A friend of mine is so unhappy with his job he thinks death is a better option, but he feels obligated to stick it out - he has car payments to make, debts to pay, responsibilities. I was speaking with him the other day and I found the conversation very alarming. Even his doctor had suggested he seek additional help - medication, counselling or similar. "Is Prozac the answer to everything?" my friend asked.
Okay, so he doesn't want to turn to drugs, and he knows that by not making one of two choices right now he is putting his life at risk: quit the job or take the drugs. To an outsider the answer may be obvious - get a new job - but I really felt for him: sometimes when we are "in it" we either can't see the solution or can't find the motivation to act on what we know we "should" do.
As we spoke - and a short conversation turned into a very long one - it became clear to me that as trapped as he felt by his job, he also felt trapped by his life. He was living in a world of expectations - and, in his view, not living up to those expectations. Not only did he have a very heavy workload in a nasty environment for not enough money, he was comparing himself to his friends and family and - in his own eyes - falling way short of the mark.
I asked him if perhaps he could sell the car, given the car payments were a major burden that kind of perpetuated his need to stay in an unpleasent, unrewarding job. "Oh no no no! I can't sell the car!" he said. To me this seemed illogical - keep the car but kill himself? A very extreme case of not being able to see the wood for the trees... Because let's not get confused about this: depression can be fatal. Just like a heart attack. It is not to be taken lightly.
So here I was, in the middle of a very intense conversation with someone I care about trying to help him towards some kind of "light-bulb" moment. I came to understand that his beautiful car was actually the only thing that gave him any self-esteem. Lose the job, lose the car; but lose the car and lose his primary source of wellbeing. Which was a kind of death anyway.
I'm not sure if he had a light bulb moment but I did: I realised that when we narrow our vision and seek our joy (or find hope) in just one or two things or people or situations we make ourselves vulnerable to despair. When other things stop going well (or our expectations are not met) we feel trapped... and we are, kind of, because we have backed ourselves into a corner... we have created a situation where perhaps that one source of joy (no matter how amazing) is not enough to balance out some of the really yucky other stuff.
And yet, can you see the flip side? We may NOT have created the situation at work, in our marriage, family or community but we DID create the situation that narrowed our opportunities for joy, and because we were a creator in one way, we also have a possibility for creating something new if what we created before is no longer sustaining us.
My friend is still struggling - a very close friend of his died tragically recently (yet another blow) - but my friend has a new hobby. He is playing in a band, just mucking around on weekends in someone's garage mostly. He loves it, and he's quite good. Slowly, he is building up his repotoire for joy.
IF YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS INTERESTING YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ:
Making yourself instantly happier - good books about happiness
Three single girls in a bar
Quote - Anthony Robbins - moments of decision