Edvard Munch, 1893.
“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”
– Albert Camus, The Stranger
I can’t even imagine the colorful language I’d throw at myself if I were to have the ability to get pissed off now.
Okay, cross that. I can curse at myself now, but it won’t be effective in any manner…because even when I do hit the parts that supposedly hurt the most (shouting out to my insecurity and inadequacy), well, I don’t think I can feel much but a blunt poke at the moment. Skins and stones may break my bones, but my insults are out of fucking service at this moment. Great.
When encouragement from close friends and personal pep talks aren’t working (pretty much now), I can partially curse myself out of the funk I’m in (definitely not now). I’d say it’s a tough self love and a weird, semi-masochistic mechanism at best.
At the risk of sounding whiny (I don’t give a fuck if I do now, actually): I’m currently submerged in waves of apathy in certain aspects of my life. I’ve also been nosediving into hypersensitivity in some other facets before this state, too, and I think it’s because I’ve been repressing some harboring feelings for a while. I’m essentially a walking contraction or an oxymoron so to say. It’s a confusing time. I’m drowning in cluelessness, and I’m asking myself repeatedly about what the point of anything is if we’re going to die eventually anyway. Why not just do things I enjoy if I’m not here for a long time and gratify myself endlessly? At the same time, we’re all responsible for our (in)actions and our future despite external influences and others. If the end game is the same for every single person, then why and what is the purpose of caring in the first place? Somewhat nihilistic with a mix of existentialism and hedonism.
These recurring thoughts nag at the back of my mind and then gnaw their way towards the front. So after a period of panic and angst, I’m coasting down the road of indifference.
I know, great path to go along right now.
So instead of replaying the question of meaning of everything and everyone that has ever existed and then refuting the answers I’ve received, I decided to follow the advice from a dear friend and do something even though I don’t really want to.
Here I am.
Edvard Munch, 1894.
“I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in…but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.
Full disclosure beforehand (if you didn’t read my last serious & lengthy post about commitment and focus in life not pertaining to romantic relationships): I didn’t study philosophy at all. I majored in psychology, and I’ve taken some required courses to graduate from college, but none of the courses were heavily focused on philosophy. I’ve always thought that I wasn’t “deep” enough to really grasp the core meaning behind different schools of philosophy. I will probably still and never will be enough for it, but whatever. It’s up to my own interpretation here.
I’ve also never read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, even though I’ve heard great reviews about it. Albert Camus also read it prior to his publication of The Stranger. I was trying to learn about existentialism (or at least part of it) during the pinnacle of my depression when I was in New York, so I took up Camus. Looking back, I’m not sure if I’ve gained practical knowledge about the philosophy (or about myself), but it did fuel my anxiety and hopelessness a bit more.
Without further ado, the definition of existentialism, hedonism, and nihilism from the Oxford Dictionary:
A philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
1 The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.
1.1 Philosophy: The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.
1 The rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.
1.1 Philosophy: The belief that nothing in the world has a real existence.
Take some time to really let meaning of these three words sink in.
Basically, these three types of philosophies can coexist with each other, but not necessarily in a constructive way. I’ve always been an advocate of existentialism, because despite our differing backgrounds, opportunities, cultures, and values, I am the only one who can determine my (in)actions and (in)decisions. There are definitely external factors out there that can influence the outcome, but it ultimately depends on each individual’s decisions. In my case…when I add nihilism into the mix, it makes me ponder about the meaningfulness behind any sort of (in)action and (in)decision. Lastly, if you just add a dash of hedonism, you begin to wonder: if the purpose of everything is questionable, why not just do what I enjoy until I drop dead (within my means, of course)?
What is the meaning of anything if all of us are just running on borrowed time?
It’s strange, because I’ve asked precisely six important people in my life that question throughout this past week.
What is the point?
I don’t think I’m in a state of confusion; I just can’t grasp the importance of it all – not even the activities that I adore. It’s literal indifference. I can stop writing at this precise moment, and I won’t care about it. I am utilizing my sheer willpower to transcribe my thoughts into words. To be honest, I should feel at least a bit distraught about this as writing isn’t just a hobby anymore ever since I’ve reintroduced and integrated it back into my life. It’s more or less a part of my identity. Typically, I’m scratching my head, pulling my hair (not often, probably more or less just re-tying my ponytail though), and scrambling to piece all of the broken words and ideas I have in my brain into coherent sentences for my newest post.
