourage you to embrace all of who you are. Even the parts of yourself that you might see as defective or tainted right now.
My purpose in sharing my story with you certainly isn’t to brag about what a cool life I have, but rather to empower you to take control of your internal narrative and make it yours. Because once you make it yours, you become limitless. Not only will you feel mentally healthy, you will feel like you are gliding through life and you will start to notice that you simply attract favorable circumstances. You will feel like you are being woken up to the reality that everything in the universe is happening in your favor, and that you’ve actually been running downhill, not uphill, the entire time.
Ok enough with the backdrop, just get to the point! Am I right?! Let’s take a look at your mind. It’s a pretty weird concept, right? We’re just handed this piece of hardware that we call our brain, and it’s millions and millions of years old. Our ancestors used this same piece of hardware to find berries and keep from being eaten by saber tooth tigers, and we’re supposed to use the same piece of hardware to navigate relationships, work, school, social media, politics, news, and every single brand-new moment that happens in front of us in real time? Who the hell came up with that idea? That’s like trying to use a stone and a few of sticks to send a tweet!
I don’t mean to give it a bad wrap, our mind is pretty incredible. It can compute, regulate body temperature, store memories, create made-up scenarios, learn new tasks and skills, comprehend and communicate multiple languages, read, and much, much more. But perhaps our mind’s most powerful ability is its ability to tell stories. There is a 1% difference between the DNA of a human and the DNA of a chimpanzee, and part of that 1% difference is the ability to make up a story about what’s happening in the world around us. In other words, the only thing separating you and the chimp on the other side of the glass at the zoo is that you can completely make up a story about why your boyfriend hasn’t texted you back in 4 hours with as little information as possible in an eighth of a second. Amplify the story-telling ability to scale, sprinkle in a little bit of self-doubt, prescribed false narratives from family members, unhealed childhood trauma, external cultural expectations, peer comparisons and status games and … Voila! You’ve got the perfect recipe for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
It’s essential that you understand that reality is neutral. But as we grow and develop, we acquire the deeply-rooted desire to think about every single thing that happens in terms of good or bad so that they can fit neatly into buckets in our mind, which helps us to make sense of what’s happening in the world around us. When something comes along that disrupts our idea of what’s good and what’s bad, it causes stress and discomfort. This is a survival mechanism. It helps us to develop our identity and know how to interact in our respective social circles and tribes. But the truth is that what happens externally has absolutely no inherent meaning, only the meaning you attach to it. Reality doesn’t favor you or anyone else above you. It simply happens how it’s going to happen, regardless of your preference. And you get to decide what it means.
Let’s rewind to the example of your boyfriend or girlfriend not texting you back for a while. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’re chatting away, telling our significant other how much they mean to us and how much we’ve been thinking about them, and then… silence. For hours. And then our mind does its thing and starts to make up a story – X isn’t texting me back. Where are they? Why haven’t they responded? Are they cheating? Do they not love me anymore? They must be texting someone else, am I not a priority to them? I’ll show them. And before you know it, in an eighth of a second, we’ve gone from “X hasn’t texted me back” to “I’m unlovable, I’ll never be happy, I’ll end up homeless and lonely and everybody hates me and I’ll die an early, miserable death.” Ok, maybe the story you make up isn’t as dramatic as this example, but you get the point. Your mind is constantly making up stories, and you accept them as truth. Over time, these stories become your reality.
Let me give you a more personal example of a story I was telling myself for years and how I changed it. I first started playing little league football when I was 8 years old. I loved watching football with my dad and wanted to play in the NFL more than anything in the world! I thought wide receivers were cool, so that’s what I wanted to be. A wide receiver just like my dad was in high school. In my mind, I was a wide receiver.
So I show up to the first day of tryouts as a giddy 8-year-old boy and we do drills, meet coaches, run plays etc. Then, at the end of practice, they lined all of us up and took us over to the scale so that we could do weigh-ins. Weigh-ins? No one said anything about weigh-ins! After I stepped on the scale and weighed in, I watched my coach slap a white “X” on my helmet (indicating that I was a lineman) and he told me that I was over the weight limit, so I couldn’t carry, throw or catch the ball. If you got the white “X” put on your helmet, you were above the weight limit of the skill positions for your age group. This was the first time, at the ripe age of 8 years old, that I learned who I was. I had been labeled by a grown up as overweight. I was “the fat kid.”
Over the next 17 years, I adopted the narrative that I was the fat kid. I ate like the fat kid, talked like the fat kid, acted like the fat kid and eventually, that’s exactly what I became. That’s how I saw myself throughout my childhood, adolescence and early adult years. And that’s how I assumed the rest of the world saw me. I let a white “X” on my football helmet when I was 8 years old determine my identity for almost two decades after that.
