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crypticway

Depression... Forever?

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I've been into and familiar with Objectivist philosophy and ethics since I was a pre-adolescent, adolescent, young adult, and now an adult. I may not have understood it all when I was younger, but it was around me. Growing up I was always so sure of myself, had barely any self doubts, was very driven in my own pursuits, and didn't seem to really 'think about life' (more on this)... instead I would experience it. When I entered college I broke down completely and attempted suicide. I was almost diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but in the end I was diagnosed with Bipolar (Type II?) Since then I've been on medication and have continually seen therapists. For a while I did really well, held a job for an extended period of time (living at home). Then I moved out, and any time I'm not living at home I have trouble finding or holding a job. I am 27 and five/six years ago I met my partner and that's when I moved out. I'm gay, but I don't think it really makes a difference other than it affected some of my experiences growing up (such as my inability to truly *date* in high school, just carry superfluous relationships), and what we'll get to later.

Then I met a horrible person three/four years ago who took advantage of my mental illness and schemed me out of a lot of money. By the time I kicked him out of my life, he was my best and truly only friend outside of my partner. That was really hard, but he had helped transform me into a mean person, and I wasn't going to take it anymore. I'm not mean anymore. Since then it's been downhill in terms of self-esteem and self-value. Last year I started experiencing 'shock obsessions'. I would become shocked about something, usually sexual (I can't go into any more detail, it's too much for me to say specifically), that usually was something happening out there in the world but not in my immediate life. I would become obsessed for days, weeks, and constantly have high anxiety. It was like the feeling of being horrified, but it doesn't go away for days on end. It put a strain on my relationship with my partner, and still does. I was prescribed a medication for 'atypical psychotic intrusive thoughts', but these thoughts still 'intrude' on my thinking daily/weekly. I just am better able to handle them emotionally. It could be linked to a bizarre sexual experience I had when I was 23 (unfortunately I can't say more here) that warped some of my immediate relationships in my own mind. As I said before, this has been going on for a year, which is a long time. I thought the hardest part of my mental illness was behind me when I was 18.

For the last year I've been descending back into what I used to experience when I was 18/19, but much worse. Every day I can't not think about how the world is changing in certain ways, particularly sexual/media matters, or that disturbing things exist out there, and it gets to me. I've tried to ignore it, 'just stop thinking and get over it' as my partner has said after running out of things to say, but it seems impossible. He says I have to train my mind, and I try, but all I can seem to do is only try to control my emotional reactions to my thoughts. My thoughts, for all purposes, beyond my control.

On top of that I believe I'm useless. I'm weak, and I should be eliminated from the herd. I am a broken man, seemingly incapable of full rationality (I'll elaborate in a bit). It's become just beyond a belief, but a reality to me that I am so small. I feel like a little boy trapped in a man's body, I feel like the guy who deserves to get beat up by bullies, that nature has destined me to fail, that I am nothing and sometimes I cry wishing I never existed so bad. I feel like I've failed at every virtue of Objectivism except honesty and integrity, and that that's all I have left. I'm not rational, I'm not truly productive (no job or significant value producing consistent commitments), I'm not independent in the slightest emotionally or economically, I have no pride, and I have taken advantage of others (in my eyes) to support me (even if they value me enough to do it on their own free will). Despite being gay, and having a partner, I find myself wanting to know if women find me attractive, or having the intellectual desire to have sex with middle aged women as if to prove to myself I have reason to exist. That I am really a man after all. However, I am so afraid of women, this will never be so. My partner is an Objectivist as well, and we have argued at lengths for a year as to why none of this is true, that there is no genetic destiny, that social darwinism is a farce, but it never seems to help long term. I try so hard to believe it, but somebody will say something, or something will happen and I'll fall right back in full force. I've gotten so angry before that I was fuming for 36 hours.

