In my early twenties I went through a major depression. Or more accurately, I became aware that I had been in one for a very long time.
There were many days when I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore in order to escape what I was feeling. In some of those desperate moments, I would resort to the following visualization exercise:
I’d imagine going down in an elevator, to the depths of my own brain. I’d get out of the elevator at floor -21 (don’t ask me why, I guess I just thought it was a cool number). Then I’d imagine walking through a hallway full of doors. I’d carefully select a specific room And when I walked through it, I would meet my future self. Or at least the version I hoped I’d become 😉
He would always be there waiting for me. Calm and collected. Seeing myself in the future as somebody I’d look up to gave me a grain of hope. I’d also ask him for advice, and he’d usually say something that would improve my life or encourage me to keep going.
Today I’m 29. Not that today has anything to do with me being 29. Yesterday I was also 29…but I digress! Today, I’m 29 and it started to dawn on me: I now AM that future self that I used to talk to. How crazy is that?
So as a fun mental experiment, I decided to do this visualization in reverse.
I went to the same room to meet my past self and tell him anything that he needed to hear.
When I met my younger self I was kind of surprised by what happened:
I saw this super depressed kid and instead of pity, I felt a lot of love and gratitude towards him.
I saw how he was struggling, looking for anything that could stop him from being depressed or “fix his feelings”. And I thought “Wait a minute? You don’t need to fix yourself… It’s okay. Just be depressed for a while if that’s what you need to be right now. You’re going to be just fine. In fact: What you’re doing right now is leading you towards becoming me. And I’m a super happy person living a satisfying life outside the matrix of normality (which I know you’ll like).”
I proceeded to just give him a big hug, let him cry and have a 15 minute conversation. Basically explaining how I understand it must be very hard for him but that he should just hang in. Because I can assure him that his future is awesome and he’s on the right track.
It felt pretty great for being a random daydream.
But the main thing I learned from this little “mental adventure” is that I was how little space there is in our culture for being depressed. Depression is always seen (including by me) as something that needs to be fixed. And while of course, it isn’t a desirable situation to be in for a long time, I can now clearly see that my 10 year younger self just needed to be in it for a while.
Being depressed actually led to him becoming the person he wanted to be and living the life he wanted to live.
So if you are currently feeling depressed and you find yourself anxiously looking for ways to fix it: I hereby grant you the permission to not get it fixed yet. It’s okay to feel bad for a while. Don’t let anyone put pressure on you to feel better quickly (including yourself…or this blog!). Go through what you need to go through and let it shape you.
I’m not saying “don’t see a therapist” or “don’t attempt to improve your situation. Of course you should make use of all the helpful resources and support available to you. But for the time being: Just realize that it’s okay to feel and act like this. You are exactly where you need to be, doing what you need to do to become the future you.
And hopefully, in 10 years, you’ll be able to look back just like me and be grateful that your current self made you become who you’ll be by then.