A few weeks ago I had an unexpected meltdown in the middle of a Boston street at 8:30 in the morning. I was making my way downtown (walking fast) and listening to “Twenty Eight” by the Weeknd when I suddenly just started to bawl my eyes out in front of a group of tourists who were in no way prepared for this type of erratic behavior. Now I’m not entirely sure why this song triggered such an emotional response; I don’t really relate to the song on any level. The whole song is basically just the Weeknd being pissed at a girl for telling her friends how good he was in bed, which I can’t really relate to for obvious reasons, the primary ones being that I don’t have sex with women (or at all). But for some reason or another that song was what finally pushed to my long overdue meltdown; the anxiety, self doubt, and manic thoughts I had been having for months had officially overwhelmed me.
I don’t know what I want to do after I graduate from school; I feel like I don’t have the job experience or innate talent to land a job in one of my dream fields, and I’ve recently discovered that I really don’t want to be poor for the rest of my life. Up until this point I’d been able to keep afloat because my life has been full of attainable goals and easy routines. I didn’t have to worry about the big picture or ask myself if what I want from life is truly realistic. I simply had to worry about homework, social clubs, and whether or not the 3am crab rangoons I ate were going to cause internal bleeding.
Now if you know me well you know that I use self deprecating humor to (thinly) mask my terrible self esteem. I’ve always been that way; I’m a Gen Y dreamer caught between thinking that he’s destined to do great things and feeling like he has little to offer the world. The anxiety my bipolar thought process has created has only gotten worse in recent months. Every day I wake up I’m either entirely convinced that I am going to be a famous writer and someday have my own Wikipedia page, or I’m terrified that I am a talentless hack that will never get anywhere in life.
My career dreams and anxieties have begun to fuse with my deeply rooted self esteem issues and have triggered a type of depression I have never quite experienced before. The voice in my head no longer just tells me that I’m a bad writer, it tells me that I’m a useless person. It tells me that if I don’t make each and every single one of my dreams come true that I will have wasted my life, it says “You have a purpose and if you don’t fulfill it then you shouldn’t be here.” And what’s most annoying is the fact that my brain tells me I have a purpose and then goes and inhibits me from achieving that purpose by plaguing me with self doubt and crippling insecurities. There’s no way I can win.
Some days I feel like I have absolutely nothing to offer the world, and it’s incredibly difficult to resist thinking that there’s no point to anything that I’m doing. It’s really scary when the voice in your head tells you that you will never truly be happy, it’s even scarier when it calmly (almost rationally) suggests that you should just kill yourself to spare yourself of the inevitable disappointments you will endure. Now don’t fret kittens, I have no desire to actually end my life. I’m fortunate enough to have known a lot about depression prior to experiencing it myself so I understand that the voice in my head is a lot like a siren’s song; it’s simply baiting me to do something stupid, and I’m aware that the reason I’m thinking this way is more a result of a chemical imbalance than true life circumstances. I have to constantly remind myself that when I have these thoughts that they are nothing but irrational and obnoxious brain spam messages and that there’s no point in entertaining them. It’s not an easy thing to ignore, and I often find myself indulging in such dangerous thinking, but I’m doing the best I can to stay occupied and surround myself with enough noise that I don’t hear them as loudly.
The other day I read an article entitled “Why Generation Y is Unhappy“, which actually inspired me to write this piece. It’s basically about how our generation has been told for so long that we’re special that it’s actually had an adverse effect on our lives. We think we deserve the world, but we’re suddenly realizing that we don’t necessarily have the skills and talent needed to achieve what we’ve outlandishly defined as happiness. The article made me realize that I perhaps need to take a step outside of myself and accept that life isn’t just about me; I’m not the protagonist of a special story, I’m not fundamentally destined to be more than other people. Dreaming is incredibly important, but we shouldn’t dream so ridiculously that we become crushed when we don’t reach those expectations. We should remember that being alive and healthy is such a gift in and of itself and that what we do for a living doesn’t determine how worthwhile our lives are. I have begun to accept that perhaps I won’t be a world famous writer and that I shouldn’t feel like that’s what I have to be. I should start with small, accomplishable goals, and push myself to always move forward and grow as a person. We should realize that sometimes it’s not about being the best or being the most accomplished, it’s about helping others and being someone that brings joy to other people’s lives.
I know that my depression can’t be magically solved by what I’ve learned from reading this article. What I’m doing my best to accept though is that I don’t need to be an immediate success upon graduating; I can’t and shouldn’t tell myself I’ve failed before I’ve even started. Life has a funny way of just happening and you’d be surprised how much joy you can experience if you allow yourself to be happy. I mean if you want to sit in a dark room and cry over the fact that you didn’t get your dream job out of college be my guest, but I’d rather think about all of the good things happening in my life. It’s okay to be sad and disappointed sometimes, but you should never choose to wallow in it. Sadness is human and should be felt, but if you wallow in it, it will consume you completely. I can sit here and freak out over the fact that I don’t have as much job experience as other people, or worry about whether or not I’m fulfilling my human purpose, or I can just take things as they come and tell myself that they can and will work out, and for the sake of my mental health, that’s what I’m going to do.