Every day I try to do things that I like, like baking sweets, or playing the piano, or helping my father with the ditches or the cows, and that brings a little respite for a while. However, it seems that even when I let everything go, and I am just me... I hate existing at some level. I don't want to continue. I can't commit suicide, it is not an option for me. I just hate being human. I think of all my cells, and of life, and of the destruction and creation and survival of all living things and I just want to hide away inside myself where no one can reach me.

I look at Objectivism, the one thing I've always believed in and I sometimes recoil in horror at the hero worship. Sometimes I find myself hating people who are just 'naturally better', or in other words, aren't born with things like Bipolar or other life difficulties, or who just seem smarter, or whatever. I know these kinds of thoughts and emotions are irrational. However, I have found very little around Objectivist halls or circles in my own searching about the 'average'. I am an average person with an above average intelligence. I am not a hero in any sense I can find. Thus, to me, I feel there is no place for me in Objectivism... so sometimes I think what else should I think? And I have zero answers...

I plod through each day trying to enjoy it, and sometimes I do, but at the end and underlying my every action is a sense of ending my life as I know it, of just not existing anymore, of a not just a hatred... an actual pain of my soul. I think of people who have chronic physical pain... is it possible to have chronic pain of the soul? Do I just have to learn to live with it? I've been in therapy for six years, and it's helped me get better at some things, but I've been around the block with many different models and therapies and nothing seems to make the pain go away...

Is this just something that everybody has and nobody talks about?

I'm running out of Objectivist answers, and find myself in my darker moments running away from it... but I don't truly want to. What do I do?

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I've been into and familiar with Objectivist philosophy and ethics since I was a pre-adolescent, adolescent, young adult, and now an adult. I may not have understood it all when I was younger, but it was around me. Growing up I was always so sure of myself, had barely any self doubts, was very driven in my own pursuits, and didn't seem to really 'think about life' (more on this)... instead I would experience it. When I entered college I broke down completely and attempted suicide. I was almost diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but in the end I was diagnosed with Bipolar (Type II?) Since then I've been on medication and have continually seen therapists. For a while I did really well, held a job for an extended period of time (living at home). Then I moved out, and any time I'm not living at home I have trouble finding or holding a job. I am 27 and five/six years ago I met my partner and that's when I moved out. I'm gay, but I don't think it really makes a difference other than it affected some of my experiences growing up (such as my inability to truly *date* in high school, just carry superfluous relationships), and what we'll get to later.

Then I met a horrible person three/four years ago who took advantage of my mental illness and schemed me out of a lot of money. By the time I kicked him out of my life, he was my best and truly only friend outside of my partner. That was really hard, but he had helped transform me into a mean person, and I wasn't going to take it anymore. I'm not mean anymore. Since then it's been downhill in terms of self-esteem and self-value. Last year I started experiencing 'shock obsessions'. I would become shocked about something, usually sexual (I can't go into any more detail, it's too much for me to say specifically), that usually was something happening out there in the world but not in my immediate life. I would become obsessed for days, weeks, and constantly have high anxiety. It was like the feeling of being horrified, but it doesn't go away for days on end. It put a strain on my relationship with my partner, and still does. I was prescribed a medication for 'atypical psychotic intrusive thoughts', but these thoughts still 'intrude' on my thinking daily/weekly. I just am better able to handle them emotionally. It could be linked to a bizarre sexual experience I had when I was 23 (unfortunately I can't say more here) that warped some of my immediate relationships in my own mind. As I said before, this has been going on for a year, which is a long time. I thought the hardest part of my mental illness was behind me when I was 18.

For the last year I've been descending back into what I used to experience when I was 18/19, but much worse. Every day I can't not think about how the world is changing in certain ways, particularly sexual/media matters, or that disturbing things exist out there, and it gets to me. I've tried to ignore it, 'just stop thinking and get over it' as my partner has said after running out of things to say, but it seems impossible. He says I have to train my mind, and I try, but all I can seem to do is only try to control my emotional reactions to my thoughts. My thoughts, for all purposes, beyond my control.

