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


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I remember 20+ years ago in college, I was introduced to the existential philosophy when reading "The Stranger" by Camus, which got me so down that I sat in my room and cried. Existentialism says that there is no inherent purpose to life; life itself doesn't have any meaning, it just is.

But I was discussing it all with a very wise friend later who agreed with the existentialist philosophy. To her, it made life wonderful and exciting because it means that we get to create our own purpose. To me, the difference between finding your purpose and creating your purpose is like going through a warehouse of paintings to find the exact right one, which you might never find and will result with feeling like a failure, and being given a blank canvas and being told to create the picture you want.

I'm sorry, I don't remember where I was going with this... but I know that her perspective really helped me at the time when I was in a major "What is the point of it all?" funk, so maybe it will help others now.

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What gets me up in the morning is that I care. No matter what I care. I care about life I care about my mom I care about the earth I care about wanting to do and be better. Even if everything may be meaningless in the sense that we all end uo dying the fact of the matter is im still here and I still have time to do something. And I hold a feeling that one day something will and can change for the better. Im not a fortune teller so to say ill be depressed forever is to think i know the future and I dont. I think secretly theres something in all of us that really just wants be alive and feel alive which is why we all dont decide to end it ... 

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Truthfully because I need to take my dog out. Having a dog forces me to get out of the house. And go to work...need to make a living somehow even if I don't want to at the moment. I have to look at the bigger picture rather than my immediate dread of the day.

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13 hours ago, gandolfication said:

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.  

@gandolfication  My purpose is to suffer.  I have had GAD since I was a child.  I suffered all those years.  At age 28 a doctor diagnosed me with GAD.  Then I had a few okay years.  Now I have depression.  My purpose is to suffer. I also had a violent mother and school teachers. BTW my depression was caused by abusive people in the work place and every where else. The abuse from people in the workplace reminded me of my childhood abuse. People are abusing me my whole life.  I also have some physical health issues which are getting worse.

Edited by duck
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1 hour ago, duck said:

@gandolfication  My purpose is to suffer.  I have had GAD since I was a child.  I suffered all those years.  At age 28 a doctor diagnosed me with GAD.  Then I had a few okay years. Not great but okay. Now I have depression.  My purpose is to suffer. I also had a violent mother and school teachers. BTW my depression was caused by abusive people in the work place and every where else. The abuse from people in the workplace reminded me of my childhood abuse. People are abusing me my whole life.  I also have some physical health issues which are getting worse.

 

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1 hour ago, duck said:

@gandolfication  My purpose is to suffer.  I have had GAD since I was a child.  I suffered all those years.  At age 28 a doctor diagnosed me with GAD.  Then I had a few okay years.  Now I have depression.  My purpose is to suffer. I also had a violent mother and school teachers. BTW my depression was caused by abusive people in the work place and every where else. The abuse from people in the workplace reminded me of my childhood abuse. People are abusing me my whole life.  I also have some physical health issues which are getting worse.

Much of Buddhist teaching is rooted in life is suffering.  I have read a lot about Buddhism but not a practicing Buddhist.  It is an interesting perspective on life and many people who suffer from depression follow its teaching.

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7 hours ago, skblue said:

I remember 20+ years ago in college, I was introduced to the existential philosophy when reading "The Stranger" by Camus, which got me so down that I sat in my room and cried. Existentialism says that there is no inherent purpose to life; life itself doesn't have any meaning, it just is.

But I was discussing it all with a very wise friend later who agreed with the existentialist philosophy. To her, it made life wonderful and exciting because it means that we get to create our own purpose. To me, the difference between finding your purpose and creating your purpose is like going through a warehouse of paintings to find the exact right one, which you might never find and will result with feeling like a failure, and being given a blank canvas and being told to create the picture you want.

I'm sorry, I don't remember where I was going with this... but I know that her perspective really helped me at the time when I was in a major "What is the point of it all?" funk, so maybe it will help others now.

Yes, I had a similar reaction to existentialist/nihilist thinking much later in life.  For a long time, the religion of my youth served as a powerful antidote (and indeed faith does provide a compelling purpose if one can believe); and then the bottom dropped out.

I've heard people say there may be no purpose to life but there still may be meaning in life, and things like that.  These are semantics.  I am after something to hope for, and whilr there probably are many things to hope toward, depression is exceedingly good at masking them.

I like your painting analogy. There is still a choice involved. 

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6 hours ago, Maryyy said:

What gets me up in the morning is that I care. No matter what I care. I care about life I care about my mom I care about the earth I care about wanting to do and be better. Even if everything may be meaningless in the sense that we all end uo dying the fact of the matter is im still here and I still have time to do something. And I hold a feeling that one day something will and can change for the better. Im not a fortune teller so to say ill be depressed forever is to think i know the future and I dont. I think secretly theres something in all of us that really just wants be alive and feel alive which is why we all dont decide to end it ... 

