How do we combat an illness that continuously reminds us of the futility of existence?


‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’

This is a saying that I sometimes hear being thrown about. It seems to be a phrase that is despairing in tone as it is defeatist in intent. Essentially it means that once a habit or way of doing things has become ingrained into somebody’s mindset, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change that mindset. Which I suppose can be a depressing notion in of itself!

Why do I bring this up?

Well I guess it’s because it only recently dawned on me how relevant this saying is when it comes to the subject of mental illness.

Don’t we all struggle to not slip back into some of unhealthy thought pattern or another ? Don’t we all have those thoughts that, despite being overtly negative in nature, seem so true that they burn through opposing beliefs like a cigarette butt does through paper?

With me, as the image above suggests, I am constantly fighting that thriving sense nihilism that lives inside of me. It guzzles away at me like pig does upon being gifted with a nice, juicy 12 ounce steak. It bites and it chomps away until all that is left is a perspective of life that has been drained of all colour, value and sense of vigour.


Every good day, every precious moment and even every fondly looked on memory is overshadowed by that voice inside my head that says things like:

So you’re getting all nostalgic about that time you had a great night out with your old uni friends huh? Shame none of it matters in the end isn’t it? Those days are long gone and will never return. 

What’s that? You found the sun rising over the hilltops to be a pleasurable thing to witness? Bless you. You do know that many other people on this planet probably enjoy that exact same thing right? You’re just one of billions and the earth will continue to revolve on its axis long after you are gone.

What’s that? You’re at graduation? Oh wow. Look at you, dressed up all nice and snazzy in your hat and gown. You look so proud. But here’s a thought. Have you noticed the sea of hats that are present in any direction you turn to? How many do you think there are? Hundreds? Thousands? I’d say thousands myself. So tell me, do you still feel proud now? I should hope not. You’re not special at all. 

The list goes on.

It seems that, no matter how much effort I put into living in the moment, seizing the day and all of that jazz, my mind always reverts back to this train of thought. Rather like how you can stretch an elastic band any which way you choose. It does not matter. It will always revert back into its original shape, regardless of how much you twist and turn its rubbery innards.

Bur what do you do when those thoughts contain elements of truth? We are constantly told how depressive thoughts are often irrational and lack the objectivity that is necessary when it comes to making important decisions and living a generally healthy existence. Yet sometimes, I cannot help but struggle to dispel these cynical thoughts from my mind when the evidence seems so clear cut.

What fuels your depression? Is it nihilism like mine or is it something else entirely? More importantly, how do you prevent yourself from sliding back into thoughts that come so second nature to you? Can you even distinguish between your ‘normal’ thoughts, and your ‘depressive’ ones? If so, do you think it is possible to change the way you think permanently and incontrovertibly?

I don’t know. Maybe there is some ray  of optimism inside of my mind that really does believe you can teach an old dog new tricks. I hope so anyway.


Emotional support helplines:

Samaritans :116 123

Rethink Mental Illness advice line 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 09:30-16:00; local rate)

Sane Line:0845 767 8000

Mind also has a useful guide of support and services, which can be found by clicking the link right here

13 thoughts on “How do we combat an illness that continuously reminds us of the futility of existence?

    1. Hi Shrigis. Thanks a lot for writing such a detailed response to my question! I found it to be a really fascinating read. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you on that day back in August 1993. The situation sounds terrifying and yet, considering the nature of mental illness and what not, I could understand your response to it. The idea of embracing the futility of existence is a unique one. Yet maybe that acceptance is key to all this. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve had similar thoughts on many occasions like that. It’s not easy. No matter how much I try to block it out it seems as though I am always aware of time’s passage and my impending death. Often I wonder how people don’t think the way we both do!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I have been thinking this exact same thing. My kids are all grown now. I see little kids playing in someone’s backyard and think, “What’s the purpose of having kids? They just grow up, move out, and move on with their own life. None of it matters in the end.” Thanks for writing and stopping by my blog so I could be directed to yours.


    1. Hi becmom45. It must be difficult having to deal with those thoughts. Yet I can understand them. While I enjoy my job in terms of working with the children etc, I’ve never really felt the desire to have any of my own one day. My best guess is that it is all linked to a fear of dying. Most people, if asked, feel uncomfortable at the idea of not existing. Thus by having children, they leave a part of themselves to live on after they have gone. I’m sure there are many other reasons, but on a psychological viewpoint, this has always made sense to me. Thank you for sharing your views 🙂


  2. Definitely nihilism. There was a point in time when I realized that everything just seemed to be moving. We will all be forgotten and dead, no matter what we do, so what’s the point in trying to do anything? I think the way I get out of it is an almost “so what” attitude – so what if we all die? I’m not dead at this moment, therefore whatever I’m feeling right now must be in existent at this moment, why not enjoy it before I am actually dead?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi lynnata. That definitely sounds like a good approach to it. It’s something that I have, on the odd occasion, managed to do in the past. It’s just making making it a habit that seems to be the tricky part! Thank you for sharing this.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. When I compare the world as it is to the world as it was meant to be, I am greatly discouraged. When I compare myself as I am to the person I was meant to be, I am greatly discouraged. My hope comes from a Book and a Church that promises reconciliation and restoration; although I do not always feel better when I reflect on this hope, it gives me reason to continue moving forward. J.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, I do think it is important because it works to focus on true, honestly positive things. It is better explained in my post “Thought Sensitivity” at
    I find it works better when out of a depression but mostly because while in a depression it is hard to think honestly and positively. But either way my thoughts had to start dwelling on positive rather than on negatives. I hope you keep trying it works – takes time – but it took years of negativity to cause my programmed negative thinking as well. Blessings.


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