(Published 2010 – written over 2008, 2009)
I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy
Most of this latest blog post has taken me a remarkably long amount of time to actually assemble my sometimes ambiguous emotions into words. It has been particularly difficult to introspect the thought processes that truly reflect the dysfunctional stream of consciousness, whilst writing from a retrospective viewpoint, and I have tried to do so with particular emphasis on delineating the situation as it was, without chronological bias. I have then also proceeded to analyse such emotions, to bridge the gap between cause and effect.
Defeating stigma associated with mental disorders is really important to me, and such an aim can only be achieved through education and understanding of the processes involved – the stigma mainly relates to a patronising view of mental health issues as due to a vague intrinsic weakness and failures of self perseverance, however, this stigma reflects an ignorance of context, an ignorance of the richness of an individual’s history, an ignorance of the effects of life events, cultural factors, genetic inheritance amongst a myriad of other things that have shaped a person. Poor mental health manifestations are explainable through cause and effect specific to their life – it is essential that we both understand this, and subsequently be able to assist bring about responsible change and self empowerment in such individuals.
Here, I attempt to delineate my encounters with depressional states, that have affected me for the past few years of my life – I write this both as a personal endeavour, as a chance to explicitly sort out and finally take a look back and understand my sometimes incessantly automated musings (a detailed inventory of my subconscious if you will…), but also as something that will hopefully be able to help anyone either be able to understand themselves or understand the reasons behind the actions of those who might be going through a similar episode.
It is not however a reflective critique on the actions of those immediately around me. I do not blame others for their responses, nor do I hold others responsible for the emotional encounters that I describe. I was my own worst enemy, and this is something I want to portray, and there was little anyone else could do to develop insight. In a way, I am enlightened by this experience, and although I wouldn’t go as far as saying I wanted it, it was certainly insightful, and I feel I can learn from it.
Of course, this is a purely subjective analysis, and I feel is particularly associated to a past life experience of mine, which I describe later and hence may not be reflective of anyone else specifically. However, through this personal case study, I hope that generalisations can be made, which can help others.
Weeks had passed since I felt that I was able to do something useful with my life.
The concept of utility in society, such an important desire to maintain existence…
…where had that all gone?
Several years ago, I had reached a vicious state, blind to the fact that disorder was incorporated as my only order. During one of my debilitating episodes, I decided to write my stream of consciousness out onto here.
I would wake up each day paralysed in my bed, and this diary entry was pretty similar to how I felt every morning for a year when I was stuck in the wretched dysfunctional hole of stasis…
“Looking in the mirror. What do I see.
No understanding. Stuck in desolateness. Can’t stand myself.
My mind tires me out. I don’t want to stay in these cyclical useless thoughts.
Majority of my plans never achieve reality, every single tiring day.
I give up.
What do I know? What do I deserve?
No progress. No point.
Void of reason. Void of logic. Haunted by choices. Haunted by inability.
Days merge into one.
My day begins with eyes closed, forcefully clutching the sheets whilst hiding beneath from the sunlight piercing through the curtains.
Safe from the outside world, I sense time must be passing by ruthlessly leaving me behind.
I tell myself ,
“Abhishek, you should have left the house 15 minutes ago”, …
But I can’t leave. I want to but I can’t. This isn’t happening. I can’t be late. I close my eyes. Hope.
Please make my faults go away. A flashback. A tear slides down.
Yet I know I shall still be here for the next quarter of an hour, for the next hour, for the next 3 hours and beyond.
Yet I know that inaction leads to worse consequences.
Yet I know… But then I don’t. My arms won’t move. My legs won’t move.
Please make it go away.
The problems remain. The faults remain.
Stuck in this interminable dark pit of recurrence, I struggle to find the rope to get out of here. When I find it, I am afraid of climbing it, because I know I’ll fall again before I ever even get a glimpse of the top.
I ask myself, is this simply a gross nonsensical demonstration of laziness?
To be honest, I hoped it was. But is laziness so chronic? I know I am lazy, but I can’t explain this. I am no different to a corpse; I wish I was a corpse.
What is it exactly I wanted to do? What is it I want to do? What, Abhishek, what?
These questions which seemed to be intrinsically answered before, fail to generate any feeling within me anymore. Empty, I answer, I don’t know.
Why do you wake up every day? Why do you want to do that? What does it truly mean, beyond the values placed by society?
