I have too much to say and too little to say all at once.
We were lying in bed together in 2005, talking in both generalities and specifics about depression. I talked about mine, he talked about his friend T’s, and then he told me about T’s suicide.
“Listen,” he said to me. “No matter how depressed you get, please don’t kill yourself. It’s the most selfish thing anyone can ever do. T killed himself without thinking about how his friends and family would feel after he left. I was so angry. I’m still angry. Don’t ever kill yourself.”
It was the first thing he said to me that made me wonder if we maybe weren’t right for each other. It made me think he didn’t really understand the nature of depression. It made me think, there is nobody on this earth who, when faced with the kind of depression that makes one want to commit suicide, would decide to stick around because they wouldn’t want their friends to think them selfish or because they thought suicide might mean that they’re a failure.
“Okay,” I said. What else could I have said to my boyfriend? The truth?
“The truth is that I’ve thought about suicide before.”
“The truth is that it’s technically impossible for me to give you a guarantee that I won’t ever kill myself.”
I’ve read The Broom of the System, half of Girl With Curious Hair, and about 1/50th of Infinite Jest, and I plan to try the latter again soon. On the occasion of David Foster Wallace’s suicide, I’ve been reading the Metafilter thread about him. Someone posted this, an excerpt from Infinte Jest:
The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
He’s right, you know. I understand why suicide feels like a selfish act to the loved ones who are left behind, but it isn’t. Depression is a disease just like any other–its effects are no more a choice than the effects of other chronic illnesses, and its sufferers don’t relish the prospect of death.
I’m sorry to see you go, David Foster Wallace, but it’s okay with me if you’re not sorry.
Back in the day, I used to write a lot of really personal things on this site. I would talk about how I felt about everything–my job, my friends, my relationships–and for the most part I felt safe doing that without fear that anything bad would happen as a result. As I’m sure you can tell, that’s changed quite a bit. I’m older now, and my interest in things like job security and my friends’ privacy and my own privacy has trumped my desire to write freely and publicly online.
While I’m satisfied with my decision to hold more things back on bluishorange, my desire to write freely online (even if it can’t be public) hasn’t changed. To that end, I set up a friends-only LiveJournal page, where I can talk about work and relationships and all the things I can’t talk about here, and only the people I want to read it can read it.
I’ve had my friends-only LiveJournal for less than a week, and I’ve already posted on it five times. Five times! That’s more than I post on bluishorange in a month! The knowledge that what I write won’t be publicly available has opened a writing floodgate, and everything I wish I could still write here has come pouring out over there. I love it.
In that way, my private LiveJournal feels like bluishorange used to feel–it’s a place where I can write about whatever I want, and my friends will read it and leave comments about it. And that’s the other thing that’s happened: the LiveJournal comments feel like old-school bluishorange, too. My friends leave comments, and I respond, and then someone else responds, and a discussion evolves.
Matt Haughey posted about how the comments on current blogs don’t have a living-room feel like they used to, and I know exactly what he’s talking about. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed all my old comments until my private LiveJournal came along.
Wednesday night I had dinner with my sister, and then she came over for a bit. After she left, I went straight to my LiveJournal and wrote this:
When I was a kid, my mother always told me that I’d appreciate my little sister when I got older. Maybe I didn’t like her now–she was always chewing with her mouth open, taking up space in the bathroom, and weighing in on my teen years in a derogatory fashion–but I’d like her when we were grown up. I didn’t believe her at ALL. There was no way I was ever going to like Megan. She got mad when I ate all the jelly beans and she made fun of me when I took too much time in the bathroom and she was always trying to watch TV when I wanted to watch TV and it didn’t matter that we wanted to watch the same things because she was annoying me just sitting there on the other couch and I could HEAR HER BREATHING and dammit, why couldn’t I be an only child?
But of course my mother was right, and now that I’m 30 you couldn’t pay me to be an only child. If I were an only child, who would I compare notes with on what our parents were like when we were kids? Who would laugh at all my jokes? Who would listen to whatever bullshit I was talking about (no matter how much wine I had with dinner) and tell me about everything she was going through, no matter if either one of us made sense or not? Who would remember what we were talking about before I segued awkwardly into a dumb story about my dog’s teeth, and then bring up the fact that before we were talking about my dog’s teeth, she was telling me about her internship in Houston, and then I can say, oh, yeah, you were saying that your boss said [this] and then you said [this] and I can definitely see why you felt that way, tell me more?
Yeah, there’s nobody like that.
I cannot think of a better way to spend a Wednesday night than having sushi and wine with Megan. Screw you for going to Brazil for two months, Megan! Who’s going to be my sister while you’re gone? If you don’t move back to Austin when you get back I’m going to disown you.
My friend Peter left a comment that said:
Now you’re beginning to cross over to posts you could probably post on your blog with little or no revision. Welcome to the slippery slope that is LiveJournal.
He’s totally right. What’s happening here is this: I feel really comfortable writing on my LiveJournal, so it’s making me want to write more, and so I do; I write about whatever I feel like saying whether it needs to be kept private or not. And then the LiveJournal becomes less about privacy and more about audience, or general effort-making, or the value of non-editing, or something. I’ll have to think more about this.
Update: It’s probably about the value of not trying too hard.