Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Benefits of Cowardice

The other day I wanted to die.

I didn't try to die, mind you, for two reasons: firstly because I am a coward; and secondly because I retained the ability to recognise that my death would affect people other than myself adversely.

But goodness I wanted to. To the point where I felt quite resentful of those people, whose wellbeing I felt responsible for - if it weren't for them my conscience would be much clearer if I could work up the courage to hasten my own demise. Which I probably couldn't, being a coward.

Killing yourself is, of course, illegal: one of those rare crimes that you only get punished for if you fail to commit it. The police can even arrest you if they think you might kill yourself. I found that out when it happened to me, the night they came to my house, threatened to pepper spray me, and took me to hospital in handcuffs.

I think about that night once or twice every day - it's a good way to bring myself back down to earth whenever I start to feel like I might not be a failure. I'm not sure there's any success I could achieve in life that would overwhelm the self-annihilation of that experience. It was a powerful sign of how badly I'd fucked up at life, and my capability for such monumental fuck-ups is something I carry with me, as a caution to not get too cocky.

Now there are people who will say to me, "You're not a failure, you're not a fuck-up, you're not a terrible person". But then they don't know me like I do, do they? It's my fundamental problem with taking advice on mental health from anyone - I know me better than you do, and if I tell you that my depression is, essentially, no more than I deserve, shouldn't I be trusted? You can tell me that my depression is an illness, but I might tell you that it's a perfectly reasonable response to the fact of my own existence, and I've got a lot of fieldwork on my side. And I know this, and I know that no matter how many times someone tells me otherwise, I'll have that knowledge in the back of my mind, and nobody can help me with that; nobody can take that away; and nobody can fully understand it, because nobody can ever fully understand what's going on inside another person. I, like everyone else, am alone.

This is what I have been trying to express: depression is loneliness. Utter, utter loneliness. And if I tweet about it, Facebook post about it, or blog about it, it's all an attempt to find some relief from that loneliness. Which can be found - comfort from other people, affirmations and sympathies help. But not for long. That stuff fades, because you know the only person who knows the whole truth about yourself is you. And you know that when words of comfort have been forgotten, you'll be left to keep company with yourself, and the words of hatred that you keep inside you and that are the only permanent thing you've got.

It's the loneliness that eats you away: not lonely because nobody cares, but lonely because nobody can help, and lonely because you know, deep down, that you don't deserve any help anyway. And lonely because you know that those times you don't feel lonely are just preludes to more loneliness.

And most of all lonely because this flaw, this production error, this mistake in manufacture that crept in when you were made, has done nothing but cause trouble and sadness to the people you care about, and because they'd be better off without you, but if you left you'd just be causing more trouble and sadness. And you can't be fixed, so you can look forward to spreading more trouble and sadness around for many years, until finally, you slink off and die. And as you lived alone, alone you will die.

I am not the only person to think the world would be better off without me in it. There are many of us. And though our friends will deny it, some of us right. And some of us are wrong. Some of us live in unremitting agony, unable to ever shake the obsessive conviction. And some of us swing back and forth, believing in a lighter world with a rightful place for us in it, until inevitably remembering the handcuffs and the slow shuffle out the door as the children watched. Some us are trapped, and after searching their prison desperately for false walls and hidden doors, take the only reasonable way out.

And some of us find ourselves thankful that we are cowards.