The Hidden Inner Life of Existential Depression

I am going to share something personal, with the hope that some of you who have had similar experiences will understand you are not alone.

I, like many other people, have episodes of Existential Depression. Some call it psychic pain. Sometimes events trigger an episode and other times it is spontaneous. About the time I started blogging, I thought I had it beat, but I didn’t. It came roaring back in February.

I first encountered existential depression was when I was about five years old. Kristi, a Kindergarten classmate, and I were sitting on a grassy knoll overlooking a stream that cascaded down a rocky embankment into the Red River of the North, feeding each other kernels of popcorn while we planned our lives together, promising we would marry and have a family. A few days later her father died alone in a single vehicle accident on a remote rural highway. When I realized her father was never coming back, I walked back to the knoll where Kristi and I had made our promises. I looked at the stream, and I saw something caught in the rocks… the empty bag of popcorn we had shared… I picked it up, held it in my 5-year-old hand, and sobbed as I thought… when we shared this popcorn… Kristi’s father was still alive… and now the bag is empty… gone forever… like the moment on the knoll… like Kristi’s dad… what’s the point if everything ends up empty.

Another episode happened a few years later in grade school, when a teacher taught me the importance of protecting the environment for future generations. About the same time, I was obsessed with Astronomy and my father took me to the local university astronomy club where I learned about the life cycle of stars. When I discovered that our sun will one day become a Red Giant and engulf the entire earth, I thought… what’s the point in saving the planet if it’s just going be incinerated anyway? It’s just a matter of time. What difference does it make if it’s next year, or billion years? The outcome is still the same.

The latest episode was spontaneous starting in March with an abstract thought I had about passing time that I can’t justify with words, but I can give you an idea…

We never actually experience the present, by the time it has registered in our minds, it is the past, and since we cannot relive the past, we can’t possibly live in the present. It isn’t even happening right now; it happened a millisecond ago, so we are constantly losing it, and everything we think we know is really only a memory in our imagination. It was a feeling that we are constantly falling away from everything in our lives, and even our hopes for the future are gone as soon as we reach them, so what’s the point? We are constantly losing everything because as we move through time we can cling to nothing, and our experience of it may be pure imagination.

I hope that didn’t sound too weird. And, no, I don’t do drugs.

It’s been easier to work around this in the last few years, because I know what it is and that it will eventually end. When I was younger, it was different, I’d lash out at people, separate, and isolate. Today it isn’t as acute.

An event based episode occurred in 2005…

In early August of 2005, I read an article on Yahoo News about Sonette Ehlers the inventor of the RAPEX condom and it was the beginning of a massive downward spiral.

I won’t go into details about the device, except to say it is meant to prevent rape and identify the attacker.

I agree with Sonette and her advocacy of this device, but I had to question why…

Why did Sonette, a South African woman, invent this device? What drove her to dedicate so much time to developing this product?

That’s when I discovered the rape epidemic in South Africa… and I couldn’t understand it. Some surveys indicated that 20% of the men in South Africa had raped a woman.

So I dug deeper, and I discovered stories of farm murders, genocide, and indescribable atrocities. I immersed myself in the history of the region – Apartheid, Racism, Tribalism, Colonialism, Genocide, Boer War Concentration Camps, etc. I read The Covenant – 2000 pages by James Michener , so I could better understand this insanity. I had to make sense of all this hate and violence. Why? Why? Why?

Then Katrina hit…

And I slid into a long existential depression…functional…but…crushing.

Many of these bouts begin with anger – a righteous indignation over some horrible injustice. Since the anger is futile and targeted at things I cannot control, the anger turns inward and becomes depression.

I knew I couldn’t change history or end the crime epidemic in South Africa. I knew I couldn’t change the fact that Katrina wiped out New Orleans and dozens of other cities. But I couldn’t deal with the unfairness of this all. I couldn’t understand how my life… my family’s life… my neighbors lives… could be so good… unaffected by these tragedies. I felt tremendous guilt for having it so good, while people were being raped, burned, and drowned. Life seemed meaningless in the face of injustice.

When I try to share my thoughts with someone else, and they recoil in horror, wanting nothing to do with it, it drives the depression even deeper. All my life I’ve gotten responses like… “Why do you think about that shit? Please Stop.” or… “Quit being all philosophical and pass me a beer.”

Eventually I get past an episode, and I don’t know how, except it’s a bit like grieving, I just have to give it time. Today, I try to avoid the news because it is a potential trigger.

I realize almost everyone feels bad for victims of violence and disaster, and I’m not saying that I feel worse than anyone else. I’m just saying that I have repeated this cycle since I was five years old and I haven’t found a way to end it. I’ve dug myself into deep emotional holes over things I can’t control.

Why sit around vomiting over South Africa? I can’t fix it. The people that live there can’t fix it… they would if they could, and I pray they find a way.

Maybe if I just accept who I am – both the positive and the negative – and that these cycles will be part of my existence – it will help. I’ve discovered that if I focus directly on my pain (both emotional and physical), instead of trying to avoid it or deny it, it doesn’t hurt as bad and I recover quicker.

