Photo: Maximilian Guy McNair MacEwan
It doesn’t take a tragedy to bring on depression—in truth, depression is more a result of the internal environment than the external. I was 27 years old, pursuing my dreams in beautiful Los Angeles, and I’d finally had a breakthrough in my business that allowed me to quit my job and do more fulfilling work. I wrote in a gratitude journal, exercised, and practiced personal development. I was privileged, and I knew to count my blessings. To any outsider, there was no room for depression in such a complete life.
Yet there I was, lying on the floor in my bedroom, feeling utterly unmotivated, uninspired, unworthy. Normally a high-achiever, I felt completely apathetic about life. Thought after disempowering thought ran through my head: "What does any of this matter? I could die and it wouldn't make a difference to the rest of the world. I don’t know what I want, and even if I get it, it probably won’t fulfill me. There is so much suffering in the world, and I can’t do anything about it."
"You have so much to be happy about. You should be grateful!" Even more hurtful was when I'd open up about what I was struggling with and people would seem resentful or angry about my feelings: "You don’t have a right to be depressed! There are people out there who have it so much worse. Suck it up and stop being such a wimp."
But I was no better. I did the same thing to myself. Because of all my privilege, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be unhappy. I made myself feel bad for feeling bad.
As hopeless and lost as I felt during those times, I look back on them now with gratitude. That experience helped me cultivate a sense of appreciation, empathy, and peace.
Before being consumed by apathy, I dreamed of being a personal development speaker and coach. I thought, "It’s funny how I can help others but still feel so stuck myself." Then, suddenly, the most obvious question came to mind: "If I were my own client, how would I coach me through this?"
The wheels began to turn, and I recognized that being stuck and depressed wasn’t a sign of my failure. Instead, it was a necessary tool for growth. I had a eureka moment: "This experience is exactly what I need to prepare myself to best serve others."
I no longer saw my situation as "wrong" or "bad" but rather as a crucial learning experience to help myself and others—as part of the training for me to live my true purpose.
That’s when I uncovered one of the most liberating insights of my life: