letter from a depressed friend to another depressed one

As you may not know or care, I’m famous for suffering from depression. Depression is, though better and more urgently understood and paid attention to, still something everyone knows of or at least knows fragments of, but nobody wants to talk about. It’s uncomfortable.

I suffered heavily and continuously from depression two years ago, and I could barely talk to anyone about my condition. Sometimes now, fortunately or unfortunately, for a short period of time I still feel it crawling back – not as haunting as before and also there exist certain mechanisms I’ve developed over the years to help me deal, I’m no confident to declare that I got over it. But I’ve come to see the benefits of sharing as well as a better understanding of what depression is about, for me of course.

I’m no psychologist, and I have no proper medical knowledge to help anyone. What I’m trying to do here is just sharing my intimate perspective as someone who suffered from it and have tried to get better, which ultimately can be unhelpful to you. So just as a disclaimer, take everything you read with a grain of salt.


Recently I received a letter from a close friend, who I confided in very much during the peaks of my heavily depressive phase more than a year ago, and who shared intimate knowledge of my own struggle. I wrote him a response by breaking down his statements, not to judge but to point out parts that I think can be problematic if indulged. What I only realized on rereading what I wrote, is that as much as I intended for this piece to be a conversation with my friend, it is eventually a conversation with myself.

So here goes.

I’ve had a try at meditating recently. I tried to clear my mind from every superficial thought and listened to what lies underneath.

What I realized is that I don’t feel any sorrow or pain (anymore?). But I don’t feel anything else either. I’m equally indifferent towards sun and rain, towards victory and loss, pepsi and coke.

I feel like I’m just a dolly camera moving through life. Or rather like an alien spy sattelite, looking at the earth from outer space.

I’ve always thought about this beeing the result of my bad mood. But maybe it’s actually the cause of it.

Because I don’t really care about anything, there’s nothing to strive for, nothing to gain, nothing to lose.

I don’t know what I should do about it.

I excercise, I get enough sleep, I eat reasonably healthy, I have family, friends and colleagues that I could talk to if I wanted. Only there’s nothing I would like to talk about. Because there’s nothing I’m passionate about. I don’t even care about them.

I’m successful at work, I’m reaching goals that I’ve been working towards during the last year, but I just barely take note of it.

Rationally, I can find meaning in my work, in searching for insights and truth.
But emotionally, I lack compassion for the people I work for.

I also don’t care about motorcycle riding anymore. I don’t understand how I ever could – I mean it’s hideous. You burn fuel to drive up some stupid mountain, take a photo and then drive back home. Why not just stay at home?

I also don’t care about music.
I don’t care about movies.
I don’t care about art.
I don’t care about books.
I don’t care about nature.
I don’t care about science.
I don’t care about food.
I don’t care about drinking, smoking or any other drugs.
I don’t care about people.
I don’t care about my friends.
I don’t care about my family.

I don’t even care about sex anymore. If I think about it, it seems like such a ridiculously inconvenient and laborious procedure – how the fuck can anyone get fun out of that?

My response.

I’ve had a try at meditating recently.

Yikes!

I tried to

I think in practicing meditation, people don’t to try to achieve anything, it can be simpler than that. The activity we develop is observing the mind and recognizing what thoughts come to our mind, whatever it is, rage, anger, pointlessness, a lack of feeling, pain, too much discomfort, no discomfort at all  ← and to realize all of that is some form of thoughts the mind produced. And as you realize your mind drifts in these thoughts, just be aware of it drifting and bring it back to the original starting point of observation if you can. When you try so hard to achieve anything it’s just adding unnecessary pressure on the practice, which is to say you’re not doing it correctly. (I think Headspace does a wonderful job at getting people started with the right mindset, why don’t you take a chance on it?)

clear my mind from every superficial thought

<– I hear judgement here.

and listened to what lies underneath.

Maybe don’t try this yet? Clear insights/truths can only come from a place of peace and clarity. If your mind hasn’t yet reached such state for a stable period of time, then anything you think you’ve come to discover can easily just be another perception or mistruth aka what your mind is trying to tell you. It takes a long time to get there, I’m not there yet either, and that’s ok.

What I realized is that I don’t feel any sorrow or pain (anymore?). But I don’t feel anything else either. I’m equally indifferent towards sun and rain, towards victory and loss, pepsi and coke.  

(who gives a fuck about pepsi and coke anyways?)

I feel like I’m just a dolly camera moving through life. Or rather like an alien spy sattelite, looking at the earth from outer space.

I’ve always thought about this beeing the result of my bad mood. But maybe it’s actually the cause of it.

Because I don’t really care about anything, there’s nothing to strive for, nothing to gain, nothing to lose.

I know too well what you meant. We both know it too thoroughly that depression is not sadness or too strong a feeling of suffering, it’s more an inherent lack of such that makes it insufferable. Lacking meaning? Motivation? I wasn’t sure because at the time I experienced this, I wasn’t alert enough to put a finger on it and give it a proper name. But it definitely was a lack of something important. Read more below.

I don’t know what I should do about it.

I’m afraid I don’t either. I had a bit of a trial  and error time trying several things to get better myself and to be honest in retrospect I can’t say what worked and what didn’t. But even if I do, I think only you can figure out what works for you.

What I do know, though, and I think I won’t be damned to share, is that all of the things you think about, all of the things you think you should do, all of the things you know you have done, all of the scenarios, all of the rationalizations you come up with, all of the self-defeating talks you’ve gone through ← all of that HAPPENS IN YOUR HEAD. And your head is not something you should trust at this point. Not until it is tamed and has become calmer and has more clarity. Not to say that there is no truth in there, but there usually is more garbage and misperception than truth, and who does the digging but the very mind itself?

I guess what I’m trying to say is to take your mind, your thoughts on anything, especially your condition –  a bit less seriously at this point because it they aren’t your most reliable ally.

A common narrative is to let your mind decide that oh you shouldn’t feel this way because a, b, c, and fuck yourself for feeling this way and you’re broken, you’re hopeless and then, and THEN really believe in it. No. Remember how many times you thought you want an ice-cream and drag your ass to the grocery store only to realize you don’t really want it? Or how many times your mind decides that oh you need sex and there is this woman and let’s have wild sex with her and then you’re left feeling blankly worse afterwards even though she is kinda sweet and the sex itself wasn’t too bad technically? Our mind is unreliable, it tells us things of insane inconceivability and yet we NEVER stop for a moment to question it. It’s a wild animal that does whatever the fuck it pleases.

This is why we need meditation, I think, in order to see the mind in action and to witness its being wildly disobedient and non-serving, and from there we can take it a bit less seriously, to take things a bit less seriously, and to take life a bit less seriously. I wouldn’t dare to say that I have a good control of my mind yet, but I could see its nature better now, and for certain moments I could calm it without too much effort. It’s such an insane liberation, and I really mean insane!

I exercise, I get enough sleep, I eat reasonably healthy, I have family, friends and colleagues that I could talk to if I wanted. Only there’s nothing I would like to talk about. Because there’s nothing I’m passionate about. I don’t even care about them.

I’m successful at work, I’m reaching goals that I’ve been working towards during the last year, but I just barely take note of it.

Rationally, I can find meaning in my work, in searching for insights and truth.

But emotionally, I lack compassion for the people I work for.

I also don’t care about motorcycle riding anymore. I don’t understand how I ever could – I mean it’s hideous. You burn fuel to drive up some stupid mountain, take a photo and then drive back home. Why not just stay at home?

I also don’t care about music.

I don’t care about movies.

I don’t care about art.

I don’t care about books.

I don’t care about nature.

I don’t care about science.

I don’t care about food.

I don’t care about drinking, smoking or any other drugs.

I don’t care about people.

I don’t care about my friends.

I don’t care about my family.

I don’t even care about sex anymore. If I think about it, it seems like such a ridiculously inconvenient and laborious procedure – how the fuck can anyone get fun out of that?

All I could guess from these statements of yours is this. The very reason you don’t find these things enjoyable is because while doing them – you’re still fixating on your feelings, you’re still thinking about your misery, you’re still obsessing over filling the void inside of you. The mind is in complete control over your life. You do them not to enjoy them but in hope of them making you feel better about yourself. You’re expecting a certain thing that once found will fill your life with miraculous bliss and reason and meaning and awe, and then you’ll be saved, you’ll be forever better. 

None of the things you mentioned has the responsibility to rescue you from your misery. Your friends can be there to talk about important things and unimportant things, your work can help you get through the days making a living while making some contribution to society, your boss and colleagues can be more understanding and sympathetic with your life mission, your family can love you better for you – great if they do. But NONE of them bears the responsibility to drag you out of your goddamn head, nor can they. Only you can and are responsible for your own life. And with this, I think I also understand clearer myself why people keep saying that happiness comes from within and not from the externals. Only after getting better with your very own being can these things start to get better themselves. Know what I mean?

The very thing that I think you overlook and I also overlook most of the time is the realization that you’re miserable because your mind makes you so. Because for everything you see the mind refuses to see it for what it is, the sun, the rain, the mountains. It only sees blankness, un-specialness, gloom and a goddamn big void that needs urgently to be filled.

(The italic part below is wildly speculative, so skip it if you’d like to.)

Why is our mind this way? My guess: because doing otherwise is difficult. The mind is lazy, it only wants comfort, feeling unique, and special (and that is totally unconscious. I know you don’t feel it, I don’t feel it most of the time – but it can easily be seen through the intentions and actions, and we all have it, it’s the ego speaking). The easiest and laziest way is to blame something else for your misery. You’re fine. You’re miserable, you’re tragic, (therefore?) but you’re special, and things are this way because the world is too vain to understand you, society is too stupid to provide you with a beautiful enough message for meaning, and you don’t have to do anything about it at all because it’s not you that’s the problem, it’s everything around you. These messages are easy.

But becoming great, in reality, through developing good routines, good habits, discipline, and a commitment to stay aware and alert and see the world for what it is and to not judge it, and the ability to even sometimes put what you need aside to do things that other needs ← these are harder. The mind doesn’t want that.

ivana-cajina-316246-unsplash

A point I would like to make clear as we approach the end of this letter, is that throughout the piece, you might have detected a hostile attitude towards the mind. It’s not the case really. I might have emphasized it a bit too much through the tone hoping that if it made sense to you then it could get to you more easily. But at the end of the day, all we hope to do is to be a friend to our own mind instead of a slave for it, and to see it for what it is, and to recognize negative and unserving thoughts as they arise, and gently tell our mind with a friendly and nonjudgemental tone, hey dude, I see you’re doing that again. Let’s not play this game. Let’s just go back to watching the sunset together alright?

May we constantly see that once we manage to not be influenced too much by our mind, we can discover and appreciate the world for its breathtaking beauty.

Alright dude, talk again soon. It’s going to get better. I’m here for ya if you need me. Thanks for reaching out, though, it’s a privilege. This, I wrote for myself in retrospect, replacing all the “you” with “I” and it’s even more truthful – so no response needed. Today you, tomorrow me, remember?

Image courtesy: Ivana Cajina via Unsplash (such a beautiful name)

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