First off, I wanted to tell you that I really like your work, you're awesome for taking the time to talk to people who feel lost and trying to help them.
While I don't really feel lost, I'm here asking you for your opinion.
I'm living like the perfect life at the moment. I'm studying in a field that interests me (I'll be changing soon but more on that later) but lots of free time to enjoy other things, I live at my parents house to not be too much of a burden economically but I perfectly autonomous, I have a girlfriend that loves me (maybe too much but again more on that later) and I have lots of acquaintances and some close friends that I can talk to and who are willing to help me.
The thing is: I don't enjoy life on Earth at all. Since I was able to I've always been consuming lots and lots of culture (books music videogames movies/shows comics and drawings). The "problem" with books, videogames etc. is that they depict amazing adventures in more or less fantastic universes full of interesting things to do, and now because I'm used to those stories I don't find any joy in life. On top of that I'm constantly thinking about all the problems going on in the world and in our society, making me miserable whenever I'm not occupied.
It's been 3 years now that the same thing is going on: I get really depressed, I plan my suicide, all the friends who hear about it tell me I shouldn't, I explain them why I want to, they get sad because of me, which makes me even more depressed making me unable to have enough strength in me to kill myself, I get used to the feeling making me able to go on but lose my best friends because they can't put up with a suicidal close friend (which I totally understand). After that I make some new friends ... and the cycle starts again...
The only things able to help me are videogames and music who help me don't think about it and drawing and reading poems that make me happy for a little while.
That's why I wanted to study in cinema, because making videos is a hobby not a passion like the 4 above, that way I could have a job I enjoy while not tainting my passions with the "work feeling.”
But now, I've hit like the 5th cycle, and I can't put up with anything anymore. I'm changing my studies to "Game Art," which involves lots of drawing hopefully making me able to bear life long enough so my girlfriend won't love me as much as she does atm, because I've talked to her about all that, and she said that if I do kill myself she'll follow me, and I don't want everyone to blame me for "taking" her life when I spent ALL my life trying to make everyone around me happy.
So yeah, I can't live like a normal human because I wish I were some kind of wolf with wings who's life would consist of exploring fantastic universes and battling with dragons or some other mystical creatures. I wouldn't care if I were to get killed/hurt like that, because it would be for something interesting. In real life you'll get killed because of sad and boring things (diseases, mad psychos, etc.), and while doing meaningless things (my ideal goal IRL would be to make people realize we have to act to make this world better, but I wasn't even able to make my friends do small changes in the way they act for objective goodness, imagine how that would go if I were to try on 7 billion strangers...).
I'm sorry this was really long, hopefully not too long and not too boring so you'll take some time to tell me how you feel about that. I'm not seeking for an answer on "how can I stay alive?" I just want to know what do you think of my way of thinking considering the life I have. Maybe you'll think I'm a spoiled brat that should enjoy life considering how easy I have it but hopefully you won't stop at that.
Thanks in advance Papabear!
Wirinel' DuSaule (age 18, France)
PS: Sorry if I made typos/mistakes. English's not my native language.
* * *
Whenever I get a letter from a reader and it concerns suicide, that letter gets moved to the top of the pile. I will reply to your letter by tomorrow. In the meantime, please consider contacting one of the following hotlines to talk to a professional.
I think I see what your problem may be, so I will get to that soon.
Boite Postale 43,
Contact by: - Phone
Hotline: 01 46 21 46 46
Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun: 15:00 - 23:00
Contact by: - Phone
Hotline: 01 45 39 40 00
Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun: 00:00 - 23:00
E.P.E. idF. Fil Sante Jeunes
Contact by: - Phone - E-mail:
Hotline: 0800 235 236
Fédération S.O.S Amitié France
11, rue des Immeubles industriels
Contact by: - Phone
Hotline: (+33) (0)1 40 09 15 22
* * *
It's very kind of you to put the letters about suicide on top of the pile!
And don't worry, I promised myself to not commit suicide too soon, I don't find joy in life but I'm trying my best to resist and first let my girlfriend pass her important exams.
Also I've already contacted my family doctor and a psychologist but they weren't able to help me. I've contacted you more because I'm curious of what you'll say considering you have a good experience with this kind of things than because I'm looking for a solution.
* * *
There’s no such thing as committing suicide “too soon”; any time someone commits suicide is an inappropriate time. As someone who attempted the deed at your exact age, I can tell you if you go that far you will absolutely devastate everyone in your life who cares about you; suicide is the ultimate, supremely selfish act and is like giving a big middle finger to everyone you love. You say you spent all your life trying to make others happy, yet with one blow—killing yourself—you will erase any and all of that happiness you might have accomplished. The teen years are the most likely time that a suicide will occur, so it is a critical period in your life to get through. If you are entertaining the idea even in the slightest, please call one of those hotlines I gave you.
