Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Life, Mental Health

Existential anxiety and depression

I was no stranger to the toy company called Melissa and Doug, but I never knew much about the people behind it and who created this line. It wasn’t until I bought a book called LifeLines, written by Melissa Bernstein, that I learned Melissa was one and the same woman. Creator of a toy company, author and survivor of existential anxiety and depression. In her book she documented her extraordinary and inspirational journey from profound darkness to radiant light. To this day I have not read this book that appealed to me some time ago and it’s not unusual for a book to come forward and find me. Sometimes I read them immediately and other times they patiently wait for the right timing, when I need them the most. I don’t question it anymore, I just go with the flow and know that the information will find me in time, and that the purpose will be revealed when it counts the most. I don’t know for what reason I picked up the book today. I simply felt drawn and called to it. I held it for a moment, gazing across the front cover and the chosen words to grace and capture the audience.

“Today I saved a life, although it was my very own, which won’t serve a greater purpose til I rescue lives unknown.”

I began to open the book and her intro, “Why now” felt as if she was speaking about me. I could only imagine how much we would have to talk about, how much of an understanding there would be, how we would complete each other’s sentences, feeling heard and understood. For a moment I walked down memory lane and remembered that very feeling I was lucky enough to experience at a prior point in my life.

I didn’t had to go far into the book and within the first two pages something captured me that I never heard of before. Existential anxiety and depression. In order to understand the meaning we need to break this down a bit. According to the Cambridge Dictionary existential is defined as a philosophy according to which the world has no meaning and each person is alone and completely responsible for his or her own actions. Further research revealed that existential depression is considered the mental illness of the gifted and talented.

We often tend to assume that depression is caused by a situation, by something that triggered it, an event, a dissatisfaction. It can be seasonal, situational, or intrapersonal. But existential depression can occur during periods of deep reflection about the meaning of life. When we seek answers about the very purpose and meaning of our existence. It might even revolve around topics of death, isolation, freedom and meaninglessness. We might also experience existential depression after major life events such as bereavement, accidents, natural disasters, job loss, failed marriages and so on.

Some believe that gifted people, gifted children and adults, are more likely to experience existential depression in their lives. Those creative, gifted, and talented who actively search and question life’s meaning are often thought to be more prone to existential depression. This includes the deep thinkers, the scientists, the sensitive people, the gifted individuals attuned to everything around them. And yes most likely the empaths as well. Gifted children may find it especially difficult to navigate life if they have that intellectual excitability or thirst for knowledge, to explore more intellectually than others who may be around them.

While existential depression may be a part of, or a form of, a spiritual crisis, it can also be a positive catalyst for change and growth. It is said that especially gifted and creative people do learn and grow in a positive way from what they experience through traumatic experiences and life crises. Finally I found myself on familiar territory. I too had asked an eternity the question “why” while drowning in a sea of despair, not knowing what was going on, that there was a name, a title, a term for what I was experiencing. Like Melissa, I was in my fifth decade of life, still believing I was a visitor from another planet who would never be understood, who would never fit in or be embraced here on Earth. And while I often cherished and celebrated my uniqueness, my individuality, not being like everyone else, a cookie cutter version of everybody, I realized that there were also painful elements to this celebration. There was isolation, a loneliness, a sense of not fitting in, and yes, even a sense of something being wrong with me.

Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980) spent his lifetime studying the mental health of intellectually and artistically inclined children and adults, recognizing that extreme intensity of their emotions and sensitivities was actually part of their psycho-physical makeup. In fact Dabrowski, in his clinical practice, saw many creative artists and writers undergoing profound spiritual crises. This forged his primary mission to “save and protect those who were tuned to the pain of the world and its dangerous trends, but whose voice was not heeded.” He saw those who were open to higher realities were often poorly adapted to this world and thus at risk for not succeeding or even surviving.

Having this knowledge now, perhaps every single moment, every single emotion and fear makes sense and can be seen in a new light. A radiant light of understanding and transforming the darkness within. Maybe the veil has been lifted, a mystery has been revealed and perhaps we can learn to understand ourselves a little better yet. Maybe we can see why we reacted the way we did, why we protected ourselves the way we did and why we seem to struggle just a little more. The enormity of this in itself is breathtaking and terrifying, but perhaps it can also be a tremendous relief to what seemed such a life mystery for so long. And my hope is to share this with you to bring you the same kind of peace, to be heard, and understood, and know that you are not alone.


