Freedom of Direction

The story of my depression, part 1. When I graduated, I didn’t realize how intimidating freedom is. For the first time, I didn’t have an overarching goal.

Freedom of Direction |

I didn’t know that I didn’t want freedom.

Rather, I wasn’t yet ready to handle the magnitude of being free. When I was unshackled from the outer inhibitors of freedom, I was yet to remove the inner ones.

Hello. This is part one of a three part series about my experience with clinical depression. I hope that topic doesn’t turn you off. I’ll do my best to keep it light – with the hope that this helps someone else through a difficult period through their life.

I’ve had these three posts in draft status since October 2016, and haven’t completed them. I promised myself that I won’t write other articles until I publish these, so the blog has been at a standstill.

School and college provide a framework of servitude that has a calming effect. You always know where to go. That calm feeling goes away upon graduation. You are forced to create your own goals for the years to come, not knowing where you are headed.

In October 2014, I was becoming acutely aware of where I was – six months removed from college at the top of my class with Honors in Computer Science. I was performing my first job – the highest paying job the Science deanery offered on campus.

Am I humble-bragging? Perhaps. But you learn that your accomplishments fade into the past very quickly, and so I take this opportunity to remind myself, puff up a bit, and allow myself a little pride when it is relevant. 🙂

Your accomplishments fade into the past very quickly, but failures haunt you.

Around this time, my cousin noticed my behaviour becoming more and more erratic. I had been going to a mixed martial arts class for four months and had become the fittest and most athletic I had been in a while, but I quit the class. I was changing my living situation every week – one at my own house and another at her place. She said that I obviously had a disturbed frame of mind and advised that I “sort this shit out”. Upon her recommendation, I spoke to her therapist.

While it was good to talk to her, I didn’t get much from it over the next three months. By December, I wasn’t interested in talking to her anymore. At the time, I had anxieties I couldn’t fathom. Much later, I would discover it was because of my work.

My work situation is very different from other people my age. My language from here will be a little vague, because I’m not sure how much I should be talking about my work. I work with an MNC as a full-time salaried employee, writing very large guides. Our deadlines at the time used to be well apart, often a year or more for one book (although we wrote multiple books together). At that time, I was the only person from India on the team – with my teammates and manager across the world.

As such, I had no one to report to here. I had no daily check-in or check-out, and often no reason to go to office since I could do my work at home. I was surrounded by people telling me how lucky I was to have these benefits. But to me, the sudden freedom was very unnerving. I was used to working myself into the ground at college.

People would keep telling me how lucky I was to have freedom at work. Anxiety from work never let me believe them.

On top of that, I had no one to teach me my responsibilities one-on-one. A large part of my day became figuring out how we gather information, frame the language, and put it into the books. Of course, I made mistakes. I didn’t even have access to our calendars so I couldn’t keep track of deadlines. The team and I had some nights of frantic conversations, rushing to make updates. The up and down nature of this work made my anxiety escalate.

This continued until things came to a head in April, where I made a couple of serious mistakes. For the first time at work, I was shouted at, and it happened over the phone. At the time I just happened to be sitting in the restroom of a hospital ward. Why? Because I was visiting my sick grandfather, and I had a meeting due, so I attended it over the phone in the privacy of the bathroom. The senior person who shouted at me is otherwise a very calm and patient person, and it completely destroyed my confidence. I will never forget that experience.

For the next month I was walking on eggshells, and later I was ready to quit. I didn’t want this oppressive freedom that left me helpless. This freedom of not knowing what would happen if I were to lose my job, or lose my house. School had set goals – graduate every year for fourteen years, failing which you repeat years. College was the same for three years. Now, if I don’t succeed, what happens?

I cried about it on the phone and in text with friends at 3 AM on several days. I’m very thankful to four people for being there for me at the time. They gave me means to release my anxiety and calm me down.

I’m grateful to Pari, Jester, SoRoCho, and Mewtwo, for being there for me at 3 AM. Thank you.

By strange fortune, another teammate quit before I could. The responsibilities were shuffled accordingly. I interacted with a different senior member for the first time, and they were very helpful. I asked them questions about our basic workflow, which I didn’t feel I could ask others, and they answered. Under their guidance, I started working very efficiently. In September, more reorganization happened, and my responsibilities were literally tripled. I handled it fine.

However, the seeds for depression had been well laid. My anxiety had become ingrained, and it showed in my health. It started to affect other things. My relationship with my girlfriend became more distanced and started suffering. By a stroke of bad luck, I was going to lose my house. Both of those incidents bleed into the next phase – The Matchbox.

You can see it here: The Matchbox.

Thank you for reading.

(Featured image taken from The Awkward Yeti. Interestingly, I have zero photos from April to July 2015, so nothing to share with you.)