Morning Rush Hour Traffic Helped My Depression More Than Medication

Jess Manuszak
Apr 6 · 4 min read

And to make matters worse/better, I now get stuck in traffic on purpose.

Here’s the deal. I’m one of those online entrepreneur folks who run a shiny-looking empire from inside a giant purple hoodie that hangs down to my knees. It’s been about 7 years since I first started working from home, which is around the time my depression got the worst it’s ever been.

Suicidal ideation and I were sexting on the regular.

It kept desperately asking me to the Sadie Hawkins dance, if you know what I mean. (I obviously declined that particular slow-dance with death, no matter how hyped the DJ got.)

Depression is pretty common for entrepreneurs.

After all:

Girl meets passion.

Girl monetizes passion.

But then, girl self-isolates while she profits off her passion like a maniac, hunkered over the computer until dick-all hours of the morning in an effort to prove, and grow, and fight — and win.

Oh, and make rent. Making rent was a big part of it, too.

This wasn’t sustainable. (Don’t let your shocked gasp echo too loudly in this room.)

I was stuck in my head, festering in a closed little world where everything felt Real Hard and also The Worst. I spent a lot of time crying in the shower and thinking maybe I wanted to burn it all down and go live alone in a van by the river. (At least it would be Instagrammable?)

I was eating stale self-doubt for breakfast and pissing pure pessimism.

Finally, the depressive fever broke enough, and I crammed myself in my car. I spent a lot of time crunching my nose up in disgust at the noise, chaos, and inconvenience of commuting.

Like, why go to a coffee shop to work when I could stay put on my couch?

So day after day, there was cramming and crunching, until I slowly sunk into the routine of scheduled inconvenience.

I began to crave that commute.

What it all comes down to is that rush hour traffic connects me to the world in a way that feels important in my guts. And that connection keeps the depression at bay.

Because here’s the thing about early morning commutes —

Before 8 a.m., most people aren’t awake enough to put on whatever face they think the world demands.

It’s socialization stripped down to its simplest form. We feel safe and private in our small metal boxes, which means we don’t need to posture even though we’re in public.

It’s people being people in the most basic ways — one universal groan as we all migrate in a herd towards what awaits us.

When we’re all groaning together, it becomes a sort of song.

We can tease out the playful melodies in our harmonizing moans.

Yeah, we’re all headed different places, in cars that look different and cost different amounts of money. We’re on our way to see different people who mean different things to us, or do it differently and see no one at all.

But in those 25 minutes of forced camaraderie, we’re unanimous in our differences.

Commuting puts us at a group standstill, this incubated moment when we’re jammed together like Legos, combined at random to cooperate and coordinate.

And most of the time, we pull it off.

What a cool example of our collective humanity.

What a simple and constant reminder of the kindness we’re capable of when we’re too tired to consider conflict.

I look to the left when traffic eases forward two inches, and stare at the guy leaning back into his headrest, his arm draped out the driver’s-side window and his jaw hanging open in a rounded yawn. He’s too new to the day to keep his mouth shut.

I see the woman putting on mascara at the stoplight, frantically glancing between her rearview and the car in front of her. And because we’ve all been told it makes putting on mascara easier, her jaw hangs open and wide. She’s too new to the day to keep her mouth shut.

And I can’t help but watch the carpoolers nodding their heads, tapping their thumbs against the curve of the steering wheel. There’s something to be said for belting out clashing bass lines while whole sections of the city skyline stay sleeping and still.

Come meet me in commuter traffic, the tiny slice of distilled humanity that effortlessly reminds us of one another.

We’re all too new to keep our mouths shut, here.


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Jess Manuszak

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Me, lips to the mic: ”In my defense, I really love a good fart joke, your honor.” Owner of Verve & Vigour copywriting studio. Mischief devotee. Wild creature.