A Descent into Nihilism

Shared experiences of life, and the path that has led you to where you are.

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A Descent into Nihilism

Postby williamhansard » Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:53 am

I apologize in advance for a long and rambling post. I haven't really ever talked to anyone about this except for in bits and pieces, and so I'm just going to try to get it all out, and hope where I end up will foster discussion. This is just as much about reflecting as it is about soliciting. Please feel free to refer me to other sites or forums if you think it would help, I am not really familiar enough with how to find them and just wanted to start somewhere.

Just for background, I've just turned 27, I'm a white, straight, middle-class male. So I already feel guilty for feeling the way I do, because I got dealt just about the best hand you can get. I have no business feeling down because I have, with one exception, everything I ever wanted, and then some.

For several years now, I have been dealing with depression (I think) and an overall feeling of nihilism. The nihilism can mostly be linked to my being a graduate student - I'm studying for my PhD in history. When you learn how much of humanity's social structure and the things we attach meaning to are constructed, it can throw you for a loop. I never believed in much of anything religion-wise, but history was almost a religion for me. I thought it was so much more concrete. Some would argue it is. In many ways, history is now more intellectually satisfying for me, and I have found some meaning in the career path of public history that I've put myself on - history may have less or different meaning for me now, but most people don't feel that way. And I do enjoy storytelling. History is fun, at least at a surface level! At any rate, I've never been able to reconstruct any sort of worldview that has true meaning. I am very much an absurdist, it seems, but I've yet to find any solace in the intellectual exercise of examining the tension between the practice of prescribing meaning and the inherent lack on meaning to human activities.

I fear death. I think about this a lot. I think very often about not caring about how I go about anything, because none of it adds up to anything. One moment, we're here, and the other, not. Of course, I can conceptualize of the fact that nothing will bother me anymore. But none of us can truly conceive not existing. There are days that I truly wish I could believe in a loving deity who will grant me a conscious existence beyond this one. I've tried plenty of times, but I can't seem to reconcile that with the rest of my intellectual framework. And there are days that I don't want to. I don't want to lie to myself. And then I also tell myself that convincing yourself is not the same as believing, so it doesn't matter because I would not be granted another consciousness for that reason.

All this is to say, that these thoughts often find their way into my brain. Sometimes, it is for no reason and with no warning. Other times, something triggers it. A difficult assignment. A stressful interaction. A medical problem. Why deal with any of that? What am I really getting out of it? I can usually answer those questions and snap myself out of it after a while, but it is stressful and exhausting just the same. On the outside, I'm a happy guy. Truly, I do have a lot of fun. I'm a theme park junkie, and I live near to Six Flags Over Texas. I'm a member there, so I basically go there like some people would a bookstore or coffee shop, just a casual outing. I also go on all kinds of other adventures - this year I did VIP concert experiences for Weird Al and Alice Cooper, for example! I have done two internships at the Ringling circus museum, something I never dreamed I could get to do. The list goes on. And in moments like those, I'm usually truly enjoying myself - although thoughts of dread often creep even into my theme park visits, and that sends me spiraling even worse. What does any of it matter if I can't even enjoy the things that usually bring me the most joy?

This leads me to what, if anything, are the most controllable factors. I have never been a person to take care of my body, and that is already starting to take its toll. My diet has always been heavy on all the things that are bad for you. My main drink my whole life has been soda, and I eat tons of fried food, candy, etc. As a result, I'm obese - 5'6" and about 230 lbs. My knees are getting bad, they pop all the time, and my lower back often hurts, especially when I get up in the morning. I had acne as a child, and although that's mostly gone, I still get blemishes, and have scarring. My teeth are really shot, and that's been causing a huge amount of stress. They are almost all filled, some with crowns, and I had to have one pulled in February. I haven't been able to afford the implant yet, and my wisdom teeth are rotting away until I can get them pulled. I almost never brushed until the extraction, it just wasn't something I was ever made to do and I never picked up the habit. But that was a wake up call, and now I brush and floss and use mouthwash every day. But it has been too little, too late. The gums around the tooth next to the extracted one has started to bleed a lot and there's a bad taste, so I'm assuming there's an abscess. The gums are receding further from my bottom front teeth. I've got an appointment on Wednesday, but even if there's anything that can be done, I don't think I can afford it. I have credit card debt as it is. And why deal with any of it? I don't remember even really caring about my teeth before the extraction. But I don't guess I can go back. Ultimately, I guess it was this stress that triggered this post, but it is definitely a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation.

