Is there hope?
June 13, 2012 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Chronic depression coupled with intellectual existential nihilism, social ineptitute, and no friends. Perilously close to unemployment because I just don't care. I believe that life is meaningless, and mine especially will forever be devoid of happiness and love. I just want to give up. I think I've heard every common advice about depression. This is the extreme, shake me out of this version. Nothing works and my fundamental beliefs about existence are making me miserable but I still think they're true, and there's no escaping my thoughts. How does one go on?

Sorry for the wall of text. I guess this turned out to be just a random rambling. I just don't know what to do anymore.

I've been to therapy (group, individual, CBT, weekly, blah blah blah) and been on meds for years, and feel I'm pretty knowledgeable about what I'm "supposed" to be doing to take care of myself. Exercise, sleep (too much, too little, the recommended amount), pleasurable activities, vitamins, sun, omega 3, meditation, yoga, volunteering, meetups, friends, walking, being outside, being alone, relaxing, keeping busy, journaling, being high or drunk, being sober, etc. I've had periods of feeling "fine" but depression always comes back, and I'm giving up hope, worse and worse every time because I just become more cynical and inside my head.

I don't believe life has any intrinsic purpose in the grand scheme of things, but people are able to create meaning inside their own reality. I think as human beings, from a biological perspective, we are social creatures that derive most of our happiness from connection with others, as individuals and a community. I feel like I'll never have that. Aside from every other problem, I also have major trust issues, and I don't think I really know how to love someone. I've never maintained a long-lasting friendship, and growing up, I had my parents, who I love because they took care of me, but I don't share much with on a personal level.

Aside from the social aspect, there's very little I enjoy in life. I don't feel a sense of a calling, in terms of career or hobby. In fact, I always end up wondering what the point of an activity is. I know things don't always have a "point", but I so rarely get lost in the "flow" of an activity that doing something for it's sheer enjoyment is rare. Even if I do enjoy something, once I am out of that headspace, I remember how alone I am. I have no one to share this happiness with. And unless I'm working towards something I believe is valuable, I inevitably come to the realization that I spent all that time in a diddly-daddly and keeping busy but I feel no more fulfilled due to it, plus I have nothing to show for all the work.

I would like to believe I care for humanity as a whole, but I think the structure of institutions and societies is so flawed that doing a bit of good is like a drop in the bucket. I tried volunteering for education and the homeless, and again I feel there's no point. So what if I just fed another hungry person? They'll be hungry again tomorrow. Even if I help one person overcome the odds by teaching them "how to fish", it doesn't solve the cause of the problem in the first place. There will always be more. Putting a smile on someone's face for a moment doesn't seem to sustain me. Also, I realize that I am lucky enough to be well educated, and of above average intelligence and talent... if I really wanted to help people to the best of my ability, is the best use of my time to scoop casserole everyday? Should I be using my problem solving abilities? But how to solve the problem when people are selfish, and government and organizations inefficient at best, or otherwise ineffective and poorly run?

Also, I realize that I'm lucky to have all the I have, and there are people who have it so much worse. That doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel more guilty for not being able to appreciate what I have. I come across as having my life together. I'm attractive, healthy, smart, and even charming when I put in the effort. The effort is just becoming too much. My best days are being productive at work, eating healthy, filling my time with activities, and going to bed. And this lasts until I reflect on life and see how empty it is. What's the point of waking up another day to do the same thing? I've tried making friends, dating, finding a community, and it just makes me feel more empty when things don't work out. I tried to focus on myself, but I don't even know who I am anymore. I spent my life trying to please others, that I don't know how to tell if something is what I want, or what I think I SHOULD want, and that association happens so fast I don't even notice. I've tried just keeping busy, doing new things, but I eventually grow tired. I want to escape by changing scenery, moving, drugs, sleep, but misery just follows me everywhere, because misery is my own mind. I know my cynically beliefs are not helping my depression, but I can't just tell myself to believe something else. I'm tired of being self-aware. Even momentary escape is useless, because I'll eventually have to come back to the reality of my life, and there's the sunken feeling that oh shit, I have to actually continue living it. I'm bored but it's could possibly become so much worse, because my boss is having serious issues with my declining work ethic. I have no friends. Yeah, I know I can talk to a therapist, hotline, strangers, or even exes. But it's all momentary. These people don't actually care about me. They care in the abstract sense, because they don't want me to do something stupid, but they don't actually care about me. I'm not suicidal, simply because I know it will destroy my parents, and also on the principle that I don't want to die with no one at my funeral and nothing accomplished in life. But living also sounds exhausting. Everything sounds exhausting and pointless.

Should I just hit rock bottom? Is there anything out there to help me? Are there people like me that are actually able to live happy and fulfilling lives?
posted by ribboncake to Human Relations (48 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Your meds aren't working. See a new psychiatrist. Let me also recommend the book How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me.

One of the sneakiest ways your brain tries to kill you is by disguising depression as deep philosophical enlightenment.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:21 PM on June 13, 2012 [79 favorites]

As somebody who had a roommate with depression (and an aunt, and girlfriends), I can tell you with assurance that sometimes the medicine stops working. Your brain chemistry changes when a depression trigger causes a mood disorder - in fact, some publications assert that the brain actually even changes shape. That may mean that your current dosage needs to be changed or varied (it certainly sounds that way to me).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:31 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there anything out there to help me?

Maybe electroconvulsive therapy? It's apparently helpful for people with med-resistant depression. In-patient treatment to work on your med cocktail where you can be monitored? At least a very serious talk with your psychiatrist is in order, where you say, "I cannot perform at work and am in danger of losing my job. I am unhappy and lonely X% of the time. I have not socialized in X amount of time. I'm not suicidal, but only because I don't want to hurt my parents. I am still symptomatic after X amount of time. Something has to change." Can you call right now? I mean, now? This minute? And get an appointment for tomorrow? This is an emergency.

Hey, it's tough out here. Take good care.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:33 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

You are me. Zoloft and therapy helped me.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should I just hit rock bottom?

Every time you want to do that, just remember that it's not going to help anything, and it's that much more distance you have to go when things are starting to pick up.
posted by griphus at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you have a pet? Can you get a pet? They are sometimes adorable and sometimes enraging, but even grabbing the squirt bottle shouting "bad kitty!" is better than flat, unchanging nothing.

I'm kitty sitting for a friend. It really is a life upgrade.
posted by griselda at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

You would be amazed how much it will change your perspective to feel like there is even one person totally on your side. I second getting treatment for depression with a psychologist.

