How Following Someone Else’s Path Can Lead to Depression

“Your anger? It’s telling you where you feel powerless. Is it anxiety? It’s telling you that something in your life is off balance. What is your fear? It’s telling you what you care about. Is it your apathy? It’s telling you where you’re overextended and burnt out. Your feelings aren’t random, they are messengers. And if you want to get anywhere, you need to be able to let them speak to you and tell you what you really need.” ~Brianna Wiest

My life was full of challenges, but it was also one of the best. I didn’t understand it when I first started struggling at eighteen, so I let years go by, accepting my state and letting life pass me by, following what I was told was the right path. Listening to family and friends about career and money issues and how I can keep up with the rest of the world. However, my illness worsened.

Later, as I deconstructed social systems and economies through my academic studies in political science—which really meant exploring human nature and society values—I began to make connections to my environment and my upbringing. It gave me the foundation to question everything I was accepting “as is.”

I slowly began to pull apart my life, moral by moral, value by value, questioning not only my peers but also my family’s interpretation of life.

I wasn’t very popular, but I found myself inquisitive. Each time I was triggered I would go back to the drawing boards to re-create another lesson. It was an experiment that I chose to make my own life. I gained four lessons that helped me overcome my depression.

1. Learn to deconstruct your past and design your future around your beliefs and values.

Children learn from others what they believe is right. It can be difficult to know what is right and how we should live our lives. WeWe believe in what is best for us.

As a child, I had to choose a path because it was more difficult than the one I chose. It is clear that I was not wanted to be hurt by my family. As I started to see myself as a person I was, it became difficult for me to understand the world because of my experience with life.

It was lonely and I had no one to talk to. This realization led me to realize that I had not been taught my true values and morals. I was influenced by the thoughts and opinions of family members, friends, and my parents. It was necessary to take all this apart and reconstruct these principles for me.

Depression is an expression of need. As famously stated by Jim Carrey, it is your body telling you, “f*ck you, I don’t want to be this character anymore.”

It became clear that my life experiences did not match my true values or morals. My personality wasn’t authentic.

We each have our own version of the “good life.” For some, it means getting a fancy nine-to-five job, getting married, and “settling down.” For some, it means travel, eat, repeat. I realized early on I was following someone else’s idea of the “good life” instead of my own.

2. Don’t live someone else’s plot and story, write your own one day at a time.

It took years for me to realize that I was not living my life, I was trying to live a perceived notion of what I thought life “should be.” I was always forcing experiences to fit into this box of what life was supposed to be so I could justify them.

This is similar to writing an argumentative academic paper. To be able to use these primary sources as references, you need to align them with your arguments and views. Problem was, my sources (what I was taught) were not compatible with my argument and viewpoint (what actually I wanted).

I was naturally depressed. My life made no sense. I was forced to stop on the highway because of oncoming traffic.

Fear of uncertain futures is something that humans are fearful of. Uncertainty is a fear that we don’t know where our lives will lead us. With directions, it is simpler to find a path. It’s difficult to just take your car, hit the road, and hope for the best.

The road was my destination. My goal was to drive long distances without a destination. Because I was from Alberta in Canada and the Rockies nearby, I used to pack my bag and drive until I came across a stop I loved. I would reach the British Columbia border and realize I’d been driving for hours. The drive wasn’t a destination but it was fun and therapeutic. It’s amazing what we could all do if our lives were like this.

To make sure that our retirement plans will be in order, so that we do not go hungry or broke, we work hard to live a happy life. EventuallyWithout enjoying the present life.

It was once necessary to survive in survival mode in human history. I won’t argue that money doesn’t buy happiness, because I definitely needed gas money. But, while we create a plan to make money, support ourselves, and save for retirement, we need to enjoy the moments—because our story is always unfolding right now.

3. Don’t wait until you become who you want to be to love yourself.

Before I could accept who I was, I believed I had to be a certain person. First, I had to be someone before I could love.

Thinking I’d love myself better if I were smarter, I thought. While I felt smarter, and I did get two more degrees, it still left me feeling less. Then, I decided that if I become a model, then I’d be proud of my self. I went on to become a model but never found the courage and self-love I needed, despite being encouraged by others. After that, I decided to love myself even more if I had a good job with more money. While I did get a job that was more lucrative, my illness didn’t go away.

No matter what my status was, the prize kept getting further away from me. I just would not let myself “make it.”

When I looked over my prize collection, I realized just how tiny they all were. No wonder I wasn’t impressed with myself. Not to make myself a better person, but to have enough love for myself that I can do what I like. Respect myself and only seek out prizes that I find meaningful.

They should see me as an extension of my collection, not mine. My accomplishments, life, and character are what I choose to define, but I’m not defined by them.

To truly love myself, you must respect yourself. You can love yourself right where you are, as long as you continue to grow and become the best version of you.

If you love yourself unconditionally, it is easier to find things that are right for you.

My goal was to be a public servant. I switched to writing. I started to take it slow and enjoy the day. I became an early riser. This is how I look and feel.

4. Living a life of purpose and meaning is possible

You can easily follow the expected path and do what is required. But to dig deep to find a path that feels right for you provides a high that even drugs can’t replace.

You can choose to work as a writer or humanitarian. Or give up capitalism and become a monk. You must create a lifestyle that is true to your values and reflects your character.

The meaning of life is what makes our lives worthwhile.

Emotional creatures are far more common than any other animal. Therefore, our lives must be guided by purpose or we’ll feel empty. No matter what your occupation, find things that are exciting and provide you with a sense purpose.

To have purpose and meaning in your life you don’t need to do huge things like leading a nation or moving across the world to be a doctor without borders. They are wonderful and important. But your meaning and purpose are unique.

A friend once asked the representative of United Nations about how one could apply for a job there to help make a positive difference. She answered, rather than trying to save the world by being in the UN, do things that make you feel you’re making an impact even if it is just in your local area. It’s possible to apply this principle in our daily lives.

You can define purpose as being a person who is kind to people and yourself. You might also find it means building authentic relationships rather than trying to fit in with others.

Living life to your purpose is about being true to you. You never know what you may find yourself doing at the United Nations.

Vibhu Kher

Vibhu is a writer/blogger with a master’s in public policy and a bachelors in political science, currently pursuing a career toward policy analysis. She was born and raised in Canada, but she is fluent in multiple social system perspectives. As a means to increase awareness and share her life experiences, as well as academic knowledge, she uses her blog. Find her here on LinkedIn.

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