Twentyfirst Post

Moving forward through a Sea of Sand

Or: how Dune helps me through my very own desert. (sadly, the version with only one “s”.)

Every time after I crash I have to work my way out of that dark place again and it feels like I’m trying to climb up a slippery sandy slope or swim up against a streaming swirl of syrup (I couldn’t help myself after I noticed the first alliteration). I see where I want to go but every movement towards where I was before my crash is so exhausting. I get a boost of energy and motivation, I go running once, I get some household chore done, I paint a picture, and then it gets dark again. Like a faraway lightning flash illuminating the person I could be for a second.

But I hold on to the thought that after every flash it gets ever so little brighter, even though I feel blinded for a moment.

It’s still so exhausting, though. I have to force myself to not look ahead. Only at the things directly in front of me; one step after the other, stumbling, sliding backwards. My therapist told me he’s impressed that I can keep my motivation up for one or two weeks, that I can get back to it on my own after yet another crash.

I’m just afraid that at some point there will be a crash where I cannot. I’m afraid of all the tasks before me that seem insurmountable. I know they aren’t. Bloody hell, there’s idiots finishing their MSc degree every day and to me it seems I try to win the Nobel Prize. I just wish I had some kind of creative safety net. Something like writing or painting or at least some kind of sport. I do these things but they, too, consume energy, rather than give it to me. Everything needs persuasion.

Sometimes I get so angry at myself for that. But being angry consumes way too much energy.

Currently, my plan is to learn how to deal with those crashes; maybe how to not fall so hard or slip back so often. For now, I’ve given up on not crashing anymore. I know I will. I know it might be like that for the rest of my life and that thought is incredibly scary. But I’ve gotten past so many of them by now – although it doesn’t get any easier maybe I can at least learn to deal with them better.

One tool I found for myself is the “Litany against Fear” (much obliged to Frank Herbert and his magnificent world of “Dune”). I read the first novel when I was actually too young to understand everything but this one aspect stuck in my mind. I now rewrote the Bene Gesserit “Litany against Fear” into a “Litany against Fear and Despondence” (and it was quite difficult to find an adequate noun/verb combination with the meaning of “giving up” to complement the “fear”).

I want to share it, just in case someone else is looking for something to cling to when all other reason fails.

I will not fear.

Fear is the Mind-Killer

I will not despond.

Despondence is the Little-Death,

Leading to Obliteration.

I will face my Fear.

I will face my Despair.

I will let them pass over,

And through me.

I will turn the inner Eye,

To see their Path.

Where they have gone,

There shall be Nothing.

Only I will remain.


Twentieth Post

My boyfriend recently introduced me to a digital manga – you can’t really call it “game” because there are very few choices, actually – called “Doki Doki Literature Club“.

I guess, I should have heeded the warning at the beginning, that it might not be suitable for someone suffering from depression. It’s really nicely done and the first character you encounter is the main characters childhood friend. She’s a cheerful girl, always trying to make everyone around her happy, always has a smile for everyone. When you join her literature club everyone is tasked with writing a poem to share for the next day. I don’t want to say too much about it, because if you like manga – or even if you don’t – it’s a creepy but very entertaining story to follow and it only takes a little more than an hour.

I just want to say that her second poem really touched me; I have no idea about poetry. I recognise classical poems, I know sonnets, but the patterns and rhythms of modern poetry often escape me. Hers stuck with me, I guess, because I found so much of myself in her character.

This is probably not the right way to look at this topic, but when I followed her story to the end my first thought wasn’t sadness or horror, it was admiration. My first thought was that – although she wasn’t portrayed like that at all – she was courageous in her decision. In one final choice she had the courage to put her own interest above that of everyone else.

Sometimes I wish I had that courage.

Anyway, this is her poem that I liked so much.


Nineteenth Post

The Door, the Hermit and the Never-Ending Story

More introspective musings !

(If I ever repeat myself I apologise for that. Since there are months if not years between my individual posts, I might forget that I have mentioned something already.)

I found a new favourite image for my depression. A door. When I was young it was hidden behind the wallpaper; I noticed that there is something and it made me aware that there are aspects of myself that I cannot grasp yet. As I grew older the wallpaper slowly peeled away around it the more I questioned my surroundings, myself and life – but I was still content in my externally structured everyday life with school and later university. Once I encountered the first moments where true, autonomous decisions about my life were expected of me, the door swung open, and I found… nothing. Nothing that binds me to life like all others around me seem to be.

Now, I oscillate between phases of motivation, where I keep on trying for the sake of those who love me, where I get myself to more or less believe that I’ll find this “something” at some point, where “the needs of the many clearly outweigh the needs of the few” (or, in this case, one) – to quote one of my childhood heroes – and phases of despair, where nothing has meaning, there is no reason to fight, I feel the love of those around me as shackles chaining me to existence. Or, to get back to my metaphor, phases where the door is closed, the meaninglessness behind it is white noise in the background that I can ignore or distract myself from, and phases where it is wide open and the greyness behind it is seeping in every corner, stealing every colour away, the noise drowning out everything else.

The thought that scares me most is that my existence will be governed by these cycles, distraction and despair, searching and meaninglessness, battle and exhaustion.

Do not misunderstand me; I do enjoy things. Little things mainly, like baking a cake, seeing a beautiful autumn leaf, listening to a song I like, waking up and everything is shrouded in fog, watching a good film… When the door is closed. I probably seem very happy. Because listening to the white noise only makes it stronger, so I pretend it’s not there. I do have “dreams” for my future, but they’re all “snapshots”; having a child some day (although this is rather vague and a very controversial one, I believe I can be as much a terrible mother as a good one), travelling to the Himalayas, diving, seeing the aurora… now that I think of it, that’s it, really. A little pitiful, honestly. They’re not dreams of what I want to become, what I want to achieve. I don’t have those.

An analogy I, by now, told two friends, that I liked a lot is my “hermit problem”. Makes it sound really scientific.

From what I observe, people have this innate, inextinguishable will to live. If someone thinks of suicide it’s (almost) always not a wish to die, but a wish to escape whatever constitutes their current life/situation. No one I talked to actually wanted to die. They want to be somewhere they can be happy, but sometimes lose the belief that there is a way to ever be happy. My hermit analogy is then: Assume that there is a person who is happiest when they’re alone, no ties to anyone, no dependencies or influences either way. They move to a lonely hut in the woods with a garden and everything they need for living comfortably on their own terms.

Why do they go on living ?

Might sound silly, but I really don’t know.

If you have a few happy days there, where does this need to accumulate more and more happy memories come from ? You cannot really “accumulate” them. If you rule out something like writing a diary for someone to find some day, what’s the point ? I know religion has some answers here if you believe in a meritocratic afterlife. I don’t. I do hope that there might be some kind of continuation of existence, but that’s really my curiosity here. If there isn’t it’s just as well.

Sometimes, this makes me wonder if my depression is innate somehow. I have no external reason for being depressed, no traumata, no screwed up childhood, no mobbing, no relationship gone awry. I could be (or should be) really happy right now. I have everything most other people with depression crave.

And yet here I battle white suicide noise every bloody day.

But, as one of those “many” in the quote above put it, I’m “part of someone else’s happy memories.” Quite a few, actually. Sometimes more than I want. So I guess that’s that. You know, the never-ending story,

close the door;

hold it shut;

tire out;

resign, drown in grey, panic, fight, struggle, push;

close the door…

Eighteenth Post – Revisited

I have to admit, I completely forgot that I wanted to translate this last post at some point – well, here it is:

(This article, as the last few, is not supposed to be some cry for help. I observe my thoughts and I try to put them into words for those who have an interest in understanding me. That is all.)

I remember my very first psychotherapy. I told my therapist that, deep inside, I’m actually a very happy person. I described my moods like an ocean; the surface can be whipped up by storms and the skies darkened, but deep underwater it always remains calm and quiet. At that point, it was like that. I lead the structured, externally guided life of a child – although biologically I would long have been counted as an adult. I did question the purpose of my own existence from time to time but at that point, the answer “for the happiness of those who love you” was more than good enough.

