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How do you find purpose; get up and get going, with depression?


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How do people with depression find a new purpose? Literally, a good reason that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Maybe I find this tougher than some (?) because i also lost the faith that animated my whole worldview and a very strong sense of puropse, but in the aftermath I'm still trying to identify something.  Saying simply, 'my family and 'love' may be true,  but it doesn't seem to help get up and going.

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I have had "self-diagnosed" depression (I just thought I had depression but it wasn't proven) and something that kept me going was that if I killed myself, my mother, brother, and other relatives and friends would suffer so much pain. Hope this helps somehow...!

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I wish i had an answer to that question. Going through the motions of life, not acutally experiencing anything, no interest or passion for anything, feeling constantly empty, bored and a loser. How does one indeed find reasons to live? Living for the sake of others isn't enough. Not for me it isn't. All I can do is be here for you guys. All the best @gandolfication and @DTipton.

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gandolfication, sorry you're having a hard time.  It's so funny, I just got off the phone with my daughter.  She was very concerned for a former coworker whose Mom died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The friend is single, an only child, and was very close to and dependent on her mom.  Her biological dad is not in the picture.  She has been through a lot lately, having to quit her job because of a DUI, losing a baby etc.  My daughter is concerned she will attempt suicide.  We were talking about that and I thought of a man named Viktor Frankl.  He was a psychiatrist and wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning, because he was in a Nazi prison camp during World War II.  He saw some prisoners around him who couldn't cope and basically gave up, gave in and died.  While others seemed to be able to not only withstand the abuses and sufferings, but even thrived.  He wrote the book because he learned that the difference between the two was having meaning and purpose.  Those who had no purpose, died.  Those who knew their purpose survived. I think our purpose comes from our creator.  If your computer, or car, or phone doesn't work, you go back to the manufacturer to see how to fix it.  The same applies to life.  God is the giver of life.  He has placed each person on this earth for a time and a season and with a purpose.  Getting to know Him will help you discover your purpose and meaning.

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For me, my husband and son are my purpose. But I think in reality we all have purpose, we may just not know what it is. I think sometimes our purpose may not be the happiest or most positive experience for oneself but for their family, friends, strangers even - the greater good. I think sometimes we suffer to teach others, inspire others, motivate others. I think our purpose becomes more clear over the course of our lives. But I think when you assume you have purpose, and stop looking for it, life can make more sense.

Yes, you get up and get going, with depression. Because it's the right thing to do. Look back at the course of your life and everything you have done, all that you have been through, how hard you have worked to raise kids, find a life partner, get through law school...you have done so much, and survived so much! You are stronger than you think.

Edited by morecoffee
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My purpose is to suffer.

Depression is different for everyone.  There is not one solution for everyone.

What works for you may not work for everyone.

Edited by duck
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When I was in my most serious depressive state, a doctor told me that I had an illness which he said was why I couldn't find a reason to live among other horrible things I was experiencing.  He said he would prescribe a medication that he thought might help with that.  I didn't believe it would help.  I was a total disbeliever because my depression clearly was the result of things in my life and no medicine in the world would change those things one iota!!!  

But, for whatever reason, I responded to the treatment.  Having been on the Forum for awhile I realize that many people do not respond to medical treatment or respond poorly to it or suffer intolerable side effects from treatment.  I could be like that too.  So I cannot "sing the praises" of the medications currently available today.  I consider myself lucky to have been someone who responded to medical treatment.  I can say that it saved my life and saves my life daily although I have suffered relapses and rough, rough spells. 

I can say that my "personal" purpose among others is to take care of the 30 trillion or so cells in my body, to help people when I can and help animals when I can.  It seems very rich and fulfilling to me.  But . . . would I feel that way without medical treatment?  I have no idea!

I should also say that I had therapy before and after medical treatment.  Therapy didn't help much before medical treatment although it offered brief oh so brief periods of relief from the agony and deadness of my life.  I responded much better to therapy after medical treatment. 

