Depression and the loss of meaning

One of the things I find hardest about depression is the way it strips the meaning out of everything. All efforts and hopes seem futile. It’s not something I can write about when I’m in there because the feeling of pointlessness is silencing.

Loss of meaning brings a loss of direction. It takes all the energy out of anything you might have been doing. It makes it impossible to see what any action might achieve or how it could be useful. On bad days, this can mean even basic self care. Why get dressed? Why eat? Why bother? What’s the point, even?

When nothing I do seems meaningful or relevant, the world around me seems different to me, too. It’s just a cold, mechanical universe in which my actions have no consequences. All the love and light and colour are stripped out. I am at my least able to do Druidry when this happens. I cannot do relationship, or wonder, or magic, or possibility. I feel very alone, and it does not seem that there is any way out of it.

I don’t have firm beliefs about the meaning of life. I don’t have rules to go back to so that I can get through the bad days. My uncertainty is really important to me because it keeps me non-dogmatic, open minded and able to change. Uncertainty offers few comforts in times of mental anguish. When I’m at my most certain, I think that meaning is a human thing and that we make it, or don’t. On good days I find meaning simply in experiencing life, interacting, creating, doing stuff. On my good days I need very little meaning at all to keep going.

I don’t experience meaning, or the loss of it, as a solitary issue. When I have no sense of point or purpose, I depend on other people. I might not feel like doing anything for me, but I’ll get up and go through the motions for the sake of the people around me. Sometimes, not making things worse for those closest to me is all I’ve got. I keep this blog going because if there’s any chance I can say something useful, there is a point to trying. I couldn’t create that on my own. That sense of worth and possibility is held for me by everyone who leaves comments here.

When depression destroys my sense of worth, it is other people who keep me going. It is through the words and actions of others that I find reasons to try. Sometimes all it takes is not giving up, to eventually pull through to a better state of mind.

We never know really what someone else is experiencing. I do know however, that the gestures we make to each other in small, everyday ways are incredibly powerful. I don’t think personal affirmations will save anyone from mental health struggles, but other people’s affirmations can really help. You are loved. You are wanted. Your work makes a difference. Your presence is valued. We find you useful. You brighten my day. I am glad you are my friend. You’ve made a real difference to me. And so on. These are words of power and magic, that can save someone and ease their suffering.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

14 responses to “Depression and the loss of meaning

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

  • zahthinks

    Depression is the worst phase a person can go through. I’m still struggling to overcome mine. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  • dapplegrey

    I don’t and can’t know how you were feeling when writing this, but I have to tell you that it really strikes a chord, and there are many days when you say something that has real resonance for me. I know this feeling of meaninglessness, and there are many many others for whom it’s a regular experience. It seems to me that over the years that I’ve read your blog you’re getting better and better at expressing insights like this. Reading your posts is always a joy because you go to the heart of the matter with such skill, but with the lightest touch. Warmest wishes, kindest thoughts, and thank you again.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you! I was ok when I wrote this – I can’t usually talk about these experiences from inside them, but whatever headway I can make at the time I try and collect up and put into words.

  • neptunesdolphins

    I take Prosac. Before the invention of that medicine, I spend many days unable to leave my bed. I was that severely depressed. It was the Season in Hell. Life was black, pure black.

    However, in my struggles, I did learn that leaving the bed was an act of health in telling the disease, I was in charge. Making the bed showed that I could make order out of chaos. Making myself some tea was showing me that I could care for myself. Many days were spent on the couch but they were good days since I did those three things.

    I still do those three things and remind myself of how basic this is.

  • Readerbythesea

    I’ve learnt so much from reading your blogs, sometimes you describe exactly how I feel about things and other times I’m blown away by your insight into the human mind. I find great comfort in your writing when sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sadness in this world and yours is a voice leading me back to what can help. Thank you, please don’t ever doubt your own worth.

  • Michaela

    You certainly do make a difference, Nimue.

  • LadyColubrid

    You’ve made a huge difference for me, particularly in posts like this because many of our struggles are similar in a way that I haven’t found as much elesewhere. I also don’t want to let go of the ambiguity because the uncertainty is good, I don’t want to hold too tightly to my beliefs that I can’t let them go when they’re wrong. But it is easier to let go when depression settles over life like a heavy grey blanket to muffle everything.

    One thing that keeps me going is connecting to the Earth Mother (I’m more pantheistic than polytheistic), because the earth just Is and keeps going, and remembering that no matter what I’m still on this Earth is a kind of comforting foundation. Time can pass, even my life could pass, but I’ll still be somewhere on this Earth, perhaps just in more pieces than I’m used to. I try to focus on how long cycles are, and look to different myths and natural things for inspiration to just muddle through it even if I don’t feel like it. For example, Rhiannon’s going through the false accusations that she ate her son is perseverance.

    It’s a hard balance sometimes because things that are inspirational and hopeful in one moment may be overwhelming and disheartening in the next. I try to work on being more open to my partner so that I may be suffering but not quite alone.

  • Sunshinysa

    “I don’t think personal affirmations will save anyone from mental health struggles, but other people’s affirmations can really help. You are loved. You are wanted. Your work makes a difference. Your presence is valued. We find you useful. You brighten my day. I am glad you are my friend. You’ve made a real difference to me. And so on. These are words of power and magic, that can save someone and ease their suffering.”
    So well said.
    Some days are tough and some days, not so much. All days though, I pray for good mental health.
    My thoughts on depression.
    https://sunshinysasite.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/depression/

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