I am quite lucky because my episodes are mildly debilitating. Unlike many others, I can get out of bed, show up to work, and get things done. In fact when I am in a depressed state I can be a much better problem solver… or problem identifier…or opportunity catcher…whatever you want to call spotting negative shit. But depression kills my positivity and it will show in my posts… from time to time.

126 thoughts on “The Hidden Inner Life of Existential Depression”

  1. I would just like to say thank you for this post. You have perfectly articulated what I am constantly thinking when you write:
    “We never actually experience the present, by the time it has registered in our minds, it is the past, and since we cannot relive the past, we can’t possibly live in the present. It isn’t even happening right now; it happened a millisecond ago, so we are constantly losing it, and everything we think we know is really only a memory in our imagination. It was a feeling that we are constantly falling away from everything in our lives, and even our hopes for the future are gone as soon as we reach them, so what’s the point? We are constantly losing everything because as we move through time we can cling to nothing, and our experience of it may be pure imagination.”
    This awareness has lead me to dissociate from what people commonly experience as reality or I guess what is more popularly known as a dissociative episode. It is true that by embracing the meaninglessness and the rock bottom pain of this that it is (ironically) made better. I have been looking on the net for other people who share this understanding. This obsession with time and space and associated feelings of futility and loss I believe are an opportunity for spiritual growth. Can’t thank you enough for sharing this story!

  2. Words cannot do justice the full body and mind experience I’ve just been subjected to. I normally write really fluently and richly but I can barely breathe right now. There have been some amazing and touching stories written here, and I can relate to many of them so closely. It’s very very refreshing to read the words of people like me, and to have a term to explain what I used to label as plain ‘depression’ or ‘seasonal mood disorder’. I love you all and feel as though I have kindred spirits to relate to despite what we would often call the ‘otherness’ of beings outside oneself.

    This experience has INSPIRED me to do the following;
    1) Look into non-drug related therapy possibly involving: psychoanalysis, CBT etc.
    2) Make self-improvement a priority in major areas (time management, eating routine, exercise routine, direction).

    Ok, I have to stop what could turn into an enormous wall of text. Too tired and emotionally drained. One day perhaps I will return here and post my story. This probably seems poorly composed and perhaps not indicative of my status as a sufferer like many of you. Not sure why I’m saying this, but trust me, all of you, there are so many people like us out there. Don’t stop being yourself, acting on intuition and being the richest form of yourself that you can. If you can see no meaning, do not fight it, embrace this tiny existence and make it as great as possible. You owe yourself that much. The affliction of ‘existential depression’ can surely make us all very great.

    Age 21.

  3. I know it’s been three years since your post, but I just wanted to say that I empathize completely with you. If you haven’t already done so, and you still need a pick-me-up, the books of Alan Watts are brilliant meanders into existential philosophy. He reconiciles a lot of eastern and western philosophy, and I’ve always found his books to be extraordinarily comforting when I get distressed by existential things. Happy living!

  4. You’ve done, and still do a lot of self-reflection. Right? You keep up at night because your mind won’t shut off. Like a… Monitor displaying frames, your thoughts run at 1000 thoughts a second at time, especially in the quiet right?

    If you’ve had existential depression all of your life, you should look into whether or not you’re what society considers “gifted”. However I could be wrong. If so, disregard everything I’ve said! 😀

  5. You’re a man after my own heart. Yes I relate in every sense, I quit watching TV for several years because it was just too much confirmation of the senseless, meaningless, existence we live, and again it started very young. People say I think too much, I should paint pretty pictures, and why think about questions you cAn’t answer? I struggle with are the thoughts. I think I should have some dreams or goals that I feel passionate about,
    but anything I think of seems meaningless and pointless. Life is kind of like a loveless marriage.
    A friend was listening to a speech about people dying all over the world. I said well 100% of people die.
    The problem isn’t that they die, it’s why they die. He told me the day before that he thought that if no one was afraid
    to die the world would be a better place, somehow he thought being afraid to die was weakening people.
    I think myself that living frozen like I am is worse from an individual perspective. In the medium picture, it is not better.
    While people feel death is the worst thing that can happen, suicide is the most abusive thing you can do to people
    around you, other than murder. In the big picture whatever happens that people have to live through, is nothing,
    especially once mankind is extinct and can’t think about it any more. So really it doesn’t make sense that we waste
    our time thinking, doing, living, loving, breathing, they are nothing more than the pretty dramas of poets.
    I look at people right now, and I don’t feel a part of any of it. I feel like a fly on the wall.