CBT in particular worked well for me after getting medical treatment.  CBT is not for everyone and I know others hate it and find it unhelpful to them.      I have no doubt they are right.  It helps me although I am not sure it would be so helpful if I did not have medical treatment.    Since receiving medical treatment I have never hit bottom again and have never had to be hospitalized for Depression although I realize that as long as I live, I am in jeopardy.

I can only speak for myself here.

Edited by Epictetus
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13 hours ago, DTipton said:

I have had "self-diagnosed" depression (I just thought I had depression but it wasn't proven) and something that kept me going was that if I killed myself, my mother, brother, and other relatives and friends would suffer so much pain. Hope this helps somehow...!

Yah, I've felt that way for years, and I suppose most of the time, it's been one thing that has keep me here.

At the same time, fear-based or negative motivators I find are more effective in the short term and then wear us out.  Right now, I'm feeling like my family would be better off without me.  I know that's not rationally true, (and there's background), but I guess I'm saying that this fits under the category of 'living for others'.  Not saying it's bad or illegitimate, but is there any positive purpose.  I used to have a very specific, defined purpose in the form of a calling to make the world better.  I wasn't aware how much this drove me forward even when then things got tough.  Anyway, thanks, not taking issue here, just searching for some form of 'answer' to the pain.

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2 hours ago, duck said:

My purpose is to suffer.

Depression is different for everyone.  There is not one solution for everyone.

What works for you may not work for everyone.

I don't understand that.  I understand that suffering can produce character, there can be beauty from it, etc.

But surely our 'purpose' is not 'to suffer.'  If I thought that was all things amounted to, for me, it would serve to confirm the theory behind rational sui*ide.  

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5 hours ago, LonelyHiker said:

My son...that's all that keeps me even trying anymore

That's the obvious 'right' 'answer' and the only one I can think of too.  It seems like more of an obligation, a responsibility, than a purpose I guess.  Yes, there is (must be) meaning in helping my wife and kids have the best life I can, but it seems unsustainable, untenable in some way(s).  For example, I hypothesize that if the roles were reversed - say my family were the ones suffering depression of the most severe form for years, and I knew they sole reason they were staying around was to help me, I don't think I would feel good about that.  I'm not saying I'd want them to end their life of course, but I would dearly want them to find a positive purpose for themselves.  In short, some hope and meaning apart from me.  Otherwise, I'd feel like an unintentional parasite of sorts.

I'm sure others feel this way...I've seen them say it here.  Obviously, I don't want to 'rain on' anyone else's reasons here - I'm glad they feel or are tethered to this life by the ones they love and who love them.  That must be good.  It just doesn't feel like it, and I genuinely do not know if the fact of having a family where there is mutual love and care is a net positive or negative in terms of increasing or decreasing the chances and likelihood, let alone the healthy nature, of staying around.  I know if it wasn't for them, I'd certainly check out...I guess that's the answer to that....that it's certainly good (and I know that), but a lot of the time right now--and particularly because I am struggling so much to support us all--it comes to seem like more burden than benefit.

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1 hour ago, 6dantex6 said:

the thing that keeps me going\trying when i can is the hope that someday ill get better.you can say that getting better

and beating  depression is something like my purpose.

Yah, I guess that's definitely been part of it for me for a long time too.  

I wish I felt more hopeful or could see it more clearly than I do.

But good point.

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1 hour ago, samadhiSheol said:

Perhaps I'm just a nihilist and selfish but I see no point in continuous emptiness. The older I get the less point I see sticking around, the less hope I have of finding other relief than death.

Those who can't take it anymore cease to exist.

Right, that is how I feel as well.  And while I try not to be, I too have heavy nihilist tendencies and thought patterns.  Not surprisingly these solidified more about 7 years ago when I finally gave up believing in the Christian religion so important to all my life to that point.

And it does tend to engender greater selfishness...which seems weird to me.  It's like I can't see outside of this narrow tunnel or something.

One thing I've remembered in the past is how meaningful it still is (and even feels) when I'm able to help someone else even a little.  That's one things that's kept me here...and I know a lot of others here say the same.

