Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All

Thursday, January 12 2012 Natasha Tracy

While depression commonly makes people feel sad, it might also make a person feel nothing at all. Feeling nothing with bipolar can be just as devastating.

Bipolar disorder is an affective disorder, in other words it affects your emotions (among other things). Bipolar disorder symptoms are often about feelings. Well, they're about FEELINGS. I feel HAPPY. I feel SAD. I feel IRRITATED. I feel ENERGETIC.

But one thing that's rarely recognized is that sometimes bipolar disorder is about feeling nothing at all.

Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Depression is one of the two poles of bipolar disorder (the other being mania / hypomania). And myself, being bipolar type 2, I'm darn familiar with it because people with bipolar disorder type 2 spend 35 times more time depressed than they do in hypomania.

Depression and Emotion

And while depression is a "low" mood and, of course, is known for sadness, there is something else you might feel when depressed: nothing at all.

Yup. Nothing. Just a void. You feel an absence, if such a thing is possible. You feel the blank page, silence, dark matter, dishwater. You move through the world, and things happen to you that you know you should feel, but instead of feeling, nothing happens. Like turning the key in your car's ignition and the car not starting - it's unsettling.

Yay! I'm Not Sad!

So feeling nothing must be a great break from feeling terrible? Right?

Not in my experience. Feeling nothing just makes you feel like you're not human, not like you're not depressed. It's like being the shell of a person. A walking and talking corpse. Like you're nothing. The human experience with emotion removed isn't the human experience - it's really no experience at all.

Because emotions are how we make sense of the world around us. They are how we remember the day. If you loved the fact that you ate lasagne for lunch, you might remember it. If you ate the same dull ham sandwich for the 14th day in a row, you probably won't. And what does anything matter if it doesn't make you feel? If you don't care about eating ice cream or seeing your kids smile or browsing a book store or taking a bubble bath then why bother doing any of those things? Why bother doing anything at all?

And this is the thing that people fundamentally don't understand about depression. Depression, bipolar, mood disorders, are about moods that don't respond as expected and in this case don't budge at all. There is nothing to do, nothing to say, no strategy to try because nothing moves the needle, even a little. It's not that I'm not trying it's that trying doesn't matter.

And that is a recursive depression. It's depression that makes you feel nothing which makes you feel depressed which makes you feel even less (because yes, there are degrees of nothingness). It's depression that breeds depression. Like bunnies. Depression bunnies, all grey and un-hoppy.

What to Do When You Feel Nothing

Now comes the part of the article when I make my stunningly insightful recommendations. Ah. I'm having trouble with that bit because I only have one suggestion: try to remember it wasn't always like this and it won't always be like this in the future.

That's it. Try to remember. Because I don't have a stunningly insightful recommendation for how to fix the problem, I can only remind you that the problem wasn't always there and won't always be there. You just have to wait. And trust.

One day the bunnies will hop again.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

View all posts by Natasha Tracy.

Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All

My Mind
says:
January, 12 2012 at 2:41 pm

I love this article! I don't think anyone could have described it better!

Jenny Murphy
says:
January, 12 2012 at 10:05 pm

Thanks for explaining so well how it is when you feel nothing, especially the 'non-person' thing. When I was like that I found a breast lump (which turned out to be benign). The worst thing about it at the time was that I felt nothing - not worry, fear, stress, panic - nothing. But everyone around me felt a lot and endlessly 'sympathised' with me and worse, related their own stories of how they'd felt in similar circumstances. I found that harder than the possibility of having cancer. I felt so alone and like a freak and a fraud and very definitely less than human. Thankfully I haven't felt like that for a few years but my heart goes out to those who are feeling (or rather not feeling) that way right now

MaryAnn
says:
January, 12 2012 at 11:22 pm

I call this my don't care mood. I don't care if I eat, bathe, tweet, Farmville, etc. Just don't care. Blah. Meh. Whatever. Eat? Whatever. I like to sleep because it doesn't require much involvement. I get 3 or 4 of these days/month. It is what it is. You know?

Teresa
says:
January, 13 2012 at 12:43 am

When I felt that way, I was told 'hang in there it will get better' or ' it wont
always be like this'. You know what ! that used to really peeve me because after all wasn't it bad enough, now 'they' want me to be patient and believe in hope, it was just all too hard, when I felt nothing I couldn't muster up the energy to hope or be patient. After I got through the episode I realised my carer's were right, but at the time it was incredibly hard, however I agree Natasha, hang in there, It's about all we can do and now I have been through it once if there's a next time I at least know there IS a way through.

John Alchin
says:
January, 13 2012 at 4:43 am

Great article Natasha. Describes me well. I've come to realise that irritability & that sense of nothingness you described are a greater part of my experience than the often mentioned depression & hypomania. I hope many others find this article insightful into their own experience.

Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 13 2012 at 7:09 am

Hi My Mind,

Thank-you.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 13 2012 at 7:12 am

Hi Jenny,

You bring up a good point - there are other times when people feel nothing as well and being in shock at news (like a lump in your breast) could certainly be one of those times. And it is hard when the world around us _assumes_ that we feel very differently.

But you definitely weren't a freak.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 13 2012 at 7:13 am

Hi MaryAnn,

Yup, "don't care" about sums it up. It's apathy towards everything. And sometimes it is what it is but it sounds like you know that you'll get through it and that's important.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 13 2012 at 7:17 am

Hi Teresa,

Well, I don't blame you for being peeved. It's hard to hear, "just hang in there" when everything is so awful.

But that's one of the reasons I didn't tell people to hang onto hope. I don't like telling people to hope. "Hope" is too big a word and expectation for people who are sick. Like you said, it's irksome.

Hopefully, just trying to remember than it wasn't always this way and it won't always remain this way is a bit easier to gnaw on.

And yes, there is a way through, even if it is just time.

- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
says:
January, 13 2012 at 7:18 am

Hi John,

Thanks for the comment. I think what you're saying is the point of the article - we feel this way but people don't talk about it. Of course, it's hard to talk about. It's hard to put into words. And it's hard to not feel like a freak because of it.

I'm glad you found the article helpful :)

- Natasha

Emma
says:
January, 13 2012 at 10:37 am

I'm in that phase at the moment. I have lost so much weight. I haven't eaten properly since November. My GP is not much help, keeps trying to persuade me to see the eating disorder folk BEAT. Nothing against them but I do not think I am fat or have body dysmorphia. I wish I could get my GP to understand. I'm going to print this and see if it helps her to 'get it'. Thank you.

Mara
says:
January, 13 2012 at 3:13 pm

Have been here.. for years and years in a row. Thanks for reminding us that we are not alone in these kind of feelings. It's nice to now that someone, somewhere is living the same thing, and probably understands what it is like. Been trying for years to explain this to normal people, but nobody understands. So I finally stopped, and I only find comprehension in my pets.

Thanks again.

Paul
says:
January, 14 2012 at 1:17 am

When you're feeling 'nothing' and watching the world 'getting on' with things, you start to thinking "why can't I get on with these things?", ruminating like this doesn't make you feel any better. When faced with these 'voids' it's better not to battle. It's OK to let it 'all' go on, it'll all be there when you're feeling a little better. Today it's OK to do nothing.

Jeff
says:
January, 14 2012 at 7:59 am

Dishwater feelings and un-hoppy depression bunnies are clever words and describe the nothingness mood well. When I'm in that state it feels like a gray, indescribable dishwater mood chock full of sad and irritating debris and floaties. And you're stuck in that dishwater mood. That's the part that makes me anxious, which doesn't help matters. I think you've got it right - the best way to deal with it is to try and REMEMBER that life can and will have more meaning and color someday. My problem is that while in the nothing zone it is very challenging to imagine that someday the nothingness will be gone.

wilda egger
says:
January, 14 2012 at 9:52 am

The nothingness mood-When I'm experiencing it I feel like a flat lifesized cardboard figure surrounded by real people. Jeff, I agree with you that "...it is very challenging to imagine that someday the nothingness will be gone." I think that is one of the most challenging things about dealing with bipolar disorder-believing that each mood will pass and we will actually have days of feeling better. To each of you, I hope today is one of those days that you feel well.

SpottedChui
says:
January, 16 2012 at 2:04 am

Funny thing is that, whichever state you are in, you always wish you were in another state... I am now totally in the don't care state. I am at work, and I am being unproductive. Contrast this to: If I am manic, I work hard as hell: If I am down (not completely down, but down when you feel dull sorrow), I become the consummate analytic, and a detail-guru.

But when I am irritable or now, when I don't care, it becomes very hard to get work done.

Being one of those unlucky people who hates themselves, work is such an important thing. Being busy, and being good at work helps with self-worth. Not caring usually precedes those cavernous downs, when lack of self worth meets un-productivity - and leads to the seven hells.

Natasha, you are an excellent writer, and you describe the issues very well. Thank you.

Jeanne M.
says:
January, 18 2012 at 5:19 am

Informative article; thanks. Anhedonia may well be the word for this state of 'nothingness'. Flat in affect, definitely felt inwardly and, probably, observed by others outwardly. Unless, of course, the 'chameleon effect' kicks into gear i.e. when one presents outwardly that 'everything's fine'. Most bipolars, especially Type IIs, are well-skilled with the 'chameleon effect', as so often they must enact this to keep their jobs, families, etc. moving and intact.

I particularly liked that you asserted how BP Type IIs spend FAR more time in the doldrums. And, if and when in the hypomanic state, it's really not even 'Eureka', as so often there is irritability, quick response judgments, etc. that occur during that phase.

Thanks, Natasha, for your time and efforts to educate and bring down the walls of stigma regarding mental illness~!

David Edwards
says:
February, 16 2012 at 10:24 am

...try to remember it wasn’t always like this and it won’t always be like this in the future.

says it all. And I attest to the truth - for nearly a decade I was depressed, all the time the medicos were concerned by the risk of psychosis, I was depressed. depressed. not the reactive depression that most associate with the word but the clinical depression that nothing touches or relieves.

One of my ex/late wife's kitchen wall sayings was "and this too shall pass", Every time I saw it I thought "oh yeah?" and carried on regardless. I'm still here despite some intensive research into alcohol and cannabis and the invisible but omnipresent black dog has become a rascally little furry called Zebedee who ensures that I do all the stuff that I knew I needed to be doing.

En bref, however black it is today, it will pass or rather you'll notice that something so defining has gone...

Jim
says:
February, 17 2012 at 6:18 am

"...or browsing a book store or taking a bubble bath then why bother doing any of those things? Why bother doing anything at all?"

That's the worst of it for me. 'Greyness of spirit' is how it feels to me and there's nothing I can actively do about it, although it's improving now. Feeling upset (even badly so) is not as bad for me because at least there's a feeling to that.

I often start thinking "if I can't feel anything, what sort of life am I ever going to have?" Frightening.

When I've felt like that (feelingless) I've tried my best to find some enthusiasm but I don't now because that only leads to more frustration.

Not really saying anything new here, but it's nice to know others get this too.

stephanie hansen
says:
February, 29 2012 at 12:31 am

"...all gray and un-hoppy" is just a gem of a description and I'd like to write it down and put it on my fridge, if you don't mind. It makes me smile in spite of it's topic.

I am one of those who feels absolutely nothing, total apathy, instead of sadness in general. I didn't make that one last push for a proper diagnosis until after my daughter died 4yrs ago and with that loss I lost my reason/means of getting up and going on at those times when I was most depressed and disconnected. She was severely disabled and needed my constant care and affectionate reassurance (brain damage, autism, and epilepsy). Suddenly I could lie down forever and no one would care or need me to get up ever again, and that's what I was likely to do if nothing changed.

When I went to the therapist at the hospital's outpatient psychiatric care centre she kept asking me to describe how I was feeling. I told her I didn't feel anything. She kept pushing with questions like, "Do you feel empty?" and "Do you feel flat?" and "Do you feel sad?" and "Do you feel dull?" and I kept saying, "No...I don't FEEL." She tried a few more "feel" terms and finally I told her that "I only think." And so she asked me, "Okay...tell me what you think and then maybe we can sort out what you're really feeling." LOL I told her, "I don't THINK you're qualified to assess me and I want another therapist."

I did get another therapist who informed me that this apathy, this non-feeling, was very common in what was later diagnosed as bipolar type II.

I asked for another therapist not because I "felt hope" that there would be a better therapist out there, but because I had a good friend who told me years before that "Each of us is special, but no one is unique," and I believed him. I operated on the assumption that I was not unique, that a therapist who knew her stuff should have heard of my symptoms before and understood what I was telling her. I wasn't speaking in Latin, for heaven's sake.

Sarah
says:
February, 29 2012 at 8:00 pm

hi stephanie, Good on you for standing up for yourself and finding a better therapist. There are excellent therapists and terrible therapists, and of course there are a few dodgy ones. There are also average therapists, some of whom may be right for you and some whom are wrong. I advocate for shopping around. My first therapist was terrible, and actually made me worse if that's possible. My second was brilliant, unfortunately she retired but she hand picked my next therapist for me, who is also brilliant.

With my first therapist I actually felt bad that the therapy wasn't working, like it was my fault. She was very overbearing, and talked about her own problems more than necessary. She referred me to her own husband who was a career consultant (and very much 'under the thumb'). Once she wore a see through white shirt and no bra. She couldn't remember how to do cognitive behaviour therapy. And she taught me techniques to cope with my anger which actually made it worse. She did not teach me any relaxation/breathing exercises but one day I rang her in a panic and she said 'do the breathing' as though we had been through it. And yet I stuck with her! Under her guidance I returned to the workplace, yet I was totally humiliated professionally because I was nowhere near ready to go back.

Good on you for standing up to that therapist.