    Why should I care to exist, invest my passions into something that neither I nor the universe will recall?
    This is anger that I feel, and I know that the only one that is affected by it is me. Still, you can’t live in the moment.
    The moment is always past or future. There is no now, you can’t measure “now.” It is a point on a line with no room for a
    whole human being. There is no time in the moment to even feel it, let alone to think about and value it.
    I feel intangible, invisible. But I feel something else that if I try to hold anything in my hands it turns to ash.
    I have no faith, no hope, in fact to try to feel there is some positive outcome to living seems like I’m trying to
    make up a pretty story so I can go numb, instead of feeling this raw meaninglessness. Yet, I want to feel it until it
    is done. I want to see what happens if you shake your fist at it forever. I don’t want to give in to it, and believe or invent
    stories; over time believe the stories, and preach the stories, love and hate for the stories I tell, or the voices of mankind tell.

    Still there is something I get out of my resistance to accepting that stories are all we know how to do, and tell them as
    long as I breath. Whatever it is that I get from it feels disturbed, unsettled, but it feels like I am saying “That all I know,
    is nothing, but at least it seems more true than stories.” Yet it is really another story, in which I am a prisoner of ignorance,
    circling the great abyss. I see in my minds eye, a dragon snapping and roaring circling the pit trying to snatch me and drag me down.
    I stand here thinking, didn’t I already take this leap? how is it that I am still here, my feet grown into the earth hanging half-way between
    fantasy and chaos? I thought I had already fallen, but here I stand clinging to the world. Why can’t I let go and just fall?

  6. Let me start off my saying that I too can relate to what’s being said here. I’ve felt that absolutely hollow void that one experiences when one asks why they exist, or should continue to exist despite the complete futility of everything and finds no good answer. Why struggle day in and day out to avoid our deaths when we know they can’t be stopped? Why create when everything is eventually destroyed? Why hold on to hope when all hope seems false? Why live a life in which all choices seem arbitrary? Why try to be social in a society that can’t understand or deal with the problems we’re aware of, and who, more times than not, seem to be only obliviously contributing to those distressing problems? Why do anything but despair at the suffering and complete triviality of life? How can there be a loving God if the world is such as it is?

    These questions have haunted me for most of my life (I’m now 21). I feel what I believe to be the basic tragedy of human existence; that we should be born, suffer and struggle to exist one more day, just so we can suffer and struggle for one more day, until we just can’t anymore one day and finally die. I’ve felt guilt for knowing that compared to other people in the world, I live in relative comfort and security, and perhaps even, that such comfort and security comes at the cost of others. I’ve felt so distraught at the state of affairs in the world that I’ve contemplated suicide for much of my life, even up until very recently.

    I don’t mean to further depress anyone (though if you’re here I’m guessing that’s because you’re already about as depressed as a person can get), but I’m glad that there is a place where people like us can just finally be honest with ourselves and others about how we feel and not be concerned about upsetting other people who don’t want to see or deal with the problems that we can’t seem to ignore. I can’t tell anyone on here what they should accept about the world. I won’t tell you you shouldn’t kill yourself if you are at that point. I’m posting here because I want to share my own experience with this problem, and provide some answers, or conclusions that I’ve come to, and am continuing to come to.

    For every “why?” that can be asked, there is always a “why not?” If the fundamental question that is so depressing is “Why live a life in which there is a total lack of meaning?” it can be asked “Why not live a life in which there is a total lack of meaning?” There’s no meaningful answer to either question. Life may in fact be meaningless, but if that is true even the search for meaning is meaningless. Death is meaningless as well. If we become so desperate to find meaning in a meaningless existence that we become depressed at the loss of meaning, this is really a sadness coming from the loss of something we only thought existed, but never actually did. Thus, it’s a false loss. Could this actually be liberating? Could the complete lack of meaning in the world actually be something to be celebrated, rather than agonized over? I’m coming to believe so. If everything we do is meaningless then nothing we really do matters. However, deciding not to do something, or being unable to do something matters just as little. Still, some things matter TO YOU or else you wouldn’t feel so down about the world, and as far as you know your own experience of the world is true, even if nothing matters in the world as a whole, this “mattering” to you is still a valid part of your existence because it’s a part of your experience of existence.

    The key, then, is finding out what matters most to you in life and working towards that goal. Does the end of the goal hold any meaning in any grand, objective sense? No. As you’re probably aware it will fade into nothingness eventually. However, if one concentrates merely on the act of moving towards a goal, there is meaning in this because you mean to do something. Is there meaning to whether or not you accomplish such a goal? If we can’t see any objective meaning, then perhaps the answer is “No”, but then it doesn’t matter whether you accomplish it or not, and so there’s no point of putting pressure on yourself if you don’t succeed completely. There’s really no pressure on you to do or not do anything. And still, is accomplishing even a fraction of a goal not still moving towards something? In my analysis, even a fraction of something that gives you meaning is still meaningful.

    Simply put, if there is no meaning to life, then there’s just no reason not to do with it what you believe it would be best used by doing (what you truly want). If the world has problems, then perhaps it’s best to pick one or two of them to work at, and do our best to produce a better vision for the world. If each of us did that, rather than letting the current state of the world get us down, wouldn’t the future state of the world be better in the ways that we aim to make it better? Isn’t there something worthwhile even in the pursuit of that, even if it can never be completely perfect?

