Depression vs. Anxiety & playing hockey

This might seem obvious but this took me a long time to figure out so I figured I'd write an article that might help you if you happen to be interested.

I'd like to caveat that I'm not a mental health professional. Also, I'm not saying this is everything about depression and anxiety, just 1 aspect of my experience that I thought was interesting.

Depression for me is thinking about the past.

Anxiety for me is thinking about the future.

During certain periods of 2019-2020, I've been extremely depressed and anxious.

Depression was all about thinking about the past. How could I have gotten fired from Notion? How did I blow my shot at working at a sick startup that's going to go public? My friends are so much better than me because they went to YC and I got fired after 3 months in SF. Why did I pick business? Why didn't I go into medicine?

Depression is backwards looking. And then proceeding to beat yourself up based on choices you made or the way the cookie crumbled.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is thinking (i.e. worrying) about the future and what's going to happen in the future. For me, this took it's form of wondering what am I going to do with my life? (and by life, I heavily focused on career) Should I be a doctor? Well if I'm a doctor that means I need to go to med school but what if I couldn't do the courses and flunked out? What about becoming a professor? I love teaching! Well, then I need to do my PhD. What if I don't like doing the research component of PhD? What if I can't get through those grueling 5 years of getting one's PhD?

The main distinction here is that depression is based in the past; anxiety is based in the future. (and I'd add that it's possible to be both at the same time)

No, I wouldn't say I'm living in the moment but what I'm trying to do is surrender to both the past and the future. Whatever has happened, has happened and, sadly, there's nothing I can do about it. With regards to the future and anxiety, I need to do what I can to put in the right inputs NOW and take solace in knowing that by doing that, I will most likely get the outputs I want in the future. Further, from an anxiety POV, I'd say I feel more confident in myself that whatever happens happens and I'm a decently intelligent guy who can figure it out.

A VP at Shopify used to always tell me, "Cam, you're gripping your [hockey] stick too tight." I never really understood what he meant. But now I do. During my time at Shopify, I was soooooo anxious about the future — making sure I was the top sales rep on the team that I would go to any lengths to make sure it happened. I literally would sleep at the office overnight so I could do calls at 6 am with the UK and calls at 12 am (the next day) with Singapore or Perth.

I didn't see it then but I see it now; gotta loosen my grip. (too bad I'm a goalie so that analogy doesn't really work lmao)


Written: October 22, 2020

Additional resources:

  • SUDs scale
  • Dichotomy of Control
  • Realization that I'm capable and can adapt with the situation at hand. Very Ray Dalio-esque.