Saturday, August 28, 2010

We can breathe underwater.

I woke up in hospital, and I wish I had a glamorous story to tell you, but I just don't.

It was an everyday hospital, although I did have an amazing view from up there on the tenth floor. I had a room all to myself, or I would have, if Mum wasn't there.

She was seated on a chair by the window, and she had that 'Mum glow', you know, where it seems like they are powered by nothing more than love for you.

She didn't make a fuss- not her style, even though this was a suicide.

Her view? "If you really want to go, well, I'll miss you, and of course I'd rather you didn't. But some people just aren't for this life." I never could work out if that was supportive and pragmatic, or bleak and hopeless. I still can't.

You're probably wondering what embarrassing set of circumstances brought us all here, I'll relent.

I was being hounded by debt collectors, I'd made some bad decisions. Impulsive, expensive ones. Now, that just seems like life, but back then...I had a lower tolerance for the everyday. And I was heartbroken of course, or I thought I was. The advantage to living longer is the overview. You see what love really is if you're lucky. You definitely realise what love wasn't.

Some people really aren't worth opening a vein for. I'd counter no-one is, despite the romantic notions imprinted upon us by Shakespeare, and to a lesser extent, Jeffrey Eugenides.

Anyway, I was labouring under a dose of way too much Nine Inch Nails, teenage heartbreak, and what can only be described as a general lack of interest in "what comes next". I was bored. Every day I was bored. You could have told me that one day we'd have iPods and electric motorcycles, and I'd just meh my way past it. I didn't even have email back then. It sounds like 1958, but it was 1995.

And I guess I was tired too. Get out of bed tired. Go to bed and can't sleep because I'm too tired, tired. The big sleep beckoned.

So, without any fanfare or desperate behaviour, I paid money to everyone I owed it to, who wasn't a corporation. Boxed up my belongings, and wrote the names of my friends on the boxes. Star Wars toys went to Marty, power tools to Brandon, etc...

I slung a steel cable over a solid timber beam a foot thick, rigged it the usual way- noose end down. I put a bar stool underneath it, and put myself between. I was bored while I was doing it, but I was glad to have something to do. I took one final look around the old biscuit factory that was my house, jumped up in the air, and kicked the stool away.

It hit the back wall with a noise that sounded excessively final. If it was a voice, it would have said "There is no way you're going to be able to get out of this now- even if you wanted to". And as the cable bit into my throat I was inclined to agree.

I saw stars, as is normal, and as I waited to pass out, I did a slow circle of the room, spinning slowly. I thought two things:

1. This is the last time I'll see any of this. And,

2. I knew this would hurt, but this is just crazy.

As an aside, the sunbeams coming through the window took on an amazing, other-worldly golden radiance, and I thought for a heartbeat that I would miss that.

So I guess my civic duty is to say, should you be considering the same style of exit, probably try something else, unless you really, really hate yourself. This method is painful beyond words.

And as bored as I was, and definitely looking forward to the next part, where the pain stops, I'd be lying if I said panic didn't grip me then. My legs started to kick, like they had a mind of their own. My hands desperately tried to pull the noose free, and just before the blackness swept over me completely, I made the vainest of attempts to make a loud noise, as if that would set the pain loose.


I still don't know who called the ambulance, but I was eventually informed that someone had. That the steel cable had somehow broken, and that I was discovered in a pool of my own excrement, no heartbeat, not breathing, not in any way vivus, alive.

So the medical people did the things medical people do, and I got to ride in an ambulance (although of course I don't remember this), and nurses who I wouldn't meet 'til later took my clothes off and washed my cock for me, which as much as I have done some things in my life, is still a weird thought for some reason.

And after however long, I opened my eyes, and here we are.

Mum eventually left me to my own devices, and I thought of how I felt about this new and unexpected state of affairs. The nurses came and talked to me, both guys and girls. I felt like a newborn to a certain extent, and I quite enjoyed talking with them. I can't explain the novelty, but you know they say "change is as good as a holiday", I guess that was 9/10'ths of this.

