After all the therapy and all the refills, I should be myself again. How unbearable—to be yourself as God or your doctors intended! If the doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, ask God for a second opinion.
As a kid I wondered what would be here if the world were not here—if God, in the Beginning, had nothing to live for.
Traumatized in high school, I wrote numb poetry, without irony, already finding ways to reverse my birth through verse.
I was a missing person in my own backyard. An absent student with perfect attendance. No one, except God perhaps, noticed I wasn’t (all) there.
I am not a recovering melancholic. I continue to overthink.
The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain got me thinking about my attempt fifteen years ago and the struggles I still face.
People who don’t know me well don’t see the real me—the reeling me. Although I’m not actively suicidal, I must fight every day passive thoughts about wishing to die. Some days I’m so depressed I have to force myself to take a shower. Being with people hurts. I tell myself that life is meaningless and I’ll always be miserable, unable to work full-time.
Someone I hadn’t seen in years asked me recently if I ever thought about becoming a teacher. I’m well-spoken, she said, and full of interesting ideas. I told her she caught me on a good day.
“Check with me tomorrow morning,” I said. “You’ll see I’m a different person.”
Of course I’ve thought about becoming a teacher, but becoming a teacher feels impossible. I’m not confident enough to stand in front of a classroom. I’m not brave enough to make mistakes—mistakes I might learn from. I don’t believe in myself.
People of faith often talk about doing God’s work. They’re called to fulfill a higher purpose beyond themselves. I worry that my calling never came and never will. All I hear is my own voice, putting me down, on an endless loop.
There is a counter-argument. My writing—regardless of my mood—is a spiritual endeavor and writing about depression and suicide might save lives, including my own.
Writing about my depression briefly relieves my pain. The moment I describe what I’m feeling, I no longer feel (as) depressed.
As we say, write or read a word—the second we “have it”—the word slips away along with its meaning. I write down “depression”; depression and its meaning(lessness) slip my mind, only to return.
A pessimist might argue that writing about depression is a symptom of my depression. I say that as long as I’m writing about something I’m not lying in bed all day in a bad brood.
Soren Kierkegaard: “In my great melancholy, I loved life, for I love my melancholy.”
Albert Camus: “There is no love of life without despair about life.”
Kurt Cobain: “I miss the comfort in being sad.”
Kierkegaard believed in God. Camus believed in Absurdism. Cobain believed in Nirvana.
All three, I believe, are no longer with us.
There’s a rare condition called lexical-gustatory synesthesia in which people involuntarily experience food tastes when they hear, read or say a word.
I’m allergic to milk. A severe reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock, which isn’t fun.
If I were also allergic to words, would uttering “milk” make me swell-spoken?
In college I wrote a story about the time milk almost killed me in the fifth grade. People thought I was exaggerating my symptoms. I wasn’t.
If you must write, risk your life to write. Every sentence, in the end, is a death sentence.
If writing doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, you’re not doing it right.
Jean Baudrillard: “Cipher, don’t decipher.”
Translation: Keep to yourself. Keep something of yourself for yourself. Keep something of yourself from yourself. Commit silence.
How shall we write silence? How shall we write in silence? In what tone does silence not-write?
Knot-writing. Bound books. Unsafe words. Writing is seen as emotional release. It’s first and foremost a building of tension. Writing complicates. Writing frustrates.
If you must write a memoir, don’t spill your guts. Deflect reflection. Let sleeping Freudians lie.
Engage like a mistress in tease and denial. Put a hand over your mouth. Hand over your mouth. Muffle your dreams.
Looking to s(h)elf-publish? Write books nobody reads to be a better person. Be nobody yourself. Inspire readers to do nothing, to say no to being themselves for once. Give the floor to each reader’s No-Self. Write No-Self help books.
Ingeborg Bachmann: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire.”
Some questions. Some thoughts.
Where is this fire? Perhaps you’re full of passion, to the point of pain. Should it read instead: “I am writing with my burnt hand about the nature of fire within me”?
“About the nature of fire.” Are you holding your hand to the fire? Is it hovering above the flames? Why don’t you remove it?
It sounds like you’re using your hand to write. Another way of seeing things: Is your hand writing all by itself? Are you writing alongside it? Is your body, minus your burnt hand, writing its own material?
Are you using your write hand?
Words can contain fire—a fiery speech, inflammatory language—but words can’t contain a fire, can’t command a fire to stop burning. If we’re angry when we write, are we playing with ire?
When you wrote or spoke this line, were you aware, Ingeborg Bachmann, that a fire in your bedroom would contribute to your death in 1973 at the age of 47? Did you enjoy your last cigarette?