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1 hour ago, Epictetus said:

When I was in my most serious depressive state, a doctor told me that I had an illness which he said was why I couldn't find a reason to live among other horrible things I was experiencing.  He said he would prescribe a medication that he thought might help with that.  I didn't believe it would help.  I was a total disbeliever because my depression clearly was the result of things in my life and no medicine in the world would change those things one iota!!!  

But, for whatever reason, I responded to the treatment.  Having been on the Forum for awhile I realize that many people do not respond to medical treatment or respond poorly to it or suffer intolerable side effects from treatment.  I could be like that too.  So I cannot "sing the praises" of the medications currently available today.  I consider myself lucky to have been someone who responded to medical treatment.  I can say that it saved my life and saves my life daily although I have suffered relapses and rough, rough spells. 

I can say that my "personal" purpose among others is to take care of the 30 trillion or so cells in my body, to help people when I can and help animals when I can.  It seems very rich and fulfilling to me.  But . . . would I feel that way without medical treatment?  I have no idea!

I should also say that I had therapy before and after medical treatment.  Therapy didn't help much before medical treatment although it offered brief oh so brief periods of relief from the agony and deadness of my life.  I responded much better to therapy after medical treatment. 

CBT in particular worked well for me after getting medical treatment.  CBT is not for everyone and I know others hate it and find it unhelpful to them.      I have no doubt they are right.  It helps me although I am not sure it would be so helpful if I did not have medical treatment.    Since receiving medical treatment I have never hit bottom again and have never had to be hospitalized for Depression although I realize that as long as I live, I am in jeopardy.

I can only speak for myself here.

Thanks Epic.  

I do realize that the nature of this question is such that each person to some degree has to find their own 'answer(s).'  Still, from all I've ever learned, read, talked etc. about this (and like so many here, it's been a lot of time and years), the answers seem to fall into a few main categories to a) go on living and b) to find some meaning and purpose in life.

1) things change.  Despite seeming contrary, there is a continuum of good and bad feelings, experiences, times, etc.  Medical help, therapy and many other things can make recovery more likely and more extensive.  People to recover and improve every day.  Thus, there literally is at least some hope.  The whole permanent solution a 'temporary' problem sounds trite, but has literal application. 

2) caring for ourselves and others.  There seems no higher or more profound meaning in life than to practice love, even if it seems against all reason.  That's why so many of the songs, poems, movies, books, etc. are always, ultimately about this.

3) there is some good, even pleasure.  I don't have something like full anhedonia.  I know I still have capacity to feel good and sometimes do.  Nowhere near as often and rarely as full or joyful (The Dante quote above comes to mind). But I know I still experience good.  (I simply tend to look at things in net cost-benefit terms, and also know I have distorted thinking).

4) connection to others.  Closely related to # 2/love above.  I have connections to others and they to me such that any of us being gone tears at the fabric of these relationships and the community as it were.  This seems little consolation, but I suppose that is easy for me to say and if I added true loneliness and isolation as many experience, most of me knows I would feel even worse.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some. Mere stoicism doesn't do it for me.

Right now I am in the throes of crisis...and it is a rolling crisis of finance, career, survival and badly strained family relationships as well.  Truly I want to die now or in any case not be be alive and conscious.  It seems like only pain all around.  All the things I used to live for (religion, politics, ambition, competing, hope/inspiration, hope in the future, even helping people) seem to have passed.  Those are oversimplified shorthands, but they were extremely powerful.  

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1 hour ago, CoolCat7 said:

I agree with the comment about purpose.  I read a quote recently (sorry I can't remember it exactly), which is to put your hand over your heart and think of your purpose at the beginning of each day.  My purpose is to write - more specifically, to write something with meaning.  I don't believe in a Biblical God, but I do believe there may be a higher consciousness out there, and that we can each find meaning and purpose in our lives.  

