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Old 12-30-2018, 01:29 PM   #1
kittykat4324
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Default depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

After 3 months of working 10+ hours a day, including most weekends, a barrage of questions regarding existence hit me. I've stopped enjoying life, and was continuously obsessed with thinking about death & the meaning of pretty much everything around me

These thoughts led to isolation, which led to even more existential thoughts - it was a horrible vicious circle

The situation got better eventually, but now I am not sure what to do to prevent such a crisis happen again, as it basically destroyed a third of this year
The ironic thing is that now that I got better I no longer care about most of the things I was trying to "figure out" during my crisis

I've read that having an existential crisis is somehow normal for "gifted" individuals who are trying to figure things out.
Still, I can't believe those existential thoughts were legit, as I simply do not care about any of that anymore, as I did not care about any of it before I had this crisis.




Would it be wise to actively ignore overly negative / existential thoughts and seek help whenever you feel like you have too many of them?
Sort of treat this abundance of unusual thoughts like a disease & actively NOT believe these thoughts, as if they are not yours

As an example, for my own situation, I should have recognised I was wondering about unanswerable questions and realise their negativity and seek help very early
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Old 12-30-2018, 08:28 PM   #2
Jennifer 1967
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

I don’t have any words of wisdom but wanted to offer a warm welcome to PC.
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Old 12-30-2018, 09:28 PM   #3
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

Hi Kittykat,

I have had dysthymia for 53 years and have been in therapy on and off for 30 years, so hopefully what I have learned along the way might help.

When I start sliding into a depression, one thing I start to do (and a lot of people with depression do this) is ruminate. That is, I run things/thoughts/scenarios etc through my mind, over and over. It can be existential questions, how your presentation at work went, reliving embarrassing moments (my personal favorite) or any number of things. It's like a cow chewing her cud over and over and over and over.... (they are ruminants, you know.)

The first thing I have to do is recognize when these thoughts are occurring. Even after all this time, they can sneak in and start wreaking havoc. But forewarned is forearmed and when I do figure it out the next thing is to stop them. I try to do an activity that i know in the past has improved my mood, such as talking to my family on the phone, re-reading a favorite book, baking, etc. It also helps me to remind myself that this is not a
legit" problem, as you put it. It's not always easy, I'll admit.

Hope this gives you some ideas. There are several articles on rumination on this website also.
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Old 12-31-2018, 03:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

Leo Tolstoy apparently had a similar existential crisis, even to the point of almost ending it all. Maybe reading about his struggle will help some: Leo Tolstoy on Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World - Brain Pickings - Pocket

Despite his observations and insights about humanity and existence, I can't really say anything is resolved. Nonetheless, he lived on for over three more decades after his initial crisis around the age of 50, so I guess he must have found some sort of a solution.
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Old 12-31-2018, 04:58 AM   #5
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

I have been suffering from an ongoing existential crisis for years. I occasionally "forget" about it, but it is always present, and it affects all my life. I think being depressed makes you look into things in a way that's not helpful for you to survive and live. Can I ask how you got out of it?
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Old 12-31-2018, 05:02 AM   #6
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

Hello Kittykat 4324,

you raise a very important question. I myself have experienced existentialist concerns throughout my life to varying degrees. I also live with depression but I don't think those are synonymous. For me, it would be very problematic to suggest that anyone struggling with questions about their existence is ill or broken. It is a natural part of the human condition to question why we are here and to experience "death anxiety." Some humans are possibly more tuned into those concerns than others.

We all know we will die some day and that prior to that point we will experience the loss of someone we loved due to their death...and somehow we are supposed to go about our lives without this awareness bothering us?? Someone recommended that I read 'The Denial of Death' by Ernest Becker. I haven't started it yet but I am wondering if there are ideas there which may help you.

"Would it be wise to actively ignore overly negative / existential thoughts and seek help whenever you feel like you have too many of them?
Sort of treat this abundance of unusual thoughts like a disease & actively NOT believe these thoughts, as if they are not yours"


I'm not sure that attempting to do that will get you where you want to be. For one thing, try telling yourself right now NOT to think of a brown bear...to think of absolutely anything except a brown bear. Did it work? Our brains are more likely to produce thoughts about the very thing we desperately try to ignore/block out. I've been wondering about my existence since childhood...truly...I remember these thoughts at a very young age...I think I'll continue to have them off and on until my last day on earth. So, if you have questions about your existence and the meaning of life, instead of labeling them as signs of "disease" why not take it as a natural part of being human...something you'll work through in your own time.

If you are overcome by any worry (existential or otherwise) to the point where it disrupts your life, I suggest professional help. Perhaps talking to a therapist would benefit you. It has helped me a great deal at different points.

It is significant that you mentioned a major imbalance in your life (working all the time) followed by intense anxiety or anhedonia. Certainly we all need balance in life...so I would say that's a good place for you to start...developing a healthier work / life balance by ensuring time for breaks, alone-time, hobbies etc. Play matters as much for adults as it does for children. Children happen to be much better at it than adults.

