Four Truths of a Withering Heart

In which Daniel publishes the speech he gave at Puget Sound’s first annual Suicide Prevention and Awareness Forum.



Once upon a time, there was a boy with small hands and a withering heart. A withering heart, you see, is not the same as a broken one – no, not at all. A broken heart is an ugly thing, cracked and torn and worn by the world, but it is the sort of heart whose empirical evidence acts in accordance with Newtonian physics – action and reaction, tragedy and heartbreak. A withering heart is a different beast. It will hide its suffering from the world, as piece by piece, it crumbles away, the everyday battles of degradation and disappointment wearing it down to dust. Its empirical evidence acts in accordance with the law of entropy.

All things follow entropy; the center cannot hold. The heart is a singularity of time divided by experience divided by memory, all to the power of the derivative of the heart’s singular, drumlike beating. And with each beat, a little more of the singularity is released, giving the finite amount of energy it contains away to the blood and bone and marrow and skin and wind and waves and world around it. The heart ripples out through time and space and loses itself as it goes. I wish, says the heart. I wish.

Wishing is a form of entropy too.

But this is not just a story of wishing. This is not just a story of empirical evidence or singularities or small hands or even of entropy – although all things are just stories of entropy at the end of the day, I suppose. This is a story of a boy, and the heart he did not wish to have. And in the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke amid darkness, “let there be light,” and so we can conclude through the transitive property that words are singularities are stories are light. And this is the magic of the Word and the words: light is precious in a world so dark.

The boy with the small hands and the heart he did not wish to have lived in a gray house with a bedroom with a window to the roof. The boy sometimes stood on the roof, and looked out across the ocean of suburban houses. The boy sat by the window, and stared out into the sky. The boy’s years raced toward entropy, and his space by the window became the Cartesian Coordinate (0,0,0) on the three-dimensional graph of his world. The boy’s heart raced toward entropy, and as it withered, it beat like a singularity. Let there be light. Let there be light.

Come close, my friends, and I shall give the four truths of a withering heart. Come close, and I shall give light amid darkness.


I know sorrow, and it is a scar on my heart the shape of love I cannot have. It is the sight of the first boy I ever liked, on a field by the playground, running to catch a frisbee in the sun. It is the sound of his voice calling my name. How lovely you are, I thought to myself. I love you. It is the weight of my heart as a nine-year old, lying in bed as I turn over the thought of him like a treasure in my hands. It is the horrible, sinking realization that I could never tell him, or else face the shame and anger and disappointment that would inevitably come. It is ten-year old me in the lunch line beside him, resisting the urge to hold his hand. It is seventeen-year-old me looking at him across a classroom like a remnant of a life I wish I’d never had.

I know sorrow, and it is the color of the night sky above Palo Alto at 3 in the morning. It is the whirring of bicycle wheels as fourteen-year-old me out across the small city, searching for something I cannot name. It is an ache inside my stomach that is part hunger and part growing pains and part terrible yearning for escape velocity from the solar system of my disappointment in myself. It is writing the same poem over and over again as the sun rises, saying to myself that this time would be the one, the key to me realizing why I could never be freed from the foolish body of a boy with small hands.

I know sorrow, and it is the train tracks that run halfway between my house and my high school. It is the wreaths of flowers left by my peers for classmates that have leapt in front of trains across my years in school. It is the footsteps in the mulch I have left as I have walked along the train tracks, asking myself if I have just enough strength to make the leap too. It is my footsteps on the pavement as I walk away from the tracks, deciding that I do not. It is the whimper of my sinking stone heart as I decide that I will never be strong.

If you hold sorrow heavy enough, it becomes your world.


I know anger, and it is a B- on a ninth grade algebra test that I could not will myself to study for. It is me brushing off the grade with a laugh and a shrug, saying that math was never my strong suit. It is the knowledge that I was living in a vicious cycle of self-loathing and disappointment, saying that I had never done anything special and so was not of importance, so that I never tried to do anything special, so that I never did anything special, so that I continued to feel I was of no importance, a serpent coiling to consume its own tail. It is the trembling fury that said There is something magnificent within you but you will never be able to let it out and you will die having never shown anyone anything magnificent.

