Q:Is there really a good reason to keep on going? I work a minimum wage job, have never been in a relationship, my family life is shit and abusive...honestly, aren't there some people who don't have anything going for them? Why shouldn't I end it?
Okay. I’m going to do something rather unorthodox:
I’m not going to tell you to keep living.
But I’m also not going to tell you to stop living.
I’m not privy to the details of your life and I am not going to blow sunshine up your ass and tell you it’s all gonna be rainbows and unicorns if you just try to smile a little more. I can only tell you what I’ve found based on my own experience. Here, in brief, are the highlights of my philosophy on situations such as yours:
1.) In almost all cases, life can get better with your effort. This means taking steps to get counseling from a psychologist or psychiatrist or social worker, make healthy choices (counseling being one of them!) and fill your life with better humans, avoiding the shittier ones where possible (and it ain’t always possible). You may need to cut some ties. You may need to do things you don’t want to do, like admit to your own mistakes and missteps. But I promise you it can be done. And if you put in a ton of effort and it fails, so what? You tried. Better to attempt to make your life better than just ending it without even trying. Because what’s the fucking point of that?
2.) Every major improvement is the result of many tiny steps. For example, let’s take your general unhappiness. You want to be happy. I’d wager you will at least feel better if you have someone to talk to. I think a counselor is a great option because that person is (hopefully) unbiased. But to get into the counseling session, you’re going to need to do a few things. You’re going to need to get on the computer and Google counselors in your area. You’re gonna need to make some phone calls or emails to find out who provides free or low-cost care (sometimes they will say they have a “sliding scale” fee. That’s what you’re looking for.) You’re gonna need to make the appointments and write down the appointments and remember the appointments and show up to the appointments. See what I mean by “many tiny steps?” It ain’t gonna happen overnight. This may seem overwhelming, but just focus on mapping out the steps to your goal (feeling less shitty). Then take just one of those steps today. Just one. Then if you’re feeling motivated, you can take the next step. Saving your own life takes some planning and it’s the most important thing you can possibly do, so it’s worth putting in some effort.
3.) EVERYTHING LOOKS SHITTY WHEN YOU’RE STANDING INSIDE A GIANT GLASS PRISON SMEARED WITH SHIT — shit job, shit family, shit love life. That’s how depression works. The rest of the world is so obscured that you can’t see the beautiful and amazing things and opportunities just waiting for you right outside. Killing yourself is not the only way out of this prison. There’s a door. There’s a window. There’s a hole in the roof that’s just your size, and there’s a ladder to help you down from the roof to the ground below. And remember that you can always smash your way out. It’s a glass prison — it’s impermanent and ultimately can’t stand up to the force of your desire to lead a better life. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to hurt sometimes, but it’s going to be the best decision you ever made.
4.) We have some agency in that we are able to determine our own path to a certain degree. You can’t choose whether an anvil drops on your head while you are walking down the street. You CAN choose to keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings, get enough sleep at night, eat good food, drink water, and stay sober enough to notice this “DO NOT WALK HERE. CONSTRUCTION IN PROGRESS.” sign. To a certain extent, your life is in your own hands. Recognize that you have some power in this situation.
5.) Blood relation is not an obligation. Your family fucking sucks and they treated you like shit. They still do. I assume you’re an adult. This means you get to leave. You get to make your own choices. You get to take care of the kid inside you who couldn’t leave or make his/her own choices. Ask friends for help. Ask your counselor (remember, the psychologist or psychiatrist or social worker you’re going to seek out!) Ask a pastor for help if God is your thing or if you know a decent clergy member. Tell your story. Keep telling it until somebody listens. Keep telling it until you feel better
6.) Do not waste time on either guilt or self-pity. Neither will do you any good. Focus on forward momentum. Guilt and self-pity will only serve to hold you back. I have wasted far too much time on both these things and I would like to save you the time.
8.) I’ve wanted to kill myself and I never went through with it, and thank God for that, because I’ve gotten to experience an amazing life. If God or fate or science or a speeding bus end it all for me tomorrow, I’ll know I had a great adventure on earth. Or maybe I won’t know it, because I’ll be fucking dead, and who can say what happens? Who can say if death is better, or worse, or just a fat load of nothingness? I figure it’s better to deal with the devil I know (this life) than the devil I don’t (the afterlife — if such a thing exists).
