melancholy milepost 167

Writer Laren Stover made a case for melancholy in Sunday’s New York Times. She exalted every excuse to be blue and extolled every morbid thought. She even imagined a world where she could retreat with her own darkness and despair.

I closed my eyes and conjured the last time my world was truly black. Hopelessly hopeless. Months and months and months of downright morbidity.

I was thirty-one and dumped by a man I wanted to marry. It was three in the morning, and I hyperventilated on my knees next to my sofa. The weight of my own grief and heartbreak pressed on my chest, a concave chasm where my heart used to be.

Minor things triggered tsunamis of tears. A glimpse of a green SUV. Travel articles on Maine. The gym. Football scores. The wispy tail of cigar smoke.

After more than six months of mourning, I still wasn’t ready to move on. Conjuring those instances, those snatches of melancholy, brought him back to me. I avoided anyone who told me I needed therapy or the latest pharmaceutical. I didn’t want sleep or numbing of pain.

Life is pointless when I can’t feel it.

I boarded the roller coaster of melancholy. I embraced the bar and paid to ride again. And again. And again.

Some of my best writing still flows from the well of despair. When we avoid life’s lows, what are we really missing? I’m not talking about clinical depression or mental illness, which can have tragic ends if left untreated. But are a few blue days really terrible? Should I pretend I’m happy when I’m sad? Or can I be both happy AND sad?

I agree with Ms. Stover. Good art requires me to be brave enough to dive into dark depths and swim to another shore. Melancholy may not be for everyone. But sometimes, it’s definitely for me.

How do you deal with melancholy?

(Find Ms. Stover’s NY Times article “The Case for Melancholy” HERE.)


Thank you to everyone who supported my brother and my parents during our recent crisis. Since I shared my brother’s situation, I’ve tried to respect his privacy.

I write about him today
because he could use continued encouragement.

A person may walk away from a suicide attempt. He may be told his body processed an overdose without any negative long-term impact to his overall health. He may hear over and over again, in therapy and at home, how much he matters.

He hasn’t given up. Doctors are adjusting his course of treatment. Next week, he’ll be evaluated for a program we both believe will help him heal.

Whether you’re the praying sort or the positive thoughts sort,
please reserve a space for him.

The mind is a tricky thing. It usually fixates on whether or not a life matters to specific people. When those people don’t care about a life, it’s easy to believe no one does.

Every life matters. Every. Life. Whether an individual thinks he matters is irrelevant. Every. Life. Matters. If you know my brother, once knew my brother, or are a stranger with a few seconds, I know he would appreciate that message in the coming days.

Thank you again to everyone who contacted my parents, my brother, and me. Thank you for the cards, letters, calls, visits, and messages of encouragement and hope. Thank you for the continued requests for additional information. While I don’t want to make multiple posts about a private matter, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the efforts of so many people. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you again.

world suicide prevention dayOn the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day, my brother tried to kill himself. I won’t be pithy or trite. A suicide attempt guts responses anyway. Synapses don’t fire. Fingers won’t type. Ideas refuse to flow…..or they overflow.

My brother first tried to kill himself at fourteen or fifteen. He found a loaded gun, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. Funny how triggers become life’s highlight. The thing in the cleft of the inevitable canyon. The constant no matter the speed of the fall.

For three decades, I watched my brother claw at immovable rock and sometimes climb to sunshine. When I was lucky enough to be in his life, I never saw more joy etched into a face. He made it. Sweaty, bruised, exhausted, battered, yes, but euphoria superseded everything. He inched himself back to living, and we who loved him basked in the glory of him whole.

A body can’t scale impossible cliffs forever. It breaks down, gives out, ages beyond its ability to thrive.

Much like a troubled mind.

It whiplashes from the pit of a roiling soul, a blackness no thought can expunge, no sentiment can quash, no love can surmount, until the psyche splats against the bottom, its sides too daunting to find the unreachable sliver of light. How many times did my brother lie alone in that chasm before he dragged himself to stand, groped through blackness and scratched a path to the light?

Time passes. It’s hard to celebrate another success. Light dulls when everyone knows there will be a next time.

I’ve never known how to cope with my brother’s flirtation with death. When I was younger, I lectured him, because I didn’t understand. The depression. The endless dark. Why couldn’t he pick himself up and be strong? Like me?

I begged my parents to force him to get help. I avoided him, because I couldn’t stand the wrecking ball of his presence. Would he welcome me? Or lock himself in his room and refuse to leave? I offered to help him when he lacked the energy to lift one mental finger and accept. Through everything, I gave him a broken kind of love. It never penetrated his churning spirit, never forced its way into the lightless expanse of his soul.

I know it isn’t my fault my brother now lies in a trauma unit, his body plugged into machines to eradicate the lingering effects of his latest suicide attempt. I understand no amount of love, of begging, of connection, can stop a determined person from harming himself when he’s too broken to undertake another climb.

My brother’s only hope, shackled within the prison of his own subconscious, is to finally find a path that works. A route to the top with tools to cushion his next fall. No matter how madly I want those things for him, he has to grasp them himself.

I mourn for those who’ve lost loved ones to suicide. I sob for my brother who can’t stop trying. I cry for myself and my parents, who live every day wondering when he’ll succeed.

I don’t know how to cope with suicide. I only know how to try.


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I pilfered links to resources from Tori Nelson Young’s exquisite post about her mother’s suicide (READ IT HERE), and I added a few more.


To Write Love On Her Arms

International Association for Suicide Prevention

It Gets Better Project

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Project Semicolon

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline