Depression Killed David Foster Wallace

Only friends, family knew of the writer's emotional state

By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 27, 2008 6:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – After a torrent of tributes to David Foster Wallace since his suicide 2 weeks ago, Salon talks with close friends and family members about the decades-long battle with depression that led the beloved and astonishingly talented writer to take his life. For years, Wallace functioned with the help of antidepressants, but he'd developed problems with the drugs, and stopped taking them.

"Going off the medication was just catastrophic," his father tells Slate. "Severe depression came back." Wallace had been crippled with anxiety and unable to write for more than a year. He had been hospitalized twice, and had tried electric shock therapy, which left him "very shaky and very fragile and unable to sleep." When they visited him in August, Wallace's parents found him gaunt and "terrified," and he hanged himself 2 weeks later.

David Foster Wallace speaking in San Francisco.
David Foster Wallace speaking in San Francisco.   ((c) Steve Rhodes)
Wallace's infamous and groundbreaking essay, Consider the Lobster, began as a story about a festival in Maine and ended up an argument that boiling lobsters alive is unethical.
Wallace's infamous and groundbreaking essay, Consider the Lobster, began as a story about a festival in Maine and ended up an argument that boiling lobsters alive is unethical.   ((c) Brian Sawyer)
A self-proclaimed DFW fan reading Oblivion. Friends of the writer may have known more about his fight with depression, but share the same shock that fans felt at his suicide.
A self-proclaimed "DFW" fan reading Oblivion. Friends of the writer may have known more about his fight with depression, but share the same shock that fans felt at his suicide.   ((c) skampy)
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How many extra weeks had he hung in there when he just couldn't bear it? So we're not angry at him. Not at all. We just miss him. - Wallace's younger sister, Amy

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