Now I can’t even find the drive to continue, because I can’t grasp how there are pleasure and meaning behind writing. All I want to do is to sleep, watch TV (not even necessary), and then sleep some more. The only factor that’s soaring in my life right now is my lethargy.
A wave of melancholic familiarity embraced me the moment I realized that my depression relapsed.
Evening on Karl Johan Street
Edvard Munch, 1892.
Depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is:
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
Some of the symptoms are (again, all of these are from the hyperlink if you need more information):
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.
[Note: I’ve underlined the ones that I’ve been experiencing. When I finally admitted to those six people about my relapse, I’ve reassured three of them that I haven’t thought about harming myself or committing suicide so they don’t worry too much about me (I’ve been receiving daily checkups about my wellbeing from them, too, and I am really, really fucking grateful), and well, because I haven’t had those thoughts.]
Before anyone gets offended or starts pointing fingers at my alleged self diagnosis (which is actually dangerous, since misdiagnosis is quite common, so if you or any of your loved ones need help, find an expert), I’ve been diagnosed by a psychologist and also referred to a psychiatrist for depression.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the main difference between psychologist and psychiatrist: the biggest discrepancy between the two is that psychiatrists can prescribe medicine to their patients. Psychiatrists work on treatment with patients with medication, and psychologists focus on psychotherapy.
A paper named Risk for Recurrence in Depression by Stephanie L. Burcusa and William G. Iacono published on NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) referenced a few alarming facts on the abstract and manuscript of their paper including extensive studies by other researchers that I find important enough to mention…just to potentially chip away a little piece of social stigma regarding depression.
- Major depressive disorder affects approximately one in six men and one in four women. [note]Kessler RC, McGonagle KA, Zhao S, Nelson CB, Hughes M, Eshleman S, Wittchen HU, Kendler KS. Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1994;51:8–19. [PubMed][/note]
- Major depressive disorder is highly recurrent. At least 50% of the people who recover from their first depressive episode will have one or more additional episodes. Approximately 80% of the people with two episodes will experience another recurrence. [note]American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Text Revision – Fourth. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000.[/note] [note]Kupfer DJ, Frank E, Wamhoff J. Mood disorders: Update on prevention of recurrence. In: Mundt C, Goldstein MJ, editors. Interpersonal factors in the origin and course of affective disorders. London, England: Gaskell/Royal College of Psychiatrists; 1996. pp. 289–302.[/note]
- Recurrent episodes usually happen within five years of the first episode. [note]Belsher G, Costello CG. Relapse after recovery from unipolar depression: A critical review. Psychological Bulletin. 1988;104(1):84–96. [PubMed][/note] [note]Lewinsohn PM, Clarke GN, Seeley JR, Rohde P. Major depression in community adolescents: Age at onset, episode duration, and time to recurrence. Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 1994;33(6):809–818. [PubMed][/note]
- People with a history of depression will have five to nine separate episodes in their lifetime. [note]Kessler RC, Walters EE. Epidemiology of DSM-III-R major depression and minor depression among adolescents and young adults in the national comorbidity survey. Depression and Anxiety. 1998;7:3–14. [PubMed][/note] [note]Kessler RC, Zhao S, Blazer DG, Swartz M. Prevalence, correlates and course of minor depression and major depression in the national comorbidity survey. Journal of Affective Disorders. 1997;45:19–30. [PubMed][/note]
What can I say? I’m in for a hell of a ride.
I would never wish any sort of illness on anyone, because it’s terrible and no one deserves this. In fact, I don’t think I’d be so candid about my state if I weren’t feeling so apathetic. After all, it is the internet, and publishing something so raw and vulnerable about myself is pretty terrifying. I’m exposing a piece of me that’s private to…you – a random stranger (or a dear friend if I copied and pasted this link and sent it to you). It’s strange to think that someone I’ll most likely never meet in my entire lifetime will be reading something so intimate about me. It makes me feel a little less lonely. Truly.