Now, the image of the ocean still holds true, with its changing weather at the surface, but through the loss of these supporting, externally defining structures it is now more of a quiet sadness and emptiness in the depths below. The challenges I face in life lead me more and more to the question what the purpose and reason for my existence is. The answer that was valid so far is of course, still true, but it is no longer satisfactory – if it is just because by now I came to the conclusion that there should be an intrinsic purpose to life which seems to unquestionably natural for most people, they cannot even imagine it not being there.

The advice I’m given is usually obvious but not very helpful; a purpose is not necessary to solve the immediate challenges I’m facing. Maybe that is true, but when is it relevant, then? At what point is it legitimate to say that there seems no purpose to ones own existence? I do try to follow this advice and I struggle through these “small steps” I’m supposed to focus on. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not so much – of course the successes feel good, I fought through some obstacle and achieved the result I set out to reach. I tell myself it will get easier with every step I take forward, every task I can check off (after all, that’s what all these habit advisers say), but I found out that this is not true. At least not for me. It doesn’t get easier or less taxing at all. If I successfully completed the step before doesn’t have any influence on the difficulty of the next one; and thus all these little steps drain my strength. Every morning, get up, struggle, sleep; every morning getting up is a little harder; every morning my mantra that I have to just hold on a little longer and it will all get easier feels more like a lie. Each task takes more of a struggle and this unanswered question what it is all good for is harder to push away.

This is then the moment when it all slips away again, my self-imposed structures collapse, my careful documentations lose all value, my contacts and hobbies become exhausting and encumbering. Training plans, work schedules, journals, mood diary, food diary, painting, drawing, even video games which have always been my last mean to escape reality, lose their supporting function and break down. I escape into sleep because it seems the only way to escape these constant questions, doubts, responsibilities, for which I have no answer and no one else seems to, either. To use another image, it feels like it’s getting darker around me and the struggle to keep this flame burning, is getting harder, everything slowly losing every significance. All that is left is a tiny, flickering candle telling me that there is nothing I have to give to the world that no one else could give in my stead; nothing I could be for anyone that not someone else could be better – except one: my parents’ daughter.

This is what I hold on to; they, who did everything right, who I could not imagine any better way, deserve it least of all people that I shatter their world so utterly, intentionally and knowingly. How ungrateful would I be to do such a thing. I am supposed to articulate my thoughts, this emptiness inside, see the despair and horror they provoke in those who love me, realise that there is no valid reason to inflict this kind of suffering in people I care about. And thus I get up for the next little step…

And my own cycle of light and darkness continues, fight and capitulation, until my carefully constructed life starts slipping out of my hands again and it, once more, needs the despair of my loved ones to spark my little flickering candle to new light – which always also illuminates the chains of expectancy, love and responsibilities tying me to this path. And still, nothing seems to get easier, needs less struggle, has more meaning. Every idea I have for my own future is as transient like all the other interests I follow but only briefly distracts me from the inherent meaninglessness. I followed so many ideas, always full of hope that this one, surely, will be the one that lends meaning to everything. By now, I sense them but I lost the enthusiasm they used to spark within me, knowing it is yet another failure. I don’t have this kind of strength anymore; I need it for my next little step that everyone expects of me.


PS. I recently came across the difference of “expecting something of someone” and “thinking someone capable of doing something”. I have to admit, none of those is a positive enforcement to me; if someone is expecting something of me, I disappoint their, well, expectations, if someone thinks me capable of something, I not only disappoint their expectations but I disappoint at a more personal level since their expectations were fuelled by their impression of my abilities to solve the given tasks.

