It’s not often a book is written that blows my mind. I don’t generally read fiction, but I’ve come across a decent amount that have made me think, made me laugh, made me cry, and in some cases, have left me an emotional trainwreck in suburbia at three in the morning on a school night.
The book Die, Live, Repeat: a narrative, by Michaela Miller, was such a book for me. I read this in one sitting, found it not only hard to put down, but in several places saying, ‘Whoa.’ With each turn of the page, I knew I had to keep going, I knew I couldn’t leave and not have my questions answered as to what would happen next.
Ms Miller draws you in by the hand, gently at first, but once she shuts that door on you both and you hear the snap of the latch going into place and you realize, ‘I don’t want to be here, I can’t do this!’ she makes you stay. She tightens the grip she has on you and says, ‘NO. You need to be here. You need to face these things. You need Sam and Alex as much as they need you. Please, don’t go. Stay and be here a minute.’
I want to warn, though, it is more than just a lot intense. It is graphic. It is violent. It will rudely barge into the deepest recesses of the most messy places in your head and heart and bring with it friends of chaos, sorrow, frustration and pain the likes I hope none of you ever experience externally.
In the book, we meet two boys: Sam and Alex. Two young men who struggle quite hard with their own feelings of depression, hopelessness, and outright despair. The imagery will make you want to flee, tears streaming down your face, and a sense of not being able to breathe and an almost feral need to escape, but you can’t help but stay put and say, ‘No, boys, I’m here. You need someone to not give up on you.’
I really felt every panic attack that they felt. I felt like I was literally there in that chair with Sam at his desk. I could feel the physical sensations of the water, of the embrace that Jack had around him. I could hear the screams, I could taste the acrid bitterness that came with grief when Alex tragically died. My heart broke for both Jack and Sam. I found myself falling in love with Jones, not in a romantic way, but in a, ‘You are an amazing person, why are there not more people as loving and kind as you are in the world?!’ kind of way.
Alex’s journal was really eye-opening. I found myself wanting to just go up to him and hug him so tight that the broken pieces of his poor heart would fuse back together. Knowing full well what it’s like to be kind of a ‘loner’ and a ‘misfit,’ myself, I could really relate to both boys and their struggles with depression.
Some things that really struck me and stood out to me the most: Sam is sitting and reflecting on his life, as a whole, and how he sees the world. I loved this: ‘Why does innocence bother me so much? When I meet someone who is in appearance a very innocent person I feel an overwhelming desire to dirty that person up. … And I get a sick pleasure from seeing the light leave their eyes. I get a convoluted joy from inflicting damage on the spirit of a kind person. Maybe I wish I could be more like them but since I know I can’t, I make them more like me.’
I tell you, Reader, I felt that. I could relate so well to Sam at that moment. And in that same entry, he goes on, ‘I certainly wish I could be more like them. I don’t actually think that’s true, though. Part of me wants to stay drenched in messed up thoughts. When umbrellas come along I reject them because I’ve lived my life wet. I don’t know what it would be like to be dry so I poke holes in the umbrellas of others so they can’t use it to try to keep me from anymore of the rain. I suppose the only way to proceed is to do my best to restrain myself, even if it rips me apart. … umbrellas exist for a reason, after all.
Jones gave me the biggest sense of warm-fuzzies EVER. I adored Jones. ‘I became a psychologist because every army needs a medic. There has to be someone who comes to people who are bleeding out and tries to help. Of course you can’t save them all, but even those you can’t save are comforted by your presence as they lay dying. Even if there is nothing you can do, you can be with them. I can’t pull you out of this deep hole but I can crawl into it with you and be with you so you don’t have to suffer alone. Most people would get uncomfortable with the darkness and leave but not me.’. That scene was beautifully written. I felt like I was in the room with them. I was reminded, too, of a conversation a very close friend and I had about suffering. It’s one thing to say, ‘I get you, and I have you,’ but do we really, really mean that when it comes down to the rubber meets the road? That’s when those words are truly tested. Jones showed Sam that he meant every bit of what he was saying, that it wasn’t just his job to do what he was doing in being there for Sam. He legitimately cared about this young man enough to crawl into Sam’s darkness and be with him. Just be with him. No platitudes of silly Hallmark-y sentiments of, ‘This, too, shall pass,’ or ‘buck up, camper! You’ll be okay!’ Even Sam, himself, touched on something I found resonated with me, ‘Darkness isn’t the fault of anyone; we light up the darkness artificially, call it natural, and push away anyone who claims the truth until they are convinced it is a lie. This is where loneliness is born.’
The scene with the weighted blanket, I’ve never seen one being used (I barely found out recently they were a thing, even), had me in tears. The concern, the genuine concern Jones showed for Sam during his panic attack, ‘ … Love that sees the wound on my wrist and takes the time to stop the bleeding, clean the wound, and bandage it with care.’
Ms Miller’s analogies and vivid imagery leave quite a fingerprint on your psyche as you turn the pages and get to know Sam and his thought process with each situation he encounters. Each struggle he has. She takes you on one of the most emotionally-charged rides you’ll probably ever have. This book was not written to glorify self-injury and self-harm, it is more of a warning that we need to be able to find one person, that one person to become our person, to talk to, to be able to trust to reach out and say, ‘I’m not okay and I need help.’ Literally, the hardest sentence ever to utter is, ‘I don’t know, and I need help!’ This book shows that wrestling match Sam and Alex each have with that little seven-word sentence. ‘I don’t know, and I need help.’ I beg you, if you struggle with self-harm and the consideration of ending your own life, please, PLEASE reach out to someone and speak up. You are not alone. Each of us should have a Jones in our lives. Some of us do. It’s taken me years and years of searching, but I found my Jones.
If you struggle with depression, please don’t poke holes in umbrellas being offered to you. Ms Miller’s book shows that we don’t deserve to walk around drenched in the sorrows of our struggles. She calls that Jones. Jones is someone you will fall in love with, and Sam and Alex will give you a renewed perspective not only on how you interact with your own headspace but it’ll give you a renewed and hopefully better understanding of how to interact with someone who is Jonesless and needs a Jones. Be a Jones for someone if you can. And don’t hesitate to seek out a Jones for yourselves.