How Hormones Destroyed and Saved My Life - From The Brink Of Suicide To Bliss
If you want to know the practical aspects of how I replaced my hormones, then read here: How To Fix Your Hormones: The Ultimate Guide.
From the brink of suicide to bliss
I have been quite a happy dude my whole life. Curious, well-rounded, and sociable. Around the age of 20, this all began to change. As I entered med school, I started to become more unidimensional, withdrawn, secluded, obsessive, rigid, an asshole. I also had zero energy.
My attention span and short-term memory started to regress toward kindergarten level. I had to read every sentence 10 times. I could not concentrate. I felt as if I was becoming dumb. Overall, I became a pale semblance of my former self.
I chalked it up to my fast-paced curriculum, the deadlines, and the huge amount of material I had to learn during this time. My fitness endeavors, lack of sleep, and some partying likely did not help either.
I felt like shit. It took me forever to wake up in the mornings. I had no inner peace. My mind was always racing. I was lethargic all day, every day. Everything was drudgery and required a ton of self-discipline. Loads of coffee and painful cold showers were necessary to get me through each day.
Each night, I felt grateful that another day was over. I was just trying to get by. At best.
I stopped caring about friends and friends stopped caring about me. I was not fun to be around anymore. My mood was worse than “meh”. I was negative, judgmental, irritable all the time. I was dragging others down.
I laughed rarely.
Where before I had seen a bright future for myself, now I only saw darkness. At times, I just could not bear things anymore. I had a mental breakdown twice. During those times, every good memory seemed to have vanished from my catalog of memories.
There was nothing I could do and no way it could get better.
In such moments of hopelessness and helplessness, people do stupid shit. Shit that is irreversible. Shit that hurts a lot of people.
Thank God some loved ones were there for me, even though I had not been there for them.
Fortunately, those dark spells passed by quickly. I was able to pull myself together and get back up again. Falling back into the trap of inexorable self-torture, doing everything necessary to get myself to accomplish what I needed to do each day, without any care for myself and caring even less about others.
In retrospect, I cringe when I think about how I was able to make it through this time more or less unscathed.
Some astute readers might argue that I was running myself into the ground through my toxic lifestyle, as so many young males in our achievement-driven societies do these days. Living the sprinter life as if there was only going to be six months left.
The initial fault was all mine. I felt forced to maintain the lifestyle that got me into this whole mess in the first place. I was trapped in a vicious, never-ending cycle. I blamed myself. I was a parasite, a suffering parasite.
I tried to dial back, but things just would not get any better.
Being a medical student, I ran some lab tests. My testosterone turned out to be low. Not just low, but on the low-end for an average 90-year-old man. I assumed this to be the root cause of my poor health and life.
Having brought this upon me, I figured it was also up to me to fix it again. I started to sleep more, eat better, dial back on the exercise, and partying. I began to meditate and forced myself to have sex with the girlfriend I had at this time (despite not feeling like it). I was trying out every method under the sun to get it back up (not literally).
Hot showers. Cold showers. I started to look at porn again. Maca root. A bunch of supplements. Clomiphene. Eagerly awaiting each new round of lab reports. Only to be rewarded with the all too familiar globus sensation. Over and over again.
Eventually, I approached my endocrinology professors regarding my issues. After a few more examinations, the issue became clear. It was not just testosterone that was low, but many other hormones too.
For some reason, my pituitary was not sending appropriate signals to my peripheral endocrine glands. My estradiol was unmeasurable. My progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid were all rock bottom.
I cried. Not because I knew what it meant (namely, having to replace what was lacking for the rest of my life), but rather because I was relieved to have finally found something I could blame.
Whereas before, I was gnawing myself to death with guilt, now I knew it was not “me”. The deterioration in my personality, my health, my life, the pain I had inflicted directly and indirectly upon my loved ones along the way, all of it was not my fault.
I started to replace what was missing.¹ I experienced immediate, subjective improvements: I had more energy, was less grumpy, and was no longer freezing. I could now read for much longer without having to drag myself into a cold shower, or downing a liter of coffee.
Note: What was the cause of my low hormones? I will explain it HERE. In this article, I also share the hormone protocol I have been on for years and which has completely remodeled my body, mind, and life.
No more peeing twenty times per day and multiple times per night. My sleep was much better. No more being ravenously hungry half an hour after eating. My hair and skin became nice and hydrated again. My nails grew again at normal speed.
