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Combination of long-term loneliness and existential crisis



Jun 17, 2012
Surrey, UK
Well here goes. Lately I've been feeling pretty desperate (hence my reason for coming here). I'm a 21 (nearly 22) year old guy in at the end of uni studying physics. I've done my final exams and am waiting for results (which isn't the problem).
The last 3 or so years have been bad. Over the course of this time and I've gone from agonizing loneliness, to emptiness, to numbness and sometimes to feeling suicidal, like I have been recently.
Prior to uni, in college, I had some sense of stability, with some of the few friends I had from secondary school being there. Briefly I'll say that prior to that, I ended up spending a lot of time by myself during both primary and a large portion of secondary school. Prior to uni I was very naive, had very few social skills and had always (without realising) dealt with loneliness through playing video games (preferred rpgs). My memories of the school breaks are a blur, with most of it spent indoors at home.
My uni is relatively close to home so I have commuted during my time there, which I think is the worst mistake I have ever made. Ultimately I couldn't mix with those at uni very well and due to fighting between the two friends from college I was mostly in touch with, with the one I had more in common with just severing all ties with everyone and me gradually resenting the other for it. I just couldn't cope and I fell apart and things haven't really been right since. I've managed to get to know those at uni a bit better but too late, and I take any perceived rejection badly (but don't say anything).
I've tried joining societies to meet people which only ever helped for a while. I was seeing a counsellor who wanted to start up a group for over a year, with only recently a new person taking over (and meeting her again in a few days). I'm currently on venlafaxine which doesn't seem to help anymore.
Long story short, I've lost interest in everything and I feel I've done worse than I could have done in my degree. I feel weak because I feel so bad despite having loving parents who don't know what to do. I generally feel like I've failed at life.
I was feeling a little better until the end of last term drew near. Everything seems so pointless. After being approached by one of the lecturers who was my supervisor for my final year project, they asked if I wanted to apply to do a phd there. I ended up turning him down (nearly freaking out from stress in his office), because I seemed to have so little interest in that or anything else.
I can't see a career for myself. I view the world as truly uncaring and the thought of being trapped as a faceless drone amongst the corporate masses makes me feel worse. I really don't know what I should do. The last week or so I've had on and off thoughts about just ending it and started thinking about how. Even today when I was feeling slightly better (found a distraction), my dads growing (understandable) insistence about picking a job triggered these thoughts. Half the time I struggle to put words to the exact feelings or cause of this dread of the future I feel.
I'm going to bed now, I'm over-tired and I think I babblings. Sorry if its a little long. Probably more I could say but I'm too tired.


Well-known member
Jun 8, 2012

Universities are notorious for antagonising depressive people. I speak from experience : ) Once you have graduated you will look back perhaps and see just how much it did permeate your personality.

Get the degree in the bag and away you go. Good luck Vince : )


Well-known member
Jun 12, 2010
High deep thinker :welcome: to the forums,

since you're off to bed, then I won't waffle on, but I think like vince says, this ISN'T uncommon.

It's a completely new environment, and like you say, not being a campus student probably made you feel more isolated.

Pop back tomorrow and I bet you'll see others in same boat.

Hopefully getting all that off your chest will help you sleep better.

Take care :)


Well-known member
Jan 25, 2012
Hi Deep Thinker,

Welcome to the forum. Thanks for telling us about your situation. I’m sorry you are experiencing such a difficult time, and that uni has been a struggle at times. As Mayfair said, hopefully there will be some others here on the forum who will relate to your experiences, I know there are a fair few students on here.

Is seeing your new counsellor helpful? I wonder who is prescribing for you, a GP? And is anyone aware you have been feeling suicidal recently? I would urge you to let someone know, who’s involved in your care. If you need someone to talk to in the meantime, there’s the Samaritans (08457 909090), I’ve found them helpful. And there’s here of course.

