A number of years ago now when I wrote the Depression blogs I was asked to write a third part in the series. As it was on a rather heavier subject, I did the adult thing and hid away from it! But one can’t run away from things forever, and if it can help even just one person, then I guess it is worth it. So here is the warning that the following contains talk of that most hideous side effect of clinical depression – suicide.
Mentioned up front.
You see, people get the wrong idea about suicide. Time and again, somebody famous dies that way, causing a lot of arm wringing in the press, and you can see thousands of comments on social media about how selfish it is. “They didn’t think about all their loved ones!” “Its the cowards way out!” “I can’t see how rationally you could so such a thing.”
Well, fucking duh!
Trouble is, people look on the subject from their own privileged perspective of having a completely fine and working brain. It’s not rational, because of course it isn’t bloody rational! But here’s the thing, things which seem irrational seem rational in the diseased mind. That’s why its called mental illness. It doesn’t make someone all warped for the hell of it, it warps reality to a way which makes the insane seem rational to the mentally ill. Trying to understand it through the prism of choice is to entirely misconstrue the whole thing.
Which is not to say there aren’t some rational people who decide to off themselves. I doubt its many, because the whole concept involves a deal of irrationality (your mind calmly deciding things would be better off without you existing), but it would be binary in the extreme to claim it doesn’t happen. So I say that as a disclaimer. But, if so, its certainly in the smallest possible minority.
Now, I talk from experience here, but I can only talk of my own experience. These things are unique to each person, and whilst they chime with others, some might have entirely different aspects.
Yes, I have tried to kill myself in the past. But I haven’t in nine years (and counting), and by hook or by crook, am still here.
So, let’s go down memory lane.
It was Christmas 2005. I lived with Shim and his then girlfriend in our two bedroom flat in Maryhill. Actually, moving out of my mums house was one of the things that wasn’t a catalyst – it gave me a chance to gain, in time, a slight independent streak. I had already failed the essay which wound up in me having to repeat second year of university. (Damn you James Joyce!) Unbeknownest to me at the time, I had had a mini-breakdown, which wasn’t diagnosed until the new year. There was also an event I don’t wish to discuss (as it would break a confidence while the people are alive) which scarred me somewhat, as well as my having been heavily involved with dealing with the breakup of a friends abusive relationship. And, to the delight of any passing Freudians, there was the sexual aspect: a passing chance of a gay romance which I instinctively ran from, and completely missed the window of opportunity on. So it goes, and it would have been messy, what with meeting my wife a few months down the line, but one lacked omnipotence of that fact in December 2005!
So I was out with friends, and everything seemed to go well. Then we were at a pals house, and slowly, things started to turn. The walls of darkness, if you will. The demons began to speak. I wound up left alone. And so, instictvely, one began to look around. Nothing sharp, no paracetomol. Bloody hell, didn’t they keep anything useful? All they had was the 2 bottles of Southern Comfort, one of Jaegermiester, some Jack Daniels and a good few other things. And so I elected to drink as much of it in one go. And in one go, I mean...in five minutes.
One thing I do recall is the life lesson, that if you drink a entire 1.75l bottle of Southern Comfort right at once, it goes right to your head and the room gets a bit psychedelically. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
I was rather instantenously drunk, and hideously ill, and content in the knowledge that it would soon be over. I knew this as I had, in a matter of curiosity which came to mind at that moment, read about how much units are needed for...well, you know.
My friends, thinking I was drunk over the course of the night, dragged me home. Shim could hear me trying to lock the door for a good five minutes before he got up, and practically dragged me to my bed. Suddenly I was up again, in the loo, for a good hour. Puking.
The puking continued all the next day. I felt better, less suicidal, I mean, but ill as hell. Also...not dead. I spoke to a Doctor friend, told them about the level of intake, and watched their face light up in horror and demand I went to a hospital immediately. I didn’t go, I remembered my dad’s words, about the people who’d taken aspirin overdoses, felt fine after, but then it kicked in a few weeks later and they were doomed. I felt myself to be of a similar state, and decided to take the consequences with good humour. I felt as though I deserved it.
