What Debt and Depression Taught Me in 2018

Everything seemed to be going just swell. I was in a new, promising relationship with an amazing girl. I had just started the new business I was dying to start for years. I was traveling the world. And, I was in the best shape of my life (thanks to a mostly vegan diet). Too bad […]

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Everything seemed to be going just swell.

I was in a new, promising relationship with an amazing girl. I had just started the new business I was dying to start for years. I was traveling the world. And, I was in the best shape of my life (thanks to a mostly vegan diet).

Too bad this diet didn’t include humble pie, because within a few short months, I crashed harder than a motor vehicle being run through vigorous crash tests.

Bye-bye relationship, bye-bye new business, bye-bye freedom. Hello $12,000 in debt, hello Generalized Anxiety Disorder, hello Mom’s house.

For years, I’ve been battling anxiety, and I’ve gone in and out of depressive states, but nothing that I didn’t think was out of the ordinary. This time was different, however.

If you’re not familiar with it, Generalized Anxiety Disorder produces persistent and excessive stress about things that most people can deal with. Whereas a “regular” person uses conscious and subconscious coping mechanisms to overcome day-to-day stress, someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder becomes mentally paralyzed by even the most insignificant stresses, which inhibits their ability to function socially, professionally, and otherwise.

For me, this meant I couldn’t engage in any meaningful work or relationships (including with some family members). Without a decent job, I was unable to start paying off my debt, let alone paying for my rent, so I had to move back to my mom’s house. It quickly became a vicious cycle, which only worsened my depression and anxiety.

Thanks to the tremendous help of my family, I started seeing a psychologist, who recommended I take anti-anxiety medication. I also started reading and listening to audiobooks to gain external perspectives, including The Way of the Superior Man, Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, and Ego Is the Enemy. And, with the help of my psychologist, I made a plan with realistic timelines and goals for getting out of debt and, really, regaining my freedom.

While I’m still going through the process of rehabilitation, I’ve made excellent strides in combatting Generalized Anxiety Disorder, reinventing my career, and finding deeper meaning in my life. Here are the lessons I learned throughout this process:

Be open-minded to various treatments.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been totally against pharmaceuticals. Even when I’m sick with a cold or the flu, I do everything possible to avoid medicating myself with synthetic remedies.

When I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, however, I quickly became open to virtually any treatment that would rid my mind of this psychologically arresting condition.

Medication isn’t a standalone treatment, though. Talk-therapy, exercise, and meditation (or what Sir John Hargrave calls a “concentration game” in his book Mind Hacking) proved to be extremely helpful as well.

The key, I found, was not just engaging with these treatments in times of crisis, but sticking with them even when everything appears to be fine and dandy.

Be humble in action.

I’m predisposed to being extremely confident and borderline cocky. When everything is good in my life, these traits compound into what eventually becomes an unhealthy outlook.

I used to think “being humble” was how you spoke to yourself and to other people, but this year I learned being humble is more of an action than thoughts or words; it’s about living a modest life when your job pays you an immodest income.

For example, I used to take taxis and eat at restaurants more frequently when I was making “good” money. Nowadays, I try to use public transportation and prepare meals at home as much as possible, even though I’m making “good” money again.

In general, I’m constantly seeking ways in which I can be more economically efficient, which not only saves me money but, more importantly, keeps my confidence in check.

Time isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Time is a double-edged sword. On one hand, allowing time to take its course usually aids difficult situations. On the other hand, being proactive and making the most out of each moment will expedite the amount of time it takes to move past such situations.

Ultimately, I learned that investing as much time as possible in five core areas — physical activity, spirituality, learning, self-belief, and a passion project — is the fastest route to rebuilding a broken ship around.

The idea isn’t just to stay busy for the sake of letting time pass, but to be purposeful with your tasks and activities. In other words, don’t fall into the trap of mistaking motion for progress.

And, when you inevitably turn the ship around, keep proceeding with the devices that propelled your progress. During previous instances in which I dug myself out of a hole, I’d slowly but surely fall back into bad habits, instead of staying the course.

Now I know not to let up, even when the sun starts to shine a little brighter.

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