    For myself, I have decided that I believe most in the right to die movement. I believe that life can suck enough at times, but to have access to a relatively dignified, self-chosen, and peaceful death is the best gift that can be given to anyone. It is a purpose that is perhaps meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but not meaningless to me. I think Jojo and Lex (above, comments 65 and 66) have it right; if meaning can’t be found without, perhaps that does free us to self-select it from within. If that still doesn’t seem genuine, perhaps we can be comforted knowing that we are just as entitled to choose our own meanings as everyone else, because no one has an absolute meaning, even if they think they do, so they are likewise just picking what fits them best.

    I’m from Windsor, Ontario btw. I wonder where everyone else who’s posted comes from. I think, in as far as there are few people in everyday society that can recognize this stuff and actually talk about it, it would be cool if we started talking to each other. So, if anyone who has posted previously, or anyone who’s reading this now wants to talk about stuff, my email is Just mention this site so I know who you are please and thank you.

  7. Thank you for posting – I can totally relate. I have had similar thoughts and experiences for over 30 years now and have never understood why nor been able to share them with anyone until today. I for so long have struggled to make sense of this world and have tried to see the good in it but with each passing year, I have become more and more disillusioned. However, as an eternal optimist, I will still try!!!

    Thanks again.

  8. There exists a multiplicity and diversity of creation on earth. For those who live in uncertainty, the world can seem full of riddles and intractable situations. But there is an inner substance and a truth which is preparing to reveal itself and deliver us from hardship.
    Man spends his whole life searching – trying to reveal that which he is subject to – but despite all his efforts the unknown remains undisclosed. When the time is ripe for disclosure, however, it will become possible for man to discover the previously undisclosed and thereby change both his own life and the ways of the world.
    This unique series of books has been written in order to disclose life’s unfathomable mysteries to those who are still searching.
    E. Loregross

  9. Wow–I’m going to have to come back to all this later–am trying to finish an essay right now that is due tomorrow.
    But, from what I’ve seen so far, I am very glad you shared! I knew about Existentialism as a philosophy, about the theory of Existential Intelligence, and about Depression. I did not know that anyone had linked these. I knew they were linked in me, however. The earliest I can remember experiencing existential depression is when I was nine–I have often thought of this as the year when I “woke up” for better or worse. Oftentimes, instead of wanting to play with other kids or doing anything else, I would walk to the park and lay on top of the jungle gym, watching the clouds and thinking about life. I could see that this was odd–that I was odd, and that others did not share my concerns; so I quickly began to feel painfully self-aware and acutely alienated. I became detached from everyone at school–apart from a boy who amused me, who seemed to be in touch with what I now know to be the absurdity of reality. Come to think of it, these are often the type of people–and they are few and far between–with whom I have fallen in love with or become very attached to. It’s not that I believe that I am any less alone with such people or actually understood–but rather, they seem to be able to bring to light the only thing I know to be true–again, the absurdity. And the pretense of understanding one another is not even present with such individuals–which is a relief to someone like me, as being around others who believe they can understand just reminds me that they can’t. Moreover, I have often–very often–had the problem of others becoming very attached to me just because I can understand them so well, while they are unable to return the favor–and then the feeling of acute isolation sets in again. . .
    Well, I got off track there. I could say a lot more, but don’t have time. I’ll have to come back 🙂
    Anyway, you may find this interesting–

  10. This is the single best thing I have ever read in 22 years of living. I cried tears of joy when I read this because I realized I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and that this sort of depression has a name.

    Out of curiosity… for those of you that do believe in the more spiritual nature of things, has anyone experienced tightness/pressure (feels like sinus pressure) around the area of their third eye?

    Thank you for writing this Steve, and to everyone for sharing their stories. It’s somehow empowering to read all this and realize that we can help dig our way out of this … or at least get closer to the light at the end of the tunnel… simply by being good people and servants to service.


  11. Cure: “We must be the hope we wish to see in the world.” – Muhatma Ghandi

    I too suffer from existential depression and I slump from time to time especially when my perceived expectations of people do not live up to the expectations in my mind and I become angry and feel hopeless with others. However, after I come out of the slump, I remember…the reason I am feeling this way is because I want to be exactly what I feel is missing with humanity. There are enough people in this world who are miserable and lash out at others or destroy themselves slowly because they feel similar feelings of hopelessness. I then ask myself, why not be that little bit of light in someone’s life who inspires them to be better? Good Luck.

  12. Yeah, I understand completely. I had the classic existential depression when I was 13-14 and realised every culture has a different religion of sorts but they all have the same elements; namely a god that can be influenced by us in some way (conveniently ignoring times this doesn’t work) and an afterlife.

    I figured out the afterlife first by realising 1) all we know is existance, we cant fathom non existence, so we come up with all these whacky ways to say we’re going to live forever (Egyptian mythology vs Valhalla lol), 2) I want it to be true so everyone else must but they’re better at lying to themselves and 3) if it were true at all there would be a universal afterlife concept because if it exists it would be known from observation. What exists instead is clearly a product of our own heads.

