on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

existential questions

I regularly talk about my lack of desire to live in therapy. Last week, my therapist said that she believes every person is born with the love of life, but things happened along the way to corrupt that. I used to think that way too, but this time around I challenged that belief – can we be absolutely sure of that? I argued that nature is diverse, if there are people born with the love of life, there must be people born with the lack of. And that generates different outcomes for the universe, as I responded to her seriously, imagine a universe where everyone loves life, I almost exclaim in horror.

There have been several questions in my head. Due to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and co-incidentally a friend of mine was talking about the definition of mental illness, I can’t help but wonder if I am mentally ill. Is it an illness to not desire life? Why is a love for life considered natural and healthy? Would we consider poisonous animals unnatural and healthy? Just because the majority favours a certain state of being doesn’t mean that other states are not natural.

If someone suffers tremendously in their life and has depression as an outcome, is that an illness? Is it ill to respond with apathy or numbing sadness to life’s trying circumstances? Should they be expected to pop a pill and functional normally despite everything? We seem to be saying, despite whatever shit life throws at you, you are sick for feeling this way, the healthy response should be boundless hope and optimism!?

But why? I saw an analogy somewhere on the internet today, that if we were in a relationship with someone who hits us once a month but the rest are good times, we would consider that an abusive relationship. Why the hell do we perceive life as desirable when there are some good moments peppered among bad times?

On the flip side I do know there are people who enjoy and thrive on life. I respect that, I just wish there’s respect on both sides.

My therapist tries to tell me that my existence is precious, whether I can see it or not. It is precious to other people. But I countered, isn’t it sad if my entire existence hinges on other people? What if one day I’m no longer precious to anybody, or if everyone around me is no longer around?

Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung argued that people must have a personal myth in order to live. You have to believe in something: heaven or hell, reward or punishment, the hero’s journey, the absolute importance of evolution, etc. My problem is that I no longer have a personal myth, and after months of thought I am inclined to think I have to construct one even if I don’t truly believe in it. It has to be a narrative I can live with.

My current take is that I cannot bring myself to inflict suffering on other people for now, so I should try every means to sustain my life, coupled with curiosity to see if there’s any other way I can lead my life or be with my life that can possibly change the way I feel about life. The irony is that I can only truly know if I find it in myself to live it till the end, although there have been times when I simply don’t care.

It may be disconcerting for anyone to read this or even perhaps for myself to write this. But I think the lack of awareness, exposure and discussion over the topic of suicide that contributes to the suicide rates. Controversially, I also believe euthanasia should be legal. I once watched a documentary where a relatively young woman in her 20s went through the entire process to seek euthanasia which was legal in her country only to change her mind at the very last minute. I cannot remember it fully now, but I think it made her feel better to know she had that option. My theory (which I can’t validate obviously and could be wrong) is that if euthanasia was legal, more people would be inclined to follow a proper process which may include mandatory therapy, consultations with loved ones, handling of last matters including wills etc – that may change people’s minds.

Many a time people are forced to kill themselves because they see no way out, not to mention how many of those were done on impulse? But there’s probably ways out in those cases, but they simply cannot envision it alone. My theory is that it is the ultimate aloneness and seeming inescapability that makes life unbearable.

For me, I find relief in finding space to talk about it. Despite thwarting my therapist’s best intentions for me, I find it incredibly comforting that she engages my questioning without judgment. Strangely I have found a partner that has no only accepted this part of me but has found it interesting, so I do feel luckier in that aspect.

Maybe ultimately I don’t really want to die, I just have a compulsion to live a life I really want to live, and not being on that path yet is causing a deep discomfort in me.

But I am still asking the questions which means I am still interested in answers.

One thought on “existential questions”

  1. Adele says:

    Hi Winnie, I’ve been following your musings for some time now; they’ve been a source of comfort (I especially loved the latest post on Medium on the narrative of sadness) and I feel less alone in this world – thank you. 🙂 I was thinking of trying therapy again and, having tried on two occasions and finding them unsuitable for various reasons, didn’t quite know where else to look. Could you possibly recommend any good ones that you happen to know? Thank you!

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