I am miserably unhappy — and I have no idea what to do about it.
For years, I’ve danced around having to admit that to myself. When exactly did it start? I’m not sure. Maybe it started as soon as I became psychologically self-aware enough to see my life clearly. But I’ve never wanted to call it by its true name.
I’ve been able to admit that I was lonely. I’ve been able to admit to being crushed by not having the love and companionship I need. I’ve even been able to face the enormous consequences of losing what little semblance of family love I once had.
I’ve lied to myself. I’ve told myself I was fine except for this one thing or that other thing. The things I’ve told myself were true, as far as they went. I did so much difficult emotional work that I knew which pieces were missing. I knew which pieces of my core were damaged. I had excellent head knowledge.
But my message to myself was always a partial lie. It was a way to keep from sliding into the deep pit of misery from which it would be hard to return. But I haven’t been OK — not really — for a long time. Maybe I never have been.
All I know is that I have somehow deprived my life of love. And without love, there is no happiness, no meaning, no joy.
I grew up with a warped understanding of love. I’ve tried to talk about this before — in relation to my position with my dysfunctional family — but it feels so impossible to truly share with those who haven’t lived through it.
I know that many others have gone through some version of this dysfunctional family history. In fact, I know that many people suffered worse abuse than I did — many of the sort that left physical scars — but all I know is what I experienced. If others suffered something worse than I did, that doesn’t make the damage left inside me any less severe.
I have been searching for my place in this world ever since I was a little boy. I was searching for love and acceptance and understanding — all the things I instinctively felt were missing for me — and I was attracted to the sorts of worldly success that would never bring me what I needed.
I wanted to matter. I wanted to be important.
I worked hard for success. Sometimes I succeeded. Sometimes I failed. But no matter what I did — no matter the praise or the money — it always felt empty. For a long time, I just thought I needed more. I needed more success, more money, more praise, more power. And I eventually gave up — when I realized how empty my path was.
Then I tried to pursue different things. Creative success can sometimes offer me a taste of relief from my anguish. There are many times when I write things which I know won’t be read or understand by a large audience — simply because expressing certain feelings or ideas can give me a momentary sense of relief from the monumental sadness that chases me. But it never lasts.
I am alone and lonely. I have had love come and go. At times, I have thrown it away — for reasons which never made sense after I’d done it. At other times, I’ve been disappointed and hurt by people I thought I could trust. I don’t even like most people, so it’s very difficult to find someone who I want to love. And so far, my desire to love hasn’t matched with the desire of another to love me, at least not at the same time.
I am miserable with the way I spend my life. I spend most of my work time doing tasks which I care nothing about. I haven’t found a way to earn a living from doing work which is meaningful to me. And I have so much trouble motivating myself to do work which I hate that I exhaust myself just functioning at a basic level — somehow surviving another Monday through Friday.
I have no real sense of community. Most of the people I consider friends are either shallow friendships or else people I’m in no position to spend time with, for one reason or another. The people who I do spend time with mostly remind me how alien I feel to be among them.
My only sources of joy are the animals in my life — three cats and a dog — and the times when I can create something which feels good and beautiful and authentic — typically a photograph or a piece of writing.
I know God is real and ever-present, but contrary to things said by those who claim a right spiritual life fixes everything, my knowledge and periodic experience of my Creator isn’t enough to change everything. I was designed to need food and water and work and love and a million other things. And it’s some combination of those things which is missing.
I am unhappy.
I resist saying those words. I don’t want to admit it, especially to myself. And that probably makes it all the more imperative that I face the truth.
I need love in my life. I don’t just mean, “It would be nice to have a wife or a girlfriend.” It’s more essential than that. I need a mutually loving partner just as much as I need food or water or air. I need understanding and companionship. I need family and community. I need renewed purpose.
I’ve always been a very good problem-solver. I take a rational approach to problems and I am very good at laying out a logical solution for pretty much whatever issue you can give me to solve. But I find myself paralyzed when it comes to fixing my own life. And I don’t know why.
For good or bad, for right or wrong, I’m simply not wired the way most people are. The things that make most people happy don’t work for me. And the lies which most people tell themselves — to quiet this raging unhappiness inside so many — won’t keep working for me, even as temporary diversion.
I am unhappy. I haven’t been wanting to admit it. I feel horribly vulnerable and shameful to admit it now. But if I’m ever to find the solutions which I need — to take the next emotionally healthy steps for my life — I have to tell myself the brutally honest truth.
And the truth is that I am unhappy. I don’t yet know what to do about it.