“Every day I wake up to another day without a solution to my mortality problem. “
That is the opening line of one of the chapters in my book Mind on Fire. And it says a lot about who I am. I always have been naturally oriented to question the non-negotiable aspects of human existence, including death. Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve been very much aware of the fact that my time on Earth is limited. But unlike other people it seems, I’m unable to reconcile myself with that fact. At times, the feelings of despair and cosmic meaninglessness have been downright debilitating.
Death to me seems utterly absurd, a wrong turn in the road of life. A circuit breaker in my brain puts a stop to all existential thinking every time it is confronted with that same contradiction: Life instinct telling me to avoid death at all cost while my brain points out that all such effort is futile.
At various points in my life, I’ve experienced feeling completely untethered, existentially alone and lost – even despite having loving friends and family, a successful career, and material wealth.
This existential angst has played a major role in my history with alcohol. And I believe many people who drink too much are suffering from existential anxiety, which is most often characterized by low mood, fatigue, and lack of motivation, and can be highly disruptive to a person’s life, work, and relationships.
Medication can be an effective short-term strategy for taking the edge off of crippling anxiety, but believe me, it does not provide a long-term solution. It also carries the risk of you becoming dependent on a certain drug and experiencing withdrawal when attempting to get off it.
Learning mindfulness has greatly alleviated my symptoms by helping me to be in the moment rather than allowing my anxious thoughts to overwhelm me. Also, regular exercise has reduced my existential anxiety by lowering the reactivity of the autonomous nervous system that processes fears and anxiety.
But equally important is learning how to cope with “what’s-the-point” thinking and with the big questions of life like: “Why am I here? Do I matter at all? Why live my life fully, if I am just going to die anyway?”
My most effective coping mechanism has turned out to be writing. By writing the book Mind on Fire and helping others to recover from addictive behavior fueled by imperfect thinking, I have found my destiny in life. Since the book is out, I feel I experience much less existential anxiety because I have made it my purpose in life to make sure as many people as possible read the book and find hope in it.
Click HERE to purchase 'Mind on Fire'