As of now I am struggling to find a reason to live. I have been off-and-on suicidal and depressed for quite some time and had multiple suicide attempts in the past years.
I just cannot find happiness anymore and I unconsciously have thoughts of “what is the point?” And “life will only get harder than it is today”
At the same time, I seem to have it made. I go to college that dad is paying for, I have a job I enjoy, I exercise a lot, so I am in great health, stimulate my mind via books, news, studying, and have a plan for my future: get through college and earn a pilot license. Dad says I have a lot going for me, which is true: loving parent, no financial worries, great food to eat, etc.
Though I have strong OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder], I have medicine that helps tremendously (though not 100% effective). Dad and his girlfriend have great relationships with me and same thoughts for them.
So, how can this be? I have it better than most people, but I think about taking my life. Am I being stupid and spoiled? (According to dad and my therapist that is an OCD thought). What should I do? I have been to the psychiatric ward twice: once a few years ago and this year, but they really did not do anything helpful. I am torn between “many people have it worse then you so you should be grateful” and “life Is too hard.” How do people survive worse than me?
I tried meditating, talking it out, focusing on academics, reading, exercise … but things do not get better.
Anonymous (age 22)
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Thank you for your important letter. And it is definitely important. It illustrates starkly the fact that depression is a disease that often makes no sense (in that it can have no readily apparent cause), not only to the people around the sufferer but often to the sufferer themselves. As you may know if you have read my column before, I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager, including an attempted suicide when I was 18. I did this even though I apparently had nothing to be depressed about. I had a loving family, we were not poor, and I had just been admitted to the University of Michigan.
But depression doesn’t care about any of that. I obviously survived, but there are still days when it really gets to me.
My first observation here is that it sounds as if you are being treated for OCD with a prescription, but you are not getting any help for depression? As you must know, OCD and clinical depression are not the same thing and will require different treatments, whether that is medicine or professional therapy. I’m confused—and perhaps you are leaving this out—that you have attempted suicide but are not getting help specifically for that. You can find treatment help by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment. For immediate assistance if you are considering suicide again, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
That said, perhaps it will help you to tell you how I deal with depression. It is a depression that coincides with yours in some ways in that I often wonder what the hell is life all about when it can really seem very pointless. To be frank, over the last few years since Jim died, this has been an even more difficult question for me to answer.
One thing I do is that I recognize the monster for what it is: an irrational feeling that is caused by imbalances in the body. Knowing that there really is no valid reason for me to want to kill myself (I’m in good health, I recently got engaged, I do not lack for food or clothing or shelter), I understand that this Depression Monster is all in my head and that if I ride it out it will eventually go away. This may or may not be what you are dealing with. Are you suicidal all the time or does it come and go? Perhaps, if it comes and goes, you can try to ride it out as I do. How do you do that? Well, number one is to make sure you don’t indulge in listening to sad music, watching sad movies, drinking alcohol (a depressant) or taking drugs, or looking at photos that make you sad. Try to put yourself in a happy environment. This may not work right away, but it will help.
There is an even deeper issue here, too, however. The angst and worry one experiences when the big question—what is the meaning of life?—can never be answered. The good news is that this could be an indication you are more intelligent than the average bear, because smarter people tend to think more about the big picture and to strive more in life than less intelligent people.
I believe the problem you might be having is the “Is this all there is to life?” quandary. This happens with successful, intelligent people at times. They have great careers, great families, lots of material goods … and then begin to wonder, “So what?” My sister had this rather existential issue recently. She confided to me that she had achieved what she wanted in her career and had all the things she wanted but was rather depressed because she felt at a loss as to what else to do with her life. What she has been doing is traveling a lot, which is great. I admire her for being adventurous and all, but I get this suspicion that she is just trying to fill her time or find something out in the big, grand world that just isn’t there. At least, it is no more there than it would be in her own home.
When one finds no satisfaction in accumulating wealth or material goods or fame or power or even sex because these are all selfish pursuits, the answer is to find satisfaction in UNselfish pursuits. I have said this before in my column, and I will say it again now: the only thing in my life that has brought me joy, hope, and a feeling of accomplishment is helping others. Whether it is helping my fiance with his medical issues, or helping a friend get into school, or giving a bit of money to a charity, or writing this column and helping people like you, these things give my life a sense of meaning.
I do not believe that we are here for just ourselves. We are all connected; we all need each other; no one is an island; no one can fill a vacuum with a single particle. We are interconnected waves of energy, not compartimentalized dots of matter, and we all intertwine with one another.
My suggestion for your dilemma, dear furiend, is to go outside yourself and help others. That could be anything: volunteer at an animal shelter, work at a church, campaign for a politician you believe in, entertain the elderly with music at a senior home, get involved in theater, organize a campaign to clear trash from the beaches, and on and on and on. In other words, get involved in the life all around you, with the people around you, with something outside your vocational pursuits.
A final suggestion is this: seems to me you are very driven in your education, thoughts of a career, and even your hobbies are all designed for self-improvement (books, exercise, etc.), which is great, but don’t forget to have some fun, too! It kind of sounds to me that you are not really enjoying your life. Life isn’t only about work and improving oneself. Perhaps you would find some joy in focusing on being a furry a little more? Or try something else creative, such as music or painting or acting. A little more color in your life wouldn’t hurt. Does this sound selfish and contradicting of what I just wrote above? Perhaps a bit, but actually creativity brings a lot of joy not only to yourself but to others. It is why I fursuit, because I love the expressions on people’s faces when they see me, as well as the hugs.
I hope some of this helps. Remember, if you seriously feel like you can’t make it on your own, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline as mentioned above.
Please take care. Write again if you have questions or just want to talk.
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