Susan Recek
says:
March, 3 2012 at 8:22 pm

Hi I really need to feel some kind of connections with someone like me and reading this tonight about knocked me over ! I don't feel ! I am bipolar 2 and rarely have hypomania and this article makes me feel like I'm not alone with how I am most of the time!
Why bother ! That is what I say to myself all the time thank you
for sharing this feeling of ne feelings that just seem to get worse and I will try to remember it won't last forever.

Feeling Emotionless? Anyone ?
says:
April, 11 2012 at 12:32 am

[...] I emerged from it emotionless. I have found something on the internet that you may find helpful: Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All | Breaking Bipolar My daughter is now 1, and like you I KNOW I love her, but it's more of a cognitive thing than an [...]

Anne
says:
April, 19 2012 at 10:38 am

What an honest and hope giving article. Thank you Natasha. As someone who has suffered lifelong bouts of deep depression I found it really helpful. God bless you xxx

Lucy
says:
April, 23 2012 at 7:49 am

I can very much relate to this.

I am not enthusiastic, excited, happy, content. But I am not their opposites either. I am … simply nothing. This is the only way to describe what it is like to exist inside my head. Nothingness, emptiness, a void. This where there should be all kinds of emotions.

Along with this depression has come our little baby girl. I do all that I can for her, tend to her every need. But when it comes to how I feel about her, I am at a loss. What I know is that I want, desperately, to feel love, affection and protectiveness towards her. And I try, I really do. But as a good friend said to me, you can’t force it can you?

Every time emotions are mentioned I freeze up. Which is a lot of the time. Do you know how many times in a day a person hears the phrase “I felt really sorry for …” or “I am worried about …” ?

I am reluctant to ask people how they are because if they reply positively, I get jealous, but I also do if they respond negatively, because they will be upset about something normal like work being stressful, or a family member being unwell. And this just doesn’t happen to me any more.

This has been going on for longer than a year now.

Thank you Natasha for making me not feel so alone.

Lucy

Natasha Tracy
says:
April, 24 2012 at 7:00 am

Hi Lucy,

No, you're not alone :) If there's one thing that I've learned it's that no matter how you're feeling (or not feeling) you're not alone in it. There are many people out there just like you, even if you don't personally know about it.

I know what it's like to be jealous of other people's feelings, or even the feelings of people on TV. All I can say is try to rise above it and know it's just your illness. You're experiencing something that's very unfair but many people are in unfair situations. I try to be thankful for things if I can't be "happy" or "sad" at least I can be grateful. I can be grateful others are happy and I can be grateful for the good things that happen in my life even if I don't "feel" good about it, per se.

That's my way of handling it. But no matter what, remember it won't last forever. Something in your life will change. Medication, therapy, life situation, something will change and it will change your ability to feel.

Try to believe in that.

- Natasha

Tina
says:
June, 12 2012 at 2:39 am

I, too, believe that one of the only ways to really deal with the nothingness is to really just try to remember that it isn't permanent. One of the reasons it was so hard for me to deal with that as a teenager is that there wasn't a time to refer to when I felt better. I believe that's the reason teenage mental illness can be so severe; you haven't lived through enough experiences of bipolar yet to know it isn't going to last forever.

Karen
says:
January, 6 2013 at 8:35 am

Hi Natasha,

Thankyou for the article. I suffer from Bi-polar 1 and have periodically felt this nothing feeling. I did not realise it was part of bi-polar, I thought it was just me being mean. I have read so much about bi-polar on the web site and don't remember reading anything like it. Thankyou for informing me, next time it happens I will try and remember to give myself a break and see it as part of the illness.

Oliver
says:
February, 6 2013 at 10:28 am

After my brother had an mental breakdown or whats it called I have no feelings at all, I feel nothing When my mom and dad is crying and when I see my brother I feel nothing, A haven't sad this to anybody. I just want some advise.

sorry for the bad grammar, I'm from norway

Lillie
says:
March, 3 2013 at 12:11 pm

Thanks so much for this article. For the past few weeks I've been wondering why my therapist keeps saying he thinks I'm depressed - I don't feel depressed, I just don't feel anything. Now it's starting to make sense.

Kimie
says:
March, 22 2013 at 4:17 am

Thank you for this. I have never been diagnosed but think I have been through anxiety and depression, including days of' mania' where I want to stay bhut even those make me anxious now as I know I might crash. I often use the mantra 'This too shall pass' which does help, but I'm getting married soon and I'm worried I won't feel anything :/

SANTU HALDER
says:
April, 14 2013 at 10:15 pm

I think about myself as a depressed man from last 2 yrs. I am 20 yrs old.. and studying in B.SC. 2nd yr. I love one of my classmate. But sh she does not love me.She told me that I am her very good friend.But she ditched me later. I cant sleep in night. Continuously I have taken GANJA ALC. And also inhale DENDRITE. now I do smoke cigar only. I have gone to the psychologist but he give prescribe me some medicine like ona-0.5 and setrral50 etc.. now i can sleep well in night but now I am feeling anxious to her male friends. I cannot study well.I have failed in the last semester. How can I escape from this situation? Please guide me.

prajwal
says:
May, 21 2013 at 5:40 am

Wat about ppl who never had a good time?
I don't remember the last time I was truly happy...
Its like I never was truly happy...
I don't even have colorful happy memory...
The good ones are grey with the black clouds moving in to fill up the grey...