    As for God I’d been learning in science class about the gestation periods & dependancy of various animals, the more complex & intelligent the longer the offspring receive care from parents…and figured since we do that till we’re 16 or so we have 16 years of familiarity with an all-powerful creator (of us, our food & gadgets) who can be influenced and looks over our welfare. Put two and two together, finally got over it all when I was 25 and recognised the beauty in the random occurances that led to existance of any living thing, and the total and utter meaningless of it.

    I mean, what was the point of that 4 billion or so years bacteria held sway over the earth? If we get wiped out a la the dinosaurs, so what? What impact did our stay have? Certainly nothing from the human world ie the world we create in our heads through language had any relevance to anything since its all gone, and that doesn’t matter.

    Ohyeah and I was 4 when i ran screaming and crying through to my mum one evening, having been lying in the dark and thinking about what the human body is made of. In my little head i saw my mum as a combination of parts such as skeleton, muscles, eyes…not what she was supposed to be at all. I had a little skeleton book at that age so i think that was responsible, anyways she laughed but looked worried…then a year later i started school and my teacher suggested i see a psychiatrist over drawings and stories I wrote.

    As I get older though I relish in the pain this all causes, seeing reality as it is. Because I don’t have to deal with the nagging doubts I used to get from trying to hide from truth. Also i know how strong ive become, and the world is so much more amazing without a creator…thats just so simple, too simple. And too human to be true.I hope you are feeling the same sense of peace about existence 🙂 Thanks for writing this, I cried a little.

  13. Break my heart for what breaks yours, God.

    Those are the words that I hear as I read all these posts. God has placed within some of us an incredible desire to make this world a better place. To be the hands and feet of Jesus…. That your soul cries out against trauma, injustice; that your heart breaks for others is just a fraction of what God feels for us. Compassion for others is God’s way of teaching us to love others.

  14. I’m so happy google brought me to this site after I googled “How to get rid of existential depression.”
    I personally feel sooo drained from feeling what all of you have described in your comments. I have been battling existential depression for as long as I can remember, however of course it gets worse the older I get because you realize that nothing in life matters. (I’m 25 by the way so it sucks knowing that with each year, i’ll get more hopeless about this little planet, Earth in this big unknown milky way galaxy that is headed where noone knows). Anyways, i get really frustrated when my parents tell me not to think about it and just do something you love, or when people tell me that all my worries would go away if I just had a baby to take my mind off things, but to be honest with you, this advice drives me completely insane. I mean, what the hell would I teach a newborn…what would i tell him/her about this world, about the meaning of life if I can’t even figure it out for myself. We are born, we live and we die and we perish into the unknown. We are all stuck on this planet that is full of war and rape and natural disasters, aids, etc, etc and there are a select few who have it all and rub it in our faces in their stupid reality shows. The world is just so depression and I cant seem to see the beauty of it because everything is corrupt and existing is so hard knowing you are going to die.
    this sux.

  15. My mother has such a simple way of viewing the world, and I envy her to the utmost. I want to just love and be loved, but I’m stuck staring at myself and this world too deeply. I’ve been severely depressed for about 2 years, and it’s a gnawing feeling. I’m learning to meditate, but as you know, doing anything depressed can be quite difficult. I often think that the pain associated with pondering these questions is because we are actually not meant to. So we’ve got to learn to let go. I’m so very not there yet. In the mean time, sending you love and a knowing nod.

  16. Wow. Steve, your post and those above have described my feelings perfectly. It is comforting to know I am not alone in this. At 20, there are not many people my age(or “children” as I like to call them, bc they tend to be shallow and petty) that feel this way-at least around here. We should create a group, really. I see it now: “The Existentialists: Does This Group Even Really Matter?” Heh, just a little dark humor there (needs some work ><) Seriously though. This is tough to deal with. Sometimes I do think of suicide, but then I remember seeing my Grandma's body in the ER (thank you PTSD!) and I know I am too afraid of death. Talk to me people–

  17. hey

    What helped me a little bit was reading Camus. It’s a bit of an anti philosopher, examining the question whether we should kill ourselves or not. Now that’s the literature I like! In ‘the myth of Sisyphus’ he explains that the fact/thought that life seems meaningless, doens’t imply you should commit suicide. He argues by telling the story of Sisyphus, who was punished by the gods; his punishment consisted of constantly, repeatingly rolling a rock on a mountain, then letting it roll down again, to no avail at all. Fully aware of what he was doing, he still found some kind of liberation at last. Camus ends the essay saying ‘one must imagine Sisyphus happy’. Checkitout you can find it online.

    Of course, it’s not in itself a life changing book. Maybe it can be one of those many a little that make a mickle. Also, it’s just beautifully written, so very beautiful at times. And it’s a great way of getting the whole absurdist vibe, which you probably already have, yet in my experience it can come as a relief if someone somewhere explicitely states the way you feel things are.

