I make no apologies now for what I am about to tell you.
This is not one of my normal blogs filled with jokes, idiocy, and me being a tool. You may have as hard a time reading it as I did writing it…
I worked within the mental health world for 7 years, between the ages of 20 to 27. I enjoyed the job – especially in the
local psychiatric ward – and I met some remarkable, troubled people, and watched as they disappeared in a haze of medication as their demons dragged them down…
I felt sorry for those people.
In fact, I saw friends of mine enter the system and become faceless and mindless drones, pumped full of drugs… I pitied them, and I took solace in the fact that I was mentally strong enough to never be as weak as these people… and at the end of my shift I went home and forgot all about them.
I knew that I was stronger-willed than most, and would never succumb to a condition of the mind…
Which is why it nearly destroyed me when my own demons sunk their claws into me and dragged me to a cliff edge.
It’s amazing to think that something as innocuous as an innocent phone call at 10.30am on a Tuesday morning can bring your world to a complete halt. It’s even more amazing to think that the person who called me has absolutely NO idea what it is they said… and what it did to me. I have never told them and I never will.
Don’t ever ask me about that phone call.
Just understand that it almost killed me.
It’s bizarre standing on a pavement when you feel your heart stop and everything around you slows to a crawl as the breath seems to be squeezed from your lungs. I was so aware of the moment that I can remember the faces of the people who walked past, and the cars and the bus that seemed to drive by in slow motion. I can even tell you what clothes I was wearing, and what I was holding in my left hand.
A bunch of flowers.
I went home, but I could feel the claws of some beast starting to pull at my mind. I tried to ignore it…
I tried to write…
I tried to eat…
I had nothing… nothing in me at all.
I sat in my flat for four days solid, drinking and getting high… or low. Whichever. It would provide me with relief for a short (oh so short) period of time… but then I would have to answer to the demons that came screaming inside my skull the next day.
That is, if my demons let me sleep.
Irony of ironies, I became a zombie (I’m writing a zombie book, have a zombie hand tattoo, and was in a zombie film) and ghosted in and out of each day, ignoring life. It – and I – didn’t seem to be able to coexist.
I was diagnosed with depression a week later, and when your family doctor of thirty years says to you; “I’m going to prescribe you some medication and you need to take it… because I don’t think you’ll make it without them…”
Well… that shit is just hard to hear.
But anything was better than what I was facing, and that was being alone in my flat day after fucking day, with no TV or music playing, sitting in my chair and staring at the walls or lying on my bed and fighting demons that clawed and scratched and bit and dragged me down into a place so dark… so bottomless… so dead… I shut my friends out. My good friends… the ones who knew that there was something wrong with me, and yet I was too stubborn and pig-headed to see that I was physically and mentally dying before people’s very eyes. I couldn’t think straight, I wasn’t paying my bills, and I lost two stone…
“Hey, you look like you’ve lost weight.”
“Hey, you’ve lost a lot of weight.”
“Hey, are you ok?”
“Hey, are you on drugs?”
“Hey… are you dying?”
In the end it’s easier to put your phone on silent and ignore the world. I shut everyone out. Everyone… The only things I had left were my demons.
And then one black day they won.
There’s a cliff here on the island where many people have driven or jumped over the edge. I won’t name names, because this isn’t their story. But there was one young man who drove off of the edge almost a month to the day before I found myself standing on the brink.
And it was him that I needed to speak to.
So we talked.
He asked me what I was doing there and I gave him a wry smile. He nodded, sat by his wreaths and flowers, casually throwing stones over the cliff before us. I’d heard the stories going around about why he had driven his van over the edge and asked if they were true, but he didn’t answer. He just looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
In the end I asked him what could have been so awful that a man only twenty years of age could kill himself.
“The same things that brought you here,” he said. “Our demons.”
And then I could see them.
They were all around him, tearing at his clothes, scratching his face and his skin, biting him with their fangs.
That’s when my demons exploded from within.
My body became a lead-weight as they poured out, accompanied by the sensation of breathlessness that I had experienced when I took that phone call days before. And so I cried. I cried like a fucking baby. I stood there and couldn’t see the rocks below through the tears, and I have no idea how long I was there, but I missed around 30 phone calls that I failed to hear over the wind. Word was getting around that I was in a bad, bad place.
And now my demons were leading me towards the edge… And I was following them.
It’s a very hollow feeling to stare down into an abyss and feel no fear… no trepidation of what I was about to happen. The sea smashed on the rocks as hard as I knew that my body would, and I didn’t care if my carcass would be dragged out into sea and never recovered.
I was beyond caring.
I remember closing my eyes and feeling the wind around me, pulling me, tugging at me like those demons’ claws.
I remember stepping closer and closer to the edge until the top of chalk cliff touched the toes of my shoes…
And then I heard a voice…
“Son,” it said. “Son…”
I turned around and there was an old man walking his dog. He was mere feet away from me, but the look in his eyes when he saw my face hit me harder than anyone or anything ever has. I looked into his face and I saw terror. Absolute terror.
He just stood there, one hand reaching out towards me, repeating the word ‘son’ again and again. I stared at him, tears streaming down my face, just shaking my head at him.
“Son…” he said. For some reason I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket for the first time in who knew how long, and I looked at it. Among all of the messages, one caught my attention. “Think of your son.”
That word again… ‘son’.
And then I my lungs filled with air, goosebumps covered me and I felt how fucking cold the wind was… and I felt alive.
I looked down at the water and rocks 300 foot below, and I turned away and ran. I still feel bad that I never said a word to the old man, but I hope he realises what he did for me that day… in that moment.
I got back in my car and sat there and cried again… but this time in anger… anger at the way I’d almost given in to the beasts within me.
They had so very nearly won.
I sat there and cried myself to sleep until someone I loved turned up and hit me. And shouted at me. And held me.
Since that short time ago I have never doubted those with mental health issues. I pay a LOT more attention when I find my friends are down.
There’s a great quote from Stephen Fry who says that all someone with depression needs is someone to talk to. And he was right. I just didn’t know that it was also what I needed at the time.
Because I’ve always been a joker.
A fucking clown.
If you know me this whole blog must come as a bit of a shock to you, especially when you see all the shit that clutters up my Twitter and Facebook feeds. It’s always comedy… it’s always jokes.
But being a clown is a great way of hiding from your demons… keeping them at bay with your clown make-up on.
And I plan to keep my make-up on for as long as I can…
Because I know that if I take it off…
That’s when your demons find you.