In 2013, Megan Boyle no longer felt like the author of the story of her life. It seemed crucial that she hold herself accountable to an audience outside the diminishing number of players in her social sphere and her increasingly unreliable inner world. From March 17 to September 1, she maintained a liveblog of what happened after the decision to share everything on the internet, and over nearly six months and four hundred thousand words, she grew more instead of less depressed. The blog posts were later collected into a book, Liveblog, published by Tyrant Books in 2018. SWIM conducted this interview near the end of her project.
—SWIM (Someone Who Isn’t/Is Me)
SWIM: Hi, Megan. Thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with an anonymous person for The Believer. Due to some technicalities, I can’t disclose my identity.
MEGAN 2013: no problem. this sounds exciting. mysterious. i feel like it’ll motivate me to be more honest with my responses.
SWIM: I remember in April, you wrote on your liveblog that you were receiving more contact from strangers than from friends. Do you want to comment on that?
M2013: sure. i feel most comfortable when i’m typing, and least comfortable when i’m typing to a specific person who knows me. there are expectations or something, when people know me. lately i’m feeling like there are expectations with liveblogging, too, like, regarding both myself and the strangers reading it.
SWIM: I’ve been following your liveblog project rather closely over these past five months. Actually, I’d wager that I’m your closest reader (which probably makes you feel uncomfortable; no need to respond to this). I’ve noticed you recently stopped updating. Why don’t we start with that—where are you right now? What’s going on?
M2013: i’m in my apartment in rockaway park. it’s august 16, 2013. a few days ago i visited my friend in rhode island and i haven’t felt like updating since. knowing you think of yourself as my “closest reader” makes me uncomfortable, yeah. it makes me want to urge you to reconsider your values/preferences. i don’t think that’s rational, though, and i hope you don’t take it personally. i’m interested in not feeling that anymore. i’m interested in not feeling many things anymore, but i don’t know what else to feel. i’ve been lower than normal lately, and embarrassed for still not knowing how to get myself out of this situation.
SWIM: That’s why you started liveblogging, right? To stop feeling depressed?
M2013: that was part of it, yeah.
SWIM: Do you ever think about stopping permanently?
M2013: i mean, i’ll eventually die, so i’ll stop then.
SWIM: So you’re really going to do this for your entire life?
M2013: that idea is the only thing keeping me going right now. yeah. that’s the only reason i’m still doing it.
SWIM: I’ve noticed that on your ask.fm account, you don’t receive many questions about the future. Thinking about the future tends to help me. Let’s start small—what are you planning to do tomorrow?
M2013: uh. i’m not… really… planning anything for tomorrow. i’ve been watching the office in my room the past few days. i’m taking a break from making to-do lists today. it feels futile. sometimes i need to just give myself a break.
SWIM: Sure, breaks are important. When do you plan on resuming planning?
M2013: haha. i don’t know. i don’t think anyone has ever asked me that. thank you, that seems helpful. but i’ve kind of lost… something important… i don’t trust myself anymore, so it feels like whatever i tell you will be a lie.
SWIM: Megan, to be honest—I’ve thought this a lot, throughout your project—it seems like no one has ever been stern with you in a loving way. As a result, you’ve apotheosized the concept of discipline, which impels you to take breaks like the one you’re currently taking, where you stop making plans. I’m struck by certain questions you ask your readers: “Can someone follow me around and tell me what to do?”; “Can someone diagnose me?” I think these are serious inquiries, but you’re aware of the impossibility of someone else solving your problems, so you deflect them with humor. Is this accurate?
M2013: shit. wow. yeah, i feel like nobody takes me seriously.
SWIM: I take you seriously.
SWIM: The seriousness behind these questions worries me, because it seems like you’re missing a critical point. In its introduction, you describe your liveblog project as “a functional thing that will hopefully help me feel more like improving myself,” to a readership whose interest you will not, in so many words, consider entertaining. Maybe soliciting the world for answers to the “problem of you” is the problem. What if someone had those answers? What if someone said, “Yes, I’ll follow you around and tell you what to do”?
M2013: the kind of person who would want to do that… i wouldn’t have much in common with them, i don’t think. so it would be hard to think they’d have my best interests in mind. i wouldn’t want to do what they told me to do.
SWIM: I want to help you, Megan. But you need to help yourself. You need to learn how to have realistic plans and expectations.
