I was up at 4 a.m. this morning finishing the autobiography of David Foster Wallace, "Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story," and it was an emotional experience for me. I have come to see in recent years that I have experienced some form of mental illness for much of my life, and am only recently coming to feel that I am understanding this and undertaking some serious and sustained healing, a process that involves so many different parts of my life. This realization is a transformative experience, one Wallace could not endure or survive. He took his life at age 46.
I have also recently been working in my own spiritual work the idea that we can take some of the sorrows and pains and fears of life and put them down. This is also complex. I do not know if Wallace really had a choice or not about his illness or the medications he took for much of his life. I took anti-anxiety and other anti-obsessive medications for more than 30 years and have lived free of them for the past five years successfully. Like him, they altered my mind and consciousness in ways I did not like. Wallace's death was triggered by his desire to go off of the powerful anti-depressants he had been on. They were affecting his life and his writing. But he could no longer survive off the medicine and he could not bear the idea of going back on it. At almost precisely the point where he finally had so many of the things he had wanted all of his life, he gave up on living this way. I can so easily relate to the awful choices he had to make, and I am no one to judge the one he did make.
I was talking to a friend who is also a spiritual adviser and we talked about the choice between medication and seeing oneself as mentally ill. We talked about the idea of putting it down, taking the sense of oneself as weak, fearful, troubled, imperiled or sick and putting that idea down, separating from it, leaving it behind. I don't need to tell a struggle story. I don't need to take medication. I don't need to think of myself any longer as ill.
This idea applies to fear and anger and despair, things all of us feel at some point. I like the idea. Put It Down. Let go of it. Make choices about what we feel, read, see and listen to. About how we see ourselves. I am drawn to the idea of taking this notion of myself as a sick person and this illness as a choice. To keep it. Or put it down.