The first normal morning erections. No more racing thoughts. No more nausea in the morning. No need for loads of caffeine.
The spark from interacting with girls came back. The butterflies came back, resurrected after they had been extinct for years.
The runner’s highs. Whole-body orgasms after years of mechanical work. I could not have cared less about whether it was “biological” or not. It felt real. It was real to me.
I was again seeing some light in the darkness I had envisioned for my future.
Over the course of just a few months, I was becoming “cured” from the frigid social anhedonia that had been afflicting me for years. Before, whenever I interacted with people, I just wanted to leave as fast as possible to do “my” things. Now though, I did not want to be by myself anymore all the time.
Being social was no longer drudgery and pretense; drudgery to muster the necessary energy and pretense to fake my “old” adolescent personality. Now I wanted to go out and meet people. I had genuine fun again.
Before, my emotions were dull and grey. Whenever I interacted with the people I loved the most in the whole universe (my family), my emotions were rather cognitive (“I know I love them”). Now though, I felt love for my loved ones again. That warm fuzzy feeling I thought I had lost irreversibly.
Initially, there was a certain degree of sadness because I experienced first-hand how much of my emotions, their valence, their intensity, and their existence in the first place, were influenced by cold biochemical parameters.²
But whether I or anyone else liked it or not, this is just the way it is.
Eventually, I came to terms with being a biological creature. What was left was gratitude. Gratitude about my irrational luck being a medical student born in a Western country in the 21st century.
How many others were out there? People who simply were not as lucky as I had been, suffering for years and years, witnessing their outer and inner lives gradually but uncompromisingly falling apart, bit by bit. Dragging down their loved ones along the way and forgoing the opportunity to be meaningful contributors to society. And perhaps worst of all, blaming themselves for all of it.
After starting hormone replacement, slowly, the upward spiral started again. Soon after, my professor passed away from cancer. Unfortunately, the new endocrinologist who took over my case was not as good. He was young, inexperienced, and doing everything by the book. Replacing my hormones suboptimally. Replacing them by the guidelines.
However, I had become used to the energy, mood, and health I was now again being tantalized with and I was determined to not let this happen to me again. I was 23 at the time and I had a long road ahead. For something this important, I did not want to make any compromises.
I was about to enter my second year of med school. Even though I knew that these issues had not been my fault, it is my life and thus, my responsibility. So, I took matters into my own hands. I began to experiment, making many changes to my protocols.³
I observed and felt how even slight changes in dosage, substance, and timing had potent effects on my energy levels, mood, sleep, concentration, drive, and emotionality.
Delving into the literature, I spent hundreds of hours browsing the internet, collecting bits and pieces of information from many other patients’ experiences of replacing their own hormones.
I monitored my signs and symptoms and spent a lot of money on blood tests. I made notes of any changes I experienced -at least the ones I was aware of.
All of this was sort of a secret project I had going on behind closed doors. Something I was burning for. I knew that if I change hormones, my life will evolve in a way to reflect those changes.
For an overview of the effects each of the hormones had on me, read here.
My goal was to create a hormonal profile that struck a balance between wellbeing, performance, and longevity. I was trying to marry these three to the best of my ability. For a long time, that was my #1 priority, the quadrant-two activity, my driving purpose.
I made continuous improvements to my protocol. Small tweaks were made, bit by bit, keeping what worked, and throwing out what did not. I knew that even small changes make a difference, and whether I was consciously aware of it or not, whatever value I get out of them, the dividends are reinvested every single day. And a small, consistent difference would compound.
For me, it was a long and rocky road to recovery. Over the next few years, the ravages of time had again been exerting their influence in the background. But this time, these ravages did not ravage.
Med school was not a chore anymore but instead became something I thoroughly enjoyed. The same was true with my friends. Working in a sales job on the side, I made enough money to sustain myself for the next five years.
Changes in my moment-to-moment mental states rippled to affect my day-to-day thinking patterns. Along with my increased energy, drive, motivation, health, less need for sleep, memory, and so forth, it started to have a cumulative positive impact on pretty much every domain of my inner and outer life.
Change was slow. But relentless. The biological foundation to do well in my only life was now taken care of. If I had to, I would sign a contract to live 10 more years with my new vitality instead of living to one hundred with the state I was in before.
Health is not everything, but without it, everything is nothing.
