From the U.S.: This is an issue I’ve hidden for decades, but it’s become vastly more acute over the last 1.5 years since a cancer diagnosis.

Life has no quantifiable meaning outside of existence itself. Attempts to apply meaning are easily disqualified as contrived. I once took better care of myself. Since the illness, I realized it doesn’t matter. It didn’t do me any good then, so I just no longer care. It&’s like I’m trapped in a perpetual memento mori.

I hate my job although it is a good job that many people would envy. I no longer participate in activities I once enjoyed – I feel a little repelled by them, actually.

I’m *not* suicidal at all, but I just feel completely ambivalent about life. I’m bound by obligations and love for my family, however, to continue my daily routines, even though I really just want to drop out and become a hermit.

I hate socializing. I like being anonymous in a crowd – like going to a fair and to people watch. But I don’t want to interact with others. I always feel awkward, inadequate and anxious.

I am a genuine fake. I’m just smart enough to fake my way into jobs, for example, and reflective enough to understand how this has limited everything I do.”Fake it til you make it” sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t end well. I realized this a little too late in life to change anything.

My illness is technically in remission, but it’s a very rare form of cancer, so there is no end to it. Even after, just for example, five years, I was told by my doctor, we can’t call it cured because they don’t know enough about it. So here I am, a victim of defective DNA with endless ongoing oncology visits, forever and ever amen – talk about a recipe for deep, philosophical self-loathing.

I’ve went from existentialist to nihilist to absurdist. I can’t take anything seriously because none of it really matters.

I love the arts and cling to them for some grounding in sanity. But my ability to create has been hamstrung.

What is going on with me?

Thank you for writing. You are describing what may be the symptoms of a clinical depression. It is not an unusual reaction to diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Many cancer patients report feelings much like yours. I deeply sympathize. The fear and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis and the pain of treatment sends many people into a very dark place.

You survived but you aren’t fully alive. You are already acting as if you died, when you have been given a chance to make the most of living. Rather than searching anew for meaning, your depressed self has embraced a philosophy of meaningless. The cancer didn’t kill you but your emotional reaction is stealing your life.

The way out is to get mental health treatment to help you reexamine your thinking and rebuild your life. Please look for a therapist who specializes in working with cancer survivors. In addition, check with your local hospital to see if there is a cancer patient support group. You are not alone. There are many others on the same journey who have worked themselves out of the darkness and who can provide you with practical help and emotional support.

Since you are a philosophical person, I do suggest you read or re-read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. It may give you some helpful perspective.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie