The Eternal Morning After

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.

Isolating Stereotypes

The image that springs to mind when you talk about “social isolation” is someone living in a rural village, without transport, unable to get to the bright lights and social whirl of the big city.  Perhaps they are also elderly, and not skilled in the use of the internet for social media purposes. Perhaps their broadband is “too slow” for such things, or they have sporadic network coverage.

But social isolation exists just as much – perhaps more so – in cities as it does in rural areas. Those without a lot of spare cash often find themselves isolated, because city prices for food, entertainment, etc, are often quite high – and people in cities tend to be more insistent on “going out somewhere” than on “just being.”  Those with chronic health issues, especially mental health issues, but any health condition that means that individual isn’t always well enough to manage lots of people, lots of noise, and being out and about for long periods, can also become isolated.

And, where social isolation exists in rural communities, it is often less a facet of rurality, and more to do with the attitudes of people.

I have lived in rural villages, and I live now in an urban coastal town. I have spent time in a city – when I was working, I worked in the city.   I was least isolated when I lived in villages, even though, being unable to drive, I was often unable to see people, or get to events, etc.

Here are a few of the complaints about rural areas from those who exercise themselves around the idea that “better links to cities will solve everything!”

.People in rural areas are so judgemental and stuck in their ways – No. They’re concerned that things that have been generations-long livelihoods, and which involve vital skills – the skills you’ll actually NEED if all technology one day fails – are being lost. They’re sick of seeing their villages become ghost towns, either dormitories for city workers, or second-home holiday havens.  They’re fed up of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, of having their accents and mannerisms and way of life mocked, as though they’re merely caricature cut-outs, rather than people with feelings.

.They don’t care about social justice! – They do. In a quiet way. A way that says “if everyone does, and gives, what they’re able, and people who have a bit more help those with less, everyone’ll be taken care of eventually.”

.It’s all about “how we’ve always done it” – Usually because individuals in rural areas know how best to do something. They know there’s no point building houses if you don’t first bring employers in – and they know that technology companies are far more vulnerable than the “boring, old-fashioned” industries, because what people expect technology to be, and what they expect it to do, moves on so quickly.  They look at the chaotic-seeming lives of young people, and see people without a sense of place, rootless people trying to grow into something enduring and eternal. And they know that’s not possible.

.But casual racism and “little England” mentality! – I’ve found that to be the case in urban areas far more than rural, to be fair.  Because, in rural areas, people from the next village are considered “strange”, someone with a different ethnicity really isn’t that shocking, in the grand scheme of things.

The issue isn’t “OMG, rural areas!” it’s the fact that the intelligent, fashionably socially aware individuals will run, headlong, from rural areas as soon as they can, arriving, breathless, in the city, falling (whether they can genuinely afford it or not) into its whirlpool of activity – ensuring that, yes, on the whole, the people left in the villages are those who are considered a bit “old fashioned” and “not quite nice.”  But, when you step back and watch, you see that a lot of the “compassion and concern” in city circles is only on the surface – it’s a tiny ripple in  an ocean of thoughtlessness, rudeness, and self-obsession: things which have no place in rural areas.

People in villages are often considered “rude”simply because they’re used to not wasting words – to city dwellers, words are tossed around like confetti at a wedding, usually to cover a lack of action. Discuss “issues” to death, and you won’t actually have to get off your backside and do anything about them – because you’re aware! You’re talking about these things! You’re having the conversations! Meanwhile, the villagers you mock and disdain are quietly, and without show, getting on and addressing the problems they see, and can do something about.  They don’t set up soup kitchens and run crowdfunding campaigns – they take vegetables from their garden to the house of the family they know are struggling. They don’t set up MeetUps for unemployed Millennials (or any other age group) – if they hear of a job going, they tell the people they know who’re unemployed. If they know a person well, they’ll “put a word in.”  They don’t feel the need to constantly host events – they chat to you when they see you in the pub.