On top of that I believe I'm useless. I'm weak, and I should be eliminated from the herd. I am a broken man, seemingly incapable of full rationality (I'll elaborate in a bit). It's become just beyond a belief, but a reality to me that I am so small. I feel like a little boy trapped in a man's body, I feel like the guy who deserves to get beat up by bullies, that nature has destined me to fail, that I am nothing and sometimes I cry wishing I never existed so bad. I feel like I've failed at every virtue of Objectivism except honesty and integrity, and that that's all I have left. I'm not rational, I'm not truly productive (no job or significant value producing consistent commitments), I'm not independent in the slightest emotionally or economically, I have no pride, and I have taken advantage of others (in my eyes) to support me (even if they value me enough to do it on their own free will). Despite being gay, and having a partner, I find myself wanting to know if women find me attractive, or having the intellectual desire to have sex with middle aged women as if to prove to myself I have reason to exist. That I am really a man after all. However, I am so afraid of women, this will never be so. My partner is an Objectivist as well, and we have argued at lengths for a year as to why none of this is true, that there is no genetic destiny, that social darwinism is a farce, but it never seems to help long term. I try so hard to believe it, but somebody will say something, or something will happen and I'll fall right back in full force. I've gotten so angry before that I was fuming for 36 hours.

Every day I try to do things that I like, like baking sweets, or playing the piano, or helping my father with the ditches or the cows, and that brings a little respite for a while. However, it seems that even when I let everything go, and I am just me... I hate existing at some level. I don't want to continue. I can't commit suicide, it is not an option for me. I just hate being human. I think of all my cells, and of life, and of the destruction and creation and survival of all living things and I just want to hide away inside myself where no one can reach me.

I look at Objectivism, the one thing I've always believed in and I sometimes recoil in horror at the hero worship. Sometimes I find myself hating people who are just 'naturally better', or in other words, aren't born with things like Bipolar or other life difficulties, or who just seem smarter, or whatever. I know these kinds of thoughts and emotions are irrational. However, I have found very little around Objectivist halls or circles in my own searching about the 'average'. I am an average person with an above average intelligence. I am not a hero in any sense I can find. Thus, to me, I feel there is no place for me in Objectivism... so sometimes I think what else should I think? And I have zero answers...

I plod through each day trying to enjoy it, and sometimes I do, but at the end and underlying my every action is a sense of ending my life as I know it, of just not existing anymore, of a not just a hatred... an actual pain of my soul. I think of people who have chronic physical pain... is it possible to have chronic pain of the soul? Do I just have to learn to live with it? I've been in therapy for six years, and it's helped me get better at some things, but I've been around the block with many different models and therapies and nothing seems to make the pain go away...

Is this just something that everybody has and nobody talks about?

I'm running out of Objectivist answers, and find myself in my darker moments running away from it... but I don't truly want to. What do I do?

Sorry to hear of your suffering. Practically, you need first-most to find out with as much certainty as is humanly possible, whether you suffer from Bipolar disease, Major depression, or some other genuinely psychiatric disorder. By that, I mean sydromes that are known to involve some kind of problem with brain chemistry or functioning. These things are treatable--to a degree, and you will needlessly bash your head against a brick wall if you struggle to understand what is in fact a matter of brain chemistry. Don't put yourself through that.

If you genuinely feel yourself to be honest and to act with integrity, I'm surprised you don't feel a comfortable degree of self-esteem. One thing you've got wrong about Objectivism, and that might be relevant to how you evaluate yourself, is that good or worthy people are highly intelligent or creative, etc. Objectivism holds up the importance of using your intelligence, not of having a high IQ. The false emphasis on intelligence as potential, rather than whether intelligence is manifest in an individual's actual speech and actions, reflects, I believe, a social-metaphysical bent.

Here's my recipe for being a worthy human being: face facts and act purposefully. Think and do. Plan and produce. Conceive and execute. Keep your head, and fill the unforgiving minute (Kipling's IF.) They're all the same.

Useful self-analysis will come from identifying what makes doing this difficult.