It took me a couple of weeks to physically heal, breathing hurt, talking hurt, moving hurt, eating hurt. So basically everything hurt. I didn't expect sympathy, we all knew it was self inflicted. Friends came to visit, Mum again, the occasional awkward phone call, where the caller had no idea what to say, and was scared to freestyle in case they inadvertently set me off on another suicidal downward spiral.

It was odd to see that people cared for me.

I'd have to say that genuinely surprised me.

And at night, I would be alone with my thoughts (apart from the camera wired to the nurses station, ensuring I didn't re-offend), and I'd try to piece together what to do now.

I had this weird feeling of responsibility to the friends I had back then, even though not one of them keeps in touch nowadays. I felt like them caring for me on whatever level meant I owed them my best shot at life.

And of course I felt ashamed, too weak to deal with the same shit everyone else goes through on a daily basis.

I thought about the people I knew, and the effect I'd had. And even though, as I say, they don't check in any more; at the time we were close- I believe that. Back then, I meant something to them... some meaning I've since lost, or time has rusted, or... whatever goes on in other peoples worlds that I don't comprehend.

I had a friend called Benedict, who made everyone laugh. Tears running down your face laughter- the rarest kind. This kind of action was a daily occurrence for him. Despite this his heart was quite remote and hard to reach, he was very serious underneath. While I was in hospital, but before anyone told him what had happened to me, he hung himself too. Difference was, no ambulance turned up for him. I didn't see it coming, although I knew his world was in conflict. And I cried as I thought and felt the emotional and physical anguish he went through, to achieve lasting silence. I felt so hurt to imagine how much he must have hated himself, to go out in that manner. Pills are easier. But he wanted to punish himself for something, what it was will forever remain between him and whoever he did it to.

I was casually seeing a girl called Kristin in the weeks before my... whatever it was. And upon reflection, it was cruel of me, to leave her with no answers, while throwing out a big question like that. Death is a question, for those who are left. She was very relaxed, unlike the hurricane of intensity that was "she who shall not be named". She was relaxed, and very pretty, and I was lucky to have won the attention and affection of such a good person, of such a beautiful heart. She came to see me in hospital, and I was beside myself with guilt, for being so heartless. She walked into my room, and her energy was the same as it ever was (although she looked like an angel to me- I hear this is normal under such circumstances). And she put me at ease without saying a word. All she wanted to do was smile into my eyes, and stroke my hand. I was so drugged up I fell asleep, and when I awoke the next morning, she had come back again, and was waiting next to my bed. I said "I'm sorry for that", and she just blinked her smiling eyes at me, as if ocular morse code was standard in situations such as these. She told me she'd be waiting when I got out, whenever that would be.

My housemate Sean came in too. I didn't have much to say with him there, nothing personal or mean-spirited... we just had a quiet kind of situation happening, that we were both equally at home in. It was almost like "Well- if you get a hospital room, I want to hang out in there too", like whatever was mine was his by default. I didn't mind. The opposite, totally.

A couple of guys I used to skate with brought food and magazines. I was really happy to have been so considered, but humiliated that everyone in the city must have known how weak I'd been. I don't like to show my weaknesses, typically insecure.

And when I was physically operational, it was time for therapy. Although the actual damage was limited to my throat/windpipe/arteries, my whole body was wrecked from it. So I needed physical therapy, as well as someone to talk to (and convince it was safe to let me go out into the world again).

My psychiatrist was Doctor Lawrence. He was a no-nonsense, obviously hideously rich person who, while his bedside manner was intact, it was obvious to me would be extremely unpleasant and opinionated with a couple of wines in him.

I felt constantly rushed with him, like I had to answer him within two seconds of each question or he'd just walk out without a word. Of course he wouldn't, but that was the feeling.

We talked about motivations, if I'd learned anything, and I said "Not really". So he asked me what was my raison d'etre, and I said "I don't know- everything just feels different this time". That seemed to satisfy him, and three weeks after being rolled in on a gurney with tubes and wires and concerned faces; I had the all-clear to just walk out like a regular person.

I went back to my bed to wait for my clothes etc, and fell asleep again.

