I’ve been trying to think

I’ve been trying to think of a reason to live.

Not in a ‘farewell, cruel world’ kind of way.  I’ve known for a long time now that I’m too much of a coward to take my own life, no matter how tempting it may be.  There’s no danger of a suicide here.  I have to live with what that says to me and to the world about who and what I am.  I have to live, or, rather, I have to go on existing.  I don’t have a choice.

But in a ‘finding a purpose in life’ kind of way, there has to be something to make this existence more than just a pointless charade.  There has to be some reason to get up in the morning and to go to bed at night, to eat, and drink, and wash, and cook, and shop, and all the rest.  There has to be a reason.  There must be a reason.

But I can’t think of one.

In the comments to my last post, several people talked about the fact that they care, and that’s lovely.  It’s lovely of people to think that they care.  But really?  I’m a blogger, and they like to read what I write, but if I stopped blogging tomorrow, they’d move on.  They (you) would.  Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but you would.  There’s always another blog, there’s always another blogger.  Within a month I’d be forgotten, within 6 months I’d be off every blogroll, within a year you’d hardly find me with google.  It’s true.  You may not want to admit it, but it’s true.  You want to maintain the fiction, you want me to believe in it, because you’re nice people, and you want very much to help me, and you think telling me you care, or that I matter to you, is a way to help.  But it isn’t, not really.

I like blogging.  I like reading blogs.  I like commenting on them.  It’s a good way to pass the time.  I like the people who blog, I like the people who comment.  I think of them as friends, and I am profoundly grateful that they (you) care. Really, I am.  I don’t mean to sound callous, or uncaring, or ungrateful.  But it isn’t enough.  Friends aren’t enough.

Friends are nice, it’s a privilege to have them.  I feel very lucky that I’ve met so many people through this blog that I can call my friends.  A life with friends is so much better than a life without friends, but it isn’t a life in itself.  Friends make a life better, they don’t on their own make a life.  They’re not a reason to live.  There has to be something more.  I need there to be something more.

In the comments to my last post a couple of you said that there is a future.  Well, sorry, but you’re wrong, there isn’t, not for me.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a tomorrow, there’s a whole string of tomorrows, but that’s not a future.  Tomorrow is just the next bit of time.  The future is different.  The future is a place of possibility.  It’s where hope lives, it’s where people get to do things they’ve always wanted to do, be the people they’ve always wanted to be, live their dreams, have wild and wonderful experiences.

There is none of that for me.  There isn’t.  You will probably (maybe) want to argue with me on this.  You will tell me that it’s just the depression talking, but it isn’t.  Yes, I am depressed.  Believe me, I can’t forget it when I can feel the weight of it dragging down every thought and every movement.  But as well as misery, depression brings insight.  I am a fairly insightful person, I think, but usually I censor it.  Usually I wrap it around with pointless, irrelevant, meaningless bullshit.  When I’m depressed I cut through the crap.  It’s not depression talking when I say that I don’t have a future, it’s the unvarnished truth.

Yes, there is a tiny, tiny chance that I will suddenly get better, that my life will get back on track, that everything will work out ok for me.  But it isn’t likely.  Remember, I’ve ridden this road a thousand times before, and every time I ride it gets less and less likely that I’ll find a turning off it.  I know this.  You know this, if you allow yourself to admit it.  The more often someone gets depressed, the more likely they are to get depressed again.  Most people who suffer from major depression suffer one episode, then get better.  I’m not a member of the one tango club on this one, not by a long, long shot.

I have severe, enduring, treatment-resistant depression, with what seem likely to be mild psychotic features, although they haven’t been diagnosed as such.  People don’t get better from this.  They limp on.  They recover a little bit.  They get better enough to go to the park and sit on a bench and feel a tiny, fractional happiness at the sun and the blue sky and the breeze and the birds and the sound of kids playing away in the distance.  But they don’t get better.

That door – the one with ‘recovery’ written on it – is closed to me.  And all the other doors – the ones marked ‘relationship’, ‘job’, ‘sense of achievement’, ‘sense of being comfortable in your own skin’ – are locked away on the far side of it.  None of these doors are ever going to re-open.  The odds are overwhelmingly against it.  I know this.  You know it too.  So let’s stop pretending, shall we?

The trouble is, this matters.  I mean, it really matters.  A sense of the future, a belief in the future, is how I define myself.  Possibly that sounds weird to you – a depressive who relies on his hope in the future?  The very idea!  But I do.  I can cope with the fact that everything is shit here and now, but there has to be a future.  Not a shining, golden future, but a future where everything carries on getting gradually, incrementally better.

