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It’s Not That I Want to Die | It’s That I Don’t Want to Exist

“I don’t want to exist,” is so much different from “I want to die,” and actually being suicidal, but normal people… well, they’ll just never get it.

Depression is a bitch, and I’ve suffered from it my whole life.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never suffered from it. It’s hard to explain the difference between being depressed and being suicidal.

It’s even harder to explain clinical depression (major depressive disorder) to someone who has experienced situational depression (like how you feel after losing a loved one or a job).

This can be even more difficult when you’re dealing with someone who has been depressed while drinking or getting high, only to suddenly have the depression lifted once they get sober.

There’s a huge difference between wanting to die, wanting to kill myself, and just wanting to not exist. In my experience, these are different levels of depression.

Thankfully, I’ve found freedom from depression through medication. The 12 Steps are nice and all, and they keep me sober, but I suffered from deep depression and suicidal thoughts since I was a child—this is clinical depression that only medication can address (usually).

The lowest level (which is still a completely miserable way to feel) is not wanting to exist.

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I Just Don’t Want to Exist

The first level of depression has nothing to do with actually dying. It’s not wishing for death.

It’s wishing for the pain to stop.

And every day, the pain goes away for a short amount of time—when we’re asleep.

Unconsciousness is bliss to someone who finds the waking world miserable. It’s a lack of existence, especially if you don’t dream.

Just because I don’t want to exist doesn’t mean I actually want to die. It usually means (even if I don’t know it) that I just don’t want to exist the way I’m existing right now.

For someone with clinical depression, life can look good or bad on the outside, but it doesn’t matter what life looks like—inside, we are deeply sad.

There’s no reason for it other than some dumbass neurotransmitters in our skulls doing shit they shouldn’t be doing.

This is why you see many successful people commit suicide despite having lives most of us dream of.

People like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Chester Bennington had lives many people would literally kill for, and yet they killed themselves.

Why?

Because exterior circumstances cannot fix the little molecules in my brain that won’t act right.

To fix this, many of us will self-medicate, which rarely actually fixes the problem.

Incidentally, drinking to blackout or shooting opiates until you pass out is another form of non-existence that has nothing to do with death.

That’s one reason drugs like these can be so enticing to someone with clinical depression, though often that just makes things worse.

When you feel this way, it doesn’t matter what your life actually looks like, but death doesn’t necessarily seem like the answer, or even something you’d want.

I’ve talked to many people who just didn’t want to exist because the pain was too intense, but who would never kill themselves for a variety of reasons.

For many, they loved their family and friends, and they would never want to leave them. They would never want to actually die.

They really didn’t want to feel the way they were feeling right now. They wanted to escape existence. They wanted to feel better, and since that wasn’t happening, they wanted to escape the pain.

This is part of the reason I would sleep for 12+ hours a day in my depression. I just didn’t want to be in the world, just like someone with chronic pain only wants the pain to go away.

They might commit suicide because the pain won’t go away, but if the pain actually stopped, they’d be happy to live.

I’ve been deeply depressed in sobriety and still very much wanted to live, but I’d lose myself in activities that let me escape the world, whether that be work, hobbies, writing, TV, or videogames—all forms of escape, which is to say, forms of getting out of my head and forgetting my own existence.

What’s much different is actually wanting to die.

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I Want to Die

Wanting to die is a lot different from wanting to not exist.

The difference is that I don’t care if the pain stops or not—I still don’t want to be alive.

This is a deeper level of despair where I see nothing good in my life, and I don’t see any way for things to ever get better except through death.

Now this is different from actually being suicidal. Being suicidal means I want to cause my death.

Wanting to die usually means I’m just praying for death to happen to me through no fault of my own.

Remember when I said many people who don’t want to exist still love their families and friends? This is often one of the reasons people who want to die haven’t gotten to the stage of being suicidal yet.

When I wanted to die but wasn’t yet suicidal, I would pray for things like plane crashes that happened to hit my house. I would hope a drunk driver would hit me. I would wish for death to come to me somehow so that I could leave this world without hurting those I love.

Now what if the depression were lifted? Would I still want to die? The answer is probably yes—life was shitty for me for a long time, and I didn’t see any point in trying to stay alive.

I was convinced by 25 that my life was permanently ruined. It wouldn’t matter if I was happy because I had no job, lots of legal issues, lived with my parents, and generally had a life that looked permanently bad.

Did I want to actually take my own life? Not at that time.

But I did a year before that.

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Check out the “I am not my diagnosis” hoodie.

I Want to Kill Myself

This is what most people think of as depression—they think the person wants to kill themself, and that’s rarely the case.

However, this is (obviously) common. Around 40,000 people kill themselves each year in the US alone.

When I was 24, I had just gotten raided by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, I had gotten a DUI a month or two before, and life not only seemed hopeless, but it seemed like something I needed to get out of ASAP.

I was suicidal, which means I was actively seeking ways to kill myself.

I’m a coward, which means I was trying to find the easiest way out that I could. I figured I could overdose on opiates and benzodiazepines and then shoot myself in the head to ensure it was painless.

At the last minute I decided not to go through with it, mostly because my girlfriend at the time knew what I was up to and wouldn’t leave until all the drugs were gone because she knew I wouldn’t just shoot myself.

I was too scared of surviving and having an even worse life than I thought I already had.

I still loved my parents at this time. I loved my friends. I loved my girlfriend probably more than anyone because I had become so codependent on her.

But none of this mattered because the mental anguish of depression had combined with circumstance to become overwhelming. I was beyond wishing for death—I was seeking it.

On my second suicide attempt, I ate a handful of oxy that I knew would be enough to kill me. At this point, I didn’t even care if I failed—It was time to go.

Fortunately I failed. I’ve always wondered if there’s a version of me in a parallel universe who succeeded. It makes me hope that theory is wrong.

The difference between the time when I just wanted to die and my two suicide attempts is that I had a plan for the attempts.

I knew how I was going to do it, when I was going to do it, and where I was going to do it.

That’s the big difference between wanting to die and being suicidal—the plan.

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It Gets Better

I’m so glad I failed because life eventually did get better, but only through therapy, medication, and not giving up on treatment.

With therapy and treatment, depression can be lifted, but there are definitely people for whom it takes significant work. Treatment-resistant depression is very much a thing, so you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself if you’ve tried a bunch of antidepressants, and they haven’t worked.

It took me 20 years to find the right medication for me. The fact that I survived that long is a miracle. Not everyone makes it.

It’s worth sticking it out though. I’m sure you can remember a time when life was good, when you were happy. I always wanted to return to my childhood, even though I was rarely happy then, there were moments where things were good.

Remember those moments. You can get there again.

I know it sounds exhausting. I know it sounds awful and impossible.

I know it hurts.

Keep trying. Change medications. Change doses. Change doctors. Try whatever it takes to get back to those times.

Because life can feel like that again.

I promise.

It’s worth it.

Here’s what I do every week to survive. It helps me stay sane and not want to kill myself.

Download "7 Critical Actions I Take Weekly to Deal with My Depression" Now

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David
David
9 months ago

Hey Adam,

My name is David and I’m currently 20 years old. I’ve dealt with severe depression for years now, and have reached the point where I just feel empty. Like you, I have had unsuccessful suicide attempts, and cannot just put a bullet in my head to end my life. But every thing has become so mundane. Long gone is enjoyment in any activity I do. No longer do I feel a sense of purpose, no matter what steps I take to find one. I want my life to end, but cannot take the measures to do so myself. And I think the worst part about it is that I no longer care. The value of life has diminished significantly, and I am unsure how to get that back, or why It should even be a goal. If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I want to clarify that I understand that things will get better. That eventually life will turn back around and that I should want to look forward to that. How do you manage to hold onto this though? When you no longer wish to exist, how do you find solace in that ideology?

Thank you so much for writing this article and impacting others with your touching story. I hope you are doing well.

Christian Footman
Christian Footman
2 months ago
Reply to  Adam Fout

Man all I can say is keep your head up i love you all of you we got this 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽

ldj993p@gmail.com
ldj993p@gmail.com
3 months ago
Reply to  David

Ive lived 30 years of this. I cant sleep i cant eat without feeling sick, i cant go see a doctor because ive seen a zillion and i feel sock just thinking of seeing one they have never helped.amd only made it worse by lumping people together. I love to live i am a very compassionate person which is why this hirts even worse im a 30 yr pld male. And i hope a plane hits my house. For me its a long term problem for an excruciating and long problem. Fuckk the Australian government.

