Grief is universal. Everyone encounters some form of depression at some point in suffering. That moment (or moments) may occur after the Death of a loved one, job loss, strained relationship, or any other traumatic experience. For example, when called by a physician to discuss test results, you could be elated one moment or spiral into massive despair another. Just as no two experiences are similar, depression is personal. My experience was not very neat and indeed followed no rules or schedule. 

A month ago, I awoke during an early Chicago morn. As I lay in the early morning, I felt ‘nothing.’ I felt numb. There wasn’t any significant news. I did not have any negative tumor marker (CEA) test results. The walls of my lakeshore condo neither closed in on me nor did I rage against the injustices of life. Instead, I awoke mentally exhausted, as if a hole had burst through the outer wall of my soul. There was no will to get up and live.

An inner part of me argued with God. Argue might be a wrong classification. Prayer sounds better. “Put me out of this misery. Sooner the better, please. Thank you, sir.” End prayer. I always considered life was worth living, even if that included discomfort, challenge, and risk. I always thought I was strong and determined, but not today. I felt weak. I felt like … well … “fuck.”

There’s been no suicidal ideation. However, my thoughts were, “What’s the point?” Up to this point, there’s been no prior history of depression, no prior suicide attempts, no significant social stresses, no history of substance abuse (though I am trying to finish all this CBD I purchased), or a family history of depression. And when confronted by terminal illness, I never really debated with God, “Why me?” (Should I?) Of the few that know me, most understand I am intrinsically religious, meaning I do not participate in religion or prayer for any secondary gain (like attending church only to get into heaven). 

Maybe I’m entitled to be exhausted,” said I. “Damn straight,” I murmured as if arguing. Two-plus years of COVID, showing up every day, exteriorly showing my machoness. The daily grind of statistics, watching family members succumb to COVID, staying beside with patients who were dying, cleaning and recalibrating equipment, rinse, wash, repeat. “Yeah. Damn straight,” I repeated, trying to convince myself. Yet, I did not feel an overwhelming amount of stress, anxiety, or depression. However, I awoke with … “fuck.” 

A particular part of me felt indifferent, numb to life’s mundaneness. I did not awaken with the belief that I am already moving on, but I can’t decide if it’s fatigue or a side effect of ongoing treatment. Maybe I want the freedom Death offers—like Doc Holiday in the film Wyatt Earp, “I wake up every morning looking in the face of Death, and you know what? He ain’t half bad.” Unfortunately, while it’s a great quote, there’s no way to validate the statement.

Seeing the book Man’s Search for Meaning got my ass out of bed. “The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and become subject to mental and physical decay.” Frankl also referenced Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Frankl observed that those prisoners who survived, who found a way to endure, always had a greater purpose that carried them onward through demanding conditions. For some, it was a child sheltered away in some distant country and waiting for them. For others, it was a spouse or family member. For others, it was an unfinished task or creative work that required their unique contribution. Likewise, my answer did not consist of talk and meditation but of right action and conduct. I got up and went to work with the sole purpose of making just one person’s day better. And I succeeded.