The Problem of Adding Value When Depressed
A lot is said about the importance of adding value to others’ lives, particularly with regards to connecting with people, positive mental health, and also increasing some virtual numbers such as website hits or social media followers. Adding value when depressed often seems as likely as going into a burger joint and trying to buy a car.
I’ll freely admit that when I see an article about the importance of adding value in my news feed, the shutters of gloom slam shut in my mind. A familiar thought then starts pacing the mental corridors: I don’t even add value to my own life, how the fuck am I going to add it to others?
I’m an ill, depressed guy struggling to make money and to carve out any sense of being a part of the world, tying myself in knots trying to give myself some worth somehow.
If I see another ill, depressed guy struggling in the same way, thoughts along the lines of them not having any worth wouldn’t even cross my mind. The same applies to anyone else I see, they don’t need to prove their worth to justify being alive, being here is worth enough.
Sure, if someone pisses me off or commits some atrocity, I might revise that sentiment at the time, but on the whole, barring these special cases, people don’t have to do anything special to get the proverbial thumbs up from me.
Being here is worth enough. I know this intellectually, but the saying that goes along the lines of “the journey from the head to the heart is a long one” couldn’t be more right.
It’s not even a case of falling into the trap of comparing myself with others, I’m more than capable of kicking myself even when in a social vacuum.
The Stick That Smashed The Carrot
I think a largish part of the problem is that sometimes being so harsh on myself has produced the desired result.
As an example, I have continuous issues with my weight, as being active is complicated by my health problems. Nothing seems to help me lose more weight than turning any kind of diet that I might be on, into some kind of self punishment for being the way I am.
Every hunger pang takes on the guise of a pain well earned, every impulse to eat denied becomes a mental slap on the hand that feeds. It’s all a bit masochistic in a way. The weight comes off, the result is achieved. The pattern is set for other areas of my life.
I know that attaining goals in this way is harmful. I know that it flicks a switch in my mind that is hard to turn back off again, leaving me more emotionally numb to the positives in life. It also makes me more susceptible to the upsetting emotions that seem to be permanent residents in my body.
The Carrot That Went To Sea
Depression is truly mind numbing: it cripples my creativity and sends my motivation to the moon.
It’s often hard to see any kind of future for myself that would be worth living. I do have some very low aspirations for what would constitute a reasonable future, but rather than being helpful in their mediocrity, they seem to make being thwarted even harder to deal with.
I know there are various ways to reframe how you view your life, learning to be more flexible in your thinking and showing yourself self-compassion along the way. I really, really get it.
In practice, I can do it a small proportion of the time, so I know it can be done. I also realise I’m making more progress than I’m aware of at least half of the time.
I need to keep coming back to the same theme though, over and over until it does reach my heart:
"I am enough as I am, whatever else happens in my life, either through my actions or outside of my control. I am enough."
Maybe one day I will feel it on more than on an intellectual level. Maybe I will be able to see the ways that I can and do add value to the lives of the people around me, the small acts of kindness that I do carry out, and the ways that I do actually help other people. Maybe on the following day, I will be able to see the ways that I am actually kind to myself too.
Until that time, I will try to anchor myself to the idea of being enough, and hope that it holds firm in the choppy mental seas that surround me. I might even see a mermaid too, you never know. I could ask her if she wanted to join me and rest awhile, all of that swimming must be very tiring after all. Ooh I was just kind to a self-made mental construct. It’s starting already.