Don't despair, your life can be successful and rewarding.

-- Mindy

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The most profound advice I have ever gotten was "be kind to yourself". It is a necessary part of being rationally selfish. (I think a lot of Objectivists tend to be harsh on themselves).

I don't know if you in fact are ill but let's say that you are suffering from a mental disorder. Well, if that is the case, that is a reality for you and there is no other way for you to live but to accept it and find solutions for yourself around it. If true, not accepting that is like fighting against the fact that the sky is blue. You can't win that battle and it will only drain whatever life force you have left.

Reaching that acceptance about who you are, including the fact that you are gay and anything else you don't like about yourself - is a necessary step for your life to improve. Beating yourself up psychologically for things you can't change, for things which you wish you could have been but are not, for past failures and mistakes - is life destroying. People are sometimes their own worst enemies. You have to reach acceptance and self forgiveness.

If you don't eliminate your self hatred it will keep sabotaging your efforts to improve your life.

When you forgive yourself and reach the state of acceptance of your circumstances then you can start thinking about how you can be the hero of your own life. As long as you are alive you have the possibility of a new start.

Heroism is defined by unbreached devotion to the good, regardless of obstacles. The most salient moral characteristic of a hero is courage - the moral strength to persevere difficulty. Dr. Andrw Bernstein wrote: "A brave man is not necessary one who is unafraid but one who performs whatever protective actions his values require, no matter what the intensity of his fear."

Notice how there is no mention of intelligence or IQ; notice that good means any good especially what is rationally good for you; notice there is no specific type or scale requirement. There isn't anything about heroism that would make it outside of your reach.

You have to do some analysis about what is possible for you: what is rationally within your reach, given your circumstances and your abilities. Then you have to pursuit it and continue to be kind to yourself when you encounter set backs (including the self created ones). "Protective actions" also include nourishing, psychologically, the kind of mental state which would keep you on the right track .

You have to treat staying on the right path as a separate value in itself - it has to get its own focus. If you get off the wagon, get up and get back on it.

It may mean that you have to start small and slowly build on it. Any small success is still a success and brings you closer to your goals.

If you can do this - actively pursue your own highest potential and don't give up - you will be a hero and a truly selfish man.

Your measure is your own potential - not the potential of others.

Edited by ~Sophia~

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Sophia,

For anyone who has known the debilitating heaviness of depression, those were wise, honest, gentle, and rational words.

The first and primary move to rational selfishness, and self esteem, is the acceptance of what one IS.

Honest self-assessment will reveal what one can improve and change, through rationality, imo.

N. Branden wrote: Self-acceptance is quite simply, realism. That which is, is. That which you think, you think. That which you feel, you feel. That which you did, you did.

As you say, be kind to yourself.

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I almost replied in total misunderstanding of what Mindy wrote but then I realized I was not understanding the whole thing.

Thanks for the replies!

I have one question though... how would I go about determining as close as humanly possible whether I have something physiologically awry with my brain chemistry? I don't see this happening through my nurse practitioner or therapist if it is the case of say like an fMRI or something. They would probably discourage it as unnecessary, and I don't really have funds to do something so possibly elective, though it's not totally out of the realm of possibility. I'll have to talk to my nurse practitioner about it I guess, but I think I can foresee her answer.

Edited by crypticway

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Thanks for the replies!

I have one question though... how would I go about determining as close as humanly possible whether I have something physiologically awry with my brain chemistry?

If I were depressed (or experiencing some mental problem) and on medication for it (which means it would be rather severe form) - I would for the time being assume the position that something IS off. The path to wellness for some necessary includes both, at least temporarily (but perhaps not) - medication and self development.

Right now it would be hard for you to know if it is just chemistry or a result of your lack of positive self esteem. Your internal turmoil, which part of it is probably repressed, can cause harm/anxiety, even paranoia. You will need to reassess when you gain a significant level of internal peace and self esteem. You just may find that some of your symptoms will disappear. However, if not, then you have to treat it as something to manage in your life. Look at yourself as an outsider and at your issues as something to manage - like a manager would a subordinate. He would assess strengths and weaknesses he has to deal with and and work with both.