Eighteenth Post – Meiner Eltern Tochter

(I might post an English version soon)

Ich erinnere mich, als ich meine erste Psychotherapie machte, sagte ich meiner Therapeutin, dass ich im Grunde genommen ein glücklicher Mensch sei. Ich beschrieb einen Ozean, an dessen Oberfläche zwar Stürme das Wasser aufpeitschen und den Himmel verdunkeln konnten, aber in den tieferen Regionen bliebe alles ruhig und ausgeglichen. Damals war das auch so, als noch das strukturierte Leben eines Kindes führen konnte – auch, wenn ich dem Alter her natürlich als erwachsen bezeichnet hätte werden können. Ich habe mich gelegentlich nach dem Grund meiner Existenz gefragt, und damals, als mein Alltag aus vergleichsweise mühelosem und fremdstrukturiertem Schulunterricht bestand, war die Antwort “Für das Glück derjenigen, die dich lieben” auch gut genug.

Jetzt steht das Bild dieses Ozeans noch immer, mit wechselnden Wettern an der Oberfläche, aber durch den Verlust dieser halt gebenden Strukturen ist es nun so, dass in der Tiefe eine gleichbleibende Leere und Traurigkeit herrscht, zu der alles immer wieder zurückpendelt. Die Anstrengungen, die das Leben mir nach meiner Wahrnehmung abverlangt, lassen mich immer öfter die Frage stellen, was der Sinn und das Ziel dahinter sind. Die bisherige Antwort behält natürlich ihre Gültigkeit, aber sie reicht nicht aus, die Frage befriedigend zu beantworten, sei es nur deswegen, dass ich mittlerweile reflektiere, dass es auch ein intrinsisches Ziel im Leben geben müsste, und dass es bei vielen um mich herum so selbstverständlich zu sein scheint, dass sich diese Fragen gar nicht stellen.

Die Ratschläge, die ich erhalte, sind offensichtlich, aber nicht hilfreich. Der Sinn wäre zunächst einmal nicht relevant dafür, die momentan anstehenden Dinge anzugehen; das stimmt vermutlich, aber wann ist er denn dann relevant? Wann ist es legitim zu sagen, dass man keinen Zweck im eigenen Dasein sieht? Ich versuche mich an diesen Ratschlag zu halten und kämpfe mich durch diese angepriesenen kleinen Schritte. Manchmal mit Erfolg, öfter mit einem Fehlschlag – natürlich fühlen sich die Erfolge gut an, ich habe mich durch etwas durchgekämpft und das Ergebnis erzielt, das es werden sollte. Ich sage mir, dass es einfacher wird, wenn ich erst einige Erfolge erzielt habe, einige Aufgaben abhaken kann, aber nach und nach erkenne ich immer, dass das nicht stimmt. Es wird nicht einfacher oder weniger anstrengend. Ob ich eine Aufgabe geschafft habe, oder nicht, wirkt sich nicht darauf aus, wie anstrengend der nächste kleine Schritt ist. Und so zehren die kleinen Schritte an meinen Kräften; jeden Morgen aufwachen, durchkämpfen, schlafen gehen, bis mir das Aufstehen immer ein bisschen schwerer fällt, und ich meine Lüge, dass ich nur noch ein bisschen weiter machen muss, damit es leichter wird, mehr und mehr als diese wahrnehme. Jede Aufgabe erfordert mehr Überwindung, erscheint sinnloser und die unbeantwortete Frage, warum ich das alles tue, ist immer schwieriger wegzuschieben.

Das ist der Moment, in dem mir wieder alles entgleitet, meine selbstauferlegten Strukturen fallen in sich zusammen, meine sorgfältigen Dokumentationen verlieren ihren Wert, die Kontakte und Hobbies, mit denen ich mich abzulenken versuche, werden anstrengend und belastend. Trainingspläne, Ernährungstagebuch, Stimmungstagebuch, Arbeitspläne, Malen, selbst Videospiele, die immer mein letzter Zufluchtsort sind, verlieren ihre halt gebende Funktion und brechen zusammen. Ich flüchte mich in den Schlaf, weil es die einzige Möglichkeit scheint, all diesen Verpflichtungen, Fragen und Gedanken zu entkommen, für die ich keine Antwort weiß und mir niemand, den ich fragte, eine geben konnte.

