I need help. I don’t known where to turn, so, for the first time, I’m writing a post here that I will actually look back to for comments (or is it “replies”? Whatever.)
I don’t know where to begin. There are many threads to what I need to share, and while I’m pretty sure I can weave them together, I don’t know which one to start out with in order to bring you along. But here goes. First, some facts about me:
As many, if not all of you know, I’ve been suffering from depression on and off for years, and was diagnosed with cyclic mood disorder (a cousin of bipolar disorder) a couple of years ago. I was put on a mood stabilizer along with my antidepressant, and have been doing much better. Until recently.
Many of you also know that I’ve recently developed a tic disorder, which may or may not be related to the rest of this. More on that later.
Finally, many or all of you know that I’m an atheist. And I don’t just mean not believing in an anthropomorphic, paternalistic God, the mention of whose name upsets so many people, but that I believe there are no deities at all, no universal intelligence, no Great Cosmic Whazoo, no Gaia, no Force, no nuthin’. Also, no afterlife, no soul (meaning some essence of ourselves that is distinct from the meat and the peculiar, remarkable, and wonderful phenomena that go on in that big lump of nerve cells inside the skull,) no magic, no Majyk, no nuthin’. (OCM has suggested that I’m such an atheist that I don’t believe in poetry. That’s not true. Of course I believe in poetry; its existence is indisputable. I usually don’t get poetry, but that’s because I’m metaphorically impaired. Is my metaphoric impairment somehow related to atheism? I don’t really think so, but it could be.)
I’ve been asked about spirituality by a lot of people in the past. Some ask “How can you stand to live in a world without [God | an afterlife | something like that]?” I answer that, if I believed that there should be a God (or whatever) and also believe that there is none, then, of course, that would be devastating. But since I have no belief that these things ought to exist, it does not bother me at all that they do not.
Others ask “If you don’t believe in God, what do you for spirituality?” The short answer is “Nothing, why should I?” This sometimes leads to discussions of what spirituality means if atheism (my kind) is a given. After many such discussions, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three things people mean by “spirituality.” One (the most common) is mysticism of some sort. They say I can be spiritual without believing in God, but they mean I should believe in The Great Cosmic Whazoo. ‘Nuff said.
Sometimes it boils down to a search for the Meaning of Life. Well, I know the Meaning of Life (life has no intrinsic or inherent meaning; it is only – and all of – what we make it) so I’m not engaged in any search for it.
Finally, it may mean the care and feeding of the spirit. What’s the spirit? Well, sometimes it’s the same thing as the soul, and a conversational dead end. But sometimes it’s something a bit more subtle.
Some false dichotomies are useful, if we are careful in applying them. Mind and body, for instance. They’re not really separate, but the brain does so many remarkable things that are not directly (or not obviously) related to other body functions that it is very often useful to think of them as separate. Likewise, within the area of the mind, there’s the useful false dichotomy of the intellect and the emotions. And this gives us the third meaning of the spirit. For some people, the spirit is a third part of the mind, part of a trichotomy of intellect, emotions, and spirit. Do I deny that this exists? No, I only deny that I’ve ever experienced a feeling that I would not call an emotion or a thought; there’s no third part of the mind that I’ve experienced. But now I’m not so sure.
Now on to the new stuff: I’ve been depressed more in the last two or three months than I had been for quite some time. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a feeling that I can only call hurting, even though nothing actually hurts. It’s not emotional pain; certainly I’m feeling sadness, desolation, and other things associated with depression, but not what I’d call emotional pain. The best way I’ve been able to describe it is with the feeble statement “my me hurts.” I observed a little while ago that some might call this “spiritual pain,” but not me, since I’m aspiritual.
Today I came to the realization that I am, in point of fact, experiencing a feeling that I can’t understand as either a thought or an emotion. Is this spiritual pain after all? Am I experiencing the third part of the mind trichotomy? Or is this some new emotion that I don’t have a name for?
I don’t know how to handle this. I’m sitting here, having (maybe) the first spiritual experience of my life, and it hurts. And I am completely unequipped to cope with it. Coincidentally, I had a routine visit with my psychiatrist today, and I brought it up with her. As I expected, she was sympathetic but didn’t have much to say, except to agree with me that I should see a therapist. She also upped my Zoloft due to my being more depressed lately, but neither of us really thinks that’s the answer. Still, talking to her was someplace to start. So is turning to all of you.
As for the tic disorder, I jerk at random intervals in the neck, waist, arms, legs, and shoulders. An associate of my GP said that it’s caused by “irritation in the synapses” in my brain, leading to random neuron firing. (When the tics first came to a head, my GP was out of town.) I’ve seen a neurologist, who prescribed something to relieve the symptom, but didn’t seem interested in finding the cause. The drug is a little – very little – help with the tics, but is helping me sleep more restfully. (Alcohol is more effective for the tics, which means I’m drinking too much of late.) Stress, anxiety, and depression make the ticks more frequent and more violent, and the more frequent the tics, the more aggravating it all is, so that’s a nice little vicious cycle. I have an appointment with a different neurologist the day after tomorrow.
[Edited 1/6: DCDragon67 got me going discussing this more, and there is more description to be found below in the lengthy response a made to her comment.]