Do you enjoy life? Is there a part of your day or your week that you enjoy, something that you do, or something that happens, on a regular basis that gives you pleasure?
It might be something small. It could be as simple as your husband smiling at you, your girlfriend snuggling up to you in bed, cooking for your kids. It could be something big and obvious. When I was Associate Editor at Australian Macworld the monthly arrival of the box of magazines was always a huge buzz.
These are the things that make life worthwhile. Sure, there are the things that occasionally give us pleasure such as a good movie or a nice meal at a restaurant, but these are high spots. The things that count towards making life worth the living are the regular pleasures, the parts of life you enjoy.
Take this moment to think about one or two of those things. Done that? Feel the emotion that attaches to those thoughts. Now I’d like you to think about something unusual or surprising that happened recently that gave you pleasure. Perhaps you went and saw a great movie with friends, maybe you had a well cooked meal. How did it make you feel back then? How do you feel thinking about it now?
I don’t enjoy life. There is no part of my day, no part of my week, nothing that happens that gives me pleasure. I never enjoy a meal, I never have a great day at work.
There are no surprising pleasures. Nothing out of the ordinary ever gives me joy. I can eat an excellent meal, I can even think it’s tasty but there is no enjoyment.
You probably never thought about it but you can’t enjoy something unless it gives you some sort of pleasure. Even things you don’t realise give you pleasure, such as a horror movie, really do. With a horror movie it’s often the adrenalin rush that gives the pleasure and that’s why you enjoy it.
I can’t feel pleasure. Think about that for a moment. It’s not that I don’t feel pleasure. It’s not that it’s hard for me to feel pleasure. I’m suffering from a disease that causes biochemical changes in my brain meaning I literally can’t feel pleasure.
Let’s have a couple of examples.
Last night I was assembling some Lego minifigs for my collection. I even had some duplicates and was swapping bits between them – a Santa Claus with a cheerleaders top and pom-poms for example. After about 15 minutes I stopped as it wasn’t fun, it had no pleasure. It was just a mechanical task, momentarily diverting but no more.
Tomorrow night I’m going to a dance party. While I’m there I’ll probably get a hug from one or two people. I will certainly like getting hugged, it will make me feel less lonely and less sad. I certainly would like to get more hugs than I will receive. I won’t feel pleasure though, I’ll miss out on that warm feeling inside.
The entire dance party experience will be qualitatively different for me tomorrow night than it was two years ago. I will like being there, I will like dancing and chatting to people and I will feel better for doing it – less lonely and more connected to the world. It will be both diverting and a little healing. It won’t, however, really be fun. It won’t be a night of pleasures. Two years ago I could have guaranteed that. Now it’s no longer possible.
Now I want you to remember those thoughts and feelings you had a moment ago towards the pleaures in your life. Think of life without any of them, all pleasure gone.
That’s major depression.
As a result I don’t enjoy life. What’s the result of that? Almost every day is a struggle to find a reason, to find meaning, an excuse to put one foot in front of the other.
Next time you see me congratulate me for battling through another day.