I am the Face of The Void, and like you, I labor under depression.
Mine has been severe, and long-lasting, and quite honestly I am on borrowed time. I am lucky to still be here, and at this point in my development, I feel I owe a debt to the world for having languished in darkness for so long.
I owe a debt to you, a debt of knowledge and of inspiration. I have struggled for more than 2 decades of adult life, so often staring down the barrel of suicide, horns locked with the primal evil of my fundamental nature, that I have wondered if I should exist at all. That is what I want to start by talking with you about:
The Evil Mind of our Darkest Times
These dark times, on the surface, are characterized by compulsive inactivity and a disaffected attitude. We can’t get up to shower. We can’t commit to regular meals. We are stress reactive and we appear to the outside world as though we have given up, and that we are easily bothered. We develop a negative worldview and hold ourselves to be superior for it. We seek to be alone because the outside world seems such a stressful place, and it places demands on us that we simply don’t have the energy to meet.
What’s inside, though, that’s what I want to talk with you about. Your private reflections; they are many and they are severe.
I very much operate on a philosophy I derive as a layperson with an interest in evolutionary psychology. In many of our darkest reflections, we are imagining unspeakable acts. They are not only suicide, but they are also murder and deviant acts of all kinds. I will not spend much time on these, but just take a moment to say that these are normal.
They do not mean you are a bad person.
They are survival mechanisms evolved over geologic time in ancient humans as well as species predating humans. If you consider them carefully, it should be clear how each of them might have worked in the interest of survival in older, far more brutal versions of the world.
Everyone has that primal machinery, it isn’t just you. There is a savage living deep inside all of us; a vestige of our stone-aged ancestry. The important question to ask is this:
What Stirs the Savage?
Since we understand the savage as a primordial survival mechanism, a more precise question might be: what has prompted us to fight for our lives?
I think two things: a continuous state of stress, and our own decision to withdraw from the world. If we remove ourselves from civil society, our animal nature loses context and the mind expands beyond its conditioned, modern social norms. We begin to have a conscious experience of our own capacity for brutality as a primitive stress response.
Part of what we need in order to remain above this state is a social, civil environment. Isolation is not the answer.
Even given that, what really needs to be addressed are the sources of stress. These are myriad and complex, both internal and external, and will be the subject of many of my future blog posts.
For now, though, there is still an elephant in the room:
An Elephant Called Suicide
Grey and long in the tooth, this is a beast we know all too well. It lumbers through our thoughts and crushes us under its weight. Suicide plays out in our minds in every way we can imagine: do we jump, cut, or overdose? Do we drown, starve, or crash… or do we just pull the trigger?
While the means we can imagine are many, understanding suicide requires that we carefully consider the setting that these thoughts take place in. Let’s take a moment to reflect on our reflections…
I know my own thoughts always included other people. My mind would be a stage for conflict, engaged in bitter self-defense from perceived judgments. I might have imagined a scenario with a family member who had lost patience with me and seemed insensitive to what I was going through. I imagined their criticism, and how harshly I would respond to them.
Also on this embattled stage, I might deliver my own eulogy to a panel of relatives mourning over my corpse, telling them everything they never knew about all the pain I was in, and how they didn’t care until now. This is what I wanted for my life, and that is why I couldn’t have it, but what was the keynote of this speech?
It Wasn’t. My. Fault.
It wasn’t my fault I killed myself.
It wasn’t my fault I was in so much pain.
It wasn’t my fault I was ashamed of my life.
The world was so cruel, and I was so hurt, and I was abused. I was lied to and betrayed, I was sick and abandoned, I was shunned and bullied, I was neglected and beaten.
It wasn’t. My. Fault.
That’s what I would tell the virtual accusers who lived in my mind.
This is what we do to ourselves when we are depressed. We lay flattened under our negative emotions, all too eager to buy the story that they are a disease.
While we are certainly in a bad way, we do better to recognize these thoughts and feelings as the price of entry. It is just that the price is higher for some than it is for others.
Healing starts when we accept our negative emotions and is only belabored by our efforts to avoid and irradicate them. In my view, a well-balanced individual is still laboring under negative emotions about half of the time. The sickness comes from our avoidance and evasive rationales, not from the negative emotions themselves.
The Ultimate Escape
Despite our efforts to avoid these feelings – the stories of shifted blame, our drug use, unhealthy co-dependence, and our search for simple comforts and distractions – we still suffer.
It is no wonder that when we find that all of these fail to spare us of our suffering that we start to contemplate death. That would most certainly end the pain.
Yet here you are, reading this, alive… suspended by a shoestring called hope. Are you so sure you want to die, or is it just that you would die if it could mean you have finally been understood?
Thank you for reading with me, this is the first of many blog posts to come. I hope you’ll stick with me as I make my own efforts to be understood, and share what I have learned thus far with those who are still so much in need.
In the meantime, stay alive and welcome to The Void.