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RIP Bill Zeller
January 5, 2011 8:28 PM   Subscribe

It's with great sadness that I have to share the passing of Bill Zeller, known as null terminated around here.

He leaves behind a ton of pretty amazing computer science work. He wrote an original hack for iTunes (MyTunes) that let you share your library of music with anyone and I used it myself in cafes and college campuses to get new music (when I'd open my laptop at a college, 5-10 people would connect to my iTunes library and download songs using this). He wrote the SQL web front-end to the MetaFilter infodump (among many other projects) and he wrote papers in the CS dept at Princeton on security, including one where he exploited the sites of NYT, ING, YouTube, and MetaFilter (we fixed soon after he notified us of it). He was also wickedly funny on twitter.

He was a nice kid who used to IM with me often, sharing links and asking if they were ok for MetaFilter. Over the years we'd chat about once a week for a few minutes. Sometimes I was busy and would try to brush him off. I remember one time he was asking about graduate schools and I was up to my neck in work and I thought as a way to blow him off, I'd mention the most prestigious possible CS program I could think of "You want to do computer security, why don't you try working with Ed Felten, the guy from the freedom-to-tinker blog?" I was impressed and a bit amazed when he IMed a couple months later saying he was accepted into the lab and moving to Princeton.

From what I can piece together, it seems he went online early Sunday morning, checked MeFi until about 4am EST, went to facebook an hour later and wiped out his entire profile, just leaving his suicide note (warning, it's intense and describes abuse but it is really well written). He then emailed a copy of the note to a large number of friends and acquaintances at 6:57am EST (that's when I got it and first found out what happened), then he began to hang himself.

From what I can gather, ten minutes later someone found him and he was rushed to the hospital but ten minutes is a long time to go without oxygen to the brain. He suffered damage and his brain was showing very little involuntary activity and no voluntary activity. He was induced into a coma to prevent swelling but eventually it was declared he'd be in a permanent vegetative state and tonight at 8pm his respirator was removed and he passed on.

I'm sorry Bill never got the help he needed, if I'd known what he had suffered through in his life I could have connected him with abuse survivors I know. He was a great contributor here, a fantastic CS student, and did good work. RIP Bill Zeller. You will be missed.

Friends and family are encouraged to post remembrances here as well.
posted by mathowie to MetaFilter-Related at 8:28 PM (790 comments total) 117 users marked this as a favorite

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posted by Neale at 8:33 PM on January 5, 2011


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How sad.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by jaybeans at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2011


Oh my. This is devastating news.
posted by item at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2011


RIP, null.
posted by jonmc at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2011


I'd first encountered Bill online years ago when he made a blog posting app, and then re-meeting him at a Princeton event last year, he'd begun by saying, "You probably don't remember..." but we immediately reconnected about the cool project he'd done back then. More amazingly, he was doing super, super brilliant work at Princeton, which I found really inspiring and was so excited to see how far this young guy had come from such promising roots.

It's a terribly sad loss, and though it probably goes without saying any time we lose someone to suicide... there are professionals who can help you if you ever get to feeling hopeless, and no matter who you are or what you've been through, someone cares and wants to help you feel better. I wish Bill had known that. I didn't know him very well, but I will miss the meaningful work that he did.
posted by anildash at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


Ever since I heard about this earlier in the week I'd been hoping for a better outcome.

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posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2011


I was shocked and upset when I heard the first news via Matt that morning. News didn't sound good and it got worse as details came in.

I didn't know Bill personally but he'd been a known friendly-nerd quantity on mefi and we'd exchanged emails a few times; he made my day a few years ago when he built and for a while maintained web interface for doing SQL queries against the Infodump.

This is a wrenching loss.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Tomorrowful at 8:36 PM on January 5, 2011


Sorry God, but even Hell isn't hot enough for those who would do something like that to a child
posted by Redhush at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


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posted by Mikey-San at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2011


I don't know this MeFite very well at all, but the passing of anyone, especially in such circumstances, is very sad news indeed. But the way you just spoke of him gave me chills and showed that he was a talented individual who had much to offer the world and I think its as fitting a eulogy as any.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends and all those whose lives he touched.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:37 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by mumkin at 8:38 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by vanderwal at 8:39 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by digaman at 8:41 PM on January 5, 2011


RIP.
posted by kenko at 8:43 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by SNWidget at 8:43 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by pb (staff) at 8:43 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by perplexed at 8:44 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by inturnaround at 8:45 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Rhaomi at 8:45 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by crunchland at 8:45 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by SisterHavana at 8:46 PM on January 5, 2011


When Tim Robbins won the Oscar for his work on Mystic River, the event organizers feared this famously political individual would use the moment to derail the broadcast with an out-of-context political diatribe.

Instead, he went over his allotted time by saying this, and it bears repeating:

In this movie I play a victim of abuse and violence, and if you are out there and are a person that has had that tragedy befall you, there is no shame and no weakness in seeking help and counseling. It is sometimes the strongest thing that you can do to stop the cycle of violence. Thank you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:46 PM on January 5, 2011 [105 favorites]


I didn't know him personally but in his posts and comments he never sounded like the horrible person he saw perceived himself to be. I wish he had only found someone who could have helped him.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:47 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by smoke at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2011


God, how awful.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by galadriel at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by goshling at 8:49 PM on January 5, 2011


Oh, how horrible sad --- so sad for our world to lose him, and much much more crucially, so sad for him to have felt this terrible pain.

Our community is smaller tonight, and sadder.

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posted by Elsa at 8:49 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


null terminated was at the first, tiny little MeFi meetup I ever went to. He was witty and good-humored. I enjoyed his company. It was just a short interaction, but one would never have thought he was someone plagued by the 'darkness.'

I am truly sorry that what medical help he did encounter was so unhelpful and discouraging. What anildash said is true: there are professionals who can help you if you ever get to feeling hopeless, and no matter who you are or what you've been through, someone cares and wants to help you feel better. And not only that - there are professionals who are not clueless, who really do know something, will not be shocked to hear your stories, not be afraid of you, and not be unfamiliar with what happens inside someone who has been hurt in so many ways. It may take some time to find them, but they exist.

So sorry to lose a MeFite, a creative and productive and valued one at that. What a sad tragedy.

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posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am really saddened to read this.
posted by Forktine at 8:50 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Schlimmbesserung at 8:50 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by dhammond at 8:50 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by yaymukund at 8:51 PM on January 5, 2011


Very sad. Poor guy. His suicide note is heartbreaking.
posted by Emanuel at 8:51 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by stefanie at 8:51 PM on January 5, 2011


I'm sorry that no one could help him. Poor kid. Someone should have done something, and no one did. No one should have to go through that kind of abuse and stay silent about it. Heartbreaking. I will miss his contributions to this site more than I should for someone I never knew personally. RIP Bill Zeller, I hope you've found happiness and peace wherever you are now.

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posted by saturnine at 8:52 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by spinifex23 at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2011


there are professionals who can help you if you ever get to feeling hopeless, and no matter who you are or what you've been through, someone cares and wants to help you feel better. I wish Bill had known that.

After reading his suicide note I think Bill would have wanted you to know that there is no getting past some things, no acceptance, no framework for it to be integrated into your life in a way that allows you to move on.

DFW put it best:

And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling 'Don't!' and 'Hang on!', can understand the jump. Not really. You'd have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
posted by mlis at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2011 [41 favorites]


Yeah, I'm really bummed he never found therapy useful or anyone he could trust. I imagine there are good therapists and bad ones, and he never got a chance to talk to a good one. I did mention on twitter that his suicide note is the first one that really made me understand why someone would do something so terrible. I had no idea what he lived with but he described a really painful existence.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by mlis at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by mrbill at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best I can do with something like this is to remember to always be nicer, because you truly never know what someone may be dealing with inside.
posted by nanojath at 8:54 PM on January 5, 2011 [164 favorites]


Oh, man. I wish people never had to feel that way.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:54 PM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


I didn't know Bill, but reading that really moved me and made me terribly sad. It reminds me of a quote I like that I should heed more often:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2011 [108 favorites]


Wow, I am so sad and so sorry about all the pain he was in. I am not sure how I feel... except I hurt now, knowing one of my Mefite family was in such pain.

Wherever you are, null terminated, I hope you're at peace.

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posted by IndigoRain at 8:56 PM on January 5, 2011


I hope that he has found the peace he sought for so long and is no longer in pain. RIP.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by OolooKitty at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2011


Oh man.

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posted by Jimbob at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011


One way or another, I'm glad to know he has finally escaped the intolerable facts of his life and is at peace.

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posted by hermitosis at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


This breaks my heart. RIP, null terminated.
posted by special-k at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011


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I hate this. I am making a donation in Bill's name to my local children's advocacy center.
posted by Saminal at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


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posted by whatnot at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by dreamyshade at 8:59 PM on January 5, 2011


Reading that note, hurt. Because I was in a dark place over a year ago and my MeFi family helped me out of it. I wish Bill had been able to trust someone else enough to let them try to help.
posted by mrbill at 9:00 PM on January 5, 2011 [20 favorites]


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posted by carsonb at 9:01 PM on January 5, 2011


Holy hell, that's heartbreaking.

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posted by Ufez Jones at 9:02 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by danb at 9:02 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by armage at 9:03 PM on January 5, 2011


My heart hurts.
posted by govtdrone at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2011


I have had more association with victims of childhood abuse than most people and I wanted to say something to help provide some perspective on this, but there is no way to explain all the different ways it can cripple a person. I am certain he is finally at peace, but the rest of us are poorer for his loss.

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posted by oneswellfoop at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


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posted by stet at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2011


I'm so mad about the situations that exist that allow someone to feel trapped, I'm so mad about people who exercise arbitrary hate that all I can do is hate those people, and I'm mad about the irony of that statement. I'm mad that mental healthcare has to exist in the first place (I mean mental illness itself pisses me off, not the treatment therof), and I'm pissed off that the systems for accessing it are horrible.

I don't personally believe that suicide is selfish---I'm just sad that it's so...final. I didn't know this gentleman, but I want to thank him for putting into words what people with suicidal tendencies feel that people without them can't understand; about darkness and chasing shadows and wanting so hard to love and just messing up everything.

I don't know you, sir, but I'm going to light a little candle for you, and I promise to get mad at myself when, somewhere down the line, I remember that I've forgotten you.
posted by TomMelee at 9:06 PM on January 5, 2011 [20 favorites]


I only made it to the first sentence of the second paragraph before I completely lost it and had to stop. I don't need to finish the rest to understand, though out of respect I eventually will. Just not...right...now.

You weren't alone, Bill. I really hope you've finally found peace.

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posted by geckoinpdx at 9:07 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no idea what happens when you die, but tonight I'm hoping that Bill is at peace after the burdens he was forced to carry in life.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:08 PM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by librarina at 9:08 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by disclaimer at 9:08 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Lizc at 9:09 PM on January 5, 2011


Thank you for sharing his note. It's terrible to read, but it exposes the full horror of his experiences, and I think it is valuable to pass that along. This is very, very sad, but we honor him by letting him explain himself in his own words.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:09 PM on January 5, 2011 [46 favorites]


It's terrible that there was no other escape for him. To have your entire existence placed into the context of the worse thing that ever happened to you is a harsh sentence indeed. My condolences.
posted by spaltavian at 9:10 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I should mention, Bill's colleagues at CITP will likely be arranging a prize or award in his honor, to encourage others to do the sort of meaningful technology work that Bill did. I don't have any details or info yet, but I expect it will show up on that site if and when it's been arranged.
posted by anildash at 9:13 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by hot soup girl at 9:13 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by stoneweaver at 9:14 PM on January 5, 2011


Oh my god. You just never know what burdens people carry. His letter wrenched my heart and left it in a little puddle. My god, Bill Zeller, I hope you have finally found the peace you could not find in this life.

What nanojath said. Let all the people that you love know that you love them, tell them that in as many ways as you can.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:14 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope this is not a derail but if anyone needs to join us in grieving, tinychat is open. Password theblue
posted by IndigoRain at 9:15 PM on January 5, 2011


Dear God, that is probably the saddest thing I've ever read. I am truly sorry to know the unceasing misery that was his life and sorry that he was never able to find a path to the light.
If there is such a thing as an afterlife, I certainly hope that he is finally able to rest in peace.
...any man's death diminishes me," and I especially feel that when a fellow Metafilteran passes.

I def needs a hug right now
posted by Lynsey at 9:15 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by killdevil at 9:16 PM on January 5, 2011


Well that's the saddest thing I've read in a long time. Peace be with you, Bill.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:16 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by clavdivs at 9:16 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by shoepal at 9:17 PM on January 5, 2011


Words fail. All I can say is that I hope from the bottom of my heart he's at peace.

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posted by scody at 9:18 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by jbroome at 9:19 PM on January 5, 2011


I am so sad that this happened.

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posted by SpacemanStix at 9:19 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by lullaby at 9:19 PM on January 5, 2011


I may have to wake my daughter up and give her a hug after reading that.
posted by jbroome at 9:19 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Daddy-O at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2011


Bill, you were one of the most intelligent, capable people I've ever met. I did not know you well, but you will be truly and sincerely missed.
posted by boo_radley at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by tepidmonkey at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2011


Today I learned just how bad child abuse can impact a person's life. Bill Zeller, I appreciate your candour, and want you to know that you did not die in vain.

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posted by furtive at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by immlass at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2011


And the world is made less than it was. Peace, Bill. And light.
posted by scalefree at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2011


So sad.

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posted by arnicae at 9:23 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by minkll at 9:24 PM on January 5, 2011


mathowie, thank you for making this post, for sharing this with us, for telling us about your experiences with Bill, and posting his letter here. You gave him a hearfelt tribute and I think he would be touched. These last few days must have weighed heavily on you and on all the other mods who were aware of this terrible news.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2011 [27 favorites]


I feel kind of weak and very uneasy that Bill couldn't find one professional whom he felt he could confide fully in. In a way, that's an indictment of a medical system that focuses on the quick fix, treat-the-symptom-and-maximize-the-billed-cases syndrome that loses sight of the deeper meanings and problems.

It's too often that we are blind to someone else's pain, and as MaryDellamorte said up thread a ways, we should be kind to others because we don't know what battles they are fighting and will yet fight. I just hope that nothing I ever said or did contributed to his unease in any way.

I understand, in a limited sort of secondhand way, the darkness he speaks of; there are people in my life who've been molested and mistreated in various manners, and I can still observe the fallout at a distance of many years from the actual events. It somehow disheartening to think that Bill couldn't find the one friend he needed despite having the communications chops to make real contributions that we could use.

This just leaves me with a cold, sick feeling. I'm so sorry, Bill, that we weren't better friends for you. I'm sorry that the system failed you so terribly.

Rest in Peace.
posted by pjern at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


I only met Bill once or twice, five years back. I haven't been able to bring myself to more than glance at his note, but from what I saw and from what I gather reading here, I think I understand a little. As an abuse survivor - though from the little I read nowhere neare as severe - I suffer from PTSD as an adult. I know it's obvious but it fucks you up. For life. Some people are apparently able to cope with it better than others. My coping method was drugs, and suicide was never far off the plate.

I feel for Bill so much. Listen to your friends, to your loved ones, hell to the kid who starts talking to you on the train. Reaching out is pretty much the only way to keep this from happening, which sucks because reaching out can be the hardest thing in the world to do.
posted by item at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


"If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics
who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child
molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were "saved" at some point),
that's your choice, but it's fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by
those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him."

Oh man. I feel these words so strongly. And I can't imagine the pain and scars of being raped.

But living your life as fully as possible, despite the injuries, is so much better for the rest of us. Yeah, we're needy assholes that way, but that's what makes us human.

Don't kill yourself. Don't give the bastards the satisfaction, ever.
posted by bardic at 9:26 PM on January 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by desuetude at 9:30 PM on January 5, 2011


Oh Bill...

Fuck.

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posted by -t at 9:30 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Kimberly at 9:34 PM on January 5, 2011


I didn't know him, but suicide is always sad.

I hope he's in peace.
posted by patheral at 9:36 PM on January 5, 2011


This is such sad news.
posted by misozaki at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2011


Fuck, that note was hard reading.

Very sad.

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posted by bdave at 9:41 PM on January 5, 2011


The note is heartbreakingly sad.

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posted by gomichild at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2011


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How devastating. I'm sorry, Bill. You deserved so much better.
posted by grimmelm at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2011


Ugh. So sad. It's terrible reading that letter without a chance to respond to him.
posted by frenetic at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by rtha at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2011


So very sad. Bill was lost for a terribly long time before he was lost to us, it seems.
Pardon me for quoting scripture in Bill's memory when religion so mistreated him, but the irony of his being "not saved" recalls to me one of the things the bible gets right, and echoes our hopes for his peace:

Blessed are the poor of spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:45 PM on January 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


You can tell from his Twitter feed that he had a great sense of humor:
I backup all my data to vinyl. I constantly lose files, but the authenticity is worth it.

finally leaving work. Good thing my gym is open 24 hours. Not that I'm going, but I guess it's good.
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posted by John Cohen at 9:46 PM on January 5, 2011 [37 favorites]


Depression is like cancer, in the way the mind devours itself slowly, bit by bit, until the victim is left a debilitated shell. It is an awful disease.

Don't give the bastards the satisfaction, ever.

This is how I manage to get through life. It is sage advice.

I wish him peace.

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posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:46 PM on January 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


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posted by inigo2 at 9:47 PM on January 5, 2011


I keep reminding myself, because I'm having a shit time lately, that I can be quite incisive in my self-assessment and still completely fucking wrong when those insights hit the reality outside of my own head.

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posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:47 PM on January 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


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posted by dismas at 9:48 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by sveskemus at 9:48 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by lampshade at 9:50 PM on January 5, 2011


I know too many people who have been through similar ordeals. His note was one of the most harrowing things I've ever read, and makes me truly feel for the victims of child abuse.
posted by free hugs at 9:51 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Lyn Never at 9:53 PM on January 5, 2011


That is heart-breaking to read.

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posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:56 PM on January 5, 2011


You never know what kinds of battles the people you meet are fighting.

So so tragic.
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posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:56 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by sugarfish at 9:56 PM on January 5, 2011


His note resonates with me in so many ways, too many to dwell on right now. I hope your pain is over, Bill, and that you've escaped the darkness at last.
posted by mkhall at 9:56 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by juv3nal at 9:57 PM on January 5, 2011


I find myself shaking with rage on Bill's behalf. This is devastating. As a side note, I can't help but hope his abuser is dead or infirm and can't hurt anyone else.
posted by peep at 9:57 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


That is one of the hardest things I have ever had to read. Wherever he is, I hope it is light.
posted by casarkos at 9:57 PM on January 5, 2011


My heart breaks to hear about this. I can't imagine living with the horror he lays out in his note even for a moment. I hope his burden was finally lifted and he found peace.

This seems profoundly stupid, but he posted the Ninja Cat youtube video a few years ago, and it's absolutely one of my most favorite things on the internet ever. Here's the original video. It hasn't once failed to make me feel at least a little bit better. So thanks, Bill, for showing me that little bit of happiness.
posted by lilac girl at 9:59 PM on January 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


Jesus.
posted by nola at 10:01 PM on January 5, 2011


Such a sad and horrible story. null terminated was a good MeFite.

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posted by grouse at 10:01 PM on January 5, 2011


He was a good guy and we will miss him.
posted by caddis at 10:05 PM on January 5, 2011


The feeling of plague infection -- of contaminating everything you touch -- that can arise from sexual abuse and rape is a "darkness" nearly impossible to convey, but Bill found the words. Effective and compassionate therapy can be part of the answer but for most of us so is somehow trusting other people enough to love them and be loved. I wish he could have known the love for which he longed so badly.

Donating to organizations that help sexually abused children and adults is essential, but so is keeping our eyes wide open to deeply disturbing truths. With few exceptions most of us have known an abuser. It's a movie-of-the-week cliché that abusers are commonly well liked, well respected, well connected people -- until it's someone we like and respect, someone it will cost us personally to lose. When someone is brave enough to come forward and tell the truth, we have to be brave enough to listen. That means not just fighting in the abstract against those who commit, excuse, and deny abuse but accepting that someone we personally care about -- someone we love -- may be secretly capable of the vilest cruelty.

And yes -- please -- be kind. Be gentle and kind as you can be. Too many people are lost in the dark. It's heartbreaking. We have to help each other. I don't know how else to survive it.
posted by melissa may at 10:05 PM on January 5, 2011 [49 favorites]


Jesus. I haven't read the whole thread yet, but perhaps it would be good to post the details to some help lines or some other form of help? Don't know any, otherwise I'd do it.

May he finally be at peace...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


how very very sad.
posted by judith at 10:11 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Artw at 10:12 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Miss Matheson at 10:18 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by kjs4 at 10:19 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by shakespeherian at 10:20 PM on January 5, 2011


Poor tortured soul. (For anybody else like me who's not conversant with programming languages, Bill's username was sadly prophetic: emptiness that ends a string.)

U+0000
posted by Quietgal at 10:20 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by bethnull at 10:20 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Wordwoman at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2011


Love to everyone.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2011


blaaaaaa

I am full of frustration at these sorts of situations--not Bill or the others who resort to suicide or self-harm, but that people can get into situations where they feel that suicide is the best option.

I often feel that I would like to try to volunteer for a suicide hotline, but I always fear that I am incapable of relating to the feelings and issues of suicidal people, and I fear that I won't be able to withstand the worry I am nearly sure I would carry around with me after every call.
posted by that girl at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by katillathehun at 10:24 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:27 PM on January 5, 2011


Like so many people I was awed by the "It Gets Better" videos that have gone around this year (see itgetsbetter.org -- currently the top suggestion if you type "it " into Google Suggest). What else can you do with someone considering suicide (for any reason) but tell them that time helps? The deeply personal stories people tell in those videos -- and the huge number of near-miss suicide attempts they relate, and the relief they felt that those were misses -- was incredible.

I guess the best I could hope from this sad event is that someone who could relate to any part of Bill's story, but has survived to build happiness for themselves, would be motivated to reach out to people in similar circumstances considering suicide and tell that indeed it does get better.
posted by precipice at 10:27 PM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heavy heart tonight. We talked on IM for a while because of our mutual interest in Movable Type. Remember Zempt? I do. And I remember Bill.

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posted by sillygwailo at 10:30 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by infini at 10:30 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by lunaazul at 10:31 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by 404 Not Found at 10:31 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by faineant at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2011


Miko > It may take some time to find [helpful professionals], but they exist.

That's the crux of the problem — even in therapy-tractable cases, it's not uncommon for finding real help to take a long time, a lot of effort and expense, and a number of therapist-patient mismatches. How many sick people with any kind of malady are equipped to do this for themselves for years without effective palliative care, or even unequivocal sympathy from the greater culture?

In null terminated's case I picture a third-degree burn victim dragging himself from doctor to doctor through the decades in a parallel world where there is no guarantee of a moment's pain relief from morphine, let alone eventual healing. Where people are told to suck it up and debride their own wounds, where parents sometimes kick kids with burns out of the house or refuse to acknowledge terrible scars, where appointments with burn specialists have to be made in privacy at risk of exposure and aren't always covered by insurance, where a significant number of people and maybe even your best friends see having been burned as a badge of shame before they see it as a blameless agony. I mean, goddamn.
posted by hat at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2011 [149 favorites]


According to his roommate, you can post remembrances for him and his family here:
http://1000memories.com/billzeller
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:33 PM on January 5, 2011


:(

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posted by kmz at 10:35 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Gucky at 10:37 PM on January 5, 2011


I don't remember exactly how I first came to talk to Bill, but I'll think of him every time I open my email—Bill sent me an invite to Gmail back during the heady days when invites were rare and sold for actual cash on eBay. He was stoked to have someone else join him in the fun of exploring a new technology. It saddens me to no end to find out about the darkness behind his seemingly unending enthusiasm for creation and discovery.

I regret not taking the opportunity in the summer of '09 to visit him at Google; despite emailing and chatting for most of a decade, I missed meeting him in person by 60 miles and a few hours.

My loss then. The world's loss now.

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posted by idlyadam at 10:38 PM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by Jofus at 10:39 PM on January 5, 2011


Well, God damn it. This incredibly life-filled, soulful suicide note might well be the most tragic thing I've ever encountered. It makes you want to reach out and hug him, the tragedy not being that it's too late, but that it wouldn't have helped.

I wish I'd known him in life. And I'm infinitely grateful to mathowie that I am able to participate in keeping this much of him alive.
posted by Michael Roberts at 10:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


It does not surprise me, now that I go looking, that Bill was the person responsible for the 09-F9-11-02-9D-74-E3-5B-D8-41-56-C5-63-56-88-C0 account, a timely prankster sockpuppet entirely in line with what I knew of his well-meaning attitude toward technical subversion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [22 favorites]


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posted by dg at 10:45 PM on January 5, 2011


People who abuse others like that deserve to die. Whoever did it essentially committed murder.

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posted by nrobertson at 10:45 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by sarahnade at 10:46 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by donnagirl at 10:47 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:49 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by Salmonberry at 10:50 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by droob at 10:53 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:56 PM on January 5, 2011


I didn't know Bill, but his note made me cry, and I never cry anymore. Rest in peace.
posted by symbebekos at 10:58 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't know him, but news like this is always terrible.

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posted by bwg at 10:59 PM on January 5, 2011


People who abuse others like that deserve to die. Whoever did it essentially committed murder.

No, they don't deserve to die. They deserve to live, to be constantly forced to deal with the pain and chaos they caused, the lives they damaged. They deserve to witness and absorb as much of the ugliness they cast into this world as can be given back to them. They do not deserve the relative luxury of death.
posted by item at 11:02 PM on January 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by marteki at 11:02 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by the.carol.baxter.experience at 11:03 PM on January 5, 2011


This is the first I've heard of him, and I just finished reading his note, and I feel gutted that someone like that had to go through what he's been through.

Thank you for at least explaining and explaining well, Bill.

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posted by ignignokt at 11:04 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by ugf at 11:15 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by benign at 11:16 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by mustard seeds at 11:20 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by fillsthepews at 11:21 PM on January 5, 2011


Jesus.

wept?

People who abuse others like that deserve to die. Whoever did it essentially committed murder.

No, they don't deserve to die. They deserve to live, to be constantly forced to deal with the pain and chaos they caused, the lives they damaged. They deserve to witness and absorb as much of the ugliness they cast into this world as can be given back to them. They do not deserve the relative luxury of death.


Were it all so damned simple? You're assuming they haven't already seen-felt-endured comparable pain-chaos-ugliness.

Evil begets evil. This much, I believe.
posted by philip-random at 11:22 PM on January 5, 2011 [26 favorites]


Absolutely harrowing. He deserved better than he got. RIP, Bill. Everyone does need a hug. Even more than I ever knew.

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posted by Space Kitty at 11:24 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by ottereroticist at 11:28 PM on January 5, 2011


How incredibly sad that he was so alone. RIP.
posted by Cranberry at 11:29 PM on January 5, 2011


Finally managed to get through the note. It made me realise I'm not as OK with things as I thought I was.

Cold comfort, I know, but he triggered a difference in my life.

Even though he will never know.
posted by geckoinpdx at 11:33 PM on January 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


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Rest in peace, young man. You deserved better, in so many ways.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:33 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:35 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by starzero at 11:39 PM on January 5, 2011


Truly, truly, Rest In Peace, null terminated.






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posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:39 PM on January 5, 2011


While reading his note, I understood why he killed himself. What he went through all his life sounds terrible, and I even thought, "Well, maybe this what was best for him. Maybe it was his only choice."

But then I read that he never told anybody. Fuck.

If anybody out there is dealing with pain on that magnitude, please tell somebody. I know it's the most difficult thing you can do, but it will help. Sometimes, sharing pain is what makes living possible.

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posted by Ortho at 11:39 PM on January 5, 2011 [44 favorites]


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posted by rider at 11:41 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by january at 11:41 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by catlet at 11:45 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:46 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by tzikeh at 11:47 PM on January 5, 2011


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posted by spork at 12:02 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:03 AM on January 6, 2011


Heartbreaking. I never knew him as more than a screen name, but after reading his note I am filled with sadness and rage. I hope, at the end, he had a moment of peace as he entered the stillness. How terribly, terribly sad.

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posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:04 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by mullacc at 12:08 AM on January 6, 2011


mathowie et. al. mods:

I know this is a horrible time and as you see from this thread, so many of us share the weight of your burden of grief with you. I hope in some way that can lessen the load on you all at this time - I know the burden can not be borne away or even on your behalf, but I do believe it can be shared. I've experienced this myself both "IRL" as well as here on MeTa: horrible, devastating grief in the loss of a friend, and the inexplicable way in which this community reached out and touched my soul in a way that I couldn't articulate, but so desperately needed.

I want to thank you all (again) for your creativity and tireless hard work on this site that enables just that kind of thing to happen. What you have done here, in my opinion, is a net, if not ultimate, good for we struggling humans. It has helped in countless ways, this particular way being a very important one. It has brought good out of heart-breaking bad. It has shone light on dark places - it has driven support to good causes that deal with the horrific things that humanity has proven itself capable of inflicting on each other. I have more than a couple of particular threads and causes in mind, in this regard.

I humbly suggest that the best thing you can do to honor the memory of Bill - and dare I say, what Bill would have probably most wanted himself - is that you keep doing what you have already been doing in this regard.

I'm heading off to RAINN myself, in Bill's memory. There's a number of other resources / organizations aimed at helping victims of these crimes. I hope MetaFilter continues to be the kind of place that promotes these good causes and connects those who need them effectively.

We can no more fight Bill's darkness now than we can assuage the grief we know in his absence. We can however fight the darkness that remains, in memory of those lost.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:13 AM on January 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is devastatingly heartbreaking. I'm very sorry to his close friends and family. He seemed like an incredibly intelligent person (I had no idea something I used, MyTunes, was by *him*), and it's unbearable to think of the burden and sadness he had to carry during his short life.
posted by spiderskull at 12:16 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by geekyguy at 12:21 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by brundlefly at 12:26 AM on January 6, 2011


his seemingly unending enthusiasm for creation and discovery

This was my impression of him too, just from around here. Yesterday I had coincidentally remembered a project he had emailed me about, to collect graphics of people's mental images of time (the year, months, weeks, days, etc) -- a small interesting project about connecting with something about other people that we rarely get to see or talk about.

