This week I revisited the one of the most tragic news story I ever read. The horrible report concerned a 41 year old woman called Joyce Vincent who died in her London bedsit in 2003. She was found with a pile of Christmas presents beside her, which she is thought to have been wrapping when she died. The television was still on when bailiffs discovered the body in 2006. She had sat, dead, on the sofa for 3 years without being discovered.
Carol Morley, a Guardian journalist, has created a film about Joyce Vincent and her strange, sad death. What adds to the baffling nature of this case is that all the colleagues, friends and previous boyfriends that Morley tracked down describe Vincent as lively, beautiful, talented and popular. Some of them had spoken to her in the year prior to her death, but were always too busy to meet up. All of them were bewildered as to how Vincent could have come to be so cut off.
This story, although deeply disturbing in its own right, also resonated with a larger fear of mine; that of isolation. When I first acknowledged my depression, all my relationships were suddenly strained. Simple exchanges became distressing as I dreaded the revelation of the truth. As the months went by, fear turned to loathing. I was annoyed by everyone. Their loud, overbearing enthusiasm for everything; their insipid, repetitious discussions about topical issues; their false and fetid “sympathy”.
To add insult to injured communication, I was conscious that I was being difficult too. In company, if I was not being brusquely demanding, I was evidently bored, and sarcastic too. I never replied by phone or email anymore, but if people didn’t reply to me, I would be irate and unreasonable. Nothing could please me.
But trying though all these pitfalls were (and still are), I have had to grit my teeth and remember that these irksome, forgetful and frustrating people that talk to me are worth putting up with, if only for the moment of laughter I might be surprised with in their company, or if only to be able to have a number to ring instead of tying a noose. Communication is embarrassing, burdensome and costly. But the alternative might be worse than you think.
And if you’ve got a dull, difficult, and self-contradicting acquaintance, make sure you put in the effort every once in a while. You don’t know the weight of life you carry.
Carol Morley’s film is called “Dreams of a Life.” You can read a more in-depth article about her exploration here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/09/joyce-vincent-death-mystery-documentary