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.

Daily Photo: October 8, 2010

The gloom of the morning mists.

This is what an autumn morning should look like. It’s also what any given day in England should look like.

Music I Love: “Like Gods of the Sun”, My Dying Bride (1996)

There are four bands I could not live without, and the doom and despair of My Dying Bride is at the top of that list. For decades, they have been darkening the musical world with their unique brand of metal, and each of their albums has wrenched my heart and filled it with darkness.

They began their career in the early nineties, releasing the groundbreaking As the Flower Withers in 1992. Though the influence of eighties death metal is still apparent here, striking songs such as Sear Me and The Return of the Beautiful stand out as a preview for what was to come: slow, haunting and utterly crushing with the weight of darkness.

The follow-up, 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans, set the stage for the rest of their career. Gone were the fast death metal riffs, and for the first time we heard Aaron Stainthorpe’s wonderful, gloomy and heartbreaking voice, coupled with the dark growls of their death metal roots. What we were left with was the epitome of doom metal.

The Angel and the Dark River, in 1995, continued the melodic, atmospheric trend, and dispensed with growled vocals entirely. The violin, which had been a mainstay of their lineup since the very beginning, became ever more prominent, and the band were clearly leaping from strength to strength.

And then, in 1996, they released Like Gods of the Sun. To this day, this remains a masterpiece of doom metal, and it was here, on their fourth album, that we could see all the pieces finally come together. Crushing yet memorable, songs such as the title trackGrace Unhearing, and For You envelop the listener in a black, dark world of sound. Words of darkness and despair sweep around you, speaking of evil, pain and sadness:

Falling, drowning, deeper and forever

Choking, sinking, deeper into this ocean

Screaming, crying, for someone to save me

Reaching, hoping, calling to no one

Grace Unhearing – My Dying Bride, 1996

As we finally approach the ending of the album, the exceptionally dark It Will Come gives way seamlessly to the brilliant Here in the Throat. With its sudden change of rhythm halfway through, it pounds relentlessly onwards, drawing you inexorably towards the final, inevitable conclusion.

Except it doesn’t end there. After an album of doom, darkness and heaviness, something entirely other suddenly soothes its way through the speakers. Entering with haunting beauty – only synth and violin – the weeping, tragic For My Fallen Angel brings the album to the only close it could have possibly had. A three-stanza spoken poem, it swirls around you, and as the final notes linger, and then finally fade to silence, you feel as though there is nothing left in all the world, and you are left in eternal, silent darkness; a soothing, warm oblivion that will take you away forever.

This album was such a mirror for my own state of mind at the time that it has become inextricably linked to the darkest of thoughts for me. It played endlessly through sleepless, gothic, depressed nights, when candles burned down around me and the scent of blood rose in the air.