If you are someone who feels as isolated as I am (despite the rapport I have with some of the purest people I know), just keep reminding yourself that you are not alone. I’m here, too. Yes, you might not know me. I might not be as severe as you are. I’ll probably not be able to fully empathize with your situation. I’m aware of all this. I know it sounds like a lame consolation prize or a clichéd saying, but it’s a statement noting that you are not fighting in solitude.
Edvard Munch, 1894.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
– Albert Camus, Notebooks
It’s a bit odd to backtrack and search for the moment of my relapse, but I’m going to give it a go over here. I suppose it started around end of February or beginning of March. There were a lot of tipping points that accumulated beforehand as well, but usually the feelings and emotions lag behind and hit me after a little while.
The initial stage was a spike for instant gratification (hedonism).
There was a innate desire for nonstop purchasing that popped out of nowhere. Usually I’m pretty capable of controlling my shopping desires, especially when it comes to designer products at this stage of my life. This is because I’m more concerned with the practicality of the item as well as how much I actually like it. Some things are so aesthetically pleasing, yet so useless. I’ve chased a fair share of pretty possessions before, and I’ve drastically cut down on that because I realize it only brings ephemeral happiness. I’ve been consciously buying statement pieces and / or timeless classics out of my own pocket instead of relying on my parents. It really makes me cherish the possessions I have a lot more. Within a span of ten days, I’ve purchased socks, books (yes, more!), cosmetics, skincare products, “boutique designer” hair ties (it’s real), snacks (I’m in a gourmet popcorn and potato chip phase now), shoes and jewelry.
Yeah, I know, what a first world problem / humble or not-so-humble brag, isn’t it? If you’re judging me, an internet stranger, solely based on my spending habits…well, I don’t give a fuck. Have I asked you for a penny for my spendings? No? I thought so, too.
I also downloaded Tinder again and started swiping mindlessly, for the sake of just because and boredom. It’s not so much for an ego boost, because matching rates for females should be alarmingly easy anyway. However, most of conversations I’ve encountered were (unfortunately) vapid. I’ve been asked out a handful of times, but going on a date is a commitment. It’s an action, reaction, decision, or whatever you want to call it. If I can’t even have a half decent conversation with that person via messaging, I don’t think the date would end up well anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I do put in the effort though, but sometimes common interests and value as well as connection are just barely anywhere or flat out nonexistent. Quite frankly, it’s a waste of time. I get awkward easily if I don’t feel comfortable enough, and the only antidote to that is by drinking copiously. I believe some people can attest to that. I’m trying to cut down alcohol consumption, though, since it is a depressant and I’m certain I don’t need anymore of that.
I’ve also exchanged contact information with two people during this stage. At first it seemed like there was some sort of pleasure based on their responses, but those are dying off really quickly as I write.
[Note: Update from 14:40 pm, 24th of March, 2018 – I’ve definitely killed off (in a polite and respectful manner) one of the contacts two hours ago. Ghosting, fading out, and non-responsive read receipts when the conversation hasn’t ended are not okay. It’s disrespectful and cowardly, and I’ve done all of that in the past, but I’m trying not to be that type of person anymore. The self doubt that I got when those happened to me really affected my mental wellbeing and ate my sanity away, so I don’t want to bring that onto others now.
My speculation about my dating habit is pretty spot on. I told one of my close friend that I don’t think I could ever take Tinder seriously, because it’s mainly a hookup / random dating app, and I’ve never been an active participant in casual dating. It’s impressive how some people I know can take dating so easily. I guess I’m just a bit more serious and sensitive in this aspect. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with differing mentalities when it comes to relationships though.]
Hypersensitivity and awareness evaded me (existentialism).
There’s a small overlap between my hedonistic actions as well as my hypersensitivity & awareness.
For instance, when I was semi-mindlessly swiping through Tinder, I was acknowledging the fact that every single time I swiped left, I was rejecting another human being. It didn’t matter that I was slouching on my lazy bone sofa while wrapped comfortably in my robe and staring into my black mirror (ha, get the reference?) on a Monday night. It didn’t matter that I was getting a ride on the way to work on Friday morning. I was on a left swiping spree, and each left swipe is a no in itself.