It wasn’t until a friend told me about all this “internal story” stuff that I decided that I was going to tell a different one about my health and physical appearance. I won’t dive into the details of this story, but you can listen to it on Episode 3 of my podcast, “The Braden Orgill Show,” featuring my good friend and founder of the Daily Shifts, Doug Cartwright. The gist of the story is that after having lunch with my friend and telling him that I wanted to do mushrooms and trip on acid or I was going to end my life, he enlightened me about the story I was telling myself. Walking out of that lunch, I simply decided that my new identity was a healthy, fit person who was worthy of love and all good things life had to offer. That was the new story I was going to tell myself. Never mind the diagnosis from my physician earlier that SAME EXACT DAY that I had officially been labeled “obese.” I was overweight by about 60 lbs. and hovered around 37% body fat. But I didn’t care what the doctor said. From that point forward, I was a healthy, fit man in my mind.
Not only did I change the story about my health and physical appearance that day, I went back and dissected, wrote out and blew up the narratives (literally, imagined them being blown up in my mind) that had been holding me back and been the cause of my depression and anxiety. I made these narratives conscious. I am a college dropout, so my story was that I was a fraud in the professional world and would never be successful, right? That’s what they teach you, isn’t it? And since I was overweight and had no degree, I was useless in the eyes of women, right? You aren’t datable unless you have a six pack and a degree in physiology and graduated med school, right? Garbage. I blew those narratives up. My new story was that I am as capable, intelligent and able to contribute as anyone else. Better yet, I could lead everyone else. My skillset and personality made me unique and I have something to say. Women love me because I am authentic, honest and fun to be around. Those were some of my new narratives.
After simply making the decision to blow up my old stories and tell myself different ones, I remember waking up at exactly 3:30 am the next morning, sitting up in my bed and saying out loud “I’ve turned a corner.” I can’t describe the feeling accurately with words, but that’s what I felt internally. At my core level, at the very essence of my being, in my most naked and true state, I had turned a corner. And I could feel it.
In the next 5 days after simply deciding to change my story, I stumbled onto the Keto diet through a friend and met the woman of my dreams who I ended up marrying. The two biggest life-changing events happened for me just 5 days after deciding to change my story. Now here I am, 60 lbs. lighter, 18% body fat less, married with a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, operating my own business as a life coach, writing articles like this, doing podcasts, and having the time of my life. It’s no coincidence that these things followed my decision to believe a different story. Lightning didn’t come down and strike me with an awesome life. Nobody came and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “It’s Ok to be a happy person, you’re qualified.” It was a story that I chose to tell myself. And once I decided to tell myself the story and actually convince myself that it was true, then my life just molded around that story.
“We believe what we want to believe in, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth”-Seth Godin
Ok. Deep breath. Are you with me to this point? Let’s recap – you have a story that you’re telling yourself about who you are, about what the world should look like and about what your place is in it. Oh yeah, and did I mention it’s completely made up? You created it! Sure, it’s founded upon years and years of indoctrination from family members, peers, religious leaders, political echo-chambers and incomprehensible amounts of subliminal messages you’ve absorbed through screens, but that’s beside the point. You’ve chosen what story to believe, and now it’s playing through your subconscious on a loop like your favorite angsty song after a tough breakup. All of these narratives are running through your subconscious, most of the time, without your awareness or conscious choice.
So my invitation to you is to simply identify the stories that you’re telling yourself. As many as you can. Write them down on paper. Be brutally honest with yourself. What is the chatter in your mind saying? If you find that any particular story or set of stories is creating stress or discomfort or pain, blow it up. Stop accepting it as truth. Try to remember where you learned it and what the hell made you believe it. Then simply decide what story you’re going to replace it with. Sell yourself on it, write it down, do whatever you have to do. But fight like hell to rewrite your story. Because once you can change your story, you can change the very way you experience life.
Think this is all nonsense and I’m just making it up? Don’t worry, that’s what I thought too before I tried it. But at least give it a shot, you have no idea where it will take you. And if I were a betting man (I definitely am a betting man), I’d bet that you’ll really surprise yourself with where you end up when you look back.
Change your story, change your life.
You can find me on all social media platforms @ Braden Orgill, or you can check out my website www.ketowithbraden.com. My email address is email@example.com and I answer all DMs and emails, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Oh yeah, and I’m writing a book on all of this story stuff called “The War On Average” that will launch May 2021, so keep an eye out for it.
Thank you for reading.
Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text "HOME" to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
- University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300
- NAMI Utah: namiut.org
- County Crisis Lines: https://www.namiut.org/families-caregivers/suicide-prevention
- Utah Chapter-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: afsputah.com
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
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Disclaimer: Blunovus content is not therapy and is not designed to diagnose or treat any condition you may be experiencing. Please contact a medical or mental health professional for treatment that is specific to your needs.