Welcome to depression
For the past 3 weeks, every Sunday evening, at around 830pm, you will see me seated at Burger King, bent over a tray of chicken, eating alone.
In times like that, it’s easy to fall into a trap of ‘woe-be-me’, and to think about how difficult and lonely life is.
Maybe that’s what you feel now. You’re sat, alone at work. You’re looking at the clock, wondering when work ends.
But even when work ends, you realise that there’s nothing you’re looking forward to after work.
Life feels horrible when you’re facing down the barrel of an empty Sunday afternoon, wondering what you’re going to do. Or when you knock off work, and gently drag your feet, having nowhere to go.
Welcome to depression in your late twenties.
Before we go on, let me first say that whilst I was trained in social work, I do not have any degrees in medicine that allow me to diagnose you. My first advice is for you to visit the doctor if you’ve felt off for a long time.
Don’t ask me how off you need to feel, or how long this needs to be. You will know it deep within. Probably the only thing holding you back is the fear that no one can help you.
Why it happens
Why does depression in your late twenties happen? As someone who took antidepressants in my mid-twenties, the first thing I realised was how I’d been constantly comparing.
You’re comparing yourself
Do you notice how you never seem to compare yourself to someone worse off than you, but instead compare yourself to someone better?
You will always land up as the loser when you compare. The only person you should be comparing to is yourself of yesterday. Warren Buffett, the world’s famed investor, talks about this in terms of having an inner scorecard. Rather than looking outwards for validation on what he’s doing, he’s always looks within.
But in today’s world of social media, this can be increasingly difficult. You’re always fed a skewed perception of life by looking at the achievements of people over social media, rather than the truth.
This may not be helpful in the long run.
That’s why you look at the marriages of others, the homes they buy, the milestones they achieve, and you look at your own life – and you think – my life sucks!
Of course it does! Your friends didn’t show you the late nights spent quarrelling with their spouse. Or the long nights spent rocking the baby to sleep. Or the times when they struggle to meet their bills.
Stop looking outwards. Start looking inwards and celebrating the little milestones you reach.
You think of adulthood as a dull, serious affair
Adulthood, doesn’t have to be that serious. Sure, maybe you’re earning more money now. Or you have a mortgage to settle. Or people to feed.
But there’s no reason why you can’t have fun.
Too often we take this idea of growing up with being bored. We think that growing up is about acting like a grownup, not being able to have fun, and make silly jokes, or do stupid things.
You can. And it doesn’t matter. No one really cares.
One way I’ve found this easier for myself is by learning something like Salsa. Salsa is a partner dance where the guy has to lead the move. But it’s also incredibly complex. It’s difficult. Tripping over my feet, and making a fool of myself in front of another lady isn’t necessarily the sexiest thing to do, but it’s taught me to laugh at myself.
In the same vein, you can laugh at yourself. It doesn’t have to be that serious.
Take something you’ve been interested in for a while, approach it with a beginner’s mind, and start to do something with it.
You’re doing what you need to, not what you want
In his book, ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, Dr Glover talks about how men often don’t get what they want because they ‘give to get’. This is the phenomenon where you give something you need, rather than what the receiver needs.
It ends up being a covert contract where you’re not explicitly talking about what you need from the other party, but you become disappointed when the other person doesn’t give you what you want.
You may not be happy at whatever you’re doing in your life because you’re constantly fulfilling your duties to others, but not to yourself. You may find yourself doing a job that you don’t want, simply because you’re trying to please someone else.
Do something you want. This is not about being selfish. When I left my fulltime job to be a writer, I realised that I finally found happiness for the first time. For years in my fulltime job, I had been satisfying my parents’ idea of what a ‘good’ life meant – a steady income, a retirement benefits, but I never fulfilled what I wanted from a job myself.
Today, as I sit and write, its come to a point where I’m grateful for the chance to serve and make myself happy. As selfish as this sounds, it’s vital to be selfish. You’re only responsible for yourself. No one else is. As Dr Cloud, the author behind Boundaries argues, you’re 100% responsible for yourself. Dr Glover agrees.
‘No one is put on this earth to fulfil your needs, except yourself.’
You need to be first responsible for what you need from life.
Late twenties happiness starts with personal ownership
It’s vital that you come to your late twenties making this fundamental shift in mindset. No one is going to take care of you except yourself. And you don’t have to take care of anyone else except yourself.
Knowing this, you need to start taking efforts to make that happen.