By Dan Higgins
I met Pamela Skjolsvik (it’s pronounced SHOLES-vick) in graduate school eight years ago. She was writing about death. I was writing about a missing boy who was presumed dead. So we had gloomy subject matter in common. I remember her from those days as a quiet woman who may have possibly been in a perpetual bad mood.
That’s not to say she was unpleasant. She was slyly funny. We were part of the same group who joked and decompressed over cocktails and cigarettes (hers — I had finally managed to quit by this time and resisted temptation). But I always got the feeling that something was troubling her. I read it as a constant level of annoyance. Over the years we remained Facebook friends, “liked” pictures of each others’ kids and wished each other Happy Birthday.
When I finally read her book, the slyly funny and moving Death Becomes Us, I learned the truth. She wasn’t annoyed, she was anxious. She was uncomfortable around people, even people she liked. She had social anxiety, to the extent that it affected her interactions with people on a regular basis.