One aspect of suicide is rarely, if ever, talked about: the “eternal morning after” of the failed suicide.
I am, it seems, utterly hopeless at dying. Four failed suicide attempts, that I remember, from the age of 14.
Although I haven’t attempted suicide recently, I live with a background desire to die. My life has become that eternal morning after – the morning you wake up in, even though all your plans were otherwise.
So far, I haven’t had any road-to-Damascus revelations on why I’m apparently not allowed to die. Nor have I fallen into the sullen hatred of a life I want to leave.
I live in a grey zone, a zone where nothing is definite or defined. I don’t want to be alive, but I don’t want to die badly enough, at the moment, to act on that not-wanting-to-be-alive. Life hasn’t got much brighter or better, but I’ve started to care less about still being a part of it. Perhaps that’s a kind of slow dying – suicide at glacial speed.
Of course, there are things that bring me pleasure – lasting pleasure as well as passing pleasure. There are things I look forward to, things I remember fondly.
None of this takes away that desire to die, that sense that life will never have any real relevance for me.
Mainly, my reasons for suicide, such as anyone has reasons, are financial – I’m trying to get a business off the ground, having failed in previous businesses, mainly because I appear to have been born without the ability to make people like me. I’m unable to pursue a lot of jobs because I’m unable to drive – medically banned. I’ll never get a driving licence, which, in my part of the UK, automatically makes me a second class citizen in the eyes of many employers, especially as I can’t afford to live in our main city. I have a wife with complex health issues whom I fear I’m letting down. I’m trying to run a house on my own, with no outside support. I have nothing to sell, I will never be able to afford the kind of technology that means I can present an attractive, convincing account of myself, and persuade people I’m worth hiring. There’s things I want to do, places I want to go, that are closed to me because I can’t afford it, and don’t have anyone who is in a position to pay for me. I don’t even have a bank account, courtesy of not having photographic I.D, and paying my bills by pre-payment, so not having a utility bill, either.
Sometimes, my schizophrenia has led me to attempt suicide – not because I was in a flare state, not because of the illness itself – but because it causes me to screw so much up for those people who, for whatever utterly incomprehensible reason, choose to throw in their lot with me.
Most recently, I came very, very close to suicide in the wake of the Brexit result – because, as someone without money, without strong support networks, without social standing, without “gainful employment” (you know, the kind that means you’re not going without things like hot water or a functional toilet, because you can afford to fix boilers and plumbing when they fail), as a member of a minority community, as someone with the kind of mental health issues that don’t get better, no matter how much Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or medication you throw at them, I was terrified of the country the winning side talked of “wanting back”: a country in which I was considered sub-human, a species of vermin, to be driven out – poisoned, if necessary. A country in which my human rights would be quietly forgotten about. A country in which my life could well end up being legislated against. A country where I faced the very real prospect of losing vital support – you know, the kind that means I can have internet access to look and apply for jobs, to promote my own work. The kind that means I can afford the ever-increasing bus fare to get to places where employers bother to set up, which are never the places where I can afford to live. I’m talking about money – I’d already lost the mental health support. Britain doesn’t see itself as a country that needs public healthcare – mindfulness and positive thinking are, apparently, going to cure everything, and the seriously ill, the lifelong disabled, just need to be exposed to more motivational speakers.
That, as you can see from the fact that I’m writing this, passed: I’m still terrified, especially as I see hatred and intolerance of all kinds rising all around, and people becoming less and less bothered about it, but I’ve pretty much settled on the idea that I’ll carry on living out of spite for those who call me vermin, scum, a loser.
Wanting to die in a quiet way, not badly enough to act on the desire, is something you get used to – it feels as though there’s a gauze curtain between you and the rest of the world – you can see them, they can see you, you can interact just fine, but you can’t ever really connect. You have your side of the curtain, they have theirs, and both are a little distorted to someone peering in from the other side.
Waking up when all your efforts were directed towards not doing so is…amusing, actually. You end up laughing, a little hysterically, as you send texts to everyone you might’ve texted a goodbye to, not mentioning the “S” word, of course – you tell them you were drunk. Anything but admit you tried to off yourself, and couldn’t even get that right. You rush around the house, frantically trying to remember where you left the suicide note that, clearly, no-one has read. Tidying up. Washing the blood out of furniture and furnishings, air-freshenering away, or trying to, the stench of vomit. Going out to buy more aspirin, as you try and remember exactly how many had already been used.
Or coming to in hospital – recognising that smell, seeing the strangers’ eyes, compassion battling contempt, like you’re a young rat soaked to the skin in a downpour – cute, but still vermin. You want to laugh, because you know people only hate rats because of misconceptions about how they carry disease. The domestic ones are cleaner than most dogs, and just as intelligent. You don’t listen to their questions, because the questions are wrong – they’re all about how you were feeling before, rather than how you’re feeling now, all why didn’t you talk to someone, rather than why did no one ever really listen to you, all here’s-how-you-can-stop-this-happening-again, rather than here’s-how-I-can-stop-the-situation-you’re-still-in. It’s all pills and potions and pontificating, all personal stories and purple prose – because that’s all it ever can be. They’re not allowed to actually help you, not in any practical sense, and that’s what’s so ridiculous – they think you tried to kill yourself because of imagined stress, rather than the very real stress you’re going to walk right back into as soon as they kick you out of here, not even really caring how you’ll get home.
There’s nothing more lonely than a bus ride home in the first dawn of that eternal morning after.
I have never tried to kill myself out of spite or selfishness – well, perhaps selfishness in the way we all pursue what we want at the expense of others: the “perfect” job applicant, over the competent person who isn’t perfect, but is good enough, and genuinely needs the job. The opportunity to throw our bag on the seat next to us on the bus, rather than acknowledge that another human being has more need of somewhere to sit than an inanimate carrier of our crap. Having loud phone conversations in public, because our lives are so important they simply must be conveyed to everyone around us. Moaning about “the friend zone”, because how dare we be made to waste energy being decent human beings if we don’t get sex as payback?
I have never tried to kill myself “because the voices told me to” – some of my voices do tell me to, but most of them would rather I didn’t – they’re afraid of what will happen to them if I die.
I have never tried to kill myself because life seemed utterly hopeless, but, rather, because hope was visible, but out of reach, and I couldn’t make those who could reach the hope easily understand why I couldn’t.
I am not every failed suicide. But I am one of the many.
I am suicidal, but not likely to die. I am tired – exhausted – yet still awake. I am broken, and, somehow, still functional, or something close to functional, at least. I am lonely, even though I’m not alone.
The shades of grey of the eternal morning after are my wilderness. And this is my voice, calling in that wilderness.