I’m sorry that the psychologist you spoke to did not help. Since I have your attention, I will try to help here.
What you are experiencing is classically defined in the German tongue as “Weltschmerz.” That is, becoming depressed because the real world doesn’t compare favorably to a hypothetical, idealized world you find in art and literary fiction and video games that you would prefer. A lot of people have this condition—probably a lot of furries, especially, because we like to imagine ourselves as anthros living in fantastical worlds. We look at ourselves in the mirror and wish we could have wings or snouts or fur or tails.
As Spock once noted in the original Star Trek series, having is not always so pleasant as wanting. This was also pointed out to me in a forum led by Uncle Kage at MFF in which he talked about the consequences of what would happen if furries really were possible. The gist of his talk was that the physical and social aspects of being a true furry would likely be devastatingly disappointing. The same is true of your fantasy world. Fighting a dragon might seem glamorous, but you would likely be toasted or crushed or eaten alive, and that wouldn’t be too pleasant. If you were an anthro wolf, your anatomy would make it impossible to speak English (or any human tongue); and if you had wings they would likely be just for show, not functional, because having six limbs just doesn’t work anatomically, and even if it did it would be very hard for you to get off the ground.
Basically, you are desiring something that, even if it could become true, would likely not meet up with your high expectations.
Now let’s look at reality. You are, as they say, looking at the glass half empty. Yes, the world is troubled by disease, war, Rush Limbaugh, etc., but what about the amazing aspects of our real-life world? And I’m not just talking about the games and poetry into which you escape. Life is amazing! Nature is incredible! Quantum physics! Astronomy! The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly! The mind-warping possibilities of alternate universes, other dimensions, dark matter worlds, instantaneous particle communications through entanglement, and, more humbly but still incredible, the advances in medical science—why, we are getting really close to healing paralysis, making the blind see, the deaf hear, and integrating human biology with nanotechnology. There are advances in communications and transportation and environmental technology that are showing great promise in resolving problems with pollution and human interactions. People are developing clothes that can make you invisible; physicists have figured out how to freeze light in time! We’re very very close to discovering extrasolar planets that include liquid water and life! AND, it now seems possible that warp drive is a feasible mode of propulsion to get us to those planets. You, my furiend, are living in what is possibly the most remarkable era of human history—EVER!
Open your eyes and see around you, really see, and you will discover a world that’s really not hum-drum at all.
And that’s why I would recommend to you that you do not pursue a career in Game Art. Why? Because then you would just be reinforcing your conviction that it is only the worlds of fantasy that have validity and excitement. You would be creating an infinite loop that would trap you into your current mind-set, which is depressing you and making you consider suicide.
Instead, explore the possibilities and wonder of the real world. For instance, if you have any aptitude in it, I would say you should look into astronomy. What’s going on in that field is truly mind-blowing. Or, closer to home, medical technology, or perhaps focus on the planet and the wonders of natural plant and animal life. I know that when I was a zoo docent, I was constantly amazed by what animals can do to survive and thrive in the wild.
My Papabear sense is telling me that you only find the real world dull and uninspiring because you haven’t made the effort to truly familiarize yourself with it. Therefore, that would be my recommendation. I know you said you weren’t looking for a solution, but I’m giving you one anyway.
So far, dear furiend, you have been a sleepwalker through a magnificent, lush jungle full of life and possibilities. But you have been walking only on a cleared, dirt path, unable to even touch the life around you. My wish for you is that you open your eyes, step off the path, and lose yourself in the forest.
* * *
I'm following up on my letter to you. What do you think of it?
* * *
First I want to say that I'm really sorry I wasn't able to answer your mail earlier. I fortunately could catch and read your mail on my phone about the day you sent it to me but, while it proved to be a good thing in the end (you'll see why later), I am terribly sorry for making you wait.
When I first read your mail, I felt like once again the person I tried to explain my problem too didn't fully understand (which would've been totally OK, by the way; I had to cut a bit "short" my first mail to not make it overwhelming, and if you don't know the full story it's not possible to fully understand), but 3 hours ago I talked again with my mom about the reasons I'm feeling down. I thought about what you said in your first answer to me while talking with her, and it really helped me. My decision is to now try to compensate my lack of knowledge in the scientific field (I studied engineering because I didn't--and still don't but I'm trying to work on that--feel like I would be able to remember all the things I needed for scientific studies) by going through "catch up" studies via the CNED (a French organization for at-home schooling. My goal is to develop skills in Math, Physics and what we call "Earth and :ife Science" in France htrough those studies to enter a school in the same field while developing my creativity in my spare time tjrough online tutorials to how to use 3D software and learn how to draw better.
