I’ve had bouts of depression throughout my nearly 30 years on this planet. One of the reasons for starting this website was to describe what has helped me, but to also further examine deep subjects like meaning and responsibility.
I’ve written previously about overcoming depression and how to survive depression by having a network here, but this post aims to explore the idea of overcoming depression through usefulness. Not in the sense of holding doors open for other people, but by giving (or at least pursuing) your life a deeper meaning and having usefulness being a byproduct of that.
I’ve written before about how and why I was depressed and how other people find themselves depressed too. I have reached an understanding that being depressed is not as simple as having a chemical imbalance in your brain, but there are other lifestyle and belief issues that can heavily influence your mood. How we see and interact with the world plays a huge part in our overall mood, as are the things we are exposed to. For example, if you were exposed to abuse as a child, it’s understandable that you may hold negative, depressing thoughts and behaviours.
Depression can be a very isolated experience. We often find ourselves thinking that everything is doom and gloom, we’re no good as individuals, and there is no future for us that seems enjoyable. In other words, we focus on ourselves and how bad things have got for us. I’m not saying it’s a totally selfish experience, or being depressed makes your selfish, but it can easily cloud our overall perspective on what the true meaning of our lives is.
My depression was caused by a lack of meaning in my life – even though I had an admirable life to others. And even with the things that seem like a ‘good lifestyle’, I still had a painful emptiness inside of me. Truth be told, I felt guilty about it. It would have seemed like I had no reason to be depressed.
But depression is a funny thing – it can be caused and treated in many different ways. No one way will work for everyone. And finding underlining issues that extend past your depression can often help.
For me, I reached a point where my life seemed meaningless. As if all I was doing was living on a hamster wheel, never really getting where I wanted to be. It felt as if there really was no point to life at all, because all I would continue to do was live a mundane life of going to work every day, and occasionally, doing something fun at the weekend that would take my mind off how dim my life looked.
However, this was a selfish inward way of looking. It was as if I was judging my happiness based on my own life experiences and what I could get out of the world.
It’s no wonder we behave this way – we can only look at the world through our own two eyes physically. It can take a great deal of patience and conscious persistence to see things from a different perspective.
Finding Meaning In Your Own Life
Let’s be honest, finding meaning or ‘purpose’ in your life has become kind of cliche or cringy at best. Everyone wants to find some meaning in waking up and going out of the front door in the morning. They want to feel as if their actions are leading somewhere or helping the world in some way. If you’re religious you probably believe that your meaning in life is to serve your god. If you’re a man or woman of science, you probably think your meaning of life is to follow logic and solve worldly problems.
People seem to cling to movements that make them feel like their lives have meaning. After all, without meaning, you become totally lost and nothing seems to matter – you can even become depressed as I did. Some people even have children just to give them a sense of meaning and purpose!
So how do you give your life meaning and be useful to your community? I would argue that meaning is different for everyone, but a healthy meaning is one that is naturally useful to others. I believe that a healthy meaning that organically helps your wider community is one that revolves around a chosen purpose. For example, writing this blog has given me a sense of higher purpose that’s bigger than myself. It’s not something I view as a ‘mission’ or something that inflates my ego, but instead something that comes from me naturally as I share my views.
It’s one that I do not force myself to pursue, but instead, do because I love to do it and interact with other people. I’ve had positive responses from people telling me that my words have helped them to see depression in a new light and so the positive effects have a ripple effect on the wider community. If I had continued to stay inside my head and dwell on my negative thoughts, I would never have had a positive effect on someone else no matter how big or small.
Having a higher purpose in your life that you’ve chosen can help more people than you to move out of the depression caused by a loss of meaning in life. It can also ripple out and lift other people who are suffering.
There are lots of different meanings to life that others will usually try to portray as the ‘right meaning’, but there really is no one right way at all. It is a personal experience that is figured out by each individual.
Not Contributing In Any Meaning Or Useful Way Caused Me Emotional Stress
Not contributing in any meaningful or useful way caused me a great deal of emotional stress in the form of depression. feeling like my life had no meaning, I spiralled downwards into nothingness. I’m not saying that finding meaning in your own life will heal you from depression, but it has certainly helped me personally. As someone who has found it hard to be satisfied in life, I’ve always questioned what the point or what the meaning of my life is and was.
Eventually, that gained in momentum to the point where it became an obsession. My point is – being useful gives you a sense of purpose or meaning. It’s why lonely people can easily suffer from a variety of intense medical and psychological experiences issues, including depression.
Although what you might call ‘meaning in life’ varies dramatically for each person, I believe the overarching meaning we should be living by is helping to guide others who might be one step behind us. Whilst we have evolved in many times of war, we can now be more conscious about helping other people get through their own difficult issues.
Getting Through Depression Can Give You Emotional Strength And Perspective
Moving past depression several times, I’ve come to see depression as a sometimes necessary experience. Only with great difficulty can you truly become stronger and gain a better perspective. It’s obviously not an easy thing to get through a lot of the time, but through persistence, you can move past it and reach a higher level of thinking that you never had before experiencing depression.
Nobody ever got stronger or gained a wider perspective by sitting on their couch shying away from the world. Only when we have difficult experiences and rise above them do we gain anything. We’re able to adapt and become better in all kinds of ways.
Having been through something like depression makes you incredibly useful to other people currently experiencing it. But your usefulness to others doesn’t have to stop with emotional struggles.
You can become more useful to others in all kinds of ways that organically begin to give your life a fuller and richer meaning.
The bottom line is this – instead of focusing on how bad things are for you, you can choose to become someone that other people look up to for guidance, because even though you may feel like you’re worthless or no good to anyone right now, there are many people who would benefit from your advice and experience. Helping other people continues to allow the world to go round. Talking, sharing, and listening is crucial for any difficulty we might face as a species.
Depression can be an unconscious self-indulging experience, but looking outward at the world and becoming more useful can be enough to shift perspective, and show you that you that you are needed and can be of some use to someone out there, at least it has been for me.
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