It was on a Thursday evening, 9th August 2012, when I went to a digs party off campus with a couple of my friends. I had a vague plan of how I wanted to end it that night, of how I would kill myself (I’m not going to disclose what that entailed). This was an important development since the last two attempts were a product of impulsiveness, usually under the influence of alcohol – spontaneous and embarrassingly poor, including a time, when drunk, maudlin and ready to jump, I passed out on the window sill of my dorm room. I woke up terrified like someone had just pulled me off the ledge. Terrified that – despite how being what I really wanted – I might have actually finally done it. Honestly it was never about garnering the courage, depressed people don’t need courage, they have the pain and pain is sovereign. It’s not a matter of choosing between life or death, it’s choosing between two pains, one pain to cease the more unbearable, unfaltering, searing pain that holds a depressive hostage.
Dana and Pog were accompanying me. Dana was a virile young man of high cheekbones and strong jaws, in his blue eyes lurked a constant agitation which showed itself in spurts of reproof, and everyone cowered under the uniquely authoritative, morally imbued tone he wore even if they were of the same socio-economic status and age – people interpreted his crass assertiveness as a leadership quality rather than tyranny. Dana was an evangelical conservative despite signs of deterioration in the acutely secular, disenchanting environment of a university.
Pog was a charming stout angel with a round face and a dazzling smile, he couldn’t be more relaxed. He shared the conservatism and the evangelicalism of Dana but had an open-minded curious nature to him, eager to try new things, consider new things regardless of how opposed to his faith they were. One couldn’t help but think his religious conservatism was nothing more than what he inherited from his family, out here he was free to exercise his freedom without the constraints. He was a brilliant conversationalist, armed with a slew of double entendres and flawless witticisms, gregarious with a dash of introversion and infectiously enthusiastic. Unlike Dana he gave in freely – always later regretting it – to his hedonistic appetites.
Dana and Pog simply indulged me when they could, they were blatantly skeptical about my mental health problems, they attributed it all to demons, a weakness of character or a curse – more so Dana than Pog, Pog had a compassionate pliant nature to him, but it is this quality which made him look like he couldn’t make up his mind, often oscillating between conflicting positions. There was always an undercurrent of proselytization in the times we spent together.
I can’t stress enough how unhelpful this is to someone suffering with mental health issues, it was precisely this environment that made me pretend I was doing better than I actually was, because my confessions of suffering quickly devolved into debates about the legitimacy of my illness, psychiatry, my lack of will, motivational harangues and bible bashing. The more time we spent together the more my skeptical, morbid and morose tendencies bled out and the worse they became as friends. This created an alienating friendship, especially with Dana, Pog and I would become close friends. Tonight though, was months since I had shown any sign of my usual despondency, I was hiding it all with the constant partying and the self-harming I did in secret – parting my skin with a hot blade(it wasn’t actually hot).I had orchestrated this false sense of friendship, through the guise of health and faith because I was lonely, depression makes you lonely.
That night, my goal was to get my hands on much alcohol I can get, part of it was to ensure my suicide attempt would work, the other part was also celebrating my ingenious plan. I get to the party and I have a cocktail of everything, vodka, brandy, wine, gin and the punch – no one is watching, no one cares, everyone is more concerned about them getting fucked. Two hours later I am absolutely hammered, it’s here that I debate with Dana and Pog about taking the party elsewhere. Dana is being a prude, as expected and Pog, well, I can’t remember what Pog was saying. Let’s go the pub just down the road, I say, this party is dying out. They refuse, Pog’s dimpled ever smiling face is a funny frown now.
“You should probably go home,” they say in that concerned and mildly patronizing placing-hand-on-your-shoulder way. “You are completely wasted.”
Defiant, I shrug them off and start leaving, staggering through the gate.
What I remember next is me lying on the sidewalk, gravel digging at the back of my head, tears streaming down the side of my face, bawling. Somehow my friends are here, hovering over me, their faces wrought with concern. Pog is the look of terror and worry, Dana is a mixture of exasperation and indifference.
“Why does it have to hurt so much? Why do I have to feel this way?” I bawl, lugubrious. In this moment I have sense of utter hopelessness and helplessness, sorrow so deep I fell paralyzed, I don’t think I can stand up and I’m sure it’s not because I drank too much, it’s because I have given up – finally in this brief moment I surrender. My friends say something consoling, in an earnest and anxious attempt to ingratiate my mood and get me to stand
I am in the backseat of a car now, Dana’s car, going somewhere.
I’m on the lawns the front yard of my res(dorm) and the guys are grappling with me, and I am fighting ferociously – I don’t want to be carried up to my room! No one will make me. I out power five odd guys (or perhaps my memory betrays me)and I run down the causeway to the street, laughing triumphantly and whooing. Destination? The pub. As I run I sense the guys looking at me, defeated and somewhat disappointed.
Somewhere along the way I stop at girls’ res(dorm). Suddenly I’m terribly sad and lonely, I need to talk to Katy. Katy lives here, and she must be in because she never really goes out. The weird thing about my relationship with Katy is, I have perhaps hangout with her twice, the first time we met and that other time I was working on a group project with her back when it was first year and we were both doing Psych. Now, our entire relationship consist of me liking her Facebook posts, sending messages in her inbox that she looks at and never replies to – many girls know this guy. I was that guy, when a mere ‘hi’ didn’t seem to work I resorted to telling her about this song I heard that made me think of her(not creepy at all), or ask if she has heard this new song from this one artist she had mentioned once in conversation – basically everything and anything to get her to reply. I never got the message, I was lonely, virtually friendless (alienated) and a delusional depressive. I had that freaky, social inept thing going and that is not adding my stutter and my penchant to morbidity, often without realizing I was being creepy(when you spent a lot of time thinking dark thoughts because you are suicidal, some of it just spills out of you).
