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What My Existential Depression Has Taught Me About the Meaning of Life

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My life is plagued by indecisiveness (and existential anxiety — but that’s for another post) and it often leads me to do nothing at all. Right now, I cannot even decide what to write about. I have so much to say. I am gathering my thoughts as I write this; it is messy and unplanned. They are tangled up and I am trying to disentangle them. My mind is constantly like this; sometimes, there are too many thoughts at once and they become incoherent. I am trying to make peace with that.

I have been on a two-year break from education. These are my “gap years.” Well, it’s not really a gap year at this point, it’s just life I guess. It’s very strange, being out of education. It gave me sense of purpose and imposed a sense of structure on me. I had to meet deadlines and work on projects and that was my purpose and I didn’t have much time to think about my purpose on a larger, more existential level (I guess it is becoming that post).

When I returned from traveling around Thailand, I spent months alternating between lounging around without any motivation to do anything and frantically applying for jobs, desperate to make something of my life and not feel like a failure. I descended into that dark place within my mind. Here is something I wrote whilst in that state:

“This time last year, I couldn’t wait to be free from the constraints of tedious studying; from the regurgitation of seemingly pointless information. Of course, I was depressed and my anxiety reached great heights whilst I was at school and it made the studying so much harder. But I also feel so lost without it and I’ve fallen into this hole of apathy towards all forms of life; all things within my human capability such as art, exploration, literature, socialization. Everything seems utterly pointless and I’m searching for a higher purpose. Perhaps this is futile and shall only lead me to fall into the depth of insanity. Perhaps we humans were never supposed to seek the reason for our existence.

I do think we all have individual purposes. I spend hours thinking about mine but I only go around in circles, never coming any closer to an answer. I’m lost for a reason to do all the things that I, as a person, should come naturally to me. I should get up, go to work, brush my hair, my teeth, get dressed naturally. I shouldn’t intellectualism and question everything. In doing so, I have driven myself slightly “mad,” completely empty and at a loss. I’m completely lost without the structure and routine enforced upon on me by the education system. I inject complexity into everything which crosses my external or internal path. I question everything, including my every thought.

If I fail one thing, or one thing goes wrong, I catastrophize to the point that I cannot bear to do a single thing and everything seems pointless since it’s only bound to descend into hopelessness and wrongdoing. I start to believe I am inevitably going to fail my every pursuit and task. I am convinced things just won’t work out for me, that this feeling is instilled into my bones, into my flesh and it cannot be exerted. I am hopeless and I am not a real artist. My life will not live up to the one which I have conjured up in my head, the only one worth living. It will all be chaos. I will be in this state forever. My soul is meant for a different world, a different universe, perhaps a different realm of existence. Maybe it’s not meant for any. I am trying to thrust positivity and rationality upon me but my mind resists anything bright, anything remotely good. It’s like mixing oil and water.”

These types of thoughts take over and it is difficult to see any sort of light when I fall into this part of my mind. Of course, these thoughts and feelings have not been caused by leaving school. Depression has sunk its roots into me and perhaps has warped my view and my feelings regarding leaving education (as it does absolutely everything — thanks for that).

Okay… so I guess this did become a post about my existential depression and dark mind. That’s not what I intended it to be. I’m not sure what I intended it to be. And that’s OK. It’s important to remind ourselves that it’s OK to not know and it’s OK to not have a clue what you’re doing with your life. Life isn’t deadlines and briefs and it can be stressful when there are no clear instructions as to what you should be doing anymore. Things start to seem a little messy and you are sure that everyone else has it together, and you also need to “get it together.” But what does this really even mean? To have a strategic plan for your life? To know each and every step in a linear order? I don’t think that’s what it’s all about. A life whereby you don’t know where you’ll be this time next year is completely exhilarating and beautiful and magical. There’s so much external pressure to go to university at 18, get a job, do this, do that. Fuck that. Do you.

This point in our lives is a very strange one and we can be overwhelmed and constantly anxious because of this concept that what we do right now is definitive of our future prospects. This is true. This is the point where we explore ourselves at an internal level, as well as exploring the world and all it has to offer and make choices which have a butterfly effect. But this is your construction and it is as beautiful and exciting as it is overwhelming and terrifying. Embrace the journey, embrace growth, embrace change, embrace learning and embrace things from all realms. Society says “pick one,” but you don’t have to pick one route to go down; you can embrace all forms of life. A lot of our anxiety comes from this idea to pick one thing you like and do that for the rest of your life. Fuck that.

Let’s breathe. Let’s retract to the present moment, for this is all we have. For me, the meaning of life is to live intensely; to be wholly present and feel alive. If we start with that, everything is reduced to its simplest form. It can all be that simple. So, let it be.

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Getty Images photo via KristinaJovanovic

Originally published: February 22, 2018
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