We are the co-creators of our life and the time is now. More than ever are we needed to support Mother Earth and each other. Together we discover and explore our unique gifts in times of strengths, in times we lean on each other, and in times when we learn from each other. This blog started as an outlet and what I ultimately called my “Warriors Journey.” It was a way to document the ups and downs of my life, sharing my hardships as well as my successes. It showcased the struggles, but more important the ways of how to overcome them. Although we are warriors each and every day, I realized that having to be a warrior, comes from a place of pain. I decided to rename this blog, and “Phoenix Rising” now stands for the story of overcoming such a painful place. My motivation for this blog hasn’t changed and I hope to share inspiration and hope, to create a sense of belonging, a space of being heard, and connecting with like minded beings who instill a sense of oneness. We are never alone, and we are unstoppable in the pursuit of what sets our soul on fire. Who I am in a nutshell... 
I am an energy healer and Reiki Master. I am surviving a chronic disease that I’ve sent into remission three times since my initial bout, 15 years ago. I continuously challenge the status quo and by doing so I change my stars. I am a believer that anything is possible. I am a hopeless romantic and I believe that true love exists on various levels. I am an optimist that will always see the glass as half full. I am a dreamer, believing in endless possibilities. Not even the sky is the limit. I have jumped off of the hamster wheel, and I am writing a new chapter. I am chasing my Nirvana to support my most authentic self. This is my story, I am that Phoenix and I am rising from the ashes. Namaste 🙏🏼💙🦋

14 thoughts on “Existential anxiety and depression

  1. Dear lady, you have ever shared your wisdom with us, even in those dark days we all go through. Simply because many did not understand its pain…but…could share it with you as you spoke of it, and no longer feel so alone. Even that is love personified. Thank you for sharing…well…you, wherever the love of your heart is ❤️ 🙏🏽 🦋

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not huge into research but your comments resonated with me about myself and my daughter…. “Some believe that gifted people, gifted children and adults, are more likely to experience existential depression in their lives. Those creative, gifted, and talented who actively search and question life’s meaning are often thought to be more prone to existential depression”. In the case of my daughter, I feel saddened that she is so reactive to world news and commonly occurring social injustices. We beg her to stay off social media to no avail. Her intellect and altruism makes it difficult to turn a blind eye. I’ve also been told “Susan, you can’t save some people.” I wish we could be less sensitive or caring about situations that are unfair – it definitely would make life a lot easier! And a lot less stressful!! The way I try to deal with overwhelming angst is to offer up a prayer and try to look for micro moments to effect positive change. Sadly this is a difficult lesson to share, if it is the correct one, for my daughter. I don’t want her to settle for a small life but I don’t want her to burn out feeling helpless to be THE change. Mothering a gifted child is heart breaking 💞

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing your heart so candid with me and us. I am picking up on your pain and how difficult it is for you to watch your daughter care to the extent she does. I am no expert but I’d love to leave my email address for you here if you care to talk more in private and perhaps get some insider perspective or to just get things off of your chest. At times it’s easier with a stranger to talk about these things. I can’t talk about the mother (your) perspective, but being gifted myself I can share with you what is important and needed in the support of a gifted child.


  3. Ahhhh. Sensitive. Intelligent. Empath. The terms used to describe me yet I feel elude me. Your post makes sense to me on a soul level and vibrates my being but to consider myself any of the aforementioned shutters me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh. Is there something hidden that is hard to see or acknowledge perhaps? Have you thought about what makes you shutter? Is it the concept, the thought of it, how you might be viewed, or something different all together. There might be something that needs your attention. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this, Rhapsody, and can so relate. I’m curious: Did you find the quote, “Today I saved a life, although it was my very own, which won’t serve a greater purpose til I rescue lives unknown,” at this toy company’s website? I’d like to post it sometime and want to credit the source.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mitch thank you so much for stopping by and your comment. The quote mentioned is from the cover of Melissa Bernstein’s book LifeLines. There is no name mentioned so I’d say it is hers. It spoke a thousand words to me and I am glad you found it powerful as well. 💙🙏🏼

      Liked by 1 person

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