It’s entirely understandable that you feel bad for what you see as weakness, but depression is not weakness, it’s depression! You are at such a turning point, finishing Uni, and whilst your family mean well in urging you to get on and decide what to do with your life, they perhaps don’t understand about depression. Sounds like you need some time to get yourself feeling better before facing big decisions about the future. Take the pressure off a bit.

Take care Deep Thinker, all the best.


PS have you seen this thread on existential depression? http://www.mentalhealthforum.net/forum/showthread.php?42295-Getting-Help-with-Existential-Depression


Had you originally intended to go on to do postgraduate work in physics? Was there anything in your experience of the subject itself that might partly explain your loss of interest, or does this just seem to be one aspect of your general loss of interest in living (and your resulting fear of the future)?

Have you burnt your boats now? A depressed state is not a good one in which to make life-changing decisions (not that one always gets an option!); is there any possibility of delaying the decision? Or are you convinced that giving up your academic studies at this stage is the right decision, independently of the depressed state you are in now? Have you discussed this matter with the counsellor you were seeing, or anyone else?

If you can bear to, can you describe a bit more why that meeting in the lecturer's office was so stressful? Was it that you panicked because of feeling empty inside (a feeling I can well imagine), or was there more to it than that? (I don't at all mean to imply that feeling empty and depressed isn't a very big thing, and a reason to panic; I know it can be; I just want to check if that is the whole of it.)

If you have definitely abandoned the idea of further study, is there anything else in your life that might suggest a possible choice of career, or was that the only thing that seemed to give a direction to your future working life?

I was very influenced by one schoolfriend in particular (not always for the better); did something like this happen to you? Are you still on good terms with the friend who severed his ties with others? (I didn't get the impression that you mean that he had severed ties with you as well.)

You describe your parents as loving. That's an important thing (and I must say that I wonder what it feels like!). Have they given you a sense of direction and purpose in life, or have they rather provided a hospitable environment in which you had seemed to be finding your own direction independently of them (perhaps mainly from school)?

Why exactly, do you think, is your father "insisting" that you choose a career? It seems to imply, apart from anything else, that your parents are unaware of how depressed you are (a common enough phenomenon, I think). Is that true?

You have mentioned loneliness, the loss of friendships, lack of new friends, and the pain of rejection; what about love and sex? Has there just been an absence there, deepening to despair, or has there been hope, followed by loss or rejection in that area as well?

I'll be going away for a few days, so might not see your reply for a while. Not that I have any advice to give. I'm just reminded, in a general way, of how I became depressed at university, having always wanted to bury myself in mathematics, and having always been naive and awkward and generally at sea in the human world. I'm a rather extreme case; some of the other replies seem, if I am not misunderstanding them, to be suggesting that you might not have much to worry about, because your feelings are not unusual; or they might just mean that many people here will understand how you feel, which is probably true, and does not imply that you have nothing to worry about; I might be identifying too much, and fuelling your fears; it's hard to tell.

You didn't "babble", by the way, nor was what you wrote too long. A life that seems to be falling apart or losing its way is a big and complicated thing to describe.


Jun 17, 2012
Surrey, UK
Thanks for the replies. I'll try and answer your questions as best as I can. A little tired this morning due to getting to bed so late in the end.
I've only seen the new counsellor once thus so far, and that involved some degree of recap. If I'm remembering correctly I think this was shortly before I was forced to make a decision on whether to a phd (more later) and shortly before exams (having only managed to get a little revision done up to that point due to my abysmal concentration). As a result I was more stressed and agitated that day than anything else as I had been looking back over my time at uni to try and help me figure out whether I was interested in doing research, but with too many conflicting emotions making me unable to know whether I really wanted to do it. She was reluctant to push me in either direction, most likely due to not having had enough direct experience with me or not her place to do so.
I had mentioned briefly to the previous councellor about having suicidal thoughts, which had been set off by friends at uni (not that close) talking about their plans for after uni and me having nothing after uni. I was confronted by the fact that uni was over, and though one might have expected relief from me after the difficulties I've had, but as my mum described it to me, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't". At least at uni I had managed some friends, though none seem to have much desire to stay in touch, and I could (sometimes) have intellectual conversations with them. I've tried to force myself to do small talk whilst there to try and get to know people, and there have been a few good moments, like my first time getting drunk and being described as funny. I'll be seeing the new counsellor again on friday for half an hour.

