Obscure Emotions


A friend of mine shared a list of “emotions people feel but can’t explain” from dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com, and I really connected with some of the words on the list. Although they are obscure emotions common to many of us, several of them are emotions that I feel very deeply and obsessively when I am depressed. 

Since I have recently been looking at my first two depressive episodes, I thought that I would look at a few words from this list in that context.

An early emotion that I feel but hide when I am getting depressed is “monachopsis: the subtle feeling of being out of place.” Starting in my later high school years and continuing into my first year in college, I pretty consistently felt this way–even on my good days. I felt like a square peg in a round hole, but I thought of it more as having been forced to fit in a casting mold too small to contain me. I felt like I could not happily fit in where I was. I still get this gnawing, dissatisfaction with my life when I am getting depressed. My depression wants me to believe that I cannot fit in where I am–that I can never feel at home.

After months of feeling monachopsis, it increasingly becomes “Nodus Tollens: the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore.” In college, I didn’t know why I continued to live a life I didn’t like. I slowly withdrew to avoid feeling monachopsis but eventually realized that I had lost control and I felt trapped. I saw one or two ways out but was afraid to start fresh on my own, and given my mental state would more than likely continued to deteriorate in any life. But it was the feeling of Nodus Tollens that pushed me over the edge. If I couldn’t make sense of my life then why even try? I gave up trying to feel hopeful. I have felt Nodus Tollens several times in my life. I feel it when I have been depressed for days–when I am starting to lose my grip on reality because of the noise in my head. I feel confused by my life and existence. I don’t understand why I should keep going given how sorrowful it all seems.

When I feel disconnected from my life, I undoubtedly feel disconnected from people in my life. Every interaction feels like ‘anecdoche: a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening.” During my first two depressive episodes, I thought that my sorrow and pain should be so apparent. I couldn’t hide it. I felt like it should be as shocking and distressing as a giant open wound bleeding all over our interaction. Instead I came across as withdrawn, obsessive, and secretive. When I tried to interact with friends it felt so empty because it didn’t acknowledge the only thing I could care about–my pain and my need for rescue. When I am depressed, I am blinded to everything else. Nothing matters because I cannot experience anything outside of my mental pain. I can’t hear or see anything else. It is nearly impossible to have a normal conversation even with my closest friends and family.

I have some friends who have tried to help me once they saw my sorrow, but when I am deeply depressed, I still cannot connect with them. During my first two episodes, I became so blinded by depression that the people I met who I told about my pain and who tried to help me instead left me feeling desperate “adronitis: a frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone.” I withdrew from my family and friends–the people who already knew me–but didn’t want to be totally isolated. When I met new people who I liked, I wanted to jump in and bare my soul because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t get through the niceties of early social interaction. I became obsessed with knowing people deeply or not at all. I still feel this sometimes when I am lonely; when I feel disconnected from those closest to me I desperately want to connect with someone in an instantaneously deep way. 

This desire coupled with intense loneliness and isolation often leads me to spending most of my time doing “jouska: a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head.” I often think of it as daydreaming, but jouska is more intense; I find myself doing it without thinking and can lose track of time playing out conversations in my head. During my first two episodes, I felt that if I couldn’t connect in the real world, then I would live in my head. This is both impractical and kind of insane. In my first episode, I stopped eating, bathing, sleeping, working, and socializing. I was either wide awake and in pain or lost in jouska.

I think that this kind of withdrawal due to complex emotions of dissatisfaction and disconnection are pretty clear signs of depression. If your loved one begins to pull away from the world, see if you can gently tease out why. They may feel like their life is off track and living it is just a painful reminder. They may feel unable to engage in normal social situations–needing deeper connection to feel loved and needing release from social gatherings that focus on lighthearted fun. And if daydreaming becomes obsessive, find out why its better than real life. Take time to listen to your loved one. The feelings that come with depression are complex and take time to work through and describe.

All of these obscure, sorrowful emotions aren’t singular to depression, but many of them are extreme when fueled by depression. It is hard to move on emotionally when you feel so deeply. It doesn’t seem right to feel anguish and move on. If you are depressed, know that the depths of your feelings are real. But the worldview they give you is not. Depression feels real and is real, but it blinds you and lies to you. It tells you that emotions like monachopsis and andronitis are truths but they are only emotions, and emotions can change. If you feel tempted to withdraw into your head, consider reaching out instead. Ask for an honest, heartfelt connection with someone you trust–a friend or counselor. Work through these deep, complex, painful feelings. There is more to life than sorrow, even if you can’t see it right now.

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