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Every day I try to do things that I like, like baking sweets, or playing the piano, or helping my father with the ditches or the cows, and that brings a little respite for a while. However, it seems that even when I let everything go, and I am just me... I hate existing at some level.

Satisfaction comes from facing things and from having the sense of making positive progress, however small. Get out of the stillness. Doing pleasant things when you don't have that sense of moving forward, when you do not take care of things you know you should be doing (something - anything) does not bring the same enjoyment. It is absolutely normal. I felt the same way every time I chose to do something else when what I really needed to do, at the time, was my homework. The dissatisfaction of not taking care of things lurks in the background.

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Look at yourself as an outsider and at your issues as something to manage - like a manager would a subordinate.

I want to give you an example. Let's say that you notice that you lack motivation at times. The way you can "manage" that issue is by finding ways to inspire yourself when you need it. One way of doing so could be, for example, by reading books written by people (and going back to them when needed) who also have it very hard but successfully deal with their serious issues, mental or physical. So rather than dwelling on the fact that you lack motivation and thus, in your estimation, are not virtuous - you treat motivation as a goal - like a plant that needs to be watered from time to time. Same thing with independence or anything else really. Have those things on hand when you need them. Find out what things you need to "water" your plant of independence.

Taking the outsider perspective also will allow you, when necessary, to dissociate yourself from the symptoms of your illness in order to manage them. If you find yourself having irrational thoughts and responses you don't like - you can realize that that is not you - not the you you choose to be. You can say: Ok, I am having those feelings and thoughts but that is not me. You is not your brain chemistry - you is the person who wrote the post above.

Also, keep in mind that failure is a part of success. In reality, successful people are not those who never fail - they are those who don't give up despite their failures and learn from failures.

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So we all know that existence precedes, and is independent of, consciousness.

Now, what can happen when one is of above average awareness and intelligence, and also is predisposed to depression?

In fact, what comes first ? which is the cause, and which the effect? :- does observation of the often harsh reality of living, to such a sensitively aware person, cause or heighten depression? Or does the medical condition itself 'force' one to view life as dark and meaningless?

I tend towards both; that the two things are inter-dependent. A person can sink into psychological subjectivity, that frustrates him all the more because he knows this is in direct antithesis to his conviction of Objectivism - and feels powerless to fight it.

At a pre-cognitive level, even Objectivism, which is the very philosophy that does equip us to deal with existence and reality, is not sufficient to deal with this vicious spiral, I think.

The spiral must be broken - or just interrupted - by all means possible, to allow one's rationality to gradually re-emerge, and for perspective to be established. That's when Objectivism comes into its own.

crypticway, these were some thoughts I've had for years, and I'm no psychologist, but you might recognize something there.

While integrity and honesty are crucial in support of self-esteem, I don't believe they are cause, alone.

Pride is the motivator. Starting from the most elemental things ( using your physicality in digging a ditch, writing and introspecting as well as you do, courage in keeping your head up for another day, looking the world in the eye,- and so on.).

I agree with the other posters that each of us is our own measure. I will add that comparison with those 'better' or 'worse off', is mainly fallacious, and definitely harmful to growth of pride.

All the best.

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I've been thinking these things over. And I've been researching sense of life. I've been trying to determine what is my constant emotion/importance underlying my thought process, that is within my subconscious. The emotion that helps make up the integral sum of my personality. It's hard to describe but I've identified a 'happy sadness'. I'm sad about a LOT of things when I think about them or observe them. At the same time when I use my imagination a little or I think of times I've been happy, or even when I get happy, I can feel happy. However, that happiness is hinged on some appreciation of a fragility of whatever I'm observing, whether it's the fragility of a relationship, a situation, a person, or an object, etc. And that's sad.