Observing the hoards of people going up and down the escalators at Kings Cross yesterday, I couldn’t
help but truly admire the fact that nearly everyone I saw there, had some objective, some desire they wanted to carry out in this existence – a desire derived either from a sense of religion or existentialism – both of which elude me…
How can I develop any more… with
A poor memory
To gain 1 from 0. How is that possible? Where will I gain structure from, if I never had any in the first place? I can’t remember 2 hours ago. I can’t remember yesterday. All I remember are unconnected, unimportant, random painful times.
Compromise is reached and I awake. It has gone past midday, I might still be able to make two lectures out of the 6 we had today. There are those who have regularly caught up, who are always there, I want to learn, I want to understand, but why am I my worst enemy?
Better late than never. But then better never, if nothing is there. What is better? What do I mean? It seems too nonsensical, but genuinely, I haven’t got a clue about anything.
I get ready. I leave the house. Even though I miss the morning, I still just about get there. I change my mood. No one should know.
The day goes by, I am happy for everyone else around me, they achieve their objectives and I want to
help them do so, they progress and I stay the same.
I return home. Then I remember I exist. I have a life.
I am supposed to have something I want to achieve myself, don’t I?
Or, I’d just end up a bum in society.
And that’s a failure in life isn’t it?
I don’t want to do that.
I fall asleep late in the night until I feel the pain of tomorrow.
And the cycle continues.
Where is the catalyst for change if I feel I am too far gone?
Not a clue.
Just like everything else.
Another tear falls as I collapse into bed, hidden away, if only I could be gone forever…”
The quanta of informational streams overburdened my mind.
These were streams of information from society, which I had been sheltered from during my upbringing, were now everywhere. I struggled to understand the alternative meaning of words and actions, which others so readily take for granted. Or more likely, there was a gross overanalysis, to reach predetermined conclusions that compounded my sense of inadequacy.
A lot of my previous analysis only came from a very controlled environment – now I was surrounded by so many concepts, ideas and my curiosity was set ablaze, fuelled by the expanding thought processes induced by increasing isolation.
Never before had I experienced something so overwhelming - observing mechanisms and occurrences of society – here were the effects manifested in front of me daily; what were the causes, how did it all come to
this, what did it fundamentally imply (– where there was any fault, surely I must be at fault)?
Soon, I realised I couldn’t answer, without realising my futility.
By myself, this developed to an absolute conclusion – I knew nothing.
The foundations fell to rubble, the hole grew darker, and existence ended up separated from the existential essence – a true separation of the transcendental mind and body, and a resultant inability to synthesise
order from the chaos that is manifestly apparent.
Here I shall only explore the reality of such immensely illusive states; states of mind that deviate so much from any sense of normality, and which require immense effort to extricate from.
I shall also outline my overall judgment, now being able to effectively (or I have that belief that it is effective) look back then at myself outside myself – the common factors were the self dissociation and negatively orientated assumptions readily generated by the destructively predisposed mind…
Looking back on the introductory scenario, it demonstrated the internal anguish of an existential crisis, with respect to a constant questioning of the basis of the merits of my own personal existence. Such questions with a predisposition to intense childhood inadequacies and self criticisms in self image, conduct, and self worth could only lead to devastating consequences – which in my case, was chronic inaction.
The waves of negative self judgments were enhanced through a period of self escalating seclusion. It was associated both with the concept of fulfilling one’s own prophecy, but also as a deviation between what was once used to be you, and was expected to become of yourself in the foreseeable future – which is a particularly distressing and disabling thought.
In other words, my deviation further from the expectations of how I should conduct my behaviour in particular social groups that I felt I once associated with, (in social situations, people develop impressions and form expectations of behaviour, which can become interrelated, after getting to know someone well), which in my mind was deviating how I presented myself from being a cheerful, joyful and random person, meant that I should no longer assort with these any more, not due to any lack of care or joy of people (which shortly I shall explain that this is how it is seen by “other” people”), which is experienced when around these groups, but instead the self judgment that these groups would no longer readily accept the deviated persona, and thus be shunned through a negative, yet fairly placed (to me/the depressed individual anyway) sentiment.
Call it, a concept of relative self preservation through a concept of “quitting whilst you’re ahead”.
Ironically though, it would serve to intensify the deviation of the persona from reality even further, and make further interactions less likely, therefore forming a very dysfunctional way of attempting relative self preservation through (absolute) self destruction.
The concept of a self fulfilling prophecy was linked to this mental health issue, as essentially the negative predictions of being useless, “void of reason, logic”, etc are confirmed through positive feedback interactions between this belief and behaviour.