    Excuse me if i irritated anyone with bad english, and good luck to all of you getting through life, i know it’s very very hard for actually healthy thinkers to go through it, since doing so is completely absurd. It’s just impossible not to be “an egoist”. As someone said, we are completely sealed in our own bodies, but that is not our fault and I’m sure if we could change it, we all would. Since suicide is not really a solution, the only thing we could do is “sit around smoke cigarettes and babble what-the-fuck”

  18. Wow.

    Huzzah for the concept of data preservation on the interwebs!

    OP: I read your post, and the majority of the longer and more positive responses, and I feel like I’m reading things that I forgot that I had written in the past. There are resonating gems in here…and I find myself wishing that I had any opportunity to meet any of you when I was younger. It would have just been an explosive glow to find another who new what the f*$k I was talking about when I was trying to verbally address my concerns with the world, with existence.

    This is partially just in case you are still monitoring this, Steve, and partially to continue the encouragement of others who find their semi-random ways here in their individual explorations. There are still others who think and feel a very similar way to you. It’s a bit hard to fully realize, due to the relative unreality of interacting virtually, but even the *sign* of others who are seemingly your ilk can be a lifesaving, refreshing wave of information.

    In terms of my own reactions to the stuff posted here, I have some sweeping agreements and dismissals that I’ll simply summarize, in the name of brevity (hah!) within a four-plus-year-old post.

    Self-exploration and assessment? Agreed. Through whatever system(s) of discovery, philosophical or otherwise, that gain you some additional insight, and perspective.

    Psychopharmaceuticals? Boo. Not a fan of relatively blindly trying to alleviate symptoms with the whitewash of compounds that affect our workings. I have a bit of an anti-outside-substance bias, though, so take that with this much salt. Non-smoker, non-chem-user, and I even generally stay away from painkillers and cold meds. (I do admit to a stubborn curiousity about hallucinogens, however, to see what my brain would come up with under such an influence, in as ‘organic’ a form as possible…haven’t gotten up enough to do it yet, though.)

    ‘Forgetting’? Un-ringing the bell? Pushing it all from your mind? Distracting yourself enough to just not think about all this? Isn’t that advice just recommending you to regress? Forward, cyclical progression, my friends, is what I seem to be buying into, dangling prepositions be damned. Growth, development, discovery. That’s my vote, anyway. Fearless personal exploration! At least, this is what I think my younger-self mind might have benefitted from hearing in some of the rougher times. Sympathy, understanding, support.

    I realize that this all may be reiterating stuff you’ve most likely come up with yourself, since this came up, but I just feel like weighing in, sympathizing, and trying to strengthen the community with some additional, supportive statements.

    All you sensitive, thoughtful, morally-aware, outnumbered, and probably-self-doubting folks out there: you are not alone in your…your what? Your fog? Your state or condition? Whatever we can call this.

    I find myself thinking, ‘has there ever been a common spot to actually meet with those of this ilk?’ Apart from inflaming the haters of such thought processes, I’d think that such an experience would be of great benefit. Someone clever should come up with a convention idea or something, online or otherwise.

    There’s my inflammatory two cents, anyway. All good things to the lot of you.

  19. Hi, everyone. Well, I’m going through the same thing, and I’m only 18. I’ve been going through this off-and-on for just about as long as I can remember. Normally I can easily distract myself, but I haven’t been able to do that lately.

    I’ve been going through stages. At first, I was just angry. I was so angry! I was angry at the world, at this country, at everyone, at myself. But as you’ve mentioned before, futile anger quickly evolves into depression, and that is just what happened. I’ve been very depressed, and even suicidal, for the past couple of weeks. I’ve come very close to ending my life. I even wrote a suicide note, which my mother accidentally discovered just last night.

    Now, all these emotions and deep sadness has just kind of subsided, and I feel mute. I just don’t feel anything anymore. I have no desire to live; I have no interest in anything. I feel trapped in a meaningless, purposeless life. I’m going to look into books about Buddhism and existential depression, but in the meantime, I’m just trying to stay alive.

  20. This is something I’ve experienced for as long as I can remember. I am 17, will be the validictorian in the spring and will attend Vanderbilt to major in chemistry or biology, but I also play football and am a 3 year varsity starter. I am by no means a pariah. I am considered by many to be good-looking and popular (by shallow high school standards, at least). Everyone thinks I have it made. They can’t fathom the intensity in which I see the world. I believe I hear more, see more, think more, and FEEL more. For this reason, I have such a different outlook on the world and life itself than others. I am often greeted with puzzlement or anger when I attempt to explain my views, so I keep them to myself.

    I am not happy. I don’t believe I ever have been.

    I take medication for depression, but its effects seem to be negligible.

    I want to meet a girl who feels this way. I want to converse. Please.

  21. I haven’t read all the posts here, but it feels like home.

    I was identified as gifted as a kid, but even if I hadn’t been identified as such, I would have always felt alien. Remember the Jim Carrey movie The Trueman Show? I fantasized as a kid that everyone in my life was like an alien or a robot or something, wearing a mask, telling me everything is okay, watching me like a bug under a microscope. That even God wore a mask.