Anton
says:
June, 12 2013 at 7:46 am

I'm pretty sure that this problem would continue in the future too . I'm not just talking about my case but everyone else's , when you're done feeling nothing - YOU ARE DONE . No matter what something makes you happy for like sometime and then again there is nothing amusing about living . That's the story .

judy
says:
July, 1 2013 at 12:22 am

Anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depression. Sometimes it is mere passive joylessness and dreariness, discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest and spring.

So based on this definition, I agree that anhedonia can and does pass in time. I've experienced this many times over and know this to be true.

However, I have never felt inhuman or empty - just emptiness and meaninglessness. Apathy is beige in color. When I start to snap out of it as I often do, what I feel is horror that I really didn't care if a mack truck hit me (so I can totally understand the non-reaction Jenny experienced upon hearing the news about the lump in her breast). Sometimes the daily politics of existence just seems absurd and a complete waste of time. I simply don't have the energy or inclination to negotiate my way around it. It is the experience of sensing all of the pettiness and absurdities of existence and not wanting to be a part of it, but being human, not wanting to be alone.

For instance, a coworker told me she was going off to protest a cause during her lunch break, one that I also happen to agree with, so I thought, "Great! A noble way to spend your lunch hour! God bless and here's to you for taking one for the team!" I ate my sandwich that day thinking, "Now, I should be doing that instead of sitting here eating a measly sandwich, right?" Makes sense. I could feel the resolve growing inside of me.

Until she came back, that is.

I asked her how it went, expecting to hear of PROGRESS, maybe more intense disagreement, maybe a point made and a couple of minds changed or vehemently defended, and passions firing off like flare sticks. But what I heard instead was, "Oh, you know, I stood on one end, they stood on another, same signs, same people and I'll probably see them again next time." Just like that. As if I asked her how brushing her teeth went that morning.

That the act of making a difference, of finding meaning is yet another part of the routine of the day was ABSURD to me. Now, this in of itself is not cause for crushing depression or anhedonia, but I am trying to illustrate how meaning can be meaningless, and action may be rote, and maybe in the end all the efforts in the world only leads to even less of anything. We aren't better off - possibly worse off, but certainly unchanged. So it is no surprise to me that people function in extremes. Extreme religious ideologies. Extreme politics. Extreme morality. Extreme judgement. Hell, even extreme sports, dieting and remodeling - why the hell not? It is better than apathy, they say. I feel something, a wiggling in the heart, therefore, meaning and purpose. Better than nothing.

But is it? As I see it, sometimes doing nothing is just as good as doing something that leads to nothing. It is all the same. The world continues to spin while me and many others that I do not know, in other parts of this ball of dirt exits the world courtesy of a mack truck. Who cares?

Not a philosophy, but certainly how I think when depressed and mired in anhedonia. You see, feeling is one of the myriad of ways we as humans experience the world. We also sense with our five senses, think about things, and intuit. One modality may be more dominant at any given time. That is why I still believe I am human and alive even when what I feel can only be described as nothing at the time. I hate it when I hear of others calling another, "not human". I am suspicious of it. It is dehumanizing and that always leads to bad things. Like genocide, for instance.

Cheryl
says:
July, 21 2013 at 1:11 pm

I really love your writing(said at a time when I do feel something. lol). You explain the things going on in my head in a way that's easy to understand and I can get others to read it so they can 'get' a bit better what people like us deal with.
Excellent writing skills!

Kimberley
says:
August, 15 2013 at 3:54 am

Thank you for writing this article. I have been in this state for some time now and I didn't even realize there was a name for this condition. It feels like my new normal.

julie fangerow
says:
August, 23 2013 at 7:19 am

Getting off lithium now after three years...hoping that may help me feel more than dread and heavy hearted....the feeling of joy is rare...though I can put the mask on.....I know I need to keep trying every day...so exhausting but keep trying.....

Julia
says:
August, 24 2013 at 6:13 am

Great article, Natasha, for starters. It got a lot of ideas going around in my head, which wouldn't have happened were I in the state you describe.