These fleeting ideas synergised very well with practical manifestations –
- The fleeting mind exhaustively worked overtime throughout the night, and only allowed me to sleep as the sun began to rise again.
- This poor sleep hygiene meant it was pretty much impossible to conduct any activity in daylight – a time when most are awake.
Waking up paralysed – I knew I had to get out of bed and do something, but I felt too weak to raise myself from the bed, too weak to face the day – too afraid to face what life seemed to require of me – I did not have any energy, I felt I was no better than a corpse.
ibl Possibly aggravating the aforementioned effects, I lost the notion of hunger and thirst – I would somehow remember to eat a meal a day, and drink a glass of water. Nothing mattered any more – I didn’t care about what I should be doing to survive, regularly I felt death would be of a greater value (ie: which had no value) than existence (which carried a negative value – living was torture).
I I would wake up late in the day, after many lectures were being delivered, and which I didn’t have the strength to attend – I realised by each day my knowledge deficit increased at an alarmingly exponential rate, and my knowledge base deteriorated even further – I had no reason for being known, due to being so shamefully ignorant and obtuse.
· A failure by the demands of society, of which I wasn’t sure of and so overwhelmed – I would cry back to sleep once more.
Th Thus far, you may have been able to empathise with the delineated mental and physical processes, and seen some similarities to what you may have felt during your lifetime, alternately, it may seem as something farfetched from anything that you may have possibly experienced; to those who haven’t experienced such effects, a way of dissecting its rationale may come through examining several fundamental questions…
What is the answer to the question on what drives our perception of reality? – Is it only the sense
of cohesion to those people or objects that we see?
How important is the ability to control that which is around us?
This perception is severely dysfunctional at times of depressional states, and concepts of reality are found to be completely intangible (ie: Lack of cohesion). The only thing that restores perception, and most importantly, control, is the affirmation/feedback that thoughts and ideas are real, through its testing in real life/world scenarios.
Being able to successfully predict the future from time to time provides security about our existence and reality. In the depressive, it provides a dysfunctional satisfaction (not in the same sense by that experienced by someone who maintains good mental health) from vindication that “for once”, (ie: through a concept of global, stable internal attributions) the person is right – this is what I shall call the dysfunctional hypothesis! This dysfunctional hypothesis is compounded by the additional paradigm of thought where the individual will seek to interpet events through a particular “filter” to reach a predetermined conclusion – for example, perceiving events to validate the conclusion, “I am useless” – another form of self validation.
The existential insecurity through dysfunctional logic and destructively oriented defence mechanisms paradoxically can conclude a (dysfunctional) security:
Even though there is an unspoken desire for things to improve (and possible desire for attention and extrinsic support – “someone to watch over you”), one “knows” through a sense of existential insecurity that their situation will remain the same (ie: overtly negative) or deteriorate, and in order to deal with the insecurities of the self, the depressive can paradoxically make the future secure (this “dysfunctional security”) through inactivity and consequent failure – yet success in their initial dysfunctional hypothesis.
A particular example of this is the concept of how depressed individuals relate to their social support frameworks (ie: friends) at times of emotional stress. In a very stereotypical situation (and one I believe that is significant in harbouring the problem), during the early stages of depressive episodes, an individual will either completely socially isolate themselves, or may test out their feelings or relate their feelings in someone they feel they can trust.
Initial reactions by friends may usually include that of empathy and uncertainty, but rather rapidly made postulations that the depressed individual has a warped sense of reality (intended in a constructive manner – but commonly seen as patronising by the individual), and that they should see the “other side”, and move on with their lives.
At this stage, the depressed individual who is not too far gone, can either relate to this other point of view, and turn away from the dark slippery slide into depression that is placed in front of them, and move towards positive attitudes towards coping with the problems at hand OR tend further into the depressive state on account of them feeling worse about their disclosure.
It could also lead the original person to feel worse about themselves, as they realise that the person who has given them this insight may have a perfectly valid point, but only when viewed through a particular filter – a filter that tends more towards the positive, and something that the individual desperately longs for (through a nostalgic interpretation that things may have been better in the past, or an intense desire for things to change, but success is too distant) – thereby giving “more evidence” to the individual that they are useless.
To the “normal” friend, it seems illogical to remain in this depressed state, and they believe that the depressed individual isn’t seeing their point of view. The problem is – the depressed individual has thought about their situation over and over repeatedly, and even considered other possibilities much to the point of
absolute mental exhaustion. However, no matter how positive a particular form of action is advocated (“Snap out of it – do this and everything will be alright”), the beneficial thought is not enough to “distract” the mind from the initial fundamental insecurities that plague the self.