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posted by LobsterMitten at 12:27 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unbelievably sad. Poor Bill.

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posted by tracicle at 12:37 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by eyeballkid at 12:43 AM on January 6, 2011


Wow. That letter. Portions of it could have been written by me (and I'm sure by some of us here). It's shocking in some ways and not very surprising in others, how abuse victims spend a great deal of energy keeping this mess bottled up only to have it manifested in some tragic end. How many of us have felt these same feelings and had the fortune to be able to work through them or at least to the point of keeping the demons at bay? It is painful to know that he carried this around for so long and never found any real solace. This is just too overwhelming to even think about right now.

Null was always a good guy to me. We IM'ed back and forth a couple of times, just some mutual back-slapping for some comments but it was nice. I rarely interact much outside of here, with other Mefites but he was one of the exceptions. He made the road here, a little less bumpy.

My condolences to his family for this loss.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:44 AM on January 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'm going to be giving lots of people lots of hugs for the next while.

Hope he's found some peace at last.

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posted by cmyk at 12:48 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Harald74 at 12:53 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by JimmyJames at 12:56 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by gen at 1:04 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:10 AM on January 6, 2011


How very heartbreakingly sad.
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posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:13 AM on January 6, 2011


.

And I can't say I feel sorry for his family. He makes it pretty clear that they were complicit in his abuse and unresponsive to his agony, which is hardly a family at all.

Unbearable even at a distance. So sad.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:14 AM on January 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by iamkimiam at 1:17 AM on January 6, 2011


Ach.
I shudder to imagine the horrible solitude and hopelessness that made him draw this conclusion.
My heart goes out to other people feeling similarly hopeless.
Do get help. People care. Witness this thread.
posted by joost de vries at 1:23 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Suck. I love his posts.

Like item and others, this strikes really close to home. It was hard, but I read the note and I could have written most of it. There but for the grace of god go I, and yet I still think he's made a terrible mistake.

I'm a survivor of childhood abuse. It sucks. The pain never really goes away. But there's help, and the pain can be less.

But I want to talk about it. Not because it's easy, but because it's hard, and there are many people like me right here on MetaFilter, and people who want to understand so they can help. I've actually been thinking about these things for a long time like I've been preparing for when I would need to say them. I have to. They directly effect me. It's more or less my job and life career to survive this shit. It's all I can really hope or ask for.

Abuse is an invisible cancer, a real killer that people ignore or sweep under the rug for many reasons. Too awful, too close to home, too self-inflicted as a species. A disease like cancer is one thing - it's an identifiable external malignancy. It's not you or I or someone you know. It's not our parents, siblings or grandparents. It's not our friends and family, it's not our coworkers. It's not something so acceptably awful as war, either

The symptoms manifest as lives live unfulfilled, as people who live essentially as zombies just trying to cope and get by, as failed relationships, as substance abuse and self medication, as an inability to trust or form bonds. These symptoms manifest as wrecked, shattered lives that shamble and lurch on for decades, sometimes with apparent success, sometimes not. But the question always remains, what would their lives be like without the shackles and weights of abuse and depression?

Asking for help isn't easy. Heck, realizing you even have a problem in the first place isn't easy - but asking for help is hard.

I've been there, at about as close to the bottom as is possible before asking for help. I can't remember if I've conveyed this part of my recent story, part of the stuff that happened before my lung collapsed last summer and the people of MetaFilter came together and helped so f'ing much... argh, onions, brb. Ok.

Just over a year ago I was seriously but briefly homeless in LA. I'd spent 3+ months trying to get help in LA staying at a friend's place, and that time ran out as time tends to do. Without insurance, that help simply is not there in LA county. I'm a pretty smart and resourceful guy, and I spent 3 months getting passed from agency to agency just trying to even get to talk to a therapist, and I never did. The closest I came to actually talking to a mental health professional was a very brief interview in a dingy building where all they could do was offer drugs - drugs that may work, or may make you crazier and more suicidal, all prescribed without nearly enough support or patient history. Somewhere I have a recording my original intake interview with an over-worked DHS psychologist and I sound like a manic, broken toy... you can literally hear bent clocksprings, worn gears wheezing along over the din of the facility in the background as I try to ask for mental health help in one of the worst places in the US to do it in, my words a pressured rush of symptoms like "...chronic pain.. ...can't sleep... ...can't think... ...tired... ...tired..."

Shortly after that on the day of my birthday I walked into LAC-USC and voluntarily checked myself in to psychiatric emergency services with concerns about self harm. I had been waking up from nightmares where I found myself biting and gnawing at my wrists in my sleep. In retrospect I don't think I was really, actively suicidal, but I was mighty tired of thinking about it, tired of the pain, tired of getting the run around without insurance or adequate health care. And wishing you're dead all the time is not healthy for you. Your body responds. It begins to comply with your thought patterns, like "Oh, really? Fuck you too, brain, I'm going on strike."

In a sense I was trying to hack the system by throwing my body at the cogs and seeing if I stuck somewhere helpful or useful, but I didn't. It's kind of hard to compete with acute schizophrenics and bi-polar people having bad episodes that are much more dramatic or visibly threatening, when your only symptom is sitting there patiently, quietly and politely eating yourself alive from the inside out, bite by bite.

I managed to talk my way out after the most awful, unhelpful, educational and surreal 50-odd hours of my life. I learned a lot, but not so much from the doctors. I learned a lot from the patients. I learned that our health care system is really, incredibly fucked up and overwhelmed. I learned that two days of no lights out, no windows, no extended sleep from being poked and prodded every 30 minutes and a lot of unbelievably shitty food will drive just about anyone crazy. Put a mentally spic-and-span astronaut into a ward like that for 72 hours and they'll go a little punchy, too. At least NASA schedules REM sleep for astronauts and gives them windows.

But help does exist. I kept on. I realized that trying to get help in LA wasn't going to work, so I went elsewhere and managed to find some help that didn't suck. Sometimes you have to ask more than once. Sometimes you have to keep asking. At one point I thought about sitting by an intersection or freeway with a sign, but instead of asking for spare change, I'd be asking for health care. "Will work for therapy or health insurance."

So. Do you need help? Ask. Ask MetaFilter. Ask reddit. Ask your friends and family. Ask a doctor. Ask your nearest campus. Ask and ask and ask again. You can do it. It's hard. I'm not going to lie to you, it's hard and it hurts. But you can do it. You just have to ask. If you're somewhere with poor health care, you may have to ask somewhere else. Keep asking. Talk about it.

But the really hard part? The really hard part is accepting that there's not really a cure. You can get better. It'll hurt less. But until we figure out some really complicated stuff about behavior and the physical properties of the brain, there's not going to be a complete cure for some, if not most. Childhood abuse is something that fundamentally changes you. Structurally, physically. And it's not your fault.

I didn't even realize I had PTSD until about a year ago. I've spent twenty plus years being easily startled by loud noises, being too easily effected by even the hint of violence near me. I didn't know that it causes fundamental brain structure and chemistry changes. I didn't know it was the reason why I was so fucking paranoid all the time, why I couldn't trust people, why I couldn't deal with conflict or criticism, too quick to lash out, too fearful to function in a social world. I didn't know why I had so many nightmares, why I couldn't ever seem to sleep well. I didn't know why I'd spend bus rides tensed up in a knot, or why I'd flinch at being touched.

And the whole time I knew I had all these problems. I knew I was at least depressed - but I didn't have a name or that missing link between PTSD and depression. How the severe chronic anxiety and depression are actually just symptoms of the PTSD and they're all linked together. The damage and trauma caused by the abuse is the disease, the anxiety and depression are the symptoms.

But it gets better. It does. It gets better. After 6+ months of basic, state funded therapy, the idea of confronting and trying to solve my depression isn't a vertical, impossible wall. It's still one hell of a mountain, and I'm still just taking practice hikes in the foothills. But I can see a peak. It's climbable. I can be equipped with many tools to help me climb it. And though my exact route will not be the same as any other, there are guides and maps. There are skills and techniques to learn that making coping - and climbing - easier.

But confronting the idea that I won't ever be at least somewhat broken? That there really isn't a complete cure? That's really hard, but essential to moving on and working with what I do have.


In closing: Sometimes the pain is just too much to bear and deal with. Sometimes you can only cope and survive for so long. The one thing that's a common thread among people who commit suicide is "I'm sorry." People who commit suicide want less misery in the world, not more, but they often undervalue themselves and the size of the hole they'll leave in the world. It behooves us to forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing.

But I wonder if we're not doing ourselves a disservice as a species in failing to offer someone some dignity in allowing them to legally choose suicide in the face of chronic disease and pain - and chronic depression certainly qualifies in my book. The pain is as real as a broken bone. But saying goodbye sucks, and my own first instinct and action is to speak and act against suicide, too, because it's tragic. I've talked friends out of it, people who are alive and well today that I'm deeply thankful to have had and still have in my life.

But in an alternate and more compassionate world - a world that should include much better health care and easier access to it - perhaps we should have a criteria and method for legalized suicide. Perhaps some day we'll have an objective way of measuring and weighing someone's pain and burdens, and it'll make it easier to accept or make these really hard decisions.

If I were to ever go that route I'd much rather be able to tell all my friends and properly say goodbye. Hell, have a nice party. I feel it would be much more civilized and evolved if we were able to actually talk about it and deal with it in a humane, compassionate manner, and recognize when someone really has had enough. It would be nice if there was an option that wasn't alone and likely extremely painful.

But this is not that world, not yet. I have a feeling we'll more or less cure death and aging itself first before we get around to really understanding the problems in these darker places. Being conscious and human is nothing if not complicated, difficult and strange.

I love you guys. I love how the reaction here isn't anger or vengeance, but wanting to get involved and help. If you can offer help to your monkeysphere and follow through, please do. Ask the likely candidates in your life if they need help. There are many of us, and we're not always visible.

And if you're the "likely candidate" who needs help? Please ask, and keep asking. People want to help. People want you to not be in pain. People want you to be awesome, to be happy, to have fulfilling lives.
posted by loquacious at 1:26 AM on January 6, 2011 [308 favorites]


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posted by arcticseal at 1:40 AM on January 6, 2011


I'm so, so sorry. This is horrific, and nothing I can write sounds right or even relates the tiniest bit of what I feel about this, about Bill and what he suffered. I'm so glad others here have been able to express some of what I wish I could say. I hug you all. I wish I could have really hugged Bill; I wish so much that he could have found help, that the horror that was inflicted upon him hadn't multiplied itself by isolating and imprisoning him in secrecy. I hope so very, very much that anyone else feeling this way will find something here to encourage him or her to reach out. Please, please do that.
posted by taz at 1:46 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope he's at peace.
posted by fixedgear at 2:09 AM on January 6, 2011


Heartbreaking.
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posted by aqsakal at 2:12 AM on January 6, 2011


I'm going to be stuck on "no" for a while.
posted by vapidave at 2:13 AM on January 6, 2011


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An absolute star of the internet. He'll be sorely missed.
posted by seanyboy at 2:18 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by five fresh fish at 2:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Chichibio at 2:32 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Stewriffic at 2:36 AM on January 6, 2011


I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm also so glad that even though he couldn't find a way to dodge the darkness, he was still able to write about it in a way that could be understood by people who haven't experienced it. I haven't learned new facts about abuse or depression, but I've learned more about how it colours the world for those affected. Hopefully, next time I encounter someone depressed I will do a better job of reaching out to help them.
posted by harriet vane at 2:41 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


His suicide note was devastating. I am so sad for everything he went through and hope that wherever he is now, he is at peace.

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posted by badmoonrising at 2:41 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by davar at 2:49 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Bangaioh at 2:49 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know Bill in real life, but I felt so frustrated reading his letter. I kept wishing I could interject and say, "Wait! Stop! You're not alone. There are others of us out here who understand. We learned how to survive the darkness and you can too. Please don't give up!"

Sadly, it's too late for any of us to save Bill -- May he rest in peace -- But maybe it's not too late for someone else. For any of you out there who saw a piece of yourself in that letter and who haven't found help yet, please don't give up! Please know that you can survive. You can learn to gain some control over the ghosts and the memories. You can learn to quiet the inner demons and avoid their sabotage. The pain doesn't ever go away completely, but you can learn how to feel safe and healthy and whole. You don't have to let your Self be defined and imprisoned by your abuse.

The darkness gains power when you let it thrive in secrecy, so please don't be afraid to seek help. And don't be afraid to confide in the people around you. You'll find more kindred souls than you realize. Even if you've encountered rejection, or incompetence, or indifference in the past, keep reaching out until you find people who can help, because you will find them eventually. Those inner demons are working overtime telling you there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Don't believe them!

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter how defeated you may feel right now, please don't give up hope. You're stronger than you're willing to give yourself credit for, because you've already made it this far. And every day, every hour, every minute that you continue to survive is a victory against evil. The monsters don't have to win. There's a whole army of your fellow survivors out here and we want you to keep fighting the good fight.
posted by amyms at 3:02 AM on January 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


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posted by sascha at 3:06 AM on January 6, 2011


Oh God, so much pain.

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posted by rmd1023 at 3:11 AM on January 6, 2011


Really a shame he had to keep his secret until he died. His letter made me cry, because I'm in therapy for a similar matter and many of his words could be my own. I'm way older than him, but suicide has been a constant thought at times for myself as well. I attempted suicide myself a couple of decades ago, but lacking much intelligence at the time, failed to put together the right technology. The good news is that I got some quality help in the intervening years, and am doing much better as of late. And if you yourself are suffering over traumatic events, please tell someone, even if it makes you cringe/faint/vomit to do it. Get really fucked up first if you need to! Just do it! There are good professionals out there who can help. I went through something called "SE" or Somatic Experiencing, which is tailored to trauma sufferers, and it helped immensely.

I really respect Bill's exploding of the trite saying that "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Plenty of problems aren't temporary at all. But one thing Bill never had to do another day was be ashamed of himself, which he writes about feeling so strongly. His letter shows how deeply he was aware of how much his trauma affected himself and those around him. Sensitive perception of that type is rare and exactly what we need much more of.

Trauma victims have a whole extra brain-load of stuff going on above and beyond what most people experience in their mental lives. Those run-away thoughts can be learned to be dealt with very effectively. And not, as many people, myself included, attempt to do by denying them. Meditation-type practices have been useful to me here, although I seldom sit in formal lotus position.

I had a look at Bill's profile here and this was a nice gift from him.

RIP, Bill Zeller. Your courage and honesty have touched and will touch many people.

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posted by telstar at 3:19 AM on January 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


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I'm crying buckets at the note: his pain is so real and so well explained. Like others surviving some form of early abuse the conflicted feelings he shows for his family are all too understandable. Part of the utter disconnect that makes it so hard to survive childhood abuse is that even if your parents aren't the actual abusers, they are meant to love you unconditionally and protect you. You love them unconditionally so when they can't or won't do that back, it fundamentally changes how you view yourself as an individual in a negative way. Sometimes there's no way back from that.

Some times the disconnect is their's. It is so awful to contemplate that you have allowed even inadvertently this awful thing to happen to your defenceless child that denial or lashing out and blaming the victim is easier than dealing with your own psychic pain. Yet they still love you and put up with your crap, religious or otherwise......They still try to keep up a relationship with you despite the fact that you falied them in the most profound way a parent can fail their child. I have no doubt Bill's parents will either not read or will reject his letter but others may and be influenced. And others still will be kinder as a result of reading his awful pain.

It's one of the things that brings me back again and again to Metafilter, the kindness of strangers. The examples over the years of people reaching out and offering a helping hand simply because they could....

I can also see that Bill perhaps avoided any thread or AskMe that would have fed the darkness so maybe there was no way we could have shown him we were there. Is it hubris to think we could have helped him? ...... There's certainly enough of us around here. (For whatever accident of fate that got me the help and the loving people in my life who show me on a daily basis how beautiful it is to live, love and cherish my children, I give thanks)
posted by Wilder at 3:23 AM on January 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


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posted by Dumsnill at 3:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by dog food sugar at 3:30 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by willpie at 3:34 AM on January 6, 2011


Oh how terribly sad. RIP Bill.
posted by goo at 3:36 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:37 AM on January 6, 2011


What a goddamn shame. I hope wherever you are, Bill, you are finally at peace. You will be missed.

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posted by the_royal_we at 3:46 AM on January 6, 2011


Someone so worthwhile thinking themselves so worthless, because of the actions of the most worthless among us... I don't think it gets more tragic. So brutally sad.
posted by robself at 3:50 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by ponystyle at 3:50 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by TheOtherGuy at 3:56 AM on January 6, 2011


There are no adequate words for something like this.

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posted by andraste at 4:04 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by longbaugh at 4:06 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:12 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by monster truck weekend at 4:15 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:19 AM on January 6, 2011


This is really sad, I can't think of what else to say.

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posted by marxchivist at 4:21 AM on January 6, 2011


Bill, I wish you were still here, man. I didn't know you, but you've touched me. I wish I could hug you and tell you that there are ways to fight the darkness.
posted by angrycat at 4:30 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by The Michael The at 4:31 AM on January 6, 2011


This is very sad news. I always enjoyed his contributions and it was obvious that he was a brilliant guy with a lot to offer in this world. I only hope that he escaped his darkness in the end.
posted by purephase at 4:33 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by miss tea at 4:33 AM on January 6, 2011


After having a couple minutes to reflect on this, one of my first thoughts on waking up this morning was about some obligations I have to fulfill tonight. I was kind of wishing I didn't have to do these things and could just relax tonight.

I need to remember I don't have to do these things, I get to do these things.

I often forget how good I have it.
posted by marxchivist at 4:35 AM on January 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


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posted by penguin pie at 4:46 AM on January 6, 2011


His abuser is a murderer.

That's all I have to say about that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:49 AM on January 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Thank you for deciding to include the letter in the post mathowie. It was like reading my own thoughts in someone else's hand, and seeing that they're not true and my mind is lying to me. God bless you and Bill Zeller.
posted by Danila at 4:51 AM on January 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


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posted by el chupa nibre at 4:55 AM on January 6, 2011


I was really, really, hoping there'd be a happy ending to this. To wake up and see there wasn't...

I don't even know how to finish that. We'll miss you, Bill.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:55 AM on January 6, 2011


Wow. I just couldn't force myself to finish his note, way too heartbreaking. I don't have words.

/0
posted by octothorpe at 4:55 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:57 AM on January 6, 2011


Many survivors of early abuse have issues with trust. It is believed that you have to conquer each stage before you can "advance" to the next.

Thank you for sharing mathowie. This is tragic news.
posted by 6:1 at 5:02 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awful. Didn't know the guy, but this is heartbreaking. So is loquacious's wonderful post, but at least that has hope, too. I hope it will be read by those who need it most.
posted by Decani at 5:11 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by mothershock at 5:11 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by nangar at 5:15 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know null terminated personally, although his handle is instantly familiar to me. It's hard to deal with the feelings that come up while reading his note. One thing that immediately came to mind as I was reading it is some sadness when I recognized how much his intellect was working against him without him even realizing it. At point after point within the note, you see him locking off possibilities for himself based on "facts" that can't be as easily asserted as he asserted them within there. I wish he had realized that, and started to backtrack his thinking and re-examine some of those locked-off possibilities, and started to foster a self-skeptic within his own mind against some of the things he was telling himself. If there's anyone who is reading these words who ever has similar thoughts to him, please try to foster the same.
posted by WCityMike at 5:19 AM on January 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


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posted by hydropsyche at 5:19 AM on January 6, 2011


I would like to also say thank you for posting his letter.

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posted by absalom at 5:21 AM on January 6, 2011


Oh, this is very sad.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on January 6, 2011


I wish I had more to add.

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posted by josher71 at 5:23 AM on January 6, 2011


If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please read How Not to Commit Suicide. PTSD can be addressed, if not cured. Life can get better. I'm so sorry this wicked smart, crazy funny, tortured individual was driven to kill himself by abuse and rejection. It's a tragic loss.

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posted by theora55 at 5:24 AM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


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thanks, Matt for the post.
posted by readery at 5:24 AM on January 6, 2011


At point after point within the note, you see him locking off possibilities for himself based on "facts" that can't be as easily asserted as he asserted them within there. I wish he had realized that, and started to backtrack his thinking and re-examine some of those locked-off possibilities, and started to foster a self-skeptic within his own mind against some of the things he was telling himself.

I saw that as well. It's harrowing. Cynicism is a poison and his note made me hope that I don't have enough of it in me to eventually kill me.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:26 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so sorry, for those of you who knew Bill, and for the many of you who have sad histories as well. And sorry I didn't get the chance to know him. Please stick around, everyone else, in case I get the chance to meet you.
posted by theredpen at 5:32 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


. Thank you for following Bill's wishes and distributing his letter.
posted by sandraregina at 5:33 AM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Terrible.

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posted by gaspode at 5:36 AM on January 6, 2011


I know, intellectually, that good mental health care exists, and that there are kind and well-meaning therapists and ethical doctors out there. But too often, mental health care can seem more punitive than palliative. Overworked, undertrained, uncaring health care professionals treating you like you like you're deliberately wasting their time when they have people with "real" problems like gunshot wounds and broken limbs to treat. People who don't give a crap about the trust you give them. I once called the suicide hotline when I was in a desperate situation. I talked to the person for half an hour or so, and she was actually really nice and sounded competent and kind and I eventually calmed down and told her I was not going to hurt myself. I promised her, and hung up. Ten minutes later, as I was getting ready for bed and actually feeling a little better than I was before I had called the hotline, the cops were banging on my door, and they dragged me off to the emergency room for a humiliating evening of forced evaluation, including handcuffs. Oh, and they made sure to forward the several-thousand-dollar bill for these emergency "services" to me, a bill that I could not pay and only added to the problems that were making me want to kill myself in the first place. So much for the confidentiality of the suicide hotline.

I told myself I'd never make that mistake again, but years later I found myself in another bad situation, and I swallowed my fears and called one of those "helplines" again. This time instead of a compassionate-sounding individual who would tell me everything I wanted to hear while she called the cops in the background, I got a bored-sounding flunky who clearly couldn't care less about my problems. Desperately, I asked if there was someone else I could talk to, and with an eye-rolling snort she replied, "Uh, no? I'm the only one on duty. Well?" I hung up without telling her anything. I spent a few days curled up in a ball, but at least I didn't have to pay for an ambulance ride and an emergency room visit, which to me, in that situation, was a good tradeoff. Experiences like these don't teach you to keep plugging away until you find that elusive "good" help, they teach you NOT TO ASK FOR HELP NEXT TIME.

These weren't the only humiliating experiences I've had involving mental health care, and Bill Zeller's fears of broken confidentiality and poor treatment were sadly well-founded. hat's excellent comment above points out the very serious problem of trying to find competent, compassionate help while your own self-preservation skills are already severely compromised. It's not like shopping for a good barber. You can't, you just CAN'T keep telling yourself, "Well, this one didn't work out, but it's no big deal, I'll just try the new one uptown." ONE humiliating experience is bad enough. Then when you listen to all the well-meaning "help is out there, you have to try!" people and suck it up and try again only to be met with further incompetence and indifference, then what? When you're barely holding it together and you see incompetence and broken confidences all around you, you're supposed to somehow realize, on your own, through the fog of your own darkness, that it gets better?

Not to take anything away from loquacious's wonderfully honest comment above; I'm glad he was able to keep asking. I'm glad he had the strength. Some of us don't. A lot of us don't. It's just not enough to say that good help is out there if you keep looking for it. It's not enough to chirp "it gets better." It's not enough to point people to the "helplines" in the phone book. We need to do better. We need to do better. We need to do better. And we need to be kind to each other. Can we please do that?

In case it isn't obvious, this has shaken me badly. I'm grief-stricken and I am ANGRY. Angry at the people who allowed this to happen, and who allow this to happen all too often, every day. And I don't just mean the abusers. I mean the therapists and shrinks and ER nurses and "helpline" staffers and all the other people who are SUPPOSED to HELP but through carelessness and indifference only make things worse, creating a system in which people like Bill (and me, and countless others) are AFRAID to seek help when we need it. I am so angry I can't even see through my tears.
posted by Gator at 5:39 AM on January 6, 2011 [106 favorites]


I'm so sorry, Bill. I know you'll never hear me, but I'm sorry you went through that, that anyone has to go through that, that this world is so cruel.

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posted by saveyoursanity at 5:46 AM on January 6, 2011


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Thanks for the post, Matt. It must have been hard to write.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:50 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by This Guy at 5:53 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Kinbote at 5:57 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by yeoz at 5:59 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by xingcat at 6:08 AM on January 6, 2011


Please learn to be a good first-responder to sexual assault. It's often the most we can do to help survivors, and it doesn't take very much time to educate yourself (pdf version). In practice, this is probably more important than donating or becoming full-time volunteers (although they are all important!)
posted by yaymukund at 6:10 AM on January 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


As a survivor I can say it's not the bumps that hurts but rather the scars. I hope you are at peace Bill.

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posted by Sailormom at 6:12 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So sad. Thank you, Matt.
posted by heyho at 6:13 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by CautionToTheWind at 6:23 AM on January 6, 2011


I never heard of him before. I am nonetheless sad and regretful this happened. Online life is real life, I am reminded.
posted by joeclark at 6:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by mediareport at 6:27 AM on January 6, 2011


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This is desperately sad and (I thank who or whatever needs to be thanked) a million miles away from my own experience, which is probably why there's something I don't really understand about it -- which is entirely due to my ignorance I think.

It seems that one of the hugest hurdles he faced was his fear that people who knew him would find out what had been done to him, which is why he felt he could never tell anyone, even in confidence.

And yet he must have known that it wasn't his fault, and that he shared no part of the blame. Clearly, reading the note, telling the world what had happened was extremely important to him. Yet in the end he closed off that avenue to himself as being in some way worse than taking his own life. The note almost reads like a deathbed confession, but of something for which he bore no guilt whatsoever. Can any of you give me an insight about why his feelings about this must have been so overwhelming?

Secondarily, another striking thing about the note is that he expresses anger not towards his abuser but towards his family (of course they may not be disjunct, but the roles are clearly separated out). I didn't sense any anger towards the abuser, only fear, as if they were some kind of terrifying malign evil spirit, not a human being who bears responsibility for screwing up and in many senses ending his life.

Finally, nthing those who point out that the abuser was almost certainly a victim of abuse themselves, and may have been struggling under very similar burdens. If ever the term 'vicious circle' deserved to be used, it is in cases like these.

Sorry for being so analytic: I guess it's how I handle things like this. But this thread has been very helpful on helping me understand something that seems so personally foreign. If anyone can help me out on the first question above, I'd be truly thankful.
posted by unSane at 6:28 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a question. I can't read all this, and I don't think I'll be able to come back and read responses--too, too much. My question is very likely answered in the thread already, and, boy howdy, do I get pissed at people who can't be bothered to read others' responses. But I have a question, and I'd like it if I could get a few MeMails about it. My email's in my profile, too.

I could make this an AskMe, but here is probably the best place. I need to know what resources are available for people who are dealing with someone else's PTSD. Really, someone else's, not mine. I've googled, but am overwhelmed by the information out there, and a lot of it sounds like quackery. Guide me to a book or a website. The note rings (too) many bells.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:29 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Awful, tragic.

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posted by interrobang at 6:30 AM on January 6, 2011


I'm sad that there are people in this world who can't love--or rather, who can't experience love without a backlash of pain. Love is a redeemer. For Bill, it seems love only hurt. I'm so sorry for him, and I'm sorry that he even considered professional help, had seen therapists for other reasons, and found no value in it. Bad professionals, those who are inattentive and unhelpful...they can do as much damage to a child or young adult as the trauma itself. I'm sad that Bill could never find the will to trust. I'm sorry that Bill found only disappointment in trusting others.

What really got me in his note was the extent to which his abuse debilitated his life, in ways I would never even consider. To not even be able to use the bathroom without remembering your abuse...that's like a reminder that will never, never go away.

RIP, Bill Zeller. I didn't know you. I think you were quite a bit better than you gave yourself credit for. I hope you're in a good place right now, with no darkness, and only light.
posted by litnerd at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


eponysad.
posted by Grither at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by biscotti at 6:32 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:33 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by artlung at 6:34 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by jerseygirl at 6:35 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Axle at 6:38 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by jph at 6:39 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Ruki at 6:39 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know Bill other than through a couple of his posts here, but it just feels like such a horrible waste. I'm so sorry for him, and I hope he's found something better.
posted by BZArcher at 6:39 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:40 AM on January 6, 2011


What really got me in his note was the extent to which his abuse debilitated his life, in ways I would never even consider.

That's the really terrible part. The abuse doesn't just end, the effects warp the mind and brain and change the personality, the person forever. Even if the abuse is stopped, the scars can't easily be seen and therefore dealt with. Once one starts dealing with them, it's a long, sometimes scary process, but doable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by pointystick at 6:43 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by aught at 6:50 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Neilopolis at 6:50 AM on January 6, 2011


I often feel that I would like to try to volunteer for a suicide hotline, but I always fear that I am incapable of relating to the feelings and issues of suicidal people, and I fear that I won't be able to withstand the worry I am nearly sure I would carry around with me after every call.

You should do it. I understand some folks have had bad experiences with hotlines, but I was a volunteer for years and the training - in large part, just learning to actively listen - left me feeling like I had helped in some small way and yielded benefits in other parts of my life, too.

For what it's worth, Gator, we were generally not in the business of calling the cops on folks, particularly (but not limited to) those who'd promised not to harm themselves.
posted by mediareport at 6:51 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by typewriter at 6:52 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by sonika at 6:54 AM on January 6, 2011


Peace.
posted by fake at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2011


I don't know whether I am sad, or angry or simply in despair that there was seemingly no help for this young man. I am grateful for his articulate note, that gives me insight into a pain that I hope I will never experience. I think in fact, that Bill must have been very strong indeed.
posted by typewriter at 6:56 AM on January 6, 2011


Would that there could have been another way to make his pain stop. :-(
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:57 AM on January 6, 2011


Well that's that. See you next time, Bill, good luck.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:58 AM on January 6, 2011


The note almost reads like a deathbed confession, but of something for which he bore no guilt whatsoever.