When I woke up, everything felt worse.

The nurses were different people. More concerned, strangers, suspiciously checking on me every five minutes. The pain was back, more intense than before. I had tubes in me again. A different psychiatrist came to see me, a Doctor Ellison, and she had no idea who Doctor Lawrence was. I asked myself if I had died, and this is the confusion I earned myself by punching my own ticket. But there's no pain when you're dead, and I was in pain.

Mum walked in, and her face didn't glow. She looked angry and hurt. I felt like an inconvenience... I always feel like an inconvenience.

"What did I do?" I asked her, desperate to know why she was so angry.

"You didn't do anything love, it's just the situation... how do you feel?"

I told her I was confused, and she said she knew. I figured this was just her psychic maternal wireless broadband doing its thing, but it was more than that.

Everything was wrong.

I asked her where my friends were, if they were coming to visit? She shot a look at Dr Ellison, who pulled up another chair.

And together, they ripped my world apart.

It had been three months, not three weeks, since I was rolled in. I had alternated between states of conscious depression and violent seizures. I would frighten the staff with offers of violence, if only the drugs made it possible for me to get out of bed unassisted. In my waking moments I had talked to my friends, to my visitors, but those visitors had never actually been there.

And those visitors, those friends I had known for years, had never existed.

Through session after session with the Doctor, I was informed that half of what I thought was my life, was a lie. A covertly constructed, expertly crafted lie, created by my subconscious. A lie that integrated seamlessly with reality, a privately held set of beliefs and experiences that never were.

And this lie, had been going on for years.

One by one, I watched my friends die, in a sense. As their existence was revealed to be fallacious. Relationships, secrets, jokes, life, all came undone and fell in strands on the floor.

Places I'd been, houses I had lived in, jobs, relationships, belongings, all fell away, to reveal who I really am. Who I'd been all this time. A person that was a stranger to me.

Many years before, when I was very young, something happened. Something I'm not ready to talk about. Something I can't make any sense of.

And this thing, marked me in a way. As much as I remember it, and even feel like the horror of it has abated, like I'm at low tide now, I can deal with it. I can't deal with it, and any progress or acceptance I thought I had is just another falsely held belief. It broke me, I never healed.

And I developed complex scenarios to escape from this reality. Movies I had seen and songs I'd heard had never been recorded. Bands I liked had never formed. Books I read were never written. I invented friends and lovers, traveled to places I had never seen, and did things I have never done, all the while believing it was my life. All the while feeling so real, impossible to be anything else. But I wasn't there- I was locked away inside myself, trying to be safe.

I worked jobs like everyone else, without the slightest suspicion from my employers that I wasn't fully there. No-one knew, and no one got close enough to guess.

And through this process I discovered I had very few friends. Very few experiences. And I could no longer say with certainty that I had done anything until I checked with my Mother.

The suicide was real though... I had proof of that.

I hanged myself (that never sounds right, does it?) to escape from my life as it was. I took a chance that was 99% weighed in favour of nonexistence, in the hope I could stand where I stand now- in front of a life I can build for myself, with real materials, among real people. And ever since that hospital stay, I have done and achieved every thing I once claimed as real.

It can be confusing, walking down a street in Osaka for the first time, when you were sure you had been there before (only everything was different!) But it's exciting too, and I feel like the things I make (as much as they will rust and fall apart when I am gone) are really worth something.

I don't know what that means, but I feel it. I really feel it. With my bones.

And now I see so many people, living inside their own heads, scared to come out, hiding from the truth of something... I'm like the ghost whisperer for people like that. I see through the bullshit, and I think that's a great superpower to have. because if they want to come out and be real, then they have a friend, and that's me.

People hurt us, disappoint us, underwhelm us, and even disgust us, but they really are beautiful and rare, with the capacity to do such incredibly Universe-changing things.

I have faith in us.

And at last I have found some faith in me too.

I'll keep you posted.

This is knifey, from 'the internet'.

1 comment:

LAF said...

This made me feel like I'd been kicked in the guts.
A very powerful piece of writing, not enough of it about, thank-you.