SWIM: How does that make you feel?
M2013: i feel childishly angry at you for telling me what i “need” to do, but also that you’re correct.
SWIM: Where do you see yourself in five years?
SWIM: Will you still be liveblogging in five years?
M2013: i don’t know. no. probably not.
SWIM: What will you be doing?
M2013: i don’t know how to answer that.
SWIM: Why not?
M2013: i lied. i know how to answer that. i feel like you understand something about me, and might not think my answer is dramatic, but people reading this interview will probably think it’s dramatic. jeez, i hate how i’m sounding right now…
SWIM: Can you stop worrying about what people will think about you for a moment? Do you agree that it doesn’t help to hate how you sound?
M2013: haha, yeah. yeah. that’s right, i don’t care what people think. you remind me of my mom, kind of, right now. but when she says stuff like that i just feel sad, because i don’t know how to stop hating myself.
SWIM: What if you stopped hating yourself? What would that feel like?
M2013: i don’t know.
SWIM: Try to picture it: a Megan Who Doesn’t Hate Herself.
M2013: i guess… i’d have an idea of what i wanted, long-term. i’d have a job and a boyfriend and friends and maybe a dog or something. people like that always have dogs. maybe i’d finish college. i probably wouldn’t do drugs or drink anymore. but that seems, like, impossible.
SWIM: Can you picture yourself in five years?
SWIM: Where will you be?
M2013: this is the thing that sounds dramatic.
SWIM: Why does it sound dramatic?
M2013: it’s… a feeling. a very bad feeling.
SWIM: Would it help to not think of your deeply troubling feelings as “dramatic”? I think you know people reading this interview and your liveblog think much more about their own lives than yours. You are your own harshest critic; you even say that in your liveblog.
M2013: i know.
SWIM: What did you do the night of June 10?
M2013: was that my “extreme” update…
M2013: i ate a handful of ambien and xanax and i think some opiates. i was drunk. then i made myself vomit everything.
SWIM: Did you really want to die?
M2013: no… obviously. i wanted to at the time, though. i wasn’t angry. i just didn’t feel like i had enough whatever in me to continue on for another day. that really was a “reality check.” like, i don’t want to write about trying to kill myself, because it sounds dramatic, so i haven’t tried to do it again. not writing about it is helping me not do it, actually.
SWIM: It seems like there is so much pressure on you to not sound dramatic. What are the consequences of sounding dramatic?
M2013: i just think people sound attention-seeking when they talk about suicidal thoughts. i already allude to mine too much. i feel like it’s obvious. that’s why it’s getting difficult to update. people who have attempted suicide aren’t seen in a very favorable light (and i need as much favorable light as i can get, haha!).
SWIM: And that light—why can’t it shine from an internal source?
M2013: oh, jeez, are you for real? “shine”? uh. i think you know what i mean. it’s not that kind of light. but, also… light doesn’t pass through atoms. my high school physics teacher said spontaneous combustion is theoretically possible, if light hits one of your atoms the wrong way.
SWIM: Do you think atoms are all you are?
M2013: well, and the space between them. technically.
SWIM: According to what technician?
M2013: scientists, i guess.
SWIM: Maybe you need a reason for existing, Megan—one that isn’t just inherently existing. Have you ever considered that?
M2013: of course i have. that’s why i’m liveblogging. it’s my reason right now. my experiment within the experiment.
SWIM: But you’re losing enthusiasm.
M2013: i guess that’s what happens when your experiment is based on a joke premise.
SWIM: Your life is a joke?
M2013: yeah, sort of. don’t you think it’s funny?
SWIM: I think you’re very funny. You’re one of the funniest people I know.
M2013: you don’t know me, though.
SWIM: Maybe not, but I feel like I know you very well.
M2013: i hate that my writing makes people think that.
M2013: it’s alienating. all of these well-adjusted or, like, just not-even-as-fucked-up-as-me people (or people more fucked-up than me) feel like they know me or something. but no one makes an effort to really get to know me. i’m the only one who cares about me, and i barely care anymore. like i said, there are expectations when people know you. i have expectations for myself and i disappoint myself every day.
SWIM: It seems like you’ve thought yourself into a corner here.
M2013: yeah. corners are secure. can’t have rooms without ’em. i always put my bed in a corner.
SWIM: So you’ve decided to stop writing about wanting to die, but it sounds like you still have deathward urges. Is this accurate?
