Sunday, May 6, 2012

Is ze even alive anymore?

I need to send an email off to the person at my university who was supposed to be trying to help me get employed.  The email is not about getting employed.  Now that I have a psychologist* I've got a professional opinion that concurs that I can't really work right now.  Plus, I've got the end of the semester rush to deal with at the moment.

No, I need to send off the email, basically, to let the person know that I'm not dead.  Hopefully that never crossed her mind, but I did let her in on the fact that I have some pretty big problems with depression and then I dropped off the face of the earth.  You'd think that she could know just by not hearing anything that nothing had happened, but one can't really count on that and I certainly can't count on her counting on that.

Last she knew I wasn't really in the system, which means that if something happened to me the university wouldn't even notice, much less let appropriate people know.

Now that's not something that anyone really has to worry about with me, at least not for depression related reasons (I could still get hit by a car), but given that I don't introduce myself with, "Hi, I'm Chris, I am not now, nor have I ever been, suicidal," it might not be immediately apparent to people that they don't have to worry.

And it's not like death doesn't happen all the time without being noticed.  I found out that one of my old math teachers, the teacher who first made me aware that there were problems with how the university was being run** by explaining that they'd given up on pure math and were just letting the teachers retire or die off and not replacing them, had died when someone mentioned in passing that there was no attempt to replace him now that he was died.  They just got someone else to pull double duty to cover his classes for the rest of the semester and figured that was enough.  In the future there will be fewer math teachers.

That was how I learned he had died, not in the context of actually talking about him.  Just that the (non)reaction to his death was another example of how the university is shrinking the staff.

I didn't notice before that.  I should have.  I saw another teacher teaching a class that I should have known was his (given that I'd seen him teaching that class earlier in the year and even talked to him when he had finished with it) and the change in teachers midstream didn't register to me as anything that needed thought.

So now I know he's gone.

At least I think I do.  Finding information on the internet to verify that has proved impossible.  Eventually I got frustrated, gave up, and ended up reading Ruby deconstruct some Christian fiction before coming back to this.

And that kind of demonstrates what I'm talking about about not knowing if people are alive or dead.  I'd like to base pronouncing someone dead on more than one comment in passing, but I really can't.  I don't have evidence that he died so much as he disappeared.  And people can disappear for a number of reasons (I would prefer to think that he was involved in some caper or action movie-scenario and is currently living in Tuscany under an assumed name with a pile of money.)  I've disappeared, as far as the world outside of my family is concerned, at least twice.  Many, many more times if you count times I disappeared for one subset of the world rather than the whole thing.

So, anyway, I'm basically as sure as I'm ever likely to be that he died, but if I hadn't heard that one comment I would have no idea.  Death happens, and you don't always notice.  Which in turn means that it's completely reasonable to believe that someone might have died without you noticing it.

Normally my guess is not that someone died, but to a certain extent I seem to have that reaction on the internet.  Today I saw a link to Adventures in Depression, from Hyperbole and a Half and realized that the reason the link was there was because that was the most recent post at Hyperboly and a Half.  Which is to say that at the time of this writing, if you click on either of those links what you encounter will look (almost) exactly the same until you've scrolled all the way down to the end of the massive post that is Adventures in Depression.

Now I first encountered Adventures in Depression via Ana Mardoll a little over six months ago when it was reasonably fresh, though not as fresh as Ana thought it was.  Some parts of it were somewhat like my own experiences with depression*** the vast majority were not at all, but it was definitely worth reading and it was actually uplifting and ... yeah.  It's good that I encountered it.  If you're in a frame of mind to deal with a long post on depression (with pictures!) and have not yet encountered it, I highly recommend that you take a look.

But when I realized that it was the last thing on the blog, I started to wonder.  Is she ok?  Is she alive?  It's been so long, could she be dead?

Yeah, that's how I react to things.  Now that I think of it, I have the same reaction to people not being home when I expect them to be.  As the hours drag on my thoughts are not, "Well maybe there was a Lord of the Rings marathon that they went to," but instead, "If they died in a car accident, how long would it be before someone told me?  Would I even find out today?"

Anyway, while I was thinking, that I have to let this person know that I'm alive and no worse than normal because from their perspective I talked about depression a couple times and then disappeared, and here was someone who talked about depression and disappeared.  There seemed to be a sort of parallel.

As it turns out, she's apparently on the road to recovery.  As of one month ago things are improving for her, so that's good news.

I'm not sure what to say with the email, I can't just say, "I'm not dead," because hopefully that was never considered a possibility in which case I don't want to introduce it.  Even saying something like, "I just wanted to let you know I'm ok," introduces the idea, "You have reason to think I'm not ok."  I feel bad about falling out of contact, but I'm also, essentially, going to blow the person off and say, "All of your work was useless, I'm going to give up trying for now and work on something else," not sure the best way to do that.  On what is now, I think, the third hand, it was because of her that I ended up set up with the pyschologist, so I should say thank you. And generally I'm not sure what to do and also I have other things I need to think about.

Like I can finally actually officially enroll in the classes I just spent a semester taking, which is good, but then there's also the possibility that I'll fail them all.  In which case I'd be better off walking away and not enrolling.  I'm not actually going to do that.  It's not in my nature, insofar as I have a nature.  Even if it might seem inviting, walking away was never an option.  Not enrolling because there was no way I could pay was an option, but choosing to walk away wasn't.  I just hope that not doing that doesn't prove to be a catastrophic mistake.

All that's left is one week that will consist of tests and a mad scramble to make up more back homework than anyone in their right mind would have ever allowed to gather in the first place.

When this post first appeared (as a vague and formless proto-post) in my mind it had a much tighter focus on the strangeness of not knowing whether people were alive or dead and how easy it is to miss the passing of someone, and it may have even had a point.  Didn't work out that way.


One thing I would like to point out: I have good days.  Yesterday was a good day.

My life is definitely not all bad.


* And soon, possibly hopefully maybe, a psychiatrist.

** Problems that predate Selma Botman.  Replacing her is almost certainly a necessary component of turning things around, but it is not sufficient.

*** I haven't actually read this post in forever, for all I know it's entirely incoherent and not at all illuminating.


  1. That's my common reaction too. But I'm just generally prone to imagining worst case scenarios.

    Sometimes, even when I have nothing to say, I post on my lj simply to let people-who-possibly-care know that I'm alive. Just in case they are worrying.


  2. I'd say more or less that in your email:

    Thanks so much for your help; it was helpful in ways I didn't anticipate; I have a chance now to get more help; even though my original reason for seeking your help didn't pan out, I appreciate your time and wanted you to know that your actions have unexpected positive consequences sometimes; have a happy end of the term.

    You don't have to be much more specific than that; at least this person knows that you're not fallen completely through the cracks, and there's some support system there, which is the most frightening aspect of the "dead or not dead" wondering.