Depression & Genius: David Foster Wallace

I recently interviewed a creative talent who was kind enough to be painfully honest about his struggles with depression. For every person who successfully tackles depression, there are some folks who despite their best efforts (and various  attempts to support them, through counseling or medication or other forms of treatment)  fall victim to crippling depression and choose to end their life. This September it will be two years since the writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide after battling depression for more than 20 years.

I’m just one of many folks that respects Wallace’s intelligence and lament his passing. He gave a hell of a lot of himself on the written page.  I was recently reading his thoughts on life, which he boiled down into a commencement speech, (and which later became the 2009 book, This is Water). Consider this thought on page 48 of the book.

“Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education, least in my own case, is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract thinking instead of simply paying attention to what’s going on in front of me.”

I have to mull that one over for awhile. I may need to hang it on my wall.

I really have nothing else to say, except that–hey, if you know me–and if you’re ever suicidal: Please don’t. I’ll miss you. That’s not an effort to be glib on my part. I hope that someone in my circle of friends remembers that I wrote this sentiment, when they’re feeling overwhelmed. And if you have someone in your life that battles depression, support them. It can be maddening for all parties involved at certain points, but it’s amazing what a little simple moment of caring can do. We can’t stop all suicides. That’s impossible. But maybe if we all pay attention to what’s going on in front of us, we might help someone that we might not otherwise note.

2 thoughts on “Depression & Genius: David Foster Wallace

  1. A very bright light in Atlanta theatre just took her life after years of battling depression. So I very much hope your message here is heard.

  2. Sorry to hear that, Theresa. Sometimes I view my blog (and anyone’s thoughts online for that matter) as messages in bottles, drifting off, to be picked up by someone somewhere. Not today, maybe tomorrow or maybe a long time from now.

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