9.) If you can do nothing else — just keep breathing for as long as you can. One breath after the other after the other. Put them all together and you’ve got a lifetime.
I hope you keep living. I trust that you will. You wrote to me, after all. You wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t retain some hope and some understanding that life has better things in store for you. I think you ought to stick around to see what those things are. Sometimes they’re shiny and taste like chocolate. It’s worth it.
I wish you good luck. But more than that, I wish you good effort.
And thanks for reminding me of the things I sometimes forget.
I’m going to go call my shrink now.
Author and comedian Sara Benincasa responded to an anonymous question on her blog Friday with this wonderful, funny, compassionate, important answer. I thought it was well-worth posting here as well.
(Benincasa is the author of Agorafabulous!, a memoir about her past struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, and agorophobia)
- What to do when your friend is talking about suicide
- What to do if someone you know is overdosing
- What to do if your friend is hurting themselves
- First Aid for self harm
Finding Therapy, Doctors, & Medication
- Something Fishy - How will I pay?
- Mental Health America - How do I find treatment?
- Free/Cheap Medication
- The Medicine Program
- Find a Therapist
- Good Therapy.org
- Insurance Issues
- Qualities and Skills of a Good Counselor
- The Difference Between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Therapist & Counselor
- Extreme Hunger During Recovery
- About Water Retention During Recovery
- 281 Reasons to Recover
- Relapse Prevention
- Dealing with Bloating in Recovery
- Bloating, Indigestion, & Feeling too full
- Talking to Others About Your Mental Health Issues
- Managing Stress
- Why You Must Eat
- What is ED Recovery?
- You have no obligation to be weighed
- Learning to Love Your Body
- True Facts Our Abuse-Culture Doesn’t Want You to Know
- Tips to Overcoming and Eating Disorder from Women Who Have Recovered
- How to Eat a Fear Food
- 16 Baby Steps to Help You Cope with the Pain of Perfectionism
- 10 Things to Do When You Feel Like Crap
- Why You Should NOT Self-DiagnoseSubstance Addictions:
Restrictive Eating Disorders:
- Phases of Recovery From a Restrictive ED
- Tips to Stop Restricting
- Why You Must Regain Weight to Recover
- Eating Disorder Support Groups
- Gaining Weight After Anorexia: What To Expect
- Dealing With Weight Gain
Binge & Compensate Disorders:
Binge ED/Compulsive Eating Disorders
- Food Addicts Anonymous Meeting Finder
- Overeaters Anonymous Meeting Finder
- The “I need to lose weight” Mindset with BED
- Eating Disorder Support Groups
- Daily Meditation for Compulsive Overeating/Binge EatingGeneral Anxiety:
- Coping with Suicidal Thought
- 10 Tips on How to Work Through Feelings of Social Isolation
- 8 Tips to Overcome Loneliness
- Tips On Dealing With Depression In College
- Antidepressants: Selecting one that’s right for you
- What to expect with antidepressants
Family and Friends:
Certain symptoms of schizophrenia may arise from uncontrolled activation of neurons that help to build memories during periods of rest
Sufferers of schizophrenia experience a broad gamut of symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions as well as disorientation and problems with learning and memory. This diversity of neurological deficits has made schizophrenia extremely difficult for scientists to understand, thwarting the development of effective treatments. A research team led by Susumu Tonegawa from the RIKEN–MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics has now revealed disruptions in the activity of particular clusters of neurons that might account for certain core symptoms of this disorder.
Tonegawa’s laboratory previously found that mice lacking the protein calcineurin in certain regions of the brain exhibit many behavioral deficits that are characteristic of schizophrenia. In their most recent study, the researchers sought out physiological alterations at the single-cell or circuit level that could connect the absence of the calcineurin protein in the brain with these behavioral impairments.