On the existential side, it really sounds like you're having some hard luck. Many people in your position would feel just like you do. But my sense is a lot of this is chance. Stress on the job. Stress in one's personal life. A relapse of depression. I wonder sometimes if there isn't something to the gambler's fallacy that if you lose enough times, you're due for a win. Not statistically, of course, but in life. Because there are so many good things in life, and some portion of them out there has to be yours.

You are correct in saying that gifts are made to flourish and grow and bring happiness. You don't say what your talent/s are exactly, but identify these and grow them.

In answer to your question about whether "people like you are able to live happy lives"! *(I hope that isn't a derogatory use of "people like me!")-- I will cast my vote for yes.

Just remember that one day, your luck is going to change!
posted by kettleoffish at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2012

Do you have a pet? Can you get a pet?

I would advise against this. I am a recent-ish dog owner who suffered/suffers from similar afflictions -- although not nearly as much anymore! There's hope! -- and putting yourself in charge of an animal right now probably wouldn't be the best idea. Learning to care for yourself is hard enough without having to learn to take care of something completely dependent on you for food and safety and love.
posted by griphus at 2:14 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Not that you are inherently incapable of providing a living thing with food and safety and love, but you don't really need to play the game on Hard, here.)
posted by griphus at 2:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I feel you on this. I get embarrassed talking to my therapist about it because I feel like an angsty 17 year old when I do - but the meaninglessness of life is a real and true source of depression and anxiety. When you logic your way to the end, you find that it is in fact true that nothing has an existential point, purpose, teleological essence or whatever and it can be very hard to stay alive in light of that. Everything feels exhausting. Life becomes not something you live but something to just 'get through.' Camus was totally correct when he said that the only real philosophical question was whether or not to kill yourself. For some, the utter pointlessness of everything can be freeing; for others, it is debilitating and misery-making.

Meds only get you so far. They cannot change your core beliefs. What they have done for me (and I've tried many) is to take away some of the most severe physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. I am no longer constantly aware of my pulse, for example. I no longer feel like screaming so much or curling up in a corner. But they can't change the deep ways in which you know that this existence is kind of stupid, pointless and basically a joke.

So what do you do. You start by accepting it for the nothingness that it is and you try and pass the time. Not killing yourself because you couldn't do that to your parents is a perfectly good reason to stay alive. At least it's a good place to start. Living for others because maybe they enjoy life and for some reason you are a part of that is a great way to keep yourself alive. It may eventually help you to fill a bit of your own emptiness with love. Not wanting to die because you haven't done all that you want to do is an even better place. That's good. So find something to do and then just work doggedly at it. It doesn't have to be something you love or feel passionate about, because you may never find that. Just something that isn't harmful and gives you purpose. Think big, because you have a whole life to get through and that can be a lot of idle hours to pass. But don't expect anything of yourself or get disappointed if you fail. Camus also pointed out that the paradox of life is that we know it isn't meaningful even though we feel like it ought to be. Recognize the truth in that but don't get emotionally wrapped up in that quandary. So give up on "life," or the weighty idea our culture has of it - just give up - and then go from there. It might free you a bit. Work at something even though you know there is no point and try in a way to make that the point of it.

Don't set your expectations too high. You will never be elated and awed by the mystery and wonder that is life at all hours of the day. You may not pass a flower and think, "my god, isn't everything so beautiful?" No, you'll still think that the flower is a fleeting thing and it's only beautiful because someone else once thought it was and everyone jumped on that bandwagon and hell, isn't it just some random organization of colors and shapes and what is inherently beautiful about that? And won't it close up or die or get eaten soon anyway? So don't become more unhappy because you can't seem to become happy. Aim for being okay. People these days are obsessed with being elated about every little thing. Facebook and the like make it so much worse because suddenly everything anyone ever does is the best thing evar and their lives are so great and fulfilling. Well, we all tell stories to ourselves and to each other to quit focusing on the truth that life really isn't this great thing that people too often just assume it to be. Life has no intrinsic goodness and living it is not an a priori source of happiness. It's a void to fill - and for some of us, that void is a black hole.

Do not try to intellectualize your way to happiness. You can tell youself, "but others have it worse," or "my life is not that bad," but it won't help much. When I'm out with friends I frequently have to tell myself, "this is what fun I think looks like," or, "this is what not being lonely is like." And you can recognize that but if it doesn't make you feel any better, don't become more unhappy because of that. It's just what it is. It doesn't have to make you feel one way or another.

Almost lastly, don't give up on therapies. Being okay in life does take work. In fact, it's the very act of working at it - even if it doesn't seem to be working - that paradoxically can allow you to make it through the day. Try different meds if you can. ECT is still shown to have great results in treating med-resistant therapy. Ketamine and some other psychedelics have shown great promise in treating depression. Try meditation. Try yoga. Why not? You have nothing to lose by continuing to try. There is no point in trying to be happy, so in a way that can give you the freedom to try. There is nothing at stake. It's like that ancient greek philosopher who said that it didn't matter whether or not they lived or died. And his student said then why didn't he kill himself. And the philosopher responded, "why would I, if it doesn't matter?" Now, you can look at that as a reason to give up or a reason to keep going. For today, tell yourself to think of it as a reason to keep going. And then get through the day and then tell yourself the same thing tomorrow.

Lastly, remember that things can change. They might not, but then again, they very well might. You may feel this way today, but five years from now, your life could look a lot different, and it's probably worth sticking around to find out. After all, you've got nothing else to do.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:19 PM on June 13, 2012 [54 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm already on drugs (welbutrin and effexor; have tried zoloft in the past) and seeing a therapist every week. Perhaps change is in order, but I'm scared... I also have anxiety which is abating now due to drugs, only to be replaced with extreme apathy for awhile. I feel I'm at a good balance of apathy and anxiety (how exciting).

Having a pet would be lovely but I can barely take care of myself.
posted by ribboncake at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2012

You seem smart, well informed, very lonely, and very depressed. The loneliness and depression are reinforcing -- the more depressed you are, the harder it is to make those human connections, and the lonelier you are, the more depressed you feel.

It is very advisable to step away from this vicious cycle and go see a sound psychologist/psychiatrist who can provide some appropriate meds. They may be paid to care for you, but obviously it is unlikely that a treating professional is going to go into the field merely to make money or see patients they care less about merely for the money. People in these fields tend to choose them because of the chance to care for others, and to retain patients whom they specifically care about.

I found talk therapy really helped me when I was depressed, btw. The depression came every spring for many years of my life. I saw a great psychiatrist for about a year and that was the last, thank god, of my experiences with depression. And ultimately I felt good enough about myself to recognize love when it came along.

Treat your illness. A happier you is very likely to then be able to fnd friends and partners.
posted by bearwife at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2012

I agree with Lutoslawski and would add, as someone who agrees with your basic philosophy, to use that interest as a springboard. I began researching nihilism about a year ago and have read lots of interesting books about it. I started watching films that had similar themes and wrote about them. I'm now reading fiction (thanks AskMetafilter!) along the same lines.

This is an issue that strikes at the heart of humanity. It's not easy to deal with, meds or not, but it can be a source of creativity and inspiration. I realize that many artists I admire felt or feel the same way and found a way to express it.

The book Modernism and Nihilism is a great introduction to the topic, with a primary focus on literature.
posted by perhapses at 2:29 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in agreement with others in this thread that there are reasons to doubt the beautify and meaning in all things -- some things really are stupid, dreadful, cruel or evil -- but that does not mean nothing whatever has meaning.

Also, sorry to have cross posted with your response but now that I see it -- I would suggest that the way you are feeliing is a clear indication your current meds aren't doing it for you. And you may well want to consider a different treatment provider. You need someone who works well for you.
posted by bearwife at 2:34 PM on June 13, 2012

Yes, people like you can live fulfilling lives. I don't know so much about happiness. I think that happiness is a poor choice for an end goal sort of thing. Happiness happens incidentally on occasion, but as someone who is constantly working against depression myself, I've found that thinking of happiness as something to strive for is really self-defeating, and people who live their lives like that tend to get their priorities out of whack.

But look, okay, your question is just screaming "adjust your meds!" to me. I don't think that it's going to magically make your ennui go away, but I do think that it will go a long way towards allowing you to have control over your choices, which is what leads to being fulfilled. A lot of people don't have much choice in their lives. But you say, right there in your question, that you have lots of things going for you. You just need the baseline functionality to take advantage of them.

It's possible that you won't ever be satisfied living a "normal" kind of life. When you talked about your volunteer activities your writing seemed to get a bit more enthusiasm to it. Maybe you're someone who will find fulfillment by way of more intense dedication to a cause or an idea that someone who is less self-reflective would be unable to pursue. Some people have a lot of expectations - a certain type of home, family, money in the bank - and maybe you're not that way and can find occasional happiness and fulfillment on a different path. But first you have to get yourself into a place where you have the energy, motivation, and basic functionality to make those kinds of choices healthily. So we're back again to the idea of fixing your meds and working really closely with a mental health professional on this.
posted by Mizu at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think as human beings, from a biological perspective, we are social creatures that derive most of our happiness from connection with others, as individuals and a community. I feel like I'll never have that.... Even if I do enjoy something, once I am out of that headspace, I remember how alone I am. I have no one to share this happiness with.

I think you've identified the root cause of your unhappiness here-- you desperately need social connectedness and someone to share your happiness with. And I think you need to view therapy and medication as resources to help you get these things, and insist to your therapist, psychiatrist, etc, that their ultimate goal is to help you get these things. I think the well-meaning advice to throw yourself into hobbies and volunteering only goes so far-- they're not a substitute for companionship, real companionship, which is a basic human need. I think this advice is popular because for many people, hobbies, etc, help them make strong friendships. But if you've always struggled to relate to others in a way that fills this need for you, then it's no surprise that doing things still leaves you feeling empty and alone. In your shoes, I would want my therapy to focus on helping me learn how to get that social connectedness, and I'd want to view meds as something to help me hold it together, but never ever as a substitute for having fulfilling human relationships.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

There's a term in the recovery community that applies here, I think. It applies to a lot of AskMe questions, but the hopelessness in your question makes it seem especially appropriate here.

"Terminal uniqueness" refers to someone who thinks that they're so special that nobody can relate, that their perceptions and feelings and actions exempt them from the rest of the human experience, and it often kills them.

This is not to sound harsh, okay? Because I agree with pretty much everyone above that your first plan of attack should be the meds. I struggled with terminal uniqueness hugely before I got help ("I'm smarter than everyone else, so the usual rules don't apply to me and my life is harder as a result")--and I still struggle on occasion, but being aware of the concept kind of changed my life a bit. I wish I could say these words to you because tone would really help in the delivery, but imagine the following questions being spoken earnestly and with care in my voice.

When you say that your life "especially will forever be devoid of happiness and love"-- ask yourself, what makes you so special that you'll never have these things to any degree? What makes you so special and different that your nihilism, your questioning of life, is crippling you in ways that others just can't relate?

When I was in treatment, there was a man suffering from concurrent depression who was so convinced of his specialness and argued for it so vehemently that his counselor said to him in front of the group "Fine. You can go ahead and put 'I was right' on your gravestone." This hit everyone except him pretty hard. He was dead 9 months later.

You asked for extreme, shake-you-out-of-it stuff. This isn't that, but maybe you've never come across the concept before. What I'm saying is that convincing yourself that you are so special, so different-- it can kill you, but maybe knowing the term will help you in some small way, just as it helped me.
posted by mireille at 3:06 PM on June 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

Hi! Are you me five years ago? That was when I was at my lowest ebb. I'm still a nihilist, I still struggle some days, but the good news is that yes, people like us can enjoy life even though it doesn't have inherent objective meaning. What do you want your life to mean? Pick something, and then choose to do the things that support the meaning you want. It took me some very long and hard thinking before I figured out what was important to me.

The most sublime, duplicitous weapon of depression is denial. At first I denied that I was depressed. Then when I could no longer reasonably challenge that point, I didn't believe that anyone could help me or that change was possible. It works by making you believe that the things that can help won't, that the people who you have some connection with don't care or that the connection you have with them has no effect on how you feel.

The truth is that for your connections to affect your level of happiness, you have to use them and share something, even if it's just a walk in the park. I'm somewhat introverted so in some ways social interaction can leave me very drained, but I still find that I need plenty of it, and that meant making enough friends that I'm not at a loss when somebody's too busy to spend time with me.

I'm not sure this has been a terribly coherent post, so I'll summarise:
- You know that the meaning of life is what you decide it is for yourself, but it sounds like you either haven't decided, or aren't living in harmony with your decision.
- Your interpersonal connections aren't rewarding you. I get the impression you joined communities for the sake of the people more than the shared interest. This works better the other way around - find something you really want to do that there is a community for, then go do it in that community. The rest follows naturally.