Ian
Ian
9 months ago

I rewrote this probably about 3 times looking for the right words so I’m gonna be blunt.
In my opinion my life sucks nothing about it makes me happy there will be moments when i laugh at a joke or get somewhat excited about a gift but nothing hits the same anymore its that feeling of emptiness. I just don’t want to be conscious I want to skip the whole process of life and see where I end up I’m not suicidal and I hope I don’t ever get to a point that dark but sometimes I just don’t want to live any longer I just want everything to face away and not know that it has faded.

Cassy
Cassy
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian

I used to be TERRIFIED of the idea that when we die there’s nothing just dark but we don’t see dark because we don’t exist like I’m not the best at explaining shit but I know how I feel and I didn’t want that I wanted my children in my life for ever, for eternity I love them so much and I NEED them always but somehow I messed up I’m still messing up idk how the one thing I knew I wouldn’t be I became anyways I now find beauty in the idea of big death but of nothingness just black but I won’t see black because there is no I anymore… I’d kill Myself if I knew my children wouldn’t be affected but my dad killed himself 2 years ago and we weren’t close but if fckd me anyway so idk what it would do to my children so I’m just stuck miserable everyday…

Lilly
8 months ago

I am literally struggling my step-mother hates me and i want to leave so i can be alone but i am only 14 my birth mom gave up on me and gave her rights to my dad i really miss her and my old life but I told about the abuse so i would try for the pain to go away it didn’t it followed me it will never go away i have depression,Ptsd,anxiety and i feel like I can’t control it and it’s making me hate myself I have no friends and no one there for me I just don’t know what to do anymore I pretend to be happy but that’s far from the truth

obama
obama
3 months ago
Reply to  Lilly

SAME!!!!

Thads
Thads
6 months ago

I don’t have a reason to feel the way I do. I have kids and a wife. My relationships with them are good. I don’t have any trauma that I can think of. I just don’t want to wake up. The darkness of true nothing sounds soo peaceful. I just want to be normal, happy even.
I feel empty.

Ben
Ben
5 months ago
Reply to  Thads

I’m in the same boat. I have a good life but I’ve become a real asshole because I hate everyone and everything. I feel like life is pointless and is just full of pain and disappointment. Not sure what to do.

Lemi
Lemi
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben

Ben we need to be patient. My 90 year old non English speaking migrant mother would say that frequently and I thought nothing of it, infact I thought she was a simpleton. Decades later, im only starting to mindfully practice patience in the moments that would normally induce reaction. We dont know if its ‘time’; time to be taken away or time to go away, time to respond or time to act nonchalant. I try to let 10 seconds pass, then 10 minutes, then 10 hours, then 10 days, then 10 years pass etc in PATIENCE. Suddenly what or who was important will be dulled if not forgotten.

Mattias
Mattias
6 months ago

Existentialism?

I don’t want to exist, but I also don’t want to kill myself. I just don’t want to cause other people any problems doing so. Although I sometimes feel like I don’t exist in other people lives. They just don’t seem to remember me being there at all. Not giving any thoughts to what I may need or how I may feel about something. Even though they seeks other people opinions.
That steers me towards: Then why be at all? No one else seems to care, so why should I?
To me not existing means that no one will remember me. Everything I have ever done wouldn’t have happened. Meaning it wouldn’t hurt anyone else.
What worries me is that death seems the closest answer to not exist.
The feeling of emptiness and purposeless of life.
Not being able to enjoy myself, even though I now live quite an ok life. There’s really nothing bad about my life. I’m seemingly just missing emotions. The ability to feel happy. Everything I do has no real meaning or purpose. I don’t feel like doing something just for the sake of doing something.
I’m desperately seeking for that something in life that can give me some meaning.
Every question I have has too many answers. Every answer is always somewhat right. But the answers clash with one another, making them somewhat wrong as well. So I can never be really certain about the answers I give to questions. If someone asks about something then there are infinite answers. And they might as well all be correct. This makes me tend to over elaborate on many things, as every situation has too many different factors to comprehend them all. And that thought makes me feel like I can never give a good or right answer. Theoretically there should be a perfect answer to that specific situation. The human brain just can’t handle all the information that there is. We cannot know everything. If we did we could give the perfect answer, but then again then we wouldn’t need to give an answer. If we knew everything the question wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Life feels like Limbo, uncertainty everywhere. And my brain just cant fathom such a “life”.