Judy, too, many interesting contributions. I'm still kind of wrapping my head around some of them. So forgive me if I completely missed it. But, the main issue I caught with what you wrote was your questioning regarding Natasha's statement of almost feeling inhuman. You state that you have felt "emptiness and meaninglessness" but never "empty" or "inhuman." I DEFINITELY believe that how one person conceives feeling inhuman could be completely different from how another conceives it. I would argue, however, that feeling "emptiness" and feeling "empty" would have to be the same thing in essence, although maybe slightly different in manifestation.

Many people define the human experience as a full one, with a wide range of emotions that changes day to day based various experiences, meeting of natural needs, a person's typical disposition, etc. So one says he feels a certain "emptiness", at least some of this range is missing. Further, a HUGE part of the human experience is not only feeling, but *having/owning* some kind of purpose. Where and how people get that definitely varies. For most it's through some type of belief system (be it "quote" religious or not). But it can also be through one's work, family, charitable contribution, what have you. Without that purpose, whatever it may be, people tend to feel meaningless. They have this belief that they don't belong because they don't know what their purpose is. Somehow, they've lost sight of it. They feel useless, unattached, meaningless, and even inhuman. . . because "meaning" (purpose, definition, significance, value, sense, 'heart', intent, point, use etc. . .thanks to Thesaurus.com for all the synonyms), is an integral part of what it is to be human. Indeed, it is what raises us to humanity.

So I understand where Natasha's coming from on the "not feeling human" angle. I've been there, not often, but I have felt that way before. I'm glad that you haven't, that you've been fortunate enough to not undergo that experience, or that you just have a different construct for what that means, which works too. Carrying on further, I don't think this article is simply expressing or addressing anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). It's more than that. It's the feeling of no feeling, which in itself, is contradictory. So really, it's the sensation or experience of no feeling. Personally that's hard for me to imagine, because trust me, I ALWAYS feel something whether I like it or not, even if it's feeling inhuman.

What Natasha describes, at least the way I read it, is not just a feeling of "blah, I don't want to do anything today." That's normal depression, with it being more than just that one example of course. Although, that example could be a part of what Natasha describes, just perhaps a less severe form. There's got to be a name for this; it sort of reminds me of what people who have schizophrenia often suffer from--a lack of attachment to the point that nothing phases them.

Finally, Natasha, part of what you described struck a chord with what I think is common in borderline personality disorder, which can of course and often does, co-occur with bipolar (as you explained recently in a post). This was the way you described the lack of human experience, the shell. That struck me very much as the depersonalization sensation that is very common in borderline.

Anyways, just a couple of observations. I particularly enjoyed the humor in this piece with the addition (or lack thereof) of those hop-less bunnies, waiting until they can hop again. Do they get to change color too?

judy
says:
August, 26 2013 at 7:32 am

"Many people define the human experience as a full one, with a wide range of emotions that changes day to day based various experiences, meeting of natural needs, a person’s typical disposition, etc. So one says he feels a certain “emptiness”, at least some of this range is missing"

Ok, I see how you're interpreting what I had written. I guess I should clarify that I have had experiences of "emptiness" usually following disillusionment, and is temporary in nature. It is not a chronic feeling. This, I believe, is a common experience that plagues everyone at one point or another, and I don't think this should lead to feeling inhuman (or labelled as such), but is, in fact, a very human thing.

"Further, a HUGE part of the human experience is not only feeling, but *having/owning* some kind of purpose."

I think a large part of being human is more than just feeling, but also thinking, sensing, etc. So even if you are feeling nothing, you are probably still functioning in another capacity. Also, I think there's a lot of people who appear to be living a life with purpose, but they are really going through the motions of it. I don't see the difference between them and one who does nothing at all. It all leads to the same thing.

"...because “meaning” (purpose, definition, significance, value, sense, ‘heart’, intent, point, use etc. . .thanks to Thesaurus.com for all the synonyms), is an integral part of what it is to be human. Indeed, it is what raises us to humanity."

I guess it depends on what one considers "meaning". Certainly throughout history, you will find those who collectively find meaning in a belief that does not raise humanity, but is destructive instead. And if you were to ask people across different socioeconomic backgrounds and different cultures, you will find a wide variety of definitions, some to our personal liking, some not, some we may not understand at all.

In short, I have observed that what some people believe is purpose and meaning in their lives is just an illusion. Without it, who would they be? Nothing? Certainly, still human!

I also think we should be careful with the word "inhuman" because it has negative connotations, and once one is viewed as "inhuman", they are treated as such. I cannot tell you how quickly an action follows a certain word. It is really quite sad and very dehumanizing.

Julia
says:
August, 27 2013 at 7:05 am

Ok, I get most of what you're saying here. You make a good point about the temporary feelings of "lost-ness" being, in fact, entirely human in the sense that everybody experiences it. I will draw attention, however, to the point that this feeling is unsettling to everybody as well. No one is comfortable with it because it's not something that's really part of our nature. Then of course, that whole idea I just wrote could be elaborated times ten and into a totally different angle. So I'll just stop there. You know what I mean.

"I think a large part of being human is more than just feeling, but also thinking, sensing, etc. So even if you are feeling nothing, you are probably still functioning in another capacity." ok. Obviously, or you'd be dead right?
"Also, I think there’s a lot of people who appear to be living a life with purpose, but they are really going through the motions of it." You won't get any argument from me there!
"I don’t see the difference between them and one who does nothing at all. It all leads to the same thing." I don't get these two sentences, particularly the latter.

"I guess it depends on what one considers 'meaning'." Well that would be why I defined it and gave so many synonyms . . . ;)
"Certainly throughout history, you will find those who collectively find meaning in a belief that does not raise humanity, but is destructive instead." Absolutely. You interpreted this with a different angle than I intended, but that's ok. I wasn't referring to the content of the belief itself; recall also, I wrote that one's "meaning/purpose/etc." is often not founded in a particular, what we would consider, belief.
"And if you were to ask people across different socioeconomic backgrounds and different cultures, you will find a wide variety of definitions, some to our personal liking, some not, some we may not understand at all." Definitions of what? Of what a belief is? Or rather not a definition, but where they find meaning? (that makes sense to me)

"In short, I have observed that what some people believe is purpose and meaning in their lives is just an illusion." I agree wholeheartedly with this, but to THEM, it's not an illusion. Or delusion? Misperception might be a more apt description, but then you have everybody arguing over what's real or true and what's not, or if even such an absolute exists.
"Without it, who would they be? Nothing? Certainly, still human!" I actually don't quite get this part, and it seems like such a good clincher!

"I also think we should be careful with the word “inhuman” because it has negative connotations, and once one is viewed as 'inhuman', they are treated as such. I cannot tell you how quickly an action follows a certain word. It is really quite sad and very dehumanizing."
Well I think that was exactly Natasha's point, at least in one regard. Her experience of not having emotions left her feeling inhuman. Because we DO have emotions. We DO feel for people. What you're implying with the "negative connotations" and "being treated as inhuman" and what is, "deHUMANizing" (you didn't intend that, I don't think, or you would have made it more obvious. But I found it!) is a society that has become, or someone who appears to be, soulless. . .acts without regard, compassion, etc for another. And that's exactly what is so unsettling about not feeling, so inhuman about it. We have these passions so deeply ingrained in us that to not experience it could leave one feeling inhuman, and conversely to experience them to such a high degree that our thinking is taken over, is also inhuman because of what actions could follow.

Anyways, whoo hoo for philosophy!

judy
says:
August, 28 2013 at 7:24 am

"No one is comfortable with it (lost-ness) because it’s not something that’s really part of our nature."

I don't agree. Struggling IS the human experience, so while it isn't comfortable (and struggle never is), it is natural. Most people go through this a few times in their life, though there are those who are fortunate enough to find *it* (self actualization, whatever you want to call it).

“I think a large part of being human is more than just feeling, but also thinking, sensing, etc. So even if you are feeling nothing, you are probably still functioning in another capacity.” Ok. Obviously, or you’d be dead right?“

Obviously :) I am not saying feeling is not important, just asking why discount thinking and sensing as equally important features that make us human? Feeling is subjective, so it can't be emphasized as *more* important than the others - certainly not to define anything in absolutes - but I do recognize it as an important part of the overall whole.

“I don’t see the difference between them and one who does nothing at all. It all leads to the same thing.” I don’t get these two sentences, particularly the latter.

Hmmm...I can see that. Sorry for the tangent-lol! In my previous post , I used an example of someone involved in an organization with the intent to make a difference, but the act of it was so routine the outcome was as good as doing nothing at all. I have a day job, my day is routine, but I would define this as a necessity, not purpose/meaning. But in the example, the person is participating in a protest with as much intent as you would working a day job. But he still considers it meaningful - or maybe the illusion of meaning.

“I guess it depends on what one considers ‘meaning’.” Well that would be why I defined it and gave so many synonyms . . ."

Which were heart, intent, a point, etc. You can certainly apply these towards negative ideals as well. For instance, as sad as it is, a Klansman truly finds meaning in his ideology with much heart and intent as Mother Teresa had in hers. He is able to identify with something larger than himself, he is clear in his life's work, and equally devoted - in fact he may even say that he is willing to die for it.

"I wasn’t referring to the content of the belief itself"

And I think the content is everything. You have to believe in something to see purpose and meaning in it.