This comment is more insightful than you realize. You can tell an abused person that "it's not your fault" until the cows come home, but the feelings of guilt are more pervasive than you can possibly imagine, especially when the abuse began at such a young age when you're still forming your perceptions of how the world works and how people relate to each other. There are so many things to feel guilty about: That you somehow brought it on yourself, that you're weak and worthless for not fighting back and letting it go on, that you're broken and useless for not just getting over it and getting on with your life, that you're an idiot and a moron for never telling anybody, that you're used and soiled for any future lover...The list goes on, and abusers frequently take full advantage of these weaknesses -- "No one's going to believe you, everybody knows you're a liar and a basket case, you liked it, you led me on, no one's going to want you if you tell," etc. Seems like there's a lot of this lurking in Bill's note, even though he was careful not to speak of his abuser; like seeing the ripples after a stone has been dropped in water.

For what it's worth, Gator, we were generally not in the business of calling the cops on folks, particularly (but not limited to) those who'd promised not to harm themselves.

I believe you, but...there it is. It's what happened, and once it happens you have every reason to believe that it'll happen again. One more avenue of help closed off due to lack of trust, at least in your own dark-fogged eyes. This is what I'm saying.

posted by Gator at 6:59 AM on January 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


i feel so angry. i think what makes me angry (besides, obviously, the atrocity committed upon him) is the extent to which shame silenced him. shame he didn't deserve and did nothing to bring upon himself. its completely understandable, and that makes me even more angry. if only he had been able to share this with someone. because i beleive he was wrong about one thing, i beleive the darkness can be excised. there are people everywhere who have survived such things and become healthy. there are also people no longer everywhere, who haven't. maybe he felt the pain of the process would be too much to bear. maybe it was his right to avoid it, but i think you never make the shots you don't take. the whole thing is just so monstrous. and the whole thing is so banal and ordinary, so utterly common and so reflective of our condition, that's what make me really angry. that its a monstrous world, but its also a beautiful one. and we can't know for sure which world those around us are living in.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:00 AM on January 6, 2011 [31 favorites]


I am so sorry for Bill, so sorry for his friends, so sorry for his family, so sorry for us, so sorry for this world.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:02 AM on January 6, 2011


Would that I could articulate everything my heart and soul is feeling. I will fail, but I want to try.

I didn't know Bill, I had never read a post by him on metafilter and never encountered him anywhere else. I am sad that I cannot tell him how much his suicide note has opened my eyes.

I knew molestation/child abuse was bad. It was horrible. That molesters are the incarnation of evil. But I always thought this like a fact in a textbook. There was no real.. understanding to how bad, how horrible it is. No tug at my heart strings that there is now.

We hear stories on the news about child abuse, tv and movies use it as a plot device or explanation of a character's behavior. I am ashamed to say it took one stranger's suicide note to really make me understand that it isn't just an association of words. I can't imagine myself hearing about an incident of child abuse and not think about the darkness that haunted Bill from now on.

I read his note but it wasn't until I started reading everyone's responses in this thread that made me start to cry. I grieve for everyone's pain at this loss.

:hug:
posted by royalsong at 7:02 AM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anger is exactly how I felt reading this as well. Impotent anger.
posted by padraigin at 7:04 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


In its own way, this thread is the best of metafilter . . . .

Apropos of MrMoonPie's question above, how about we make a crowd-sourced, location-specific, permanent AskMe-linked page of resources for people in emotional crises of all sorts on the Wiki in Bill's memory? It might not have helped Bill, but it might help someone at just the right moment. We could link to it from the AskMe posting page, because a whole lot of AskMe posts sound to me like cries for help we can't really give people in this format.

And who might be in for a campaign to raise a small scholarship (or maybe an annual collection on the anniversary) for a young computer science student in Bill's name or a donation in his name to a suicide prevention project that has a good record?

Seems like *something* Mefites could do collectively to mark Bill's existence on this planet and not let the lesson his death teaches us be forgotten.

I'm in for the first $100. This story moved me deeply. I didn't know Bill at all, of course. But, like some of the other folks here (whose bravery in telling their stories is inspiring -- a profound fear of stigmatization killed Bill just as much as his abuse did, it seems to me), I've been close to the same edge Bill fell over, although for reasons that seem trivial in comparison with his pain (depression, beyond a certain point, defies comparison from one person to another). It's a terrible place to be, and the brief period, many years back, when I felt really close to calling it quits (and also experienced the subsequent abusiveness of the mental health system set up to respond to this even in a very progressive place with good medical care, to echo several folks above -- whose idea was it to treat desperately sad people like criminals?) was, bar none, the scariest time of my life. I've been lost in the actual wilderness, been in a high speed car accident, and had guns pointed at me in anger twice. None of those compared to the few hours when I was calculating lethal doses of the various pills I was taking to try to feel better. By the time you get there, rationality has come to an end, and rationalization is all that's left to work with. It's a very dull blade to use if your goal is to slice through agony.

And I know it's trite, but as someone who was once on the edge, I have to shout out to anyone who might read this in a state of mind like the one Bill was in at the end: it can get better even if the darkness can't be completely driven away. Nearly 20 years on, I am so grateful to whatever combination of forces made me chicken out, reach out for help, and endure the awfulness of the crude way our society deals with people in emotional pain. I'm happy to be alive now, even if I can always hear that darkness pounding on the locked basement door if I listen real hard.

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posted by spitbull at 7:05 AM on January 6, 2011 [28 favorites]


"More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was."

As a mental health professional I'm ashamed of the profession.
posted by HuronBob at 7:05 AM on January 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by Reverend John at 7:08 AM on January 6, 2011


One of the things that struck me with a great sadness about the not asking for help is that it was clear even from my one meeting with him, and from the remembrances of others on his memorial site and here, that Bill was generally a calm-seeming, funny, capable and well-presented guy. In other words, he held it together. All too well. Which is often the goal of people who are falling apart inside: Make it look like I'm OK...at any cost.

Our society rewards that - hush up, just deal, suck it up, act normal, don't make a fuss, don't cause a problem, don't admit you have a problem or could be a problem.

But it's a tragic pity that the better and more skilled a person is at holding it together, not exposing any weakness or vulnerability, the less likely they are to attract helpful attention. Because they seem fine. They seem like the last people who might have a problem or be needing help.

Kids - and adults - who act out, pick up disastrous habits like alcohol or drug abuse or patterns of violence or rage or whatever else, are acting out in a way that makes it obvious there is a problem that needs attention. Often people who need help get it only because someone connected with them recognizes the bad behavior as a sign of an emotional/psychological issue, and starts directing helpful resources their way.

There is a sad irony in that sometimes, people who are the most capable at learning to pass as "doing fine, thanks" then become the least likely to trigger that helpful response. I am sure the doctors Bill saw were every bit as unhelpful as he said, through lack of attention and lack of perception, and through the deplorable lousiness of our awful health care system. But for people who are exercising a very tight control over their inner lives, it's sometimes also possible that while they may say or do something that feels to them like screaming for help, and feels to them like an enormous and terrifying risk of showing an intense vulnerability and powerful shame, it is actually a much smaller blip on the radar of people who expect larger, more vivid red flags to be waving in their faces - and thus underestimate the severity of the problem. What feels like a bold, risky confession or plea to the speaker may not actually rise to a perceptible level for the listener. Better - much better - listening is needed. And incredible courage is required from the person speaking, in order to break through the shiny surface of "I'm fine."

Shout for help if you have to. It's okay to fall apart if you have to. You have permission to fall apart emotionally in order to get the help you need and deserve. You don't have to hold it together all the time.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on January 6, 2011 [69 favorites]


And who might be in for a campaign to raise a small scholarship (or maybe an annual collection on the anniversary) for a young computer science student in Bill's name or a donation in his name to a suicide prevention project that has a good record?

That is a nice idea and I would contribute a bit.
posted by theredpen at 7:13 AM on January 6, 2011


Oh, Jesus. I knew I recognized his handle from a recent interaction, so I went digging. Turns out he was the one who posted my recent project to the front page. In the thread, I criticized him by saying I thought the post was premature. That was the last FPP he ever made.

I'm sorry, Bill. I never knew how much you suffered. I hope you've found the peace you needed.

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posted by Faint of Butt at 7:15 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by steambadger at 7:17 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by alynnk at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2011


Then when you listen to all the well-meaning "help is out there, you have to try!" people and suck it up and try again only to be met with further incompetence and indifference, then what? When you're barely holding it together and you see incompetence and broken confidences all around you, you're supposed to somehow realize, on your own, through the fog of your own darkness, that it gets better?

I understand where you're coming from. Even though my earlier comment was of the "keep trying!" variety, my lifelong experiences with mental health professionals have been universally awful, and some were actively harmful... until last year. I somehow summoned the courage to reach out "just one more time" and, miracle of miracles, I finally found a competent and caring team of people who have helped me to feel more okay and more understood than I've ever felt in my life.

I'm in my early 40s, and I was sexually assaulted for the first time at age 3. I don't know why it took this long to find the right help, and I don't know how I managed to luck out after all these years of struggling to lead a normal life (for the most part I succeeded because I tried to remind myself even in my darkest hours that I deserved to be helped, and I was somehow able to use my feelings of frustration and anger as fuel to keep holding on).

I know that not everyone can keep holding on indefinitely. I don't know when my breaking point would have arrived (it felt very close several times). It took nearly 40 years for me to feel safe and healthy. I hope no one else has to wait that long. I wish you all peace and strength.
posted by amyms at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by mkb at 7:29 AM on January 6, 2011


This is nothing short of heartbreaking. I keep trying to think of something to say that would express how I feel, but nothing seems right.

No one deserves to have so dark a shadow floating over their heads. And it's horribly unfair that getting adequate mental health care is a constant and often fruitless struggle.

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posted by Metroid Baby at 7:32 AM on January 6, 2011


You can tell an abused person that "it's not your fault" until the cows come home, but the feelings of guilt are more pervasive than you can possibly imagine, especially when the abuse began at such a young age when you're still forming your perceptions of how the world works and how people relate to each other.

Amen.

I hesitate to even call what I experienced "abuse" -- it was more like "benign neglect", at the hands of some people who actually did mean well, but were a little too young and inexperienced to get that what you learned in your early-childhood-psychology college course may be different from what your specific child needs in terms of support and validation. It was still enough to leave me with such a skewed self-perception that it took me forty years to finally realize that "...wait, this wasn't my fault? Something's not wrong with me? Shit, I need a minute to process that."

And what I experienced was a pittance compared to this. If that pittance was enough to send me into a 40-year tailspin, imagine how much more pervasive are the feelings that "I deserve this" for someone who is wrestling with a much crueler past.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on January 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


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posted by DreamerFi at 7:34 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by pearlybob at 7:37 AM on January 6, 2011


Thank you, Matt, for posting this, and thanks to all of you for your comments.

I was the victim of severe sustained child abuse. Fifty years and countless useless therapy sessions later it continues to affect me.
posted by mareli at 7:37 AM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, this is terrible. I don't recall interacting much with null terminated here, and never knew him in life. But damn, that note he left behind is devastating. Unbidden and unwilling tears spring forth and down my cheeks after reading that. So much pain, such a bright flame that snuffed itself out.

For all who knew him and loved him, I don't even know what words I could possibly say to help in your time of pain.

I just wish someone had found a way to help Bill in the midst of his.

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posted by hippybear at 7:40 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding mediareport. The training helps you know yourself, and helps you learn to listen. The really good organizations have a way for the volunteers to renew themselves and continue the training, and if someone's burned out, they can take a break.

Generally the line worker will not call the cops, especially if there's no immediate harm suspected. The place I worked had a policy of having yet another person (a more experienced worker, usually a minister or mental health professional of some kind) join the call. If that person utilized a code phrase, then the original line worker would make the emergency call.

It's hard not knowing what happens to the people who hang up maybe feeling better, maybe just feeding you a line, but there is the knowledge that someone was there.

On a more personal note, the training came to my (well, really their) rescue when a friend called me after swallowing a bottle full of pills.



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posted by lysdexic at 7:41 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Aizkolari at 7:44 AM on January 6, 2011


This is incredibly sad news. I didn't know Bill, but I know his username and remember some of his interactions here.

I wonder how much could've been done by even the best professionals to provide therapy and counseling for the damage done by a traumatic event he never shared with another soul until his suicide note.

I hope he has found what he was looking for.
posted by rollbiz at 7:44 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by milarepa at 7:45 AM on January 6, 2011


What feels like a bold, risky confession or plea to the speaker may not actually rise to a perceptible level for the listener.

Yes Miko. A thousand times yes.
posted by marxchivist at 7:49 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I only met him once, at the tenth anniversary Meetup, but I always enjoyed his contributions here. This is a real loss.

All I can think to do is go hug my kid.

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posted by ambrosia at 7:51 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Freen at 7:56 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Rock Steady at 7:58 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by victoriab at 7:58 AM on January 6, 2011


This is just awful. I'm so sorry to hear it and to read his sad story.

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posted by something something at 8:01 AM on January 6, 2011


Ay carumba. He died so young. I grieve for him. I'm sorry for everyone's loss and very grateful to be a member of this online community.

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posted by phaedon at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2011


Its so hard to explain how one can live with such darkness inside, and hide it so well from the world. The best answer I've come up with so far is that it isn't really there all the time. Pleasurable times and happiness can be had, even sustained.

But when it does come back, the thing about it is that its so intense and dark and ugly and demeaning that it tricks the brain into thinking it never left. Its a vicious beast and it doesn't unhinge its jaws easily.

Reading his note was brutal. It sounds like we had very similar rapes, but I got free of the darkness and he never did. Fuck his family. That's what saved me, and fuck them for being non-feeling religious assholes.

One of the biggest lessons my father took away from my rape was "Just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is okay". When he told me this he was pretty broken up, and it refers to his inaction while the actual abuse was occurring because the room in which it was happening was quiet. I think it applies to a lot of survivors though, and to the people that care about them.

That might be a good take-home lesson. Just because it's quiet, doesn't mean its okay. Check in. Talk. Draw them out. And cradle and comfort them if its scary and harsh for them outside of whatever familiar shell of darkness they've just left at your insistence.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2011 [37 favorites]


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posted by K.P. at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2011


What a terrible loss of a genuinely funny and interesting person.

I sincerely hope he finally found the peace he was looking for.

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posted by quin at 8:05 AM on January 6, 2011


That letter made me weep. Mostly, I think, it's how much his intelligence and articulateness shine through - and how even they couldn't help him.

NT made me my most favorite ringtone back in the day. I had that coming out of my phone for almost a year, and it made a lot of people laugh.

Rest in, finally, peace.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2011


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If there are children in your life - not just relatives, but friend's kids, co-worker's kids, neighbors kids - try to check in with them every so often and be a safe adult they can go to when they need help.
posted by anastasiav at 8:08 AM on January 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


What a tragic story. My condolences to those who loved him.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:13 AM on January 6, 2011


how about we make a crowd-sourced, location-specific, permanent AskMe-linked page of resources for people in emotional crises of all sorts on the Wiki in Bill's memory?...We could link to it from the AskMe posting page....And who might be in for a campaign to raise a small scholarship (or maybe an annual collection on the anniversary) for a young computer science student in Bill's name or a donation in his name to a suicide prevention project that has a good record?

These would be a couple of good steps toward "We need to do better." Thank you. I hope we'll have some more ideas like this.
posted by Gator at 8:19 AM on January 6, 2011


Well, fuck. This sucks.

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posted by Zozo at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2011


(;-;)
posted by jtron at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2011


I know in my heart there is an absense of pain and a kind of peace in death. Although the thought of overwhelming darkness - of nullity - terrifies me, I accept that to others it may be a relief - one darkness overwhelming another.

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posted by muddgirl at 8:24 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Madamina at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2011


Goodbye to someone who made my life a better one. I wish I could have repaid the favor.
posted by ColdChef at 8:27 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn.

I actually emailed him years ago to report a bug in MyTunes. He sent me a nice response back. I never knew that he was null terminated here on MeFi.

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posted by Kadin2048 at 8:28 AM on January 6, 2011


I've been busy at work this morning, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about this. I've been thinking about how the people here are saying how likable Bill was and how much he seemed to have it "together."

There's people here at work and in my social circle who I consider friends, but I haven't been to their houses or met their families, I don't really know what's going on with them.

And then I take that out a little further to the people here at Metafilter, or just "people on the internet" in general. I've taken some uncharitable views of people's comments and behavior here (sometimes expressed in my commenting, most often just in my brain), but I know even less of what going on with most of you folks than the person down the hall from me. I can't give everybody a break all the time, people do need to be answerable for their behavior and words, but I keep going back to MaryDellamorte's comment upthread: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

If I don't remember anything else from 2011, I hope I can remember that.

P.S. I thought I saw that quote about people's hard battles attributed to a Bob Dylan song, but I've never been able to verify that. Anyone know?
posted by marxchivist at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wish I'd known him better.

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posted by Rory Marinich at 8:30 AM on January 6, 2011


Something about his writing reminded me of an excerpt from a poem I read as a preteen from a book of poetry called Into the Silence by a survivor of child sexual abuse simply called Marj. The excerpt flies into my head occasionally years later, and this just brought it back. Something like:

I seek peace
a peace so pervasive
I can listen to the hum
of crickets in the fields
for pleasure

not just relief of pain.


But really, as scody and others have already said, words fail. I wish for him the peace he so desperately needed.
posted by ifjuly at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


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posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:31 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by SirOmega at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2011


I wish he could have told someone.
posted by h00py at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by burnmp3s at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2011


Reading his note has filled me with lots of grief for someone I didn't know, as well as empathy and sympathy for his pain and his thinking. I know the "how not to commit suicide" was linked above, but is there any chance we could get some further links for support of people considering suicide? I am not nearly as familiar with the field as I should be, considering how many people I know who have attempted and succeeded in suicide, or I would do it myself. It just seems like a certainty that hurting people will find their way here through the Googles.
posted by norm at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by headspace at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by vers at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2011


so tragic. so sorry.

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posted by msconduct at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by mattbucher at 8:38 AM on January 6, 2011


The Internet seems to think that hard battle quote comes from Plato.

The similar thought that's been kicking around my head for almost twenty years* now reminds me that everyone, no matter how whole-seeming, is walking wounded with scars we may not be able to see.

So please...

be kind.



* OK SO IT POPPED INTO MY HEAD WHEN I WAS ON ACID, THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT LESS TRUE

posted by jtron at 8:48 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a horrible sad story. It's too bad that he was so afraid to tell people he was hurting and had been hurt.

I don't think there's anything else I can say that hasn't been said.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:55 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know him at all, but of course I recognize the user name. What horrible news.


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posted by Julnyes at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2011


I would like to volunteer to begin getting people together with ideas and resources on how to start some kind of memorial scholarship / charitable donation / something in honor of Bill.

I sent Ed Felten an email thinking along the same lines. Others that want to help or can, please memail or email..especially if you can help with organizing at the beginning here.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by dhartung at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by arveale at 9:05 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know Bill well, but we had communicated via email about 9/11 a little bit a few years back. He was a smart, quick-witted and decent person that I deeply regret not getting to know better.

If anyone isn't yet aware, Bill wrote a Greasemonkey script/plugin that was briefly available which placed photos of people next to their usernames. It was a little touch, but at a time when I was looking for a home to call my own online and for the brief time it was working, it helped make Metafilter feel more like a community of friends. More appealing. More personal. We weren’t just responding to random words on a screen anymore, but to an actual person or their avatar. The plugin had issues, and Bill took it down pretty quickly. But it was nice while it lasted.

I also had this comment by him favorited for a long, long time, and over the last couple of years have referred a number of non-members to it, (and later, to the Wiki) when I wanted to explain what MeFi was. What its essence was. The entire thread is a good one. But I thought it a comment worth remembering.

I couldn't get through his note at first. It was devastatingly familiar and awful, awful, awful to read. I live with some childhood experiences that were similar to what he described. Things I don't talk about publicly, that I can't bring myself to talk about publicly in any sort of detail because, well, for many reasons. There are days when I fear that the very same darkness he described will simply rise up and choke me. It's a fear that when one does reach out, you'll be shunned as a pariah, treated as damaged goods, mocked or worse. Plus, I grew up in a house with a disabled parent (and two abusive ones in fact) who was always, always the priority, so I learned from a young age to take care of myself, because my own needs (inevitably) took last place. I mastered the trick that many who have had similar experiences have, of pushing it back, pushing it down, under a pleasant cloak of "everything's okay." Ignoring that little voice in the back of my mind that broadcasts nothing but negativity, guilt, cynicism, shame, hatred and disparagement, 24/7. It's omnipresent, awful and can make life very lonely and sad. Not worth enduring.

Now I see from this thread that the people who met him in real life say that he most likely learned those very same lessons. He presented a persona to the world: the calm, pleasant, funny guy who kept it together and staved off the darkness as much as he could that way. I didn't realize until I started talking about it with a therapist how very, very common this is.

It's so very, very important for people who have been abused, raped, or subjected to some sort of trauma that was outside their control to understand that they're not alone. Only a few of us, no matter how many times we might be told that, ever truly process and understand it. Especially those of us who were abused and/or raped as children. We might feel overwhelming anger and rage that we didn't fight back, didn't put a stop to what was being done to us. There”s no real understanding and acknowledgment that doing so would have been impossible, futile or even dangerous. We don't really get that we're not alone, that others have been through similar experiences and might, just might be able to help, to offer some sort of insight or just hold our hands and say, "it's okay. You're not alone." I know I still struggle with the idea that I'm not alone. Deep down, I don't believe it.

My own suicide attempt as a teenager failed because I was an idiot. Just a complete dumbass about it. In retrospect I'm incredibly grateful that I was so damned stupid. Subsequent therapy helped although... I hated going. I felt at the time that I was revealing personal weaknesses and was afraid of being vulnerable. Terrified, in fact. I suck (really, really suck) at trusting people. Why open yourself to being violated further, in any way?

As wiser folks than I have said earlier in this thread, once you have been abused, trust doesn't come easily, and for some it's practically impossible. But learning to trust is vital to the healing process.

The "It Gets Better" campaign is so damned important. So very, very damned important. It shows us that we're not alone. No matter how lonely and closed off and hurt and wounded and enveloped by the dark we might feel, we're not alone. So important, that. One light, one single candle flame may be inadequate to fight the darkness. Two candle flames make it easier. But a crowd of lit candles can light up a room, and relegate that clawing, vicious darkness to the corners where it belongs.

You see, we spend all our lives absorbing our experiences and learning from them. Sometimes, those experiences are senseless, traumatic acts that change us irrevocably. The pain, the anger, the rage, the shame don't go away. They lessen and become muted and less immediate. But there are things we go through in this life that simply cannot be processed or fully understood and placed into proper perspective without help. Healing in those cases requires an act of trust. But what do you do when you have learned beyond any shadow of a doubt that you can't trust anyone? When distrust of anyone who might be able to help you, whom you might be able to lean on. or look to for understanding and empathy and caring holds you back from reaching out?

The darkness overwhelms you. It moves in, finds a home in your insecurities and self-hatred and refuses to leave. It manifests in the way you treat yourself, talk about yourself privately and think about yourself. It teaches you that you're worthless, that all of your achievements are meaningless and that you might as well give up because you'll never matter.

It's powerfully destructive. Over the years, many of my friends have died and I used to envy them that release. It seemed like a mercy.

So. In early 2004, I happened upon a Livejournal community called ACOA: Adult Children of Alcoholics.

Neither of my parents drink. They weren't alcoholics. I don't drink at all and am not an alcoholic. But the profile page for the community had a "traits list" that shook me.

Here it is:

Traits List for Adult Children of Alcoholics


Situations - those states over which we have no control:
We were raised in alcoholic, emotionally abusive households. Consequently, each of us has many issues to resolve. One issue is that we acted as parents to our parents, and took responsibility for our siblings. As a result, we need to explore our sense of never having had a childhood.

Attitudes - reactions to self-perceptions:
1) We judge ourselves harshly
2) We take ourselves seriously and have difficulty having fun
3) We are approval-seekers and fear personal criticism
4) We feel isolated, different from other people
5) We focus on others rather than look honestly at ourselves
6) We are attracted to people who are rarely there emotionally for us
7) We guess at what normal is
8) We live from the viewpoint of victims

Character Traits - defenses developed as a result of having been raised in an alcoholic household:
1) We are overly responsible
2) We are frightened by angry people and authority figures
3) We need intimacy, yet have difficulty with intimate relationships
4) We fear abandonment
5) We have an exaggerated need to control
6) We have strong guilt feelings
7) We are overly reactive
8) We are loyal to others even though that loyalty may be undeserved
9) We stuff our feelings, unable to either feel or express them
10) Our impulsivity leads to anger, self-hate and loss of control
11) We tend to look for immediate rather than deferred gratification
12) We are angry people
13) We find it easier to give in to others than to stand up for ourselves
14) We are addicted to excitement
15) We often confuse love and pity
16) We have a tendency toward procrastination
17) We have difficulty trusting both ourselves and others
18) We have problems with self-esteem
19) We are anxious people, often dwelling on our past and future fears
20) We have the potential for, and tendency towards, becoming alcoholics and/or marrying them

28 traits. In 2004, I unconsciously fit about 25 of them. My parents weren't alcoholics. So how could this be? It turns out that the traits list also often matches people who have endured abuse. I”ve been told that often it will match them more accurately if they can”t talk about that abuse publicly. It was a wakeup call for me. What I was dealing with wasn't normal. I knew that. But that list meant I wasn't unique, either. There were people out there who were much like me, because they'd lived through similar traumas.

Healing is possible. Or at least, I believe it is. By healing, I don't mean, it's possible to be "cured" from what has been done to us. But I do know it's possible to make that pain less immediate. More muted. To come to a realization that it shouldn't define you, and perhaps that it's affecting you negatively even if you don't realize it.

This, THIS, THIS is the reason why it is SO IMPORTANT to make sure that rape victims feel safe enough to share what has happened to them. Why it is so important they not feel shamed for things that have happened to them that they couldn't stop and couldn't control. For feeling like being raped was their fault. And for feeling as if they'll never be able to feel clean and un-violated, ever again.

If you are being or have been abused, please remember this:

* You are not to blame for what is happening or has been done to you.

* You deserve to be treated with respect. You deserve to be safe.

* You are not alone.

Please, please keep pushing until you find someone who will help. If one mental health professional isn't equipped to help you, or even not empathetic and understanding enough, there are others. They're out there. They are, I swear it. It took me many years to reach out, and then when I did, it took further months and years to find someone I was comfortable with, or who was able to help. Don”t give up. Please.

One last thing. An aside. I broke a promise to myself. Swore I wouldn't come back here, but.... (and) As much as this comment has turned out to be about me and my own experiences, I really did intend to make it not to focus on myself, but rather to commemorate Bill's memory. I'm sad and shocked and upset and so very angry that Bill is dead. This shouldn't have happened, in so many ways. Mostly I'm just extremely sad. When I read his note, I felt an overwhelming urge to come here, and to say something. Thank you, Matt for posting his letter. It was horribly disheartening, but I'm so glad it's being read and seen.

I wish very much that he had found someone to open up to. It upsets me terribly that he felt the only way to fight the darkness was to end his life. I wish I could have held his hand, looked him in the eye and told him that it can get better. No, not just told him. Convinced him somehow. This shouldn't have happened. He deserved better than what he endured and suffered, I hope and pray he's found the peace he wanted.
posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2011 [105 favorites]


there are professionals who can help you if you ever get to feeling hopeless, and no matter who you are or what you've been through, someone cares and wants to help you feel better. I wish Bill had known that.

From personal experience I wish I could say that's there's some truth wrapped up in that little white lie, that there's hope, but sometimes there isn't no matter how hard you wish there was.

His letter resonated with me in so many ways that I can't bring myself to list here ... I hope he found the peace he was looking for.
posted by squeak at 9:11 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Internet seems to think that hard battle quote comes from Plato.

No, nor Philo either. It comes from Ian Maclaren, the pen name of Rev. John Watson, a Scottish theologian of the 19th century. [askmefi][quoteinvestigator]

The original exhortation seems to be Be pitiful, a word now synonymous with pitiable.
posted by dhartung at 9:12 AM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is ineffably sad. The depths of the boundless pain and darkness that Bill wrote about so articulately are almost unfathomable.

Like others here, I can directly relate to portions of Bill's letter, both the trauma parts and the religious parts. I'm finding some measure of resolution and peace, but it took years for me to seek help, and a lot of perseverance to find someone who genuinely cares about helping me to climb out of the bottom of the inverted cone that I visualize myself in.

Rest in peace, Bill. You will live on through those whose lives you touched.
posted by initapplette at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Catseye at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2011


One of Bill's "real life" friends, he introduced me to the wonderful world of Metafilter many years ago. Though I claim little to no technical competence and even less programming knowledge, I have always enjoyed reading the interesting, novel and often insightful posts pan-genre on the Mefi AskMefi and Meta sites. That he would go so far as to recognize my interest and then actually set up the account (and subsequently feed me irresistible teaser links that would inevitably result in hours of internet surfing) speaks to his understated but outsized thoughtfulness. From what I gather above, Bill truly was the master of small but meaningful acts of kindness motivated by genuine goodwill. There is an immaculately packaged pumpkin bread on my counter, one which I cannot bear to eat the last slice, that is just another tribute to this.

I knew Bill was a good programmer, and followed his work casually as one would any friend. I had no idea, until meeting his Princeton colleagues and reading this outpouring of support on MeTa, what a broad impact and wide network he impacted. It seems he was as admired and respected by those in his online life as his physical one.

If there is movement to start a scholarship, I would be happy to participate and lend my support in any way needed. In the meanwhile, I reiterate the offer to visit the 1000memories site. If another memorial space is created on the web, would someone please let me know?

Thank you all who counted Bill as a friend, I know he valued all of you. Bill was and will ever remember as a brilliant, witty, fun, deeply kind person and this radiated through across all his interactions. If only the sunshine he spread to others could have shone through to himself.
posted by keasby at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


For some reason, in my life, a fair number of people have reached out to me, from distances far and near, when they are in crisis moments like this. I must be doing a good job at representing myself as non-judgmental, empathetic, driven to connect, etc. I really am that stuff, so I have to value it. However, I often feel as though I fail them for not being able to solve their troubles with my meager powers, but, thinking back, they've all grown and moved forward since the time they reached me.