For now I’ll keep on ticking away my life, one moment at a time.

Jacob
Jacob
6 months ago

Hey guys, was just kind of feeling hopeless today. I’ve never been interested in death myself. My feelings of not wanting to exist stems from my religious views. I’m not suicidal at all, but existence as a whole just seems painful and i’m just not happy with so many aspects of myself yet. I want to hope it gets better and that i’m slowly progressing.

It helps a lot to know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so thank you.

Jacob

Andrew James Patton
Andrew James Patton
5 months ago

Well said, but you left out the most important part: the burden of providing a reason for you to live is too great for any creature. Relying on your goods may make you happy for a time, but you will eventually find they don’t satisfy you, and no matter how much you binge on them, they can’t keep you happy. It is good to enjoy your goods, but if you expect them to fill your life with meaning and give you a reason to live, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather, turn to your Creator who is willing and able to bear that burden. I can’t promise you that doing so will make your problems go away; I can’t even promise that your problems won’t get worse. What I can promise you is that you will have hope, knowing that there is good beyond imagining waiting for you at the end of the road. You will not seek oblivion, because you will know there is no relief to be found there, that overdose or suicide will not end your suffering but rather perpetuate it.

Waldo
Waldo
4 months ago

you are wrong

M Moore
M Moore
3 months ago

So why is it then that when I’m in the dark, with an awful feeling in my gut and all I want to do is die, there’s no response? There’s nothing from your god. Just silence. Just more empty. I’m left with two possibilities. First, and less personal, there is no god. Or second, I’m just not worth the trouble.

Amber Unthank
Amber Unthank
5 months ago

What about people who have no one to mourn them if they die?

Who cares about my name?
Who cares about my name?
5 months ago

Dreams/sleeping is not an escape for me….my dreams are almost always horrific nightmares….so I don’t like sleeping. I thought about death and put myself in harms way many times until something happened and I was shown (multiple times) what life is after death (yea I can see your face right now, you think im a nut, but you will see what I mean)…and honestly, it made me even more depressed. It isn’t God or Satan waiting for us….it’s something that makes our life here feel all the more pointless and raises more questions than answers….but regardless of that, my depression is caused mostly because of my past and the actions I took in it. I can not take back the things that I did so I will never be free from my depression, doomed to exist in perpetual suffering in this life and probably the same in the next to be honest.

Last edited 5 months ago by Who cares about my name?
louise
louise
5 months ago

i dont want to die but im too afraid to live

Jen
Jen
5 months ago

So what is the difference, if I take pills to stay alive, or if I take pills to die. If I take anti-depressant pills to get numb, or if I drink excessive amounts of alcohol to get numb. (I’ve tried both) Why is one “good” and the other “bad”. If I were standing in a bridge to jump off, commit suicide and end the pain… Why does it make someone else the “Hero” to stop Me from committing suicide and escape ending a pain that THEY don’t fucking have to live with? I have never understood this, how someone who doesn’t live with the mental anguish I do, day in and day out since I was 6, has the right to tell me I’M the one who is insane. I recall at that age, holing up in a cardboard box singing to myself “Nobody love me, everybody hates me” and wishing I didn’t exist. Since 12 or 13, praying I would die in my sleep, but fucking waking up every morning anyway. I told myself it just meant I had a “purpose”… I married and had four kids, whom I have lived and given everything for. Now at 51, I find myself just waiting for the day when my 4 kids can support themselves, so I can just fucking die and they aren’t dependent on me, they can take care of themselves. Yes they would be sad, but their lives would go on. And anyone else whose lives I’ve crossed paths with, yeah they might be sad, but they’ll go on. It just doesn’t matter in the end. Sometimes can’t take this anymore, and It still pray to please let me die in my sleep. But every fucking morning I wake up, and have to live it through all over again. Someone please, give me a better reason to keep on. A real fucking reason, that has nothing to do with others, but an actual real reason for myself. WHY

Adamleef
Adamleef
3 months ago
Reply to  Jen

‘Why’ is the answer.

