How do you tell someone to keep going?

I talk to a number of individuals with mental illness. A question that comes up a lot, and for the life of me I can’t think of a good answer, is

why keep going?

This can mean several different things. Why keep taking medication? Why keep going to my therapist?

… Why keep living at all?

I see the argument that many people make is that many people will be sad if the individual does one of these things. The standard “A lot of people will miss you and be sad if you die…”

But what kind of answer is that?

I mean that’s basically saying “You’re in incredible pain, we all know you’re in incredible pain, but we’d like you to stick around in incredible pain because you’re our token ailing person who ‘keeps pushing on’.

I realize this can work. But at the same time I feel like a horrible person using that argument. It’s not constructive. It’s almost belittling the person’s condition by comparing it to other people being “sad”. I mean really… “sad” vs “clinically depressed”…

It all comes back to that weird view of

“Stop doing this! You’re hurting…





There’s got to be a better answer than this. And sometimes they’re not terribly hard to find.

But imagine the piss poor state of mind in which you are alive for someone else’s sake.

Also what if that person dies? Is that the red line? “Well, they’re dead so now I won’t make anybody sad”.

In the end I guess what I want people to think about is the meaning in the words they use. Words are important. Semantics are everything. It’s easy to give a procedural answer and feel better about yourself for having “helped” another individual. It’s a lot harder to really look these problems in the face. It’s hard to look into an abyss. It’s hard to look at depression closely because it’s darkness is all enveloping.

There is no light there.

Trite answers really don’t cut it.

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2 thoughts on “How do you tell someone to keep going?

  1. Tony says:

    I think that the real answer is because it’s absolutely not worth it. Depression as a mental condition is a paradigmatically altering state. It is a disease that bullies a person into seeing the world in a very narrow view and refuses to let them see the big picture. But not seeing the forest through the trees isn’t a reason for deforestation.

    For the person consumed by their disease, not even this answer will suffice. No answer will suffice. The disease won’t let it suffice. That’s why it’s as damaging and difficult to get out of as it is, right?

    It interferes with any sort of logic, shorting it out with a short-term perspective that makes anything beyond the misery unforeseeable. Trite answers don’t cut it, but to someone in the depths every response will seem trite, because their consciousness refuses to acknowledge any validity.

    It’s sort of recursive.

    The disease takes away the ability to appreciate anything beyond the current state, but that current state is crushing because of the disease.

    So what’s the answer?

    The answer is that suicide is a serious choice. Really serious. Like, tattoo serious. And everyone knows that you don’t get a tattoo drunk, so why would you kill yourself while under the influence of a paradigmatically altering disease?

    • justamathguy says:

      Interesting point.
      Suicide is indeed a serious choice.
      I don’t know if I’d call it the short term, but I think I know what you mean. People are “short-sighted” in a sense, but to them it truly doesn’t seem shortsighted.
      Interfering with logic is an interesting way of putting it. But it doesn’t really consume logic. Madness has a logic all its own. There minds aren’t so much illogical as they are illperceptive to coin a term. From what the depressed individuals sees the depression is the logical conclusion of events.
      I think the depressed understand the seriousness of the idea. Eternal darkness, sleeping and never waking up again is huge. The body fights with all its strength to avoid self-annihilation, but suicide is precisely when the body loses. When instinct and the last vestiges of normative rational thought are gone. Darkness is eternal, and thus the continuation of that darkness in elimination is possible to conceive.
      But that’s just me blithering. I know what I know from experience. That pretty much by definition means that I don’t know the precise nature of suicide in every case but I think I can speak at some coarse level with regards to suicide.
      I hope that any people suffering from depression or another mood or personality disorder might see light in the last vestiges. That this blog might be of help to someone to see an understanding. And that is their victory, not mine. If they escape eventually, they did it, not me. Their own mind must reconstruct a life. Even with medications a life is hard to reconstruct. I’ll write about this more later today.
      Thanks for both the insight and inspiration Tony, I appreciate comments that make my mind engage.

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