I wrote the following letter as a response to a conversation with a friend I have known since college. She wondered why I used the term “death thoughts” in my writing. But I wanted to publish it for all of the people closest to me, who have never seen me wail from the hollow place in my heart or throw things across the room in rage of this illness. I am writing it for my friends and relatives who wonder why I choose the words I do, if I’m exercising a creative license to keep a reader’s attention. This year my purpose has been made clear—to help people who are tormented by constant death thoughts, just as I am. This will mean rejection from those closest to me who cannot understand what I mean or why I would disclose such ugliness to the public. But it also means I have tapped into the freedom to do what I was born to do.
Thank you for being honest the other day when you told me that you found the words “death thoughts” in my writing to be jarring, that they make you want to stop reading, that they make you think I am different from you, like a Rain Man sort of character.
I appreciate your honesty because I think a lot of people feel that way but never tell me.
I spent some time thinking about how I could soften the phrase “death thoughts,” but there was no way around the reality that I think about death when I am depressed, about ways I can get cancer, or accidents that I can stage, or just calculate over and over again the average lifespans of relatives from both sides of my family to come up with the number of hours that I have to hang in there for.