Thursday, November 17, 2011

Esquire Mental Health Writing - Chris Jones & Mike Sager

There were two excellent pieces of writing from the November 2011 issue of Esquire Magazine with Panic (posted online in 2014 after the suicide of Robin Williams) by Chris Jones and Depression by Mike Sager.

The Jones piece covers his own past suicidal thoughts to the point of first contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and later superficially cutting himself with a knife. Each episode was described as something of a culmination of spiraling emotions involving excessive anger, stuck thoughts of problems not improving, or runaway thoughts of those same problems getting much worse.

It was remarkable reading because of the level to which the author gave himself up to readers and a positive conclusion of sorts to this story comes in the form of a post by Jones towards the bottom of this SportsJournalists comment thread.

It wouldn't be true to write that I understand how he felt because that’s just dumb and I've never been in the place he describes. That said, life can be a challenge at times and it's almost inspiring to read of how it's not easy for those that one might think live a charmed life (and I've had that view of Jones with his writing ability and career).


The Mike Sager piece differs in that it's about someone who was not actually sick with depression, but very well could have been giving his life circumstances. Sager was going through a divorce and accompanying time apart from his teenage child and actually diagnosed with major depressive disorder. He fought the diagnosis which drove up insurance costs and was able to overturn it as incorrect. Sager’s writing certainly seems to indicate a lack of depression as he keeps his life moving forward and makes the all-important statement “how much can one man take? As much as need be."


While the two pieces come from very different places, it seems the aforementioned Sager quote in line with how Jones closed his story by writing that he wished "we would always be terrified of death... and spend the rest of our lives running from it."

Other thing I keep thinking about in relation to both pieces is the distinction between two different ways of viewing situations… one being to imagine how much better things could be (bad view) and the other how much worse the possibilities (good view).

This relative ranking of viewpoints doesn't advocate for perpetual status quo, but rather for an appreciation of things good and/or really not that bad.