I was saying no to someone through a minuscule, singular motion. My rejection was coming from how that person looks. Obviously, as a part of the app, I’m being consistently swiped left and right, too. Tit for tat, I suppose?
Since when have I become that superficial? I mean, I’ve acknowledged the importance of physical attraction, but that becomes the least of my standards if I look at the bigger scope. This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about appearances at all. I do. I still need to be attracted to a potential partner in order for it to work.
I’ve given too much thought to every single (in)action and (in)decision that I’ve done during this period of time. There was an epiphany of even the smallest gesture could potentially be an altering point for my future. The nagging reflections also drove me to delete Tinder (yet again).
My emotions were draining me, too. I didn’t even need to stare into a specific person’s eyes to jump into a pool of sorrow as I was drowning in my own ocean of despair. Any little miscommunication I’ve had with my friends during this period caused an erupting reaction. I expressed how hurt I felt, in addition to frustration, because it seemed like no one knew the extent of sadness I was going through. It seemed as if everyone were just casually watching me sink.
Then there’s absolutely nothing except neutrality (nihilism).
I started wondering what the meaning of anything was. This week, I asked my closer friends why constantly. I told them I could barely feel anything except for hunger, thirst and drowsiness – essentially the signals sent from my brain to ensure that I’m doing something to keep myself alive.
My indifference towards everything can be compared to brand new sheet of paper. It’s a thin slice of void. I’m aware of my impression towards certain activities, objects, and people based on my experiences and interactions, but I’m temporarily blinded and my feelings are extremely or just entirely watered down. There’s an absence of feeling the ups and downs, which can be a double edged sword.
I’m extremely exhausted and burned out from being so in touch with my emotions for the past few weeks. This sense of indifference might be a bit dull right now, but it’s also refreshing in a way. I feel as detached about the happenings in my life right as though I were a third person peering into some unknown person’s daily activities.
Does this even make sense? Does it even matter if you get it? Probably not so much.
My perception is bland and muted at the moment. It’s a continuous straight line. It’s as flat as the line on the heart monitor when someone takes his or her last breath.
The Sick Child
Edvard Munch, 1885.
“There is not love of life without despair about life.”
– Albert Camus, The Stranger.
There’s always some sort of trigger point to the collapse. So what was it in my case?
Without going into too much detail, it’s been a couple of years ever since I moved back to Taiwan for family and work. I never quite felt like I belonged here, and my closest friends are scattered around the globe. The emphasis of my life for these years has continuously been work pertaining to my parents’ business, but there has been some sort of breakthrough and potential for my own career, too. I’ve devoted a lot of time towards work, and never really spared time for personal and social development over here.
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
– Jean-Paul Sartre, [Source Unknown].
It’s not hard for me to get acquainted and meet new people. It is a challenge for me to become closer friends with others though. I don’t think I’m picky, but it does take time for me to be able to warm and open up to others. I used to be someone who expressed vulnerability to even the newest of friends, and that drove people away. I’m pretty much the polar opposite now. I still express kindness and respect to everyone, but it takes a bit more effort and deeper conversations for me to become intimate with someone.
Alone time is essential for me, and as hard as it is to admit – I’ve been deprived of certain social interactions for too long that it stings just a little too much at times (not now, since there’s a general indifference – told you it was a double edged sword).
I’ve taken a huge leap and there was a personal development as well as a potential change to my situation in a seriously lacking facet in my life, but I’ve come to the eventual painful realization that it wasn’t working after a decline in effort, respect, and trust on the other side…especially after I started opening up towards that person.
It’s a really shitty, gut-wrenching feeling.
I’m consciously aware that I can only control me, and that there’s an eventual end to all things. I guess I was just a bit too hopeful this time, and I thought it’d be different. Sometimes optimism can lacerate the depths of the soul at times. This is one of those instances.
The start, downfall, and the crash of whatever happened wasn’t anyone’s fault in particular. It was just an unfortunate situation that I somehow got tangled up in. It’s not great, but now I’m dealing with the aftermath. I’m dragging myself along the way even though all I want to do is to sleep my sensations away.
Maybe I’ll be okay. Maybe I won’t be okay. I’ll still be here either way.