June 14, 2020:
"The line between self-destructiveness and suicide can be blurry. People who push their own decay without obvious recompense are proto-suicidal."

— Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression (p. 259). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

I read those two sentences at an ironic moment. As I'm reading I'm also scanning my meagre history of photographs for digital archiving. The album is organized chronologically, and just as I reach page 279 of The Noonday Demon I coincidentally arrive at the period of quasi-recovery following my breakdown. Where I'm deliberately, with calculation, destroying my sexual attractiveness with the specific, self-conscious intent of pushing women and relationships decisively away.

I grew an extremely unkempt pony tail. "Scraggly" is understatement. There were bits and pieces of multiple lengths falling lose from the bundle so that there was no shape, just mess, unambiguously implying the semaphore: "I have no interest in being interesting."

I gained a paunch, my cheeks expanded, so that my smile was obscured by flab. I avoided the sun, so my pallor was grayly cadaverous. I switched from contacts to ugly wire-frame glasses which I kept permanently dirty, so that my eyes were hidden.

This campaign of self-camouflage followed the decision I've written about elsewhere: the blinding realization, epiphany-style, that I was dangerous to anyone who came near. I was broken. I was overwhelmed with pain, with loneliness, with loss, and with the anger these sad feelings inevitably engendered. I was bad news, and I knew it. I would destroy anyone who loved me, so that with newly-perfected understanding of the reality of pain, I chose not to inflict it on anyone nice enough to like me. Specifically beginning with Larissa, the beautiful paralegal who approached me in the library of the firm where we worked, whose beauty and whose obvious sensitivity were the triggers of my epiphany.

"Proto-suicidal," Solomon calls it. I find that language sadly apt. Today, these photos from that period are painful and frightening. They're a blinking neon sign reading, "I need help I'm not receiving."