Severe Depression and Effective Altruism

Hello all, I am writ­ing here as a bit of a cry for help in a way. I have long been in­ter­ested in but also over­whelmed by the idea of effec­tive al­tru­ism and how much good I could and should be do­ing. I have fallen well short of these ideals but to an ex­tent I do not feel overly guilty and obli­gated to give a large amount of my in­come un­less I be­come ex­tremely de­pressed and self-re­flec­tive. At this point my scrupu­los­ity and perfec­tion­ism kicks in and I beat my­self up to a large amount (but still with a feel­ing of paral­y­sis...rather than tak­ing ac­tion, so far).

I have in­her­ited a large sum of money from my Grandma, which my Dad has effec­tively given to me to help me buy a house where I live, where hous­ing is rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive. I know that I am likely to also in­herit a sub­stan­tial amount from my par­ents in fu­ture as an only child of rel­a­tively wealthy par­ents (be­cause they worked hard and saved a lot rather than them in­her­it­ing money them­selves, plus prop­erty value growth has been very high where I live).

When I’m at my most de­pressed I feel like giv­ing all this money away and that I should give any in­her­i­tances away in the fu­ture (and re­tain enough to live a min­i­mal­ist satis­fy­ing life), as some effec­tive al­tru­ists man­age to do. How­ever this feel­ing isn’t from com­pas­sion or “want­ing” to do it, it’s from a deep seated sense of guilt and a sense of duty/​obli­ga­tion. I can’t es­cape the logic of effec­tive al­tru­ism and I start to feel ter­rible about lives be­ing lost due to me. I know my par­ents want me to use the money on a house which most of the time I feel com­fortable with but I feel ex­tremely un­com­fortable with when I’m de­pressed.

I then con­vince my­self that I must stay de­pressed, must har­ness these feel­ings of guilt to make sure I do the most good. Be­cause de­pressed me will do more good than nor­mal me. This doesn’t re­ally seem illog­i­cal to me from a util­i­tar­ian point of view be­cause if I force my­self to suffer and be­come more guilty, I will make much more differ­ence to other’s lives than if I be­come more “men­tally sta­ble” and ig­nore my obli­ga­tions. If I gave away all this money I’ve just got and re­ally an­gered my par­ents, who I love so much, and com­pletely broke their trust, then com­mit­ted suicide, I would still make more of a pos­i­tive differ­ence to the world than self­ishly get­ting “bet­ter” and spend­ing it on my­self.

I get that peo­ple might say the best op­tion would be to get bet­ter but also em­brace effec­tive al­tru­ism, how­ever, un­less I’m feel­ing de­pressed I tend to let my­self “get away with it” and I don’t donate much. When I am feel­ing more “nor­mal”, I also don’t want to op­pose my par­ents when it is them gift­ing me this money for a spe­cific rea­son.

I sup­pose I feel like I am a failure if I don’t give a sub­stan­tial amount away and I’m won­der­ing if any­one else has had these feel­ings but man­aged to rec­on­cile them? Selfishly, I don’t want to feel so guilty and obli­gated. I get it’s kind of ironic to be ask­ing for help/​for­give­ness on this though be­cause I’m pretty much say­ing I want to feel bet­ter about do­ing less good on a web­site that is about pro­mot­ing do­ing the most good.

Thank you.

Gary.