No, people in rural areas don’t like people who seem superior, who “put on airs”, and who act like they know everything – rural villages have a genetic memory that goes back centuries, because, historically, they’ve always been very settled populations.  They’ve seen all the fads come and go, seen all the fine speakers come undone. They’ve seen the eternal return of the same, the coming round, in a cycle, of the old ways.

In focusing on “how to make cities more accessible”, you miss the fact that not everyone wants to be in a city. If someone has mental health issues which mean they find crowds and noise stressful, why should they “have to” go to support services, events, and “social initiatives” in places that deplete them of energy?  Why should people have to travel over an hour, in many cases, to get to a place of employment?

The focus shouldn’t be on “making cities more accessible” – it should be on remembering that cities aren’t the only part of a country. It should be on addressing the historical shoddy treatment of rural dwellers as a somewhat stupid breed, more like cattle than human beings, that can just be ordered, en masse, to wherever the factories or offices or tech hubs are, because “it’s a better life for them than their poxy villages.”

In the 1700s,. this attitude,and forced migration from villages to industrial centres caused a mass episode of alcoholism – the “Gin Craze.”  What form will its impact take in modern times?

Flowers From Burn Out

Apologies for the drought of posts recently – though I think the title of this post hints at the reason for that.

Living with a mental health condition is challenging. Sod that – it’s downright hard. Challenges are usually enjoyable, on some level, while you’re engaging with them, and provide you with the warm glow of achievement at the end.

Mental health issues in flare are hell while you’re going through them, and just leave you exhausted.

But burn out – whether thanks to pre-existing mental health issues or out of the blue – is kind of like a wildfire. It’s a shock when it happens, you worry about the damage it’s going to do…and then, when it’s over, and you’re looking at what’s left, you realise that, one day, there’s going to be new growth on that patch of land where, before, the old ground level growth was strangling everything. You see the layers of ash, and realise that the charcoal is going to provide valuable nutrients to the soil.

For me, the burn out came about as a combination of living with mental health issues, and thinking I had to be “normal” in every way – including putting my ambitions, self-employment wise, aside to get a full-time, “normal” job – any job, as long as it paid.

I couldn’t do that, it turned out. I can’t fake passion for something. I don’t really grasp social skills well enough to manage interviews. My self-esteem has been too brutalised for too long to be much good at selling Me,Inc. At the same time, I have no intention of “not doing anything” – I need activity, I need to feel that I’m being productive, I need a focus.

But my life, up to today, for the past few weeks, at the very least, has been nothing but dust and ashes.

Now, though, the green shoots are coming through – the green shoots of being awarded paid writing work, by people who don’t know me. The green shoots of having ideas for ways to expand Negative Is Also A Charge, and reach new, diverse audiences, who maybe wouldn’t respond to writing, and have no need for a public speaker.

I won’t “just forget about” traditional jobs – but I will focus on identifying and applying for those I’m actually interested in, that I could talk about with passion, and do with full commitment and attention, rather than with half a mind on when I could legitimately have my next cup of coffee.

And I also have a meeting scheduled on the 3rd September to discuss another, completely different, business concept, that I’ll need financing to bring to reality – a new vision for recruitment, where people, rather than positions, are what’s promoted, where the onus is on employers to make the effort and state their case, to prove their worth. Those looking to pursue self -employment will have access to mentors, retired professionals from a variety of sectors.

The UK welfare system for the unemployed and disabled needs to change, drastically – it needs to be understood that, rightly so, employers aren’t interested in someone who’s only applied for the job “because the Job Centre said I had to”. They want, and deserve, people who are genuinely passionate about what they do, whether that’s helping create a clean, welcoming environment, selling double glazing, serving fast food, or managing a FTSE 100 company. People looking for work need, and deserve, a job that utilises their existing skills, and helps them develop new ones – not one that has them doing “make work” eight hours a day, 5 days a week.