- It is not enough, because desire is dampened.
- Desire is dampened because of fundamental insecurities.
- Fundamental insecurities develop from reinforcement of negative hypotheses related to the self –affirmed through past experiences.
Self Harm – Self vs Body mutilation – body mutilation might help coping with emotion through separation of the two entities.
Self harm has been stereotypically seen as “a cry for help” in overwhelmed depressives – this negative classification of simply “attention seeking” has led to many viewing it as a rather futile endeavour; this emotional superciliousness could actually aggravate such behaviours, instead of persuading those in such situations to not resort to such actions to deal with the mental anguish.
The cry for help may be one of many reasons for this line of action – through the pain, and physical marks, the individual is able to demonstrate suffering and pain to elicit much needed statements of attention and sympathy to satisfy the self and restore some form of worth without explicitly expressing the reasoning behind their problems, when in some situations, it is too difficult to realistically describe.
Another possible reason, could be a sense of reintegration into reality after periods of dissociation, as the immense pain felt itself is felt as real, more real than any other action that is seen as mundane by default, or when one feels no different to death – thereby resulting in a satisfaction of translating those intangible circular depressional thoughts into something tangible.
Additionally, the desire to feel hated, to feel pain, to feel absolutely wretched which is what can be a very significant drive. Negative thoughts about the self have been lurking for a while, and to satisfy these thoughts, there must be some sense of punishment that the individual must go through, to atone for their current state. The rush afterwards that for atoning for past sins is an addictive one, as it leads to a sense of relief – however, this leads to another dysfunctional cycle and can once again aggravate problems.
During those dark periods, apart from all those general reasons outlined above, my principal reason was to administer some form of karma towards myself (ie: have control), this action was needed as I had become a “bad” person, and I deserved this pain, no one else could convince me otherwise. I realised it didn’t sort
anything out, yet, it was a dangerous addiction when the mind is so self destructive, but thankfully, it is something I have learnt to move on from.
This is a particularly emotional topic for me to discuss. I only discuss it here as a desire to let go and move on from this previous secret that encumbers me, and to aid understanding of how people may generally rationalise such events.
I had experienced such profoundly negative experiences back in the academic year 4/5, I do forget the exact age, but around Christmas time, and the summer after. As I recall those experiences, I immediately feel this somewhat fresh intensely nauseating childhood fear envelope my developed and theoretically matured mind.
Initially though, I had lived with this burden throughout school, without telling anyone, even my parents for fear of “stirring things up” or causing unrest. In terms of rationalisation, I acquired that firmly held belief of guilt, that maybe I should have spoken up, said something at that time – instead of suffering in silence. I don’t know if I was afraid at the time or just the extreme sentiment of shame, I should have said or done something to stop it. I don’t know why I didn’t – essentially I was to blame for that happening to me.
You could say that I did the whole job of “repressing” this memory – to be honest, despite the underlying associations to how I defined my personal identity – it was something that I had blanked out of my mind, and to be honest, in retrospect pretty well.
But, I don’t know why, this memory returned. It returned vivid than ever. I could visually see those moments. Moments I should have spoken up, said something, to make him go away. I remember feeling intensely nauseous and actually spontaneously being sick simply through these flashbacks. The feelings were too intense, and particularly appeared during depressive episodes, where I was in a state of chronic stasis, such as the episode I delineated at the start of this - these recurrent flashbacks led to one of the most debilitating moments of my existence (comparable to the abuse itself); it begged the question whether life was worth continuing, and is something I shall discuss shortly.
I feel that these profound feelings of guilt, self blame, shame, nausea resulted in a form of learned helplessness – behaving helplessly in situations, despite the possibility of effecting change to reach a more positive outlook. This elicited feelings that I attributed to fatigue/laziness in the opening scenario, but essentially it was due to the sense of the lack of control and self confidence that defined my identity in the sexually abusive scenarios that evoked these manifestations of passivity and lack of desire.
But why did the intensity suddenly engulf me a decade down the line? – I felt I had effectively pushed it all to the darkest depths of my mind – why were the flashbacks and feelings to intensely overwhelming and paralysing more than ever?
