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.

Endless Summer Doldrums

I’ve never really been too fond of summer; heat, sun and beach days were never really my thing. I’m much more partial to the shorter, colder days of autumn and winter, where you can sit inside by the fire and stare out into the wind and rain, the falling leaves, and dark snow showers of the late winter months.

Since moving to New Jersey, however, summer has taken on a whole new level of nastiness, with humidity regularly in the 80%-90% range. If there’s one thing I hate more than excessive heat, it’s excessive humidity. Put the two together and I’m just downright miserable. I need it cold and dry.

The worst part is that when the weather feels stifling, so does life. I feel like the summer is dragging on, week after week and month after month of dull, humid unpleasantness, going nowhere fast. I haven’t been creative in months. I haven’t even written a blog post in months. On my days off, I find myself pottering around the house, bored and depressed, trying to think of things to do and realizing I don’t want to do any of them.

I can’t say that this is necessarily summer’s fault, exactly; I know I’ve felt like this at all times of the year. But there’s something about summer that just makes it worse. This dull, aching lethargy is intolerable, a kind of depression that isn’t quite depressed; a kind of misery that isn’t quite recognizable. It’s just an endless boredom, a lack of desire, a kind of … null that fills the void day after day. And when you find yourself drenched in sweat just sitting still, you start to wonder what the point of it all is.

When I get like this, I’m tempted to just go to sleep. I mean after all, if I’m going to waste the day away, I might as well get some rest out of it. Nothing’s worse than sitting on the couch, staring into space, mind agonizingly treading over meaningless gibberish at a mile an hour. But when I wake up, I feel even worse; tired, disconcerted, and wishing I’d done something productive with my time.

What even is ‘productive’? What does it mean? Life is so full of endless, repetitive and meaningless tasks that you could spend every waking moment busy, and still get nothing done. Is cooking dinner productive? Cleaning the kitchen? Watering the plants? All of these are things that need to be done, but are they productive? This kind of mental quagmire is something I find myself in frequently; regardless of whether I spend all day doing nothing or doing something, I still feel like I’ve accomplished nothing at the end of the day. The only things that really make me feel worthwhile are creative endeavors, and in this mindless funk, those become impossible.

These doldrums are endless, and the summer makes it worse. I see no end in sight to either. I can’t wait for fall, and I can’t wait to feel more like doing stuff. But even when the shorter, colder days come about, I worry, because autumn is usually when my outright depression worsens, and I can’t bring myself to even get out of bed.

Life is endless, too. Day after day of the same, going nowhere and getting nothing done, living each day just to see the next. I start to wonder what the point of it all is. I don’t exactly feel that I’d be better off dead, but I can’t quite see the point of living, either. What’s it all about? What’s it for? Who am I entertaining?

And even as I write this, I’m overcome with the desire to just sigh, forget it all, and go back to bed.

A sigh.

It sums up life better than anything, really. Just one big sigh.

And I won’t; or if I do, I won’t forever. As much as I’d like to.

Everything passes in time. The darkness passes … but then, so does the light. Like a zebra, I’m left to wonder if life is depression with bouts of happiness, or happiness with bouts of depression. Sometimes I think it only matters how it ends; only then can you really figure it all out. If I die depressed, then that’s really what life was for me. If I die happy, then … you get the point.

I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to live. I’m just stuck, somewhere in the middle of existing.

And the summer just won’t end.

It’s Funny How Time Slips By

I had the strangest sensation earlier (it might have been the hallucination of a pre-wake dream) that April was almost over, and we were barreling toward September. A kind of grand perspective of the year, a notion that with four months down, it really isn’t that far until most of the year is gone, and then not much further until all of it is. And in that thought, it occurred to me that the year is really only made up of days, and it doesn’t take much for a day to go by without consequence – so that by extension, the rest of the year can go by without us really even being aware of it.

Time is a strange beast, gnawing away daily at our lives until there’s nothing left. Even into the minutes that make up the day, they can pass like treacle – so slow that you hardly notice, and it seems an endless moment until something else happens – or they can fly by like the Flash circling Superman. For example, I woke up around 8 AM this morning, and I didn’t have to leave for work until around 11:15 AM. That’s a lot of time to do stuff – theoretically. Here’s how my morning played out:

  • 8 AM – 9 AM: Lie with the cat.
  • 9 AM – 9:15 AM: Have coffee.
  • 9:15 AM – 10:30 AM: Nap.
  • 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM: Write this post.

And trust me, I almost didn’t write this post – mainly because I couldn’t think of what to write. I was lying in bed, cozy and warm under the covers but wide awake, and thinking to myself: What on earth should I do now? It was one of those moments where it felt like I had all the time in the world, and nothing to do with it.

But the scary part about that is that the attitude of “there’s plenty of time” is also what leads to lost time. A kind of procrastinator’s curse, if you will. It’s one thing if you put off until tomorrow in order to get something else done, but when you put off something in order to get nothing done, not only does it feel like you’ve wasted your time, but it also feels as though you’re wasting your future time, knowing that you’ll now have to do something when you might not really have the time to do it.

For what it’s worth, I’m not saying that having a warm, cozy morning nap is a waste of time; sometimes it’s exactly what you need. I’m no stranger to self-care, and dealing with mental illness most of my life has taught me that I really do need that ‘me-time’ – at least from time to time. But this morning was different; I wasn’t feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, or really anything negative at all. Instead, I think what happened is I fell into a routine, a habit that has spawned out of the need for sleep and self-care, which led me to, if not ‘waste’ time, at least not use it productively. I could have done any number of things this morning, and I actually would have felt like doing them. But I didn’t.

This sort of philosophy, this kind of behavior that I know I fall prey to really quite frequently, I think, is why I feel like time is slipping away. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how many months – perhaps even years – of my life I could have back had I not spent them sleeping, or moping, or feeling like there was no point doing anything. Not that any of that was really under my control – depression is a real villain, sometimes – but it makes me wonder if, for example, The Redemption of Erâth would be complete by now if I was some other person. Or perhaps I would be further ahead in my career at work.

All of it amounts to the thought that my life is really very limited, and having lived through a decent chunk of it already – all of which is time I’ll never get back – I worry that there isn’t enough of it left. I mean, I could die tomorrow, of course, but assuming nothing untoward happens to me, I still only have maybe four or five decades left. Which, right now, sounds like a lot. But I know me, and I know that I’m going to wake up one day and find that I’m actually old, and that I’ve wasted my life.

Maybe this is all coming across as a kind of midlife crisis rant, and perhaps that’s exactly what it is. I’m certainly not here to commit to ‘doing better’, or not wasting my life anymore, but at the same time, I’m very conscious that every day that goes by without an accomplishment – however small – is a day I’ll never get back.

So here’s my accomplishment for today: I wrote this post. Perhaps no one will read it, but if you do, let me know what you think about life, and time, and whether sleeping the day away counts as a waste. I’d love to hear your thoughts!