Archive for the ‘Existentialism’ Category

So excited I forgot to blog   6 comments

Last time I blogged, I wrote about depression.

Let me write about it again.  I made what I suspect will be a life long change not long after I wrote that.  My dad is a recovering alcoholic.  If you hang around AA or recovering drunks, you will run into people like my dad who were at least as addicted to the double life as they were the alcohol they consumed in one life and not the other.  In a way, for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been living a double(ish) life.  Now, I wasn’t flat out lying like my dad did, but I hid the symptoms of my depression vary carefully.  I would tell my very close friends, and some members of my family because they needed to know why I acted the way I did. Whether it is in accordance with the ‘proper’ realization of Christianity or not, most of the church sees depression as a sign of enormous spiritual failure, and despite the pity, the effect of telling your church that you struggle with depression is something akin to the effect of telling your church you struggle with going to homosexual bath houses: it’s OK if you say it once, but if you are back next week saying the same thing, it’s because there is something wrong with you, or the way you are working the solution, and not the solution itself (which is, of course, more of Jesus).

One of the wisest things I ever did was really explore Christianity and my doubts about it.  I think most people who knew me hoped that this would strengthen my faith, but instead I became first became an increasingly radical Christian, then a theist, then a diest, then an agnostic, and finally an atheist adhering to the philosophy of existential nihilism.  However, disappointing this was to my friends and family,  the result for me was the peace and freedom I had always sought in Christianity but never found.  Enormous loads of my depression sloughed away over about a 2 week period.

I remember in particular waking up one morning and realizing it was the first time I could remember that I hadn’t woken up wondering if today would finally be the day that I would disappoint myself so completely that I could finally kill myself and have done with it.  So that was a great day.  Improvement, sadly, is not cure. Several times a year I still found myself struggling to go to work.  Struggling not to cry all day.  Struggling not to kill myself.  Most often the fear of making myself a quadriplegic and no longer having the ability to kill myself was what stopped me.

So, last week, I’d had enough. I was hitting a pretty dark stretch. I went to my doctor and told her I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself, I hadn’t slept more than a few hours a night in weeks, I was having trouble remembering to eat, and I was carefully avoiding my family so I wouldn’t scream at them or start weeping or both.  She strongly recommended that I take an anti-depressant and start therapy.  So I did.

I’m not sure how much of the following is the effect of the drugs, or after a mere 5 days is placebo, because I didn’t think I would change so fast. And frankly, I don’t care. I’m not euphoric.  I’m not excited, or ‘too happy’…I’m just not depressed.  Looking back over my life, I feel like I am walking up from a dream.  How in the world was it OK with me to hurt myself?  Where did that come from?  Why did I let so much guilt from a faith I no longer hold keep me in sway?  Why did I hate myself so long?  Why was it OK with me to put my wife daughter through my symptoms?

I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m on the other side of it, even if this temporary or placebo.

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Existential nihilist relationship primer.   Leave a comment

So, I wanted to write about depression today.

I’ve said before that I struggle with depression.  I realized recently how weird of a phrase that is.  Depression for me is a minor disability.  Struggle sounds so temporary, so transient.  When you hike up a mountain, the steepest part is “a struggle”, the rest is just the hike.  Depression is more like missing a foot.  A lot of things you can do just like everyone else, but then randomly, you find some new thing you can’t do.  Further, I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone say “I struggle with cancer.”  or “I struggle with angina”.   You just have it, or you don’t. (Though people might say they struggled. Past tense.  Again, pointing to the transient nature of the experience.)

So, I’m going to stop saying I struggle with depression.  I don’t struggle with it.  Sometimes as a symptom of depression I struggle get out of bed. I struggle to love people well.  I struggle with a lot of things, but I don’t struggle with depression.  I just have it.  I struggle with the symptoms.

The other thought I wanted to say, is accepting the OKness of relationships ending.

All relationships will end. That’s not pessimism, it is reality.

(1.) Only part of relationship is with a person.  Part of it, maybe even most of it, is with your perception of the person.  Frequently relationships end because the perception and the person are just to far apart.  Because your vision of the future relationship was based on the perception, when the perception is proven wrong, sometimes you don’t want the new vision.

(2.) Even if you perceive the person perfectly, or perfectly enough, they might not perceive you as well.

(3.) Even if you both perceive one another perfectly, or perfectly enough, people change.

Your youness is the result of chemicals interacting.  Some of those chemicals are inherent to you, like your DNA.  Others are unique to your experiences (memories are coded as chemicals, or chemical changes).  Others are totally situational, for instance you might be very tired, or very high.  We all want to pick the “me” we like best and call that one real, but that’s magical thinking.  The fact is, low-blood-sugar-cranky you, giggly drunk you, darkly depressed you, head-over-heals-in-love you, jamming out to the car radio you, and many others are all equally the the real you.  There is no good reason to chose one and say “that’s the real me”.  The reason most of us do it is because we want to claim the parts of ourselves we find the most noble, and divorce ourselves from the parts we find the most ugly.

Where do those lost fragments of self go?  That’s a subject for another time.  But my point is here, because the list of our experiences is always growing, and the chemicals in us are always changing, we change.  If two people change the terms of the relationship they used to have, ends, because its about different people now.  Some relationships, like my marriage, terms are renegotiated constantly so that the relationship continues to keep up with us. This creates the illusion that the relationship continues, but the reality is, it does not. Long term relationships are series of beginning and dying relationships.

People change, even if they regret it, or wish not too.  That which is seen cannot be unseen, and you will change as a result of your experiences. If the chemicals didn’t change, there would be no memories.

(4.) People die.

All the time.  Billions of them.  You will die. Everyone you love will die. Everyone you hate will die.  Entropy means the tendency of a system to decrease in order/non homogeny.  Life is not immune to entropy.  Entropy happens to you all the time, but the pieces of you that don’t work are replaced constantly.  Eventually, the pieces which replace them cannot keep up.  Disorder increases faster than it can be repaired….the vast symphony of chemicals that makes you different than your weight in badgers or butterflies will play it’s last chord and everything that makes you, you…will stop.  Then, very soon after, everything that makes you, you, a badger, or a butterfly will stop, and you will be base constituents: hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen.  Everything that lives dies.  People die. You-ness stops.

Not persuing a relationship for fear of ending is stupid.  Relationships end.

Further, your emotional response to relationships ending will follow a bell curve. Not can.  Not might. Will.

Most of your relationships will end averagely…which is to say “badly”.  Psychologists find that relationships ending is a huge stress factor for people.  Badly is in irony quotes because if it is average it’s not really bad.  Bad would be deviating significantly from average in one direction, good would be deviating significantly in the other direction.   A better word than badly would be painfully, since pain in this case is average.  Most relationships will end in the region of the bell curve near the center: heartbreak.  You will have a few relationships that end with significant deviation from bell curve center.  A few of these will be painless, perhaps even pleasant.  You will have a corresponding number that will really cause long term psychological harm , perhaps even death. (Dying of broken heart is a real phenomenon.)

Since all relationships end, and virtually all will end in normal statistical scatter around heartbreak, it would be stupid to avoid them.  To say “I should avoid relationships because they hurt” makes about as much sense as saying “I should avoid food because  I will poop.”  Avoiding a behavior that is fundamentally required for human life because you don’t find the outcome as pleasant as the behavior is just…mind bogglingly stupid.