This is a letter to a friend of mine whom I love and who has been depressed and suicidal lately.
You’re sad and you feel like your life is pointless, not pointy, not pointed. Rather, it's formless and blobby.
Your life feels round like a mind’s picture of a black hole. You stand on the side of your life’s cartoon manhole and you stare into its abyss. You avoid cliffs, elevator shafts, spelunking expeditions because their embodiment of the metaphor is just too overwhelming and tempting.
I know how you feel, as you know; I know all too well what it feels like to not recall life’s light. I know too exactly how futile it is to have someone tell you that you’ll be ok, that life is worth living, that this too shall pass, that this overwhelming, all-consuming, cannibalistic loneliness will be filled in like the figures of a child’s coloring book and that you will feel whole. I know you feel this resounding emptiness, and it’s ok.
I know that when you’re feeling as low as blue as down as dark and bitter as the grounds of yesterday’s coffee you won’t hear any of that I’m ok/you’re ok, everything you needed to know you learned in kindergarten, chicken soup for the middleaged’s soul, Khalil Gibran bullshit. You can’t. I can’t. And it’s ok.
I know that any number of people will tell you that suicide is not the answer, that you are loved, that you will be missed, and yadda yadda yadda, and while they are right, right as rain, I know you can’t hear them. And it’s ok.
It’s ok to feel the way you do. It’s ok to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; it is not, however, ok by opposing end them. And here’s why:
When I was twelve, my grandfather hung himself in his apartment. No one knew about it for a couple of days; my mother found him, her father, dead, hanging by the neck, and mildly decomposed. I remember well the night my mother found her father dead, for he was supposed to be joining us for dinner and I had cleaned our house in preparation of his arrival.
What came through the door instead was my livid mother. (Livid, you see, is an especially apropos word here; it means both “ashen” and “furious.” Rarely are words quite so perfect. My mother, upon discovering the pallid body of her father, was livid.) It was bad.
It gets worse, it always gets worse, and here’s where: my stepfather’s mother had killed herself when he was twelve. So his little family psychodrama got to be played out all over again in new little family. History repeats in all conceits, or in some of them, sometimes, anyway.
I saw my mother, my step-father and my grandmother (she had been separated from my grandfather) cope with the fall out of this suicide and it was hard for the pubescent me. They were all very, very, very angry. Seething and hurt and guilty. And so much so that they had a very hard time communicating anything at all.
My grandfather was a taciturn man. Half deaf in one ear, he communicated better with his wood-working hands than he did with his half-muffled words. I look back on him now, on my childish memories of him, and I see a man who had the aspect of being imprisoned in his silence. Which is very interesting, because if his suicide did anything, it increased the silence around him. Dead he was not only himself silenced, but he in effect silenced the jabbering noise of my living.
They were all so angry and pained they stopped speaking. It was a year teeming with ghosts.
I can’t tell you what to do or what not to do, but I wish you would step away from the ledge, put down the gun, spill the pills into the toilet and flush. I wish you would get some help because it’s very, very hard on those of us you might leave behind. It’s selfish of me, really, and I’m ok with that.
I’m not being altruistic here. I don’t want to have to live on with the knowledge that you killed yourself, that the meniscus of your pain broke from its force and you died from its overflow.
I beg you: Take up arms against a sea of troubles by doing something Hamlet couldn’t do: pick up the phone and get some help. You have to live inside your head for your whole life, all the time, every day; it might as well be a nice place. You wouldn’t look at your broken toilet and berate yourself for it. You wouldn’t wonder what was wrong with you that you couldn’t get it to work. You wouldn’t suffer by having no working indoor plumbing. You wouldn’t cry and feel you were worthless because your toilet was broken.
You’d call a plumber.
I know a thing or two or a thousand about depression. I have the scars on my wrists, I have the fun hospital stay to recount, I have stored in my memory files the fearful look of my parents’ faces when they think I’m close to the edge. And here’s what I know: I feel most depressed when I’m angry at someone I have loved.
I’m thinking you’re probably very, very angry right now to feel the extraordinary pain you feel. Talk to a professional trained in helping angry people. It will help.
And get some good drugs. There are lots of drugs that help people become unstuck from the prehistoric sludge of their bad brain chemistry. Find someone to prescribe you some that work for you and yours.
And write. Start a blog. No one has to read it. Just write. Write anything. Write a list or two or three thousand. It doesn’t fucking matter, really, just write. Trust me: catharsis is write.
And in the meantime, remember there are things that bring you joy, even in this desolate well you’re residing in.
Here, let me give you a list:
1. Cartman singing “Sailing Away” or “In the Heat of the Moment”
2. Miniature golf
3. Your nieces
4. Downloading free music in a quasi-legitimate fashion
6. Cool new retro sneakers
7. A hot skinny chick with a really nice rack
9. Bill Murray
10. Baths with smelly metrosexual bath products
11. The beach
12. Boogie Nights, especially “Feel, Feel, Feel, Feel the Heat”
13. Plaid shirts and boxer shorts
15. Macchu Picchu
16. Shuggie Otis
17. Vintage watches, stereo equipment, cameras, or whatever old shit it is you’re into these days
18. Napoleon Dynamite
19. The Cyclone
21. Everything But the Girl
22. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love you, man. Get a therapist; get some good clinically prescribed psychopharmaceuticals; get your lanky ass writing.
And stick with me until we grow old and gray and have to remind one another of our sordid pasts, our loves lost and found, our battle wounds and our slow-burning smiles.