I don’t know if I personally would say that my life has been “hard”. I hear people use this to describe their life; “I have fallen on hard times”. But I don’t know, it doesn’t seem to be a relatable feeling. I have had to solve “hard” problems. Whether it is a math problem with seemingly random symbols or trying to comprehend why my parents won’t get along with each other.
I think I would say my life has been “challenging” and I try my best to work every day to make it less challenging in certain ways so I can make room for challenges that I actually want. If something happens with a friend where we aren’t communicating well, I try my best to resolve this problem. I do this because I know I won’t be able to focus on writing the code I want. I want to be challenged by code, I don’t want to be challenged by emotions.
Fortunately for me, it seems that I have a pretty good idea about how to tackle emotions. I like to think that I have been blessed by an innate ability to see and understand patterns, as well as having environments in my life that have made me feel safe and secure. In high school I was in an incredible school program for nerds, in college I was a part of a student run cyber security lab, I dropped out of school to work at Uber with Phds and other drop outs who all had incredible passion for the work they did. Ever since high school, I have been a part of at least one group who made me feel _seen_ for who I was.
When I talk at length with my friends and peers about how they are doing, I grow more and more surprised? shocked? with every conversation. It is obviously purely qualitative, but goddamn, it seems like everyone experiences some degree of depression? Even my friends who permanently have a smile on their face, same thing, some type of perpetual sadness.
I want to be very careful when addressing this because:
I don’t want to seem oblivious, yes I see how much pain there is in the world
Insensitive to people’s very real feelings of depression
Make those reading this to feel like I am saying “haha you have depression and I don’t”. I am very sensitive to other’s feelings around me, and it makes me sad that others so close to me experience this.
The thing is I just simply don’t experience what people describe when they describe depression. It is sometimes hard to get out of bed in the morning, but it has never seemed “impossible” as people have described. Days haven’t passed where it feels like I have done “nothing important”. Reflecting on my life, I realize I have unintentionally been trying to solve these feelings for others my whole life. Most namely my parent’s. Playing counselor for their shouting matches has left me with two things: an intuitive ability to speak non-confrontationally, but also a deep complex I have around trying to solve other’s problems.
These things have significantly affected my life and being able to address feelings in a productive way has been something you can’t even begin to put a price on. This deep vulnerability however, has been something I have struggled with, most notably in regards to close friendships and romantic ones. I have fought really hard with myself to over come this, but at the end of the day the true force that got me out of these situations is simply one thing; my support system.
My friends, family, co-workers, even regular people I would see at boxing or the skate park. These are the people who showed me what love and respect should look like. Just before I went through a really tough breakup I was able to visit with a number of friends and what hit me, I’m talking a real “hitting me like a brick” scenario, was that how I feel around my good friends is how I should always be feeling. I feel safe and secure around these people, I can be myself, who made me feel _seen_. Well then why would I ever be around someone who wasn’t making me feel that way? The math just didn’t add up.
There is an amazing book that I try to get people to read. It is incredibly terse so I understand if you don’t want to read it. Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam looks at how social life in the US has changed over time. The TL;DR is that groups and physical spaces where people would congregate are significantly declining as people find their social connections becoming more digital. Sitting in front of the radio listening to cowboy westerns, became watching them on TV, and now you watch a new western every month on your phone. This may seem like an obvious point, but an important one. Digital relationships are different. You can’t get hugged from across the Internet in a way that someone from a support group could do if you break down crying. Deeply human activities like exercising are limited. It becomes a lot easier to bully a faceless victim with words, which in turn forces victims into safe spaces which almost inevitably become echo chambers of emotion. I said “different” for a reason. Digital relationships are not inherently bad. I have built many relationships from various chat rooms (granted I have always made it a point to meet with them physically, eventually). The most compelling argument for how a digital presence is actually incredibly positive can be found in this documentary about VR chat.
This pain I discover in so many people is what is holding us back. No, I am not trying be profound here, I am just stating a fact. How can we be collectively working towards “the perfect thing”, whatever that may be, when there is so much unaccounted pain day to day? Universally embracing mental health has become so painfully obvious to me as what we should be investing in understanding, and yet the research in the field of psychology is underwhelming. My girlfriend, who studied psychology, explained to me that there was this research who proved that the results of most psychology studies up until some point were not satisfactory. This single study essentially reversed decades of work. The study of psychedelics has been something that has interested me greatly. The ability to visualize these things that hold us back sounds so incredibly powerful to me and they are actually effective at curing depression! I’ll save my thoughts on this for another post, I think I should probably end this one 🤣
There is only one thing I want you to walking away from this post thinking about. I want you to think about the ways that you feel seen and what you do to make others feel seen. This might seem incredibly confusing, but just think about it next time you are in a group of friends. What does someone do that makes you feel good? Do they smile at you? Remember something important about you? Do you like the inside jokes you have with each other? Perhaps you realize you actually don’t feel seen by your friends. Maybe a friend says something that makes your chest tighten. Perhaps you realize you can’t share something important about yourself with everyone because people would laugh. I really believe if we want to start healing from the “things that hold us back” we have to be conscious about these things about ourselves. Good luck out there! Life is freaking hard man 🤣