Sorry I can't give advice on meds, I don't have experience with that side.
posted by fearnothing at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

My oldest son is a nihilist. He is also one of the happiest people I know.

Do some additional research on the physiological component of depression and see if you can make some headway there. Then set some goals and go after what you want out of life. An upside of nihilism is that if "nothing matters", then you are free to pursue whatever most interests you and other people's opinions be damned. That has its good points.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: In response to the "terminal uniqueness" concept... no I don't think I'm the only person who's felt this way ever. I was wondering if there was anyone like me who eventually felt better. Or do they spend their entire lives in misery and/or eventually suicide?

Thanks for the responses so far.
posted by ribboncake at 3:35 PM on June 13, 2012

I think as human beings, from a biological perspective, we are social creatures that derive most of our happiness from connection with others, as individuals and a community.

I've often thought that myself, but on further reflection, I don't think it's fully true. It seems to me that we find happiness from striving to create something greater than ourselves. As William James wrote:
If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight—as if there were something really wild in the universe, which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.
This need not be something that we create with others. While doing so both strengthens our work and our connections with others--as a 2008 study by psychologist James Graham showed: tended to feel closer, more attracted to and more in love with each other when their skills were routinely challenged. He reasoned the buzz you get when you break through a frustrating trial and succeed, what Graham called flow, was directly tied to bonding. Just spending time together is not enough, he said. The sort of activities you engage in are vital. Graham concluded you are driven to grow, to expand, to add to your abilities and knowledge.
But even the solitary pursuit of some activity you lend meaning can bring happiness. I would suggest, however, that you continue to do work that gives you the opportunity to connect with others--perhaps in a more active manner than making casseroles, if that's not doing much for you. Might you be good with kids? Any skill with storytelling or theater?

I know things don't always have a "point", but I so rarely get lost in the "flow" of an activity that doing something for it's sheer enjoyment is rare.

You didn't mention it specifically, so I'll ask--have you tried running, cycling, swimming or other high-intensity exercise, even for a short period of time? The effort required can pull you into the flow of the present moment, at least for a few minutes, in a way that walking or yoga don't.

Since you say you have some skill at problem solving, I'd also consider spending some time solving problems on a more doable scale than the societal ones that worry you; solve math problems, do programming challenges, work crossword puzzles or word games--something that requires your full attention and is different from your normal work. Did you enjoy any subjects in college you haven't had the opportunity to pursue since? Take the opportunity to return to them.

Even if I help one person overcome the odds by teaching them "how to fish", it doesn't solve the cause of the problem in the first place.

And herein lies the problem that intelligent, well-meaning individuals like you or I face--we feel needed to redeem the entire world, to live the lives of a thousand or a million or a billion individuals when we are only given our own to live. But consider the extent to which your life would be transformed if you were happier and more fulfilled--this is evidently something that is worth achieving to you, at some level, or you wouldn't have posed this question! Indeed, on this basis it seems that your own happiness is the thing you are most needed to redeem--although, of course, the happiness of others has value as well.

if I really wanted to help people to the best of my ability, is the best use of my time to scoop casserole everyday? Should I be using my problem solving abilities? But how to solve the problem when people are selfish, and government and organizations inefficient at best, or otherwise ineffective and poorly run?

Also something I've thought (a bit too much!) about. If there's one thing I've learned from reading MetaFilter, it's that there are a plethora of intelligent, talented, and well-meaning people, and that making a difference in the world seems to rely on being in the right place in the right time with the right skills. Taking as many opportunities as you can (while taking care of yourself!) to be involved may increase the chances of this--but it may not be something you can rationally plan ahead for.

Yeah, I know I can talk to a therapist, hotline, strangers, or even exes. But it's all momentary. These people don't actually care about me.

I've had a number of doubts about and problems with therapists in the past--but I've yet to meet one who wasn't clearly in the field out of genuine care and compassion for his or her patients as human beings, not only out of concern for their safety. Depression has its way of making people seem distant and uncaring, but that's very much a cognitive distortion. There are people who care about you--and moreover, people who will care about you when you get to know them. Your belief that you will never connect with others is even more of a cognitive distortion!

As a final note: I do concur with all those who have suggested you try getting your meds changed. Developing a belief system and set of activities that give your life meaning can be helpful, but if your brain chemistry is preventing you from experiencing happiness in any case, there's only so much it can do. Should you ever find yourself experiencing intrusive suicidal thoughts, I also second Sidhedevil's book suggestion; it's helped me through some difficult times.
posted by beryllium at 3:42 PM on June 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

I would like to believe I care for humanity as a whole, but I think the structure of institutions and societies is so flawed that doing a bit of good is like a drop in the bucket.

"If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room." ~Anita Roddick
posted by NoraCharles at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yes, people who feel like you do right now can and do feel better. I am one of them.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

To answer your question, yes, there are plenty of people who have felt just like you who have gotten better. Count me as one. I sounded just like you numerous times in my life, and each time I felt like there was no way my life would change. From the outside my life looked good, but I felt like I was a worthless loser. My psychiatrist tried me on many different meds with name brand Effexor being the only one that made even a slight difference, and that slight improvement always disappeared and left me hopeless again. Until I started taking Lamictal along with Effexor. Once I reached 100mg I felt a huge decrease in symptoms and an increased sense of hopefulness. It has really been a miracle drug for me.

Please call your psychiatrist and Let him/her know how you feel. The cocktail you are on isn't working, and it may be time to try something that's for treatment-resistant depression.
posted by Sal and Richard at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2012

I've felt like that from time to time. It's generally a sign that I need to get back on the meds-and-therapy train (I don't believe it, though - I just get the feeling.)

I strongly, strongly recommend that you talk with a psychiatrist - possibly in an inpatient setting, but at the very least a full workup/assessment and not just a ten-minute med update. ECT may help, some people like TMS, and there are a lot of other drugs besides the 3 you've said you've taken. I've taken at least eight or nine for depression, including anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Do some reading on treatment-resistant/refractory depression (that was a paper picked at random, not for any special qualities.)

You also need to address the anxiety, quite possibly with additional meds. And you may want to mention avoidant personality disorder to your psychiatrist and therapist when you next see them. I'm not saying you have it, but that line about social ineptitude is classic AvPD thinking, so I'm throwing it out there.

(When I can't care about anything else, I do research on my own disorders. I find it strangely comforting, and the textbook titles make them nice "leave me alone" props in public places where people might want to bother you while you're reading.)
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 4:52 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would like to believe I care for humanity as a whole, but I think the structure of institutions and societies is so flawed that doing a bit of good is like a drop in the bucket.

"If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room." ~Anita Roddick
posted by NoraCharles

Reminds me of a friend of mine's mom who went through a very dark depression when we (my friend and I) were in our late teens. A few years later, I got the story of how she got out of it.

Ultimately, being an informed political person (left leaning), she decided the issue was political. She concluded that the powers-that-be (the political right to generalize) wanted her to feel useless, powerless, ultimately suicidal. And so, out of sheer spite, she decided that her only option was to survive, to do precisely the opposite of what her enemies wanted. That's a very long story made short, but the fact is, it worked for her. That decision to continue living was her turning point. Maybe she didn't find meaning but she definitely found something. We're talking more than thirty years ago now, and she's still going strong, still politically active.
posted by philip-random at 5:21 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I was wondering if there was anyone like me who eventually felt better. Or do they spend their entire lives in misery and/or eventually suicide?

I'm better than I was, and you hit a lot of my own notes. Here's a thing to remember: you are depressed. You cannot trust your reasoning right now. This is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT to keep in mind.

Keep doing the things you know you should be doing. They don't work overnight. It takes time. Yes, even years.
posted by curious nu at 5:27 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You seem to think it's up to you to feed the homeless and read to the kiddies. It's not. There are other people who do those things, and you can step back from those tasks with no ill-effect. Someone will take your place without the system crumbling. So stop thinking it all hinges on you. That should lighten your mental load somewhat.

As far as life having a "point," no one ever said it does. Aim to get through by having fun, maybe a little skulduggery, being careful not to harm your fellow 99%ers.
Not to sound like a Big Pharma commercial here, but "Ask your doctor about Celexa. It may be right for you!" It did me a world of good.

I wish you well and sincerely hope you get better. You're a good writer.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Okay right now because your brain chemistry is out of whack, you are looking at the world through shit coloured glasses. So sunsets look like shit. Dates look like shit. Everything looks like shit. How do you know if something looks good or not when everything looks like shit. So you can't trust your perceptions, because of the shit filter. On preview what curious nu said, in spades.

So Job No. 1 is to clean your glasses. And the way to do that is to get your meds adjusted. Talk to your prescribing. Tell them what you've told us. Say the meds are not working. If you don't get a reaction, you have to take it up a notch. I don't know if where you are or what resources are available if you are really asking total internet strangers if it's ok to "hit rock bottom" then I think it's okay to talk to urgent care / crisis care health professionals and have frank discussions about this. Use the telephone hotlines.

So my personal thing that keeps me from ever hitting rock bottom even in my darkest moments, which are pretty goddamn dark, is that I *must* know how the story ends. Where "the story" is life around me. I need to know what happens next. Even if it's just as an observer; I will never take an exit because I MUST KNOW.

Anyway: clean the glasses and thinks will become much clearer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I am your intellectual twin. Like you, I see that there is no "point" to anything, all meaning is constructed, and the only thing that waits for us after death is oblivion. In fact, oblivion is staring us in the face 24/7, and it's only through ardent denial that most people avoid looking.

Many will say they agree with these statements, but few actually view everything through these perspectives on a daily basis. It's not easy, but it's what we got. At least it's honest.

BUT...I am not depressed. Your clinical depression and these views of reality can be separated. How, I'm not sure.

The only hint I can give you is that lack of meaning does not imply negative. It sure doesn't imply positive, but your translating nothingness into negativity is just as erroneous as those who think Jesus wants them to do stuff and awaits them in heaven. It's value-neutral.

You and I both know that it doesn't matter one whit if you have fun or if you're miserable your whole life, because it will all be gone and forgotten. But, there is no less reason to have fun than there is to be miserable.
posted by zachawry at 6:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Allow me to suggest that when you ask what meaning life has, what you really mean is: fulfill my desire! There is a desire you have -- perhaps it's a socially unacceptable desire -- that you are not fulfilling. Perhaps you do not even acknowledge this desire; you might know about it, but you are not paying it any attention. You need to acknowledge that desire (there may be more than one) and pursue it. Pursuing that desire will put you on the path to finding meaning.

In particular, I would suggest sexuality as a place to start.

It is interesting to note that sex has not appeared even once in the thread so far.

Sexual attraction is like a livewire to desire. To whom are you wildly attracted, and what would it take to get them? Do that.
posted by shivohum at 6:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would suggest a better therapist and better drugs. I have felt like you do a lot, on and off, for close to 30 years. I'd had therapists of various stripes on different occasions, and a few really horrible runs at trying drug therapy.

I felt exactly like you do right now about 18 months ago. And then I finally got lucky. I've been working with a psychologist who has been serious from the very start and intent on basically breaking me down to my component parts and building me back up. It has been terrible and horrible and exhausting. I am realizing shit about my life that had never occurred to me, and that I would never ever have believed had any impact on me. Her particular specialty is EMDR. I've also figured out a drug regimen that almost works perfectly. We're still tinkering.

Your big long explanation of everything made me wonder about anxiety. I'd been trying for years to treat depression with no success, and it's only been over the past year that I've realized that under the depression is actually a shitstorm of anxiety, plus a nice helping of PTSD. But because I am also highly functioning and have always been very successful, I just kind of marched along dying on the inside forever and ever. I thought the fact that I thought about everything all the time, non-stop, every possible detail of every possible thing just meant I was smart. Turns out that's not the case!

You may also have a lot invested in being a depressed, nihilistic, cynic. I do! I think that is particularly true of people who started being depressed in their teens. It's just part of the fiber of your being. But I'm starting to let go of it. Clearly it hasn't done me any good.

So, yeah, you can wait to hit rock bottom if you want to. But why wait? I could weep when I think of all the time I have wasted. An almost entirely uninterrupted decade! What you are doing right now isn't working, but I am telling you that there is quite likely something out there that will work. You just have to keep trying. Start by talking to your therapist and you meds doc about what isn't working and how you'd rather feel.
posted by looli at 7:57 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it's really true that nothing really matters, then it's also true that it doesn't matter that nothing really matters.

And there is nothing that needs to be done, because nothing, none of it, matters.

If you can embrace that, which, by your own reasoning, is the absolute truth, then your heart should be light as a feather. Savor the breeze and the sunshine. What matters is what matters to you. If you've found nothing else to engage you—which, unfortunately, is a fate many share—enlist as an ambulance driver somewhere. Or a fire jumper. Or a mercenary. May as well go out with a bang.

And if that seems unpalatable, ask yourself why, because the answer might contain the clue to your very own reason for living.
posted by bricoleur at 8:18 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are there people like me that are actually able to live happy and fulfilling lives?

I don't know if I'm like you, but maybe I am, since I had depression and when I did I think I lived in a possibly similar world of meaninglessness and disconnectedness. And one thing that jumped out at me is that you say you sometimes can't tell the difference between what you want and what you think you should want. I wasn't sure what I wanted. And the reason, for me, was that I had no idea what I felt, and I was trying to find my way by thinking about everything - which wasn't working.

One important thing I learned about myself is that I am very emotional. But I had been very unaware of my emotions, avoiding them, ignorant and unaware of them most of the time. And for good reason - I felt a lot of pain and it was overwhelming. As a result I was very analytical, and my initial attempts to deal with my depression had little success because I was trying to understand my feelings rather than actually feeling them and living inside them.

What worked for me was gradually (I don't think there is any other way) being more and more aware of my emotions. It was a process of asking, "what exactly am I experiencing?" What is depression? Is it a physical sensation? Where is it? I moved out of my mind and into my body. I cried. I screamed. I convulsed. It was very hard work. Over time I could feel the pathways in my brain change. I discovered things about myself that shocked me. I changed so much that if you had tried, at the beginning of the process, to present me with insights I had gained later in the process, I could not have understood or believed them.

I had to go deep inside myself, with a focus on emotions and the embodiedness of my emotions.

And I don't think I could have done it without the help of my therapist.

So, you may not be like I was, but if you are, then maybe try to forget about meaning, forget about the the logic and syntax of what "matters," forget about narrative structures like the structure of human societies and teaching people how to fish, etc. Maybe focus on the pain inside you and feel it, describe it, locate it, talk to it, and just sit there and have it. Maybe something creative will happen.

And again, I want to emphasize the importance of my therapist. It took a while to find the right one. CBT didn't seem to do much for me. Some of the therapists I tried were frankly kind of dumb - or worse, total frauds. But I kept looking and it was worth it.

Good luck.
posted by univac at 8:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: zachawry: You make a good point about meaninglessness being value-neutral. I only see it as a negative because of my shit-colored lenses, to quote seanmpucket. My depression and my nihilism are separable, though they kind of reinforce one another. And I guess that's why I don't find the meaninglessness of life to be freeing at all. I don't think I'm depressed due to my nihilism; I was already depressed, tried to find a reason to keep going, realized there is none, and lost the will to try. My thought process is, if nothing matters anyway, the best we can do is enjoy the ride; if you can't enjoy the ride, and in fact we're feeling kind of sick during it, why keep riding?

Anyway, I'm sorry if I sound dramatic. The rock bottom comment was made in a moment of distress. I'm not suicidal, and am pretty committed to living, simply because it would be selfish for me to cause so much pain for my parents and sister. It would be nice to be able to derive pleasure from living, because that's a long time to pass. Thank you for those sharing your personal stories. It gives me a bit of hope.
posted by ribboncake at 9:17 PM on June 13, 2012

I care about you! That may be small but sometimes small things are helpful.

I felt miserable for a while because I thought there was no point to life. I couldn't connect to anything. A friend said, "If there is no point and it's meaningless, then that means it's equally meaningless to 'succeed' as it is to 'fail'. So why not 'succeed'?" It helped knock my head enough that I started doing different things.

Another idea I hold onto is that "this, too, shall pass." I also find hope in a faith community because in the community everyone who wants to be a member is a member--you don't have to be cool or together enough, just have to want to be there. ymmv but I wish you the best.
posted by ramenopres at 9:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only thing that is always there, indestructible no matter what the challenge, is hope.

I am your much milder version. Most of what you have written resonates deeply with me. I am currently struggling and facing some issues head-on and I have had phases where it seemed like I needed to work on getting out of a black hole and not get sucked in. I'll tell how I keep getting up after falling down (still a work in progress).

Life is difficult and painful, and it involves suffering. No one gets to escape it. And all of us have our own share of it. Thing is, happiness is not something the average person is born with. You have to do the work to be happy. It takes tons of work and effort to have anything worthwhile in life. No one is entitled to be happy. It's not a civil right. It's well and good to work on issues yourself or talking with a therapist but do you actually *do* anything, not when you feel like it but rather despite what you feel about it? This is not a competition where you get a prize to eat well and be disciplined for the longest time you can and then you have this sense of entitlement to the reward of happiness- it does NOT work that way. You have to *do* something, and do it for yourself with the thought that reaching the goal does not trump the struggles. It is because of the struggles that the result is all the more sweeter, if you can appreciate it at all. "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals".

We can all sit here and discuss what the meaning of life is, in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains that no one knows. I found Victor Frankl's book very satisfying, and it might be worth a read if you haven't. The ability to think and choose is both the burden and the freedom. Neither entitles or leads one to happiness by default. It's a choice. It's a path. You can go down a road with a sense of adventure or dread but no one can teach you or force you to pick one path or the other. All the things that you describe about your social life, the things you have been doing and yet not being's very similar to the posts you see here by young women who say something like," I am this awesome person who is outgoing, smart, pretty and what not and I have been doing all these things to find a life partner but just can't. What am I doing wrong/what more can I do?" And then someone will reply,"I think you are trying too hard and the men can sniff it from miles away" and you know that's the best and the right answer. You are trying too hard with too much emphasis and expectations out of activities that aren't meant to soothe your emotions or give you the satisfaction, which in itself is a fleeting, short-lived thing. The way I try to frame things for myself is that I divide the satisfaction I can get from different activities- say reading books and meeting with friends- let's put them at 20% and 5% of total satisfaction I need. I read once that a person should expect no more than 25% of their need fulfillment from a life partner. Can you believe that? 25%!! No one person or thing will bring satisfaction or harmony. Not all people or things combined will bring 100% satisfaction all the time. That's the nature of life, not a happy coincident for happy people. I agree with you- people are selfish. A beloved author agrees,"You will find as you grow older that the first thing to make the world a tolerable place to live in is to recognize the inevitable selfishness of humanity.....When you are reconciled to the fact that each is for himself in the world you will ask less from your fellows. They will not disappoint you, and you will look upon them more charitably." If you ask me personally, on one of my regular days, I'd say I hate 95% of the people. On a cross day that may be 97%. But when I allow myself that feeling of not liking people most of the time, one of the days that I do choose to spend time with a friend, I can admire tons of qualities in an individual and feel blessed to know another human with such a remarkable personality. That probably makes not much sense to you but that's me. My point is, you are allowed to not be social if that is what you like. Or be social. Or anything in-between. You are allowed to be you and that does not have to fit any societal normal. That is a right. But you have to know yourself first- what you want and don't want, and that in itself is a long process. Also keep your expectations of other humans low- lower than average for some. We are designed to disappoint. If you choose an atypical lifestyle, own it and be happy being yourself. If you twist your personality to suit the norm (for instance, what's supposed to be "fun" in your age group), you'll fit in for 10 min and be unhappy for 10 days. Not worth it over long-term.

