Seriously, WTF with life
I wrote this yesterday and didn’t bother publishing it… which is quite common. Then I read something interesting in the Guardian online.
The whole is summarised here: [Anti-depressants don’t work]. When I interviewed social scientists all over the world – from São Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London – I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.
So I’m publishing this after all.
It’s the 8th January and I’ve been back at the desk almost a week. Today I was sent a link to a training video and asked to add it to a website I manage. This is one of three ‘charitable’ websites I volunteer (or work for peanuts) for – two dedicated to mental well-being and one to suicide prevention.
The video is a collection of shorts you click your way through. They offer advice on how to spot the signs that someone may be suicidal, and how to have conversations around this to help prevent suicide.
I spent a large part of the holiday in thought-trains such as this. “Life has no joy. I am alone. It’s entirely my fault. Everyone tells me what I need to do to feel better, but that just makes me feel more useless because it suggests my pain is easily cured, so I must just be too weak or stupid to fix it myself. I am a failure, my life has done no good for anyone – in fact I’ve hurt more people than I’ve helped. I am full of tedious self-pity – and it’s quite possible that all I am is self-pity, so that my entire sadness is self-created out of this infinite well of pity. My sorrow has no reality, but then, reality has no reality. I wish it could get better but since it never seems to I wish it would all stop.”
Does it help to learn that I am in the highest risk group for suicide? Divorced, late forties, living alone, prone to depression. Not much. I know this already because I have a ‘suicidal thought’ on average three times a day – and have had for several years. In truth there have been very few weeks in my life during which I have not had at least one ‘should I just kill myself’ thought.
Yet here I am, still alive, with no intention of killing myself yet I think perhaps with no particular interest either way.
I was to re-start my blog, but I’m not sure why. Aside from my initial posting from Lady Anon, the ‘team’ who were to help have backed off. I am left alone with no idea what to write. What will change if I write?
Everywhere, including in the mental health charities, I see people treating symptoms – yet no-one treating the disease. How can we cure mental illness when it is necessary to be mad in order to tolerate the awfulness of living? Inequality, over-population of humans, decimation in the population of insects, global warming, wars based on spurious religions, a tiny minority living in luxury while millions fight every day to feed the machine which keeps the privileged – privileged.
What if that will change if I write?
Do I have suicidal thoughts because I’m depressed – or because I’m in an unwinnable war? Do I see it as an unwinnable war because I’m depressed? Am I even depressed – or just AWARE of how things are. Most happy people I know live in deliberate ignorance of the damage in our world.
I can say with certainty that the majority of suicidal thoughts feel more like letters of resignation than fits of despair. I could work every day for too long for too little, fail to effectively parent my son as I watch him consumed by a sick society, accept that luxuries and many basics are out of my price range, give-in to the Ground-Hog Day nature of my repetitive struggle… or go to sleep…
My thoughts are not “the pain is too much…” or, “I am so alone”. The thoughts are more like “I’m so very tired, would it be so bad to rest” or, “is there any joy in the future?” Equally, I’ve had these thoughts all my life, and so they have become as passing and irrelevant as an itchy nose.
While I feel most positive about my work for charity – while it provides the most meaning for my existence – it still feels like another exercise in damage control. Depression is not an individual illness – more a symptom of our individualistic society. If one’s soul cries out to be a musician, yet one is resigned to mopping floors all day – is it any wonder one might feel a bit down? Until ‘we’ create opportunities for every ‘I’ to find a meaningful life, people will get mentally ill.
There is so little access to anything with real substance, with value to the human spirit. We are constrained into a system which asks us to work in meaningless jobs for empty purposes – keeping the machine going despite that its only purpose is to be a machine we can keep going. Our leisure and entertainment is increasingly vapid – further empty pursuits to encourage us not to notice that we are just a machine that’s here just to be a machine.
Therefore the irony continues. I am regularly fed suicide prevention literature, mental health advice and meet with practitioners. I tell none of them that I have suicidal thoughts because there is no cure, and I don’t want to be made ‘a patient’. To live well I would need to live in a different world.
… and reading that article today I feel like perhaps I have a point.