A couple weeks ago I sat and waited for my shift to begin at Shake Shack when suddenly I realized the recurrence of my depressive symptoms I thought I left back in 2016. I wanted to be alone and isolated, I was tired, irritated, unhappy, I had an overwhelming feeling to cry, and I didn’t want to be around anyone. Everyone was excited around me but I wasn’t. I felt very miserable. Was it that I I hated my job? Maybe I knew I could do better or be better? Maybe I wanted to not feel tired? With all the maybe circling around in my head, I started over-analyzing myself (as I always do) and I came to the conclusion that I was going through (and have been going through since my senior year of college) an existential crisis.
Existentialism in philosophy, in its most basic definition, centers on the ways people see themselves in the worlds and in their own existence. My mental health, in times of uncertainty and doubt, becomes shaky when I realize that I’m not where I need to be, where I want to be, or how I want to feel.
In that split moment where I contemplated my current position in existence, grappling with old feeling of depression accompanied by my almost everyday encounter with anxiety, helped me realize how often I think about who I am and what I want from this life. What makes depression and anxiety two issues of mental health that focus on the issues of existentialism, is that one deals with the past (depression) and the other on the future (anxiety) (sometimes the concepts of past and future may blur).
Anxiety vs. Depression
When I’m having an episode with anxiety I often ask myself questions such as, what if I never become anything? Why am I not where I need to be? Am I ever going to feel better? What do I believe? (In terms of religion and ideology) What if I’m “doing life” wrong? Am I ever going to find love? What if I don’t find my purpose or use my talents? And in all of these questions, there’s an underlying theme of worriment and doubt. Everything seems to go back to understanding fulfillment and being something or someone.
When I’m having an episode with depression (like the one above) I ask questions such as, why am I here? Why do I feel worthless? Is this where I’m going to stay my entire life? Why am I not happy? Why am I constantly tired? Do I have a purpose? These questions concern how I feel in comparison to what I’m familiar with or have experienced.
Anxiety is a reaction to what will/can happen while depression dwells on my current state (feeling and well being) based on events that already happened.
While these questions are similar in nature, they bring up the issues of an existential crisis. These questions arouse inner issues in ways that affect how I see myself progressing or staying in the same place. I began seeing myself in one place being pulled and pressured by my past and future creating a chaotic space in my mind.
While I’m still in an uncomfortable state in my existential crisis, I’m realizing and understanding my mental state and that has helped as I’m working to become better not only in what I’m doing but in the person I’m becoming. I not only want to do better, but I also want to be better.