Loneliness and the Struggle for Validation

It’s a dark day outside today, and I’m well-settled into the gloom of my rapidly worsening depression. My psychiatrist recently increased the dosage of several of my medications, and today is my first day taking them, although it’ll be several weeks before I notice any difference according to her. I certainly don’t feel any better today.

The past few weeks have been a struggle like none I’ve known in at least five years (the last time I felt as bad as this was in 2016). I can barely function, have had to call out or leave work early on several occasions, and spend almost all day, every day, in a numb, mindless stupor, trying desperately not to think about or consider what’s coming next, because anything yet to come just seems completely unbearable. I sleep all day, snuggles with my cat my only comfort, and am conflicted between wretchedly wanting each day to end, and not wanting the next day to come. Some days I don’t even eat, which is terribly unusual for me, and deep sleep dreams are my only escape.

The point is, it’s bad.

And in this place of desperation, I realize I feel very, very alone. Not alone in the sense that I’m the only one suffering, but more so alone in the sense that I see everyone suffering, and no one has the time or inclination to care much about me. I see my wife struggling with depression, the people around me fed up with work, and even when I tell someone how I’m feeling (or try to; it’s hard to get the concept of crushing despair across), they might listen, offer some advice or sympathy, but then go back to their own life (which, of course, they’re very much allowed to).

The funny thing is, I think a lot of people feel similar. One of my greatest struggles as an author and creator is getting myself out there, marketing my craft, and getting people to notice me. For the most part, I don’t really want to be noticed. I don’t crave attention, I don’t really need others’ validation, and so I don’t tend to think about how I can get myself in front of others. But when I look at other people – particularly their social media presence – the more I wonder if those who prolifically post photos of themselves, their cats, their children or their thoughts, are really feeling just as alone as I am. Just as in need of validation.

Because right now, I really, really want people to validate my depression. I want to post to social media that I feel horrible, that I want to die, that I can’t face life day after day after day. It is, in a way, a cry for attention – but sometimes, I think people need attention. In the past, when I used to self-harm, or when I would daydream about suicide, it was always inward, about myself, my feelings, and how I would cope personally with the mental hell I was wading through.

Now, I feel like I have the same sort of feelings, but I really want someone else out there to say, ”Hey – it’s okay. I know it sucks.” I don’t want sympathy, or solutions; I don’t want platitudes, or logical ”you know it’ll get better” catchphrases (I know it’ll get better, that’s not the point). I want … empathy, I guess. Validation. Someone to tell me I’ve got it rough, and that it’s okay to cope in whatever way I possibly can.

But the thing is, I also don’t want that. I don’t want to feel like I’ve got it worse than other people, because I know I haven’t. I don’t want to garner sympathy for a plight that isn’t all that bad. I don’t want to drag empathy out of people who are probably thinking to themselves, ”Who is this guy? Does he think the world revolves around him? Grow up!”

I feel stuck, I feel lonely, and I feel miserable and depressed. I want people to notice, and I also want people to pass me by.

I want to feel validated, and I don’t feel that I deserve it.

I really want to end this post with some upbeat note, a sense of, ”Hey … I know this will get better.” And the honest truth is, I do know that. I also don’t care. It doesn’t change how I feel right now. It doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know how I’m going to make it through tomorrow. It doesn’t change anything about the place I’m in, or how I feel totally unequipped to cope. All the logical answers in the world don’t change a thing about depression.

For now, I’m probably going to zone out for the rest of the night, drag my living corpse from room to room in the house until it seems like a reasonable time to go to bed, then sleep until tomorrow.

Then it all begins again.

Well … Now I’m Depressed

My last post was a good few months ago, discussing the fact that being mentally stable can have its downsides – notably, the fact that really, it’s kind of boring. I haven’t had a whole lot to say since then, despite my promises of more frequent posting here back at the start of the year, but the honest truth is that there hasn’t been a whole lot going on in my life; work, home, work, home … it kind of all just blends, day after day, into a mishmash of boring daily routine.

But the good news is, that’s all changed. Now, I’m depressed. (Really it’s not that good.) For the past few weeks I’ve been slowly settling into a decline of mental state, to the point where today, I spent my day off primarily sleeping in bed, just waiting for the day to be over.

