Josh Killam, LPC
What is my Depression Telling Me?
This is a follow-up blog to expound on the question; is being unfulfilled at work playing a role in my depression?
Is every morning before work a struggle just to make it to the car? Your commute consists of turning up the radio to drown out the negative thoughts about spending all day at a job you loathe. Have you ever thought to yourself “If I were not so depressed I would feel differently about my job”?
Could your depression be a response from your body trying to tell you something is wrong? Consider this; maybe, your depression is a response to the job that you hate or feel undervalued? We want to be happy, this includes our body and brain, for example when our bodies are sick it sends pain signals to our brain letting us know that some part of us needs attention. When this happens, we locate the problem and give it the attention it needs. I want to suggest that your depression could be a signal from your brain telling you, something in your life is out of place and needs attention.
Not everyone enjoys the work that they do; in fact, a study conducted by Gallup between 2011-2012 suggests that only 13% of people feel enthusiastic about their job. Another 63% report sleepwalking through their day, showing up but experiencing very little passion for what they do. The last 24% are unhappy with their work, and they are busy acting out that unhappiness (Daniels, 2015). That is 86% of the working population who feel in some way unhappy with their jobs. Of course, there are many factors for dissatisfaction in work including not feeling challenged enough, not feeling that you are getting the respect you deserve, or merely that your job provides very little meaning with no vision of improvement.
So how do you fix a job or career that you have been in for too long and felt you have no power? For starters, you can find a sense of meaning in your work, even if it is not explicitly stated in the job description. What do I mean by that? Well let's take for example a dishwasher, washing dishes is hard work. The dishwasher can do the job poorly, or he could do it well. What does it mean to do the job well? Maybe it says that he cares about his work or values taking responsibility for himself and the product he is producing, in this case, clean dishes and a meaningful work environment. Who knows, maybe his boss will recognize his hard work, especially if he has been known for putting in the minimum amount of work required. Another suggestion for making good of a bad job is to change the way you think about your role in the job. Let’s continue with our dishwasher, what is his job description? To clean dishes so that people who come to their restaurant will not have to eat off of dirty dishes. Ok, where can he find value in this? Let’s examine, briefly, why people go out to a restaurant to eat. They may want to spend quality time with their family over a meal. Now, the dishwasher is playing an essential role in a family's quality time over a meal. What’s the harm in helping everyone enjoy an experience with his or her loved ones at the restaurant? Why not, strive for the highest possible good? Who knows, it might provide you with some direction.
Here is another choice: pick up your head, put your shoulders back, fix up your resume, and find a new job. One that you can be committed to and see the value. Imagine if the job you find is your “dream job,” or maybe it is an imperfect job but more fulfilling, more exciting, or more valuable - whatever is missing from the position you have now. Moreover, what’s the worst that could happen? You do not find another job and are stuck in the miserable job that you hate along with 86% of the world, just like now. Only now, while searching, you discover what you are capable of, you find your true potential. You learned that you are capable of taking responsibility for your circumstances and making them better. That can pay off in the job you have as well - maybe you find the courage to do a little more at work or to create meaning in the work that you do. It could be that writing out your resume and look for another job has shown you what you are worth and you now have sufficient evidence to go into your boss’s office and request a promotion or a raise.
In closing, take stock of your life. Start with your job, aim for the highest possible good, it is not like you have anything better to do.