I do not blame hormones for everything that has gone wrong with me or my life. Nor do I credit them with all the progress I have made. However, in both cases, hormones’ repercussions on energy, mood, and health, set me up for certain situations and developments in the first place.
Also, I did not feel “magically” well from the get-go, nor do I now. There were many ups and downs and there will be many more. I would not even want otherwise. Periods of failure, setbacks, and suffering were times of identity formation, growth, and change. Without them, life would be dull and boring.
However, now there is a crucial difference. Now I have the necessary energy, mood, and health to tackle these times of failure, setbacks, and suffering in a productive way -to tackle them at all.
What I found is that if I make sustained alterations to my neurobiochemistry, whether “naturally” through daily lifestyle changes (e.g. sleep, exercise, diet) or through more “artificial” deliberate intervention (e.g. hormones, antidepressants, stimulants), over time I will become different.⁴
As time went by, my personality started to change, mostly without me being aware. Often, it was even me who noticed these changes, but other people I met after a long time of not seeing them. They could tell that something was different. That I had become different. Less rigid, more appreciative of the moment, less judgmental, a little more empathetic toward my loved ones.
This automatic change to my personality and behavior was quite unlike the intentional changes I tried to make by picking up various concepts from the self-help “literature”, lists of to-dos and to-not-dos about how to be more mindful, compassionate, or self-confident.
About these, I could think, talk and even write about, but in real life, all this conceptual knowledge did not help me much and real tangible change was meager at best.
Even after reading ten books about how to be more mindful and compassionate, I was still the same old, mindless asshole when somebody was rude to me, having acted in my habitual autopilot-mode long before I could pull out my nice and neat little strategies about how to win friends and influence people.
However, if certain aspects of my (neuro)biochemistry changed, then my autopilot mode, my baseline, my natural spontaneous intrinsic self, changed. I became different- even if I did not know that anything was happening at all.⁵
Is replacing all my hormones healthy?
It might intuitively seem that replacing all of my hormones has to be bad somehow. For sure, I will eventually pay a price because there is no free lunch. I thought so too for a long time. Fortunately, this is just not how the world works.
We have data from thousands of people whose pituitary glands were destroyed or removed (e.g. cancer, injury, radiation damage, etc.). Within just a few days, their endogenous hormone production drops to zero, forcing them to replace all their hypothalamic hormones (growth hormone, thyroid, sex hormones, adrenal hormones) for the rest of their lives. From that point on, all of their hormones would be completely administered from the outside.
Some early studies have shown that mortality for these people is increased, especially due to cardiovascular diseases. Later, it was found that this was due to excessive doses of glucocorticoids (given out of fear that patients might suffer from a life-threatening adrenal crisis) and also from the lack of growth hormone replacement.
Given all hormones are adequately replaced, then this difference in mortality goes away. Furthermore, these people actually live longer and healthier lives than their peers, whose hormones -across the board- naturally decline with age.
Besides, optimizing hormones gives me higher energy, mood, and health — all of which also allow for a more healthy lifestyle. If I feel constantly lethargic and unmotivated, eating well, sleeping well, exercising well is simply not on the cards.
Given that around 80% of deaths in Western countries are due to CVD, cancer, and neurodegeneration, all of which are partly lifestyle diseases, replacing my hormones has indirect beneficial effects on my health overall, regardless of each hormone acting directly on every cell in my body.
Replacing my hormones is a nuisance. But that is all. Only a nuisance. It does not cause any subjective suffering like depression does or any debilitating symptoms like physical pain. In fact, if replaced well, I can live a long and (very) healthy life. I would argue a longer, healthier, and better life overall.
The price I pay is taking pills and doing injections. However, once I was used to this regime and have tuned and tweaked my replacement protocol to my own needs and liking, it now takes less than 5 minutes per day. A tiny price to pay for the rewards I get.
My “misfortune” certainly had a silver lining. I would even go so far as to say that it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Now, my hormones will not decline as I age and I can enjoy my current vitality for decades to come, whereas, for almost everyone else my age, hormones will decline, dragging vitality down with them.
Just as there are risks and side effects associated with hormone replacement, there are also risks and side effects associated with doing nothing. Most people tend to forget about this. We tend to only look at the side effects of action, but we do not look at the side effects of inaction as well. We need to look at both sides of the equation.
It is always a calculation of tradeoffs. But there are risks (and opportunity costs) from doing nothing as well. This last point is often dismissed.
Is replacing my hormones “unnatural”?