I believe – passionately – in the idea of historical progress.  I believe it is better to be alive in 2009 than it was in 1989, or 1909, or 909, or -2009.  I believe everything, everything, is getting better, not in a straightforward way – it’s a case of 2-steps-forward-1½-steps-back, always – but relentlessly better nonetheless.

I know this makes me unusual.  I know most people see things the exact opposite way.  They see every change as an error, and every new idea as a threat.  They have a fixed idea of a golden age – the 2nd world war, or the 1950s, or the 60s – and they see everything as declining from then, and themselves as involved in a desperate rearguard action to stop the worst from coming to the absolute worst.  And I don’t know how they do it.  I don’t know how they get up and find the will to breathe if they believe that each successive breath is drawn in a worsening world.   I know I couldn’t do it.  I know I can’t do it.

I don’t believe in gods, or ghosts, or spirits, or souls.  I don’t believe I have been here before, I don’t believe I will be here again, I don’t believe in the spirit of place.  But I do believe in people.  I believe in ordinary, decent, good-natured, funny, kind people who do their best.  And I believe in the future that they are slowly, painfully building for themselves.  I have to believe in it.  I simply have to.  It’s as important to me as the air that I breathe, or at least it feels like it is.

But that’s the trouble.  My belief is starting to slip, and my hope is suffocating.  I still believe in an abstract sense, I can still see the improvements that are to come, in that sense it isn’t a belief but an expectation.  But the fire of it, the passion of it – that is leaving me.  Every time I sink back down into the pit there is less and less of it left.  And I know why.

I still believe, I still know, these improvements are to come, but I am starting to realise that they won’t be there for me.  I am slipping outside the human race.  I am like an old, slow runner who has been forced to the side.  I have stopped to catch my breath, a hand to my side to ease the burning stitch.  Maybe I will start to run again, a few more steps, but slowing all the time, and all the while the great tide surging past me.  I no longer belong.  I want so desperately to belong, but I don’t, and wanting it won’t make it happen.  I am weak, and I am slow, and I am being left behind.

I have always known – somewhere, somehow – that my depression was a disorder.  I always knew that it wasn’t the real me.  That behind the despair there was still a deeper hope, a fundamental core that the depression couldn’t reach.  I might not have been able to feel it, but I could still reach it intellectually, I could reach inward, downward with my mind and find the fire still burning there.  But it is this that I am losing, and will soon have lost.

I am a limited, lost, broken-winged creature.  I lack the ability to fly.  Where others soar I can only walk.  Everything I achieve – everything I am – comes via an effort of will.  Things that come spontaneously to other people I have to think myself into.  And I’m coming to realise that’s true of my basic sense of myself.  My belief in the future has to be worked at, it has to be sustained.  But the only tools I have are my mind and my reason, and they are both telling me that hope for myself is misplaced.

Go back and re-read the paragraphs where I lay out the likelihood that I will never truly recover.  Now find me a hole, or a gap, or a flaw in the reasoning.  Because I can’t.  I don’t think there is one.  And if there isn’t a flaw, if the reasoning is true, then how can I sustain hope?  Because my mind and my reason are all I have, and all I ever had.  My emotions – they can’t be relied on, they will plunge me into despair at a moment’s notice.  Only my intellect and my reason were resistant to that.  And now my intellect is telling me that – truthfully – there is no longer any reasonable basis to hope.

And so I really am lost.

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11 Responses to I’ve been trying to think

  1. NiroZ says:

    You are forgetting that your blog is unique. Most blogs are. Sure, we would move on if you vanished from the madosphere, but that doesn’t mean we won’t miss your blog.

    The flaw in your reasoning, from my perspective, is the underlying current that you can’t make yourself recover. There are experimental treatments out there, such as TMI or DBS. Forgoing that, you can fight to have your psychotic symptoms treated

  2. Mandy says:

    Hi A

    Is one of those facts of life that people move on when other people are no longer there. I don’t think the human race would have survived if they didn’t… but it also seems to me that people keep those things that they liked about the other person with them (memories, certain feelings, experiences).

    I am long past arguing for or against recovery (only against how the term can be manipulated as some kind of social control) and particularly as Dad insists there are things about him that he cannot overcome..what gives me the right to insist otherwise? How could I know?