More puking. I wrote a suicide note absolving Shim of any blame in my imminent death, which I then hid, forgot about, and he found over a year later when I’d left! This was another example of me trying to be kind and considerate, and due to irrationality, actually freaking people the fuck out. So it goes.
Come the New Year, Shim noticed I was mysteriously teetotal at the bells, but said little – probably as everyone else was too drunk to notice! I couldn’t face any more booze, in fact, I let Iain drink the rest of my Jack Daniels supply (which at the time, was akin to David Cameron visiting a foodbank).
I also began to notice I wasn’t yet dead.
But I did feel ill.
So, 2006, January, claims of unwellness, blood tests at the doctors. Came back in reasonable health. Just the black dog to deal with, and my first run of CBT.
I wish I could bullshit you all with a grandiose tale of how I survived. I haven’t a clue. I put it down to one of three options.
1) Because the Southern Comfort goes to your head too quickly, while I assumed I had taken a safely fatal amount, I was actually under.
2) The vast amount of vomit puked up the fatal amount, so I just had “drank too much” ills rather than “going to die” ills.
3) Dumb luck.
With all my memories (and the testimonies of others) to hand, 2 and 3 seem like a combination of the likely answer.
And if there are holes there, so be it. I can only tell it exactly as I remember it, and, as you can see, my narration is stimmied in parts by the irrationality of my brain at that time.
This goes to show why I dislike the whole “cool failed suicide” celebrity culture. Nobody is a culture icon because of a failed suicide attempt in their history. Don’t be fucking stupid. It’s not cool and its not fashionable.
So, with that, lets get to the heart of the manner.
At no point in that time was I acting in anything remotely close to what I’d call a rational manner. It was, like another mind had overtaken me for the period. A symbiotic possession due to being worn down by its relentless attacks, perhaps, but so it goes.
But that was the prolonged attack.
This demon has other guises.
The prolonged attack is the easier (for ME) to fight against. It is a slow building and long lasting one, so the sin of omission can work against it. Do nothing, then you still breathe and it passes!
The more dangerous one is the impulsive one.
It’s like, when you are at a railway station, and the train is rolling into the station, and then there’s that trigger impulse in your mind: “Jump”! It comes out of nowhere, it passes in seconds, but you have to be really on guard against its possibility, else you might well act on it before you even realised what you did. In railway stations, I always stand as far back from the edge of the platform as possible, and on the underground, hook my arm around the platform seat. For safety. Because, you know, one day by the time you realise its happened, yer dead.
Similarly when walking over one of the bridges on the Clyde, its like a Siren call. You have to look ahead, and keep walking. The water is alluring in its call to the demons.
I counter the longer lasting one by distraction. DVDs, lying in bed, etc. Anything to make one forget. And the shorter one by screaming internally and counting to ten. I wouldn’t say its a foolproof plan to deal with these things, but then, I haven’t died yet.
But what I would say is that when either arrives (either the after of the quick, or the current of the longer one) talk to someone. When I was sixteen, and when I was at uni, I didn’t. Even though I had a lot of understanding people who could help. You lose yourself within the myriad of the mental. It blocks you from common pursuit.
But in 2010, when I took badly ill again (well, took is the wrong word, as I was permanently ill with some good and bad times, but you know what I mean), I decided to do something I’d never done before. I told someone.
Within minutes, Mandy was arranging the help I couldn’t arrange for myself.
And nearly five years on, I’m still a hideously ailing person in the mind, but also, I’m not yet dead.
So really, don’t hide away. Talk. People don’t ignore these things.
But rationality doesn’t come into these actions. So next time another Robin Williams style tragedy happens, less of the “selfish” talk. All that does is act as confirmation bias for the next tragedy.
Instead, keep breathing. And talk.