Anyway, I say this just as a marker. Anyone who might see it, be assured that if you thought of me as a friend I would be one. I just volunteer, that's all.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:19 AM on January 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


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posted by eunoia at 9:25 AM on January 6, 2011


Mods, can this thread be sidebarred?
posted by Gator at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


that letter is one of the sadness things I've ever read.
posted by supermedusa at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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Thank you, Matt, yours was an eloquent and elegant manner in which to announce this terrible news.
And, just on a very personal note, and not to derail, but I so wish my parents were still on this earth so I could say, Thank you for my childhood. I was so so lucky and I'm grateful.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


I find it so heartbreaking that Bill didn't take his life because of how hurt he was personally, but because he was tired of hurting others. Whoever did this to Bill robbed the entire world of a truly compassionate man. You robbed us all of someone who managed to rise to such heights despite the albatross around his neck, and who could have risen farther to become a great teacher and leader. You selfish fuck. You robbed a man of his ability to feel love, the most basic of emotions, you selfish fucking scum. And for what?

If you, if anyone, ever, for any reason, touch someone without their consent -- if you even think it's okay to look at them lasciviously or say something hurtful to get your jollies -- remember the pain and destruction you're about to let loose on the world. Remember the demon you're bringing into existence. And I hope that demon catches up to you one day and tears you apart.
posted by aftermarketradio at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:31 AM on January 6, 2011


Like so many here I wish that I had known him better. When I read his note I was struck by how well written it was, and like others here, it captured what I have felt unfortunately quite intensely several times in my life.

One of things that struck me was his overwhelming sense of shame, which I think was somewhat connected to the fact he was a man. This year I was talking about sexual harassment to my class and was appalled when a couple of male students started joking about how men can't get sexually harassed. I was glad that I had taken the time to look up some more egregious sexual harassment cases against men and described them to the class. I did this to make it clear that men CAN BE victimized against their will. I hope that what I said made at least one person realize that men can be victimized sexually and that does not make them less masculine. When I read his note, I thought of that class and how maybe one of the students in that class might be living with darkness like Bill's. How often an off the cuff comment or a seeming joke sends the message "You are too shameful to be loved, to be tolerated." I know, from my own experiences, how often a thoughtless joke or comment has made me deeply ashamed of who I am. But if there is one thing I take away from this, it's to be more vocal when those incidents occur because there's probably someone else out there who is also being hurt by the comment and would be helped, would maybe find the confidence to speak out, if they saw that they are not alone. (Oh man I'm tearing up as I write this) Because like Bill, I often feel alone and even though I know that others have experienced this, it's a totally different experiences to come here and actually see how many people out there understand. I only wish he could have had this experience.

I do hope that Bill did finally find the light that he sought. His loss will remind me to keep fighting, not just for myself, but for others to know that there while human beings are capable of great cruelty, we are also capable of kindness, generosity of spirit, and compassion. Those forces may seem weak in face of human brutality, but they are far stronger or as Tennessee Williams once wrote "The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks."
posted by miss-lapin at 9:34 AM on January 6, 2011 [19 favorites]


I wish I had a strong enough spirit to find something meaningful to say.


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posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:34 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by fight or flight at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2011


I'm so sorry for your pain, Bill Zeller. Rest in peace.
posted by found missing at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2011


I am so sorry to hear this. I'm sure somewhere in my posts or posts I was interacting with he commented. May whomever did this to him die a horrible death. I will say I understand his pain and his choice. It's a huge loss that he couldn't find a way to beat the darkness but I respect his choice. But it seems that the world did lose out on a bright light. Again, I am so sorry for those who were his friend and will have a void now that he's gone. Abuse, depression, PTSD just fucking sucks.
posted by stormpooper at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2011


I feel like sometimes being extremely intelligent, like Bill, can be a roadblock when it comes to getting mental health help. So smart he could talk himself into anything, and talk circles around therapists, probably. Therapy is intellectual, it seems, so how could he feel helped by somebody who was inevitably slower than him?

Not that I'm super-above average, but took a long time for me to learn that my therapist didn't have to be smarter than me. Wasn't until I figured out that my hyper-verbalness/descriptiveness/analytical nature was actually getting in the way that I started to make progress.
posted by yarly at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


I didn't know Bill. As a programmer, I would always smile whenever I read his username on a post. It breaks my heart to read about his suffering. I don't have any other words. I'm just sad.
posted by empyrean at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2011


Memorial service planned for graduate student Bill Zeller, Jan. 15
posted by special-k at 9:42 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by evisceratordeath at 9:44 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Smart Dalek at 9:46 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by /\/\/\/ at 9:51 AM on January 6, 2011


How very, very sad.
posted by essexjan at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by jjray at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2011


When I got to the point in his letter where he said he had never told anyone what had happened to him, my heart broke. I hope he is at peace now.

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posted by jokeefe at 10:04 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by ocherdraco at 10:07 AM on January 6, 2011


There is a world of difference between knowing that help exists, and believing that it exists for you. There's a world of difference between knowing that people value you you and believing that you have value. Not knowing isn't the problem.

"It gets better"? Yeah, it gets better. Maybe tomorrow will be better. But it works the other way, too. When it's "better," then it gets worse. No matter how often you crawl out of the pit, someday you're going to be back again.

Those of you who don't know how it feels... that's a good thing. Nobody should know how it feels.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:13 AM on January 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Karmakaze, do you doubt that other people have truly managed to feel better? Or do you just believe there is something about you specifically that can't get better, while others can? Could it be that others also felt that way and then, eventually, did arrive at the better place?
posted by Miko at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2011


I often feel that I would like to try to volunteer for a suicide hotline, but I always fear that I am incapable of relating to the feelings and issues of suicidal people, and I fear that I won't be able to withstand the worry I am nearly sure I would carry around with me after every call.

Like others above thread, I volunteered for a suicide hotline for the better part of a year, and I can MeMail all day about the experience if you want ( well, not all day, but don't want to leave it all here). It really does make you feel like you're helping. It can also be challenging, exasperating, infuriating, funny, stupid, boring, thrilling, terrifying, hopelessness-inducing -- but isn't that just all the "stuff" that comes from dealing with other people? I feel like at first it was terrifying, but after the training I just saw myself as so much stronger, and really had a sense of community with the other volunteers. We were all there to support each other. I have had my own struggles with depression and could relate to people, but we weren't really supposed to bring our own experiences into it -- we were expressly trained not to

One important thing I feel I should note, although maybe it doesn't need to be said -- to work on a hotline you must see suicide and suicidal behaviors as part of our mental public health crisis, and as a 'symptom' of disorders, abuse, trauma, etc, etc.

They don't have a lot of patience for people who feel it's a selfish act, or threats are just attention seeking, or "your body's your own to do whatever with", or "sometimes the peace of death is just better" or whatever. It's very important to see people showing high risk suicidal behavior as people in need of help. And by calling the line, they are looking for help.

Anyway, going on and on but this issue is still just so very close to me. Thanks Mathowie for being open in your post about the circumstances surrounding Bill's death.
posted by sweetkid at 10:18 AM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking about this all day. Making a connection between people is the most frightening and the most fulfilling thing we can do as humans. I'm sorry -- and angry at his attacker -- that Bill was not able to find happiness in those connections and find peace in this life, but I hope he is at peace in death.

Tell those you love that you love them every chance you get -- and on the other side, remember that all your actions have consequences far beyond what you may ever know.

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posted by fiercecupcake at 10:22 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by The Toad at 10:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Melismata at 10:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Stynxno at 10:24 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by JeffK at 10:25 AM on January 6, 2011


This probably isn't the place for this discussion, but I wanted to clarify my earlier comment: I value the work of those who seek to make our culture safer for those who feel they are driven to suicide. I would never agree that "the peace of death is just better", but I do understand why some feel that way.

I think one sad aspect of Zeller's note is how he describes so perfectly a disordered outlook on life, yet refuses the label "mental illness". I hope that someday we can destigmatize mental illness in the same way we have destigmatized (most) physical illnesses.
posted by muddgirl at 10:26 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by me3dia at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2011


Oh no... I met him at the MeFi 10 year anniversary meetup in Mountain View. Super nice guy. Rest in peace.
posted by zsazsa at 10:36 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by heatvision at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2011


That note is one of the hardest things I've read in my entire life. Good luck, Bill, you sound like a great guy.
posted by Cobalt at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2011


This is devastatingly sad. I read the post and the letter last night and really couldn't put into words then how heartbreaking this is. I hope he finds peace. I hope everyone else reading and commenting here who hurts can find some kind of peace. No one is a lost cause.
posted by iconomy at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by limnrix at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2011


Damn
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2011


Could it be that others also felt that way and then, eventually, did arrive at the better place?

I think what Karmakaze was saying is that yes things do get better, and then they get worse, and then they get better, etc. And every time they get better, you're filled with fear that they'll get worse again and there may come a time you may not be able to bear it.

I know there are a lot of people with strong feelings about depression and suicide and a lot of us who are just feeling hand-flappingly useless over what happened. My wish is that we don't turn this into a referendum on the inevitability, or lack thereof, of suicide. It's an unknowable awfulness. You can't, with any certainty, know whether someone who wasn't helped could have, in fact, been helped. One of the many awful things about this sort of situation.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


Ah, God. He was only 27?

I know that's a long time to suffer chronic depression, and I remember when I was 27 feeling like I was already getting quite old, but now, in my 40s, it seems unspeakably young to me. But the weight of the darkness his speaks of was a terrible burden, and I can see wanting to end the burden.

I also know how much changed for me in my 30s. It still changes for me, and I hope I haven't lived half my life yet. I look to the future with great hope, and it breaks my heart further to know that others look upon it with hopelessness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


That was an incredibly articulate note. Can it be linked to his profile and/or put on the wiki?

What got me out of that place was the small recognition and kindnesses of many people, often strangers or near-strangers. Those gave me enough...whatever to go on living a little more.

Later, I did meet some good therapists, but, mostly, the mental health profession did me more harm than good (including giving my abuser a clean bill of mental health, more than once).

Now, life is mostly good. I still have PTSD and fight depression, but that pain also led to many of the things about myself that I like the most and that my friends tell me they like the most.

I guess all I have to say is that if you perceive that someone is in pain or hurting or damaged, a few words, a bit of attention or some other small kindness can have a positive effect far beyond what you could believe.
posted by QIbHom at 10:48 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It took me three attempts to make it to the end of his letter including a trip to the toilet here at work to cry for a bit. So much of it could have been something I'd have written in the past. I can understand trying to shield those around you from the darkness inside and the cost that takes out of you.

By the end I came away even more determined to keep working on dealing with my history better, trust those closest to me a little more and hide less from them, especially self censoring when I'm having a bad day. So a small positive for a very sad event

Bill Zeller. Rest in peace.
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posted by Z303 at 10:49 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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damnit.

Fuck the darkness. It's odd, because here I am wishing he would have named the person who did it. Wishing that person could be held accountable. Yet I know of two "darknesses", and neither has been punished. One I just found out about from a friend, and I haven't told a soul because that friend asked that I not say anything. I know that darkness, and I have kept that secret. Reading through Bill's letter and his talk about people not being able to keep secrets, and not having another person to truly trust - well I'm glad I'm doing that for my friend.

But that leaves the darkness unexposed. Yet I'm conflicted to wonder if I am being what my friend needs by keeping my covenant, or if I am aiding the darkness. Enabling, in a way.

Even as I realize the conundrum, I still wish for Bill's darkness to be exposed and made to be accountable for those actions, because it is heartbreaking to see someone like Bill go this way.
posted by cashman at 10:58 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by hortense at 11:00 AM on January 6, 2011


From personal experience I wish I could say that's there's some truth wrapped up in that little white lie, that there's hope, but sometimes there isn't no matter how hard you wish there was.

Specifically, there may very well be hope, as the "it gets better" folk say, but it's often simply impossible to see that, especially when you've been repeatedly treated poorly by those who are supposed to heal instead of harm, and especially when you don't have the resources -- financially or mentally -- to "keep trying." It's too much, just way too much to ask of some people, and this is what is making me angrier and angrier, you shouldn't have to "keep trying." It's appalling and horrifying that a drowning person should have to shop around for a competent, compassionate lifeguard to rescue them, and that so many people out there expect you to just swim yourself to shore. I'm furious that this is the world we live in and that people who do have the resources will so frequently just walk right past a drowning person saying, "Don't worry, it gets better. There are good lifeguards out there, I promise. Just keep swimming!" We're not all lifeguards, we can't all be lifeguards (doctors, nurses, whatever), we can't fix everything and we don't have to try to fix everything but we can hold out a hand. We can drive people to appointments. We can stay in touch. We can hug. We can volunteer. We can listen. We can be there.

I know I'm rambling and I hope nobody here thinks I'm accusing anybody of anything. I just keep coming back to this in my mind: We need to do better. We need to do better. We need to do better. There's got to be better solutions out there, there's got to be actual, concrete stuff to do about things like this, and there's got to be ways each of us, we, can help. We can do better than "it gets better." The world doesn't have to be this way.

There is a world of difference between knowing that help exists, and believing that it exists for you. There's a world of difference between knowing that people value you you and believing that you have value. Not knowing isn't the problem. "It gets better"? Yeah, it gets better. Maybe tomorrow will be better. But it works the other way, too. When it's "better," then it gets worse. No matter how often you crawl out of the pit, someday you're going to be back again. Those of you who don't know how it feels... that's a good thing. Nobody should know how it feels.

This. If you are one of those who really don't know it feels, I sincerely hope you never find out.

Karmakaze, do you doubt that other people have truly managed to feel better? Or do you just believe there is something about you specifically that can't get better, while others can? Could it be that others also felt that way and then, eventually, did arrive at the better place?

I'm not Karmakaze, but my feeling is that sometimes it helps to know that someone else went through it and survived, and sometimes it just doesn't, because that person isn't you and their problems weren't yours and it's just impossible to see beyond your own miserable past and present. This is where those accusations of "selfishness" often come in, when in fact you may just be blinded by the darkness, as poor Bill clearly was.
posted by Gator at 11:01 AM on January 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


You can't, with any certainty, know whether someone who wasn't helped could have, in fact, been helped

No, of course. Perhaps there are some people can't be helped, but one of the treasures I'm taking away from this thread is the knowledge and evidence that some can be. Thanks to those who have shared such personal experiences and I wish for hope to be there for others.
posted by Miko at 11:01 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, I finally got up the nerve to read the note.

Devastatingly brutal, yet so well written. I'm angry now, because what was done to him changed him, cut and isolated him from people around him. I'm sad also, because he seemed so wonderful, just from that note. The world is bit poorer because he left it way too early.

Sleep well Bill, you deserve at least that much at the end.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on January 6, 2011


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I hope his loved ones find peace. There have been two suicides of young men in my family in the last several years, and it's really difficult to cope at times.

I don't think I'll be reading that letter at work.
posted by desjardins at 11:02 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by white_devil at 11:12 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by platinum at 11:12 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by rainbaby at 11:17 AM on January 6, 2011


QIbHom: "That was an incredibly articulate note. Can it be linked to his profile and/or put on the wiki?"

Ok.

I added it to the wiki, primarily because he said this at the end of the note and I think he would have been okay with people linking to it:
Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don't want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I'm worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don't mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I'd prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.
I've saved the note. If it is deleted, I'll find a home for it online and correct the link on the wiki.
posted by zarq at 11:18 AM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by juliplease at 11:19 AM on January 6, 2011


Thank you, zarq. He wanted it shared. And it should be.
posted by QIbHom at 11:21 AM on January 6, 2011


Tell someone. Please.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2011


Remember that time when you graciously offered to walk me to my car after a meetup because you sensed that I felt uncomfortable wandering around a multistory garage in an unfamiliar town looking for my car late at night? Thank you for that, Bill. A little thing for you maybe, but valued by me and not forgotten. RIP.
posted by jamaro at 11:25 AM on January 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


QIbHom, you're welcome.
posted by zarq at 11:25 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by spec80 at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2011


Bill Zeller, I hope you have been received into a place of more kindness and purer knowledge than any you received on earth. I hope Love and Truth get a second chance to heal you.

I also kind of hope St. Peter or Metatron or whoever is expediting the paperwork to have you commissioned an Avenging Angel and assigned to haunt child molesters. If that would be good for you.
posted by eritain at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by nickmark at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2011


I hate the itgetsbetter site.

I am sure there are some people it helps, but, and this could just be my own issues talking, to me it's just a big Fuck You. When you are in the mental place where you need that kind of perspective it's impossible to empathize with people who've overcome that which you stll wallow in. Has my life gotten no better because I am so much more terrible inside than all these people? When I tell a friend about my pain, and they walk away, what did I do wrong that I have no friends I can count on? When the medical professionals you do see hurt you, over and over, believing that there ever can be a positive interaction becomes difficult at best. When everything you try and say gets ignored or misunderstood, you stop talking.



How can you deal
With all the pain inside your head?
How can you sleep
When the demons scream so loud?

I try to talk it out
But no words can express
The misery and grief
Nor dispell this loneliness
Alone in a nightmare
I can never escape
Trapped by the walls
Of my own self-hate.
posted by No1UKnow at 11:32 AM on January 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by awesomebrad at 11:33 AM on January 6, 2011


I hate the itgetsbetter site.

God, I thought I was the only one. It makes me all sputtery with rage.
posted by enn at 11:37 AM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by ldthomps at 11:37 AM on January 6, 2011


I didn't want to read that note, but after reading some of the comments here I forced myself to do so. All I can say is if there is a God, he needs to apologize to Bill Zeller.
posted by tommasz at 11:38 AM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I am definitely going to go hug my loved ones and tell them I love them.

Truly sadden to read. Rest in Peace.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 11:39 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by dhruva at 11:40 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Han Tzu at 11:41 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by widdershins at 11:45 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by ZeusHumms at 11:49 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Gary at 11:51 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by 0BloodyHell at 11:54 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Iteki at 11:57 AM on January 6, 2011


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posted by vespabelle at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by papercake at 12:20 PM on January 6, 2011


Gizmodo has posted this.

You wanna realize what a special community we have in MeFi, go over there and read some of the comments.

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posted by jbickers at 12:24 PM on January 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was posted by Joel Johnson, who knows a thing or two about what Bill was going through.
posted by Gator at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


> You wanna realize what a special community we have in MeFi,
> go over there and read some of the comments.

Yes.
I came here from a link on another site (not Gizmodo, though), with a pretty decent community over there, but I was surprised how much more understanding and supporting people are here.
posted by egor83 at 12:30 PM on January 6, 2011


oh my god! so sad. RIP

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posted by the mad poster! at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2011


I was feeling suicidal at one point, and I started googling suicide help resources, and one of the prominent links had a single sentence that really helped me:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

It's not really profound or anything, but when I was feeling that way, reading that sentence was some sort of tremendous relief. I just started crying and crying and crying, which I think I needed, and there was something really comforting in hearing that my suicidal thoughts were just a logical result of the input I was receiving at the time.

So I thought it might be worth sharing here, because I imagine this thread might attract some distraught readers.

(and I'm fine now)
posted by neuromodulator at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


Here's the source, by the way.

I don't know anything about the organization, but I found it helpful that night.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looks like Princeton has a memorial fund already going for Bill.

...donations may be made to: William Zeller *08 Memorial Fund, Princeton University, Alumni and Donor Records, P.O. Box 5357, Princeton, NJ 08540. Gifts should be made payable to the Trustees of Princeton University, with William Zeller *08 noted in the memo line.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:40 PM on January 6, 2011


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I don't know if it hurts and angers me more that he never found the help [originally typo'd as 'hope'] he needed or that his note articulated so well what I myself, as a PTSD sufferer, have never really been able to articulate myself.

It also kinda urks me that it's only in rare moments like these that many people like us feel free to speak up. Why must we wait for tragedy to seek/offer support?

Also, it strikes me just how many MeFites can truly relate, not only to Bill's experiences, but to my own, and others'. I hope for each and every one of you that peace can and will be found, hopefully before you're looking over that edge.

and I have now stopped procrastinating on making appointments with both my psychiatrist and my therapist.
posted by MuChao at 12:41 PM on January 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by stoneegg21 at 12:47 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by communicator at 12:55 PM on January 6, 2011


Still trying to work this out. On the one hand, it made me cry until I had to run into the bathroom to hide. But on the other...I'm just so fucking mad. I sit here wishing that the person who did this to him was right here, in front of me, so I could attack him with whatever means was in my power, even if it was my bare hands to his evil bastard eyeballs. Sad...angry...sad...back and forth. But I want to DO something. Maybe there are suicide hotlines in the Seattle area that need volunteers, or child resources I can donate to. But in the back of my mind I will hope that somewhere, there's an abuser rotting in a pit of his own feces for what he did.

Sorry to be that way. And SO sorry to people who've had this happen. And I hereby promise to try really, really hard to be nicer to everyone I meet (which, after what I just wrote, sounds pretty pathetic). But I will.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:57 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by AugustWest at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2011





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posted by fizzix at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by kilo hertz at 1:01 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by serunding at 1:01 PM on January 6, 2011


TochterAusElysium: "Maybe there are suicide hotlines in the Seattle area that need volunteers, or child resources I can donate to."

Seattle Crisis Resource Directory. Their sexual assault and domestic violence page. Also see this page from Seattle.gov.
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by flippant at 1:14 PM on January 6, 2011


How desperately sad. I didn't know him, but I read his note and I wept for him.

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posted by lovecrafty at 1:18 PM on January 6, 2011


I find it so heartbreaking that Bill didn't take his life because of how hurt he was personally, but because he was tired of hurting others. Whoever did this to Bill robbed the entire world of a truly compassionate man.

I agree, aftermarketradio.

It is awful to read his fears that, to prevent himself from taking another person's life, he might have to take his own.

I hope it doesn't trivialize this to say that it reminds me of Harry Potter. Only Harry (just barely) found the surrogate family to tell him he was NOT innately bad, that it was not what was in him or what had happened to him that made him what he was--but rather, the choices he himself made going forward.

It sounds like Bill Zeller made an awful lot of good choices with regard to those around him. If only he could have understood that was what defined him--not the fear and blackness and undeserved guilt.

RIP.

And thank you to everyone sharing such moving and personal stories in this thread. My heart goes out to you.
posted by torticat at 1:20 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by foggy out there now at 1:25 PM on January 6, 2011


Somebody asked me to post these Johnny Cash lyrics in this thread.

Well, youre my friend
And you can see
Many times we've been out drinking
Many times we've shared our thoughts
Did you ever, ever notice, the kind of thoughts I got
Well you know I have a love, for everyone I know
And you know I have a drive, for life I won't let go
But sometimes this opposition, comes rising up in me
This terrible imposition, comes blacking though my mind

And then I see a darkness
Oh no, I see a darkness
Do you know how much I love you
Cause I'm hoping some day soon
You'll save me from the darkness

Well I hope that someday soon
We'll find peace in our lives
Together or apart
Alone or with our wives
And we can stop our whoring
And draw the smiles inside
And light it up forever
And never go to sleep
My best unbeaten brother
That isn't all I see

And then I see a darkness
Oh no, I see a darkness
Do you know how much I love you
Cause I'm hopinh some day soon
You'll save me from the darkness
posted by angrycat at 1:25 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Shit.

I wish I had known him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:26 PM on January 6, 2011


Somebody asked me to post these Johnny Cash lyrics in this thread.

That's from Cash's American III: Solitary Man; it's actually a cover of a Bonnie 'Prince' Billy song, the title is "I See A Darkness". It's been running through my head for days, and I made a recording of it this morning.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:30 PM on January 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Somebody asked me to post these Johnny Cash lyrics in this thread.

I believe that's actually a Will Oldham song. Johnny Cash's version, with Oldham singing back up.
posted by philip-random at 1:31 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is very sad- he was obviously brilliant, perceptive, talented and so young....RIP, and I hope ..and wish that this didn't have to happen to any child or adult. Thank you for posting this. It makes us look twice I think at other people and their potential pains/struggles. I'm sorry Bill.
posted by bquarters at 1:31 PM on January 6, 2011


I remember all too well spending a couple terms walking from office to office at college, looking for help because I knew I was in trouble. I never found any -- nobody wanted to deal with it, and they'd just refer you to someone else. I joked to friends that where was probably a wheel of students like me, orbiting endlessly around the campus... but when I started getting referred to people who'd already punted me down the line, and beginning to recognize a lot of the same students visiting each place, I realized that my little joke probably wasn't far from the truth.

I want to tell Bill, or anyone in his situation, that there is help out there and to ask for it... but I get how they can get discouraged, or not even try. I hope that somehow he is at peace now.
posted by Pufferish at 1:32 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


That letter fucking gutted me. So much pain. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I read it last night, and I didn't know what else to do, so I made a donation to Childhaven this morning in Bill's name. (My employer matches charitable donations, so at the end of the month Childhaven will get another little chunk of change. Hooray for matching.)

RIP, Bill Zeller. I wish you had been able to tell someone what happened to you.
posted by palomar at 1:37 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


So sad. We are all diminished by his loss.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:38 PM on January 6, 2011


It's been a few hours since I read this post and the linked suicide note, and I still feel wrecked by it.

I didn't know Bill. But what really makes me sad is that he didn't feel there was anyone he could talk to about his turmoil.

Yet I also understand that the only way we can perceive the outside world is by filtering it through our brains. And if your brain chemistry and your neuron connections have been totally damaged by abuse or by something else, then you are filtering the world -- your perceptions of yourself, your perceptions of others, your perceptions of the way things work -- through a distorted lens. What seems obvious to one person -- that there is a therapist out there who is an empathetic human being and really and truly wants to help you -- will not seem obvious to the person who most needs to hear that message.

I think there are lots of us out there who, fortunately, never had to go through what Bill went through, but who can relate to parts of it.

People on AskMe are always recommending Feeling Good by David Burns. The core of that book is that if you are depressed, you are seeing the world through a distorted lens. A key to healing, to reclaiming some shred of equilibrium or sanity, to coming back above the surface of the deep water, is to somehow recognize that the way you are seeing the world is distorted. The key is to somehow see past your distortion and realize that there is an objective world out there that is much better than the world you are subjectively perceiving. Even if you can't see it, to be aware that it is there.

Most of all I deeply, deeply wish everyone who needs help could keep this one thing in mind:

There is a therapist out there who is an empathetic human being and really and truly wants to help you.
posted by Tin Man at 1:40 PM on January 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


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posted by snsranch at 1:44 PM on January 6, 2011


god damn.
posted by chunking express at 1:46 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by hattifattener at 1:48 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by tommccabe at 1:50 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by troubles at 1:51 PM on January 6, 2011


Is there an internet version of planting a tree or something?
posted by sweetkid at 1:53 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by war wrath of wraith at 1:58 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by moira at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2011


Reading that has absolutely kicked me in the gut. I've never really understood what it would be like to be dealing with something like this.

I am thankful he was able to express himself publically, finally at least. I feel that I am improved for having read his words. It's so easy to remain inward focused and to dwell on my own particular issues. This has made me realize just how fucking good I've had it all these years, and that the worst thing I've dealt with in my life is nothing compared to something like this.
posted by utsutsu at 2:07 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by sarcasticah at 2:13 PM on January 6, 2011

...of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
I didn't know Bill in real life, but his handle was a familiar one. His eloquence was endearing and succinct.

I wish he had chosen another path than the one he followed. If he could have just reached out to us... maybe this could have been avoided. We are all poorer for his leaving us. We are all poorer for the monsters who did this to him, and those who ignored his pain.

Bill deserved so much more than this. We deserved so much more than this.

I myself have passed through darkness, with help from some of the MetaFilter family, from my own friends and family.

His letter is... haunting. Battering. Brutal and visceral. I've had similar...

I am so glad that I am still here.... though a thousand miles away fro so many I love in this world.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Indeed. Wonderfully wise words to always keep at the forefront of the mind.

May you know peace for all eternity. May the light of wonder and love guide you there.

To all who have shared here, thank you. May we all find peace together.

We are all "forever voyaging".

May we find calm seas, and soothing winds.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh, no.

Does it matter if you think of people after they're dead? I hope it does.
posted by longsleeves at 2:18 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This American Life featured a section on suicide this week. It made my skin crawl when I listened to it because of the contagious nature of suicide. I wonder if Bill heard it.
posted by spork at 2:22 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://gizmodo.com/5726667/the-agonizing-last-words-of-bill-zeller
posted by Heliochrome85 at 2:24 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by spilon at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2011


I loved and hated Bill's letter, because it reminded me too much of myself. I know that darkness. I've burst into tears receiving a gift from the love of my life because I knew I could never love her like she deserved, because I would never be free of it. The hard part is not accepting the past. The hard part is accepting that the darkness is robbing you of your future happiness, too.

But I don't pity Bill. I respect him for making his decision with as much clarity as he could afford, and for doing the best that he could with what he was given.

And for anyone out there in a similar situation, I had also written my own letters about three years ago. I had unfettered access to a 357, and I had picked the day. I may be fat, rounding thirty, single, broke, and have more than a slight affinity for good drugs, but I'm still here. I pay my bills, I listen to good music and go to movies and shows. I'm even a good friend to people when they need it, though sometimes I fall short, as everyone does.

The point is that until you are dead, you are still in control, and it is still your choice. And as long as you aren't hurting anyone else, I'm going to love and respect you, whether you decide to continue fighting or you decide that it's time to give up.

Rest in peace, Bill. See you on the other side.
posted by notion at 2:29 PM on January 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


While we're recommending books, let me recommend How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me, by Susan Rose Blauner.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:41 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's terrifying and enraging that my experiences in life have been so similar to Bill Zeller's.

When I was in tenth grade, and things were really bad at home, my math teacher was getting increasingly frustrated with me. Even though I went to extra help almost every day after school, I was barely passing. Of course, I didn't do my homework very often. And I was the queen of good excuses. But this woman, she said to me, "It's always a crisis with you, Sabrina." What she didn't know was that it was indeed always a fucking crisis with me, that I was in crisis at that very moment, that my crisis wouldn't even begin to end for another year. I think of all the teachers I had who said I wasn't "applying myself" in school, who said I didn't meet my potential. I think of the teacher who found suicidal ramblings in a notebook of mine, of the teacher I told years earlier that my father was threatening me. I think of the guidance counselor who used Child Protective Services as a threat against me.