    I do believe that treatments might improve (not sure when) and right now they ain’t all that…. that sometimes circumstances can change which then help (although these things tend to be rare)and that a level of pro-activity within myself seems to help me more than the inertia..although I find it difficult to sustain. We are all in flux..some more than others.

    I wish it were easy for people to be able to have psychotic symptoms treated (that is effectively)…sorry Niroz but the psychotic medications come with some heavy side effects and even so, from what I have seen, they only treat (when succesful) a small part of what is the bigger problem for people.

    I also have to write that treatment, and the quality of it depends, on who is providing that treatment. Also that is dependant on whether the treatment is purely based around medication or there are other support mechanisms involved. MH services in the UK are not all providing the same levels of care. Some, I read of, seem to be helpful from a very early stage whilst in other areas people have to ‘fight’ more or less continually for better care..and some people haven’t got the energy levels to sustain.

    Am rambling but ‘getting back to the original plot’ a blog is a very unique place and when it disappears, although there are still other blogs, they aren’t the same. It is about individuality and that can’t be replaced.

  3. Lucy McGough says:

    I would miss you. Not your blog, you. Blogs don’t write themselves. And even if I ‘moved on’ and stopped missing you, I would always remember you. You were kind to me and you are a good person.

  4. Part Time Mentalist says:

    I don’t know if this is any help, but when I start getting depressed by the fact of my depression, by the fact that it always comes back, no matter what, I’ve found it helps to realize that what that also means is that the happiness always comes back, too – otherwise the depression wouldn’t have anything to come back from. It’s like one of those illusion pictures of a vase/two faces, where I’m stuck on the faces, and suddenly realize there’s a vase in between them.

    I’d also say that the fact that recently you experienced an unusual lift in mood is something worth hanging on for – it’s a sign that things can change, that your disorder might alter or lessen in the future.

    As to what to keep going for… that’s always a hard one. I tend to find I need projects – I don’t have one big overriding thing I live for, but I get things to focus on for a few weeks/months at a time to distract myself from that. Creative projects are best, although difficult when depression sucks all that out of you.

    I find that the emptiness and lack of a sense of anything to live for does come back over and over, but I just try and hold on through it, and get on with stuff the rest of the time when it doesn’t seem to matter so much, rather than trying to find some logic or reasoning that will stand up throughout.

    I don’t know if any of this will help you, we’re two different people in two different situations, but I hope you might find some part of it helpful :/

    (I don’t normally comment, although I’ve been reading your blog with interest for some time. I just really wanted to help if there was any way I could, when I read this post :/ )

  5. Alex says:

    Tell me what I can do to help.

  6. jeanne waltz says:

    There is no flaw in your reasoning because there is no reasoning. You say something, it’s yours to say. There are no arguments, only (un-)faith. every 5 lines you say “It’s the truth i swear it’s the truth. And you know it.”I don’t know it, you say it. I have been reading your blog for some time, (some nights it helps) it’s all I know from you, it’s a lot, but very little, you filtered it. you hop up and down… I’d definitely say it’s the depression talking.
    take care

  7. bluesilk says:

    Hi,

    depression is so consuming and that loss of hope for and in one’s own future sucks to the suckieth degree. It’s probably the worst feature of depression.

    Your opening line is “I’ve been trying to think of a reason to live”. This may be something you just outright disagree with, but I’d say your value system isn’t based solely on reasonable thinking, because we are all emotional beings and our emotions never allow for total objectivity.

    Hope is a feeling that comes and goes i.e. “I feel optimistic/happy today” makes sense, while “I FEEL objective today” is conceptually tricky. Hope isn’t a rational response to a set of probabilities. If it were people would never be surprised, would never buy a lottery ticket etc.

    Depression removes hope. Hope is at least partially a subjective feeling that life is okay. Humans need hope to live. That’s my personal reasoning.

    When you say find a hole in the reasoning that you will never fully recover, my response is ‘fully recover’ is extreme and a less depressed mood might enable you to envisage a partial recovery and for that to feel like its enough.

    I suppose the thing is, I fundamentally don’t agree that your intellect and reason are resistant to emotion. Our brains are not compartmentalised that way with no spillage from one into the other.

    This is probably not helpful in the least, but I’m just taking this tack because you say you like to engage with the rational/logical arguments.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t aim to talk people out of feeling depressed or out of committing suicide if things get bad enough, because I’ve experienced that utter hopelessness and it’s not something you can withstand forever.

    All I’m saying is the arguments you put forth as reasons not to hope and, further, not to hope that hope will return, are not to my mind airtight.

    Sorry, this has become rather longer than I anticipated. My wish is for your faith to be restored by whatever means, take as much care of yourself as you can,

    Louise

  8. J. Wibble says:

    I do care. I know there’s not much point trying to talk someone out of the feelings that are so real and so forceful when you’re right down there in the pit, and I don’t want to talk about flaws in your logic as telling you why you’re wrong may well drag your sense of self-worth down even further, which isn’t my intention. All I will say is that I do care, and because I care I am going to try to put forward some practical suggestions, which are things that help me, to deal with the feelings of pointlessness and having no way of making any progression in life. Your words and comments have helped me a lot when I’ve been stuck in the pit, and it’s the least I can do to try to repay that kindness. :)

    Find something to throw yourself into that you really enjoy that doesn’t need to involve other people – this is what I do and it helps a lot with the feelings of hopelessness and pointlessness. You could try learning a new language, or an instrument, or taking up needlework or building Airfix kits or whatever, just something that you really love that takes you away from the drudging shit of chronic depression. A beautifully played piece, a finely crafted model or an intricate tapestry is a tangible achievement which you can feel and experience again and again and is enduring of whatever else life throws at you. It can be really difficult to motivate yourself to do things sometimes, but I find if you manage to talk yourself into doing it for 5 minutes, on the proviso that you may then crawl back to bed, it inevitably lasts more than 5 minutes and you feel more positive afterwards.

    If you’d like some bits of paper to boost yourself up with (in a sort of “well see, I’m not useless, I’ve done this” sort of way, which isn’t the answer to everything but it can help) you could try the Open University – I don’t know if you already have a degree, but if you don’t you can get the courses paid for (note: paid for, *not* a loan) if you’re on income support or housing benefit or any other means-tested benefit. It’d give you something to work towards, something to enjoy and something to be proud of, with some idea of what to do next when you’ve finished the thing you’re working on.

    Yes, it’s likely that your disability won’t ever go away completely. This does have a negative effect on your life, on your ability to hold down a job and on the energy you have available (i.e. not much) to spend keeping up with supposedly ‘normal’ people. It doesn’t mean that there is nothing that defines you as a person and no way in which you can develop yourself and make progress in your life. You can create purpose, and it won’t feel any less purposeful than if someone else creates it for you – in fact, it will feel even more important. Good luck.

  9. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments. They are greatly appreciated, all of them. I’m feeling a little too knackered to do my usual replying individually thing, though – i hope none of you minds. :o)

    J Wibble – sorry for the delay in yours appearing – the spam filter ate it, for some reason best known to itself.

  10. Because you’re talented, funny, compassionate, clever, lovely.

    I can never tell anybody it will get better because I don’t know if it will. But I really hope it does. I don’t want you going anywhere.

  11. beetrootsoup says:

    I am always very impressed by the quality of your riting A, as I’ve said before. This time I am also very impressed by what your respondents have said. None of it is facile, all of is better reasoned and expressed than I can manage. It says a lot for your blog that you’ve accumulated such a fine bunch of readers (oh ‘unread’ one!).

    What Louise says resonates enornously with me. Hope is not something you can reason yourself in or out of and nor is faith (not in gods or spirits, just in life). You’re a human being, not a robot. Just because your emotions appear to be more trouble than they’re worth (a sentiment I can appreciate probably more than most) does not mean you can choose not to have any.

    Emotion actually permeates the whole of this post, and probably most of your other ones. I hear distress, loneliness, anger, bitterness, disappointment, exhaustion…all entirely understandable under the circumstances.

    I know what works for me, when I can manage it, but you are you, so forgive me if this is useless. I need to mix with others as much as I possibly can, because the alternative is that I become increasingly bogged down by my own depressive thinking and, importantly, lose all perspective on my situation.

    Sometimes all I can do is listen to a programme about a war zone or how people live in the developing world, or just read others’ blogs on the madosphere. That helps me know I am not the only one suffering. I know it sounds cliched, but for me it’s effective.

    We all need to be able to adjust our self-expectations. Upwards, or downwards, depending where we’re at. And those expectations have got to be as unique to us. They can’t be bought off the peg. You won’t recover, you say, and by that token, nor will I or many others who read your blog. But who here is defining recovery, and in any case, is it the be-all and end-all? Nope.

    Sorry to go on and on A, but you know, I do very much care, and this is a subject I feel qualified to talk about, especially as I was recently suicidally depressed myself. Lots of love, Zoe.

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