The truth is, no one ever knows.
You can’t touch emotional pain, and the most you can hope for is that you are surrounded by people who know you well enough and care enough about you, to hear the subtext of your heart.
Where physical injury is given permission to take time off to recuperate, the suffering of the muscle that pumps our lives must pretend that all is well; that is its duty. One day, it will stop of its own accord, or, as all too often happens, the leaseholder (for that is, at the end, all we are) will take the decision to hand it back.
Sometimes, the pain is just too much, and calling time on it feels easier than the ache of infinity.
There has been relatively little media attention bestowed upon National Suicide Prevention Week, which officially ends tomorrow. The S word is still one that people tend to avoid until a celebrity brings it into the spotlight. And even then, the search for logic overshadows the fundamental reason why people choose to end their lives: you just want your heart to stop its noise.
There is still relatively little sympathy for anyone who chooses death over life. It is seen as the choice of a deranged mind, a selfishness that defies rational thought; the ultimate act of violence. From the moment we are born, we have a fear of the dark; anyone who chooses voluntarily to enter that space is branded a coward. In reality, it is probably the bravest decision anyone can make.
It’s hard to describe to anyone who has not experienced the precipice of darkness exactly what it feels like; the best I can manage is that it feels like nothing: a state of being devoid of all sensory perception; a blob of pain that nothing other than total annihilation can wipe out. Sometimes, it is triggered by an event; sometimes, it arrives without warning; sometimes, it pierces a moment of joy as a demon serving to remind you of your vulnerability. It’s just an absence of life.
Fear not, I am not about to buy a one way ticket to the Brooklyn Bridge, but this is a week in which it is worth making ourselves extra aware of the fragility of people around us. Depression can strike anyone at any time, and my way of dealing with it has been to build up a memory bank that has, incredibly, served as a life reinforcement when the darkness comes calling.
During one such moment, I asked a friend what had stopped him from committing suicide. He said “The thought of someone breaking the news to my parents”.
Another friend, who had lost her mother to cancer, became emotional when I told her of my feelings because, as she rightly pointed out, “when you see the struggle some people go through to hang on”.
When a close friend killed himself 20 years ago, I remember hearing my favourite piece of music, Mozart’s Requiem, just after, and sobbing because he would never hear it again.
When the walls fold in, none of this may count; but I reinforce these three things regularly in the hope that even their whisper will save me from drowning.
There is so much else to be grateful for.
I have a wonderful family, great friends, and what seems, to many, an enviable lifestyle. I envy no one, I am healthy, and I am incredibly loyal to those around me, even though many have taken advantage of that.
That’s okay; it’s life.
There are givers and takers; drains and radiators. Life is at its best when there are two givers, two radiators. A taker will always take advantage of a giver; a drain will always bleed a radiator dry. You just have to seek out the good guys.
There are more than you might think.
Nothing matters more than people, who will always surprise you. When I wrote an article last year about some pressing problems, the kindness not only of friends, but complete strangers, was overwhelming. That, too, has added to my memory bank.
So, as National Suicide Prevention Week draws to its close, I want to say thank you to all the people who have prevented me from jumping, both literally and metaphorically.
Thank you for your love, your kindness, and listening to me when I talk rubbish.
Thank you for being there when lesser people would have walked away.
Thank you for wiping my tears, and for building me up when I am consumed with self-loathing.
Thank you for being my lifeline.
Thank you for being the door keepers to the darkness and blocking my way when I wanted to walk there.
Thank you, from the bottom, the top, and the middle of a heart that keeps on beating.