"I wrote that one’s “meaning/purpose/etc.” is often not founded in a particular, what we would consider, belief."

Yes, you said, "Where and how people get that definitely varies. For most it’s through some type of belief system (be it “quote” religious or not). But it can also be through one’s work, family, charitable contribution, what have you". I think belief and meaning are intertwined in all cases. Obviously people find meaning within an organized belief system, but you have to believe in the value of family to find meaning in it (which for the most part, we all do); you have to believe in the cause of whatever charitable organization you are working for; and you have to believe that what you are working for has some significance in order for your career to be meaningful.

“Without it, who would they be? Nothing? Certainly, still human!” I actually don’t quite get this part, and it seems like such a good clincher!

Ok, fair enough. Whether or not you currently have a purpose or meaning is besides the point. You may not at a given time. But I wouldn't call you "nothing". You are still a human being struggling yet again to find purpose and meaning.

What you’re implying with the “negative connotations” and “being treated as inhuman” and what is, “deHUMANizing” (you didn’t intend that, I don’t think, or you would have made it more obvious.

I'm not sure what you mean here. But to clarify, I meant specifically labelling someone as inhuman (adjective) can be dehumanizing (verb as in devaluing one as less than human). I added this because this article is talking about a *subjective* experience of not feeling, and therefore, *feeling* inhuman. But "not feeling" within the context of depression is certainly different from "incapable of feeling", as in a sociopath. Moreover, don't discount the power of words. It is why propoganda is important in times of war. To sway the masses into accepting things like - oh, I don't know - mass murder, rape, torture, abuse, just to name a few.

So in short, you are human even if you don't feel like it right now. Also, I wanted to point out that what is meaningful and holds much purpose for one should be open to self examination - even if it leads to feeling empty. And why not? I'm assuming you referred to "meaning" and "purpose" in the most positive way, but too many people are driven by theirs - with good and righteous intentions in their minds and heart - to do despicable things. One day that Klansman may just do that and really see that he is not much different from those he use to discount and abuse. Only then will he feel compassion and empathy towards them and raise himself and humanity.

(I used the Klansman example because I actually met a reformed racist - what a great conversation it was!)

Julia
says:
August, 28 2013 at 4:04 pm

Yep, I think we have fully explored this topic, well not fully because one tangent can lead into another, as it has, but definitely more than sufficiently. I think where we are is a good stopping place. We're basically saying the same thing at this point, and that is that the feeling of feeling nothing at all sucks, and is something that can be part of the human experience. To some they identify it as almost feeling inhuman, and others don't. People generally search for meaning in life, some find something and others don't. WHat some find is absolutely dehumanizing, whereas others will find something else, or nothing else. Or they think they have, but they really haven't because it's just so routine, and at some point, they will probably more than likely re-evaluate. So don't worry; the feeling of feeling nothing will eventually pass, who knows when, and you will still be human when you come out on the other side. One day at a time, and only that.

judy
says:
August, 29 2013 at 5:12 am

It's a never ending topic with no neat, clean little answer for sure.

bere
says:
September, 24 2013 at 7:01 am

what if you dont know when it happened? what it all of a sudden it happened and you cant seem to stop feeling nothing. you dont even feel sad or depress just nothing you feel nothing at all and you try to remember the good times before but you cant seem to budge?

EddySpaghetti
says:
September, 25 2013 at 12:58 pm

Thank you for this article. As I was reading through this piece I could relate. I call it my "numb" stage. Numb to life and separate from all others and all things. It is an often overwhelming experience to be in and takes me down the depression hole like the crazy rabbit I have been diagnosed as: Bipolar type 2. Self talk is really helping to try to keep the lengths of these "episodes" as I call them to a minimum. Let one day pass and the next be better. :)

sandy
says:
October, 29 2013 at 1:07 pm

What if your problem will always be there. [Not saying it in the sense because i feel nothing] just simply the thing/problem causing such none feeling will never go away because its a lasting reason...

Callum
says:
November, 10 2013 at 5:38 am

Been here so many times. You are a fantastic writer of these subjects. Just amazing.

Kim
says:
February, 18 2014 at 4:27 pm

I'm new to this bipolar was told last year that I had it, I do feel like I'm nothing just here, waiting for the old me to come back.

shar
says:
May, 14 2014 at 7:45 am

Not caring has in my case, resulted in a destroyed credit rating, house threatened with foreclosure and bags of unopened mail. If I cared I'd be very concerned the situation. But I don't. I do keep out of foreclosure by paying the back taxes in the nick of time (3x so far). I haven't told my therapist about this mess. I tell myself I should care, I should figure out a solution, but again I just don't care.

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