managing

Each time I sit down to write lately I become distracted. I can't quite get the hang of my life right now. Those two sentences have been in my draft box on Wordpress for a few days. Things happen that pull me away from sitting down and writing and sharing my thoughts and giving myself some mental space which I desperately need. This weekend it was the rain, which saturated the ground so much that our basement puddled. I don't want to say flooded because while there was enough water to cause damage if anything had been against that wall, it wasn't as though we were wading through water. Still, it was stressful. We did go through some towels (all the ones we own) but manageable.

And that's the thing. All of my stresses, my daily bullshit stuff is manageable, more manageable than it has been in a really long time. Still, I feel really tense at times, anxious. I feel unsettled because so many new things have happened suddenly in my life but not just my life, my family's life too. All these changes while fantastic and wonderful and challenging and exhilarating make me feel like I went to sleep one night and my brother was in college, my parents in Alabama, me still in grad school and I woke up the next day and Matt is married, and my parents are in Florida and I'm a professor with a Ph.D. It's all so good, but my body can't seem to get the message. I'm so used to the level of stress I experienced while writing my dissertation that I can't get used to what's happening now, to regular stress.

Then I read about David Foster Wallace's suicide. My first reaction was an overwhelming sense of loss, not in a personal way but in a way that I won't get to read any more of his scarily brilliant work. I felt sad for those who loved him, who worked with him and who knew him personally. Any death is hard to deal with, but suicides come with their own special brand of pain, questions, the search for clues. Many of the writers I love, the ones who are genuises seem anguished, tortured. The writing can do that to you. For a while, I convinced myself it had to. And I drank and smoked and tortured myself along with the best of them. I gave into the hauntedness, craved the dark and dank bars, the smell of stale alcohol and cigarettes. The myth of the tortured writer often comes true, sadly. So, I thought about the way our lives become unmanageable, the point where you just can't take it anymore. I wonder why we act as though that threshold doesn't exist for all of us. It does; we all have a breaking point. It may manifest differently, may break differently but it's always there. Those of us who suffer from depression know it differently. We know it more acutely, pushing against it, stumbling in the dark.

Then I read more and more and more stories, blogs, news reports about Wallace's death and, like Andrea Seigel, was surprised at how people (the media) seemed to treat and portray depression, mental illness in incredibly detrimental and unrealistic ways. Seigel says it much better than I could. But being someone who has experienced depression, who grew up in a house wrought with anxiety and guilt, it astounds me the way people (the media) paint those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression.

I'm lucky, I think. Most days are more manageable than others. I'm not taking medication. (It remains to be seen if that's good or bad). Every day I deal with my craziness and how it manifests itself in being unable to sleep, or concentrate or listen. Some days I'm mostly normal, self-aware, silly, grateful. Other days, not so much. It's a matter of degrees, of ranges of emotion, chemistry, daylight, temperature and who knows what else. It is not, however, cut-and-dried or easily explained or selfish in a purposeful way.

A close friend from my undergraduate life shot himself and I've known others who od'ed. And what I have learned is that there is no reason, none that will ever be enough to answer the question why. It's all a matter of breaking points, I think. Life is unpredictable. We are never sure how much we have within us. Is the world a bit less bright and humorous without Wallace around, absolutely. Is it horrible that his wife found him, yes. I think I feel most deeply for her, for having to face the unthinkable, for having to deal with the questions and the search for clues. As a fan, I can mourn the loss of a great writer but as a compassionate person I simply feel sympathy at the loss of a man who meant so much to so many.