One thing my mother helped me with is by making me remember how people like Stephen Hawking went through and are still going through huge difficutlies in life but still continue to help other people in their fields with their discoveries; it was to make me realize than I can get over my lack of long term memory (I tried multiple methods to help against that but I still can't live without technology keeping important information for me). Another thing she told me is to stop paying attention to the "crowd": a huge thing that makes me absolutely desperate is how I see that too many people keep believing (not talking about religious beliefs here) and doing objectively stupid things even if they have evidence that it would be far better to not do them/do them in another way. So I'll now try to stop looking at comments on YouTube and other social medias (or just post my opinion and don't care about the answers, that will be tough though...). Finally, she said that because I've always been moderate about the money I spend I should not hesitate to ask her and my dad to buy me things that would help me express myself (such as canvas, paint and graphic tablets).
While I still feel down (and I thing that something that'll stay a long time for the better as much as for the worse), I at least feel like I have a goal in my life, things to do and wake up for besides just living to not make my girlfriend and family sad.
I have something to tell you about your answer, though, about the fantasy thing. It's really not helping at all to tell people like me (or at least me) that if our fantasy were to realise it wouldn't be as good as we think because of real world laws. It was a bit cliche and mostly there to explain my point of view but heck if I were to be a goddamn wolf with wings I'd live my fantasy to the fullest and speak English and fly! That's the point of fantasy, to get rid of what's making real life boring, and while I still desperately need to live in a fantasy world to be truly happy, my goal here is to make real life less boring, interesting enough so that I can keep on staying alive for a long enough time to feel like my life on earth was spent well.
If you didn't answer me, my talk with my mother would've been far less productive, and sending you those mails was a relief (I try to not talk to my surroundings about my problems except when absolutely needed). I'd like to thank you. Not as far as from the bottom of my heart because in a way you're making me live while I kind of don't want to, but you tried to and did help me.
Because I can't help you in another way than with money and because I don't really feel like wearing your design, would you mind giving me a PayPal link or something I'd be able to give you a donation trough? I like to help people who helped me, most of the time they're artists but being that much kind deserves some sort of reward (a medal would be cool but I don't have that kind of power hehe).
Thanks again Papabear,
* * *
Thank you for your reply, and I am very happy that you had such a great talk with your mother and that she and your father are supportive. That's wonderful! I'm also relieved that you have--I hope!--put aside any ideas of suicide. It sounds like you're a tad resentful of me for "making" you live, but I can live with that. If it took making you hate me in order to convince you of the folly of suicide, I would have done my best to make you despise me.
I think you're right that there was a little miscommunication here and, perhaps, I didn't get exactly what you were saying. It sounded to my ears that, in the original letter, you wanted to die and hoped that would somehow achieve your dreams of going to your fantasy life and living as a winged wolf. This is why I tried to bring you down to reality because I feel that if I encouraged you in your fantasy life it would encourage you to kill yourself.
I wish to make clear that I have no objections to mental play and an interior fantasy life. After all, I have one as well in which I exist as a bear. And if you wish to fantasize about being a flying wolf, that's fine--as long as you acknowledge it as a fantasy only.
The other thing I wish to clarify is that I may have overemphasized science too much in my reply as a way to see that the universe is not dull. There's a lot to be said for the arts, as well--the celebration of beauty and truth through painting, music, writing, and other arts. You can find a lot of joy in these things, as well.
Now, about your struggles with memory. There are actually things you can do to improve your long-term memory, including exercise, meditation, and getting a good night's sleep. In this fascinating article, there are some unexpected tricks you can practice, too. In addition to the suggestions you see there, I would also recommend you do puzzle games (anything from jigsaw puzzles and scrabble to math games), and do things such as learn a new language or study how to play an instrument. Your brain is like your muscles: if you don't exercise, your muscles turn to flab; likewise, if you don't exercise your brain, it turns to mush (this is why watching a lot of TV is really bad for your brain). Here is a CNN article about apps you can get for brain training, too, if you're interested. You've learned English very well; and if you can do that (which involves long-term memory), I am confident you can improve your memory in other areas, too.
I am not telling you to give up your fantasy life (I should have been more clear on that). I think, though, thanks to your talk with your mother (and with me?), that you are on a path toward balance. Balance science and fantasy, the real world and the imaginary, and I think you will be happier. These two sides are not opposites; rather, they complement each other.
I have another suggestion for you: some of the greatest science fiction writers of the Golden Age were also scientists. If you have never done so before, pick up some books by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein, for example. I think they might inspire you.
Thank you for offering to send me a donation, but I must decline. Because I'm not a professional in this field, I don't feel right taking money for offering advice (that's different from selling a shirt or a mug). If you wish to repay me, please tell other people about this column if you feel it truly helped, and thanks for your kind words.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.