Und so, um ein anderes Bild zu gebrauchen, wird es um mich herum langsam dunkler, während mir die Kraft ausgeht, die Flammen am Leben zu halten und mir nach und nach alles bedeutungslos erscheint. Übrig bleibt eine kleine, flackernde Kerze, die mir sagt, dass ich der Welt nichts zu geben habe und für niemanden etwas sein kann, das nicht auch ein anderer an meiner Statt geben oder sein könnte, außer einer Rolle, die tatsächlich niemand anderes erfüllen kann als ich: Meiner Eltern Tochter sein. Daran klammere ich mich, an den Gedanken, dass sie, die immer alles richtig gemacht haben, die ich mir nicht besser hätte wünschen können, es von allen am wenigsten verdient hätten, dass ihre Welt so gewaltsam zerschlagen wird, noch dazu von meiner Hand. Wie undankbar und selbstsüchtig wäre das von mir.

Ich soll meine Gedanken und meine Leere mitteilen, sehe die Traurigkeit, das Entsetzen und die Verzweiflung, die sie in denen auslösen, die mich lieben, sage mir, dass das kein Ausweg ist, den ich verantworten kann und so stehe ich auf, und erkämpfe den nächsten kleinen Schritt.

Und damit geht dieser Zyklus aus Licht und Dunkelheit, Kampf und Kapitulation, weiter, bis mir das nächste Mal mein Leben aus meinen kraftlosen Fingern gleitet und es die Verzweiflung meiner Nächsten braucht, um die flackernde Flamme wieder etwas anzufachen, die mir aber gleichzeitig die Ketten aus Erwartungen, Liebe und Verantwortung aufzeigt, die mich an diesen Weg fesseln.

Nichts wird leichter, erfordert weniger Kampf als zuvor, hat mehr Bedeutung für mich. Jede Idee, die ich für meine Zukunft habe, ist genauso flüchtig, wie jedes andere Interesse, dass ich kurze Zeit verfolge und das dann seine Fähigkeit verliert, mich von der Sinnlosigkeit in allem abzulenken. Ich habe so viele Ideen gejagt, immer mit der Hoffnung, dass es diesmal allem einen Sinn geben würde. Mittlerweile nehme ich sie noch wahr, aber verfolge sie nicht mehr mit Enthusiasmus, weil ich weiß, dass sie doch wieder ein Trugbild sind. Diese Kraft habe ich nicht mehr, ich brauche sie, um mich durch die kleinen Schritte zu kämpfen, die jeder von mir erwartet.



PS. Weil ich vor Kurzem auf den Unterschied zwischen “jemandem etwas zutrauen” und “etwas von jemandem erwarten” gestoßen bin. Für mich ist keine von beiden stärkend und Ersteres die größere Belastung: wenn jemand etwas von mir erwartet, dann erfülle ich nur die gestellten Voraussetzungen nicht, wenn ich die Erwartung nicht erfülle; wenn mir jemand etwas zutraut, dann erfülle ich nicht nur die Voraussetzungen nicht, ich enttäusche auch auf einer persönlichen Ebene, da mir aufgrund meiner scheinbaren persönlichen Kompetenzen die Fähigkeiten zugesprochen wurden, die Aufgaben erfolgreich zu bewältigen.

Seventeenth Post – Sea of Sadness

The depression I’ve been fighting through in the last year made me think a lot about how outside events influence my feelings. I just spent two weeks on the Cape Verde islands with lots of free time, walking along the beach, listening to the waves, thinking, feeling.

I came to the conclusion, that it feels like there is a well of sadness somewhere in my being, and events are more or less different channels tapping into it. But the well has always been there. That is my theory to explain that all these events feel so connected, tapping into the same sadness, easily flowing from one memory to a completely different one and the feeling itself seems to have always been there, like a deep current.