    I have only recently really begun to struggle with existential depression. Some might write it off as mid-life crisis, but I think I have managed to avoid it because of my pervasive enthusiasm and hope that I will “someday” fulfill my life purpose. I’m almost 37 years old. To date? I haven’t done anything of note. Hell, I haven’t even got a university degree yet. And now? Do I even care if I get one? To what end?

    I have realized that I need to be proactive about avoiding things that depress me. A friend was raving about a horrible book about a serial killer, spelling out in extreme detail how he tortured one victim for 36 hours – 36 freaking hours! – before finally bludgeoning her to death. I told my friend that, as fascinating a topic as the mind of the psychopath is (it IS interesting), for the sake of my mental health, I would have to pass on reading it. I just told her flat out, once I read it, it’s in there. And it ain’t coming out. A bad stain that just repeats itself over and over. I’m sorry I even heard about the book in the first place. I have to leave the room if there’s a torture scene in a movie. I can’t watch Titanic because it actually happened. I watched Saw. Once. My question: why the hell doesn’t it bother anyone else that a human mind had to come up with this shit?? That, to me, is the most disturbing thing about movies like that.

    So I found that empowering, to protect myself by rejecting those things that I know would really bother me. Once my friend understood that I’m “allergic” to psychically harmful material, she was fine with that and knows better now to not bring things like that up again.

    I used to be a believer in conventional Christianity, but I have had to reject most of the mainstream interpretation thereof. I have developed a mish-mash world view that adopts concepts such as universal consciousness, Akashic records, God as intelligent energy, and the existence of Christ as an inherent part of the immortal soul, the finest and truest part. All else that we perceive of ourselves is an illusion. I also feel that, if I’m going to believe in something beyond this finite life, the multiple lives theory makes good sense. Somehow, knowing that I wasn’t just PUT here, but that I actively participated in the decision to live this life and in its design. I came here to feel this way. To experience it. I also came here to feel the contrast between the abysmal lows of existential depression, and the stratospheric high of being in flow with nature, being in love and really – REALLY – connecting with someone, having my faith in humanity restored (if but for a short time) when I hear about some of the extraordinary people inhabiting this earth, or when people come together to take care of one another in times of crisis.

    This world can be so incredibly beautiful. But that in itself depresses me because I experience it so profoundly. How do I share that? What is the point of experiencing it if only for myself? All these things that I see and feel and hear and taste and touch, and all that that means to me, will die with me because I have no way to bridge the gap between myself and another human being.

  22. “We never actually experience the present, by the time it has registered in our minds, it is the past, and since we cannot relive the past, we can’t possibly live in the present. It isn’t even happening right now; it happened a millisecond ago, so we are constantly losing it, and everything we think we know is really only a memory in our imagination. It was a feeling that we are constantly falling away from everything in our lives, and even our hopes for the future are gone as soon as we reach them, so what’s the point? We are constantly losing everything because as we move through time we can cling to nothing, and our experience of it may be pure imagination”

    No it’s not weird at all. Much of what you said resonates much with my own experience- especially the above.

    Anyone who experiences existential depression is, according the philosopher Ken Wilber, at a level of psychological and spiritual awareness that is moving towards what he calls second tier consciousness.

    I’ve been reading books by Wilber and other authors on Integral psychology for years but his ideas are hard to live up to since what is needed- as I understand it- is the right kind of existential psychotherapy that can address this kind of depression. Since our mental health providers know nothing of existential depression, and since my health insurance will not cover it, I’m stuck paying the the sessions needed to get me out this state of mind.

    What made me realize I had existential depression was when I heard Ken Wilber on the Integral Life web site say the following:

    “There is this drive that might not be fully understandable to you but it’s a drive towards integral motivation. It’s moving towards a superabundance this overflow of motivation. It is something that makes you -sometimes in ways you can’t understand- be pulled towards comprehension solutions to things. You are not happy going to a doctor and getting just fragmented crap, here, here, here, and here -and none of it tied together. You are not happy with political situations watching the democrats, republicans, and independents -all at each others throats …..recognizing that all have something to say. It’s just ridiculous seeing grown men and women in these argument”

    Elsehwere he says

    “These kind of things come up and start to bother you and its a quiet consistent, sometimes existent, almost explosive situation where it’s just driving you crazy. This integral awareness you have is this good news bad news. The good news is that you have a wider, deeper broader awareness and the bad news is nobody around you gives a flying fuck. All of the sudden you suddenly become isolated and I’m being really serious. It becomes very isolated and lonely type of existence. So of course what we are trying to do is create online events and integral salons in local areas where people can get together and discuss these issues. Because one of the things we that we find is so important for people is to be able to really gather together with other people with a similar ilk and understanding. And you can just go into a room -one like this- and you realize you can talk and you don’t have to explain yourself. You can talk and you don’t get this weird sort of rolling eye ball looks. And you can be fully open and fully sharing of what you are doing and you know that what’s being heard is genuine it’s real people will really hear you and really take the time to listen and to help your conversation move forward. So this is the good news and the bad news of integral and a lot of people when they first get introduced to integral they imagine that it’s nothing but sweetness and light; that everything gets better, problems disappear, and your doing totally cool, every thing’s working out great -that’s rare. So one of the things we want to do and asking your help in, is to certainly in your experience with JFK and the great programs they have out there. But think about when you get out and helping to create local integral salons where one a week every other week -whatever- people can come together and discuss these issues”