I know anger, and it is the sympathetic voice of a teacher telling me that I was intrepid with sensitive topics, and that one day, I would grow out of that. It is my disbelief as I took in those words, and my confusion as I mulled them over for days. It is me laughingly telling others about the incident, making a joke of this moment when my courage was called childish. It is me thinking back on the moment years later, and realizing that the man in question had no right to my heart, and no right to my voice. It is me hearing the words “you’ll grow out of it” over and over again, chasing me like echoes in a house I can never escape.

I know anger, and it is my trembling hands as I hold thirty NyQuil pills, unable to put them down and unable to swallow. It is my buckling shadow as fifteen-year-old me full-body cries, resisting the urge to scream as I lay on the bathroom floor. It is the knowledge that this is the same place I have been one thousand times, trapped in a netherworld between living and dying, unable to poison myself and incapable of being a real boy. It is me steadying me small hands, angry that I am playing this same game with myself instead of sleeping or writing or drawing or dancing or kissing a boy or building a world. It is me calling myself a coward from trying to kill myself. It is me calling myself a coward for failing to do so.

If you bear anger dark enough, it becomes your world.


I know my heart, and it is a dappled shadow that dreamt of being a real boy. Most days I feel less than human – more like a space on a bookshelf, more like an echo across a desert, more like a flock of sparrows across a vast ocean, like a shattered light bulb, like the ruins of a cathedral where I once prayed to the God I wish I believed in. Most days I feel I am assembling my skin and my bones into something human, something real boy. Most days, I feel as if I have not succeeded.

I know my heart, and it is forgiveness like soft rains on an ocean of rooftops. I forgive my feet for not running fast enough. I forgive my hands for not reaching far enough. I forgive my mouth for not speaking loud enough. I forgive my arms for not stretching wide enough. I forgive my eyes for not seeing a way out of the darkness.

I forgive my family for not seeing my sorrow. I forgive my friends for not reaching me sooner. I forgive my teachers for turning away, I forgive my classmates for being so blind. I forgive every boy that has left a scar on my heart the shape of a love that I cannot have. I forgive every adult that has said I would not be enough. I forgive myself for believing them.

This is the magic of the Word and the words: what others call you, you shall become.

Become the Word, I said to myself.

This is the magic of the Word and the words: call yourself what you wish to become.

Become light, I said to myself.

I know my heart, and it is the sunlight falling on a boy sitting beside me on a school bench as I wait for my father to pick me up from my last day of high school. It is the sound of his small, scared voice, unexpectedly telling me that he is afraid that he is not loved, and has never been loved, and will never be loved. It is his bewildered face when I ask him why he is telling me this. It is the words he told me then: You’re the one people come to for hope.

It was with those words that I began to believe in a way out of the darkness. It was with those words that my withering heart paused and began, slowly to turn like a planet or a flower forward through time, onward, away.

If you have a heart wide enough, it becomes your world.


I know the story, because it is the same one I have told one thousand times before. It is the same one I will tell one thousand times again. I am a creature of habit, of this we can be sure. Time winds on and the years pile like scraps. Always the same equation, although the variables may change – a secretary rather than a dragon, a handsome boy rather than a supernova, the word “heartbreak” rather than “the omnipresent Law of Entropy.” All systems move towards chaos, no matter the system. All children move towards heartbreak, no matter the child.

Do not be sad; there have never been new stories. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke and amid darkness, “let there be light,” and the light of the singularity of the Word contained all things. I have no new stories to tell you. I merely have new ways to tell you. All things follow entropy, but not all things follow in the same way. Come close, my friends; light is precious in a world so dark.

I know the story, and I thought it would choose me. I thought that one day, a whirlwind would arrive, or a rabbit would come calling, or a giant would knock down my door, and then at that point the story would finally begin and I would not feel as if I am drowning at every moment of every day. I thought that I would be chosen as an ill-tempered and irascible child, or a curious and inquisitive boy, or a lion-hearted and chivalrous hero. I thought that that the story would begin, and take from me the heart I did not want.

I know the story and I have made a choice. I thought it would choose me. but no one is chosen. Not ever. Not really. To change from a reader of your own story to an author is a story all its own. Do not blame me for struggling. Beginning is always the hardest part. But this is the magic of the Word and the words: when I saw that there was no one left to choose me, I chose myself.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was a singularity that spoke and amid darkness, “let there be light.” All things follow entropy; all things will change. Even stories. Even human hearts.


