1994. I’m 17 and I’m in my bedroom in a house in Dagenham, Essex, where I live with my folks and younger brother. The room is black. I think the only thing that isn’t black is the skirting board; Mum insisted that I could have whatever colour I wanted in the room, but those skirting boards had to be white. I guess it was cool that I was given freedom of expression, despite the single, parental stipulation; but I accepted the terms and proceeded to choose black furniture, black curtains, black bed covers, a speckled mix of black and grey wallpaper. Posters? Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, Morrissey/The Smiths, Soundgarden. Yes, I was into that whole Seattle grunge thing. I had previously discarded my divan and the mattress, now on the floor, was what I attempted sleep on every night. The scruffy sheets of an unmade bed, scrunched and bunched up from a fidgety night’s restlessness, are the untidiest parts of this room and will remain that way today. Despite my sullen mentality, everything else is in order, just how I want it.
I’m cross-legged on the corner of the mattress at the foot of the bed. I’m wearing blue jeans, black and white base-ball boots (a la KC), a white T-shirt and my absolute favourite oversized, grey, woolly, big buttoned cardy – super grunge! It’s 9am and I have nowhere to be. It’s the 6wks summer holiday, between completion of my first year of A-Levels and the return year at my Comprehensive, but I have no intention of going back. I’ve already drunk one can of Diamond White and I’m halfway through my second. The can is in my right hand, my left hand is full of paracetamol; I have been saving them in a small tin for a while. All that needs to happen now is to put the pills in my mouth and wash them down with the rest of the booze. My suicide note is written and is laying on the floor next to the pill tin. The house is empty apart from my brother who is fast asleep in his room, my parents have gone to work. I don’t know how long I sat staring at those pills in my hand, but eventually I put them back in the tin, hid the note and, somewhat catatonic, left the house.
I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there; I just left. And walked. I understood very well what I wanted to do. I wanted to not be alive anymore. I wanted that feeling to go. I wanted the emotional pain to go. I wanted the sadness to go. I wanted the inadequacy to go. I wanted the self-hatred to go. I wanted the pointlessness of life to go. I wanted to go back to wherever I came from; a place I felt I had been extracted from so that I could begin developing in Mum’s womb; like something that had been missing all my life and I wanted to find it again. But it didn’t exist in this life. So it must be somewhere else, somewhere ethereal, other dimensional, unearthly, heavenly….anywhere! Just somewhere that wasn’t here.
I walked to the end of the road and turned right onto Central Park Avenue. My Nan lived round the corner to us. As I approached the turning to her road, expecting just to carry on past (without looking down towards her house as I would normally have done) there she was. At that exact moment! We literally bumped into eachother on the corner. We hadn’t seen eachother coming as the house on that corner had a 6ft brick wall for a fence. I was stunned out of my reverie, happy to see her, and continued on with her. We walked down the (Oxlow) Lane and she ran her errands with me in tow; then we walked back to her house and I spent the rest of the day with her, playing cards, eating goodies, watching videos – without mention of what had happened at home earlier that morning. A surreal day if ever there was one.
Sometime later that summer I wrote my Mum a letter detailing my mood and wanting help for my suicidal ideologies. The outcome of this letter wasn’t favourable. Fortunately for her she had no comprehension of depression, she’d never experienced it – but that doesn’t help a teenage girl with manic depression and a desire to end her life, looking to her Mum for answers. Ultimately I was alone to face it all head on, to deal with it with zero input from anyone else and I vowed (at that time) to never tell Mum anything so personal again. My folks hadn’t been too impressed with me a few weeks/months earlier when I destroyed as many photos as I possibly could that had me in them; ones from early childhood up ’til that time. In my disturbed mind I wanted to eradicate myself from existence, so that when I died there would be no trace left of me; like I had never happened. Obviously this wasn’t logical; there were many others with photos of me, let alone memories of me, but I didn’t equate that at the time. I was in a weird place, not of sound mind, and yet I knew I wanted to die. The problem is, I didn’t go through with it.
2017. I’m now 40. I’m in a house that I rent alone and I’m writing about suicide. (Is that worrying?!!) Truth is, I just watched a film about Kurt Cobain and it took me right back. He killed himself in 1994 and it hit me hard back then because I understood it. That need to die, the ‘no choice’ of it all, the tragedy, the inevitability. I felt the same way. I felt like there was no other course, no other way forward that was gonna make any sense; to end it all made the most sense to me. To this day, I don’t know how I am still alive. I don’t know why I didn’t go through with it. Actually, no, I do know why – I had too much of a conscience. As much as I didn’t want to live, I felt I didn’t have the right to take a life that my parents had lovingly given to me. I understood the devastation that a suicide can have on those left behind. I hadn’t experienced it first hand, I’ve just always been an understanding and deeply compassionate person….how could I devastate my family like that? So I suffered with a life I didn’t want, a life I resented, a life I wished away every night before I’d fall asleep.
I don’t suffer from depression anymore and haven’t for a number of years – but that is because I actively chose to not give it any power. I do believe in experiencing a negative emotion, as it is character building, but not for any great length of time. Acknowledge it, address it, resolve it – don’t ever hand it your control; but depression isn’t the only reason to commit suicide. Genuinely, and I can say this because it comes easily to me and without deep negative emotion, I have thought most of my life that I will end my days by my own hand. I guess it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if I went down that road one day. I know that most people won’t understand that way of thinking and immediately want me sectioned before I do myself harm, but it’s not like that! You’re just gonna have to take my word for that. It’s more to do with circumstance and a right to do with your life whatsoever you wish. This isn’t about depression or sadness, this is about pure choice.
I live a good life these days. I have taken many steps to rectify my own suffering over the years and I am far happier now than I have ever been, but that doesn’t mean to say I passionately love life in general. I’ve never been able to say that. Life, as amazing and beautiful as it can be, is still phenomenally exhausting at times. Whether it’s confrontations you could do without, a plan not coming to fruition, the acceptance of disappointment that what you hoped from life isn’t coming your way, the incessant change of feelings, the unknown, the unfulfilled dreams, the fulfilled dreams and what may come next, and the constant sacrifices, there is the fundamental question at the base of it all….what is the bloody point??!! Sometimes, for me, the sheer boredom from my relentless singledom is enough to make me question it all when life goes off kilter. It can be all you need just to have that one person to come home to, to call when shite hits the fan, to be cuddled when tears fill your eyes, to be surprised by when everything else takes on a dullness. When you don’t have that, year after year after year….man, that gets old real fast. Although it is said that great things come from dark times, or bored times, to endure those times…well if you could see me I’m simply shaking my head, giving a sigh of incredulity and not finding enough words to put into perspective, for you, just how many times I’ve found myself in this insecure awkwardness of personal transition. Looking into the future, what if I don’t find those things I yearn for? What if I continue to find myself in this position where I am uncertain of what is coming and still alone with that uncertainty? It’s not far from my imagination that I could just go, ‘ah fuck it, let’s clock out now….I’m done with this.’ As tragic and blah blah blah as it may be, sometimes it really does make so much sense to me. I don’t think that suicide is a cop out. I think it’s a legitimate life choice. Well, death choice. For the terminally ill, the suddenly incapacitated, the chronically depressed or the dispassionately bored, I get it. And I have such empathy for it.
If I was to be told, right now, that this is all my life will ever be, with no great love to befall me; a life lived as alone as it ever was….I’d be punching that card, with love in my heart and an acknowledging smile on my face, and without any regret. So I guess, curiosity and hope is what is keeping me alive now, despite the intermittent tedium.