    I wish I could get involved in one of these Integral Salons but I live in a small town. But even if I didn’t,getting into these groups cost money. I’d rather use it to address -head on- my depression. ideally, I’d like to go to the one week retreat with psychotherapist Robert Augustus Masterson who knows a lot about Integral psychology. I read his book, “Spirtual Bypassing” and it really helps to shed light on this issues of awareness and self realization and how even the most devout avoid dealing with pent up unresolved emotions by idealizing their understanding of spirituality.
    He has another book that just came out called “Transformation Through Intimacy” . I have yet to read it but what has prevented me from doing so is that I’m single and have been under involuntary celibacy for 5 years becuase it’s near impossible to find a woman really interested in cultivating a healthy relationship. This has contributed heavily to my depression. Of the few women I’ve met, none are interested in any form of self awareness -much less realize that the only way to make a healthy relationship a living breathing reality is through self awareness.
    Unbeknownst to themselves, they (men too) are under the spell of the myth of romantic love spoon fed by our novel and entertainment industry. Rare it is for anyone to free themselves of it but when you do, when you see the lie you have been living, it will bring to that existential place. And there are times I wish could go back like Cypher in the matrix where he tells agent Smith he does not want to remember anything.
    He wants out of reality and live in an illusion of his own making.
    But once you reach existential depression, you can’t go back -only forward and that is the direction I need to go and deal with it directly for I fear that as I get older it might get worse.

  23. Very interesting post. I am now 37, but when i turned 17 my thoughts turned into questions I could not answer. Your story about time the past, present, and future really hit me. It is funny how most people just don’t think about stuff like this. It is amazing that some people just accept life like it is. They don’t seem to question. It’s as if they have better coping skills. I suffered tremendously, but like you, I have been well functioning. I am a Christian, so I contribute my survival by God’s mercy and grace. I have never been on medication but may have been if I would have known. Now, I accept who I am and have learned to cope with life. Now I have a daughter 14 who is struggling with them same issues. I hate that because it is such a painful feeling. Though, she plays the piano and writes beautiful music. Most of her inspiration comes from her deep emotions. That is a positive. I appreciate so much your feelings for others. It is beautiful. I feel the same way. When I am happy, sometimes I feel like how can I be happy when so many other people and animals are suffering. It is just the way we are. It’s tough, but at least we are conscious of the world. Thank you for your post and I truly appreciate people like you!

  24. I really appreciate being able to hear your experiences with existential depression.
    I started having my first existential crises when I was 14. Back then I was busy enough that I had little time to think. Like “N/A,” I was popular/good-looking, but profoundly different from everyone in my life. I grew up in an abusive family and never had anyone to pester with questions. I’ve felt ridiculous writing in a journal for years now, when no one is ever going to read it or understand me. In my first year at USC, I experienced more trauma, and my existential depression blossomed. I read that book by James T. Webb, PhD called Searching for Meaning: Bright Minds, Idealism, Disillusionment, and Hope. It had some good tips – Vicky used one of ’em with the welcome dark humor. Webb’s words were comforting and helpful. Some other coping mechanisms that go beyond mere illusions are bibliotherapy, volunteerism, healthy and authentic relationships, mindfulness, rewriting your life script, connecting w/ others via touch, and more, as well as which to avoid ( I thought most of the positive coping mechanisms were ridiculous and unhelpful until I experienced them. I transferred to a small liberal arts college, and took Physics, where there were other bright people. One of them just offered hugs, every day. It was wonderful. I could ask how he was, and he could say “miserable – I couldn’t sleep last night because I was really anxious” instead of responding with rote social answers. I dropped out because I was learning more on my own; I’m teaching myself systems science so I can solve trans-disciplinary problems and make life better for others in the future. Understanding what Webb meant by the power of “rippling” was a huge breakthrough in my depression. If you live in the U.S., consider how John Quincy Adam’s life has changed yours, and I’m sure you’ll be inspired, too. I’m volunteering this summer, and am content with the knowledge that, even if “now” is the “past” and any potential legacy I could have won’t survive heat death and is completely meaningless, I can use that freedom to make others’ illusions of the “now” in their temporary life that much less painful, oppressive, or unjust. It’s not fair that some people have wonderful lives and others don’t but we do have the choice to think adaptively. I’ve been coping with suicidal thoughts since 9th grade, but now I can know that life’s incredible, even if it sucks, and so I’m going to make the most of it. Vicky, I laughed at your group title, and I would love a chance to get to know you creative, strong people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *