Culture

Dear Fuck-Up: How do you live when everything sucks?

It’s bad out there.
Culture

Dear Fuck-Up: How do you live when everything sucks?

It’s bad out there.

Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s social media editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.

Dear Fuck-Up,

You’ve written a lot about mistakes and I think mentioned that you’ve struggled with depression. I’ve had bouts of depression and anxiety, but they have gotten much worse over the last year or two.

I’m in therapy and I guess it helps but when the news about Anthony Bourdain broke, it was the first time that I’ve thought to myself “well shit, maybe I’m not going to make it.” I realize that sound silly because he was a celebrity and a stranger but it was the first time that particularly frightening thought popped into my brain and now I’m worried it won’t go away. I’m not even really sure I have a question here. I guess maybe just: how do you live when everything keeps getting worse?

Thanks,
Struggling

Dear Struggling,

This week, I was going to answer a question from someone about getting back together with an ex. I had been thinking about answering it for days, but when the combination of deadline guilt and panic forced me to actually sit down and write something, I found myself typing and deleting variations of “man… who fucking cares.”

This seemed both very insensitive to the letter writer and also an abdication of my mandate as an advice giver. Which is to say, I’m going to answer your question instead, because lately it seems to me the only one worth asking.

The first thing you need to do is tell your therapist that these thoughts have occured to you. If you aren’t currently medicated, I can tell you with certainty that medication is one of the reasons I’m alive to answer you at all. And please, don’t feel the least bit silly that Anthony Bourdain was what triggered this crisis for you — I once began fixating on suicidal thoughts after being dumped by a guy who told me he was scared of beautiful women and that’s why he enjoyed sleeping with me. That is a far more embarrassing reason.

For the moment, and until your suicidal thoughts recede, it doesn’t matter why you are suddenly having them, just that you are and it’s important you talk about it. To your therapist first and most urgently.

That’s about as much advice as I can give on the question of how not to die, and I sincerely hope you take it. How to live is a slightly different question, and I’m not always sure I know the answer.

I used to comfort myself by remembering that humans are very self-important, and that every generation has fashioned itself as the witness to some apocalypse or another. It is almost certainly the case that, politically speaking, things have been worse before.

However, it’s hard to deny that social media and the unbelievable, bottomless, brain-breaking fucking stupidity of our own political moment conspires to make things feel like it’s the worst it has ever been. That more and more people feel bad within it — and have new platforms on which to express these feelings, compounding the urgency of them — is not particularly surprising.

Mental illness is a very much a matter of physiology and not one of will. Anyone who tells you to just try yoga or change your diet or think happier thoughts should have their teeth turn to ashes in their mouth. And I understand the importance of destigmatizing mental illness by rendering it within a medical framework. For too long we have viewed it as a moral indictment, to disastrous effect.

However, I also think this tends to throw a certain responsibility back onto those of us who struggle with it. Yes, my own personal brain chemistry is something I must reckon with, but doing so while navigating a cruel health care system, with the goal of remaining healthy enough to face a laughably uncertain financial future, all in service to surviving a world that is everywhere immiserating, hardly seems a good way to answer “how do I live.”

The best answer I’ve managed to come up with is that you live with intention of making that question easier for other people to answer. For me, the worst aspect of chronic depression (besides the boredom of it all) is the urge to be alone. If you’ve read my previous columns, you’ll notice that I almost always find a way to bring up our beholdenness to others. This is because I’m a lazy writer, but also because the fact of mutual obligation is what gives me the motivation to write at all. It’s also what animates any politics worth having.

I’m not sure if that’s an answer, really, and maybe we all need to fumble towards our own. All I know is that my occasional inability to bear the world is, in meaningful ways, a response to living in a world made unbearable. This can bring you to despair or it can bring you to purpose — today I chose the latter, and I hope I do again tomorrow.

Love,
A Fuck-Up

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

You can also find further resources here

Have a question for A Fuck-up? Email DearFuckup@theoutline.com

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