Well said.

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1 hour ago, Mistral001 said:

Much of Buddhist teaching is rooted in life is suffering.  I have read a lot about Buddhism but not a practicing Buddhist.  It is an interesting perspective on life and many people who suffer from depression follow its teaching.

Yah.  This isn't meant to sound snarky...ive dabbled in Buddhism and like some of its ethos, but I am just not into that much of an embrace of suffering.....for what? (Christianity had enough of this but i syopped short of gloriying it or resigning to it). Seems to me like an elaborate exercise in trying to trick oneself with reverse psychology.  Our DNA is to avoid pain and suffering.

I know it seems to work for some.

I've always thought redemption was more powerful, even if not guaranteed.

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5 hours ago, NeverCryWolf said:

Truthfully because I need to take my dog out. Having a dog forces me to get out of the house. And go to work...need to make a living somehow even if I don't want to at the moment. I have to look at the bigger picture rather than my immediate dread of the day.

A friend of mine I met at a depression support group says this about her dog.  One of the fee people I know who is say i know has recovered.   They are quite amazing creatures.

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5 hours ago, NeverCryWolf said:

Truthfully because I need to take my dog out. Having a dog forces me to get out of the house. And go to work...need to make a living somehow even if I don't want to at the moment. I have to look at the bigger picture rather than my immediate dread of the day.

I have a dog and  taking him for his walk gets me out of the house and helps me meet others - mostly other dog owners.  My dog is from a dogs' home and is quite independent as he was four when I got him, so I do not get a sense that he needs me.  My last dog was less independent in character and I had more feelings of having a purpose with him as he got very attached to me.  However, it is possible that if I had not given my present dog a home, he would still be in the dogs' home in his little cell, so that gives me some sense of purpose.

Edited by Mistral001
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29 minutes ago, Misanthrop said:

So g, your purpose is to find the perfect utopia for you & your family to live in?

1)Change? No, things WORSEN. Evidence? Almost everything in everyday life.

4, & 2)Come on, g, you've worked before. You've worked long enough to have interacted with many clients, colleagues, supervisors, management/bosses. Isn't that sufficient proof humans are conniving backstabbers who can never be trusted, let you down, & believe selfishness is the most important key to surviving?

...okay, you have a point with pleasure, but anhedonia is a major symptom of depressive disorder.

Misanthrop,

I usually feel that way, but no, I don't think that comports with the evidence. 

I don't like the forces of corporate life, but I have met and know many good people.  And I think most people do bad things yes out of survival and because it has been done to them, not because they're inherently evil.

It is a fact to common to doubt that these imperfect people nonetheless do all kinds of good things too.  Every day.  Parents make sacrifices, emergency personnel, doctors, lawyers, friends, and even sales people.   We are some of them here.

No I don't long for utopia. Just feeling 'normal' with a sense of hope and well-being.  

I don't  know if this is enough.  I feel like maybe I'm in my last days myself; I don't want to be here and am weighing taking final action because despite these beliefs (and hope) above, I seem to be losing the ability to tolerate the pain much longer.

Maybe that is a subtle difference.  I turn inward and blame myself mostly.  Yes I think I am a "terrible person living in a terrible world," to paraphrase an adage from the 12 steps, but objectively (and subjectively even for that matter) I never get to this place by thinking that there's nothing good or beautiful or worthwhile in the world.  If I did get close to that, my wife and kids would remind me that is absolutely untrue. 

Maybe you're right in the sense that it's a matter of unmet and possibly unrealistic expectations on my part .  But it seems like that by itself is a clue that there actually is and must be the possibility of feeling better. Good enough?  I don't know.

It happens for some people.

 

Edited by gandolfication
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This is a great topic.  I came up with these categories that seem to help me most.  I should preface this with the understanding that I'm not proselytizing here, but here goes my list:

1.  My Faith comes first.  I pray a lot.  Over the years, I have experienced the miraculous.  

2.  Art.  If there is an area in my life that drives me, it would be design found mostly in nature.  I do have my heroes in architecture as well.  I love to make jewelry, paint, do mixed media, glass work, sculpt and do photography and I enjoy writing as well.

3.  Love. I find that loving people is amazing medicine for me.

4. Gratefulness.  I am glad for the time I have for all the above.    

 

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23 hours ago, Mistral001 said:

Much of Buddhist teaching is rooted in life is suffering.  I have read a lot about Buddhism but not a practicing Buddhist.  It is an interesting perspective on life and many people who suffer from depression follow its teaching.

