This day last year, with about an hour of 2015 to go, I was 30,000 feet in the air going through what I can now say was tiny turbulence compared to the last 12 months and was told this would be the hardest year of my life. My only reflection on it is, “It f*ing better be.” I leave this year wondering if anything will work out (personally, nationally or globally) and hoping that I might be able to stop waking up in the middle of the night sobbing. I’m glad I’ve reached the age where a year feels like just several months.
Thankfully, I started learning German this year and they have a perfect word for this: Lebensmüde. Life-tired. From an article on the Book of Life: “We believe ourselves to be firmly attached to life, but a lot of our behaviour attests to something more interesting and troubling; an occasional longing to give up our hold on existence. It is deeply useful to have this word to hand on gloomy days when it feels like nothing will ever work out.”
2016 wasn’t really anyone’s year so instead of wishing you a happy new year, I’m going to say that I hope, for myself as well as you, that this incoming year will reveal and affirm why we’re still here.
Does this post look familiar? “Would at least three of my Facebook friends please copy and repost? I am doing this to prove that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness 1-800-273-8255.” It’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately and it’s heartening to see that many people care about those the incoming government is planning to leave behind. So I mean absolutely no blame or shame with this post. From someone who has attempted to call and use the National Suicide Hotline, you need to know that encouraging people to call it is not the most helpful thing you could be doing. This is a difficult time of year for many people and things are about to get a lot rougher in general in the coming months, but this is why we need to do much more and much different than directing people in mortal pain to talk to a stranger (who may or may not be available anyway). Continue reading The National Suicide Hotline
2016, the year I was warned would be the hardest year of my life, is half gone today.
Should I think of it as the top of this gnarly crag and it’s all downhill from here? It’s been harder for me to hike down a mountain than up it; I’m not only shaky-tired from the climb up, but my jello joints can’t withstand gravity’s suck nearly as easily as they brace for my muscles’ pull against it. Continue reading Sad Lady and the Halfway Point
Last week, I saw a post by a mental-health advocacy Facebook page: a short video featuring “shirtless hunks” (this is how the video referred to them) – soldiers who’d returned home and lost fellows soldiers to suicide. “More vets commit suicide every year than die in wars,” the short video said, and then called for compassion and “action.” I commented, protesting the objectifying language, the use of the word “commit” and the frustrating vagueness of the unspecified call to do something. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 2
In another round of “awareness” campaigns, this whole month has been dedicated, supposedly, to that of mental health. Last month was for autism. I’m weary to learn what June will be for, what real-life experience for millions will be reduced to a cause for which people post factually-inaccurate and stigma-producing articles and memes in service of nothing more than feeling like they’re contributing to making the world a better place. I was going to just ignore this “awareness” month campaign (I’ve shared my issues with “awareness” previously) but there’s just too much misinformation, shallow “participation” and ego stroking for me to stay quiet in good conscience. So I’m just going to address a few myths about mental health here. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 1
It’s heartening to see the media take up the call to action to talk about mental health after decades of silence. The problem is how its talking about it. The first major issue I see is with the unquestioned propagation of the biomedical model as if its science-verified fact. Look, folks, even mainstream The Guardian is running pieces that are saying that it’s pretty clearly not. Mental health advocates, communities and support networks perpetuate this model – not as a highly specious one or one of an array of options but as back-uppable fact – not because they’re trying to be deceptive but because they really want people to understand that it’s not the sufferer’s fault. If something is wrong with your brain, then your depression is not a moral failing, your anxiety is not a choice, your OCD is not a character flaw, etc. You are the victim. Continue reading What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?
I, for one, do need DFW’s stories and his story. If nothing else, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story is a book for writers…or, more accurately, for those who Want To Write. Or perhaps I can only speak personally: DFW’s struggles with writing – that is, struggles to write – scare and heal me, both because they are so familiar to me. There are many other ways I relate to DFW, though I fear how arrogant or off-base that looks in ‘print,’ and I don’t want to draw false parallels or claim for myself what is not the case or what DFW might have been referring to when he told David Lipsky who was interviewing him for The Rolling Stone in 1996, “I’m not so sure you want to be me.” The point is that I am trying to name where I feel seen, even if it is by a man who I will never meet because he died almost eight years ago. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 3
We come to the end of Every Love Story is a Ghost Storyknowing maybe more factoids and ‘things that make you go hm’ about DFW than we otherwise might have, but not enough more about the people in his life…the people Amy refers to when she devastates listeners of her interview by saying, “the hardest thing about this is fighting so hard for someone and still losing them.” And what is it that they – including DFW – fought so hard for/against?” The other main qualm I have with this rendering of DFW’s life is that D.T. Max did not challenge the narrative of mental illness – odd, since this is David Foster Wallace we’re talking about. But, to be fair, nothing else I’ve read on DFW challenges the narrative, either. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 2
David Foster Wallace, the greatest writer of his generation, began captivating my attention in late 2014, over six years after he hanged himself in his California home, not even mostly as a writer (though his Infinite Jest gave me, among other things, howling compassion for drug addicts), but more as a person. He had what I and so many other writers pine for and he didn’t want it. And yet, I get it. Much more, I get it. DFW has since become my favorite theologian. I will qualify that I never met David Foster Wallace; but then, neither did his biographer, D.T. Max, and he wrote a whole book about him. Continue reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, A Review, Part 1