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.