“Hey, I think I might be depressed”
I said that to my wife one day as I looked up the different signs of depression.
Hopeless outlook? Checked.
Loss of interest? Checked.
Fatigue and sleep problems? Checked.
Anxiety? Definitely checked - with the bouts of anxiety attacks
Irritability? Yep, my wife can attest to that.
What doesn't make sense is… “How, and why, am I depressed?”
After all, I probably have what everyone else asked for.
In terms of career, it’s probably one of the most fulfilling ones out there. I’m helping shape the future of trade at an international level. I’ve launched some large-scale projects that I’m super proud of. I’ve supportive bosses and peers. Even my product owners were awesome — I consistently tell other engineers how my team has the best POs around. And the cherry on top, I have a great work-life balance.
In terms of life, I’ve recently been married to a superwoman who is supportive of everything I wanted to do, an amazing sounding board for my crazy ideas, and my emotional safety net for the day when I’m not feeling my 100 percent. We’ve just moved into our newly renovated apartment with our lovely dog. It’s us 3 against the lockdowns.
Financially, I’m in good standing. My salary would place me comfortably within the top 10 percentile of my age group (source: 2019 salary benchmark by age). My passive income would cover my basic survival expenses comfortably (source: 11 stages of wealth). Basically, I’m not sweating the small stuff anymore.
So theoretically I would be the last person to be depressed…
Apparently, mental health problems like depression and burnout affect everyone — even the most successful people out there (by societal standards).
Realizing that I might be depressed led me down the rabbit hole of understanding mental health...
I started to compare the difference between depression and burnout and found that it is subtle. While there are really articles out there that might point out the difference, I find that it’s not as important to find the correct label as to knowing that you are unwell. To date, I’m not sure if I'm depressed or burned out, but it didn't matter to me anymore if I got the label right.
I started to uncover stories of others who have been through similar journeys. I found that knowing there are similar people out there who are in a similar situation helps me understand what I’m going through. Some articles I find useful for me were:
In them, I learned that you don’t actually know how near or far are you from your “recovery” or if there is one ever. For many of them, it just became a part of them.
I’ve also tried attending a few counseling sessions online. I hated it.
I’ve tried BetterHelp but the counselors were unresponsive, and when they do reply, it’s in a different timezone. Booking an online session means waiting up to 2 weeks for a slot. In the end, I only became angrier at the counselor and platform.
I’ve also tried SafeSpace (I was matched with Dr. Jasmine from The Private Practice)and it was far better than BetterHelp. The only issue is that it’s also an order more expensive. But the session was almost life-changing…
“What makes you happy”
“You have listed all the things that you have that other people want. What about you? What do you want?”
That question knocked me over. I’ve never actually thought about what I like to do!
I thought I might like to play games, but I ended up feeling frustrated at myself for wasting time. I thought I might like reading, but I was reading to fill information gaps than enjoying the process itself. The list goes on.
So apparently I’ve been busy in my life checking checkboxes off checklists of my society.
Apparently, Raymond 1.0 didn't work out. I need a new sustainable model…
Quitting my job is the first step in this search for a sustainable model of myself…
I’m letting go of something I’m the proudest of and it’s hard. David Brook compares life to two mountains in his book The Second Mountain: The Joy of Giving Yourself Away.
If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self. If the first mountain is about the acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution. If the first mountain is elitist — moving up — the second mountain is egalitarian — planting yourself amid those who need and walking arm in arm with them.
I realized that I like building software that people use.
I realized that I cared about privacy (much more than politicians would).
I realized that I care a lot more about mental wellbeing — which is why I chose to write this.
With these callings, I’m now working on helping companies create a safe space for employees to talk about their mental well-being — to help prevent more of v1.0 Raymond from quitting their jobs after a burnout.
If you are currently in employment feeling the symptoms and want to help me in my research (all meeting details will be kept confidential), do contact me.
If you are an HR manager for your organization or a caring manager for your team and want to create a more empathetic & conducive working environment (and fix your employee retention rate), do contact me.
If you are a UX researcher who is interested in assisting with the research, do reach out.
If you know of someone who needs to read this, send this article to them.
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