I send a girl who’s coming back from a night out to check if Katy is in, she comes back and tells me she is not. I’m distraught, but only briefly. Suddenly I remember Katy’s friend, Beth, her I had talked with a couple of months back. One night – I’m guessing she was playing a cruel joke or extremely horny – we exchanged increasingly arousing racy, flirtatious texts, she wanted my staff to stuff her, and when it came to actually meeting up, and truth be told I was rock hard horny by this point, I declined and opted for masturbation instead. Of course, I wanted to fuck her, who wouldn’t have (seriously, the lust in universities), Beth was smart, hot and wet for me, but I was a depressive with an irrational fear of rejection and bouts of crippling anxiety I couldn’t walk out in the cold, go to her place and fuck her, I didn’t have the mettle it required.
Dana would ask me about this incident, eyes glistening with a mixture of curiosity and mild envy; despite his asceticism, Dana was as lustful as any of us, but his lust went with shame and guilt(because sin? I don’t know) so he vicariously gobbled our anecdotes of degeneracy instead, often in the few times you were alone with him lest someone discovers his peculiar appetite (thinking back he was probably a self-chastising believer who indulged in raging masturbation sessions). He’d prod and beg for more and some more, and I fed his sinful appetites.
So I’m standing outside Katy’s res(dorm), I believe Beth’s promiscuity would let me in the early hours of the morning and, just maybe, she’ll talk to me. The girl goes in, comes back and she tells me Beth is not in either. Defeated, I sit on the bench on the porch, right next to the door. Before I know it I’m chundering on the door step, churning and churning for what seemed like five minutes(I feel for the person who cleaned it up, I’m sorry). I recoiled and sat up, leaning against the wall and closing my eyes, eye lids getting increasingly heavier and objects in my sight swimming.
A girl comes out of nowhere and asks if she could pray with me – you know, the born-again type – I’m desperate for any kind of comfort so I agree. I don’t know what she saw, but I think she saw a deeply troubled soul or someone struggling with demons and substance abuse problems – sick or possessed. It was then that campus security arrived and escorted me home, I didn’t struggle then, I remember surrendering with languor, somewhere between dispirited and apathetic.
The next day I would be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I will give Dana and Pog this, that despite their obnoxious religiosity, they would be the ones who visited me the most in the hospital, they would grow to show invaluable support and replace their skepticism with indifference. I never thought how difficult this was for them too, not until it was me playing the supporter role; sure, their approach was mostly wrong and problematic, but I can’t completely fault them.
Two months and half later, when I came back from the hospital, the story of what had happened at the girls’ dorm would spread, carrying with it various improvised details (I was hammered, who is to say they were completely fabricated?). There was an unsaid understanding between me the guys at res, the incident was never to be brought up again or comically referenced. It hung there in the ether, forever a constant source of my ignominy.
Yet despite my experience with all this and mental illness, when someone says to me, “I have been feeling really down lately.”
My thoughts are, without fail:
Oh, no. Fuck. I don’t wanna get into this now. No, not now. I have to read that Peter Neville book. If I don’t I might never read today. How long is this going to take anyway? Ricoh Women’s British Open is starting soon and Georgia Hall looks like is gonna roll one in for the history books. I can’t miss that, I waited an entire year for this moment.
My response, to this tragedy, is one of inconvenience – I feel inconvenienced by your suffering. Always. To gauge how serious this issue is, aka how long it’s going to take or if I should care at all. I always ask “Down as in depressed or just down because of something?” and other versions of this.
It might sounds innocent but I’m looking for the quickest way out of this, and part of that is understanding the nature of the problem – superficial or real emergency.
Then maybe, with a heavy, weary sigh, my friend says, “Depressed down. I don’t know what to do, it’s been months now. I don’t know who talk to. Oh, God,” he retches with tears, “I feel so lost!”
Ah, fuck. Goodbye, day.
I literally can feel the tears stinging the back of my eyes, the other person thinks my eyes are moistening from sympathy – maybe it’s that, but mostly it is because I’m mourning the sudden death of my plans.
Why did you have to be depressed now? Why even tell me now? Couldn’t you wait a day or perhaps a couple of hours? Poor Dana, poor Pog, I can’t believe you had to deal with this.
I know, I know, it’s awful. And that is the point I’m making. Mental health is still a hard thing to talk about even with people who have experienced it (like me, and obviously not all people find it this difficult). I can empathize and I totally know all the do’s and don’ts when talking with someone suffering but…in that small, infinitesimal moment, I can’t help but feel an aversion, a recoiling of the self from this suffering.
But I find, a little too quickly or after a while, I’m like a lackadaisical student who whines about the difficulty of a surprise math test, who the teacher smiles at and tells he can do it, reluctant and doubting the student looks at the paper once more and tries. In the end he gets an A, completely surprising himself and his classmates, the teacher says nothing but smiles, because she knew what the boy didn’t.
It’s like that. My initial reaction is aversion, but once I step up, I step up and you better be sure that I will be invested and that I’m virtually inexhaustible.
Mental health is hard. Giving support is hard. But equally hard is the human spirit for love, nurture and compassion.
I enjoyed this. I hope you did too.
There is more to come. If you liked this follow and comment(it’s not a must but it would be nice).
I love you all.