M2013: listen to you, “deathward”…
SWIM: Well, this is The Believer.
M2013: sure, haha.
SWIM: I like talking to you, Megan.
SWIM: Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
SWIM: Does my question about deathward urges make you feel uncomfortable?
M2013: yes. i’m interested in the discomfort, but could we talk about something else? just having a bad day/don’t feel like pushing myself right now.
SWIM: Well, how about something related, then? You said you don’t see yourself liveblogging in five years, but you’re going to do it for the rest of your life. How long do you think that will be?
M2013: i don’t… know…
SWIM: Do you have a plan for your exit?
M2013: yes. i don’t want to tell you, if that’s OK. it’s just something i know i’m going to do soon. i know you’re probably going to try to talk me out of it, which is why i don’t tell people about it. but i’ve made up my mind.
SWIM: I wish that wasn’t the case. I won’t try to talk you out of it.
M2013: thank you.
SWIM: It feels good to plan, doesn’t it?
M2013: yeah… some plans feel reassuring. the plans you can count on.
Sun., Sep. 15, 2013, 11:01 p.m.
to Megan Boyle
This is the “anonymous person” from The Believer, seeing if you’d be down for another installment of our interview.
I noticed it’s been a couple weeks since your last liveblog update. I should’ve mentioned in our original correspondence that the interview isn’t necessarily contingent on your liveblog project continuing. In fact, it seems good that you stopped, at least for a while. Based on our last conversation, I’m a bit concerned. It would be great to hear back from you soon.
Let me know if you’d like to continue.
Fri., Sep. 27, 2013, 8:48 p.m.
hi hi sorry, just got your email. i haven’t had internet access for the past couple weeks. i’m down to do another installment. will be on gchat tonight, if you’re free.
SWIM: Hi, Megan. Is this a good time?
M2013: yeah, but i might not be able to talk for long.
SWIM: That’s OK. I just wanted to get a quick update from you. Where are you? What’s going on?
M2013: i’m at my mom’s apartment. i had so many emails when i got back, i forgot what the internet was like. it was kind of nice.
SWIM: Did you take a vacation?
M2013: not exactly, haha. i’ve been in a psych ward. er, two, i guess.
SWIM: Is that why you stopped liveblogging?
M2013: kind of… wait, i don’t know. my memory is really weird.
SWIM: Your last liveblog update was September 1, 2013. Do you remember what you did after that?
M2013: not all of it. i know i was admitted to harlem hospital september 13 and i was admitted to the hospital in maryland september 17, because i had to sign some papers.
SWIM: What happened September 13?
M2013: i got arrested for driving with a suspended license and spent a day in a holding cell in chinatown. i guess that was the twelfth, actually, because mine was the last case heard that day, and i got out after midnight. it seemed like a good time to end it. i’d been bingeing on uppers with my friend. but i also felt terrible that day. i bought a six-pack and three bottles of what i think was store-brand unisom. oh, and a blt. it’s my favorite sandwich. so i sat on a curb and drank the beer and ate the blt and two bottles of pills. i was fading out and i guess the street started seeming like a bad place to die. i called the friend i’d been bingeing with and got in a cab to his place. he said i was like, “let me die here. this is the last place i was happy,” and i got in his bathtub and swallowed the third bottle. then i guess i started having seizures and he called an ambulance. i was in a coma for three or something days. then my parents made me go to the other hospital. now i’m here.
SWIM: Was that your “plan”?
M2013: yeah. it was stupid. i thought the only reason people don’t die from overdoses is because they don’t eat enough pills. whoops.
SWIM: Do you still want to die?
M2013: no. i don’t remember wanting to die. i mean, obviously, i did stuff to make it happen. i just don’t remember how it felt to want to die. i know i had been writing a lot but i don’t remember what it felt like to want to write. i tried to write in the hospital but it felt so bad. or i didn’t care about what i was writing, which i knew should feel bad, because writing was something i remembered caring about for maybe years. ever since i woke, everyone but my friend has just been treating me like an insane person who wants to die. so i had to pretend they were right, until they’d let me out.
SWIM: What’s the plan now?
M2013: the plan?
SWIM: Yes, the plan—now that you’re out of the hospital, what will you do?
M2013: oh, uh… i… think i’m going back to new york, to hang out with my friend. my mom is really mad at me so i don’t want to be here for a while.