I used to be an atheist, and then I was watching a BBC nature show about an island off the coast of Belize where they have hermit crabs.  If you don't know, hermit crabs can't grow their own shells but use discarded ones from other creatures.  At some point, the crab outgrows its shell and has to find another, but leaving its shell makes it vulnerable to predators.  So at some point the hermit crabs line up on the beach from smallest to largest, and change shells. As a former biology major, I know that a hermit crab doesn't even have a brain.  This is pretty sophisticated behaviour for a creature without a brain.  Of course it is explained by evolution, but just at that moment, as I was watching this show, I *felt* a flicker of something like a tiny part of a deep sense of joy and humour, from a consciousness so vast I could not even imagine it except for this tiny flicker.  Something underlying evolution and... everything.  And that everything had a pattern and is exactly as it has to be.  I don't know how to explain it, but there is no other way for things to be.  Light cannot exist without darkness.  Great joy cannot exist without great pain.  This does not mean AT ALL that things are somehow balanced on an individual level and that we all have equal levels of pain and joy.  Obviously some people lead great lives and some lead lives of unimaginable suffering, and there is no other way things can be.  Everything has a "reason" although that does not mean that one is to learn a lesson or other pedantic simplistic reason.  I will try to explain more later because I have to go take my cat to the vet.  I hope he doesn't have cancer.  But if he does, I will know that no god decided to give my cat cancer, but that cancer exists for biological reasons and will show up in certain individuals due to genetics, environment or other causes.

CoolCat, thanks.

The hermit crab thing is fascinating.  I had to look up the not having a brain thing.  Maybe I need ganglia.  Anyway, pretty cool.

I know what you mean.  I've had similar experiences that transcend.  Call it a spiritual awareness, a connectedness, a knowledge that passes understanding.  It's a big reason I've always loved literature and wisdom traditions, and in recent years have become captivated by notions from quantum physics and quantum computing (like parallel worlds, simulation theory, etc., theories of universal connectedness - they seem both more powerful and also more elusive in some ways than the old christianity I used to follow so fervently.  No tidy answers though neatly wrapped up in a bow).  'We've had to believe in impossible things and realize that the true nature of reality beckons from just beyond.'  So opens one of my favorite podcasts.

Even if I tend to wax a little esoteric about these things, they're quite practical.  If there are more layers than even regardless of what we can discover, etc., then there is more in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy (to paraphrase Shakespeare), and that alone may be compelling reason to stay.

Anyway, I greatly appreciate everyone's response and interaction here. I needed to get through the last few hours and I know this helped.

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6 minutes ago, standup said:

I don't know how to find purpose. There really is no purpose. Right now, I'm just trying to survive. However, long term, I don't care about my health. I smoke, I don't exercise, and I eat poorly. Here's hoping for a massive coronary. Cheers!

I can so relate to that sentiment.  Its weird @standup, but when someone like you, who I've talked to many times before here and know we have a lot of commonality in the way we've experienced depression, I somehow can see valid reasons to live as though I was looking out from someone else's perspective (even though of course I don't know what you're going through or your exact situation).  I don't know if that makes sense.  It seems as though something in our human ability to know empathy allows us to see or imagine more objectively when not clouded with the intense emotion that depression visits upon us.

I don't know.  Maybe that's just another way of saying I feel more affirmed and connected when I'm talking to someone else like those here who I know understand the full depth of pain and suffering in this world and are still themselves working hard to do what good they can as long as they can.  Maybe that's the best and only meaning we have.  There. I feel like that was esoteric enough for me today.  :)

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@gandolfication, I'm sure this isn't news to you, but you have a very fine, analytical mind. And you are able to express yourself well.

I've been thinking about what keeps me going all afternoon. First, the obvious--my daughter and my cats. Yes, there is a certain amount of obligation there.

Beyond that? I have...I don't know...maybe hedonistic tendencies and I like to experience things. I like to take my senses for a whirl.  I enjoy eating, drinking coffee, smoking that weeed, listening to music, accelerating in a car or a plane...so I get these little bits of sensory pleasure that help keep me going.

As I've mentioned ad nauseam, I'm thoroughly burned out at work. I have a billion things to do but no motivation to tackle them. I got chewed out by my boss earlier and it didn't even register on the emotion meter. I have lost interest in this place where I've worked for 29 years. I'm too old to go anywhere else and my ex gets half of my puny retirement.

Anhedonia coupled with cynicism is not a good combo.

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