Our society deserves a workforce that is passionate, and engaged – thinking about how they can add value, not how they can slope off a few minutes early. All societies deserve this. When you have a passionate, engaged workforce, doing jobs that suit them, challenge them, and genuinely appreciate them, you have a stronger economy, because customers and clients have a better experience, and are therefore likely to spend more money.

I don’t just want to live in, and benefit from, such a society – I want to be part of building it.

 

Depression, or “Deep Rest Option”?

Depression isn’t glamorous.

Losing your temper with everyone and everything around you because you can barely think straight, realising you’re crying without knowing why, feeling the bubbles – hot and acrid, or ice-cold – of rage over who knows what overwhelming you, drowning you, isn’t glamorous.

Hating yourself, planning your death, isn’t glamorous.

Not showering for days at a time isn’t glamorous.

Barely remembering how to eat, because your hunger isn’t for food, isn’t glamorous.

Depression isn’t glamorous. But, sometimes, it’s what you need.

You need to be shut off from everything that had previously distracted you, made to focus on your pain, so that your brain is forced to focus on a solution to that pain.

Most of us go through life never knowing what it actually is that hurts – and yet it’s what hurts that, once we harness it and address it directly – is most likely to lead us to the life we want.

Few people ever got rich without solving a problem: depression forces you to focus solely on the problem, to live the problem – you just have to stay with it long enough for the immediate agony to pass, and the problem to become apparent.

If you have any other way of identifying the pain that will become your potential – take that way. Depression is a rough, half-forgotten path in country where you find yourself rapidly running out of oxygen, cut, bruised, and frequently lost. If you can find a paved road, clearly signposted – for the love of all, sacred and profane, take that road.

But, if it has to be depression, remember – sometimes, you’ve just been shunted on to the “deep rest option” of life, and, if you can survive it, something lasting will come of it.

It takes time – I’ve suffered from serious, debilitating depression for about half as long as I’ve been alive, and I’m only just beginning to glimpse the potential in the pain. Fifteen years on. A decade and a half, and a half dozen times I’ve nearly walked away.

It may take me another five years to fully grasp and begin to address the potential in the pain. It may take me another fifteen to realise my version of “success.”

I just have to hold on, and do all I can to make sure I have that time – I have to allow depression to be a “negative charge”, instead of just a negative.

 

A Bad Day, A Bad Life – Not A Bad Mindset

Imagine you go out one morning to drive to work, the same way you always do. You get in the car, key the ignition, and –

Nothing.

The engine’s not even turning over. Nothing’s happening.

You try it again, and again.

Still nothing.

What do you do?

Do you tell the car how grateful it should be, how there are hundreds of other cars that are never washed, never have a nice shiny new air freshener hung from their rear view mirrors? Do you remind it of the “luxury valet service” it had last month? Do you go on about how much money you’ve spent on it, how much you’re relying on it?

Do you call it lazy, selfish, negative – or do you call a mechanic, understanding that something’s wrong, and needs to be fixed?

Every car is a little different – my grandfather’s first car, for instance, didn’t do hills. My parents’ first car didn’t do puddles of more than two inches depth. Back before I was diagnosed with the health issue which means I can’t drive, the Micra I toyed around with had no concept of “reasonable steering”, and the handbrake never fully released.

But none of these cars had “anything wrong” with them – aside from their little quirks, they worked fine, passed MOTs, and gave good, if somewhat intermittent, service.

We understand this about cars – why not people?

If someone has a mental health issue, it’s not because they’re a “negative person” – their mind has quirks, it can be a little temperamental, and, sometimes, this leads to interruptions and frustrations to their journey through life.

But it doesn’t make them broken.

None of those cars could be fixed, no matter how many mechanics had a look at them.

There was nothing wrong with them – their drivers just had to accept their quirks, and work with them.

People were here before cars – shouldn’t we try and understand them better?