For example, when I observe people growing older, particularly through their teens I am saddened and a little frightened. Or when I consider my happy childhood, I am saddened by how special it was but I'm also happy. When I observe animals I'm saddened by their fragility or lifespans, but uplifted by their beauty. When I think of who I am, I am mostly saddened.

For a while I was very angry trying to make up for this sadness, but the more angry I was the more suicidal I was. So that didn't help. When I accepted that I'd just feel sad or disturbed about some things I started to feel more in tune with myself and I had a small sense of relief. Yet the sadness didn't go away.

So what does a person do with a sad sense of life? Is it possible to have a sad sense of life? Is it possible to 'change' your sense of life?

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I don't think you can change your general emotional approach to life directly. No, "Now I'm going to be happy about things generally." But, there are things that, over time, lead to happiness and contentment, such as working productively towards a goal you have (any goal); this is also known as doing things that lead to self-esteem. I think the key ingredient to happiness is self-esteem, and there are definitely found ways already to achieve self-esteem, you just have to look for them and work to do them. (drhurd.com!)

You'll never completely change your personality (you're still the same you). It will be more like, you're a new, happy version of the sad you, which more or less resembles a happy person. More importantly, you will feel happy yourself, even if you retain some qualities of a sad person that come through from time to time. Over time, your new approach acted consistently will yield better and better results. It's like compound interest!

Edited by JASKN

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I think the key ingredient to happiness is self-esteem, and there are definitely found ways already to achieve self-esteem, you just have to look for them and work to do them. (drhurd.com!)

I appreciate what you've said, and the link you've provided. If you could, could you provide me with some more information on your experience with Dr. Hurd either on the radio, as a newsletter/book, or personal experience if any?

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If you could, could you provide me with some more information on your experience with Dr. Hurd[...]?

Sure! I found him a couple months ago and promptly read through every "Life's a Beach" column he wrote that I thought might be remotely relevant to my life, past, present, or near future. At the time, I needed a little psychological boost, and he seemed to fit the bill. It worked! I purchased the self-esteem PDF booklet he wrote, but it turned out I had already gotten the gist of his ideas through his Beach column. He's also written what looks to be a comprehensive book on life, from a psychological perspective: Grow Up America! I haven't read that. Here is a pretty good interview with him where he gives his life background, which might be of interest if you are wondering about how he forms his advice. He has small audio snippets on his site which I did enjoy, but you can only get his old radio program by purchasing it, and I don't want to pay $5 for an hour of audio (yet; maybe for my next long drive).

He's obviously well-read on Rand's philosophy, and certainly practices what he thinks; you can read it in every column. What I like most is that he seems totally integrated; his ideas are all expressed clearly in his own way (this contrasts some who seem to regurgitate Rand in her words). More important is that he discusses psychology, a field lacking Objectivist professionals (unlike political commentary, academia, and finance).

What first got me interested was an article he wrote published at capmag.com. Quote (caps his), "THERE IS NO BETTER TOOL OF SELF CONFIDENCE THAN COMING UP WITH A REALISTIC PLAN OF ACTION AND THEN FOLLOWING THROUGH ON IT, OVER A PERIOD OF MONTHS AND YEARS."

He's got loads of things on his own site, and plenty at capmag, too (click his name), mostly political but many on psychology. I just skimmed through them (hadn't done it yet), and here are a couple more titles which I have not yet read that I thought you might find of interest (based on the titles alone):

The Magic Solution for Feeling Low

Overwhelmed by Lack of Confidence

Depression and Learned Helplessness

This OO.net thread discusses other Objectivist psychologists, but after briefly checking them out I didn't really get interested in any but Dr. Hurd. What I read of Edith Packer's booklet on OCD was good (beware: I ordered that snailmail and they took over a month to send it, and they won't sell it as a PDF).

That's more or less what I've found out so far. I've had my share of psychological issues in my life, and I hope you get through it. They don't last if you're dedicated. As my old college roommate put it, "The human mind is almost infinitely plastic." That is, you can change it!

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