I've talked about having to make a decision on doing a phd a bit above, and being unable to make up my mind as a result of not being sure if I wanted to do it because I've got nothing else, whether I'm capable of doing it, not wanting to have another four years or so like the previous few, and I just couldn't tell whether it interested me or not. I ended up having to say no, after initially saying yes going though the application procedure until I reached the point where I had to identify my reasons for doing and choking at that point. I went in to explain myself to him (dreading his reaction: disappointment etc.), and a combination of stress over not wanting to regret the decision either way (I do a lot of that) and the upcoming exams which I was struggling to revise for, was making me start to freak out in his office. Fortunately, I managed to re-internalise most of it (like I often do) and he was generally pleasant about it and thanked me for telling him. He did have to tell me to try and relax a bit.
I've never really had much of a grasp on what I'd be doing in terms of a career. After my exams ended my dad has started to push to looking into potential careers. This hasn't helped much, as some part of me is constantly trying to avoid thinking about the future. I have been looking around a bit but I have no clue what would interest me, what would qualify as meaningful in an inherently meaningless world. One day when my dad was trying more actively to get me to look it ended up with me sitting on the floor in the doorway to the kitchen close to crying but unable to, asking them why people spend most of their lives going to pointless jobs 9 to 5 and for what? They replied to earn money, which I already knew, but I felt and still feel there has to be more to life than just that? I said something along the lines of: so we just slave away for most our lives for the sole sake of earning food to live? I stopped short of saying, but I thought it, when I'm not even sure I want to live in a world like that. My parents said they were worried about me at that point. It doesn't help when I feel like I'm being locked out of the parts of my mind where these feelings come from.
I just don't feel like I've ever truly lived (whatever that is) and don't want to, what feels like putting shackles on myself. Maybe I should have done the phd, in hindsight, it didn't feel like work (I did a summer placement in the department and from my major project), but even now I still have too many doubts about it. Last night I had been talking about careers with my dad again and for some reason him essentially saying that he expected me to find a 9 to 5 job in something brought these feelings back. I know it shouldn't bother me, everyone has to do it, but I don't entirely why I have such strong feelings over finding work. I just imagine going into an office and doing the same thing day after day, dealing with colleages. I don't know how or why people do it beyond simple surviving. I've sometimes thought that its our relationships with others that give meaning, only to fail completely at making those deep connection. I've never felt love or had sex in answer to your other question. When I was younger and more naive, that creating a lasting impression on the world by myself was the answer, but I realised that I don't have the creativity or "spark" necessary to make any big discoveries. I don't know where I'm going or really who I am? I cannot define what would make my life meaningful.
In terms of my parents I sometimes feel that, especially my mum when I was younger, they didn't push me enough to try other things. My mum is a little over protective. I did do scouting when I was younger and stuck with it, but even there I was a bit of an outcast with the others. Didn't help that a "friend" from primary school, who summed up treated me like crap, ditching me when I was no longer needed, was there too. I can't help but wonder why I don't fit in this world. What is it about me that either keeps people away or makes them turn on me, I don't think I'm a bad person. I try to treat people right. Before I forget the friend from my previous post did sever ties with me as well. Initially I tried to contact him but was ignored. Then was met with hostility (at this point I was emotionally near breaking point) telling me to die, around the time where I had first had suicidal thoughts (can't remember if it was cause or just bad timing). I asked him why he sent that, he said someone else did. I can't remember what went through my mind, but contact pretty much ceased after that (another mistake on my part). I remember looking on his facebook page and seeing similar hostility directed at those from college who tried to get in touch with him from others at his uni. I couldn't and didn't deal with it at the time.
My minds beggining to wander, and I seem to have already written a disorganised essay of thoughts. I sometimes write my thoughts in a notepad by my bed when I can and need to. Don't know what else to say really.
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