And I am enraged. Still. At the church, the schools, the teachers, the whole goddamned world, for trying to hush me up and move me along without ever finding out what was the matter.

I think of Bill Zeller, and I think it's understandable that he didn't want to tell anyone. I was terrified of telling a soul. Even after I went through the family court wringer, I still didn't want people in school to know. I remember trying to keep everything quiet, remember brushing off questions about all the cop cars around my house the day my father died. I remember trying to be a journalist, and a woman, and trying to be respected in an industry that was practically impossible even before it went bankrupt. And the most important thing, through all that time, was not drawing attention to myself or to my story, not distracting from the point that I was smart and capable -- independent of the fact that I'd "survived" abuse.

Thinking about all this, about all the systems and people who have failed me, makes it very easy to understand where Bill Zeller was coming from. He didn't get what he needed, not from his family, or his friends, or even medical professionals.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have never told anyone what happened to me. I mean, there was never any question about whether I'd go to the police, and even when the assistant DA told me that I was certain to be subjected to a media circus, I said bring it on.

Then my father died, and it all got swept under the rug, and I was much like Bill Zeller. I wanted people to like me, and I didn't want them to judge me based on my childhood, and I didn't feel like there was anyone in the world who would really help me, who would not just tell me it gets better but who would help me find ways to make it better.

I still feel that way, I'm sorry to say, in spite of having received excellent mental health care. And I have a few very wonderful, very kind, very understanding, extremely patient people in my life, who nonetheless wonder if I will ever just get back to work and get back to living and get back to being the girl I used to be. The one with the fabulous mask.
posted by brina at 2:44 PM on January 6, 2011 [39 favorites]


my heart breaks.

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posted by katy song at 2:56 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Bookhouse at 2:58 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Hobgoblin at 3:02 PM on January 6, 2011


All day I have been thinking of Gerard Manley Hopkins:
When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.
For those Mefites here who are struggling to find peace -- who are scared to reach out, or who have reached out and been rebuffed -- may you find the patience to last one more day, to find the hand that will grasp yours, to know empathy and compassion in a world that hasn't given you a fair measure of either.

Also, loq's comment reminds me of why the shredding of the social safety net in this country should be seen as a goddamn crime against humanity.
posted by scody at 3:02 PM on January 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


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posted by cazoo at 3:04 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh god. This is so horrible. I have a friend in the CS phd program at Princeton who I will drop a note of support to. null terminated was a friendly name here on mefi. I'm so sorry he was suffering so much.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:06 PM on January 6, 2011


I keep coming back to this thread because I can't get Bill out of my mind, even though I only vaguely recognized his username here. It's almost like I feel I could do some good for him by reading these comments, by being here. Even though I can't.

I've seen some trouble.... but I got lucky. Mine was more, like EmpressCallipygos said, a sort of benign neglect -- people doing the best they could, as imperfect as it was -- and it still screwed me the everloving fuck up. I can't imagine what an experience like Bill's does to a person.

His note sounded so familiar though - I've had days like that, emails like that, conversations like that, because after everything you think that somehow you deserved it, that something's deeply wrong with you and always will be, and that there's no way to fix it. It took me years to find the right therapist, and I gave up a couple of times along the way. Said, fuck it, I'll just be broken, because there's no interest in fixing me.

I got lucky though. I asked my mother for help, and she found me the Brilliant Therapist, and it's been close to a year now I've been working with her. I wouldn't be able to write this otherwise. I wouldn't be able to admit I was one of the five percent nation of invisibly broken people.

I remember thinking, during the years-long Search for Help, that what us busted-up fools needed was a person who'd help us get help. Someone to make the phone calls and do the pre-screening, because the person who's hurt just does not have the ability to keep trying, day after day after fucking day, when every "I'm sorry, we can't help" sounds more like a "Fuck you for asking." I was fucking lucky I had a person to do that for me. Not everyone does -- but everyone should. I remember thinking -- if only there was a way to organize that. They have apartment finders, why not a Help Finder?

It seems to me that whenever there's a suicide, it doesn't feel like the person who did it failed. It feels like everyone else failed them. I don't know what the solution is. I'm only now starting to believe that it does get better... even if it doesn't get much easier.

I have no idea why I'm still typing, here; this is all just in my mind, and hell - if anyone's in my area and wants a hug, let me know. And every last goddamn one of you brilliant people, you should be alive and okay, you should have peace in your life.
posted by cmyk at 3:14 PM on January 6, 2011 [41 favorites]


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posted by Rumple at 3:15 PM on January 6, 2011


Heartbreaking.

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posted by box at 3:18 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by idest at 3:32 PM on January 6, 2011


A lot of people in this thread express anger. It's in a way easy to understand why.

Might I offer the following however, as another way to look at things:
"Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me."
Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.
"Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me."
Abandon such thoughts, and live in love.
In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:42 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh man: I guess because it was mentioned in this thread somewhere, one of null's old metatalk comments has received a bunch of favorites in the last 24 hours. We're mutual contacts on mefi, so I just saw this under 'contact activity:

★ null terminated had a comment with 17 recent favorites in MetaTalk. 6 hours ago

and it freaked me out.
posted by item at 3:48 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Coaticass at 3:49 PM on January 6, 2011


I did not know Bill but I enjoyed reading null terminated posts while they lasted. May he rest in peace.

A few years ago I attended a talk by Kay Redfield Jamison, author of Night Falls Fast, a scholarly study of the phenomenon of suicide. She was adamant that all our silence was a large contribution to the ongoing pandemic. She has some graphs in her book; e.g. world wide cause of death in young people is suicide number two for women and number four for men. She has a graph showing young American male deaths by suicide by year and also plotted is American male deaths in Vietnam. At the peak of the war, the number of young American males who died in the war was ~16 000 and that same year ~ 3 000 young American males suicided. The 3 000 number is ongoing and climbing. It is a large public health problem.

Her contention was that if we will talk about it with honesty and empathy we increase the chance of it not happening to somebody we know. I have a suicide in my family and I know from personal experience that almost nobody is interested in discussing it. As a matter of fact, almost nobody is interested in hearing me talk about my experience of listening to Jamison's talk. The taboo and the stigma are adding to the deadliness according to at least this one expert. (Jamison also is a survivor of a suicide attempt.)
posted by bukvich at 3:53 PM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have no idea why I'm still typing, here; this is all just in my mind, and hell - if anyone's in my area and wants a hug, let me know. And every last goddamn one of you brilliant people, you should be alive and okay, you should have peace in your life.

Oh, cmyk, I have been afraid to read his note, but now I am crying too hard at your lovely words. I also wish I could help someone else.
posted by theredpen at 3:56 PM on January 6, 2011


Reading this for the second time today and seeing how it has propagated across the Internet, I wonder if Bill, a good designer to the end, thought that not mentioning his abuser would protect that person (or any person in his family) from 4chan style internet rage? Graceful until the end.

I'm so sorry, Bill.

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posted by By The Grace of God at 4:10 PM on January 6, 2011


cmyk, your words choked me up. I know what that "Fuck you for asking" feels like and how hard it is to... yet again... ask.. for.. help... when no one's listening.

bukvich, I have to agree; there's a stigma in talking about it. It's "selfish" or "a cry for help"... WELL DUH it's a cry for help! So all too often, we just suffer in silence. The problem is the silence, from all sides.
posted by MuChao at 4:13 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by YamwotIam at 4:31 PM on January 6, 2011


.

Like many others here, his words chilled me in the way that they could have been mine, some of them have been like mine. I'm saddened that he did try to reach out and the system failed him, just as it failed many here, and even so I want to emphasize to those who may be reading that even if you got that shitty person at the suicide hotline or a therapist who fucked you over, there are 10 other people that want to hear your voice.


If you're reading this and you're shattered into muteness, look over this post again and see how many open arms are here. You're not alone. You don't have to go it alone. You don't have to go it alone.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:33 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you are looking for an organization to contribute to, I recommend Generation FIVE, which is dedicated to ending childhood sexual abuse in 5 generations. Staci Haines is one of the founders -- I often recommend her book in relevant AskMe questions.

One of the saddest parts of his letter, for me, was his inability to tell others about what had happened. For me (and acknowledging that these things work differently for different people) telling someone else about my history and trauma was liberating and healing. Making something no longer my secret to carry alone took away much of its power. Not that healing wasn't hard work, and not that I'm not still affected by it, but much of that darkness started lifting for me when I was able to talk about it and name what had happened.

I am sad for the loss and sad that he never found healing or comfort from his trauma.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:35 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by ged at 4:40 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Frank Grimes at 4:46 PM on January 6, 2011


This community is again showing how special it is in this thread. It is hard not to love you, MeFites, so I'll admit I do indeed.

The letter made me cry too, old and toughened as I've gotten. This thread hurts too . . . the people who knew Bill are letting us know he was young, very smart, creative, kind, helpful, funny, and handsome too. What a tremendous loss.

I wasn't molested as a child, only raped as a college student, by someone I thought was a dear and trustworthy friend. I was affected by the childhood molestation of two of my siblings, though I think the way my parents listened to them, believed them, and took action to report the crime and support them through the court system was enormously healing, for them and for me. Anyway, I felt very motivated by the time I got to law school to help sexual assault victims. Eventually, I ended up interviewing many child abuse victims, drafting charges against the offenders, and prosecuting the cases. I did that for years, and it was draining and exhausting but also really rewarding. That wasn't because the legal system succeeds in convicting and punishing every offender. It doesn't. I can also tell you from working with juvenile sex offenders that it isn't even wise to demonize all offenders. Many are survivors themselves, most have extremely distorted understanding of their "relationship" with their victims, and some are deeply, incredibly sorry and remorseful when what they have done becomes clear to them.

What was healing about prosecuting sex offenders -- not for me, but for the victims with whom I worked -- is the following. First, that they told and were believed. Second, that telling and being believed helped dramatically to counteract all the dreadful and warping things they were told or had decided in the wake of the abuse -- that they were bad, deserved or invited it, were dirty, were evil, were contaminated, were alone, were alien, were less than human . Third, that we had resources to offer -- kind and caring and well trained medical and social work professionals who really understood sexual assault and were easy and safe people to whom to disclose and work through what had happened. And, too, very often we were also able to let the victim decide what the defendant should face -- treatment, jail, prison, or having the key thrown away. The power shoe was on the other foot. The ashamed person was the one who was supposed to be ashamed -- the perpetrator, not the victim.

Reading Bill's letter, which everyone in the world should read in my opinion, it tore me up to see all the devastating and terrible thoughts that he had been living with and suffering from. That somehow he was evil or bad. That he would contaminate others. That his suffering had somehow hurt others. That the anger inside him would somehow leap out and harm someone else. That there was no place safe for him to put down his load. That he was cut off forever from others. That he would never experience love or parenthood. That only darkness lay ahead. That, incredibly, if he disclosed the identity of his abuser, no one would believe him.

I knew long before I read it in his letter that, as he said, I've never told anyone
about what happened to me, ever.
In a better world, he could have, because the people who were supposed to keep him safe would and could have heard him, believed him, and helped him.

Still thinking about what to do in Bill's memory. I am already, for obvious reasons, a contributor to sexual assault agencies. (And here in Seattle, two great ones include the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and the Harborview Sexual Assault Center.)

Thanks for the loving post, mathowie, and to all of you for caring, and most particularly to those of you who have shared your own experiences.
posted by bearwife at 4:47 PM on January 6, 2011 [36 favorites]


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posted by drezdn at 4:47 PM on January 6, 2011


I wasn't molested as a child, only raped as a college student,

That's the biggest only I think I've ever seen.
posted by item at 4:51 PM on January 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


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posted by A dead Quaker at 4:56 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by bluefly at 4:57 PM on January 6, 2011


I remember all too well spending a couple terms walking from office to office at college, looking for help because I knew I was in trouble.

My favorite was the guy who initially called me, let's say, "Fiona" instead of "Fairytale," then hmphed at my chart for 32 seconds and said "Well, you probably have some woman problems, your period and all. Prozac's good for that, I can write you a scrip."

That was when I realized he had my chart upside-down. I retrieved it from his possession, tore it up, and left. I tried to off myself a few months later and survived it-- no thanks to that man, the head of psych services at my 30,000-person urban Northeastern private university.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:09 PM on January 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


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posted by whatideserve at 5:16 PM on January 6, 2011


I lost my first wife to suicide many years ago. There were no warning signs, no unusual behavior. No note. No explanation. Well, until now, after reading Bill's letter. I get it.

So, Bill, when you come back, reincarnated as a goat herder or whatever, and anyone else who is depressed and suicidal, TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS! You'll be really surprised how many people are total wrecks, barely making it, human beings who need a little special care, love and understanding! We all need to support each other.

Aw, jeez, what a loss, man.
posted by snsranch at 5:17 PM on January 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


Oh God. I didn't know he created MyTunes. I loved that. And I loved his MeFi contributions. God.

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posted by limeonaire at 5:19 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Kwine at 5:46 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by jquinby at 5:50 PM on January 6, 2011


Oh God, that is so sad. RIP, Bill.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:16 PM on January 6, 2011


I didn't know bill, but I've used is code, and it pains me deeply to see all this happen.

I've never had to deal with the darkness directly, but the person I love and share my life with has, and reading Bill's note makes it even clearer the kind of difficulty she goes through every day. Even though we've been working through things together as she gets treatment, its all too easy to forget what she's going through. Echoing what numerous people have said above, its incredibly important to be kind to everyone, because you have no idea what the world looks like through their eyes.

For those of us lucky enough to see the abuse and its devastating long-term consequences from the outside, instead of personally, we have to make sure we let the people around us know that it is possible for things to get better.
posted by dantekgeek at 6:26 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Damn it. I knew null terminated only through his work and comments but even so he seemed like a great guy and this thread makes me wish I'd knew him better. From his note it sounds like life kicked him till he was down and then just kept on kicking him.

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posted by Mitheral at 6:35 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Busithoth at 6:44 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by SoulOnIce at 6:45 PM on January 6, 2011


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Sometimes there's just not enough hugs.
posted by schyler523 at 6:48 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by fatbaq at 6:57 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by randomination at 7:02 PM on January 6, 2011


TochterAusElysium
But on the other...I'm just so fucking mad. I sit here wishing that the person who did this to him was right here, in front of me, so I could attack him with whatever means was in my power, even if it was my bare hands to his evil bastard eyeballs.

I'm not sure this is the right takeaway. Bill himself worried that he would harm (kill?) others. He took his own life to prevent this from happening. Which shows that, ultimately, he was a better and braver person than he believed himself to be.

Romans 5: "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die."

I think null terminated had an intimate understanding of why people can do the vile things they do. This understanding was illegitimately imposed on him at a young age (no one should experience this). But, regardless of the fact that it wasn't TRUE, he believed himself to be evil and capable of evil.

Maybe he had a better understanding of his abuser than we do.
posted by torticat at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't know him well at all. RIP, Bill. I pray any existence you currently have is better than the one you left behind.

His suicide note is shudderingly articulate. I knew, of course, that childhood sexual abuse informs a person's entire psyche; I knew that it tainted every relationship and was very hard to seek help for. But I didn't feel it like I felt it reading Bill's note. I hauled my four-year-old daughter up onto my lap and told her that if anyone ever hurt her, she could always tell me about it, even if the person who hurt her said she couldn't; that it was part of my job as her mommy to keep her safe, and that she could tell me at any time, even if the person had hurt her a long time ago. That there was never anything that would make me love her any less or want to protect her any less. That if she felt like it would be better for her to wait to tell me, that was OK too, that I never didn't want to hear about anyone who had hurt her.

I'll be repeating that message frequently as she grows up.

My skin crawled when I read about how he turned to the thought that he might be gay as a way of explaining why relationships with women never felt right. I think he's not the first person to have come to that conclusion; I think that it's likely that's the origin of the "homosexuality is caused by childhood sexual abuse" fallacy. I wonder how many of the people who promote that fallacy now are, themselves, silent survivors. Be kind, indeed.

At the end of his note, he wrote this:

For years I've wished that I'd be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.

Bill, thousands of people are reading your essay. Probably tens or hundreds of thousands of people will, eventually. People who have no personal experience with childhood abuse are learning about just how deep and broad the scars run; people who do are learning that they are not alone, that other people feel this way, and maybe in that knowledge, they can find the strength to begin disambiguating themselves from the horrors that evil people perpetuated upon them, to talk to other people about their own darknesses.

It sounds like you wanted your death to mean something. I wish it hadn't had to mean something; I wish you were still alive. But it seems like it might. If that was your final wish -- and it reads like it might have been -- then I think it's coming true, not because of some external force, but because of your own words and your own strength.
posted by KathrynT at 7:25 PM on January 6, 2011 [37 favorites]


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posted by Minus215Cee at 7:33 PM on January 6, 2011


I see two phenomena here:

1) A lot of people, including Bill Zeller, talking about the difficulty of getting good, whole-hearted, attentive, intelligent help even after someone works up the courage to finally try to find a therapist or counselor:
...It's appalling and horrifying that a drowning person should have to shop around for a competent, compassionate lifeguard to rescue them...

...That was when I realized he had my chart upside-down...

...I joked to friends that where was probably a wheel of students like me, orbiting endlessly around the campus... but when I started getting referred to people who'd already punted me down the line, and beginning to recognize a lot of the same students visiting each place...
2) A lot of people who want to do something constructive, help someone, make the world a better place, just do something.

#1 is a hard problem to solve. Is there any way to apply the energy from #2 to #1?
posted by amtho at 7:35 PM on January 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


.

I hope those MeFites who are currently in the black pit of loathing can see that there are plenty of strangers who care about you, let alone actual friends who love you.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've been thinking about this all day, and I just want to go hug my therapist. I never had abuse or anything like Bill, but plenty of experience over the last two years with mental health and treatment, and I'm so glad I had the access to and presence of mind to seek quality help.
posted by sweetkid at 7:39 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


good link to acoa there-and other resources that are not my or anyone elses place to relativise .
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:44 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by estherbester at 7:53 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by empath at 8:12 PM on January 6, 2011


Absolutely fucking awful. The suicide note was completely devastating, and I'm completely devastated. But I'm glad the pain has gone, Bill. I'm glad the pain has gone.

Never has the reminder underneath the MetaTalk comment box been more appropriate or brought me closer to tears.
Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 8:18 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by facetious at 8:22 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by Joey Michaels at 8:27 PM on January 6, 2011


God, that is sad.

RIP Bill.

And to mareli and anyone else who is suffering: may you find peace.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:37 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by mollymayhem at 8:41 PM on January 6, 2011


Condolences to all who loved him. Can't read the note, the summary is devastating enough and I've met too many who have been abused.
posted by juiceCake at 8:52 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by ericb at 9:08 PM on January 6, 2011


Fuck.

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posted by nzero at 9:16 PM on January 6, 2011


Thanks for the comments, mediareport and sweetkid. I may not be in a situation to be able to volunteer for a helpline any time soon (I'm currently in a semi-rural Japanese area, and I'll soon be moving on to another foreign country where there will likely not be a local English helpline to volunteer for), but when I finally find the chance, I'll certainly try at least the training to get a better idea if it is something I feel I can do.

Otherwise, I am actually really interested in the concept of mental health services advocacy, a "Help Finder" like cmyk says. Does anything like that exist, and if not, why not? From the person seeking help's point of view, it may just feel like another layer of people to deal with and trust, but having some sort of group/contact that can go and talk with therapists and psychiatrists on a person's behalf and help set up appointments and help them find another doctor if the first person doesn't work out could be a really good thing. I would be happy to do that sort of work, although I am not sure what kind of obstacles would need to be overcome to allow that kind of proxy communication to happen.
posted by that girl at 9:18 PM on January 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by brujita at 9:42 PM on January 6, 2011


I am very sad at Bill's passing, to his family and friends, I hope you find peace.

I do have to address something in his suicide note though,

"People say suicide is selfish. I think it's selfish to ask people to
continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won't
feel sad for a week or two. "

As someone dealing with the suicide of someone I loved, the pain is indescribable. I am sitting here in physical pain from the overwhelming emotions of losing someone to suicide.

You leave behind more than you will ever realize when you kill yourself. It isn't just sad, you destroy part of whom you leave behind.

"Suicide may be a permanent solution to a
temporary problem, but it's also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old
problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day."

There is help. I am very sad Bill, nor my ex, got the help they needed. There is help. Keep looking. If the first ten don't help, try the next ten. Do not give up on life. Please.

If you are reading this and thinking of hurting yourself, please call 1-800-784-2433 for help. Or call a friend, or a loved one. Talk to someone, anyone. Please, I beg of you.
posted by sockpuppetnumber9 at 10:21 PM on January 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by evadery at 10:29 PM on January 6, 2011


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posted by motty at 10:44 PM on January 6, 2011


I knew him very slightly, wished I'd known him better. I had no idea he was so tormented. Such dreadful news.

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posted by Dr. Wu at 10:56 PM on January 6, 2011


I wish I could be more like loquacious but I want revenge.
posted by laneXplace at 11:02 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the biggest ways in which having a baby has changed my life is how much more upsetting it is to me now to read about things like Bill's passing. It took me two days to be able to write this stupid comment.

A couple of months ago, when all of those anti-gay-bullying "It gets better" videos were going around, I looked across the couch to my cranky, unsentimental husband and saw that he was crying, tears just rolling down his face. He was watching one of those videos - I think it was the one by some Texas city councilman. I put my hand on his shoulder, and he turned to me and said "I can't stand it. I think of people treating our little guy like this and it makes me..."

He couldn't speak. His voice went gruff and trailed off.

I know the world is full of people who are totally fucked up and do cruel things - sometimes to little kids - either because they're really damaged themselves, or misguided, or straight-up evil. Whatever. But now that I have a baby, I am at such a loss to understand how you can do mean things to a little person.

I can't bear that somebody was so terrible to tiny little baby Bill that he grew up feeling like there was something wrong with him. That he was broken, somehow. I can't bear it that his parents didn't protect him and love him and nurture him and teach him the truth, that he was splendid in every way.

I know that if you're reading this and you feel things like Bill felt, like there's something broken about you, and the only fix is death, that me saying something probably won't help. But I feel compelled to say it anyway: when you were a baby, you were a precious little spark, a perfect being. And you deserved nothing but love and protection and kindness. And if you didn't get those things from the world, I am so sorry. We have failed you terribly.

But you are still perfect. You are still precious. If you can bear to reach out for help or affection or acceptance one more time - please, please try.

Bill: I am thankful that you were brave enough to share your letter with us. You remind me again how important it is to remember that all of us were perfect little babies once upon a time, and there's no reason to start behaving like assholes when we grow up.

May you find peace.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:05 PM on January 6, 2011 [63 favorites]


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posted by paulsc at 11:32 PM on January 6, 2011


This is so goddamn tragic. While it's devastating to have lost him I respect Bill's decision, which he explains so articulately in that painful note-- he just couldn't take the torment any longer. I am glad he is at peace. And I feel nothing but rage towards his abuser (oh god i wish you had told us who he is) and his worthless "family".
posted by ms.codex at 12:43 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a survivor, I'm glad for Bill, that in my understanding of the universe, he's not hurting anymore.

I'm sorry for those who miss him and are hurting. I'm angry that even now, as I'm in my mid-40s and well into recovery (if you like), I don't speak about my depression or childhood sexual abuses the same as I would a flood, or a bad business experience, because I know that I will be judged on the basis of my disclosure, as telling too much, or being a victim, or being dirty, or damaged or whatever. Yet, these experiences, even if you don't have the horrors that Bill experienced, they still affect you every day, because you think you're not good enough, you deserved it, you asked for it, you caused it, or - you didn't rise above it, you're acting like a victim, you didn't get over it.

I've lost someone, and I've experienced horror and a desire to escape it, and I hope that those of you who have to live with the suicide of a loved one can forgive that person for not wanting to live through the pain all the time. I only wish you could feel gratitude that they were now painfree.

I know that the suicide of several young gay people started the "It's get better" campaign, which I have found to be beautiful and soothing. I wonder what further world creation we could achieve, to make the survivors of abuse more comfortable in their skin (and I don't think the same sort of thing will work, but I don't know what would. I think we need to start talking about what the community, not Mefi, but the average group of people can do, to not patronise, but not marginalise, people who have been abused.)

Metafilter, I am proud to be part of you in this mourning of the passing of someone who should have had much better. Everyone has their story.
posted by b33j at 12:50 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like the suggestion some have put forth about doing something to help others and honor Bill's memory. A scholarship fund seems inadequate somehow, and besides, there's already a fund getting started at Princeton. Cmyk's proposal stands out to me:

I remember thinking, during the years-long Search for Help, that what us busted-up fools needed was a person who'd help us get help. Someone to make the phone calls and do the pre-screening, because the person who's hurt just does not have the ability to keep trying, day after day after fucking day, when every "I'm sorry, we can't help" sounds more like a "Fuck you for asking." I was fucking lucky I had a person to do that for me. Not everyone does -- but everyone should. I remember thinking -- if only there was a way to organize that. They have apartment finders, why not a Help Finder?

It strikes me that this would be an unusually valuable service. Is there a way to organize a network of locally-based Mefite Help Finders? They might do a lot of good for people who find the work of navigating the available mental health options really discouraging or pointless-- I know, I've felt that way myself. These people-- volunteers from anywhere in the world-- could be nonjudgmentally ready to meet with people in their area, hold their hand as they evaluate options, make the necessary phone calls, keep the appointment book, check in with them regularly, and most importantly, FIND THE NEXT DOCTOR or MAKE THE NEXT PHONE CALL when the first or second or third one fizzles out. This resource could be permanently featured on AskMe. No promises, these aren't social workers or counselors-- just people willing to do the logistical legwork of a close, sympathetic friend. Of course, this kind of service would only reach suffering people who are committed to the idea of therapeutic help in the first place, and so it might not have helped Bill. I also don't know how formal or long-lasting such assistance should be-- that might be up to the helper and helped. But it's one small attempt at connection, and it acknowledges upfront how impersonal, surreal, strangely medicalized, overwhelming, and frankly stupid the mental health profession can be. I think it's possible to have a healthy skepticism about modern psychiatry and counseling while also understanding that it can do good things. Maybe we could help some people who otherwise wouldn't persist until they found the right resources.
posted by ms.codex at 1:07 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


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posted by trip and a half at 1:10 AM on January 7, 2011


sorry Bill
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posted by Tuatara at 2:36 AM on January 7, 2011


First, this is a terrible tragedy. A talented, well-liked young man has lost his life: we should all be shocked and disturbed by this.

But I'm also troubled by the reaction to the suicide note, and the way it seems to have been propagated so widely so fast.

Everyone has times when they feel happy, and times when they feel sad. When we feel sad, the world around us seems a harsher, more terrible place. Our lives seem to us more futile and unhappy than on the good days. To a person with depression, the differences between good days and bad days are wider still.

That note was written by a man at the absolute bottom of a slough of despair. I think we should be wary of letting it sum up his whole life.

Bertrand Russell wrote: "What a man deliberately believes with his whole reason when he is vigorous ought to be to him the norm as to what he had better believe at all times."

Let's not romanticize that note. It has a superficially rational tone, but it's not a rational document. He should have discussed his past with someone: whatever the outcome, it would have been better than death. He doesn't mention if he was ever on medication: if not, he should have been: it's better than death. The reason he will never be able to convince anyone it was the right decision, is that it was the wrong decision.

A man at the uttermost low of a bout of misery wanted that note disseminated widely. But that was not his whole life. In better times, he might or might not have wanted those rationalizations of suicide to be broadcast in his name. We need to use our own judgement whether to propagate the note: the man who wrote it was not in a state where he could make good decisions.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


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posted by klausness at 3:08 AM on January 7, 2011


TheophileEscargot, you don't have to like or respect null terminated's decisions. Saying he was insane and shouldn't be paid attention to is exactly the type of reaction that made his pain worse, reinforced the darkness.

The pain exceeded his ability to cope. Given the inputs, the end result wasn't going to be unicorns and world peace.
posted by QIbHom at 3:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Such a sad, yet detached final letter. And such a bright mind.

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posted by XiBe at 3:10 AM on January 7, 2011


If you are thinking about suicide, read this first.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:15 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


TheophileEscargot, I think you're also missing the parts of the note that made it clear this document was the work of several months. This wasn't some one-off note written just before dying; this was a not Bill clearly had labored over, struggled with, for months. Months. Can you pause for a second to really wrap your mind around that for a moment? Imagine that you are so consumed with sadness that not only are you actively contemplating suicide for a very, very long time, you have a document that you return to, again and again and again, refining it and adding to it, knowing it will be the last trace of you that you leave on this earth.

Can you imagine living with that kind of pain, with that level of isolation, for so long? I can't. Tread lightly, here, because life has been kinder to you and I than it was to Bill.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:34 AM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Roger Ebert links to it.
posted by John Cohen at 4:16 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by mediamelt at 4:22 AM on January 7, 2011


It would be great if something charitable could be done in his name, something lasting.

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posted by fire&wings at 4:23 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by cerebus19 at 4:33 AM on January 7, 2011


TheophileEscargot didn't say that Bill was insane or that we shouldn't pay attention to him, just rightly urged that we not romanticize the note. Most of us aren't doing that, I think, at least not here, although some of the comments on the other sites are kind of doing that to some extent. If we're going to propagate the note, and I believe we should, we should do it for the right reasons. It should be propagated in the spirit of "This is what abuse and isolation and untreated depression does to a person who had so much wonderful potential," rather than a spirit of "This is a good example of a 'rational suicide' and these are good reasons to commit suicide and people should be allowed to commit suicide," or anything along those lines. Whether Bill knew it or not, his suicide note is a blistering condemnation of our criminally flawed mental health system. For that reason, which is not the reason Bill himself gave ("I don't want people to wonder why I did this"), and not the reason some others with an agenda might have ("This is why assisted suicide should be blah blah"), it deserves to be disseminated.
posted by Gator at 4:36 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


This story becomes even sadder, somehow, when I think that although I didn't know Bill, his work on MyTunes managed to find its way to my friends and myself, miles and miles away. We all thought it was amazing.

Condolences to all who loved him.



