Wednesday, September 7, 2016

From "Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library",
by Maria Bustillos, The Awl, April 5,  2011:
"I have a friend, C., who has suffered from depression for many years; she is a fellow-admirer of [David Foster] Wallace. C. used to have a photograph of him on the wall of her very pretty, comforting red-walled Midtown office, and she would tell people that he was either her son or her boyfriend, depending on her mood.

"I chanced to be in New York some weeks after Wallace’s death, a catastrophe that had hit the both of us like a couple of bricks to the head. We had a good late lunch and afterward on that cold, blowy, fast-darkening late afternoon we sat on freezing stone steps on a quiet corner and snuggled together and talked about Wallace for a while.
"I mentioned that I could not understand how anyone would want to commit suicide, not right then, not with this [2008] historic presidential election right around the corner; how could you not want to stick around and find out what happens?
"And C. looked at me with pity and sadness, as if from a great distance, and said, 'Oh, honey. You don’t care. You don’t care; that’s the whole point.'"
[end Maria Bustillos]

I was reading this very interesting article Bustillos wrote about going through Wallace's underlined and annotated copies of self-help books, such as John Bradshaw On: The Family and the Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller

 (I remember these books--they were very popular in the 1980s and '90s. I hadn't really realized, but Wallace was only one year younger than me.)

I was reading along thinking, how interesting, etc. but when I read that section, I had to stop reading for a while. 
Isn't it funny how sometimes you find yourself acting out a cliché? I literally put my head in my hands.

I don't know... I think pain just wipes everything else out. Like, who cares who wins the election if you're living with the nerve pain of an abscessed tooth that just won't stop--
--or the emotionally equivalent pain?

But also, I think my mother (who killed herself in 2002) did care what happened, in a way... but not in a curious, open-ended way. She felt that it didn't matter the details of what happened next, it was going to be bad. Unceasingly bad, and there was nothing she could do about it. 
For more info or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


bink said...

I agree your mother cared...but it was as if she was so resigned to evil, she ultimately had no hope.

The Crow said...

To add to what Bink wrote (from my own perception and struggle with depression): when hope is gone, the great emptiness - like a black hole in the soul - drains you of reason and connectedness. It is difficult to come back from that. Some can't, don't.

Yes, pain does wipe everything else out. I'm sorry for yours, Fresca. It can't be easy to deal with at times, but you do so admirably.

Fresca said...

BINK: Yeah. Sigh.

CROW: You are so kind to write about this, from your perspective--thank you.
It helps me to hear what it's like to live with depression. I go over and over it, and it helps to hear it again. I'm sorry you have to live with that. I'm grateful you keep coming back.

Michael Leddy said...

I'm sorry that it all came back to you so unexpectedly.

The Bustillos article is one of the most painful things I've ever read. It's so clear that DFW felt marked/doomed from an early age. The family dynamic (as he understood it) is all over Infinite Jest. I wonder whether anyone knew about the annotations when the books were made available. Those self-help books have since been pulled.

The "You don’t care" anecdote is something that really struck me when I read the article. It helped me understand better than I did before what it can be like to live with depression. The are some passages in IJ that hit home in the same way.

May we all care!