I’m terribly remiss with your letters. I’m late with this one and I didn’t write one at all last month. The reasons go hand-in-hand. And this letter might end up sounding more to me than you.
This month your namesake died. He did not just die: he hanged himself. This happened to be the week after my doctors and I came to the conclusion that mega doses of Omega 3s and magnesium, yoga, twice monthly acupuncture, and twice monthly talk therapy were not enough to get me feeling well again. But the fact is that I’ve been out of my mind with anxiety for about 4 months now. I didn’t feel like I had any more time left. So the week before David Foster Wallace committed suicide, I went back on Zoloft. I was hopeful.
How are you supposed to explain to your child that sometimes people can get help and it isn’t enough? As someone who has watched friends and family struggle with mental health, as someone who is struggling right now, this is quite possibly the most uncomfortable truth there is. I don’t want to sugarcoat life for you, Henry, but I don’t want to depress you either. And yet I feel it needs to be addressed. So I’ve sat here paralyzed, unable to write.
I thought about telling you how to separate the artist from the art. But this artist was a kind and gentle person, who even though he was busy as hell, thought enough to send your father and I a card on our wedding day. I thought about some nature/nurture mumbo jumbo, but my logic was flawed. I choose to believe your namesake had a terminal illness. We didn’t name you for his illness; we named you for his art. If he was a woman and had breast cancer, we’d say he had a double masectomy and chemo and radiation (he was in therapy and medicated for over 25 years), but in the end, his particular cancer was too aggressive. It’s one of life’s tragedies. The truth is we named you after someone whose work will continue to inspire us, long after he is gone. I know we have several years before you ask about your name, but that’s what I’ve got for now.