The problem is, I have become more hedonistic, not less, due to my nihilistic outlook. Why should I change the way I live, cut out things I enjoy, if extending one's life has so little meaning. And it has even less meaning if I am living longer, but not doing the things I live for? I tell myself that there are or will be people who will feel pain when I am gone, but what does that matter? I'm not there to experience their pain, so it has no bearing on me. I am only my experiences and my memories. There are days that I feel like this is a mid-life crisis. Because my body is in such a sorry state, and my mind so conflicted, I think to myself that I'll have a heart attack in my 50s and be done with it. Sometimes, that thought is upsetting. Sometimes, it isn't.

I suppose I ought to also return to that cryptic "one exception" I mentioned at the beginning. I was trying to avoid it, but I know I need to get this out too. Because of my body and more so because a lack of self-confidence, I have been single most of my life. I'm a virgin, of course. You probably knew that was coming. I have never had a relationship as an adult, and I can count the number of dates I've gone on with my fingers. There was someone whom I loved in my youth and still do love very much, but I never really showed it well. We dated twice, but I just never expressed myself the way I should have. At least, that's what the problem seems to have been. I tried one time as an adult to win her, but no dice. That ship had sailed. That is surely my greatest regret in life, and it pains me that I can never undo it. But beyond that, I just can't seem to get someone. I'm sure that's in part because I often go for those "out of my league," but even when I don't, I never seem to able to seal the deal. I'm sure self-confidence has a lot to do with that, and the rejection that comes with that just causes a vicious cycle. But I am also sort of a hard person to "get." I'm deeply intellectual, but I also have eclectic interests. My personality has essentially two modes - kid in a candy store, or grumpy insult comic. I just want someone to share my quirky and fun-filled life that is also my intellectual equal, and who I also feel some physical attraction to. Someone who will wait in line to meet Mickey Mouse and also won't mind hearing about Disney history while they do. Somebody who can take a mean joke, and can dish it as well as they take it. Someone who "gets" me. I've met a handful, but the few times I've made a move, I was unsuccessful.

I came close to being suicidal, once, but I don't expect to reach that point again. At a Halloween party last year, I downed a lot of shots (I drink socially, but usually not anything harder than cider), hoping to maybe put myself into a coma, but not to die. Maybe just to rest and to see what things were like when I woke up. That isn't logical at all, I know, but somehow, I got there. I was actually going to hospitalize myself, but the process of that was more stressful than I wanted to deal with, so I changed my mind. Plus, I honestly don't believe medicine is what I need. I don't want my brain changed. There's a lot I like about me, and I don't want to have a different personality, externally, anyway. And I don't even really want to change much about my intellectual framework. My worldview makes sense to me, it is just that that worldview is bleak and upsetting.

Is depression the right word for this? I don't know. So far, I've continued to do what I do, be it work or play, and enjoy myself a fair bit of the time. But when these thoughts happen, boy do they bring me down. I do my best to bury them, and a lot of times it works. Maybe this will help me just to have gotten this out into the world. I don't know. I'm sure there's things here buried in my mind that are important to this but that I'm forgetting to say. I just wanted to try something I haven't tried. I'm not convinced that anyone can truly help me, but I want to be helped just the same. I'll accept true advice, generic support, anything that anyone believes will help. Thank you all for your time.

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Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2018 2:53 pm
Location: Florida

Re: A Descent into Nihilism

Postby Jeff1966 » Wed Nov 14, 2018 5:24 pm


I read your post and had a few thoughts. One thing is that you do have the power to change things in your life. You seem to doubt that. But you can improve your health, lose weight, change your worldview, get closer to God, and find someone who loves you. Don't give up on those things. You are too young to view your life as unchangeable. A better life is possible. Keep your mind open, keep exploring, keep learning, do some research, reach out to others and make a plan to get the things you want. Since you are an intellectual, read about ways to get these things in your life. Good luck and take care of yourself. Don't give up on life.

- Jeff

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