Their study focused on the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory and spatial learning. Within the hippocampus, specialized ‘place cells’ switch on and off as an animal explores its environment. During subsequent periods of wakeful rest, these place cells continue to fire in patterns that essentially ‘replay’ recent wanderings, allowing the brain to build memories based on these experiences. The researchers used precisely positioned electrodes to measure differences in brain activity in these cells for normal mice and the calcineurin-deficient mouse model of schizophrenia.
Remarkably, essentially identical place-cell activity patterns were observed for both sets of mice during active exploration. Once the animals were at rest, however, the calcineurin-deficient mice displayed a dramatic increase in place-cell activity. In the normal hippocampus, the resting replay process depended on sequential activity from place cells corresponding to specific, real-world spatial coordinates. In contrast, this correlation was all but lost in the calcineurin-deficient mice. Instead, these neurons often seemed to fire indiscriminately, creating high levels of ‘noise’ that overwhelmed actual location information and thwarted memory formation.
“Our study provides the first potential evidence of disorganized thinking processes in a schizophrenia model at the single-cell and circuit level,” says Junghyup Suh, a member of Tonegawa’s research team. These findings fit with an emerging model that suggests that schizophrenic symptoms may arise from excess activation of brain regions within a ‘default mode network’—which includes the hippocampus—during wakeful rest. “Neurobiological approaches that can calm down the default mode network may therefore open up new avenues to alleviating symptoms or curing this mental disorder,” says Suh.
Some people think mental illness is a matter of mood, a matter of personality. They think depression is simply a form of being sad, that OCD is a form of being uptight. They think the soul is sick, not the body. It is, they believe, something that you have some choice over.
I know how wrong this is.
When I was a child, I didn’t understand. I would wake up in a new body and wouldn’t comprehend why things felt muted, dimmer. Or the opposite—I’d be supercharged, unfocused, like a radio at top volume flipping quickly from station to station…Eventually, though, I realized these inclinations, these compulsions, were as much a part of the body as its eye color or its voice. Yes, the feelings themselves were intangible, amorphous, but the cause of the feelings was a matter of chemistry, biology.
It is a hard cycle to conquer. The body is working against you. And because of this, you feel even more despair. Which only amplifies the imbalance. It takes uncommon strength to live with these things. But I have seen that strength over and over again.
Mental Health Tips
· Daydream – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a dream location. Breathe slowly and deeply. Whether it’s a beach, a mountaintop, a hushed forest or a favourite room from your past, let the comforting environment wrap you in a sensation of peace and tranquility.
· “Collect” positive emotional moments – Make it a point to recall times when you have experienced pleasure, comfort, tenderness, confidence, or other positive emotions.
· Learn ways to cope with negative thoughts – Negative thoughts can be insistent and loud. Learn to interrupt them. Don’t try to block them (that never works), but don’t let them take over. Try distracting yourself or comforting yourself, if you can’t solve the problem right away.
· Do one thing at a time – For example, when you are out for a walk or spending time with friends, turn off your cell phone and stop making that mental “to do” list. Take in all the sights, sounds and smells you encounter.
· Exercise – Regular physical activity improves psychological well-being and can reduce depression and anxiety. Joining an exercise group or a gym can also reduce loneliness, since it connects you with a new set of people sharing a common goal.
· Enjoy hobbies – Taking up a hobby brings balance to your life by allowing you to do something you enjoy because you want to do it, free of the pressure of everyday tasks. It also keeps your brain active.
· Set personal goals – Goals don’t have to be ambitious. You might decide to finish that book you started three years ago; to take a walk around the block every day; to learn to knit or play bridge; to call your friends instead of waiting for the phone to ring. Whatever goal you set, reaching it will build confidence and a sense of satisfaction.
· Keep a journal (or even talk to the wall!) – Expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective, release tension and even boost your body’s resistance to illness.
· Share humour – Life often gets too serious, so when you hear or see something that makes you smile or laugh, share it with someone you know. A little humour can go a long way to keeping us mentally fit!
· Volunteer – Volunteering is called the “win-win” activity because helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. At the same time, it widens our social network, provides us with new learning experiences and can bring balance to our lives.
· Treat yourself well – Cook yourself a good meal. Have a bubble bath. See a movie. Call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in ages. Sit on a park bench and breathe in the fragrance of flowers and grass. Whatever it is, do it just for you.