In general, I try to think of health from a holistic point of view...all three are connected: mind, body, spirit. So if something feels "off" or imbalanced whether it's headaches or intense anxiety or sadness, I perceive the "offness" as communication from mind, body, or spirit that I need to adjust something in order to restore inner balance. Perhaps your body was cueing you: "I can't keep working this hard...I need to slow down" and your spirit was wanting some attention and support. By spirituality, I mean a deep connection to the self, others, and the Universe. I am not religious at all. Interestingly, a lot of people think that the God concept was created by humans in order to manage their death anxiety: for some it is easier to tolerate their mortality by believing in a loving supreme being and a heaven rather than an 'end.' It's different for everyone. Perhaps developing your own belief system would also help to work through some of your existentialist angst? Mine is quite simple. We are all part of a vast and complex Universe. When our bodies die, our energy is converted into a different form and we essentially head back to the stars (so to speak). It's the loss of consciousness that really disturbs a lot of people. So it's worth thinking that over in your own way.

The medical model is useful for some things...if you break a bone they will get you exactly what you need. But what if it's a problem of the mind or spirit? Should we really view ourselves as "broken" and therefore needing to be fixed if we are wondering about our place in the Universe? Fixation on that with an inability to function would be a problem yes. But there have been times when I've seen the medical model cause more harm than good. For example, some MDs will preemptively prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds to the family members of a terminally ill patient. So, the idea there is that grief after the loss of a loved one is an illness which needs to be medicated away?? I had a friend who, in my opinion, suffered even more after her husband's death due to initially being numbed out by heavy medication at the time of his coma and death...mind, body, and spirit were not given the opportunity to respond and heal naturally. I don't think grief is a sickness. Complicated grief (you can google it) is something else and that is actually what my friend wound up with after all those meds. That was not directly on your topic, but you get my point?

Guided meditation is very useful to me. I can meditate on inner peace, my purpose, relieving sadness or fear...regular daily practice helps me to feel much more balanced. You could look into anti-anxiety meds if you feel overwhelmed...to break that vicious anxiety cycle (I've been there!) but I think that's untenable for the long-term.

Whatever you decide to pursue, I wish you peace and healing energy. Be patient and loving with yourself.

Last edited by Anonymous57363; 12-31-2018 at 05:20 AM..
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Old 12-31-2018, 05:32 AM   #7
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

The Existentialist's Survival Guide; how to live authentically in an inauthentic age. By Gordon Marino, PhD

“When it comes to living, there’s no getting out alive. But books can help us survive, so to speak, by passing on what is most important about being human before we perish. In The Existentialist’s Survival Guide, Marino has produced an honest and moving book of self-help for readers generally disposed to loathe the genre.” —The Wall Street Journal
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Old 01-01-2019, 06:09 AM   #8
kittykat4324
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Default Re: depression & existential crisis. Not sure how to deal with them

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sans Nom View Post
I have been suffering from an ongoing existential crisis for years. I occasionally "forget" about it, but it is always present, and it affects all my life. I think being depressed makes you look into things in a way that's not helpful for you to survive and live. Can I ask how you got out of it?
I am by no means an expert, so take it with a big grain of salt

For me, it was mostly imbalance in my life that caused it.. I was lonely & burned out due to overworking

That probably caused the depression / existential crisis, which in turn made my thoughts biased towards negativity, something that's not practical and helpful for a good life

Instead of going out and seeking help, I actually believed what I was thinking about, and following that I spent 3 months ruminating over existentialism and what not

One day I hang out with some colleagues of mine, and I've noticed I was feeling better, way better - so I begun doing that more and more
Same thing happened with exercise, after I've resumed jogging, each time I was exercising, the depressive thoughts would almost vanish

I begun hanging out more, begun working in public places and gradually, the depressive thoughts were getting less and less annoying. That's where I am at right now

One thing that I found particularly helpful is to NOT believe thoughts that seem unusually negative or depressive. When you have a low mood, your thinking would likely be biased towards negativity. Just be aware you are in a low mood & act on a way to treat it. For me that way was exercise, relationships & generally having something to do

The most helpful thing I've discovered is that when we are in a low mood (like depression), we tend to have thoughts that are not really "representative" of ourselves. Our flow of thinking tends to be wrong & biased towards negativity

So whenever I feel like some of my thought patterns are overly negative, I go out of my way to find a cause for this low mood and treat it. I DO NOT stop and ruminate over these negative thoughts. I treat them as 100% fake, because they are generated by a temporary illness (think of it like you'd have a cold, you go treat it right?)

Do NOT try to actively block these thoughts, that will make them even stronger
Just admit they are fake, and get on with what you were doing before



For me, exercise, relationships and generally having something to do reduced by annoying thoughts to the point where it almost does not bother me at all

I've submitted this thread to "Ask a therapist", I'll give you some insight I get anything useful

Last edited by bluekoi; 01-01-2019 at 11:13 AM.. Reason: Merge posts.
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