Caring for humanity and solving global problems (as you can tell) are two totally different things. You may not be satisfied by putting a smile on someone's face not because you cannot appreciate it but because you mind is distracted to solving bigger problems. You cannot see or appreciate what is here and now. You say feeding the fish is not much useful if you can't teach one how to fish? You fed someone a meal. Did you ask them, for how long s/he was hungry? After how much wait did that one meal come their way? What did that one meal mean to him/her? You don't ask because you don't see their reality, one person at a time, one day at a time. You may have the luxury of thinking of life as years and years of meaninglessness but the hungry may just care about that one damn meal for now. Maybe you won't be able to feed them the next meal, maybe I will. Maybe you still don't want to feed them. Maybe you want to start a community kitchen instead, with your local community. And the idea for your next organization or meetup is born. Go out and *do* something. Don't just sit and think about how caring of humanity and not being able to solve problems on a big scale don't match up. Oh, and on serving casserole, it's called dignity of labour. If all the people in the world become, say surgeons because hey they are saving lives and doing something meaningful vs serving casserole, how do you expect the world to function? How will you solve that problem? Those surgeons are going to need some casserole when they are too exhausted to cook. You may not feel that way, and they may not feel grateful to you but that's kind of how the concept of a bigger picture works. Everything and everyone is connected. So even though you don't feel like you made a difference in any one's life, you can't really know for sure. "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

Finally, know that even if you are struggling for something, searching for something, it does not necessarily mean that things per se are going badly for you. It could be that your true needs, wants, values, principles, actions- everything- are not in harmony. Trying too hard? That awareness and the work that follows is a long road. But its worth it in the end. And hope leads the way.

In summary-

* Just *do* something, anything. Don't just sit there and talk about things being bad and sad.
* Keep your immediate surrounding neat and clean. Especially true if you don't feel like doing it.
*Be true to yourself and try to stick to what really makes you happy vs what people/society tells you that you need to do/be to be happy.
* The best you do, and the best that you can do, is what you do right here, right now. Not 50 years from now. So go feed that next hungry person for today.
*Get something alive, anything that is solely dependent on you for its existence. Its okay if you can barely take care of yourself right now- do just the same bare minimum for the pet.
* If pets are not possible right now, get some plants with flowers. Goal is to keep any living thing alive. No more, no less, for now.
posted by xm at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I finally paid for an account just to comment on this post.

Please try ECT. After years of therapy, various combinations of medication, and a week in a psychiatric hospital, ECT finally worked. It was miraculous. It saved my life. Talk to your psychiatrist; if he/she is resistant, talk to a different psychiatrist.

Don't hesitate to message me if you'd like information about the process/side effects.
posted by baby beluga at 5:26 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Two things.

First, a couple of people are suggesting ECT. You may be inclined to dismiss this out of hand, but you should know that it's not what you're probably picturing. My understanding that these days it's done under anesthesia in very controlled circumstances - nothing like Return to Oz at all.

Second, you seem pretty smart and probably well-read, and you've obviously thought a lot about you existentialism/nihilism. So my question is, who are your guys, philosophically speaking? Schopenhauer? Sartre? Nietzsche? Because someone with your temperament should stay the hell away from the first two and just binge on Nietzsche. I don't know how familiar your are with his work, but starts from pretty much the same set of premises you've described here, and somehow manages to use that to create a philosophy of complete joy. He's worth giving a very serious look (and he wasn't really an anti-semite, his Nazi sister edited his manuscripts after he died to make it look like he was).
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:19 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

99% useless info but...

You might find Thomas Carlyle interesting. His first book, Sartor Resartus, has, at it's heart two chapters; "the everlasting nay" and "the everlasting yea" which cover, with some humour, the authors loss of faith and personal crisis.

I'm sure there's a massive ammount of literature on the subject, but I found Carlyle quite profound and, well, inspirational I suppose.

Good luck, I hope things improve for you. IMHO the purpose of life is life. We are the eyes of the world and perception is its own purpose. As has been said "even this will pass", and one day you will realise the immense value (and meaning) of this time. Until then; keep clean, eat well and just keep on going.
posted by BadMiker at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of the sneakiest ways your brain tries to kill you is by disguising depression as deep philosophical enlightenment.

This. Right. Here.

I have suffered from clinical depression all my life, and man it's a bitch. Give yourself credit for having the courage to bring this to the green. For me, there is hope if I have the nuts to tell someone how I feel. I heard a lot of feelings of emptiness in your post. I can get that way too. I have to constantly remind myself that I am a tiny thread in the tapestry of life. But a necessary thread, otherwise the tapestry will not be the same.

One cliche I have been told ad nauseam is "This too shall pass". Hearing that infuriates me, but I have to admit it's true. Another thing that helps me is to realize that I've survived everything in my life up to now, and therefore I will continue to survive and even thrive in my future.

Take good care of yourself. Get your meds checked. Allow yourself to love others and let them love you too. Spend time outside, listen to the birds, and feel the sun/wind/rain on your skin.

Just be. It will get better.
posted by strelitzia at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2012

Read the several dozen question and answer posts on this topic. Set a timer for yourself, so you don't spend all day online.
posted by talldean at 11:48 AM on June 15, 2012

Another nihilist here.. : ) Here's another angle on the philosophical theme of meaninglessness...

Have you ever been reading about the scale of outer space, and you realize just how TINY we are? Then, you can look at photos of bacteria or cells or whatever, and you realize how absolutely enormous we are? These are both TRUTHS that co-exist at the same time, on a continuum, and yet seem to be in opposition. (I think this phenomenon is now referred to as the Long Zoom.)

