What I Was Thinking About the Day Elizabeth Wurtzel Died

{content notes: death, grief, porn}

The night before, I’d taken my bedtime meds, plus an extra half of a sleeping pill, at 8PM, in the second night’s attempt to rapidly-ish reset my body-clock to awaken in the morning. I hoped to be up at sunrise, making coffee, making plans. The current wave of depression had been happening for maybe a week, since New Year’s Eve, or maybe a month, since my Poppa’s memorial in my hometown on the first of December, or maybe two weeks longer, to the day he died, or maybe since my thirty-fourth birthday back in mid-October, when my friends stood me up, or maybe since Pride weekend back at the end of June.

I was still coping with the pinched nerve in my right shoulder, an injury from carrying five bananas in my totebag two weeks prior, plus two bouquets of convenience store flowers I bought for my partner / boyfriend / baby / etc, a red totebag reading, in Gothic script, black screenprint ink, Capitalism Ruins Everything Around Me. I was thinking about how to make money. I was thinking about going out to pick up some groceries, including another bunch of bananas. I was sitting on my purple swivel chair, SAD lamp on. With my right hand, picking at the dry skin on my face, exacerbating the pinched nerve pain as well as the acne scars. With my left hand, picking at the dry skin on my right shoulder, risking pulling more ink out of the tattoo I’ve had for nearly fifteen years. When I had it done, it was the artist’s largest piece, took two sessions, and she and I were both proud. The tattoo had an age-tinged banner with black script, a quote from one of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s books.

Although I’d been on something like a social-media-hiatus, but not quite, I briefly logged into Twitter to tell my followers about an upcoming Total Betty show in Hamilton. My twin sister’s band. When I logged in, the top of my feed was audrey wollen writing about sad girl literature, and of course I paused to read. I read her tweet three or four times before I began to understand that she wasn’t just writing about Elizabeth Wurtzel, she was writing about Elizabeth Wurtzel’s death.


A writer can write about suicide, depression, cancer, and illness her whole life, and still have a death that comes as a surprise.

I was thinking about all my unfinished writing projects, and my finished writing projects that remain unsatisfactory. I was thinking about reading an essay even though I’d already narrowed it down to sixty-eight windows open in one browser on my phone, twenty-three windows in another browser, mostly unread. I was wondering whether or not I should take a painkiller (an hour later, I did). I was wondering if I’d make it outside before the sun set (no), or if I’d make it outside at all (I did, at 7:30pm, three hours after the sun set). I was wondering if I should write the thing that had just sprung up in my head, or if I should go out and run errands, if I should clean the litterbox, or if I should finish writing something I’d already started.

I was trying to remember a) if I’d sent a photo of my tattoo to Elizabeth Wurtzel via Twitter once upon a time, and if yes, b) if she’d acknowledged it. I was remembering talking about Prozac Nation with my LiveJournal friends when I was 17, 18, 19. I was remembering bringing them with me the first time I moved out, already broken-spined faded torn. (The books, but the friends, too.)

I’d forgotten about an article that referred to Elizabeth Wurtzel as “Sylvia Plath with the ego of Madonna,” until, in searching Twitter, I found myself commenting that it was ‘too perfect’ and should become her online bio. Clicking to her profile now, I was reminded (or learned anew?) that she had indeed made this her online bio at my suggestion. I thought about sharing it (I did), and I thought about that feeling of possession so many of us have when it comes to our favourite writers, musicians, etc (I still am). I thought about how we criticize people when they’re alive (yes, I’ve written on how frustrated and enraged I eventually became with seeking out crazy people memoirs and finding books almost exclusively by wealthy, educated, (mostly white) women, almost always women attending prestigious universities and having their parents fly to them or fly them out when they had a nervous breakdown, pay for professional care, etc), and love them when they’re dead. I screencapped it (the bad review as online bio) and tweeted it (the bad review as online bio, the day she died, and the frustration and rage, a few years ago, but then again, it is moreso a criticism of genre and access and ableist racist capitalist hellscape, right? and not a criticism of the individual, who I hold within my mad lineage). Wouldn’t you?


In my diary, I’d been attempting to write about “this current depression.” Maybe it began with the first snowfall, when I was unprepared and couldn’t pick up my new prescriptions for a whole week, and couldn’t have them delivered because “narcotics,” because narcotics give me the ability to walk? Maybe it was when I tried to talk about unresolved issues around mistreatment within an organization, or maybe it was shortly thereafter, when I quit said organization? Maybe it began when my toilet tank broke during the snowstorm, flooded my bathroom multiple times, and my landlord took three days to drop by and take a look, fixed it but broke another part? Maybe it was a few days afterward, when the snow melted, and my kitchen ceiling leaked, and I awoke to my reading chair soaked, pile of laundry soaked, meditation cushions and restorative yoga cushion soaked. And as I pulled my reading chair back from the mess, I threw out my back and, yet again, couldn’t walk. And I stopped riding my portable exercise bike because my kitchen was ruined, I was in too much pain to clean it up, and I was too lazy or too depressed to bring it into the next room.

