Something I’ve noticed over the years is that questions like “what’s the point?” and “what does it all mean?” are questions that belong to depression. When my mood is more stable I don’t ask these questions because I’m living my meaning. I’m engaged in satisfying activities, enjoying my friendships, helping people, and working towards goals that give me a sense of purpose. My life isn’t problem-free, but I’m walking the path I’ve chosen.
When depression overtakes me things change. Life is hard. Getting out of bed to fetch a drink might need half an hour of self persuasion. All those satisfying activities are beyond me, I don’t have the energy or self worth to see friends. My goals are at best on hold, probably they were always unattainable. I can’t help myself, let alone anyone else.
It’s at these times that the questions resurface. What’s the point? Why am I even trying? And I am trying, even when from the outside my output must seem so minimal. I ask myself, where is the meaning in any of this? What is this suffering, and the whole world’s suffering for? To give up and die seems the only logical response.
This is when I need to implement Pretend Meaning. Maybe there is some meaning to it all, maybe not. But I need to proceed on the assumption that meaning exists, even when this feels like a huge lie. Acting as if there’s meaning, somewhere hidden just beyond view, helps me commit to life, to put the energy I’ve been using to plan my death into picking up the threads of my life. While I’m pretending there’s a point, there’s a reason to keep going.
And as I keep making these steps towards life, tiny as they may be, they lead me to a place of more fulfilment. Once again the questions of meaning, of the point of it all, recede into the background as I live my life, and the need for Pretend Meaning quietly slips away.