Anyway, the universe seems to work like that in a lot of ways. I'd also suggest that it's the same with meaning, as in, life may be meaningless, but at the same time it's also DENSE with meaning. Isn't there a great deal of meaning packed into (for exampl) just the way you might say a single word of a single sentence? What about the larger meanings of the career you've chosen, the type of relationship you have with your parents, etc.? There are layers upon layers of it. I'm not saying we'll ever understand it, but to focus on just the lack of meaning in the universe is to miss the other half of the equation.

As for more practical matters, I think Dixon Ticonderoga's advice above is your key. Good luck!
posted by see_change at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say I understand what you're saying, & feel this way most of the time. I am very familiar with just about everything you said. As for me personally I've felt this way since I was just a teenager, that got progressively worse as time has gone on- for me it hasn't been an issue of "meds being off", it's just been the way my brain chemistry has worked (I have been on meds in the past). I can't say I'm out of the hole at all, but recent therapy with a new psychologist has been helping. I feel like I'm starting to see things a little differently, which is a great feeling. Actually having a few people who have been seeming to be coming through for me lately & caring, has also been helping a bit.

I'm right in there with you though, if you want to talk to someone who feels the way you do feel free to memail me.

I'm rooting for ya, wholeheartedly!
I hope you'll email or keep me/the green updated on how your doing. Someone out there cares- Sometimes that makes all the difference :)
posted by readygo at 9:47 PM on June 16, 2012

We are the universe become conscious of itself.

Hello... what's this?... I'm alive. How did that happen? What am I here for? Hmmm... no obvious reason. Some bits of me seem to find doing this important... other bits find doing that important... most of the living bits of me seems to find valuing things a good idea. Not so sure about that. What's the point of being attracted to things, repelled by things...? just seems to keep the whole merry-go-round spinning. What's the point of all these patterns proliferating and folding in on themselves? Am I just moving between simplicity and complexity in a never ending cycle? Seems like. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it absurd? Yes. Is it necessary? Seems to be.

I submit that if you can't find value in some things right now, you'll never find value in any further purpose.
posted by leibniz at 12:29 PM on June 17, 2012

I think you just asked my question for me, ribboncake. I'm not seeing anything to look forward to in my life, just a lot of stuff to dread, no matter how hard I look. And short of indulging in some kind of magical thinking, I can't even come up with any ideas for what might make it better. Following 18 months of unemployment and the utter horror of moving back home to my parents at 41, I really thought getting a job was the key, but the job I've wound up with is probably the worst i have ever had (even counting summer jobs during school) and pays so badly that there's no hope of finding a way to "leave home" anytime soon.

I don't feel like any combination of medication is going to change the rather horrible situation I am in. Instead, I need a new way of looking at the situation. With that in mind, I wonder if any AskMeFis have any experience with Philosophical Counseling?
posted by Jaie at 4:59 PM on June 17, 2012

Have to say, can I find someone to hang out with & talk to? Of course. Can I make it through the day relatively painlessly, sometimes? Yes. Do I consider the same things you do but think of the effect it might have on my family/parents? Yes. Are all these things enough to keep me going through the motions of life? I don't know.
Do you perhaps hate it when people ask their own questions & them answer them themselves? Hell yes. Sorry about that :P

I used to think having someone who cares about you was a big key to giving meaning to life, but maybe that's just conditioning by everything I see around me in society. I had a long term relationship that was very fulfilling, but towards the end there were some doubts (though probably due to events going sour).

Is it enough to have someone who will be with you through thick & thin to make you feel life is worth living & getting through the mundane? I don't know (there I go again..!). I think it would help. For me I guess it's a matter of hoping to find someone else out there who sees the world the way I do, & feel like I have someone who understands me that might make living life more meaningful.

Have you had disappointments in your life that have shifted your way of thinking about living & about other people? Did you once have things you were passionate about but feel like you've been dissappointed by them in some big way? I know I have. I'm sure most of us have. Maybe most people feel this way, but hide it better than others. Maybe like me you also have a bit of harder time just going with it & acting like it doesn't matter. Maybe other people do as well. Then again, maybe most people don't feel this way at all, and this is not the norm. I don't know. I can only say what I feel, & what I feel is extremely similar to what you do. It makes it hard when life seems to be a stream of seemingly endless events that tie together not accumulating into much. Not feeling much emotion for me, for sure. For me I think I can say it's due to a lot of disappointments in life, that have made me feel a bit numb. But when I do find that situations or people surprise me, that helps to eliviate the existential hell I feel I'm in most of the time. I think it's gotta be about human connection. If you'd look at most people who would describe themselves as happy, they usually have a strong support system of family/romantic interest/friends who care about them. I think this has to be a key to wanting to push on to another day. Otherwise, it doesn't seem to mean too much.

Again, maybe finding people like that could be a key thing for you. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm still trying to find it. It does get really tiring. But, when those surprises do happen, it does seem to give me some gumption for another day. Social connectedness seems to be a major component of human behavior, when we don't feel it, it can all feel like just going through the motions.

Sorry for the rant.
Don't know if that did anything in response to you question, because obviously I haven't figured out how to deal with it completely either. But the emptiness, I totally understand. I really think it has to do with that feeling of connecting. Hard to find, & hard to sustain sometimes. But fulfilling when it does happen, & for however long it does.
posted by readygo at 12:41 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if I help one person overcome the odds by teaching them "how to fish", it doesn't solve the cause of the problem in the first place. There will always be more

The goal in life isn't to eliminate suffering it's to lessen its burden.

I'm where you are right now* and this moment has always struck as the point where I start to tell myself that I need to stop the pity party, or I spiral even further out of control because while I can recognize the moment there is also an element of self defeating "fuck it, it's too hard!" that goes along with the extreme naval gazing. There is no answer to your question because it strikes me that you're at the moment where you should get thee to a doctor once again for another round of medication if you can't get angry enough to push back when you have those fuck it moments.

*I can't recall the last time I was touched by another human (it's been years) let alone had a conversation beyond the pleasant social niceties that you can get out of day to day living. A month ago I would've burst into tears at that thought and now I'm angry at myself for letting my world shrink down so far and scared shitless over how to turn it all around. Right now my answer is to learn how to give up control; I can't protect myself from future hurt no more than I can make someone else's pain go away so, I'm searching for those moments where misery can be put into suspended animation, at least for a little while.
posted by squeak at 7:00 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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