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posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 4:54 AM on January 7, 2011


Someone favorited an old post of mine, and having just read about Bill, the title I had given the post jumped out at me. Given the right pronoun, it describes his whole life, in a way:

"I am a former child,'' he said, ''and I haven't forgotten a thing.''
posted by ocherdraco at 5:14 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


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posted by chillmost at 5:40 AM on January 7, 2011


 
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:42 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by dogmom at 5:54 AM on January 7, 2011

It strikes me that this would be an unusually valuable service. Is there a way to organize a network of locally-based Mefite Help Finders? They might do a lot of good for people who find the work of navigating the available mental health options really discouraging or pointless-- I know, I've felt that way myself. These people-- volunteers from anywhere in the world-- could be nonjudgmentally ready to meet with people in their area, hold their hand as they evaluate options, make the necessary phone calls, keep the appointment book, check in with them regularly, and most importantly, FIND THE NEXT DOCTOR or MAKE THE NEXT PHONE CALL when the first or second or third one fizzles out. This resource could be permanently featured on AskMe.
It does sound nice. I have tried using AskMe to find mental health services before and not had any luck.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:03 AM on January 7, 2011


Rest in peace, Bill.
posted by halonine at 7:43 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by KevCed at 7:45 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by corey flood at 8:17 AM on January 7, 2011


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posted by Morrigan at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2011


It strikes me that this would be an unusually valuable service.

I totally agree - if and when something spins this up, please include me.
posted by victors at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A story about Bill has now appeared on the Huffington Post.

And since I hadn't said it before now:

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posted by phearlez at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2011


This is so sad.

Everyone who has every had some problem or "secret" should read this part of his note very closely:

"I've seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I'm positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was. And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn't help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard variants of this: "I know this won't help; doctors always do XYZ; I know they won't keep it a secret; the doctor will only prescribe drugs; they don't really care about me, etc." Absolute certainty that no one will help that absolutely prevents ever asking for help.

This is a lock on your mind and everyone who is suffering from some trauma has it. Where does it come from? They are the words of the Darkness, the Very Bad Thing, defending itself. The Thing locks the door to its house so no one can get in and kill it.

In Bill's case, that was the Darkness that wrote those words. If you are suffering and have a problem, you have to open this lock before anyone can help you. You have to say to someone, a therapist preferably:

"Something very bad happened to me a long time ago and I'm suffering terribly now because of it. But instead of getting better over time I'm getting worse. This Bad Thing is always there. I don't know what to do. I don't know who I can trust. I don't know if I can trust myself. I don't know if I can trust you, but I'm here. Please help me."

Read those words out loud, admit to yourself that they are true, and then just say those words to the shrink. Write it on a card before the first session and just hand it to him if you can't say it.

After you say those words, they you can lay on them all the other stuff about how you aren't sure you can trust him because other doctors have let things slip, friends have betrayed you etc. Lay all your rage and shame and distrust at the doctor's feet and let him sort through it, but FIRST say those words to someone else.

Bill had a secret he felt he couldn't tell to anyone, even to doctors he saw about other issues. When he could no longer keep that secret to himself, he told the whole world, but what the Darkness demanded in trade was his life. If you are suffering, please understand that this is not a bargain you have to strike.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:38 AM on January 7, 2011 [68 favorites]


Good God that note is painful to read. When my son gets home I am going to make him some hot cocoa and then we will go buy whatever book he wants.
posted by LarryC at 9:25 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, Pastabagel, that's so true.

Sometimes when your brain is trying to kill you, it says "I CAN'T I CAN'T" to the very thing that could save you. It's like how people who are freezing to death suddenly feel warm and take their clothes off.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


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posted by thejanna at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2011


I have tried using AskMe to find mental health services before and not had any luck

I like this idea. I think it's going to be imperfect, because one of the issues I always noticed is that there are few nationwide (US) or worldwide help resources, but an imperfect resource might just be better than no resource. There are some - like, there's a general AA portal - but many many services are broken out by state or municipal service area. However, there's usually somewhere to start, and overall, I think it could be quite useful to have a link bank that goes to organizations that can provide help for some of the issues people seek information about on AskMe. I think it would be great to have a place to list some of the commonly recommended resources that have helped people, too, like the How Not to Commit Suicide Article, and Feeling Good, and other stuff. One question is: how would we develop criteria for including/not including links? Like, in every alcoholism thread there tend to be two or more camps, those who recommend AA, those who recommend another 12-step program that has no spiritual component, and those who recommend some third course of behavior altogether - and some of those might be pretty fringe, like dietary supplements or proprietary, one-man operations and their patented systems. Some pretty good skill at weeding, sorting, classifying and identifying links would need to be applied. Also, a disclaimer might be quite important, because there's no way MeFi could meaningfully endorse every such resource. They would have to be marked that the links are for purposes of info only and would not constitute individual recommendations or endorsements.

However...it always does seem odd that there's no real central HELP portal on the Web. One would think.

Judging by the discussion on the intarwebs, it seems I'm not really alone in not being able to stop thinking about Bill's tragedy. In an attempt to find some redeeming insight, here are ways in which Bill has contributed to my thinking over the last few days:


  • My awareness of child sexual abuse is much sharpened. Though we all know it exists, just the preponderance of people in this thread alone who have some kind of experience with it is evidence that it isn't anywhere near as rare an outlier as we would wish. Wikipedia cites three scholarly articles supporting the claim that "...in North America, for example, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.[11][12][13]...and adds 'a statistical analysis [for the United States] based on 16 cross-sectional studies estimated the rate to be 7.2% for males and 14.5% for females" That's a lot of people. That means that it has happened to a lot of us and to a lot of people we know. It is not an uncommon and unheard-of thing, as we'd wish; it's a far too common human experience.


  • As horrible as that is, it is also evidence that anyone who has experienced this really is not alone. Though everyone's experience is certainly unique, there are some aspects of it that are widely shared and understood, and many people - acquaintances and friends, but also helping professionals - have actual, useful firsthand knowledge of some part of the resulting damage and its nature. It is not an experience that marks one as set apart from humanity - it's a tragically common experience of the worst in humanity. But there are many others who know something of it, and that may make some people uniquely able to be of real help to others going through it.


  • I am deeply perturbed by the subtlety of the religious aspects that seem to recur in some stories of abuse. These interactions between abusive environments and religious environments are particularly sickening. Reading Bill's story, the linked story Why I'm Funny, and many of the comments here, I'm really struck by how religious communities can not only conceal, but distract from, apologize for, fail to address, rationalize, and perhaps even knowingly foster child sexual abuse. Going through the initial era of priest-abuse revelations with a lapsed-Catholic family was certainly enlightening (everybody had a story), but it's becoming clearer to me over time that only certain aspects of that are unique to the Catholic Church, and that religious organizations of all stripes can provide a strange harbor for abuse. My mind spun reading about Joel Johnson's "Christian" family seeing their sexual abuse as just part of a human struggle with sin, escaping into Church activities rather than dealing with evident and serious problems, and using religious conversations and precepts as part of a system of denial. A couple reasons for the overlap of church settings and child abuse are more obvious and widely recognized: Religious activities are one of the few places that children and young people find themselves in settings where they are separated out from their families and peer groups, sometimes given isolated with adults who 'take an interest' in them, even when that interest isn't healthy, and all this with the imprimatur of Church authority and with the assumption of parental goodwill. And churches, as in the example of the Catholic Church, understand that abuse could cause a nuclear-level scandal and so may be motivated to cover up, organizationally, for known abuse. I was familiar with those factors already. What's a new dimension for me is starting to realize the degree to which certain forms of religious thinking and communications can be used to provide rationalization for and normalization for abuse in religious settings and households. This has some important and serious implications for religious communities and their participants.


  • I loved this comment by KathrynT about making sure your children know you're there to protect if anyone tries to hurt them. It's definitely vital to do this with children. But I also wonder if even this kind of talk goes far enough. One of the other disturbing things revealed in Bill's letter and Joel Johnson's essay is that abusive behavior is so out of the ordinary and so manipulative that young children might actually not be able to identify abusive behavior as fitting the category of "hurt." They may have no such schema for it. In the concrete mind of a young child, "hurt" equals "fell off my bike," "skinned my knee," "got poked in the eye," "he yanked my arm." It's physical and identifiable. You hurt, or you don't. What's especially heartbreaking about these stories of abuse is that the children were too young at the onset of abuse to identify the behavior they experienced as hurtful. As described, their reactions and feelings were included primarily confusion, disrupted emotions, complicated sometimes by guilt and shame and a terror at themselves for being someway complicit because they might have experienced arousal or because they might have been starved for attention or because they had to make a choice - or avoid a choice - between continuing to trust the person who was claiming to be worthy of trust, or betraying this person who claims to care about you and find you special but who makes you feel so devastatingly confused and frightened. Children just don't have the emotional development to make any sense of this. But would they call it "hurt?" Do they recognize feelings of discomfort, guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, dread, secrecy, shock, confusion, self-doubt as "hurt?" I don't know, and I don't know of any good models out there of language that can help kids realize that if ever they feel odd or wrong or unsure or worried about anything or any person, that's when to speak up - even if there hasn't been anything they recognize as "hurt." I have great confidence that in healthy families where children know they have an advocate, the language matters less than the constant knowledge of an open communication channel with adults at the other end who believe you and take you seriously and provide appropriate care for you -- but I do wonder if there is some communication disconnect that happens because of the powerful emotional turmoil that a young child would experience around sexual abuse that might interfere with identifying this problem as one to be shared with a third party.

    These insights are not happy to dwell on. But if there is anything to make of Bill's legacy, perhaps it's that the awareness and understanding of the impact of child sexual abuse has been sharply raised among potentially thousands of people. And perhaps some of us will find a way to do something useful or helpful with this information that can aid in preventing more such pain in the future.

  • posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


    Definitely, Pastabagel. What you said speaks to something larger that's been running through my mind over the past day or so. I think it's going to come across as muddled, because I still don't quite have the words for it, but here goes anyway ...

    It's the idea that you can't trust your mind and your thoughts to be a unified expression of you. It's like the "unreliable narrator" trope you see in television, film, etc. where reality changes as the narrator corrects himself. Your mind and thought patterns are far more at the mercy of your emotions, your blood sugar level and sleep, those who want to influence you [both on a micro- (friends) and macroscopic (media, politics) scale], and so on.

    You start to get better when you start cultivating a self that is separate from your thoughts and mind ... or maybe, to put it a different way, when you start getting in the habit of consistently treating your worldview philosophies and life-direction decisions with a healthy dose of cheerful skepticism and habitual re-examination. For me, what I've internally labeled that has been my "willpower," i.e., where I want to direct myself to go both on the short-term and the long-term.

    But the problem is, the smarter you are, the more you live a "life of the mind" and live in your head, the more you take a sort of "pride" in -- or if not pride, the more you invest yourself in -- your thought patterns and trust them as Truth-with-a-capital-T.

    But it's exactly what you said ... it's his Blackness masquerading as his own thought patterns. I'm sure there's a passage in C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Diaries somewhere where there's talk about how at some point the demon's thoughts become indistinguishable from his victim's thoughts.

    As I reread his note now, there's a marked difference between earlier in the note, where he describes feelings, aftereffects, and coping techniques (alcohol/drugs) and then, as the note progresses, we see more and more assertions of fact of things he couldn't possibly know. This makes sense since he said he wrote parts of the letter over a year ago and other parts literally days before his actions.

    Like I said above, one of the things I was saddest about was how he so firmly locked away possibility after possibility in that letter.

    I mean, he truly did systematically lock away nearly literally every single possibility. The text of his note shows he very specifically locked away the possibility of him effecting a change himself ("it was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I'll never be able to change"); of any non-surface friendship which might've helped him effect a change ("people simply cannot keep secrets"; "no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am"), let alone a romantic relationship ("no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible").

    And, as you mentioned, he ruled out any chance of a therapist, because he convinced himself that the "facts" were that all therapists would only give him useless thought and would disclose his secret, he locked away the possibility of any one of a thousand different tools he could've found towards finding a better life.

    And I think he conflated his abuser with himself -- he uses "he" to describe the Blackness, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he thought, consciously, that the "he" he was using there was himself. Maybe I'm wrong. But I think the "he" that it truly meant was the abuser, and the imagery he uses in association with it (contamination, etc., and the idea of passing the contamination along during intimacy with a woman). I don't think it's an accident that he used that awful phrase "he would surround me and penetrate me" when describing how the Blackness would envelope him when making love to his girlfriend. It's so obvious to our outside eyes, but I wonder if he realized it. And I wonder if, had he suddenly realized it, if it would've derailed his plans.

    And that red white-hot fury that arose at the world allowing him to be raped like that ... he mistook that rage as the "evil that makes me want to end life," and that allowed the Blackness – taking the form of his goodness, this time – to convince him that even continued existence needed to be a possibility that had to be locked away ("I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others").

    And because he trusted the assumptions of his brain and his thought, and mistook it for Truth-with-a-capital-T, and didn't hear a small voice within him go simply "Yeah. But what if that's wrong?" ... then he acted on these "facts."

    Of course, all of the above are just my thoughts and feelings after reading his note. Please don't believe that I'm asserting that I know the "one true truth" of the matter.

    I don't know what to say. I hope the "many-worlds theory" is true. It'd be comforting to think that there is an alternate timeline where Bill confessed all of what he wrote in that heartbreaking note to someone, and that someone was astute enough to make him start questioning all of those assumptions he locked himself into, and he went on to heal and live a life where he cherished a hundred thousand different joys that humanity takes for granted. (Or even better, a timeline where whoever abused him to begin with was mistakenly run over by runaway construction equipment prior to ever having the chance.)

    Bill, I really still don't know what my religion is, but in this timeline and world, I hope you're still around in some form that's "you", and wherever you are, I hope someone's healing your spirit and helping you find joy. God bless, brother.
    posted by WCityMike at 10:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


    I wasn't able to finish the note the first time. At the Huffington Post link I read the last part. If it's possible I am even angrier-no, make that more enraged- AND sad about this than I was before.

    Literally ALL the avenues that should have been there for him were NOT. I feel like throwing up.
    posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:14 AM on January 7, 2011


    But the problem is, the smarter you are, the more you live a "life of the mind" and live in your head, the more you take a sort of "pride" in -- or if not pride, the more you invest yourself in -- your thought patterns and trust them as Truth-with-a-capital-T.

    This is a phenomenon I've experienced and have worked on in therapy. As my best therapist put it, I consider my intellect my best tool and attack every problem with it. But that results in trusting the intellect too much, even when the tool is totally faulty, or wrong for the job. Those assumptions and thoughts - that depression uses to manipulate you, as Pastabagel so beautifully writes - can seem watertight and incontrovertible to the rational mind, while also being totally false. It's probably the most insidious aspect of my own depressive experiences, but I've been very much helped by learning to question what I think I am sure of more often.
    posted by Miko at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Miko: "I think it could be quite useful to have a link bank that goes to organizations that can provide help for some of the issues people seek information about on AskMe. I think it would be great to have a place to list some of the commonly recommended resources that have helped people, too, like the How Not to Commit Suicide Article, and Feeling Good, and other stuff. "

    Jessamyn has been updating the Wiki page on Depression AskMes with national hotlines today. I would be happy to add links to exceptional / helpful AskMe questions and answers on those topics, but it would be best for me to wait to add anything until Jessamyn's done editing, so I don't inadvertently overwrite any of her work.

    I'll do my own archive searches, but if anyone would like to suggest any as well please feel free to memail me links. Or you can always add them yourself, of course.

    Miko, I think a disclaimer would be wise. As for categorizing the advice, we can easily discuss what sort of appropriate system we think would be best on the Wiki.
    posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    My heart goes out to Bill Zeller's family and friends.
    .

    I didn't know him. But I've been thinking about him, like many, since early yesterday morning when I first read this post. I can only hope that the effect of this knowledge and the note that he left behind will ultimately change something for the better. And I'm impressed by the people here at Metafilter for showing solidarity - for coming up with ideas - ways to donate money, links for resources for people who are suffering, and - more than anything - sharing personal stories that might really help someone feel less alone - as Bill Zeller clearly felt. That is truly powerful. Thank you.
    posted by marimeko at 10:33 AM on January 7, 2011


    I guess I discovered all I needed to do about my mind's potential for virulent toxicity during one particularly GONE WRONG acid trip. It probably only went on for an hour but it felt like decades and all the time, the stuff of my "interior life" was doing its worst to destroy me.

    Long story short: I've never since completely trusted the slant of my inner monologue, which isn't as bad as it might sound. In fact, it constantly reminds me that I've got to get out there, interact with other humans, toss my ideas around, see what others think of them, see what gets filtered out. Needless to say, MetaFilter has proven very useful in this regard.
    posted by philip-random at 10:38 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I would be happy to add links to exceptional / helpful AskMe questions and answers on those topics

    I mostly wanted to create a framework where people could add stuff and I think the bare bones of it are up and I'm done with that part.

    In short: if people have links to good AskMe threads on depression, suicide, or finding help for those things, please add a link and a short description. Like one line short. I really want to avoid the wall of text thing that can sometimes happen as well as additional editorializing. It would be nice if this list was short, curated and very very focused on constructive approaches. Thanks.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Matt/PB - would there be any way to create a permanent message at the top of the AskMe main page (like the one that is currently there with the stats info) that links to Jess' Wiki page or maybe just to Hopeline or another national anti-suicide hotline?

    Postsecret includes Hopeline info in just about every weekly post, presumably because he gets so many submissions that indicate a desire for self harm.
    posted by anastasiav at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2011


    would there be any way to create a permanent message at the top of the AskMe main page (like the one that is currently there with the stats info) that links to Jess' Wiki page or maybe just to Hopeline or another national anti-suicide hotline?

    Or, to make it less all encompassing, if the tag "depression" (and variants) should be used (or maybe just the word somewhere in the post), a prompt would pop up with the relevant link; kind of like what currently happens if you use a word (or tag) that's been used in the previous few days.
    posted by philip-random at 10:57 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Here's a good place to start trying to help
    posted by restless_nomad at 10:58 AM on January 7, 2011


    My friends have had very mixed results from asking for help, and including very specific ways to manipulate the system to get what you need out of it would be very empowering, too.

    For instance, gator's experience here would incline me to suggest using a throw-away phone for hotline calls.
    posted by small_ruminant at 11:36 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Thank you for sharing this, Matt.

    Bill, I'm sorry this happened to you. I understand why you did what you did, and in your place I might have done the same - but I wish things could have worked out differently for you. I hope you have found the peace you could not find here.

    Thanks to all the people who earnestly answer the Human Relations posts on AskMeFi. You never know what crisis you could be helping to avert.
    posted by ladybird at 11:46 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I've been so saddened to read about Bill. I don't know what is more upsetting - that he was in pain, or that he felt he was alone. Both are devastating on so many levels. The number of people who fall through the cracks of the mental health system is staggering, and when mental illness and suicide robs us of our fellow humans I weep for how we can be so advanced in some ways - and so far to go in some other ways.

    I've also been thinking of the role of community. That great quote rings in my ears - 'be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle'. We don't know the struggles we all battle with alone - even with friends and family, we can feel so alone. This is especially so around issues of abuse and anything with a stigma attached to it. The irony is that being connected online is both a blessing and a cure - we remain together but at the same time so alone.

    anastasiav, I like the idea of the message at the top. The idea of philiip-random's pop-up could be good if a user is searching for more depression related tags, but that might annoy the hell out of people unintentionally. Whatever the solution, let's also try and steer people to existing organizations like the Samaritans and Befrienders to let people know that they're not alone, and help push people towards NAMI to help them find the resources in their community. And wherever possible, in real life support groups to know that people are not alone; getting off the computer and into real world interaction with supportive folks makes a massive difference. (I know of what I speak here - I'm a survivor). It's hard to remember when you're in that hellish place, but we've got to. That's why the It Gets Better project is fantastic - it reminds people they're not alone, and that there is a path forward - which is the message that gets lost when the pain is winning. I'm a little envious of their message, because it's damn near perfect. It recognizes that one can be in a horrible place - which is important to acknowledge - but that there is a path forward out of pain that is more comfort than ending the pain could ever be.

    I'm rambling here, but am deeply touched to feel like people talking about this issue and how we can help one another. Anything we can do to destigmatize and spread compassion is the true solution. Bill will be missed, and the best way to honor our fellow warriors on their paths is to make our hands are held together to reach out to catch any of us when we fall.
    posted by rmm at 11:48 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    As an update for folks looking to donate in memory of Bill, I received an email back from Ed Felten. I won't repost the whole thing out of respect but here's the salient details:

    It was incredibly heartening to see the respect and love for Bill that was expressed on Metafilter. Even the people who knew Bill best were surprised to see how many different communities he had touched in this way.

    Princeton has set up a memorial fund in Bill's name. Any funds donated will be used for purposes that honor Bill's legacy. The question of how Bill would have wanted such a fund used was discussed extensively by his closest friends and colleagues here at Princeton, during the time we spent waiting at the hospital this week. Our thoughts were similar to yours: that Bill would have wanted to support students, especially students who were building useful technologies to benefit the public.

    I have included information about the memorial fund below, in case you or anyone else wants to donate.

    The first event dedicated to Bill's memory will be held this weekend: an all-night codeathon.

    ========

    Contributions in Bill Zeller's name can be sent to:


    William Zeller *08 Memorial Fund

    Princeton University

    Alumni and Donor Records

    PO Box 5357

    Princeton, NJ 08540


    Gifts should be made payable to the Trustees of Princeton University, with William Zeller *08 noted in the memo line. All gifts will be acknowledged by the university.

    posted by lazaruslong at 11:58 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


    I couldn't help but Google Bill's father's name. "Fire and brimstone" isn't even the phrase, and I won't describe the (prolific) writings, but it's clear that Bill's father has spent a lot of time hashing over the very particular determinations of what is and what isn't correct -- to God -- and how very few people meet these criteria.

    As I've pondered this over the last day or so, it comforts me to think how much Bill's life seems to have taken the opposite tack. Although I'm sure this was intentional in many ways, I don't know if he realized one way in particular.

    Bill felt utterly alone, incapable of sharing his life with other people even in casual social interactions. But his work was all about curiosity, the possible, working with people to find new ways of doing things and making them better. In death, his words force conversations about abuse, support, hope, kindness and compassion: ways in which we can make life better for people whom we may not even know.

    Bill's father ostensibly tries to "share" the Way, the Truth and the Life of his brand of Christianity because he wants others to join him in heaven. But to do so, he emphasizes exclusion, unnecessary suffering, and the possibility that no matter what, one's actions won't be good enough. For Zeller, that is, not God.

    In attempting to gather believers together, Bill's father tore people apart. By emphasizing his own isolation, Bill has already brought more people together than his father ever could.
    posted by Madamina at 12:04 PM on January 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


    I didn't know you, but all the same... I'm sorry Bill. Sleep well and be at peace.
    posted by skrymir at 12:09 PM on January 7, 2011


    This is haunting me.
    posted by liketitanic at 12:10 PM on January 7, 2011


    The first event dedicated to Bill's memory will be held this weekend: an all-night codeathon.

    Damn
    that just fucking made me cry.
    posted by stefanie at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2011


    One thing, among many, that really struck me from Bill's letter is that he did try a sort of baby-step trial run of telling people a dangerous secret about him, and it only confirmed that people cannot be trusted. He mentioned that when he briefly identified as gay and told a few people, the gossip spread faster than he could believe. If that secret couldn't keep, then how in the world could the bigger, more difficult secret?

    I don't know, I guess this is the same point that has been raised and discussed above regarding seeking help from health professionals, but I think it bears repeating in this context. If a person has one bad experience after another, the rational thing to do is to stop trying at some point. If all you've ever experienced is that people cannot be trusted to have your best interests at heart, then self-preservation dictates that you stop placing your interests in other people's hands. You just cannot blame someone from learning from past experiences and applying the lessons to future actions.

    So I guess this brings us back to the "be kind, you don't know what people are going through" lesson again. Be trustworthy, be honest, be sincere. You don't know what pain someone is bursting with, and if you show them that people can be good, you might change their lives.

    I don't know Bill other than from seeing his username here, and I am a bit of a lurker so I know not many know me, but I have been profoundly affected by this. I am diminished by his loss, and filled with love and hope again by your compassion.
    posted by arcticwoman at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


    .
    posted by rubbish bin night at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2011


    So sad. You never know what kind of battles people fight...
    posted by 3dd at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2011


    My God, maybe someone has already posted this, but if not... has anyone else grasped the horrible horrible sad irony of this comment?

    I've had various problems with OCD related issues, and one thing that's helped me is to view the processes that generate imperfection as a complete, perfect process in its own way. For example, I used to not be able to deal with things that were out of alignment or scratched, because they felt wrong and almost dirty. But if you look at the state of the world as a the cumulative events that have happened, where we live in a universe where the specific molecules of an object just happen to come together at this point in time, those same dirty or misaligned or "wrong" things can start to feel right. The object's blemishes or problems of the object merely refers to it's placement in usage in time, which is no less real or pure than the usage of another object. A scratch in silverware captures an event, almost like the fork is recording history onto itself. The world is full of ugly things that exist along side what we find beautiful, and the two are one and same.
    posted by null terminated at 10:46 PM on December 9 [8 favorites -] [!]

    posted by ladybird at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


    A Hartford Courant reporter posted a story about Bill's death today. Apparently she called George Zeller, Bill's father, for a comment about the suicide note.
    "We love our son dearly and I really don't want to comment on his suicide note right now," Zeller's father, George Zeller, said. "God gave us a wonderful son for 27 years and we are so thankful."

    "We just want to thank everyone for their tremendous outpouring of love and support during this very difficult time," he said. George Zeller is an assistant pastor at a Middletown church.

    posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on January 7, 2011


    Just amazing. A powerful eulogy, an incredibly moving suicide note and a truly fascinating true life story. The best of MetaFilter.
    posted by Neiltupper at 12:46 PM on January 7, 2011


    I'm sorry, I'm a bit overwhelmed and so ended my post before I intended to... but what I really wanted to add to my previous comment was that I wish Bill had realized that despite his "damage", he, too, was perfect and beautiful in his own way.

    Stepping away from the thread now.
    posted by ladybird at 12:49 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Regarding the work that's being done on the wiki, and on the subject of trying to coordinate more practical help through MeFi:

    Speaking only for myself (but I suspect there are others who would feel the same way), I would find local or location-specific resources far more helpful than national organizations or hotlines. (Of course, because of my own experience, I'll never call a hotline again, local or otherwise, but other people are not me and might still manage to get some help from those places.)

    Another specific thing that would be helpful to me and people like me who have been too beaten down by repeated rejection or other failures of the system would be personal offers of help from other people. I think this is a lot more important than many people realize. After my previous comments in this thread, I got a couple of very kind private notes from people who just wanted to reach out and give me Internet hugs, and this can be huge to someone who's drowning in the dark. Please understand, there's a vast difference between telling someone that help is out there (somewhere?) and that there are people who care (who?), and actually being one of those people.

    Could we all please try to think about this, just think about it for a minute? When you see that drowning person, instead of just telling them, "It gets better! Keep looking for a good lifeguard! Just keep swimming," maybe actually throw them a life vest: "Here's my phone number. Or here's my email. I'm stepping up to personally be there for you, instead of chirping a glib little catchphrase and walking past you while you drown." If they live nearby, offer to go for coffee. Offer a hug. Offer to call around to find a therapist for them, or give them your awesome therapist's phone number, the one who helped you out when you were down in the dumps. Make it personal, because it is personal. Like I said before, we don't have to become lifeguards, but we can reach out a hand.

    I know I've said this several times now, but it's not enough to just tell someone it gets better and here's a directory of lifeguards. We need to do better. Getting specific is one way of doing better. Getting personal is another.

    if you show them that people can be good, you might change their lives.

    Exactly: Like they say in the showbiz, show, don't tell.

    Regarding Bill's parents, I urge everyone to resist the temptation to excoriate them. They may be foul people who turned their backs on their son, but in the spirit of "be kind," they too may have battled demons we know nothing about, and we do know one thing about them: They've just lost a child. They have to live the rest of their lives with that knowledge.
    posted by Gator at 12:51 PM on January 7, 2011 [20 favorites]


    .
    posted by waldo at 12:58 PM on January 7, 2011


    Regarding Bill's parents, I urge everyone to resist the temptation to excoriate them.

    Trying, and it isn't easy. I haven't posted anything in this discussion before this, because like several other people have commented, my immediate reaction is anger instead of empathy, but I'm quite aware that "Who can I go HURT to somehow make this RIGHT?" is probably not the most helpful question to be asking right now.
    posted by infinitywaltz at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


    .
    posted by gus at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2011


    "Here's my phone number. Or here's my email. I'm stepping up to personally be there for you, instead of chirping a glib little catchphrase and walking past you while you drown."

    A few years ago, when I was in a dark spot, a wonderful Mefite sent me her phone number and sincerely invited me to call her anytime. I never did, but I have never forgotten the offer. I still have the number. Knowing that I could call her means that even in my darkest moments, I don't feel completely alone.
    posted by arcticwoman at 1:04 PM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Gator: " Speaking only for myself (but I suspect there are others who would feel the same way), I would find local or location-specific resources far more helpful than national organizations or hotlines."

    In expanding the Wiki page, I've been noting sites which provide local numbers and resources where I can, including listings at NAMI and suicide.org. As I review the AskMe archives, if I find others I will add them.

    If you or anyone else has additional sites, support resources or phone numbers to suggest, I would be grateful if you would either memail me with them or simply add them in yourselves.
    posted by zarq at 1:08 PM on January 7, 2011


    Gator, I was thinking that, too. If we (or another resource site) had a spot with lists of resources, I'm happy to put my name up as a MeFite in [town] who is willing to help track things down and knows people who can help with [various issues].
    posted by Madamina at 1:11 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    A minor detail just occurred to me a moment or two ago: he must have been raped when he was around three or four. He was 27, and the note refers to "for the last 23 years".

    There just aren't words.
    posted by WCityMike at 1:18 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    As the father of an 11 month old baby, I have to wonder... why, why in God's name would anybody do that to a child? A child you're supposed to love and protect ; I'm guessing that a family member is responsible, and I can't comprehend it. I want to hug Bill, but I'll have to settle for hugging my daughter and keeping monsters like those who hurt Bill far far away from her...
    posted by Palquito at 1:19 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Gator, I was thinking that, too. If we (or another resource site) had a spot with lists of resources, I'm happy to put my name up as a MeFite in [town] who is willing to help track things down and knows people who can help with [various issues].