Maybe it was everything I was reminded of each time I tried to label the beginning of a wave, the consequences of each moment, the way my thoughts branch out into too many thoughts, and I can’t write because there’s too much to write about, and I can’t describe why I’m depressed because there’s too much to be depressed about. And I’ve been writing about depression for twenty years.

And I’ve been writing about depression for twenty years.

I was noticing that each potential “beginning” of “this current wave” was also part of one or more unfinished creative projects.

I was thinking about how Marilyn Manson had just turned 51, and how I’m afraid of him dying. I was thinking about how I’ve been spending too much time in bed because it feels like all I can do. I was thinking about how I haven’t been able to go outside for days. I was trying to figure out the littlest things I could do to keep going. While I was in the shower, I thought of all kinds of little things I could do, and by the time I’d come out of the shower, they all seemed too big again.

I was thinking about the body parts that hurt.

What parts didn’t hurt when I started reading her, what parts hurt now.

What parts I didn’t feel at all when I started reading her, what parts I feel now.

What didn’t hurt when I started writing and does now. What I didn’t feel and do now.


I dreamed about Girl, Interrupted and Brittany Murphy, as if my brain spilled reference tabs in the night and reshuffled them as it tried to get the stories back together. I also dreamed about my abusive mom. I dreamed about being on a road trip in Girl, Interrupted, the van with the hippies, making out with girls, but it was Brittany Murphy instead of Angelina Jolie, like my mind remembered Christina Ricci as Elizabeth Wurtzel. I was following them around, wondering why they liked me, why they let me into their inner circle. Me and Susanna Kaysen and Brittany Murphy went swimming in a bright aqua pool. Elizabeth Wurtzel was somehow all of them, somehow me too, and at the same time, not there. Missing. Not there to speak her own lines, to be in conversation with us.

In my waking hours, I’d been contemplating re-reading Prozac Nation. Wondering if I’d have time. Or make time. I’d thought about it a few days before she died, unknowing. I used to not own a lot of books, and I was too agoraphobic to walk the aisles of the small town library where I grew up, or learn how to use their computer retrieval system. I read each book I owned at least five times before turning twenty-one. I read Francesca Lia Block, and I read books about vampires, witches, call girls in the 80’s and 90’s, and old Hollywood. Now I have too many books and too many books to read, too many books I want to re-read, too many stacked up library books with fines owing. To re-read Prozac Nation would be a sacrifice on multiple levels. Let alone More, Now, Again, the book that inspired my tattoo before I’d even left Lindsay, but as I was approaching double-digits of psych med prescriptions.

I make porn. In some of my porn, I read out loud. I read out loud, strip, masturbate. I thought about shooting a quick clip reading Prozac Nation out loud the night she died. Would she appreciate it? Maybe (a younger?) Merri Lisa Johnson would, or (a younger?) Stacey Pershall. The Strange Grrrls. Am I too old to be doing this, to even be contemplating this? (No.) Too immature? (No.) Too self-absorbed? (Elizabeth Wurtzel would say, not self-absorbed. Absorbed. Absorbed.)

I didn’t make Elizabeth Wurtzel porn. Or I haven’t, not yet. I went to bed early. The following evening, I did make porn, I did make book porn. I dressed in a vintage tweed jacket with an odd cut, a strapless black lace bra, PVC garter belt with silver studs, black lace thigh-highs with vertical stripes, and I hid my fuzzy cat slippers under the camera frame, read Edna St. Vincent Millay, poverty and death, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, stripped, slowly. Holding open my copy of Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford. Ran out of storage before I could take off my bright violet scalloped-lace underwear. Sometimes I don’t like my face at certain angles. But I like my voice. Or, I like listening to my voice.

On the day Elizabeth Wurtzel died, I was wondering if I’d ever write again. I hadn’t felt so uncreative for more than a decade. I was scared there’d be no more words, no more new ideas, nothing, no one. Abandoned, unfinished drafts. “I used to write.”

I wouldn’t have made my Edna St. Vincent Millay porn if I hadn’t been invited out for an unexpected coffee date. I wouldn’t even have gotten dressed. When I arrived at the café, the sun was out. Half hour date, dark by the end.

Memoirishly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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