Because you can ask ‘why’ you have the purpose to always ask it and always seek the next conclusion that starts over with ‘why’. It never ends, but that may be your journey. To give the ‘why’ energy back to the world

T C
T C
4 months ago

I am the poster boy for success and I have been miserable and wanting to kill myself for 15 years. I could never do that to them, and instead, compound the problem by giving them whatever they want—because it makes them happy, the one minuscule moment I feel light. Medication doesn’t work for me. Congratulations to you. I guess I am the rare North American Bitch, impervious to happiness and medication. The worst part: I’m generally pretty awesome, my wife is a 10, and my kids are great. Maybe it is god. Who knows? I’m agnostic. Mostly because if there is a creator of this, my experience, go fuck yourself.

Salty Snatch
Salty Snatch
2 months ago
Reply to  T C

Same

Susan
Susan
4 months ago

Hi my name is Susan and I always feel like I want to not exist. I have Major Depression and it seems like I have had it forever even when I was a small child but now I am much older and it seems like it is deeper, darker and way more intense. I was raised if you commit suicide you go to hell but sometimes I already feel like I am in hell and if I just keep living in the end hopefully I will go to heaven. Sometimes I feel so numb and empty that I just want to disappear and stay that way till either I die or Jesus comes and saves me, I know it sounds crazy but it is true. People and I mean people drive me insane I wished an alien would abduct me and take me to another planet, I see people talk about it and I think where were you and how did you get so lucky? I wished they would come and get me. Sometimes I feel like I am the sane one and everyone around me is crazy and I have to take medication just to cope with people. I have never been addicted to anything in my life so I know it isn’t drugs or alcohol that makes me this way. One more thing depression makes me sick psychically sick, like stomach or headache do other people feel psychically sick or is it just me? Sorry to dump my thoughts here but I googled and it came up so I read on and thought I would comment. No I am not suicidal I just don’t want to exist.

Lost
Lost
3 months ago

Wow you all sound like me, I just see no point anymore. Same old same old and I am just tired of the game. I would prefer to just sleep and not wake up, seems easier I guess. I just get very little enjoyment out of life anymore, but I don’t have a bad life. I have a great husband, two grown boys out in the world, a grandbaby. I am just uninterested in life, it is strange, I have never felt this way really, I have always had drive and ambition but for some reason it’s gone and I just want to stay in bed.

Last edited 3 months ago by Lost
Adamleef
Adamleef
3 months ago

All of us that have the ability to ponder this ‘question’ have great mental ability to think of the other side of our conclusions as well.

I hate being me, I hate being conscious, I hate thinking of all the perspectives that I have learned, I hate that I can hate these things. All these ‘things’ are human things, and I wish my consciousness didn’t exist inside a human atmosphere.

Would we be able to express these words if we didn’t have the human brains and human thoughts and human knowledge and human mind and consciousness, even human thumbs to text this on this blog? No. The answer is NO. Everything we are experiencing is a human experience, and I believe that people like us do not exist inside the human idea.

How is that possible based on what I just said? Idk

This is why I don’t want to exist, because this thought process and this expression of how my unphysical mind works, doesn’t seem to mesh with how the physical human that I am, works. Does this make any sense ??

Who am i without my physical self, yet who am I with this mind trapped inside my physical self….??

I do not want to exist this way. I want to release into pure energy. I want to absorb into the wave lengths of light. I want to expel the taken energy if have procured from this world and become back being one with the balance of the universe. I do not want to think, feel, see, hear, understand, dream, or have any of the neuro connections I have that make it even possible that I can type these words as words from thoughts from my mind…

Existence? No, I just want to be… other than what I am now…

nv-author-image

Adam Fout

I'm a speculative fiction and nonfiction writer. I have a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication. I'm a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. I'm a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine, and I have been published in numerous literary magazines, including December, J Journal, and Flash Fiction Online, among others.

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