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The Goddess of battle, strife, and destruction explains it all for you

Suicidal Tendencies



September 16, 2008


The loss of author David Foster Wallace this week to suicide at the age of 46 has obviously left the world bereft of a huge talent.  He wasn’t my favourite author, but I liked his cheekiness and I liked his style.  I certainly can’t claim his talent, but we were both smart asses and oddballs and much given to digression in our writing.  (I think his was deliberate though.  Until I get an agent and an editor, I just tend to ramble on and on.)


But let’s talk about suicide for a minute.


We’ve all known people who’ve done it.  Hell, on those meds I was just taking, I came pretty damn close myself.  But for my friends, my “it’s only the drugs, it’s only the drugs, it’s only the drugs” mantra and my knowledge of what these nasty little chemicals were up to, I could well have been taking the big Dirt Nap months ago.


When I was in the midst of the pharmaceutical turmoil, I remember expressing my despair to a friend of mine.  “Don’t be ridiculous”, he said.  “Suicide is for losers.”


I don’t think it’s that simple.  I don’t think people kill themselves because they are overwhelmed by the enormity of it all – but maybe some do.  I think it can be the little things accumulating – fear, a sense of inadequacy, loneliness. I think you can just get stuck and not know how to get UNstuck.


For others, it’s a response to trauma – some grief or hurt so overwhelming that the only aim is to make it stop.  And in those cases, I don’t even think you’re functioning as a human being.  I think you’re just some terribly Hurt Thing and that you can’t ever imagine a way out of that.  I’ve dealt with rape victims in my practice who’ve been in that condition – and it makes me adamant that rape, by definition, should be classified as a form of murder.  Because it really does kill the soul.  The United Nations declared it a War Crime insofar as it pertained to the conflict in Bosnia and I think they got it right, but I’d like to see that definition acknowledged across the board and around the world.  I’d like to see it reclassified as a hate crime in our Criminal Code at the very least.


I’m digressing again.


In the eulogies I’ve been reading, it appears that David Foster Wallace had been struggling with severe depression for some months prior to his death and had even been hospitalized for it.


I don’t think I’ve ever been depressed, at least not when it hasn’t been chemically induced.  Even then, even at its worst, I could still laugh.  I thank God that at the core of myself is laughter.  No matter what life throws at me, that has always come through for me. 


But I know for other people, it’s not so easy.


Mental illness is only now becoming less stigmatized and people are coming out of the closet and seeking help when they feel depressed.  And here’s the thing.  Doctors say that depression affects women more severely and in different ways than it does men – but naturally, most studies and most of the research dollars have, until very recently, only explored how depression affects men. 


This is pretty fucked up because depression affects twice as many women as men.  This is true across the board regardless of racial/ethnic background or socio-economic status and if you look at the stats in about 15 developed nations around the world, they do not deviate.  Although men and women suffer from bipolar disorder at roughly the same rate, women typically experience fewer manic episodes and a larger percentage suffer from the “rapid cycling” form of the disorder, making it difficult to treat.


Why is depression such a dirty little secret?  Is it because we’re afraid if we say anything, people will say we’re hormonal?  Are we afraid of the shame?


Nonsense:  if you broke your arm, wouldn’t you go have someone take a look at it?  Isn’t your mind at least as important?


If you feel depressed to the point where your life has lost its joy and if thoughts have suicide have begun to intrude upon you – or even more mundanely, if you exhibit the less severe symptoms of depression (check out the Canadian Mental Health Association’s description), please contact your doctor immediately.  Start the ball rolling.  This is a medical emergency.  Treat it as one.


And if you have a friend or a loved one who is struggling with depression, for God’s sake, don’t wait until you drop by one day and stumble across the body. Do something!  Talk!  Be there!  OMFG:  if it weren’t for my friends, I would never have survived the topamax ordeal and while it drove them all bananas, I’m sure they preferred listening to me cry to eating cucumber sandwiches at my funeral. 


Depression kills by degrees and early intervention is crucial.


I give you the man himself.  This is from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College:


Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There is no disgrace in being human.  By the same token, we all stumble and we all WILL stumble.  Reach out a hand if you see someone faltering. 


You might just save a life.


Till next time,




Copyright© the Morrigan & Heartless Bitches International ( 2008
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