I woke up suddenly with the feeling that something had exploded in my head, like someone had popped a balloon in front of my face. Somewhere in the back of my head I thought maybe I’d blown an eyeball or an artery had burst in my forehead. I tried not to panic.
From the Rolling Stone article by David Lipsky.
In June of 2007, Wallace and Green were at an Indian restaurant with David’s parents in Claremont. David suddenly felt very sick — intense stomach pains. They stayed with him for days. When he went to doctors, he was told that something he’d eaten might have interacted with the Nardil. They suggested he try going off the drug and seeing if another approach might work.
“So at that point,” says his sister Amy, with an edge in her voice, it was determined, ‘Oh, well, gosh, we’ve made so much pharmaceutical progress in the last two decades that I’m sure we can find something that can knock out that pesky depression without all these side effects.’ They had no idea that it was the only thing that was keeping him alive.”
Wallace would have to taper off the old drug and then taper on to a new one. “He knew it was going to be rough,” says Franzen. “But he was feeling like he could finally afford a year to do the job. He figured that he was going to go on to something else, at least temporarily. He was a perfectionist, you know? He wanted to be perfect, and taking Nardil was not perfect.”
That summer, David began to phase out the Nardil. His doctors began prescribing other medications, none of which seemed to help. “They could find nothing,” his mother says softly. “Nothing.” In September, David asked Amy to forgo her annual fall-break visit. He wasn’t up to it. By October, his symptoms had become bad enough to send him to the hospital. His parents didn’t know what to do. “I started worrying about that,” Sally says, “but then it seemed OK.” He began to drop weight. By that fall, he looked like a college kid again: longish hair, eyes intense, as if he had just stepped out of an Amherst classroom.
When Amy talked to him on the phone, “sometimes he was his old self,” she says. “The worst question you could ask David in the last year was ‘how are you?’ And it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with someone you don’t see regularly without that question.” Wallace was very honest with her. He’d answer, “I’m not all right. I’m trying to be, but I’m not all right.”
Insomnia is kicking my ass again.
Experts make the best victims because they jump to unwarranted conclusions. The savvier they are, the quicker they jump, because they see at a glance which way a story is heading. In 2002, for instance, a French wine researcher named Frédéric Brochet gave 54 experts an array of red wines to evaluate. Some of the glasses contained white wine that Mr. Brochet had doctored to look red, by adding a tasteless, odorless additive. Not a single taster noticed the switch.
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While evolutionary psychology often stresses the amorality of natural selection – we are all Hobbesian brutes, driven to survive by selfish genes – our psychological reality is much less bleak. Consider a simple variation on the ultimatum game* known as the dictator game. Unlike the ultimatum game, in which the responder can decide whether or not to accept the monetary offer, in the dictator game, the proposer simply dictates how much the responder receives. (This is much closer to the power relationship between a pedestrian with some spare change and a panhandler.) What’s surprising, though, is that people with all the power in the dictator game are still rather generous, and give away about one-third of the total amount of money. I imagine a similar effect is at work when people are panhandling. We sympathize, if only for a moment, with the plight of the beggar, and so we toss a few coins into the cup. Such charity is a public demonstration – both to ourselves and others – of both our innate empathy and our power.