Many of us feel bad about any “artificial” intervention because we think it is “unnatural”. Well, our modern world is not “natural” either.
Modern life‘s constant distress, artificial lightning, pollutants, highly processed foods, fast-spiking carbohydrates, sedentary lifestyles, living beyond the age of 40, sitting in my armchair with my laptop to connect to the whole world. They are all far from “natural”.
My genetic, biochemical, and physiological machinery and mental faculties (e.g. biases) just are not adapted to this sort of environment. Evolution adapted them to a completely different world. In fact, the workings of my body and mind are outdated.
“Altering” myself to the best of my knowledge and ability (aka. “biohacking”) is just as artificial as is living in our unnatural world in the first place. I just “update” my physical and mental operating system to be adapted to these new conditions (and if there happens to be some “upgrading” along with it, I do not mind).
Furthermore, biology is perhaps the main common denominator regarding how the life of a human being turns out -within cultural and socioeconomic limits, of course. And for the first time in history, I can now think about transcending my individual, biological limits. Limits that ever since were a strong determinant of happiness and life success.
Is what I do cheating?
Due to my rather unique situation, I was forced to intervene quite radically into my inner workings. Even though it was not my fault, it is my life and therefore, my responsibility. Without accepting and acting on that, I do not know where I would be today. For sure, I would not be writing this.
Without taking my hormones into my own hands, my inner and outer life would have blown to bits -and stayed this way. This is not a “probably” but a “certainly”. It sure did help to arrive at a point where I just did not have much to lose anymore.
I now have a great hormonal profile, certainly “better” than what nature intended for me. Optimized for wellbeing, longevity, and performance, I can and do keep my major hormones at levels where I feel and function best.
This does give me an advantage in life across many areas. Thus, in my early days of starting hormone replacement and seeing the effects, I felt bad about “cheating”. However, since energy, mood, and health are certainly not equally distributed, there was never a level playing field to begin with.
Furthermore, humanity is more about cooperation than competition. Therefore, if I become a more healthy and productive member of society, society as a whole might benefit. Moral bioenhancement.
Hence, even though what I do can be seen as cheating from an individual standpoint, overall, the effects on others might be good (besides the fact that my life is easier and more enjoyable -the primary reason I chose to self-optimize). A win-win for me and others.⁶
To get non-lame stuff about becoming the best version of yourself, sign up here.
Am I becoming “fake”? Am I becoming a “robot”?
Does such radical intervention into my own cell colony’s signaling make me “fake”? Am I still myself? Many people have an inner resistance against intervening in a way that they feel “alters” themselves.
But the line is arbitrary. Most are fine with having caffeine constantly in their system, which certainly does affect neurobiochemistry, and therefore personality. And regarding hormones, 20 years down the line, my hormones would be radically different across the board compared to how they are now. Am I then not “myself” anymore?
Furthermore, many people I talked to raised the concern I am moving in the direction of becoming a “robot”. A robot whose biochemistry, and therefore personality traits, “I” can control.
Even though there certainly is a performance increase from optimizing my biology, “enhancing” myself does not make me a robot just more effective at solving tasks. We, humans, are way more than that. We are not just about solving tasks, rather about setting them. We humans want the real, the raw. Rather than achievement, we are seeking love and beauty.
In terms of emotions (which are what distinguishes us from robots), my overall emotionality is greater compared to what it was before.
The mind is what the brain does and every mind state emerges from a brain state. And on my hormone replacement protocol, my brain can now generate emotional intensities I never experienced before.⁷ The highs are much higher and the lows much lower.
Therefore, despite all this seeming “roboty”, I argue that it makes me less of a robot. Before, I was a robot to my biological chains, a puppet of my neurobiochemistry. In my opinion, transcending my biological limitations is a very, very human thing to do. Now I can act and make choices that are truly my own.
I have experienced the best and worst of both worlds. On one hand, I experienced how a reduction in biological vitality has sent my outer and inner life on a relentless downward spiral. In its wake, my life, the only life I can be sure of having, was shattered.
Along the way, it was not just me who was hurt but also my loved ones. And indirectly, society was hurt. I was not contributing what I otherwise could have. Instead, I was about to become an involuntary parasite of society’s resources.
On the other hand, I experienced how an improvement in my biological vitality sent my life on an upward spiral. I became aware of how much easier (and more enjoyable) life can be if I have great energy, mood, and health all the time. In fact, within just a few years of optimizing my hormones, my outer and inner life completely changed, thanks to the most powerful force in the universe.
After the fire had been extinct for years, I started to dream again. I found purpose and something I want to contribute. My dream is to live in a world where no one is held back the way I was. Now I also have the necessary vitality to keep working on my dreams and, equally important, to enjoy working on them.
How many Bill Gateses did not make it because their failing biology put a padlock in front of their dreams? How many Elon Musks have not even started to make the world better because they simply did not have the necessary vitality to even start dreaming in the first place?⁸
My purpose is to raise awareness.⁹ People need to know that there are biological shackles that many of us carry. Shackles that make it harder to live the life we want. Shackles that make it harder to find purpose…and certainly much harder to have the necessary persistence, drive, energy, and health to burn long enough for their dreams to bear fruit.
Biological vitality is the single most important condition in my life. In your life. I know I have said it many times in this article, but again, there is nothing as powerful as correcting and/or optimizing your hormonal profile.
Because this post turned out longer than intended and nobody wants to read such a long post, I split it up.
- I have been high and low in all the major hormones, in many different constellations and this I can tell you: hormones are by far the most important factor determining your energy levels and mood, given that your sleep, your gut, or your diet is not absolute dogshit. Gains or losses from sleep, exercise, diet, gut health pale compared to gains or losses from changing a hormone.
- For example, how a small change in estradiol or progesterone levels does affect your overall emotionality, the tendency for experiencing certain emotions in certain intensities. The propensity for you to cry while watching a romantic movie.
- I was varying the degree of aromatase inhibition, changes HCG dosing, swapping some thyroxine for triiodothyronine, adding small dosages of growth hormone, replacing DHEA and progesterone, tweaking fludrocortisone, cortisone acetate instead of hydrocortisone, experimenting with sublingual vs. oral administration, many other things I cannot think of right now.
- Is there an ethical difference between someone lucky enough to be a genetic freak, someone who works extremely hard on his lifestyle, does everything by the book, and someone with the knowledge and risk-appetite required to use pharmacological/endocrinological shortcuts?
- For illustration’s sake, let’s say some vicious scientist secretly injected you with testosterone or a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (or what have you) while you slept. He kept track of the changes happening to you and compared it to your identical, placebo-treated clone in an alternate parallel universe. For sure, your personalities, as well as your alternate futures, would be different. Ever larger the differences the longer the experiment ran fo
- Since inaction is also action if you have the means to do so, you could even argue that it is quite unethical not to intervene.
- There is a reason why people’s emotionality (incl. how intense the emotions are experienced) is greatest during puberty. The same reason why postmenopausal women often lose the magic.
- Many young, enthusiastic founders do not fail because their dreams do not work out but simply because they have no energy left. Many founders and young entrepreneurs are playing the game as if there were only 6 months left, running themselves into the ground. In the process, many are burning out their hormones. In fact, burnout is mostly a hormonal issue.
- Even if this means helping just a single person in a similar situation to where I have been 5 years ago. Even if this means something banal as nudging someone towards simply getting a non-useless blood test for the first time in their life, at least pointing in the right direction.
About the author
My goal with all my writing is to point people in the right direction towards removing biological shackles holding them back from becoming a better version of themselves, living life fully, and being better contributors to humanity.
When it comes to hormones, the right or wrong choice can make or break your life. Due to my unique story, extensive knowledge, and personal experience, few people know as much about hormones, all their interactions, and specifics. Using individualized hormone optimization, lifestyle changes, diet, supplements, and sometimes pharmaceutical drugs, I have worked with hundreds of people around the world and was able to solve diverse problems such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, brain fog, libido issues, anhedonia, depression, anxiety, ADHD, body recomposition, fixing metabolism after a starvation diet, infertility, resetting the HPA-axis to a higher setpoint, reversing thyroid resistance, multiple hormone balancing, etc. My goal is not to just patch up symptoms (as most doctors do) but to holistically understand a case with its history, health, situation, and context. For inquiring about your own situation, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Similar related articles
How To Fix Your Hormones: The Ultimate Guide
How Hormones Destroyed And Saved My Life
Different Types Of Fatigue For Different Hormone Deficiencies
A Diet That Works For Everyone
Supplements Everyone Should Take
The Science Of Hormones
Why Depression Is A Chemical Imbalance: Lessons From MDMA, Self-experiments, Bipolar Disorder