SWIM: This sounds so sad and intense, Megan. I’m sorry you went through that.
M2013: don’t… apologize…
SWIM: What do you mean?
M2013: “i’m sorry you went through that.” like, what does that mean… how can you be sorry for something you didn’t do…
SWIM: I just want you to know you’re not alone.
M2013: lol thanks cool platitudes man.
SWIM: I encourage you to be open to the idea that these may not be platitudes. Is there something you could do today to at least feel a little better? After so many “today”s you’ll be five years in the future.
M2013: i never said i felt bad. you sound like the hospital people. nobody asks how you feel at the hospital. they just “know” how you feel.
SWIM: I’m sorry. I made an assumption. How are you feeling?
[Megan has signed out of Gchat.]
Thu., Jan. 10, 2019, 1:38 p.m.
to Megan Boyle
Hey Megan 2024,
I’m interviewing Megan 2013 for The Believer. It’s kind of a bummer. I can’t tell her who I am, because that would, like, “influence things,” but all I want to do is help her. Even though she’s also… kind of a jerk. Wow, can’t believe we got out of that! Hoo. Well, I think since you’re basically “anonymous” to me, I could interview you instead. Or maybe you could interview me. Would you be down?
Whoa, from your perspective, we’ve already either interviewed or not interviewed each other… Is this email even possible?
Haha, okay, feeling a little nuts. Hit me back, girl.
Wed., Jan. 10, 2024, 3:34 p.m.
to Megan Boyle
I think in a day or two (my time) we will have already done the interview. I’m pretty on top of things now. It’d be better if I mostly asked you questions, because I know what your next five years are like, and if you asked me, that would “influence things” for you.
MEGAN 2024: Hello, Megan. It was good to hear from you. I’ve just read your interview with Megan 2013. I’m glad you’re starting to reach out to her.
MEGAN 2019: Oh, so… you guys are in contact?
M2024: As much as time permits us. We were very much in her mind as she was liveblogging. Do you know that?
M2019: Like when she’d write about the “phantom limb of some happy future that could’ve been if only not for her”? We’re the phantom limb, but real? Or, no, we’re what she thought she could’ve been if only not…?
M2024: Something like that. I’ll be frank with you, Megan: I understand it’s important for you to separate yourself from Megan 2013—and maybe gain my favor by calling her a jerk—but it’s more important to see the similarities that exist in all of us. Do you see yourself as very different from Megan 2013?
M2019: In some ways. There was a lot of pressure to fix myself before Liveblog was published. I’m sober, I graduated college, I think more practically about Megan 2024, I don’t want to die, and I don’t think that stuff about atoms being all I am anymore (which I don’t even think Megan 2013 truly thought). But I really like her book. I guess I’m jealous of her, because she wrote this cool book I never could have written. She was so crazy, but she was so brave.
M2024: Our book, not her book.
M2024: Why do you want to call her “crazy”?
M2019: I think it’s a combination of wanting to appear saner than her and feeling angry at her for acting so carelessly. She hurt people she loved. Maybe her life didn’t matter to her, but it does to me.
M2024: Does it? Do you value the life of a “crazy” person who you feel pressured to “fix”?
M2019: Well, yes and no. I view myself as the source of my problems.
M2024: Is this something Megan 2013 would say about herself?
M2019: Oh, I see.
M2024: What is the source of your problems?
M2019: There’s no single source. I mean, my perception of “problems” is sourced from myself, but my existence in itself isn’t problematic. I do still struggle with behaving in ways that… I’m not particularly proud of behaving.
M2024: That’s fine. There’s no rule that says you must act in ways that make you proud all the time, you know.
M2019: Oh, I know, but lately social media is so dogmat—
M2024: There’s also no rule that says you’ll never hurt someone you love again, no rule that says once you’re sober you’ll always be sober, and definitely no rule that says sobriety will “absolve” you from anything more than a chemically altered state of mind. It will not make you a “good person”; you will need to define what that is and do the work yourself. You are both good and evil, little Megan 2019, but, more important, you’re everything in between and sideways and as yet unknown.
M2019: You interrupted me…
M2024: I’m modeling a healthy behavior for you. Now would be a good time to start interrupting your tendency to preemptively alienate yourself by attributing anything of value to whatever dogma pervades social media. You exist. This requires no proof. You need not rate yourself.
