My depression was a gift

Alex McCullough

Alex McCullough

Jan 20, 2020 — 3 mins read

Prior to the past 2 years I spent the majority of the previous decade roiled in depression. I wasn’t down all the time, but when I was, I was very down.

One particularly gruesome episode came after watching a documentary about the prison system in the US. I felt so distraught and confused and angry at the fact that there is so much evil in the world, guilty for not having been affected by it myself, and helpless to do anything about it.

I was done for weeks, unable to feel anything positive at all. On top of that pain I was upset with myself for feeling it. Other people exist without the crushing weight of all the world’s problems coming down on their shoulders, why couldn’t I just be normal? Why couldn’t I accept life as it is, get a normal job and be happy?

I don’t remember how long this specific episode lasted or what brought me out of it. I do know that what finally helped me emerge from my overall depression was not to accept life as it is and just get a job, but to accept myself and stop being ashamed, embarrassed or scared to live the way I actually wanted to.

I never had a ‘passion’ or grand career ambition. I just wanted to be a travel bum and work my way around the world. One day I realized that all this time trying to force myself to ‘accept life’ had lead to me achieving exactly nothing to solve anyone’s problems. If that was the result of trying to fit in with what my parents, or society expected of me, why not just roll the dice and listen to myself instead?

Still at my parents’ house, I started working as a Lyft driver to save money. It wasn’t glamorous, but I began to see light at the end of the tunnel and my mood got noticeably better. I went vegan, an actionable step I could take to improve my carbon footprint and my health, and my depression took a 3 month+ hiatus. I began seeing my friends again. I hadn’t even started traveling yet, but I was slowly marching towards a goal, and I felt great.

Fast forward to the present, and in the past 2 years I’ve seen 7 countries and spent 11 months on the road. I’ve stopped back home to work for short periods, and I’ve worked while traveling, making just enough to break even. More importantly: I’m happy.

I’m beyond blessed to have had the support system and the luck to get over my depression, but at some point in the past 2 years, I’ve started to see it in a different light.

My depression was and still is a gift. It was a guiding light telling me that I was not living the way I should be. When I started listening to that guiding light rather than fighting it, my depression turned around and became a source of self love. Telling myself I was worthless if I didn’t solve the world’s biggest problems did absolutely nothing to solve the world’s biggest problems. It just made my personal world miserable.

Accepting myself for who I am and putting myself first has turned me into someone who is fun to be around and full of love. I know how to love myself and love others, and at the very least I can make my world and the world of those around me a little bit better to be in. At the end of the day, that’s enough.

Now I consider myself blessed to actually care about and have an emotional relationship with the world. I consider myself lucky to have the capacity for depression. Without it, I may never have learned to truly be happy.