Of course, sadness is an innate feeling for many lifeforms and thus it is easy to say “it has always been there”. But it feels like a deeper, melancholic sadness; a longing for quietness, being alone, not this loud, attention demanding sadness. Maybe that is endogenous depression; if it has always been an integrated part of one’s personality. I think that is the main reason why I recently discovered my passion for diving. It reflects that sea of sadness inside of me. It is quiet, muted colours in hues of blues and greens, floating in slow currents.

The channels – i.e. sad events – seem to stay open, for me. They don’t diminish in volume or capacity, they just can be out of focus if another channel gets focused on due to some internal or external trigger. But when they are moved back into focus nothing has changed; I still get washed over by sadness just as much as before. (However, at least it is the same with love, too.) Sometimes, it feels like I fall through one of these channels and get pushed around from one memory to another or without any specific memory at all.

Despite sadness being a negative emotion, often I feel … at home floating in that sea. Maybe because it has always been there. My suicide thoughts – when life seems too much of everything; noise, colours, light, talking, people, thoughts, feelings – always incorporate images of being alone, floating into some kind of dark nothingness. Space. Sea. Silence.

Sixteenth Post – Contemplation

One year ago – oh dear, so long… – I wrote about “spiritual gravity” because my boyfriend’s seminar in contemplation has spurred my philosophical thinking.

He successfully convinced me to join him for that same seminar a year later – two weeks ago – because he thought I might benefit from it. The last weeks were emotionally troublesome so I welcomed the idea of a respite away from everything.

As expected, the weekend-long silence wasn’t hard for me; I enjoyed being quiet and more so being surrounded by quietness all the time. Joining the mass at the monastery’s church, however, didn’t give me any positive feedback like it did for my boyfriend. It made me feel left out, separated. When everyone stood up and said “amen” or did that cross sign I just stood there quietly. Not doing anything made me feel left out, just repeating what everyone else was doing would have made me feel like a liar. It’s not my faith.

The next breaks I spent walking through nature, taking pictures, listening to the birds and wind. That felt much closer to my “spiritual gravity”.

Contemplation itself… I tried my best until Saturday evening, when I realised, after the discussion round, why I, again, felt left out. Most people described their struggle with emotions welling up inside them, trouble with staying in that moment, enjoying the small things, opening towards the presence of God (it IS a Christian meditation technique). I felt no emotions at all. I felt completely neutral throughout the meditation sessions. That was the first hint for me that it seemed to be different for me.

Also, most things the monk guiding through the meditation said seemed very familiar to me. Focusing on this very moment; I do that every day. In fact, I only really feel myself if I can be in this very moment. My trouble is when the world forces me to do otherwise. Opening myself to the presence of God; as I said in my previous post, I’ve always felt what I termed “spiritual gravity”, it’s just not something I spend much thought on. It’s just there. And lastly, there’s something called the “death of the ego”; it means to not have any expectations, aspirations, wishes for oneself. That is actually currently my biggest issue. Not having any aspirations for myself. My goal in life is that those I love are happy. The rest doesn’t matter too much to me. My career, for instance.

After realising that these goals you’re supposed to work towards in this seminar are things I’ve always had in my life, I felt sad and lost for a while. After talking about it I understood that there’s no reason to be sad, really. It’s a reason to be happy. I AM all this what other people try to reach. I feel like this empty bowl that you’re supposed to become – here my boyfriend said he wished I could see how overflowing with love and holiness I truly am.

I felt happier then, but still a little lost in the contemplation as I didn’t know what to strive for if I already had reached those things. The silent, calm focusing on my breath felt still nice but somehow… shallow. Aimless. I’d need a mediation that gives me strength to go through those moments I cannot be in that very moment, when I have to have aspirations for myself, when I have to find a motivation to live my own life for myself, rather than for the people I love. I felt that contemplation was not what my soul needs right now, because it already has all which it could gain from that.

Sounds a little arrogant, writing that here like this. Considering how many people follow these meditations, read self-help books, etc. But I have other struggles. I fail at understanding the world all these people swim through like fish in water.

My boyfriend said I have a spiritual obligation to finish my therapy training and help other people struggling in this world. Maybe he is right.


And maybe I won’t take ANOTHER year for my next entry…