    One simple approach to this would be for folks who want to be available for Write To Me Any Time You Need To stuff to add a link to their profile page to any broken-down-by-region listing of local resources on the wiki. Then put whatever info you feel is appropriate on your profile page.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 1:23 PM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


    That was my thought, maybe a second ContactMe section or other page. The problem we run into is privacy concerns, often people would reach out to a fellow MeFite but wouldn't put their contact information in a public place. We'll keep thinking on it.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Another specific thing that would be helpful to me and people like me who have been too beaten down by repeated rejection or other failures of the system would be personal offers of help from other people.

    The concept of the "safe zone" seems like a good one for this sort of thing. Here's a mission statement for one. This happens to be targeted at the GLBT community but there's no reason it can't be applied to general issues or have a laundry list of contacts for judgment-free support for issue XYZ.

    The pertinent bit seems to be:
    Provide a way for allies - supportive students, faculty, and staff - to visibly indicate that they are safe contacts for LGBTQ people at Mason.
    This is done in the physical world with a logo in a window but maybe in the online world it could be an avenue for people who wouldn't call a hotline for suicide - which is predicated on the concept of talking about an action - but would call about a subject?
    posted by phearlez at 1:42 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    .
    posted by camyram at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2011


    The problem with monsters -- like the one who hurt Bill Zeller -- is that they usually don't look like monsters. My father was a minister, and before that he was a well-respected Army man, and through all the years no one (except my mother) ever suspected what he was doing. He was part of the system, and he made himself part of the system on purpose, so he could more easily conceal his deeds.

    Men -- and women -- who abuse children tend to appear to the rest of the world as maybe a little weird, maybe a little controlling, but in many cases they are people with power. They are teachers and ministers and guidance counselors and soccer coaches and uncles and parents. They are often people you would never suspect. They are, in fact, usually people you trust.

    That's why it's so important to be ever-vigilant. You may think, now, that you will always protect your child. And you may intend to. But sometimes you just can't. There are lots of people in this world who do horrible things, and your children will meet them eventually. Hopefully, your child won't be one of us, one of the abused, one of the silenced. But if one in four women has suffered from childhood sexual abuse, then how many abusers must be out there? Too many. More than we think. More than we allow ourselves to imagine.

    So many of us in this thread have suffered the same way Bill Zeller did.

    The only thing I can think of to change the way abuse happens is to be less trusting, less respectful of authority, more challenging, and more willing to call people out and to report abuse when we suspect it.

    Last night I was at a local store, and there was this three or four-year-old girl waiting with her mother. They were playfighting, and the girl was punching and kicking. "No feet," said the mother. "You use your feet to protect yourself," the tiny girl said. Where would she learn such a thing? At such an age?

    The kids on my street play 'rape.' The boys chase the girls, and the girls scream and scream, and they all think it's loads of fun. But where did they learn this thing?

    There are people in positions of power in our schools, in our communities, in our families who harm children. You may be thinking of the homeless guy who pees on the sides of buildings when he's drunk, but he's not the one. It's almost never the homeless maniac.

    If you're a teacher, or if you're a Sunday School teacher, or if you interact with children in any way, try to listen to your suspicions.

    When I was ten I went to school one day with fingerprints on my neck. I was called in to the principal's office, and I remember I told her I fell down the stairs because that's what women said in Lifetime movies. And while she didn't believe me, she didn't report it, either. She didn't call Child Protective Services. No one did, not until I came out at sixteen at said I needed to move out of my father's house.

    The one lesson I would really like people to take away from all this is not that there are terrible people out there, not that Bill Zeller was confused and unable to ask for help, not even that there are so many of us who need help. It's that when you see a child in trouble, you must act. You must. It may run counter to your instincts, but it's so unbelievably important. The only people out there who can stop abusers are the people who act on their suspicions, who go out of their way to help children who are terrified and damaged.

    I have a friend who is an elementary school teacher. A lot of the time she talks about how her students act up, or don't try. She blames the kids. And it makes me angry, though I love her to death, because she's not seeing the big picture. Kids who are having adjustment problems may be having them because of terrible, unimaginable things happening to them outside the classroom. It's weird, because my friend the teacher saw me go through a lot of this in high school, and she said to me recently, "You just gave up." Again, it was the child's fault rather than the abuser's. This is just part of how our society manages. How people get by.

    If you can only do one thing to help, please just look around at the kids you have contact with. Look at them, and listen to them, and be there for them. And report things that deserve to be reported, so there will be fewer people in the world who suffer the way so many of us here have suffered, the way Bill Zeller suffered.
    posted by brina at 1:46 PM on January 7, 2011 [28 favorites]


    This idea may be stupid, over-thought, or a re-creation of the wheel. I'm just spitballing.

    That was my thought, maybe a second ContactMe section or other page. The problem we run into is privacy concerns, often people would reach out to a fellow MeFite but wouldn't put their contact information in a public place. We'll keep thinking on it.

    What if MeFi mail allowed for a double-blind contact? Put in a profile option allowing anonymous contact from another member (thus preventing abuse) and neither the recipient or sender know who the other is?

    So I check a box saying I'm okay with being contacted about depression issues.

    Down the road someone clicks in the resource page that they need support dealing with depression. They can then send an email that all they know is going to A Resource and that it'll be anonymous.

    I get that email if I'm selected randomly (or round robin or because I'm the first to click a button that everyone signed up under depression sees indicating there's a new message) and then I get that message.

    Then I can write back and we can continue forever, never knowing who the other is unless we opt to identify ourselves.

    The system can have an "abuse" button so it's not used to treat people shittily (though why you would do that to someone when you don't know who they are and if it cost you $5 and would get you banned I dunno).

    Maybe this isn't worth it but since there's an existing MeFi mail system that could be leveraged I thought it was worth sharing.
    posted by phearlez at 1:50 PM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


    What if MeFi mail allowed for a double-blind contact?

    We have enough people who use MeMail to harass other people in various ways that this is not something that's going to fly, but there may be a way to do a similar thing. At this point this may be the sort of thing that requires us to sit back and think about it a little bit, try to think of some ideas that might work and what won't work and try to put something together. I know people are feeling sort of hand-flappy and useless right now, I know I am, but I don't want to jump into anything big until we've had a little bit of time to think it over some.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:54 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, that's why I'd restrict it to purely opt-in to offer to be a helper contact, make it impossible to predict who you are contacting when you ask for help, and provide some sort of abuse system (so you could ban someone from the system for a day/hour/forever).

    I can certainly see that it would be possible for a complete nutter to still make people nuts but that seems an inevitable drawback to everything.
    posted by phearlez at 2:04 PM on January 7, 2011


    .
    posted by lord_wolf at 2:05 PM on January 7, 2011


    I like that idea of phearlez, but I think there should be an automatic renewal every X months or so: "Do you still want to be available?" One, to remind you that you're doing this, and two, give you the option to opt out for a bit. There'd be no way to coordinate all that centrally without adding another mod or two, or do it outside the site.

    The default should be to not renew, in case someone misses the message.
    posted by lysdexic at 2:07 PM on January 7, 2011


    What if MeFi mail allowed for a double-blind contact?..

    Maybe there would be a way to pre-screen the responders, a way to "earn" the ability to respsond/help, so to speak. I realize this is a tall order.
    posted by marimeko at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2011


    What if MeFi mail allowed for a double-blind contact? Put in a profile option allowing anonymous contact from another member (thus preventing abuse) and neither the recipient or sender know who the other is?

    I just suggested, in a related AskMe, that the anon person set up a Google Group. That way they could retain their anonymity, while still being able to write back and forth with a group of people, who are also seeing all the correspondence, so they could all offer their take on it. Sort of like a private Askme thread, but off site.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2011


    I can't finish this right now.. but I feel his pain, profoundly.

    .
    posted by zug at 2:18 PM on January 7, 2011


    .
    posted by en forme de poire at 2:26 PM on January 7, 2011


    I don't really like the double-blind idea, and the reason is an unfortunate one, but a real one: There are some people on this site who can't stand each other. If you were thinking of asking a fellow MeFite for help, you'd probably want to be sure you didn't accidentally or randomly send your darkest personal secrets to That Guy You Hate. The random email pool might seem more egalitarian, but I think it's got its own set of problems inherent in the "you never know what (or who) you're gonna get" aspect.

    I don't know what the answer is, but if we're brainstorming, and in light of jessamyn's point about privacy concerns, what about just a special page on MeFi -- not the wiki, but MeFi proper -- noindex, nofollow, visible only to logged-in users, maintained by the mods (mainly just to keep spammers and other weirdos out), listing the profiles of MeFites who have volunteered to be there as helpers or listeners. Maybe with a short personal quote from each user, like, "I live in Manhattan and am available most weeknights for coffee and chat," "I have attempted suicide multiple times and I would be happy to talk about it," "I am a woman/man/trans/etc. and survivor of sexual abuse," "I'm a SAHM who will help you make appointments," or however much or little detail as each person is comfortable with. Seekers of help can then choose for themselves who they open up to and click through to the profile where the contact info is.

    I dunno, just thinking out loud.
    posted by Gator at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


    Oh, the pain we're all feeling now about this situation. We feel so helpless.

    Several years ago, Massachusetts passed a law saying that it was ok for women in crisis to give up their newborn babies through proper channels. Then, after another baby was found abandoned on a doorstep, they passed another law saying that it was really, really ok for women in crisis to give up their newborn babies through proper channels. Then, most recently after another incident, they passed another law saying that it was ok for women in crisis to give up their newborn babies through proper channels, this time at designated "safe" spots such as a fire house or police station. I do believe that this has helped cut down on the number of incidents...but last October a woman threw her newborn baby out of a window. There will always people who won't and can't take our help, and that kills us. This life is a mystery that passes all human understanding.
    posted by Melismata at 2:43 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Another specific thing that would be helpful to me and people like me who have been too beaten down by repeated rejection or other failures of the system would be personal offers of help from other people I don't know if it's the kind of thing that would help, but I updated my profile.
    posted by pointystick at 2:47 PM on January 7, 2011


    I've started trying to respond to this a few times. I wore myself out yesterday with crying because I know that darkness, and as much as I know it gets better, I'm 29 now, and still it seeps into, every pleasant moment. Still. After years of therapy, sharing here on Metafilter, telling friends, telling lovers. Meditation practice. Yoga.

    This feeling still comes as a wave, or a gas, or any other insidious metaphor that you have at hand and pervades, toppling all the good things.

    And still I feel that it is some defect in me. Some shortcoming of my own that keeps me feeling so dirty.

    The moments when I can shake the darkness off, hold my breath through the gas, or right myself beneath the wave, I am not quite able to give myself credit for that triumph. But as I've said before, my life has meaning. I volunteer. I love. I live. It is hard, but I get some joy.

    I want other people to know that these feelings are not uncommon. That more and more the darkness becomes easier to push back. That the darkness does not have any intention, it just is. That if you need to talk, someone will listen.

    I will listen.

    Again, this is why I post so relatively freely about some of the things that have happened to me. It's sad. It's scary. But it's real, and it's not your fault, even when everyone is telling you that it is.

    So metafilter. If you are hurting, add me to the list of people you can call. Me mail me for my number if you think you might need it in the future. Hell, get my number even if you are absolutely sure you never will. Because if you find out this is happening to a child you know, or did happen to an adult you know, I will listen. Because it really is the scariest thing to ask someone to do. I promise to protect your privacy and I promise to listen.

    and as Brina said, it's not the people you expect. And the reality is, our children need to know, and believe that we trust them. That we believe them. And that we respect them. A child who doesn't want to go to grandpa's house, or who wets the bed for a week after visiting grandpa, or who hates church or kindergarten, or policemen very well may have a reason for it. A child who won't wash with a bar of soap, or suddenly won't take a bath anymore, or who hides in the farthest corner of a house during family gatherings, or who insists on reading a book in the middle of a family gathering might be hiding from someone or something that they don't have the vocabulary yet to name. Getting angry at this child will not make them speak. In fact, it will only reinforce for the child that something is wrong with them, that they don't conform to expectations, or that they are bad. We will listen to you, but in turn, I ask that you listen to your children, your children's children, and any other children in your lives. Please.
    posted by bilabial at 2:49 PM on January 7, 2011 [19 favorites]


    it could be an avenue for people who wouldn't call a hotline for suicide

    I also have been incredibly grateful for the people in my life who are just there, available, in case I need this. Having been on the receiving end of many of these kinds of phone calls, it might be useful to post a list of what's expected or not expected. Well, I don't know what I'm asking for, but to be on the other end while someone may or may not kill themselves gets stressful, especially if you through whatever bad luck, happen to be in a vulnerable place yourself. I think it would be easy to make things worse, if you pick up the phone in a bad headspace.

    I do love the idea of a double-blind set up, or a list of people, so that if one person isn't up for it, it can pass on to another person who's in a good space.

    I don't have any great suggestions and I love the idea that a good resource will come out of Bill's death.

    Ladybird, I have had that quote in my head since I first wrote it and have been telling it to everyone. I think it's beautiful and I too wish he'd been in a place where he could see himself in the same light.
    posted by small_ruminant at 2:51 PM on January 7, 2011


    Ladybird, I have had that quote in my head since I first wrote it

    sorry- since I first READ it, not wrote it. It
    posted by small_ruminant at 2:53 PM on January 7, 2011


    what about just a special page on MeFi -- not the wiki, but MeFi proper -- noindex, nofollow, visible only to logged-in users, maintained by the mods (mainly just to keep spammers and other weirdos out), listing the profiles of MeFites who have volunteered to be there as helpers or listeners.

    I thought of something like this around Christmas when people really seemed to be wanting to help and do something noble. What about a MeFi Volunteers page? It could be similar to Projects. "Hey I live in Topeka and I need about five people to help me rake someone's lawn." On the one hand, it could be really awesome. On the other hand, it could be easily abused.
    posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:58 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    On the other hand, it could be easily abused.

    The power of the crowd works both ways. If you act like an asshole, word will quickly spread.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Like a lot of folks, this has been haunting me since it was posted. I've been fortunate enough to never have been in such a hell, but like (I suspect) many, have been in places you could see it from, there in the distance. The occasional bad moments where I could in retrospect see having missed having taken a very wrong turn indeed, and the recognition that avoiding those past potential turns into the dark had very little to do with me and my strengths, and much more to do with those I loved and who loved me, and the sheer good fortune of a privileged start.

    Hand-flappy to be sure. I'm a lot more comfortable in the peanut gallery.
    posted by Drastic at 3:09 PM on January 7, 2011


    (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: "What about a MeFi Volunteers page? It could be similar to Projects."

    I asked about something similar once. It's a non-starter. The comments on the post will explain why.
    posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    When my friend Evan killed himself almost two years ago now, he wrote a note like this one: logical, methodical, definitive. He found his life to be intolerable and only stuck around because he felt the pain of his leaving would be greater than the relief he would feel, until one day the relief outweighed the pain. He'd been suicidal as long as I'd known him; it was not an impulsive act but one borne of great deliberation, rooted in an unendurable agony instilled in him by the time he was two.

    In this comment, I mentioned a molester who assaulted two of my friends. Evan's mother and I have often wondered together, in the weeks and months since his death, if that should be amended to "that we know of." I told her I was confident that if something like that had happened, I felt certain Evan would have told me. The lie appeased her. I have no confidence he would have told me, or even that he would necessarily remember, but Evan at a very young age was in the care of a confirmed pedophile. Could he really have gotten away unharmed? Could that have been one of the seeds to turn himself so resolutely against himself?

    We wonder as we watch Evan's brother, the 8-year-old in that story, now committed to drinking himself grimly into the ground. He will not be helped and will not be stopped. We wonder as I continue to struggle with the legacy of my own abuse and the often-lurking, never-silent need for oblivion. They get you before you even have a fucking chance, and you cannot help but be destroyed. How many walking corpses do I know? So many of us are just waiting, one eye on the shortening fuse, deafened by that insistent whisper to the outside world.

    Bill, I understand why you could not survive, although I wish very much that you had. You have my sympathy, but never my pity; you were too strong to make it so far for that.
    posted by Errant at 3:14 PM on January 7, 2011 [18 favorites]


    Bill, I understand why you could not survive, although I wish very much that you had. You have my sympathy, but never my pity; you were too strong to make it so far for that.

    Amen.
    posted by small_ruminant at 3:21 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I know I should have closed the tab sometime yesterday afternoon, but after a restless night, I've continued refreshing regularly all day today.

    I don't know if I've been triggered, or am just in shock. I lost a friend to suicide a couple of years ago and am still trying to process. In a [sick?] sort of way, this thread has helped. My friend left no note that was ever found (even after an extensive search of his hard drive).

    Bill has left me with yet another proof of how the internet has helped people touch the lives of people around the world. It was through the internet that many at my friend's funeral knew him. Hundreds. His real-life friends and family were overwhelmed by the number of people who had so many things to say of him.

    Again, I know I should probably close the tab, as after a while, I can only be feeding my depression. But I guess I want to give everyone in the thread a hug. And I want to thank you, all of you, for sharing your stories, making donations and offering your support.

    And yeah, whoever said "hand-flappy"... I think you might be right. At least, I know I'm feeling kinda lost and somewhat useless right now; a lot like I did in the days following my friend's death, when all I could do for his girlfriend was hold her and try to get her to eat something...

    *sigh* not even sure where I meant to go with this...
    posted by MuChao at 3:27 PM on January 7, 2011


    This is probably too late for this comment, but most of the small and large offers of help I got over the years, I rejected. But, they kept me going until I could start to deal with the darkness. I'm still very grateful to those people.

    I'll also mention that it has been, oh, about 13 years since I last had a bad bout with the darkness. It is possible to learn to stay healthy enough to keep it away. I'll never be "normal," but even people who know me pretty well are shocked when they find out the details. Guess that means I pass most of the time. And, really, I have a pretty decent life.

    and I answer memails.
    posted by QIbHom at 3:33 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    .
    posted by liza at 3:35 PM on January 7, 2011


    I keep coming back to this thread and reading the suggestions, the people making an effort to do something. I don't really know what I can do right now, I feel like I'm in the abyss.

    I thought I would list reasons why you/I can't talk to anyone about it and maybe that could help me/help someone else/help people understand. Maybe if I try to write out these reasons the way Bill wrote out his, the skeptical side of my brain will help argue against them the way it argued with Bill as I read his letter.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because they wouldn't understand and would judge me negatively, and I don't think I could take it.

    I can't talk to anyone because even though they say "call me anytime" they don't really mean it and I'm sparing them from having to turn me away.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I don't know where to begin or how to say it.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because people are going through their own problems, many of which I know about because they tell me about them, so I know they can't handle the burden of my problems too.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because "the darkness" inside me would overwhelm them and make them want to shut me out.

    Or I would depress them and bring them down to my level, thus causing me to hurt someone else. It's better if it's just me hurting.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I HAVE talked about it before or tried to, and was told I am "too much".

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I know there is something really wrong with me and that's all they will be able to tell me.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because you should always try your best to put on a positive face, no one likes a negative person and I am feeling mighty negative.

    I can't talk to a therapist/psychiatrist about it because they don't seem very empathetic or understanding, but cold.

    I can't talk to a therapist/psychiatrist about it because even if they are very nice indeed, they have never given me much useful guidance or insight.

    I can't talk to a professional about it because they cannot be trusted.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I don't trust anyone, and I don't trust anyone because of this thing that I can't talk about.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I don't want to be "weird".

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I can't get out of my own mind enough to really listen to them and be helped.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I don't really believe this can ever heal. The best I can do is distract myself with work/school/drugs/alcohol/sex/games.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because most of the people I know are as broken as I am. And if you're not broken then you'd never understand anyway.

    I can't talk to anyone about it because I am trapped in my own mind which is what is preventing me from talking about it.
    posted by Danila at 3:38 PM on January 7, 2011 [22 favorites]


    I can't talk to anyone about it because people are going through their own problems, many of which I know about because they tell me about them, so I know they can't handle the burden of my problems too.

    I can't speak to all the other points, but I think you may underestimate the joy some people get in helping others. Sometimes when I feel like shit, the very thing that makes me feel the best is doing what I can to make someone else's life easier.

    Everything else you say may be insurmountable (though I don't think they are, really) but don't let yourself not be helped because you think you'll be some kind of burden. You aren't, and helping you deal with your pain may be just the thing someone else needs to help them deal with their own.

    Just a thought.
    posted by quin at 3:47 PM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Again, I know I should probably close the tab, as after a while, I can only be feeding my depression.

    I find that the longer this thread goes on the better I feel. I'm sorry for Bill's suffering. But to see the outpouring of empathy here, and an indication of how so many people touch each other's lives in little but important and positive ways? It may be stupid to feel pride that I spent $5 and come kibbitz and chat with other folks on the internet when I should probably be doing something else, but I DO feel pride in this place.

    It's easy to forget that people on a whole want to do good rather than bad. It's easy to fail to make a commitment to actively doing it at every opportunity, or resist the dark impulses. This thread is over 600 comments and it's not angry frothing at the TSA or goofy jokes. Because people care.

    That means something to me. It wasn't worth the price of a life to buy it, but I'll take it.
    posted by phearlez at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Danila, I've felt all of those things. All I can say is that, if people keep offering, sooner or later, if one is lucky, you get caught at a "weak" moment by the right person, give in, and the healing can start. It won't be smooth, there will be ups and downs, but it can happen.

    I had the advantage of being an alcoholic. I couldn't stay sober if I didn't deal with my past. To drink was to die. Amazingly, one morning, I didn't want to die. Outside of the mental health profession, no one has ever doubted my story (to my face, at least, and most people in the mental health profession didn't, either). But I had to start telling it, in dribs and drabs, to find that out.

    It is a huge risk. It feels insurmountable. But, the alternatives are heartbreaking.
    posted by QIbHom at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    quin:
    "Everything else you say may be insurmountable (though I don't think they are, really) "

    But they are. Because we're not thinking just any *one* of these things. Several, perhaps all of these things are convincing us that they're true. All at the very same time.

    So yes, maybe any *one* of those things can be overcome, but the weight of many of these thoughts can be crippling.
    posted by MuChao at 4:02 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


    > One simple approach to this would be for folks who want to be available for Write To Me Any Time You Need To stuff to add a link to their profile page to any broken-down-by-region listing of local resources on the wiki. Then put whatever info you feel is appropriate on your profile page.

    I like the idea of offering to help fellow MeFites and I think it's good to formally announce what you're available for. But maybe the wiki isn't the best way to do that - it's kind of hard to find (it's not linked on the Blue or Green, and not everybody would think to look on the Gray). Once you find it, it's a little hard to see where Resources for Depression would be ("Collected AskMes" doesn't explicitly sounds like a listing of resources).

    Also, at the moment, there's not a lot of region-specific resources listed for the USA - only something for New Mexico, and I'm in San Francisco and don't want to make myself look like some kind of Regional Expert Mental Health Resource when the best I can offer is a little tea and sympathy.

    Maybe a check box on the user profile page for opt-in "helpers", which would add a little symbol next to the username in the Contacts list? If I'm already somebody's contact, they might be more likely to contact me, or at least look at my profile page to see if what I can offer sounds helpful to them.

    Or make the wiki more visible via a link on the header of every page, then make the Depression Resources more visible via its own link on the wiki sidebar. And a table of opt-in helpers sorted by region might be useful too.

    Also just spitballing here, but I think it's worth setting up something like this. There are times when I could use a little help too, but it always feels too demanding and drama-queeny to ask people randomly. If I knew they were willing to help, I might actually ask, and I bet that goes for a lot of other people too.
    posted by Quietgal at 4:06 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Another one who is willing to answer memails and send you my phone number. I have stared into the abyss myself and no one should ever have to stand on that cold dark edge alone.
    posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2011


    For any who would like to chat, my email, as well as instant messenger id's is in my profile and I'm almost always available.
    posted by MuChao at 4:35 PM on January 7, 2011


    It's been really gratifying to see a lot of people reaching out either in the "I need help" or the "I can offer help" sort of way. After the weekend, we'll probably do some sort of MeTa discussing how to best have some sort of member-to-member help exchange.

    My statement in the older thread still holds: this absolutely can not turn into a "I need money" tool, but something for people who need a hand opening mail, or getting out of the house, or just someone to talk to in order to feel less desperately alone, that's something we could do, something we could all do. In the meantime I'd like to encourage people to go through some of the AskMe questions posted by people who aren't doing so well and see if there's a way you could help out. Or if you could use someone to talk to, take some of the people in this thread up on their kind offers.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:42 PM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


    You know, I've been monitoring the thread wondering how on earth I can help, can I be of use to anyone in need? My wife's family has a history of suicide but it was new to me from my upbringing. In the years we've been together, we've had ups and downs, but the one thing that's helped is that I learned to listen.

    So if anyone needs someone to listen, then my MeMail is open. Hugs to everyone.
    posted by arcticseal at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I'm tempted to say put an icon beside the users who are willing to help, as Jessymn has with her star, but that could become nightmarish to do. How about a link beside the 'random' link at the top of AskMe with 'There Is Help'/You're Not Alone (or whatever) done in a different color? The link will go to the MeFiwiki page with people willing to listen (could be on the existing DepressionAskMes page) that people are contributing to. Might be good to change the title of that page to 'There Is Help' so that people aren't seeing 'Depression' in their browsers - will make it be a little more SFW.

    Also organize the 'Help' section like this:

    Crisis: Where to go for Help

    • By phone (hotlines listed by country)
    • By email <> • In real life (list of actual organizations - might be cumbersome - might just list external orgs like NAMI)

    Just an idea... and boy, taking about organizing information feels better... somehow being productive helps me feel less in pain about Bill.
    posted by rmm at 5:00 PM on January 7, 2011


    I've talked with a few people privately, but this is a public offering of a kind ear. I've gotten through it and I'm on the other side. I know what it's like to be there, and I won't offer you any platitudes about bootstraps or anything of the sort. But I'll talk with you and virtually offer a hand to hold. If you're near, I'll take you for tea and a real handhold. The darkness is big, but the kindness of people is bigger.
    posted by stoneweaver at 5:22 PM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


    And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
    And I dropped down, and down --
    And hit a World, at every plunge,
    And Finished knowing -- then --
    [Emily Dickinson]

    Reading Bill Zeller's note shook me to the core and I thought I was beyond all that. I don't know what to say. Grief, sorrow, despair, vehement rage, there are no words. There are no words, and yet he had words, many words, amazing words -- but the unrelenting nightmare of the pain was so intense and so all-consuming that the only way he could find to express the emotions was in cyberspace before he took his own life.

    Such a gifted, talented, wise person and soul, gone. I am glad that Princeton is doing all of what lazaruslong mentions to honor Bill Zeller's memory.

    I have been in a similar place, and indeed spent far too much of my earlier life in the fog that he speaks of, entire blocks of my life gone forever with no memory except the memory of the darkness. I am thankful that somehow I have survived and thrived and found much love and meaning in life, yet I am fully and vigilantly aware that the darkness is still always there in the background, waiting, biding its time, no matter what reassurances I have been given or what meds I have ingested. The darkness is always in the background, threatening to take away everyone and destroy everything in my life that means anything to me. That is the scary part.

    "Cross over the stream of desire. Do not let the torrent of passions carry you away. On the far bank of the stream is the realm of bliss." I hope he is in that realm now.
    posted by blucevalo at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


    what about just a special page on MeFi -- not the wiki, but MeFi proper -- noindex, nofollow, visible only to logged-in users, maintained by the mods (mainly just to keep spammers and other weirdos out), listing the profiles of MeFites who have volunteered to be there as helpers or listeners. Maybe with a short personal quote from each user

    Something like this has been kind of bouncing around my head today, too. I know the mods are going to take some time to mull this over in terms of how to implement, but that's kind of what I was envisioning, too.

    Whatever shape it takes, count me in -- my hand is extended to anyone who needs it.
    posted by scody at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Content has been moved to a new Wiki page: There Is Help


    Quietgal: " Also, at the moment, there's not a lot of region-specific resources listed for the USA - only something for New Mexico, and I'm in San Francisco and don't want to make myself look like some kind of Regional Expert Mental Health Resource when the best I can offer is a little tea and sympathy."

    Adding more regional resources is definitely one of my priorities. The page has been expanded a great deal since this afternoon. When Jessamyn began working on it today, the page was essentially only the "Advice about Depression" section. There's a lot more we can add though.

    Region-specific resources can be found at the NAMI link, and the suicide.org pages. I'll try to make that more obvious on my next edit. Unless someone else gets to it first. :)

    rmm: "Also organize the 'Help' section like this:

    Crisis: Where to go for Help

    • By phone (hotlines listed by country)
    • By email <> • In real life (list of actual organizations - might be cumbersome - might just list external orgs like NAMI)
    "

    Nice! I would be happy to revamp that on my next edit if you like.

    I agree with Jessamyn that our goal should be to keep the page as tightly organised, concise and above all helpful as possible. Thank you very much to everyone who is sending links and info to my memail. I'll try to get anything that's been sent to me posted as quickly as possible. (Except for Contacts, since we don't quite know what's happening with that yet.) Please by all means feel free to register yourselves and add stuff in, too.
    posted by zarq at 6:13 PM on January 7, 2011


    Content has been moved to a new Wiki page: There Is Help

    Suggestion: Rename it something more specific indicating what type of help is being listed/displayed/linked. The page seems to be dealing with depression at the moment, but a quick Google of my state and country revealed various AA help, Help via Halfway Houses, Drug addiction help etc.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 PM on January 7, 2011


    I agree with Jessamyn that our goal should be to keep the page as tightly organised, concise and above all helpful as possible

    To which end I would add that there needs to be a mechanism to make sure that the info listed is up to date: emails that actually reach somebody, phone numbers that work, etc.

    There's way too much defunct info out there already.
    posted by philip-random at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2011


    philip-random: " To which end I would add that there needs to be a mechanism to make sure that the info listed is up to date: emails that actually reach somebody, phone numbers that work, etc. "

    Agreed.

    I've checked some of the numbers, but not all. (Having a whole series of Suicide Hotlines show up on my phone log at the office would be problematic.) One of the numbers listed for Canada was defunct and I removed it earlier.

