Surviving in a Moment of Helplessness and Closed Doors

Before I present an unconventional way for you to think of your value, I must acknowledge your pain. I imagine your circumstances may be far worse than my own.

Those like myself are fortunate. My immediate loved ones don’t suffer coronavirus (fingers crossed), I am in no financial distress, and we enjoy continuing nearness to each other in our small bubble.

For every other pampered hostage to the pandemic/recession, however, heartbreak abounds. According to the CDC, over 40% of U.S. adults surveyed in late June “reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition.” If all the world’s disquiet could be piled up in blocks of cement, it would reach higher than Mt. Everest.**

The world is overweight with pain.

We commonly define ourselves in terms of what we can “do.” Making a living often confers dignity. Status matters to those who make comparisons. Union with hands, cheeks, lips, and bodies have fueled desire for as long as man has been man.

How then does one hold oneself together when money is short, pride in social standing absent, health is imperiled, and touch means staying in touch rather than touching?

You are, in fact, already taking action of extraordinary worth.

First, you are surviving. For reasons you understand about yourself, you retain a portion of hope or a sense of responsibility for those closest.

Contrast your mortal state to that of a god for a moment. In the West, we think of any deity as an eternal being who is all-powerful and all-knowing.

This leaves humanity the possibility of displaying qualities absent in an invincible and omniscient entity who can’t die.

Think about danger. Bravery is possible because we are at risk of physical or emotional harm. The ever-present chance of adversity constructs the platform to display courage.

Man’s creaturely situation requires the choice to endure and persist. Misfortune happens, and its visit is not always brief. The Stoic philosophers believed this allowed each person to demonstrate “greatness of soul” by withstanding “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as Hamlet described his own tribulation.

To the extent hope is an idea, you have created it. Moreover, my guess is you are amid (or can recall) such woes as Shakespeare put into Hamlet’s life. You know the experience of bearing what appears unbearable, including depression. If you did not, you wouldn’t now be reading this.

Your survival at this moment is a tribute to your character and worthy of applause. I offer you mine. If, with time, you can do more, then do so. Enlarged strength is the residue of a series of small actions.

For now, remember the last eight words from the sightless John Milton’s poem, “On His Blindness:

They also serve who only stand and wait.


The top image is Meeting on the Beach: Mermaid by Edvard Munch, sourced from the Munch Museum. The second is Hope II by Gustav Klimt, sourced from

**Perhaps the most distressing finding in the CDC bulletin is this: “The percentage of respondents who reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (10.7%) was significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%), minority racial/ethnic groups (Hispanic respondents [18.6%], non-Hispanic black [black] respondents [15.1%]), self-reported unpaid care-givers for adults§ (30.7%), and essential workers (21.7%).”

8 thoughts on “Surviving in a Moment of Helplessness and Closed Doors

  1. Joanne M. Smith

    “Heavy with pain” – how poetic.
    Very hard to look ahead.
    We are an impatient species.
    I turn my back to anger, rampant crime, intolerance. And I don’t want to know who you are.
    I will spend my time in nature, immersing in birdsong, heady pine scent, cumulus clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You seem to have found a natural spot that gives you joy, Joanne. It does sound lots friendlier than the parts of the human world these days. Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. WeI follow all of the CDC guidelines and feel we will come out of this pandemic ok. Luckily our state has handled this Covid very well and our governor has not opened the bars or the restaurants to full capacity, and I do not think they will reopen until there is a vaccine. My heart goes out to the other parts of the country where this Covid is rampant. I wish this was not so politicized.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed on all counts, Nancy. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gb fragmented gumdrops

    I struggled with suicidal ideation a few weeks ago. My therapist is amazing and has helped me with a safety plan and other things.

    I survive all the time. This time, I am exhausted. I have literally been alone inside my apartment for 5 months. I am afraid to go outside. There is a restaurant downstairs in our building. There are patio tables where maskless people eat.

    I feel bad that so many people are experiencing symptoms of mental illness. I feel even worse when I see police, doctors, nurses, caregivers, veterans, and others dying by suicide or quitting their jobs. It shows that even our trained leaders and frontliners are not immune from the stresses of this pandemic and otherwise. It shows the rest of us how serious these pervasive issues are, and how divided our country truly is.

    I am struggling with a lot. I just want to feel safe again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Thank you for a really awesome post, Dr. S. I really needed to read this today. I have been dealing with a lot.

    My alters are with me, co-conscious and helping me.

    Some of my alters were really upset, but my therapist helped.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad to hear it was timely, gb. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

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