Once upon a time, I chose to gather my stories in my small a hands and spin a life, a light, a world out of them. Fractured, yes, heartbroken and mournful and elegant and clumsy and brilliant and wondrous and mine. For in the beginning was the Word and the Word is me, and this day is the singularity, and these words are the light, and this moment is the beginning…

…For if you tell a story big enough, it becomes your world, and this is only the beginning of mine.

How Lovely You Are

In which Daniel is possibly brave or possibly foolish, or both, or neither.


To my dear reader,

The first time I realized that I liked a boy was in 4th grade. I was an awkward, unsociable child, and my 4th grade teacher was aware of this. When a boy from another school transferred into my homeroom class, she took the opportunity to force me to play with him.

Begrudgingly, we went out to the soccer field together during recess and, against both our wills, began to play with a Frisbee. My first throw went wildly amiss, forcing him to run across the field to catch it, and this is the moment that became burned in my mind – the boy sprinting, the sun turning the field into an ocean of precious light around him.

Of course, it was not like this, but this is the truth I created. I watched, transfixed, as he leapt to catch the Frisbee, and I childishly thought something like this:

How lovely you are.

I love you.

I did not, of course, love him. The boy made other friends, and I have long since forgotten those feelings. But what matters is that this was when I was suddenly, horribly aware of how he could never feel this way about me; how this fact would come crushing down upon me forever. This was, I think, when I began to become clinically depressed.


“How terribly young you were!” some exclaim. “How can you know that you were clinically depressed at such an age?”

I can never know for certain. But for those that wish to apportion blame for my inaction, give it to my love of fantasy. I assumed that the shuddering nausea with me from morning to night was simply the symptom of a hero waiting to be chosen for adventure. Surely, I thought, a giant will knock on my door or a witch will appear on my windowsill. If only I wait, my story will begin and I will not feel as if I am drowning every moment of every day.

But I confess that I was wrong. No giants knocked or witches appeared and every moment of every day was like drowning. I remember waking up on a school day 15 minutes past my alarm, and bursting into panicked tears. Surely I will be late, I thought, and then I shall be punished and I shall do poorly in school because that is what happens to children who are late. And then once I no longer have academic success I will have nothing but my books and this terrible feeling of drowning that never leaves me.

My mother did her best to console me, but we both knew perfectly well that I could arrive at school on time. Still, I cried.


I recently learned from the video linked below that a curious effect of depression is that it shrinks the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions. This effectively causes many depressed people to lose both clear memory and clear emotions. Everything, effectively, becomes a gray fog – and this is exactly what I felt.

I researched depression ravenously, but despite this knowledge, was certain that, somehow, my depression would simply fade. If not in elementary school, then in middle school. If not in middle school, then in high school, college, when I learned to play piano, when I did well on my SAT or ACT or something else inane and trivial. Practice does not make perfect – practice makes permanent. Repeat the same mistakes over again and they become who you are.

I distanced myself from it. Every time I would cry for no reason or wake up in the middle of the night in inexplicable panic, I thought, this is simply chemical imbalance in your brain, not who you are. But so much of me went into separating who I thought I was from what I thought I wasn’t that it didn’t matter; I became it anyway.

Coming into my final year at college, I had become aware of how much time I had squandered. I could not bear to let this last year go to waste. My appointment at the university’s Counseling, Health and Wellness Services on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 marked the first time that I sought professional help. This, then, was the story I had been waiting for, and there was no one to choose me but myself.


I often feel guilty, given my fortune. I have a loving family, a plump dog, a good education, and more tea than I could possibly drink. I am a gay, multi-ethnic Jew with opportunity – in most other times and places I would be ostracized or persecuted. Others have faced much worse than I and fared better. But this is the nature of depression; no matter my fortune, it is always there – the most dependable thing in my life.

But I am not here to be sad or angry or guilty. I am here to say that this is a real part of me that has existed since that day in 4th grade. To deny it would be foolish and wrong. Surely, there will be readers who cry out that my words are untrue or dangerous, that I exaggerate my sadness or simply seek attention. For those people, I have no words. My time is too precious to waste on them.

For everyone else, I will say this: my experience is one of many, so I claim no universality. I simply claim that I find truth preferable to lies. I simply claim that those who listen are few and far between, and if you are one, know that you are as precious as light. I have chosen this story for you.

How lovely you are.

I love you.


With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert