29-year-old Christine Chubbok didn’t leave behind a note. Instead, she staged a grand and memorable performance. Looking healthy, well-groomed, and in good spirits the morning of July 15, 1974, the newswoman geared up for a special presentation. “She was in a much better than normal mood. To this day, her enthusiasm puzzles me,” news director Gordan Galbraith said of her demeanor that morning.
Maria Bamford made a hilarious video for Above Average’s Storytime series about her time in the psych ward. Of course Maria plays all the (speaking) characters as she takes us down the mental health rabbit hole.
David Foster Wallace was an ultimate wunderkind, and he bought into the idea of himself as exceptional to a devastating degree. He was a sensitive person, and sensitive people, especially sensitive smart people, can hold onto the evidence of their specialness like an armor. David Foster Wallace learned the hard way that this type of armor is made of paper, and you can only truly find that out if you dreams come true and you get everything you thought you needed to prove yourself.
Love & Mercy is a beautiful portrait of a tortured mind, and an insight into the genius that led to some of the most beautiful and innovative music ever made. It’s also the story of how mishandled psychiatric care can destroy a person.
Nina Simone’s music is trembling and alive. Her piano and vocal techniques are studied and intricate, but they are saturated with an emotional fire. She didn’t know how to not share her wild and dirty heart with us, and that’s why we can’t help but fall in love with her. Her feelings, these feelings that many in her audience relate to, can go deep and dangerous. When a singer or musician presents with such raw and real feeling, it is often indicative of a very difficult life. A song contains it, a song embodies the whole of reality while it is being played, but how are these feelings supposed to be managed when the music stops?
Sadness is such a difficult part of ourselves. Life, it often seems, would be better without it. But that’s not exactly true. I kind of like my sadness, as long as it’s balanced. When things go wrong, I’d rather just be quiet with it than to feel nothing at all. It can feel good to hurt, or to at least bring the hurt up to the surface enough to get it out through tears, words or hugs. Life itself is incredibly tough, and that’s why we need sadness to get us through. If we ignore it too much, the world takes on a dishonest veneer, and we feel a bit dishonest ourselves. We need to just talk, listen and rest sometimes. Sometimes we just need to say, simple as it is, “Yeah, it’s sad.” Pete Docter’s Pixar animated film Inside Out examines this importance of sadness in a way that’s never been done before on screen, maybe never been done before at all.
Amy Winehouse drank herself to death with vodka while watching videos of herself on Youtube. That fact, a fairly simple and sad demise labeled as a “misadventure” by the British coroner, came out two years after her death. Before the official report was released there was a lot of speculation about what transpired on Amy’s last night on Earth, and which drug, or drugs, was the one that took her away from us. Most of us, her parents included, didn’t want to believe that it was alcohol, the legal, highly marketed toxin most adults imbibe fairly regularly. We wanted it to be a “harder” drug, something more complicated and difficult to procure. Her parents seemed to want to deflect, to deny that it was anything at all, to say Amy had been doing well. Despite their will to believe otherwise, her public appearances shortly before her death seem to point to the fact that Amy was doing worse than ever. Her only drug at the time may have been alcohol via episodic binges, but that’s more than enough. If her parents couldn’t truly see her, how could she expect anyone to?
We forget that the subjects of our myths are humans. Whether we ridicule or exalt them, idols of the American Dream (or Global Dream) float like symbols through our consciousness. We hear their voices, see their faces, and absentmindedly play through a narrative of their lives we’ve heard, an anecdote, a quote. They are embedded in us, but when we try to pick apart what they mean to us and why they mean it, we see a shivering person there, not an untouchable god or monster at all.
The Internet and media didn’t break Monica Lewinsky, but it almost did. It’s been almost two decades since the former White House intern, in her words, became “patient zero” for internet shame and scandal. But now, after 17 years of being a punchline, she’s stepped out of the shadows to remind us all that she is, after all, a person. She asking that we consider the humanity of people with our stray comments, a practice that is just as important offline as online.
Pamela Moore wrote Chocolates for Breakfast, an eyebrow raising 1956 novel about lost teenage girls living privileged and depressing lives, when she was only 18. The book was a hit and put the female name Courtney on the map (Courtney Love counts herself among one of the girls named after protagonist Courtney Farrell,) but Pamela never had another hit and killed herself when she was only 27 years old. The popular book had several prints but lay dormant for years… Read more »