Depression is a monster that torments many of us. The damn thing just won’t go away. It eventually will, I have no doubt. But for the moment, as we feel helpless to it and powerless to do anything about how it makes us feel, there is something you can do to leverage it for your own benefit and gain.
Depression can be thought of as anger turned towards the self. This doesn’t describe depression perfectly and completely, but it’s an interesting and valid way of looking at it. Anger is an emotion that comes out to protect you from hurt. When you get angry, there’s usually, almost always actually, hurt behind it. There’s pain. The anger is trying to mask the pain, and also there to keep the cause of the pain and the hurt distant from you, so that it won’t hurt you again.
What does it mean when this anger is turned inward towards you? I think it means that you think that you are the one who hurt you. You are the source of the pain. It’s probably not true, but also there’s a kernel of truth in it, and the anger latches on to that kernel of truth to justify its position.
When you’re depressed, introspection and reflection come naturally for you. Because you believe you’re the source of the pain you feel, you naturally watch yourself all the time. You tend to internalize everything that’s wrong around you, and see it as somehow your fault. You always find a valid reason to justify the belief that it’s your fault, and the reasons are almost always very hard to fight against. Because they’re technically true, they’re factual.
Depression is an ocean I could create an entire category of posts about. With this one, I just wanna talk about how I leveraged my depression for my own gain, and how you can hopefully and probably do the same for yourself.
Because I was always so inwardly focused due to my chronic depression, it became very very easy to notice every little thing I do and think and say and the minute intentions behind my words and actions. At some point I realized that the psyche is an infinite well to explore. It’s deeper than the deepest ocean. You can explore your mind forever, and never get bored. It’s actually awesome haha.
So with this beast clutching my skull and pointing my eyes inward all the time, I decided to relax into it to some extent and study myself. I learned to enjoy watching how I tick. Turns out, my psyche, my humanity, my inner world, is the most interesting thing I could never have imagined. It’s never boring. It never ends. It’s always fruitful. And luckily for me, a lot of the world’s religions emphasize this inward journey as something very highly valued. In Islam, there’s two kinds of struggle: the Lesser Struggle, and the Greater Struggle. The Lesser Struggle is the outer struggle, out there in the real world. The Greater Struggle is the inner struggle, the struggle you have with yourself. So, while it wasn’t my voluntary choice to watch myself, I’m glad I had leaned on it and leveraged this extremely overpowering force that is depression for my benefit and enjoyment.
So, in watching myself, what I did was actually learn everything I could about what makes me tick. How does my mind work? What grabs my attention? What do I like? What do I not like? Why did I do this? Why did I want to say that? Why did I not want to eat this? Always looking for anything that tells me more about me. Always. Endlessly.
You must understand, that a leader who lacks self-awareness, will not be a leader for long. A person with power and authority will lose it quite fast without understanding themselves. If you have acquired influence over some people, and you don’t understand what you did to acquire it, and how it is that they’re susceptible to it, you will lose it fast, or, maybe more likely, you will abuse it and not even realize it. People will likely start to hate you, despise you, resent you, judge you, and want so badly to stay away from you because of how you abused your influence over them. All the while, with you utter lack of self-awareness and empathy, you have no clue what just happened.
When you reflect and try to understand yourself, you will understand how it is that you were susceptible and vulnerable to influence from others. How is it that this bully can tell you what to do, and you can’t stop yourself from blindly obeying like a slave? Well, you dig a little deeper within yourself and learn that because when the bully intimidated you, you had no idea what to do, so that vulnerability remains to this day, and the bully is leveraging that vulnerability of yours to influence you.
By understanding human nature this way, you understand better how to be effective in the world. You can make sure that your good intentions do not turn into abuse. You can understand how one’s love for others can turn them away. My depression and self-judgment has directed me to learn psychology, because the judgment was that I don’t understand people. Which wasn’t true, but it led me to study psychology, philosophy, spirituality, and religion.
When my depression kept telling me I’m stupid, I started studying and learning. When it told me that I don’t know anything about business, I learned everything about business (book-learning).
I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t understand that the judgments were false and unfair and generated by this depressive disorder, not by me, not by the world.
But on some level, I understood. I knew that I could face reality and free myself from this. But I didn’t want to (currently facing the part of me that doesn’t want to, it’s just hurtful to not want to now). Instead, I thought, I have this depression. Which at the time I didn’t understand was something called “depression”, and I didn’t know how common it was. I thought, I should leverage this depression before I kill it. It’s this constant force that tells me I need to be more than I am. So I’ll use it as like a speed boost (like a video game speed boost) to propel me forward into the most effective and productive and authentic forms of self-improvement available.
Now, I’m far from perfect. I’ve made mistakes in my life. Some worthy of regret. But I do have a few things that make me quite unique and exceptional in my own way. I attribute a lot of them to how I leveraged this depressive force within me for my own gain as a power boost.
Just to be clear though, if you have depression, aim only to free yourself from it. It’s almost certainly maladaptive (consult a therapist to guide you better than a blog post, and better than your mind which is plagued with depression that doesn’t want the best for you). It was ultimately a mistake that I played with the depression, I didn’t know any better.
But in the case that you’re doing everything you can, and please be honest with yourself as you decide this, and you can’t get past the depression in any way, and you feel genuinely powerless to it, and again be completely honest with yourself, it’s not at all worth deceiving yourself, then maybe you can leverage it for your benefit until you can kick it out of your house. It’s your house, you decide who gets to stay and who has to leave.