What’s It All For?

While struggling with depression, my low days always involve the most misery-making of questions: What’s my motivation? Why am I doing this? What meaning or purpose does any of this have? Why even bother? If it’s not one existential crisis with me, it’s another.

Unfortunately, I don’t have answers. When I am most depressed, I binge on cookies, TV and sleep and do anything not to face these questions. For reasons I cannot articulate, asking these questions and realizing I lack an answer (or worse, that the answer is “there is no reason”) causes me spiritual and physical pain.

When I am well I don’t ask these questions. When I am well, I think less and do more. I get outside of my mind and into the world around me.

When I am not well, doing things that distract me from these questions (even binging on TV) makes me feel better. There is some variation in the quality and lasting result when it comes to distractions from the crisis. Teaching an English class or following my weight lifting routine make me feel better immediately and often continue to help my mood for hours afterward. With TV binges, as soon as the episode ends and the laughter subsides it’s as if the bubble bursts violently and the pain returns. So maybe I should do more engaging things when I am feeling low — to the extent that I can get myself to do them.

My partner has repeatedly suggested I alter my worldview: there is no meaning, but that is OK. I am not ready to commit to that yet. It does have some appeal. Maybe I will find peace when I accept that life lacks intrinsic meaning. That it only has whatever meaning I assign to it. As it stands I experience excruciating pain when I ask the question and then feel that maybe there is meaning for others or even meaning for myself that is as of yet undiscovered by me.

What do you think? Does life have intrinsic meaning? Can we find it or assign meaning on our own? Or does simply accepting the lack of meaning liberate us?


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