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How Helping Others Gave Me Purpose When I Was Depressed

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There’s a lot to be said about purpose. It is true that purpose promotes happiness and hope within oneself. Yet, maybe you think you don’t have a purpose and that every morning you wake up you wish you hadn’t. Let me speak to you.

If there is one big misconception in our society today, then I think it is the notion that purpose has to have a visible face in the limelight. We think having a purpose means making a big impact in ways like being a public speaker, an actor, doctor or [insert profession here]. We think of all of these “public eye, in your face, successful roles.” However, the truth of the matter is you have purpose no matter who you are.

You could never imagine the positive impact you could have on someone’s day or even life just by smiling and saying hi to someone. Even if it is the only thing you accomplished all day and even if you feel depressed and feel hopeless yourself, you can make an impact. Just greeting someone could change your perspective.

Many people go through life feeling as though no one cares or that they don’t matter. Think about what great power you hold, that just brightening one person’s day could give them the inspiration to keep on going and maybe even save their life. Everyone was created uniquely, and no two people have the same purpose. They may have similar interests and goals, but they will never achieve them in the same way.

You have a purpose inside of you that is incomparable to anyone else’s. Think of what a void would be left in the world if you were not in it. These are thoughts I have to speak to myself when I begin to feel hopeless and when I start to think to myself the world would be so much better without me. Trust me when I say, I write from experience. Then, I think about the good things I would miss if I weren’t here and the people who would miss me.

Now, think about how much joy you bring to people’s lives. Think about that nephew who looks up to you or the coworker who always seeks out your advice. Think about that regular in the coffee shop who smiles at you over her newspaper. These are all people who, whether you realize it or not, you positively impact.

Some people would never say it because maybe they are feeling helpless like you. Maybe they are thinking about ending their journey. What if you greeted those people having the same thoughts you have had? What if just a simple word was all it took to make a difference? So, in an interesting and ironic way, by saving yourself you save them. Isn’t that beautiful? That you in your hopeless state, you can reach out anyway and take someone out of that exact same state?

When I was in the depths of depression, I found my happiest days to be when I served at the local food bank. Now, I will admit it was hard for me to get there. It was hard for me to wake up, get out of bed, put on my clothes and not feel that irritating sandpaper upon my skin. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want people to see me, and most of all, I did not want people to ask me how I was doing. I felt awful and looked terrible. More than anything, I wanted to hide myself from the world.

However, I found the people I served with didn’t really share the same thoughts I felt about myself. They would smile and tell me how glad they were to see me there, and we would work together serving the needs of others. That was all I needed. They understood me enough to  know the way my confidence needed to be built was the same way their confidence needed to be built, by helping others.

Even though their need was different, we were all being fulfilled the same way. The hard-working hands that were bringing food to hungry mouths and stomachs were the same hands that were going home shaking at night wondering how they were going to wake up the next morning. Yet, together we were strong.

Does this take courage? Did I have to step out of my comfort zone? Most definitely yes. Yet, it is a gradual courage, one that doesn’t hover over you like an overwhelming goal. It is a “one day at a time” kind of purpose.

The two things I believe can help you move from hopelessness to hopefulness are: finding a purpose no matter how small and making a habit of actively reaching out to listen to others. Both of these actions take negative thoughts off of you and give you a reason to wake up and live.

Remember to ask yourself, “What if my choosing to live each morning gives someone else a reason to live?” Isn’t that reason enough? You could be a lifesaver. A life-changer. You, that person you condemn in your mind and hate in your heart. Yes, you!

You hold life. You breathe hope. You can truly live. You can be happy, and you can bring hope to others. My purpose today is to wake up. To smile. To live.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 18, 2017
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