When Existential Depression Hits Earlier Than You Expect
"And when I fall in love, I began, I will build a mountain to touch the sky. Then, my lover and I will have the best of both worlds, reality firmly under our feet, while we have our heads in the clouds with all our illusions still intact. And the purple grass will grow all around, high enough to reach our eyes."
- V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic
I had this friend...
Purple did not want to go out today, lost among the lost, hated himself, he wanted to be better but didn’t know how. He wanted to die too and often fantasized about a creative suicide but never had the courage to carry it out.
Four months ago, Purple was the happiest adolescent on earth and basked in streams of euphoria because what was once a dream had become his reality.
He was admitted into the university and that would have been enough considering how the educational system had become ravaged by corruption but the stars were aligned in his favor and he got accepted into the department he chose.
He had always been introverted and did not want to stay in the school hostel because he was afraid he’d be the awkward kid and everyone would think he was some kind of freak. These were his fears but somehow he managed to convince his parents telling them how eight guys had to live together in one room and a whole lot of things that could go wrong so they’d let him live alone, off-campus. Persuading his folks wasn’t easy but he was great at arguments and though he’d always been shy, always managed to let his shyness go and argue his way through unfavorable situations.
Some of our teachers advised that he major in law while others saw a doctor in the making. Growing up, he never gave much thought to what he would do with his life but he was in his senior year and had to make a decision. Oh, I didn’t mention that he was in science class and was our school’s best student. So, he was supposed to choose one of the many careers in the sciences and that was the problem, he was confused, he had no interest in medicine despite pressure from family, friends, and teachers. They seemed to want the best for Purple but he began to wonder if he was in the right class after all.
Growing up, he had a flare for the arts, always scored the highest in fine art; the stereotypical gifted kid. We were even jealous of him at a time because he didn’t even try yet his drawings were always astonishing. Although he never gave much thought to the future like I mentioned earlier, he assumed he’d become an artist. As he got older, he learned from his parents that artists were broke and could hardly survive. He was young but knew enough to want the best for himself and "the starving artist" was certainly not a future he desired. He let his dreams die or so he thought until that moment in his self con apartment…
In psychology and psychotherapy, existential crises are inner conflicts characterized by the impression that life lacks meaning.
Humans are purpose driven beings, when purpose is lost, everything is lost because life loses its essence. I’ve found that these feelings have a certain affinity with depression because the questions such as;
• What’s the essence of existence?
• What happens after death?
• Why is there so much injustice in the world? and the likes are usually triggered by a low emotional state although these questions are normal, they seem to be more frequent with highly sensitive people. In other words, artists, gifted people and all kinds of highly sensitive people are more likely to suffer from existential depression.
Existential depression is not always a bad thing. This holds for most things in life. Our reactions to the situations around us are oftentime more important than the the situations themselves. I've suffered from existential crisis myself but I did not remain stuck there. In fact, it made me a better and more goal oriented person. Waking up every morning with goals for the day in mind helped me stay focused on the day and saved me from thoughts about the vastness of existence and how I probably do not matter much in the grand scheme of things.
There are many paths out of the hole of existential depression but the most important in my opinion are;
• Accepting life as it is and realizing there’s only so little you can actually do to change everything.
• Have Fun - This one sounds crazy yeah? What I mean is enjoy your life, be present in the present (haha) and choose happiness as much as you can. I’d also like to add that it’s not as easy as it sounds but having goals which you’re working towards can be the starting point to a remarkable transformation in your life.
• Stay True to Yourself - You’re going to die, everyone you love (or don’t love) is going to die, we’re all going to die so you might as well just live knowing that it’s all going to end. Don’t go to places you do not want to be in or talk to people you do not want to talk to.
• Join a Church (if you’re religious) - Humans are social beings. I’m an introvert and would rather be alone than in the midst of a crowd but we’re human and are not meant to live in isolation. A great way to combat feelings of meaninglessness is being with people who share similar values as you do. It totally doesn’t have to be a big church, the small fellowship nextdoor maybe?
I spoke with him yesterday and he is in a much better place. No, he hasn’t killed himself, rather, he’s slowly learning to live life on his own terms, although, he still struggles with existential depression occasionally, he’s working everyday towards achieving his goals and is happier than ever. He has decided to accept life as it is, have some fun, stay true to himself and even reads the bible now. I’m so happy for him!
Purple is winning the battle and you can too!
On a lighter note, I think parents should be discouraged from attempting to force their children to study courses they hate. You need a fair amount of passion and perseverance to succeed at any endeavor in life, knowing that you were forced into it would make it too easy to give up. If you're a parent and you have read this, I understand that you love your child and want the best for them but trying to live your unfulfilled dreams through them is demonic behavior at best, don't do it!
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