It all started well enough; slept in a little, got up to make a nice breakfast of crepes and bacon. But little things set me off – things that previously might not have bothered me. I couldn’t get the coffee machine to work. The crepes stuck to the pan. The heat and humidity of northern New Jersey don’t help. And just like that, I wound up in a childishly bad mood, storming off to sleep the morning away.

And there I stayed, on and off, until now. To be honest, I’m not even sure why I’m writing this at all. It isn’t deep, it isn’t important, and it isn’t meaningful. I think it’s just a way of exorcising some demons, perhaps – talking to anonymous internet people who just maybe understand something of what I feel.

The honest truth is that it isn’t really all that bad; I’m not cripplingly depressed, I’m still going to work – I’m able to function. It’s more like a festering dismal mindset, something that rears its ugly head when I have a moment to spare and nothing better to think about. Distractions – work, entertainment, movies – work well, but then of course there are the more destructive coping mechanisms as well.

For me, it’s primarily alcohol. Not anything outright alarming; nothing overly copious, no morning hangovers; just … a few beers every single night. Maybe some whiskey. Enough to take the edge off. And I don’t necessarily think there’s anything terribly wrong with that, either – it’s just a question of whether or not I’m becoming dependent on it. I haven’t really gone a night without drinking in a month or more, and I wonder how I’d feel – emotionally – if I did.

I know that this is a passing phase, and that I will recover from this and feel better. I also know that it won’t be easy making it through to that point. It’s potentially dangerous, too; not outright life-threatening, but for my physical, mental and emotional well-being. It comes with a kind of “fuck it” mentality, a sense that I just don’t care anymore, which can lead to overspending, overeating, over-drinking … you name it, I might do it.

Eventually I’ll emerge from the other side of this canyon, but like any dip into a deep well, it’s harder climbing out than falling in. The good news is that life is relentless, pushing you forward whether you like it or not, and for all the struggles, I’ve made it this far and I’ll make it further.

Until then, I’ll drink my beer, and eat too much cheese, and sleep all day if I want to. It’s the only way I know how to make it through.

The Vividness of Mid-Afternoon Dreams

Perhaps because of my bipolar disorder, or perhaps because of the medications I take to quell its symptoms, I like to sleep. Like, a lot. When I’m not working, I find it very difficult to make it through a day without having at least one (if not two or three) naps. (To be honest, even when I am working I get so tired after lunch that it’s hard to be productive anyway.)

Also perhaps because of my disorder, or the meds, I dream when I sleep. What’s particularly funny about these dreams, though, is that they are (mostly) benign, never frightening, and vivid as hell. Like, Wizard of Oz Technicolor vivid.

For example, just yesterday I dreamed that I was in the loft in my house, but for some reason my house was on the edge of a cliff bordering the sea. While I was sleeping (because in my dream, I was taking a nap), the cliff started to crumble, and the house started to slide into the ocean. It really wasn’t a big deal, but kind of threw me for a loop.

The best part was that when I woke up (in the dream) and looked out of the window to see my house sliding down a cliff, I thought to myself, this isn’t very realistic – I bet I’m dreaming. But then I went downstairs, and when I passed the bathroom I saw the toilet gurgling and flooding as the water from the ocean started flooding the house. And that’s when I started to worry, because it seemed like a detail too intricate to be dreamt. Maybe my house really was drowning.

This is an example of a particularly fantastic dream, but more frequently my dreams are much more bland; sometimes I’ll simply dream of a day a work where nothing of much interest at all happens, or I might dream of eating a meal that wasn’t bad, but just not really good, either.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I don’t have nightmares – the vividness of my dreams would not translate well. And the most vivid of my dreams are usually from those mid-afternoon naps, snuggled deep in the blankets (or on the couch with my cat) where the world outside is cold but in my head everything is toasty warm.

When I’m feeling particularly depressed, I actually look forward to these hallucinatory dreams – it’s like a fugue state, where everything and nothing is real, all at the same time. During these times, I slip into sleep like a warm comforter, just waiting for the dreams to come. When I’m not depressed I don’t necessarily deliberately look for the escape, but I certainly don’t avoid it, either.

Sleeping – and dreaming – is an integral part of my life, and something I couldn’t imagine being without. It’s an odd thought, really, because I think most people don’t really remember their dreams – or care to have them. I find them a necessity, though, in some ways to maintain my sanity; without dreams, I’d probably wonder if the real world was even real at all.

What are your most vivid dreams, and do you remember them well?