Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all evangelical on you. Religion just isn’t me. I’ve thought about it, but I can’t be persuaded by any of those doctrines. I flirted briefly with Buddhism, but came unstuck on the karma stuff. I’m too much of a cynic for any of that. Plus I don’t want to feel guilty every time I accidentally step on an ant.
Religion aside, my depression feels inextricably linked with spirituality. Since my breakdown, I have delved much deeper into philosophical questions than I ever did before. Ironically, it wasn’t until my life felt utterly meaningless that I began to wonder why I am here. Frequently feeling suicidal, coupled with ruminating habitually has made it impossible for me not to wonder about life, death and what they might mean.
The tendency to lean into darkness that comes with depression has been almost liberating for me. After prolonged deliberation, I decided there is no afterlife – and there is no particular meaning in life either. Humans are no different from animals, we’re just here due to some random scientific accident, and when we’re gone that’s it. We are gone. We decompose and our life force is converted into grass or trees or worms or whatever.
Growing up, I was afraid of a lot of things. I wasn’t brave. I relied on my sister for courage. She made friends for both of us. I was scared of strangers, heights, insects, the dark, pretty much anything else. I took that anxiety and timidity with me into adulthood. I was always good at drunken bravado, but without the Dutch courage I was terrified of most things.
Depression has released me from a lot of that fear. I could almost call myself an adrenaline junkie these days. I enjoy taking risks. I get pleasure from challenging myself, from seeing how far I can push. Just last week I was out cycling, hurtling down hills at 40mph. I didn’t care whether there was a pothole or a hairpin bend at the bottom. Not knowing added to the fun.
I guess you could call it recklessness. But that’s not exactly how it feels. It’s more like a very basic sense of being alive. It’s the awareness that I am living this transient, potentially short life of mine. I’ve made a number of suicide attempts, some more serious than others, and that has opened up my mind to the fact that I don’t need to be preoccupied with staying alive.
That probably sounds bizarre. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that losing my fear of dying has enabled me to live in a different way. I’m not sure whether it is a good thing or not, but it has given me a freedom that I didn’t feel before.
Photo: Spirit-Fire, Creative Commons.