Personally, my existential crisis preceded these flashbacks by a month or two – I believe that the desire to explain emotional or thought processes later on in life (ie: the self’s regular re-evaluation of identity) through a negatively predisposed filter can dig up retrospective attributions which have greater intensity on account of experience reassessing the gravity of the past life events, when it may have occurred in more emotionally naïve circumstances – in a sense, feeling pity for the self, when one didn’t at the time – as the seriousness of the situation is reanalysed, and seen to be much graver than what was once thought. In a sense, the self of the future feels immense sympathy for the self of the past, and deals with the situation through a maintenance of those emotions – not sure if it is due to a subconscious execution of karma – if the past felt bad, so should the future, or simply a heightened interpretation of repressed emotion.
It is a commonly held notion that abusive or distressing memories should not be repressed and that it is constructive to share feelings – is this true? I do not know if it is true for all situations, but it does deserve more thought.
During those dark times, when all you feel you know is how to be miserable, and not see any reasonable solution to how you are feeling, an eventual inevitable thought is whether each day has any worth in existence. Quantitatively, life is seen as having a negative value, and no life is seen as a better option, and a drive for death - a thanatos and destrudo develop. Once again, a common notion is that suicide is seen as a “next step” building on from the pain experienced in self harm. But, I feel in most cases, suicide is not about an extreme event of enduring pain – it is the opposite – it is more about the perceived relief of the pain of existence.
Also, the blanket sentiment that such acts represent “cowardice” is truly ignorant.
A person to ideate such events represents a significantly emotionally dark point in one’s life, and in such circumstances, in addition to a dysfunctional perception of the self, there can be an inability to realistically acknowledge the aftermath of such actions.
How people might miss you? – in a way, this can be completely overlooked, as there is that sense you are completely alone in the world (endorsed by the social isolation, and the fact that no one is trying to get in contact with you), no one could possibly understand how you feel, and if you tried to relate how miserable you were, they would push you away. Seeing anyone else’s point of view is completely restricted and completely biased through the dysfunctional sense of self. Even when the self tries to maintain some rationality, and imply that others may miss you, the dysfunctional self always prevails through eliciting “final” ideas such as “they don’t know the real you”, and if they did, they would hate you as much as you hate yourself – to which there is no further argument from such a mindset.
Recall of experiences are wholly negative, and the concept of any development to lead to a more positive situation seems utterly preposterous. Compounded with social isolation, and the constant mental battering of the self, the thanatos prevails to find the final end, finish it all off, kill the problem.
It is not cowardice, but true self indignation and lack of worth through thoroughly distressing episodes and deficits (not necessarily due to their ignorance – but due to cultural influences) towards constructive social values that drive people towards such actions.
It is vital that we work together and understand such people, and not stigmatise them for feeling this way – to encourage people to seek help – and seek to empathise to an extent, and vitally focus on encouraging rational and practicality into the individual in terms of managing the situation. (Note, this can be abused by inherently needy individuals, for example those who have been brought up with simply attention seeking personality traits – I shall comment on this in my next post)
I feel it is more perceptive to see suicide as a person evaluating their options in terms of assessing options to manage their generalised inexplicit instinctive, yet intensely debilitating problem – deciding whether to either work through it with some plan of action, or “removing” the problem through removal of the person itself.
The main thing to realise here is, when a person realistically ideates suicide, are they actually trying themselves or kill the problem? Of course, the two may be caught up in an interminable tangle to create a seemingly fundamental entity, and a person in such a situation may realistically argue that they want to kill themselves. But, dissociating the problem and the self, and encouraging a viewpoint that the problem and the self are separate elements and examining the problem in a generalised sense and reaching self preserving
solutions – I feel is an important way to look at managing suicidal ideation.
So where now?
As stated from the outset, this entry was served to provide insight into a condition where ironically insight is lost, and possibly provide insight to the anguish suffered by others during such intensely challenging circumstances.
There is hope out there, and although getting through it and management is one of the most enduring processes ever, once everything was once felt to have been lost, I am glad that I have been able to understand myself more and been able to receive help to revive my sense of being.
I have further thoughts on the effects of mental health issues on mental frameworks (through the postulation of depression as a contagion) and also management and treatment, but at the moment, I am still learning. In relation to my particular issues, self empowerment and modification of past interpretations has had a significant impact on my life, but hopefully one day this is something I shall be able to learn more about.
For now, I have been able to re-discover my existentialist outlook, which I had lost for a while – which has always been to understand people, emotionally and scientifically, and despite periodical relapses, this is where I shall continue.
If you do want more information, in terms of sources of education, seeking help for yourself or someone you might know, these are good places to start:
Enjoy the new year and hopefully shall see you around…
Aliud agere quam nihil