WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – In 2018, Kate and I gave away all our things, handed in the keys to our apartments (we’re divorced), and hit the road.
We traveled around the world for 18 months, living out of a suitcase and homeschooling our kids. But that wasn’t the beginning of this story.
My mental illness was.
Here’s the backstory…
I had a piece of gum in my head.
And I kept mashing it and mashing it and mashing it. Over and over again.
The gum was a series of painful thoughts that I just couldn’t banish from my head. To the point where I couldn’t think about anything else.
I couldn’t parent. I couldn’t contribute at work. I couldn’t be creative. I couldn’t make decisions. At its worst, I couldn’t read or watch TV.
When people engaged with me, I seemed distant. I was exhausted the whole time. I had such bad insomnia that I developed a tremor in my fingers.
At one point, I hadn’t slept in a week. My hands were shaking like rattles. My friends took me to a psychiatrist…
The psychiatrist called it “chronic rumination.” It’s painful, but it’s not the worst part.
The worst part is you start believing the thoughts will never go away. That you’ll be in this prison forever. That you’ll be stuck mashing that awful gum.
It’s a resignation to suffering. A tiredness. An acceptance of permanent mental discomfort. That’s the depression.
The moment you wake up is the worst part of the day. Because you remember who you are and the prison you’re in.
“Another awful day pushing this bloody rock up the hill,” you think.
You long for the day to end so you can turn off the thoughts, stop the brain mashing, and go to sleep.
Except you can’t sleep. Now, you have to spend all night mashing the gum.
I felt so lonely at night. I’d long for the morning to come so I could go out. And thus, the cycle went on…
That’s when I started fantasizing about death. “The eternal bliss of suicide,” I called it.
I tried everything to make the pain go away.
I took Prozac. I took sleeping pills. I went to therapy. I meditated. I exercised. I went to church and prayed. I read a hundred self-help books. I even went to AA meetings.
This went on for months. But nothing helped. I was so confused.
Finally, I said “Enough.”
I packed a small bag, I left my home, my work, and my kids, and I went traveling overseas. To have a change of scenery. To get my head straight. To ride some trains.
“Hobo rehab,” I called it.
I surfed in South Africa. I climbed mountains in Scotland. I rode lots of trains. Then, Kate invited me to travel with her and the kids.
A 35-day road trip around America turned into an 18-month global adventure. We visited 29 countries on four continents and stayed in over 150 different hotels and Airbnbs.
Not only did my depression go away, but I had the adventure of a lifetime.
Today, I write to you from South Florida. We’re staying with Kate’s parents while we wait out the coronavirus pandemic. As soon as we can, we’ll hit the road again.
But even now, with our travels on hold, I’ve never felt so close to my children. My passion for life has returned. My passion for writing and studying economics has returned. And soon, Kate and I will get remarried…
– Tom Dyson
P.S. People gave me all sorts of advice. They told me to treat myself with kindness, do nice things for others, take one day at a time, stay busy, surrender to God, meditate, read such and such a book, find a therapist, blah blah.
They meant well, but they just didn’t understand that when you’re gripped with anxiety, depression, and chronic rumination, you can’t do anything.
In fact, I stopped even trying to “fix it.” Because I now believe there was no “fix.” I just had to stick it out and get through it, like waiting for a thunderstorm to pass during a round of golf, doing your best to stay dry.
In today’s mailbag, readers defend Tom from accusations of narcissism… discuss his boarding school experiences… and share how the Postcards have impacted their lives…
Reader comment: All artists feel a strong need from deep inside to create, whether it is words on a paper, color on a canvas, form to a sculpture, movements to a dance, or anything else. Is that narcissistic? You are writing an absolutely fascinating living biography that *could*possibly be narcissistic if: You considered that YOU, alone, had all the right answers. Your desires are more important than anybody else’s. You deserve attention – others don’t. You have the right to get angry with others (since they are all stupid). If anything goes wrong, it is somebody else’s fault, obviously. Discussions are meaningless since you are right and they are wrong, anyway. Is that you? I don’t think so.
Reader comment: Reading your reports from the time you started writing your journey, I see a young man who made a critical self/family-saving decision to heal and be productive again. Forget the nasty criticisms, Tom. Welcome general critical comments as a learning curve. Your reports provide great pleasure for me and many more, keep them coming!
Reader comment: It is not narcissistic to write about your travels and your feelings. If it were, just about every writer in the history of the world could be called a narcissist. Also, what do most people like to talk about? Themselves! That doesn’t make them narcissists – it makes them normal.
In my view, it is incredibly courageous of you to describe in such detail, and in such moving prose, your feelings, your depression, and your recovery. I look forward every day to reading Postcards From the Fringe – in part because you are so honest about your feelings. Yes, by doing this, you expose yourself to possible criticism and abuse.
Since I’m writing to you anyway, I would also like to share with you that you have been a significant force for good in my life. Years ago, when you were writing the 12% Letter, one of your mail pieces caught my wife’s eye and we decided to take a chance. We were so impressed by your advice that we became interested in other Stansberry publications, and eventually became Alliance members.
Since then, we have also signed up for the Stansberry-Churchouse Crypto Capital letter (lifetime – but now a Stansberry publication), and for TradeStops (lifetime). All of these have been tremendously good decisions – all because of a mail piece you wrote! Thank you once again for Postcards From the Fringe, and for everything!
Reader comment: I never give feedback, but after reading your post about boarding school, my heart was compelled to respond. Who drops their child off to others at the age of seven? Especially to an unknown place with no family members or familiar faces? My heart went out to you immediately as I pictured your story unveiling in my mind. I wanted to come and pick you up and bring you home.
I’ve never understood the advantage of a boarding school. What about family, visitations only? I’m so glad those days are behind you and happy that you have reunited with Kate and the kids. It seems you have a wonderful life now, and I attribute a lot of that to Kate’s dedication, solid upbringing, the love you both have for family, and for your brilliant mind to invest for your family. I love your letters and enjoy seeing the pictures of your travels!
Reader comment: Just read about your days at boarding school when you were quite young. Your early experiences reminded me of a movie masterpiece called IF. You may have seen it or know of it, but the early scenes are almost identical to your experiences described in your letters. The film is from 1968 by master director Lindsey Anderson. It may have been actor Malcom McDowell’s first film (he was later inA Clockwork Orange). If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it… it is one of my favorite all-time films. Lots of amazing cinema came out of Britain (and Europe) in the 1960s. If you do see it I hope the early scenes don’t bring back traumatic memories for you, lol.
Reader comment: Just keep doing what you’re doing. I, for one, have read every missive of yours since you started and find personal value in every one. Big thanks!
Reader comment: I don’t understand how anyone can get riled up about your stories. They are entertaining and, at times, down-right inspiring. I did what you did years ago, bought gold and silver for the trend. So I read your stories for fun. Keep being the contrarian. You know that works.
Reader comment: Your thoughts on our economic and monetary foundations are unique and enlightening, insights that are hard to find anywhere else, particularly written with such intense clarity. You are a terrific writer and have knowledge that either others don’t – or don’t wish to – talk about. Thank you and more of the same, please.
Tom’s note: Thank you for your messages. I read every one… and read many of them aloud to Kate and the kids, too. They are so encouraging.
I’ve said this before, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t still be writing these postcards if we hadn’t received so much support and encouragement from you. So thank you!
I do my best to publish every note, but sometimes there are too many. Please keep them coming! Write us at [email protected].