So I’ve been depressed the last week or so. The whole brouhaha that came up around people harassing me has left me tender. But the real issues are much bigger.
As I said in a former post my real problem is some sort of chronic fatigue and that is usually what is challenging me, not classic depression. And I suppose I can’t and I won’t call what I’m feeling now classic depression or “clinical depression,” because the triggers are situational and human. I’m much more comfortable calling it an existential crisis because what I’m dealing with is perfectly described by that term.
My brother is dead, senselessly at age 48. With a 14 year old daughter and an 11 year old son left without a father. That was only in September. I have not processed it. My sister sent me a book which I received about three days ago— she had it printed with photos of my brother from infancy to the days before his death. I flipped through it really quickly put it down and started sobbing. I haven’t been the same since.
Yesterday I just kept wondering what is it all about? this thing called life? My brother is dead and I can’t even drive to the store. I’m virtually housebound with lots of time to think about how much life does not make sense.
So also yesterday, I began thinking of a friend of mine from grade school. Wendy. We became fast friends in the 4th grade when I was 10 years old. We became inseparable. She had had a difficult life, but was full of love and life and was beautiful and smart and spiritual.
Her mother died when she was about 2 or 3 of a heroin overdose. She and her little sister were left to fend for themselves while her father went on to work on killing himself in the same fashion. She and her sister went into stores to steal food to eat at the age of 4 and 5. They ate dog food to survive. Their father died when she was 6.
She went to live with her aunt the woman she was living with when I met her. Her aunt beat her. She came to school with bruises and lived in terror of going home. Still we had fun together. Her spirit was intense and loving and gentle and kind. I loved her furiously.
In high-school we were still friends bound by history but not as inseparable. I found her once in a bathroom at a party passed out with a needle in her arm. We had friends in common and saw each other often. I still loved her very much.
When we were sixteen her boyfriend shot himself in the head in front of her. I hated him for it and hung around to pick up the pieces of Wendy’s broken soul. She never recovered.
We went away to college and saw each other from time to time. We visited each others college towns. She got clean off and on for a while before slipping into full time drug addiction. We lost touch.
When I was 25 I decided to look for her. Found out she was in the women’s prison not far from where I lived. I visited her there a couple of weekends a month until she got out. She was healthy and seemed almost happy. She had some flesh on her bones.
She got out and I didn’t hear from her for two months. Just two months. She called desperate she was hungry and had no money. She was already emaciated. I went to her naive and wanting to help. I brought her groceries to a rat infested transient hotel. There was no bedding on the mattress and the room and mattress were filthy. I talked to her about getting clean. I would help her get into detox or into a methadone program, was she interested? She said yes. I took her home with me making her promise she would not have drugs in my home. I knew it was risky to bring an addict into my home—I worked with addicts at work. I knew it could be dangerous. I told her she only had 24 hours and we would put her in detox.
It failed. And she started calling me incessantly for help. I had found a bloody towel in my bathroom. She had not kept her promise. I had to stop taking her calls. I had to cut her out completely.
Seven years later I received word she was dead. She died of Hepatitis C, contracted by a shared needle. I was relieved. It was over. I had long since realized she would never find her way out of the hell that was her life.
So I think of my brother and I think of Wendy and I think of all the drug addicted, homeless, mentally ill people with AIDS I worked with. All the people—hundreds of them that I’ve known who have died. First I worked in hospice with people dying of AIDS and then I worked for a foundation that worked with homeless people with AIDS. This was in the days before protease inhibitors. People dropped like flies all the time. I never cracked. I never cried. I was in so heavy I didn’t have time to mourn or wonder about the senselessness.
So now I’m doing it. WTF??? Why do some people have insane lives from the moment they are born until they die. Wendy and all my AIDS clients who were homeless and drug-addicted and often mentally ill—what was their purpose? What does a life lived with all that pain mean?
My brother’s death is what has triggered this painful reconsidering of these people in my life. His life, though it might be argued, brought a lot of good. Everyone loved my brother. And he accomplished a lot in the eyes of many.
But everyone who ever met Wendy loved her too, pathetic drug addict that she became. Lovable nonetheless.
Some of my AIDS clients on the other hand had no one to love them. And were completely alone and many had had lives of abuse from day one, much like Wendy. What did their lives mean? I loved them—does that count for anything?
Lessons? There must be lessons here.
As I finish this terribly depressing post my mind wanders to some of the beautiful experiences I’ve had with these suffering souls. Later when I was working in mental health one of my favorite clients died. I remember him with joy. I know there is a way to figure this out. That I can find whatever made me keep going working with these troubled people all those years and loving my work. I did love my work—so why the mourning of it now, years later? Why, now, am I having trouble understanding?
Well, my brother is dead. And I’m incapacitated. Life just isn’t making sense right now.
This will be continued as I sort through it all.