*Our guest blogger has asked to remain anonymous for now. There are powerful lessons to learn from this story about the incredible healing ability in helping others.
While in middle school, I applied little of my time to studying as I found I had a high recall level of material covered in class. As a student, I was able to quickly learn new material and spent little time studying in preparation for an exam. But, when I reached high school, I experienced many tragic life events that caused me to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
As a result, I found it difficult to concentrate in school. It felt as though my mind and body was such a burden with sadness and guilt that I couldn’t memorize facts as I once was able to. I knew my ability had not diminished but, something had changed within my brain chemistry that didn’t allow me to function at a high level.
It may be hard to relate, but it felt nearly impossible to get out of bed. I felt as though I was a failure and couldn’t recover. The hardest thing I will ever do in my life was to take a shower during these days. My therapist suggested I volunteer in the community. I thought it was a silly idea. However, I was getting tired of lying in bed all day but feeling unable to get any better.
“Slowly, I no longer defined myself as a failure.”
I volunteered at a local organization which supports students in poverty. As I was sorting donated clothing, I was simultaneously sorting out my life. Even though I wasn’t the most successful sorter, volunteering with this origination broke the repetitive rut I was in. Inadvertently, I was creating a new identity for myself rooted in service to others. Slowly, I no longer defined myself as a failure but rather an important person in the operations of this nonprofit.
I developed life-long friendships among the volunteers and staff. As a proud young man, I never would have joined a depressive disorder “support group.” However, the regular volunteers and I formed our own community that supported one another. More than medication, or therapy, volunteering was the key to jumpstart my path to wellness. My journey has taken me from volunteering with other students in need to a professional career in mental health.