I Don't Want to Be Happy
I have extremely severe depression and anxiety. I can't work. I don't leave the house. I don't have any friends. I can't function at all. I have been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and behaviors five times in the past year. I want to be functional, but I don't want to be happy. I have been in therapy for almost two years. I just can't seem to get past the extreme sense of loss I have when I think about "letting go" of the depression and anxiety. It has been part of my life for 15 years and it feels like the only friend I have that will stay by me. At the same time I hate it and try to numb the emotions with drugs and food. I like numb; I like apathy. I hate happiness or joy or even small amounts of pleasure. They feel wrong and painful. They make me feel dirty and vulnerable. I don't think that I can learn to function without accepting positive emotions and experiences as being okay. But I don't know how. I don't know what to do. I am frustrated. My therapist, while he has been impressively patient with me, is, also, frustrated. I worry that he will give up trying to help me. He has helped me a lot. I stopped a number of destructive behaviors working with him. I used to self-injure, purge, and use IV drugs, but I don't anymore. It is just that my progress is at a complete impasse and has been for four or five months.
Fear and resistance take many forms - but suffering and alienation from one's true nature always come down to the same thing. Fear. For you, there is a fear of pleasure, a fear of letting go of your depression and your pain. But still, it's all just fear. You've obviously got a lot of courage too, or you wouldn't have gone to therapy for 2 years, and put an end to some of those particularly self-destructive behaviors. You must have a pretty good therapist too. It's not uncommon to reach an impasse in therapy. Sometimes your can move through it if you don't give up - but sometimes it's time to try a new approach for a while, or add another element to your self-help routine.
Exercise might be a good one. After all - nobody likes to exercise. It's painful and pretty ungratifying. And if it starts to become too easy, you can always push yourself harder so that it doesn't feel good. Being a little masochistic is sometimes useful when it comes to physical exercise. And in the end, you might like what you feel, and be healthier, mentally and physically at the same time.
There's a great little book called "The Depression Book" by Cheri Huber, that looks at Depression from a Zen perspective. It's very readable (actually written in hand-written script like a child's book), and it's one of my favorites. Lots of gems in it. One thing she suggests is that you try indulging your depression - instead of hating yourself for being depressed - pamper yourself, close all the curtains, put on your PJ's and revel in your depressed state for a while.
The "extreme sense of loss" that you feel when you think about letting go of your depression is your ego fighting to stay in control. You think your depression is your identity and without it you would be lost - not existing anymore. Of course that's terrifying. But it's a big illusion. You would still exist. You can't not exist, because you are eternal consciousness. You are not your thoughts or your feelings. Thoughts and feelings change, but consciousness does not.
As long as you fight against this fear of losing your depression, you keep yourself imprisoned by it. So rather than continue to fight against yourself, trying to "let go" of this depressed self, try embracing it completely and see what that's like.
"Even though this depression has been my friend and my identity for 15 years, I accept myself and my feelings as they are."
Thank you for your honesty and insight. Most people aren't aware of the ways they are attached to their suffering. I wish you the best. Don't give up.