@Mistral001   Thanks. I will look into Buddhism.  It sounds interesting.

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On 7/19/2017 at 4:14 PM, gandolfication said:

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.

I've been struggling - deeply - with this difference as well. The longer I stick around, the more I realize that the "purpose" I've been staying for - my mom, my cats - has really been an obligation not to do harm.  So I *have* been living for them and, no, that is truly not living at all. That is existing.

Many people find their purpose through faith of some sort. Many are able to accept that just being alive and finding joy in each day is enough. I think for deeper thinkers like ourselves, it is so much harder.

I think I might be able to find purpose and meaning in a few certain things if the depression did not create a heavy blanket over everything. Some say it works the other way - find your purpose and the depression will lift, but I know what is meaningful to me; I simply cannot engage because the depression robs me of the ability to participate in life.

For now, I am surviving. I have to feed my cats and bring in a paycheck or I lose the roof over my head and end up living under the bridge. So I drag myself out of bed in the morning to give the kitties something to eat and go to work.  Until I don't anymore. 

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On 7/20/2017 at 6:13 AM, Mistral001 said:

Much of Buddhist teaching is rooted in life is suffering.  I have read a lot about Buddhism but not a practicing Buddhist.  It is an interesting perspective on life and many people who suffer from depression follow its teaching.

Yes, but the *purpose* of life is not to suffer.  Suffering exists. But so does the cessation of suffering. And we are the answer to the end to our own suffering. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor is a short secular book I have found helpful when not in the depths of depression. Just finished reading the book Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell (it's recommended in another forum; don't let the Pagan reference deter you-it's suitable for all). 

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14 hours ago, justthinking said:

@gandolfication, how are you doing in your search for purpose and meaning?

 

Well, I talked about it in a series of interviews for my law schools alumni relations director post then last couple days.

That felt good.  There's a fear you know that no sense of purpose or meaning will ever return.

But that can't be right.

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6 hours ago, uncertain1 said:

Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor is a short secular book I have found helpful when not in the depths of depression. Just finished reading the book Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell (it's recommended in another forum; don't let the Pagan reference deter you-it's suitable for all). 

I just read the description of face in the darkness and that sounds quite interesting.

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9 hours ago, gandolfication said:

Well, I talked about it in a series of interviews for my law schools alumni relations director post then last couple days.

That felt good.  There's a fear you know that no sense of purpose or meaning will ever return.

But that can't be right.

I agree that it can't be right that there is no sense of purpose or meaning. Have you ever heard of Ravi Zaccharias?  He is originally from India, now lives in Atlanta.  He tried to commit suicide as a teenager.  He survived and writes and speaks on Meaning, reason, etc.  He has two good books I would recommend: There is a Plan and Cries of the Heart.

 

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59 minutes ago, justthinking said:

I agree that it can't be right that there is no sense of purpose or meaning. Have you ever heard of Ravi Zaccharias?  He is originally from India, now lives in Atlanta.  He tried to commit suicide as a teenager.  He survived and writes and speaks on Meaning, reason, etc.  He has two good books I would recommend: There is a Plan and Cries of the Heart.

 

Thx.  Yes actually I am quite familiar with Ravi Zacharias and used to read some of his writings. From memory, I would describe him as an apologist and Christian philosopher who I do think is a gifted communicator.

I do tend to think of a traditional and immersive Christian worldview as being something of a dead-end for me because of its lack of realness and the absence of experience of that old 'personal relationship' we used to place above all.  It's hard to get over that even though I do seek to be open to the universe so to speak.

But I am never afraid of ideas and so appreciate the recommendations would look at that one time allows.

Thanks.

G

Edited by gandolfication
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On 8/2/2017 at 0:26 PM, gandolfication said:

Thx.  Yes actually I am quite familiar with Ravi Zacharias and used to read some of his writings. From memory, I would describe him as an apologist and Christian philosopher who I do think is a gifted communicator.

I do tend to think of a traditional and immersive Christian worldview as being something of a dead-end for me because of its lack of realness and the absence of experience of that old 'personal relationship' we used to place above all.  It's hard to get over that even though I do seek to be open to the universe so to speak.

But I am never afraid of ideas and so appreciate the recommendations would look at that one time allows.

Thanks.

G

What do you mean by "that old personal relationship we used to place above all"?  Were you once a believer in Jesus and have left the faith?

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2 hours ago, justthinking said:

What do you mean by "that old personal relationship we used to place above all"?  Were you once a believer in Jesus and have left the faith?

 

Oh, yes, I was a Christian most of my life.  I was describing the evangelical emphasis on one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ as being of ultimate primary importance.

 

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