    Once the page is more complete and we have a stable, "final" version, I'd be happy to confirm the English language content is current every few months. However, I'm not multilingual and won't be able to confirm phone numbers in Germany, France, etc., are accurate.
    posted by zarq at 6:57 PM on January 7, 2011


    Suggestion: Rename it something more specific indicating what type of help is being listed/displayed/linked.

    We're leaving it like it is for now and we'll open up a MeTa page for more workshopping of it at some point in the future.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by nevafeva at 7:15 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by Zonker at 7:36 PM on January 7, 2011


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    Lost a family member to comparable sexual abuse. The narrative is so similar and heartbreaking.
    posted by mozhet at 7:54 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by moonbird at 8:09 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by jes5199 at 8:12 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:28 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by Skorgu at 8:42 PM on January 7, 2011


    "I was never the person I wanted to be."
    posted by Skorgu at 9:05 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I have never been where he was; i cannot truely understand what he felt. But I still believe deeply that he was wrong to believe that the darkness and evil was in himself, that there was anything wrong with him -- and I wish so deeply that he had written this letter to the woman he loved not as a suicide note, so that she might have had a chance to help him realise that.

    .

    please, anyone who might be in a similar place: the people who love you love all of you, your bad experiences as well as your good. And if you tell them of evil done to you, they will be upset and angry but only at your abuser -- and they want to be there for you, to help you see yourself as the wonderful person they know you are.
    posted by jb at 9:24 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by LMGM at 9:45 PM on January 7, 2011


    Reading his note made me fundamentally change my view on people who commit suicide.

    RIP.
    posted by yes at 9:55 PM on January 7, 2011


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    posted by porubcansky at 10:52 PM on January 7, 2011


    By far one of the saddest things I've ever read. RIP Bill.
    posted by mmascolino at 10:52 PM on January 7, 2011


    It is all very tragic. But the biggest tragedy is that Bill has not found enough love in his parents. It is hard for me to imagine somebody living with such a burden in a loving family. It is hard for me to imagine loving parents not noticing that something was basically wrong with their son. The terrible thing happened with Bill when he was a child, but I feel the absence of love and nurturing environment made even stronger impact. I cannot imagine somebody living with a secret like this and not sharing it with anybody. It tells me of absence of love in Bill's life - basic parental love.
    posted by russian at 12:59 AM on January 8, 2011


    Here's the thing — and I'm not going to be eloquent or probably even very lucid about this because, honestly, this has kind of sent me for a loop and I can't seem to organize my thoughts or focus very well — all the things everyone wants to do to help are excellent, but there is something else that seems so vitally important to me, but which can only happen as a public drive: tear down the secrecy, tear it down in every way. It just enrages me that when abuse is appended by "sexual," suddenly the world seems to collapse into some sort of protective haven for the abuser, while isolating and abandoning the abused. It's so insane that it becomes impossible to even grasp mentally. I know it for a fact, yet I can't seem to hold the thought steady enough to even examine it. The most defenseless among us are the most often targeted, because they are easier to keep silent; when their families and communities collaborate in this silencing atrocity, how is the victim supposed to process that except by turning it all inward and absorbing the darkness — because there's nowhere else to place it.

    Even Bill wouldn't expose his abuser in the end, despite everything. Many people here have been brave enough to reveal abuse over many long, usually tortuous and painful threads addressing related issues, and it's crazy but it takes so much courage just to nominally identify yourself as having been raped/abused/molested (even under a pseudonym), without even revealing any more specific information at all — just it happened to me. It's like breaking a taboo. Why are Bill Zeller's last words so resonant? Why is Joel Johnson's story so shocking and amazing? Not because they talk about something that rarely happens, but because they talk about something that happens all the time, but nobody will ever explicitly name and acknowledge. I sometimes think we live in the most bizarre world possible with regard to sex, where "leaked" sex tapes launch celebutantes into worldwide fame and success, where sex is constantly used for advertising and marketing, where anal bleaching is a customer service, and plastic surgery to enhance boobs and asses is becoming almost de rigeur, where Viagra is like aspirin, and rape is featured in video games — but to actually admit to having been sexually assaulted in any public or semi-public way is shocking. And painful. Usually too painful for victims who are already dealing with a world of pain.

    Unless, of course, such a revelation would serve a political agenda or entertain the multitudes. In that case, the whole world would be breathlessly eager to learn every little detail of how Senator X touched my private places, or how Oscar-Winning Z is private pervert. But tell someone your dad raped you for years? Not so popular. At all. Your family doesn't like to talk about it, or they accuse you of making it up. Everyone else wonders if you are just delusional, and what can they do, anyway? The entire topic terrifies them, and the message is firmly established: keep it to yourself. Everyone conspires to secrecy, and not only in cases of incest abuse. Anything but an attack by a total stranger is pretty much off the table, and that, too, just makes people fucking uncomfortable.

    If rapists and molesters knew that their actions would be revealed, if people could say This Specific Person raped me, if families, communities, churches, and organizations wouldn't shield the perpetrators, if victims weren't forced to internalize almost everything about the crimes committed against them, if society was really as willing to out and condemn a minister or college quarterback or nice Uncle John as they are to root out the more popularly reviled specter of the basement-dwelling greasy-haired pedophile, if victims were dealt with as sympathetically as the victims of any other crime and there was no bizarre expectation that they shouldn't name the criminal or even talk about the crime ... then, then, we would begin to cut out the roots of this horrifically damaging dynamic (a word I use because it's not only the abuser who is responsible for some of the worst damage in these situations, but also the society that is complicit), and only then would there be a true hope for burning through the darkness that eventually destroyed such a bright, precious, and promising human spirit as Bill Zeller.

    We need to claw our way out of the freakish and barbaric sexual dark age that we currently inhabit. The best thing that could happen as a result of this tragedy is if there was the beginning of a Tear Down the Secrets (but, of course, better named) public service drive, meme, trend, awareness program, viral and global. Is there any reason we could not all be so passionate, forthright, angry and vocal about this as we are about so many other humanist concepts? For all those who are furiously angry about this, I feel you. I am also filled with rage. It would be a turning point in human history if all who feel this way could turn that hatred, that urge toward punitive violence, that seemingly impotent but explosive fury against the one thing that Bill Zeller did identify in no uncertain terms: the Darkness. We're soaking in it, and it's time to get out.
    posted by taz at 2:43 AM on January 8, 2011 [48 favorites]


    I have some experience with this. Both personal and with friends.

    Anyway, mefihelplease@gmail.com.

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    posted by yo! at 3:22 AM on January 8, 2011


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    posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:43 AM on January 8, 2011


    I'm heading to the bookstore this afternoon, and would like to get a book on understanding and dealing with someone else's PTSD. I would appreciate it if I could get a couple of recommendations--any ideas?
    posted by MrMoonPie at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2011


    MrMoonPie: "I'm heading to the bookstore this afternoon, and would like to get a book on understanding and dealing with someone else's PTSD. I would appreciate it if I could get a couple of recommendations--any ideas?"

    Right-side of the page near the bottom, under the heading "Literature".
    posted by gman at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


    The Post Traumatic Disorder Relationship - by: Diane England
    posted by marimeko at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


    taz, I'll be happy to tell you who the person who sexually abused me as a child is in private, but I've been told by lawyers that I am open to a libel suit if I name them publicly (US). Because I cannot provide lots of physical evidence of what happened, I probably could not successfully defend myself against a libel suit.

    The law should protect everyone, but in this specific instance (and it isn't the only one), there are conflicting protections.

    I did manage to, eventually, convince their employer, a school district, to force them to retire early. That took years, during which I was asked for details and told nothing would be done, because it happened after school hours and was private. When I asked why school employees who were caught soliciting sex in rest stops after school hours from other consenting adults were fired and what, exactly, the difference was, I was simply told, "That is different."
    posted by QIbHom at 12:41 PM on January 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


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    posted by jameswrote at 8:48 PM on January 8, 2011


    ...

    The world is mighty imperfect.

    I recently learned about the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky who, during one of his lectures, said, it is "not just a metaphor of depression for psychic pain." The pain is real. There are real causes. It does not help when people say, "[Be glad.] You do not have terminal cancer." Nor is it helpful when family members try to coerce, either through emotional manipulation or out of impatience, the imbibing of medication. Medication will not suddenly work as a penicillin and eradicate the malaise, and not harm the host. There are no magic bullets. These are ruptures in the fabric of trust, of community, of the world as we are told it should be, how people act as though it is, and then how we experience it. Most especially as children, so open to the world. Curious and learning and excited.

    As said earlier, there are people who've learned to live, work, innovate, be part of communities, adapt. For those who experience physical immobilization, "people with depression are not invertebrates sitting there in their beds. These are bodies undergoing massive stress responses." And there are many ways that depression, suffering, however people experience it, shows itself in people's lives. It is not just feeling immobilized.

    We are often told that our bodies are our homes. It is difficult to befriend a body when the body itself feels unsafe. Our own bodies. It takes so much time. Ours is a society and a culture that does not really know much about how to heal, or else it is difficult to support the process in any long-term way, and there is so much intellectualizing and so much fear of pain, of acknowledging what has happened. What happened. These stories are so old, and still so little understood, and still so ignored. I read your words, Bill Zeller. Words are not always able to capture the quality of light, the body sense, the multi-tonal sensory way that life moves. May we as a society read the words and hear the suffering and act and be kind to those who are currently suffering, and may we learn to be kind to ourselves and tend our own wounds. Not one of us is unaffected. We were all children once.

    "A thing is mighty big when time and distance cannot shrink it."
    (Z.N.H.)


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    posted by simulacra at 8:50 PM on January 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


    I'm extremely saddened and dissapointed to hear this. We shared many conversations about projects and technologies over the last couple years and I had dearly hoped to at least spend an afternoon with Bill, if not collaborate on a project with him.

    Also, he was an extremely talented Words with Friends player. I stopped playing because he consistently dominated.

    Bill, you were an extremely intelligent individual and a great person and you will be sorely missed.
    posted by zachhale at 8:55 PM on January 8, 2011


    Take flight young man,
    Ease free into the realm of peace
    Allow the winds to uplift you and soar to great heights
    Oh, the darkness!
    Bear the light, sweet violins shall offer solace
    Among the thunder there is cleansing rain
    Raise your wings, afraid no more


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    posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:06 PM on January 8, 2011


    Thank you for publishing Bill's letter. His honesty about the pain and hurt is so moving. We truly cannot know the ache inside the hearts of others. I am so saddened by his life and death.
    posted by jennstra at 10:58 PM on January 8, 2011


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    posted by contessa at 10:58 PM on January 8, 2011


    .

    I, too, am here, if you are There, and no one else seems to be at hand. Drop me a line.
    posted by Countess Elena at 11:02 PM on January 8, 2011


    Not sure this is appropriate, but it's shared with the best of intentions:

    This morning seemed particularly bleak. Woke up before dawn to help the kid prepare to go back to college. For some reason the darkness Bill so articulately wrote about and and which I'm not stranger to, loomed large. The week has been rough, what with a local and well known poet here in Savannah dying at young age and visiting a friend in the hospital and thinking "shit, she looks rough, is she going to make" and thoughts of Bill and the Congresswoman getting shot. Then add on a particularly grueling and long work day today and things look down right shitty.

    But.

    First, a shower, even though one isn't needed, but on this literally and figuratively cold morning, the hot water and sauna like bathroom feel good. Then see the kid and her mom off (it's a long drive to and fro), and clean up the kitchen, even though the mess is overwhelming. It's not completely clean, but it's better. Instead of the more casual and ratty sweatshirt for work ('cause I'll be the only one there), put on the thinner but favorite shirt, which necessitates the heavier coat that was a Christmas gift, a sign that people care. Then pet the cats and give them catnip and smile at their antics. Go get coffee from Krispy Kreme and maaaaaaybe get a donut, but more importantly, spend a few minutes watching the donuts get made and marvel at the wonder of it. Then to work, but before sitting down, a few pushups and situps, because hey it's physical movement and that tends to elevate the mood.

    So. After doing a few things for oneself and a few things for others and yes, writing this comment in the hope that doing so will remind others to take a few steps that may help their mood in some way, the darkness doesn't loom large and the day and various situations seem brighter.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:00 AM on January 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


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    posted by heliostatic at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2011


    I am so sorry we lacked the information...

    I am so sorry we failed him through ignorance...

    If anyone reading this is struggling please please please please just reach out.

    Your contributions have benefited my life. I am so sorry you never knew that.
    posted by Dawg at 11:22 AM on January 9, 2011


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    posted by shiny blue object at 3:19 PM on January 9, 2011


    This is too close to home, too personal, too painful, too frightening for me to comment on coherently yet. I have to keep coming back and reading and then going away again, and crying and shaking and raging and raging and raging. I have spent the vast majority of my life, since I was four or five years old, suicidal. I'm now 45 and I am more miserably unhappy than ever before, even though I have much to be happy about. For some reason I'm still here, I have prevailed thus far, and I can tell you - sometimes, for some people, it does not get easier. That is a vicious, horrible lie. Sometimes, no matter how much you reach out, everyone fails you. Everyone. Every single time. Even those who are supposed to help you fail you, and then what are you supposed to do? What are you supposed to do?

    But even though my head is full of those questions repeating themselves over and over and over, that's not what I'm posting to say. Right now, my heart is full of sorrow and what I really want to say is how sorry I am. I'm so, so sorry for him. I would give anything to help him, if only I could have. I did not know him, and now I will never know him, but in many ways I am him.

    I would have helped him if I could have. I would have helped him not just because he needed it so desperately for himself, but because I have needed someone to do that for me since I was a child, and nobody ever has, and I know how it feels to be that alone and that unable to trust anyone, no matter how much they claim they love you and they are on your side. They dont, and they aren't.

    I have had the strength and the courage to ask for that help, to force myself to trust people over and over and over again only to be dismayed by their inability or unwillingness to do anything to help me. I would have done everything in my power to help him, and I would never have given up. Never. Along with the lesson that nobody can really be trusted, I have learned that to give up when someone needs you is the worst thing you can possibly to do someone. I have learned it well. I will not be that person.

    I feel that even if that help never comes for me, if that magical, mystical knight never arrives and the monster winds up winning someday, at least I will know that I tried my best for others even in the face of everyone else I have ever known failing me when I needed them most. This is why in the midst of my hatred for humanity, from the depths of my rage and despair and my anguish, I do everything I possibly can to help anyone I come across who is in need. At least I will go out knowing I was never like them. And so, I wish I had come across him. I really do.

    I'm just so fucking sorry.
    posted by perilous at 4:13 PM on January 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


    So very sad.

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    posted by jaruwaan at 4:43 PM on January 9, 2011


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    posted by merelyglib at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2011


    After reading this thread a couple days ago, I was inspired to start this:
    http://iamnotfine.luckynerd.com

    While hearing "it gets better" helps some, for others,
    "Logical fact is no comfort
    It only makes the matter seem worse."
    --Devo

    So, I'd like the site I've created to be a place where people in darkness can find ways into the light, and where people can offer true empathy to others.

    Please check it out if you'd like.

    Thank you.
    posted by luckynerd at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


    .

    The man was a writer; I felt like I understand his reasoning - better than I want to, actually. And loquacious filled in the rest for me.

    I walk these lines a lot these days. I've grown to accept that I'll never have a romantic relationship that's more than ephemeral. I used to rail against it, but it's not the worst lot, honestly. I mean, everyone has their own burdens, right? I don't have a physical deformity; my handicap is invisible. It's generally when I forget it's there that it gets me into really bad trouble: if I just remember that I have flat feet, I don't have to suffer the repercussions of attempting to run a marathon. Today I tell any potential romantic interest that I do not date and tell them why. I invite them to be friends instead. It's not such a horrible fate.

    What's still got me, though, is what loquacious talked about - I definitely suffer from the unfulfilled zombie part of the equation and I've been struggling against that one for decades. Maybe the answer there, too, is to just go ahead and move into acceptance. I don't know. I'm envious of how much Bill created. I want to create, but can't. And the other part of me is scared, because I tell myself over and over that if I just ... that I'd be happier if I was creating like he was, accomplishing as much as he did (in a little more than half my lifespan, no less).

    I want to be well, I want to be freed from these issues that bind me - but honestly? Does the binding hurt as much as the struggle to break free?

    I obviously don't have any answers. I was just moved to post because of all the other people who have suffered abuse who posted. It's inspiring and has helped me to feel less unique. Heartfelt condolences to all Bill's friends.
    posted by zylocomotion at 9:59 PM on January 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I can't read all of this because it hurts even though I didn't know Bill. But for a few people out there I was the person that they did tell their past abuse story to. I've spent a lot of time looking back and wishing I could somehow have helped more - but I'd never thought about how horribly sad it was that someone could have such pain in their past and yet never find anyone to tell. Let's be clear - I was not some epic best friend to a few of the people who told me, but they needed to talk. In many ways I now see I could have been anyone who made the time to listen. I think there are a lot of people out there who could do the same - it's just a matter of the person hurting taking the risk of talking.

    I think I cry most at the thought of Bill never having the relief of finding someone he could tell.
    posted by batgrlHG at 10:27 PM on January 9, 2011


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    posted by dustyasymptotes at 2:45 AM on January 10, 2011


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    posted by venividivici at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2011


    .

    I have not suffered from sexual abuse or PTSD, but I have been dealing with cyclic depression and I was very lucky. I had a marvelous family that helped me incredibly by grabbing me during another flameout time and saying, basically, "we will help you out of this and help you get another life started, but you are going to have to admit you have a problem and take steps to deal with it."

    Just before that period was the second time I got close enough to suicide to actually set up a method. My salvation at that point, sad to say, was remembering my pets (my cat and a hairless dumbo rat) and realizing they would starve to death before anyone would notice my passing. Okay, so I was grasping at straws then.

    Since then, I have been blessed with people that care about me, since I realized that part of my cure, so to speak, is stepping outside myself enough to involve myself more in the lives of those around me.

    I suppose I should throw a shoutout to my best friend (and I do not use the term friend lightly) who has been a lifesaver, and the aforementioned cat. I can't say how good it makes me feel to come home and have someone (albeit four footed) who is happy to see me every day, day in and day out.

    I, frankly, am amazed at how the people in my life have been able to stick by me, good days and bad, in the way they have, as I don't particularly see myself as a treasure.

    And, just to finish, although I have yet to meet any of you in person (crappy location and no car), I just want to say how proudly I self-identify as a MeFi. Many online resources brag about their "community," but time and time again, MetaFilter shows me exactly WHAT a online community can be.

    I will also offer myself as someone to speak to if anyone needs to talk. MeMail me to set up a channel of communication. Anonymity will be maintained.
    posted by Samizdata at 11:38 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


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    posted by radiocontrolled at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2011


    Bill, I wish we could have helped you. Why couldn't you see that we would have helped you? That letter is unbearably sad. I wept reading this thread at work, had to go home to finish it.

    I have been clicking on links to Bill's Flickr and 1000 Memories. I didn't know Bill but I have known bleak depression and abuse. Sometimes I feel like I can pick us out in a group photograph. We are the ones with the dead eyed smile. This thread and the photographs spurred me to share with a loved one the concerns I have about a child whose eyes have looked lifeless in recent pictures. I did it because of Bill's letter. So that's a good thing, I guess. But the very worst good thing ever.

    I'm available also, if any of you need to talk. Even if you just wanna talk about the Red Sox. If it'll move you away from the edge, please please get in touch.
    posted by toastedbeagle at 2:20 PM on January 10, 2011


    He had that lovely picture of his girlfriend on the myTunes site. What a great piece of software--I remember wishing I was that smart.

    Someone should update the myTunes entry on Wikipedia.
    posted by oneironaut at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2011


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    posted by shii at 10:21 PM on January 10, 2011


    Dammit, no…
    posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:48 PM on January 10, 2011


    I owe a large chunk of my music collection to the discovery (and sharing of) MyTunes while in grad school. Within a week of me sharing this with my fellow grads everyone in the building had surprisingly similar libraries.

    Never realized the author was a fellow MeFi member. Really sad to find out this way.

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    posted by caution live frogs at 7:15 AM on January 11, 2011


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    posted by dr_dank at 3:58 PM on January 11, 2011


    too sad; couldn't read. peace be upon you, Bill.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 2:35 AM on January 12, 2011


    For those who haven't had a look yet, zarq, brina, and others have been working away on fleshing out the former "Depression" wiki page, now titled ThereIsHelp. Please have a look at this wonderful work and remember that it stands as a ready reference for MeFites who reach out to you or who speak up in AskMe. What, if anything, is missing here? The idea is to be brief and useful, rather than so overly lengthy that the page is a turnoff to someone who wants to get right to something helpful. Please let us know, via MeMail or even here, if you have something to suggest.
    posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on January 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


    You guys have done a great job on that. We'll be talking a little bit on the mod list about how to let MeFites indicate their willingness to help, lend an ear or otherwise be supportive.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 AM on January 12, 2011


    Looking really good, Miko et. al. Thanks! (For the purposes of this comment, please assume that I am referring to "youse all" when I say "you.")

    I like that you've added LGBT-specific resources, but how about stuff including substance abuse (as it relates)? I haven't explored this wiki much, but since you're changing it from the more specific depression topic to a broader "there is help," maybe I'm missing a spot. But perhaps those are some other larger umbrella topics to work on in the future: substance abuse, domestic abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), serious mental illness.

    I really like how you've created categories for helping yourself, helping others and talking to others about depression; I think that would be a useful structure for other issues as well.

    Either way, whether you list resources or simply provide a link to another umbrella page, thanks to all of you for your work.
    posted by Madamina at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2011


    Looking really good, Miko et. al

    The credit's not to me, really zarq, Jessamyn, and brina did the work. I just supported the idea and then got swamped at work for a few days.

    I also liked the idea of adding problem-specific resources - substance abuse, verbal/physical abuse, etc.
    posted by Miko at 9:40 AM on January 12, 2011


    Madamina: " I like that you've added LGBT-specific resources, but how about stuff including substance abuse (as it relates)? I haven't explored this wiki much, but since you're changing it from the more specific depression topic to a broader "there is help," maybe I'm missing a spot. But perhaps those are some other larger umbrella topics to work on in the future: substance abuse, domestic abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), serious mental illness. "

    That's the intention. We're still expanding framework and content. I can't speak for everyone else, but I'd personally like the final version to begin with information for those in crisis: suicide hotlines and immediately accessible resources. Then, we would have subsections addressing specific issues, such as Depression, Sexual/Physical abuse, Substance abuse, etc. If keeping them all on a single page becomes difficult to navigate, then we can break it up into subpages.

    However, the page does not contain contact information for members at the moment. The mods will be determining how they would like to proceed on that front, then let us know. Until a decision is made, some members have added a paragraph to their profiles, offering to lend an ear or help if anyone is in crisis. For the moment, I've started creating a private (offline) list.

    I really like how you've created categories for helping yourself, helping others and talking to others about depression; I think that would be a useful structure for other issues as well.

    There are so many posts made to AskMe from people whose loved ones have revealed traumatic personal histories, asking how they can be supportive. I'd like it if the page offered answers to them as well.

    I think one of the lessons we can take from this tragedy is that often a person in crisis won't request help. They may be ashamed, afraid, or simply think no one will be willing or able to help. If one person in Bill's life had been aware of his inner struggles, they might have been able to take the initiative on his behalf. If the page could also offer resources to those who care and want to help, I think that would be positive.
    posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


    how about stuff including...

    The goal is to include a carefully-curated set of links that doesn't read like a giant linkdump that we feel would be overwhelming and sort of anti-helpful. We'll probably break it up into a few sub-pages, but there's a tension there between wanting a one-stop "this is where help is" page and wanting to be comprehensive. If people don't feel comfortable editing the wiki but would like to suggest resources, please go to the discussion page and feel free to make suggestions.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Thank you for the thoughtful post Matt. So sad.
    posted by serazin at 12:43 PM on January 12, 2011


    .
    posted by wierdo at 2:00 PM on January 12, 2011


    .
    posted by whitewall at 7:17 PM on January 12, 2011


    .
    posted by finding.perdita at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2011


    I've been trying to find the words, and I am incapable. I am so sorry for his loss, and hope that he found peace.
    posted by dejah420 at 9:26 PM on January 12, 2011


    .
    posted by Senza Volto at 1:31 AM on January 13, 2011


    .
    posted by greenish at 4:43 AM on January 13, 2011


    .
    posted by galimatias at 5:36 PM on January 13, 2011


    .
    posted by Phssthpok at 3:00 PM on January 15, 2011


    .
    posted by PsychoKick at 3:38 PM on January 15, 2011


    I don't know how I missed this thread before (but in a way I'm glad I did until I could read Bill's note without anyone around to catch me bawling) but I hereby order the rest of you to live forever.

    .
    posted by JaredSeth at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2011


    Live Forever
    posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on January 16, 2011


    .
    posted by Sophie1 at 9:49 AM on January 18, 2011


    .
    posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 10:21 PM on January 18, 2011


    .
    posted by zazerr at 8:06 AM on January 19, 2011


    Like JaredSeth above, I somehow missed this news.

    I am saddened and hoping he's finally found some peace.

    .
    posted by smirkette at 5:54 PM on January 19, 2011


    .
    posted by Jireel at 9:16 AM on January 20, 2011


    I wanted to share this poem with Bill Zeller, and with the people who may (re)visit this thread.
    For a New Beginning

    In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
    Where your thoughts never think to wander,
    This beginning has been quietly forming,
    Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

    For a long time it has watched your desire,
    Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
    Noticing how you willed yourself on,
    Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

    It watched you play with the seduction of safety
    And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
    Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
    Wondered would you always live like this.

    Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
    And out you stepped onto new ground,
    Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
    A path of plenitude opening before you.

    Though your destination is not yet clear
    You can trust the promise of this opening;
    Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
    That is at one with your life’s desire.

    Awaken your spirit to adventure;
    Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
    Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
    For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

    –Reprinted from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (John O’Donohue; 2008)
    posted by simulacra at 3:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


    There was a story rebroadcast today on This American Life that reminded me of Bill's trials - it's the one called When I Grow Up. Ira Glass noted that after it originally was published, the author received hundreds of letters from people who could relate. It was difficult to listen to, but, again, enlightening and awareness-raising.
    posted by Miko at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Simulcra:
    Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
    That is at one with your life’s desire.

    Yes.
    posted by Skygazer at 12:13 PM on January 24, 2011


    There was a story rebroadcast today on This American Life that reminded me of Bill's trials - it's the one called When I Grow Up. Ira Glass noted that after it originally was published, the author received hundreds of letters from people who could relate. It was difficult to listen to, but, again, enlightening and awareness-raising.

    I heard part of that story and I immediately thought of Bill, of how the desire to kill himself is not too different from Holthouse's desire to kill his rapist. I wish someone had discovered Zeller's secret before it was too late.
    posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on January 24, 2011


    A chance to help in AskMe today - anyone with Bay Area therapy info?
    posted by Miko at 2:35 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


    There was a story rebroadcast today on This American Life that reminded me of Bill's trials - it's the one called When I Grow Up.

    I just listened to that story. Here it is in print. I thought of Bill all the way through as well.
    posted by ignignokt at 5:10 PM on January 25, 2011


    I just wanted to point out really quickly that there are two different recent TAL episodes being confused as 1. In the older one, from a few weeks ago, a man makes a minidisc recording of an interview with a friend after one of his friends' suicide attempts, after which the friend succeeds. On last weeks episode, a man who was raped as a young man makes plans to murder his molester, only to instead meet him face to face and walk away from the issue.

    I do not recommend that people listen to the recording of the gentleman interviewing his friend if you're easily upset, the man makes it clear from the beginning that he absolutely plans to die as soon as possible. The rape broadcast is...almost graphic, and scary, but it doesn't reach inside (my) soul in quite the same way as he's threatening violence on someone else.
    posted by TomMelee at 5:22 PM on January 25, 2011


    I also heard that interview one, TomMelee, and it upset me greatly, also causing me to wonder if, again, the underlying problem was something that was never addressed or openly spoken of. It certainly never really came up in the interview.
    posted by Miko at 5:45 PM on January 25, 2011


    Yea, I wondered the same thing Miko. It was a very surreal interview.
    posted by TomMelee at 4:20 AM on January 26, 2011


    .

    Very sad indeed. I don't believe in an afterlife but times like this I really wish that some poor sad hurt person like Bill would receive some warmth and some reward.
    posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:22 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


    .
    posted by whir at 10:42 AM on January 31, 2011


    I... only just found this through... some other place... I forgot...

    I am so, so, so sad to have read this. I... I hoped this was a bit of MeFi history.... something that happened, I don't know... in the comfortable arms of 2004... or something, but something far away...

    But... it isn't, and I'm sitting here, and it's so close, and I don't know what to say.

    I'm so, so sorry.
    posted by eeeeeez at 3:48 AM on February 1, 2011


    oh god how did I just see this?

    The person who sexually abused me - I prayed for him to die before I was old enough to get pregnant by rape and he died in a car accident within a year.

    The person who physically and verbally abused me and my mother for 2 decades recently died a horrible, painful, gruesome death.

    These deaths gave me some closure, but at what cost? Who wants to be jaded and feel like nobody on earth can be trusted from age 7 onward? Who wants to live in fear of their own sexuality, filled with rage that can't always be controlled, even when getting angry makes NO sense at all? I've gone through bouts of depression, but as mentioned upthread, I've gotten lots of help and have a good support network, which has strengthened my coping mechanisms and ability to detach from the abuse in ways that affected my daily life for a long, long time. Telling my family what happened when I was 19 helped a lot, but it took another decade to get a grip on the eating disorders and obsessive self-harm and relationship-sabotaging issues that spawned from all that childhood trauma.

    I still have my dark days, even now. Sorry, dark hours. They always come late at night.

    Death of the perpetrator who tortured him didn't give Bill any peace, unfortunately; he was too deeply scarred, it seems.

    I'm so, so sorry for his pain and the loss of a great mind and a kind soul in this world. No amount of regret can bring him back, but people - reach out to each other. There are more of us than you know waiting to give a hug and say, with all sincerity, I UNDERSTAND.
    posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


    wtf
    .
    posted by Dano St at 7:49 PM on February 4, 2011


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