M2019: That’s interesting. I try not to interrupt anyone…
M2024: Yes. Another thing I suggest you drop is this “Do I dare disturb the universe” bit.
M2019: I know, I know.
M2024: How are you feeling about this conversation?
M2019: I started feeling a little inhibited when you interrupted me. I like that you interrupted me. I restrained myself from interrupting Megan 2013, because she seemed impossible, so you must not think I’m impossible. That’s hopeful.
M2024: Did you feel bossed around, like I was “telling you what to do”?
M2019: No. I agree with everything you said. It’s just a lot to take in. I’m a little afraid of you.
M2024: Why is that?
M2019: Because I thought “fixing” Megan 2013 was something I needed to do if I was to survive. She did not seem to have my best interests in mind.
M2024: Didn’t she? If she hadn’t so meticulously documented her pain, would you have any reason to learn from it?
M2019: She didn’t meticulously document those parts, though.
M2024: Well, give her some credit. Negative space in a document is still part of that document. Maybe you could start filling in those holes for her (not necessarily literally). That was something she was too afraid to do, but you’re in a different place. Her fear was in the service of preserving her life, at the time. It’s important to honor that. What if the worst thing she did was simply failing to admit she was suffering so much that she wanted to die?
M2019: I see what you’re saying. I guess I’m a little hard on her, yeah. I’m proud of her for sticking with it for as long as she did.
M2024: These are just things to consider—suggestions, not orders. It’s also smart to be critical of her actions, because you decided you want to avoid them in the future. Just give her the benefit of the doubt. That’s what you would want, isn’t it?
M2019: Sure. I mean, really all I’ve ever wanted is a hot b.o.d. (benefit of the doubt).
M2024: Glad to see you lightening up. You’ll do that more.
M2019: Oh, good. Hey, so I know you said it’d be better if you asked the questions, but I have a pressing issue. Do things turn out for us? Like, are you happy? (Feel free to not answer, if it’d mess with the fabric of space-time or something.)
M2024: I’m doing fine. You’ll experience some setbacks, but nothing out of the ordinary. It takes you a few years to stop viewing your problems as “special things” existing on some aberrant course of human development, which I know you’re already embarrassed you still do. But I’m glad you’re no longer beating yourself up about it.
M2019: Yeah, I stopped doing that last year.
M2024: Are you happy?
M2019: I’m feeling about 74 percent good today. Feeling better after making a list of problems I want to work on. I didn’t sleep well last night. That was number one on my list: “sleep schedule.”
M2024: And what are you going to do about it?
M2019: Take melatonin one hour earlier tonight. That’s something Megan 2013 would say she would do and wouldn’t. I know you guys are on good terms and all, but do you ever read Liveblog and, like, yell at her, for just not being a close reader? Like, she’d say, “MY NUMBER ONE TASK IS TO SLEEP BEFORE 4 a.m.” or something and just continue writing, “4:38 a.m.: [update]; 5:12 a.m.: [update]; 7:56 a.m.: [update];” etc.; for forty-eight hours?
M2024: No, I don’t yell. She was having fun.
M2019: It certainly didn’t seem like it.
M2024: She liked how funny and purposeful she felt. Her life had been lacking those feelings.
M2019: Yeah, but… there are better ways…
M2024: Like what?
M2019: Something like integrating daily activities that create little manageable bursts of that feeling. I worry that I can feel like that only when I’m hyperextending myself, which I now label as “bad thing to do: scary, avoid.” Which is part of why I avoid writing.
M2024: Do you miss writing?
M2019: Yeah. I like writing to you now, though. I feel a little bit of that feeling. That’s why I was awake until 4 a.m. last night, actually. I was enjoying writing this, without drugs.
M2024: That’s an accomplishment. You can write to me anytime, you know, not just for The Believer. I like hearing from you. Don’t you like to go back and read those things you wrote in childhood to your future selves?
M2019: I love it.
M2019: What else do you talk about when you talk to Megan 2013?
M2024: I can’t really say much. She wasn’t open to us existing, so there’s a kind of wall. It saddens me. I just see those little glimpses of her thoughts of the future and try to send her love.
M2019: Wow, you really do sound like Mom. How is Mom?
M2024: That’s one of those things that, to tell you, would “mess with the fabric,” as you said.
M2019: Are you a mom?
M2024: I am to all of us.