Depression has ruined my life.
For as long as I can remember, it’s crippled my emotional wellbeing, deprived me of pleasure, and just last year, nearly killed me.
However, depression has also been the most powerful driving force in my life. Without it, I may not have been as focused, as productive, and as relentless.
I’m 27, and I just sold the business I started at 23 for a nearly six-figure sum. I have depression to thank for that.
The Power of Dissatisfaction
People often say to live in the moment. But throughout my life, depression has made the present moment nearly unbearable.
At age nineteen — and a recent high-school grad entering the adult world — I certainly felt that way. Slowly but surely, depression had sapped the pleasure I received from hobbies that were once reliable fountains of joy. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, how much time I took off, how religiously I dieted and exercised: I rarely felt good.
Because I was so dissatisfied with life, I became hell-bent on improving it. While other young adults my age spent their nights partying, I was honing my freelance writing skills, toiling away on business endeavours with no immediate expectation of profit, bodybuilding religiously, and optimizing myself via diet and supplementation. These efforts left little space in the margins for anything else.
That said, I’m familiar with the archetypal “workaholic” whose excessive labouring makes them miserable. So I should clarify that I enjoyed the work to some extent. And if I didn’t, at the very least, I enjoyed the security in knowing my efforts might get me to an enjoyable place.
I wasn’t sure if my efforts would change anything. But I kept at it, feeling that I had no other choice.
Depression Meets Bull-Headed Stubbornness
By 26, my cumulative efforts to quell depression had transformed my life. The sad winds in my sails led me to move out of my parents’ house, transition to running my business full-time, become stronger than ever in the gym, and make more money than ever before.
Unfortunately, despite these successes, I barely felt any happier. In fact, there was reason to believe that I was getting more depressed: If I wasn’t angrily ranting at my partner or lashing out at near-strangers, my days were quiet and listless. But I’ve always been stubborn, so rather than face the truth — the reality that I might never be happy — I only pushed harder.
After all, while I wasn’t happy, I believed I should have been: On paper, my life was better than ever. Unlike my teenage years, I was independent, making a living off of work I enjoyed, and living in alignment with my values and preferences. I had tailored my life to fit me. So why wasn’t it working?
In hindsight, the answer is clear. I wasn’t striving to live life — I was striving to survive it. Inside, I was waging a desperate war against depression, and anything that slimmed my chances was a grave threat.
Case in point: When the COVID-19 lockdowns started in March 2020, I was in the process of getting my driver’s license. And within weeks, the virus’s spread led our government to suspend driver testing services indefinitely for the first time in automobile history.
After realizing that COVID-19 would prevent me from getting my license for the foreseeable future, I had a near-psychological breakdown. At the time, I probably just thought the anger stemmed from indignancy. But in retrospect, the anger stemmed from desperation: I desperately wanted my life to become enjoyable — hell, even tolerable — and at the time, I believed getting my license would get me there.
The World is Not Enough
At some point in nearly every superhero story, the hero realizes he will never be powerful enough. He can’t save everyone. He might not even be able to save himself.
I’m at that point in my story. Five years later, I sit atop the mountain of success my depression drove me to build. And it’s here, at the top, that the skies are so clear. After attaining success in various avenues, selling my business for a tidy sum, and entering semi-retirement, I now know nothing will ever thwart my depression. I could be king of the world and have a life of non-stop pleasure, and it probably wouldn’t be good enough.
Even after being saved from the brink of death, sutured and stapled back together, psychoanalyzed, and medicated, my depression is still very much alive.
Why? I’m a product of flawed biological forces, an assembly line without quality control. Out of the box, my brain and body don’t work well. I have chronic stomach pain, impaired nutrient absorption, a litany of food sensitivities — and life couldn’t care less: It just wants me to endure and survive, as it does for all humans, regardless of how much they suffer.
So toil away towards a better future if you must. But if you’re like me, know that it may never be enough.
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