Since I’ve been young, I felt that my depression was different than normal. And of course, there is no normal, yet my reasons for depression are quite different. I’d like to call it philosophical depression, although through my research, I’ve learned that what I feel is called existential depression.
For those that don’t know, existential depression can be summed up by Irvin D Yalom. “Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?”
This form of depression is thought to disproportionately affect gifted persons. As the Internet is at your disposal, obviously you can do research on your own, but I’d like to provide you with some things I’ve done to help myself.
First, if you have not, I would suggest reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl. As a lover of books, this was already a good idea, but the second half of the book has a perspective I had never thought of. It isn’t meant to change your perspective per say, but rather meant to show a different view.
Next, find your passion. As a person with depression, I understand how hard this can be, but you can explore something new if you’ve lost interest in something else. I started genealogy as it made me feel like a part of something. Reading provides me with an escape. Baking lets me create something real and sugar is always good.
As I’ve already started being cliche, I might as well continue. Think about it as a journey. As someone who is constantly stuck with one foot in the present and one foot in the past, I know it can be difficult. The day to day doesn’t matter, it’s what you hope to accomplish that matters. But if that’s the approach you take in life, it’s hard to find any happiness. The positive doesn’t always outweigh the negative, sometimes not by a long shot, but the meaning of life, the meaning of what you’re trying to accomplish is there. You have to focus on what is possible and do it. You can do it slowly. There could be days where you are stagnant, or even go backwards, but eventually you’ll push through the barrier and accomplish what you want in your life.
I know it’s much easier said than done. I have and still experience existential depression, and there’s a good chance I’ll be like this forever, but I have to find the happiness, even a sliver, because if not this life will be unbearable. We have limited time on Earth and we have to make it count.
Have you ever felt existential dread? Has it contributed to your depression? How do you navigate hopelessness, or do you do anything to cope when things feel meaningless?