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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

David Foster Wallace’s Last Days

posted by on October 1 at 12:20 PM

Speaking of David Foster Wallace (with reference to the link Jen posted earlier): This piece of reporting about his final days is hard to read. The analysis is generic but the stuff his family offers up to the Salon reporter is horrifying: crippling anxiety, hospitalization, electro-convulsive therapy treatments. When the news first broke a lot of people in comments here on Slog were jumping in with their “analysis” about how “selfish” DFW’s suicide was. Would you like to know how DFW’s sister thought about it? She says:

Inevitably our thought was, if only he could have held on a little bit longer. And then we realized, he did. How many extra weeks had he hung in there when he just couldn’t bear it? So we’re not angry at him. Not at all. We just miss him.

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shock therapy actually does help some people out of catatonic depressions.

Posted by max solomon | October 1, 2008 12:28 PM

My uncle committed suicide after a long struggle with depression. Shock therapy had helped him before but in the end...

While losing him was really hard (he was my favorite uncle and a role model for me), I understand why he did it. It was selfish, in a way. But you know what, it was selfish of me to want him to keep hanging on when every minute was misery and decades of therapy and medicine didn't work.

Posted by dwight moody | October 1, 2008 12:35 PM

@2 has it right. It's horrible for the people who survive them, but at a certain point it's more selfish of us to want to force someone in severe pain to stay alive just for us -- regardless of whether the pain is physical or emotional.

Posted by Dawgson | October 1, 2008 12:53 PM

The scary thing about DFW's suicide, for those of us who struggle with depression, is that he TRIED all the interventions. The drugs, the therapy, even the shock treatments weren't enough to hold back the dragon.

Posted by Westside forever | October 1, 2008 1:17 PM

Sure it's selfish. Can we at some point neutralize that word as it pertains to suicide?

It's selfish not to empathize with their decision. Making a big deal about how selfish it is presumes you're somehow stronger or better. You wouldn't make that decidion, right? If your reality collapsed into the exact same world view, you'd somehow whether the storm for everyone else's sake.

Shake it off, DFW! Walk it off and get back in the game. You're going to make yourself have fun enriching other people's lives again today, whether oyu want to or not. It's not about you. Having a body and a mind of your own is never about you.

Spare me the phony shock and pontificating about suicide.

I'd bet that there's going to be a wave of suicides in the millions over the next few years America keeps getting worse every morning.

Get ready to empathize!

Posted by Yay, Empathy! | October 1, 2008 5:04 PM

ECT probably did work but its temporary side effects like memory loss, etc. probably increased his anxiety and sent him into another tailspin. The worst thing about severe depression is how it completely removes the ability to see an end to the illness. It may be true even untreated cases tend to lift in six months to a year, but it is impossible for the victim to feel any possibility of relief ever as you would for, say, a bad cold.

Posted by John | October 3, 2008 8:24 PM

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