I don’t honestly remember when I stopped wanting to be alive. There wasn’t any dramatic event that I could pin-point and say that was the moment all innate instincts for survival and self-preservation abandoned me. It just sort of happened.
Most of the time the desire to hit delete on my existence was like a dull but irritatingly persistent noise. Always there in the background, but quiet enough to be ignored if I could keep myself distracted. I just wanted to walk out of life like you might walk out of a really boring lecture.
Other times, it was a siren. Inescapable and crushingly loud. Those are the times where you’re pretty certain you would do anything to get yourself the hell out.
It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with. I know that, in comparison to most people’s, my life is pretty fantastic. I’m physically healthy, my family are alive and well, and I have never experienced poverty. And yet I truly felt that there was absolutely nothing about this life that could convince me it was worth sticking around for.
I was about fifteen when I became aware of this persistent darkness that seemed to have invaded my entire being.
You know when you say a word too many times and it completely loses all meaning and starts to sound really strange? That’s kind of how I felt about life. Life had just… stopped making sense.
It was like one day I woke up to find myself in a world where nothing meant anything and everything meant nothing. And once I had noticed it that was all I could see – the bleak meaninglessness of absolutely everything.
It’s pretty hard to motivate yourself to do anything when everything is pointless. Sure, you should do your homework but why? To do well in school, but why? To go to university, but why? To get a job in an office somewhere slowly rotting until you retire and die? Why?
Before I knew it crippling apathy had taken over my entire life. Sadness is fucking heavy and I seemed to have used up all my energy on dragging it around with me. I couldn’t bring myself to do my homework, or to see my friends, or to get in the shower. Regularly, I’d leave things half-done because I’d found a small flicker of energy, started to be productive and then half-way through doing it been hit by overwhelming emptiness and had to abandon whatever it was I had been doing to lie on the floor for three hours.
I started by not wanting to leave the house because going out used up energy that could otherwise be spent on crying alone in my room for absolutely no fucking reason. But the problem with feeling nothing but sadness is that, eventually, that sadness starts to wear you down until you feel nothing at all.
Then, going out just leaves you feeling empty and frustrated by your inability to feel anything. Even things you previously enjoyed bring nothing to you, and being around your fully functioning friends only serves as a reminder of your own emotional incompetence as they all have fun whilst you’re lost dwelling in that endless void in your head.
The other thing of course, is that this is a really hard thing for other people to understand too. People that are still able to feel the full spectrum of human emotion are unlikely to get, and will probably be quite disturbed by, your complete lack of feelings.
You never have to think about how you form the right facial expressions for the right emotions until you find yourself in a position where you have to completely relearn it. It was like I had social interaction amnesia. Attempting to hold a normal conversation with someone had become ten times more difficult due to the fact that my brain was having to consciously try and work out how to express the right emotions at the right times.
This became pretty exhausting, and soon I just stopped socialising completely. I stopped hanging out with my friends, I stopped responding to texts, at one point I just stopped talking entirely. I would spend hours at school or at family gatherings sat in complete silence. Like even just opening my mouth to make words come out was too much.
This starts to get pretty damn lonely pretty damn fast. I hated how everyone around me just didn’t seem to get it. I didn’t understand how they were able to continue living their lives and feeling things blissfully unaware of how completely shit everything was. I found myself wanting to scream, ‘WHY ARE YOU HAPPY? WHAT IS THERE TO BE HAPPY ABOUT? WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AND NOTHING WE DO IN THIS LIFE WILL EVER MEAN ANYTHING. STOP SMILING.’
You’re stuck inside your own head with nothing but your own musings on how terrible everything is to keep you company. And sure, you should probably find a distraction. Sure, you could phone a friend, but you haven’t felt an emotion since 1989 and yeah, you could read a book but your bookself is on the other side of the room and suddenly you’re too heavy to move and, yep, you could just play a game on your phone but what is the point I mean what is the fucking point.
People often talk about ‘fighting’ depression, and boy, did I feel like I was fighting.
Except, I was fighting a battle that I was always going to lose. There I was, alone, with a wooden sword and shield, facing an army with a shit tonne of nukes and grenades and all sorts of weaponry. And as we went to charge, I tripped over my shoelace, dropped my wooden sword and fell face-first into the mud.
And even if I did get back up. Even if I did pull some crazy superhero, power-of-god-is-behind-me shit and actually defeated the enemy and won the battle, it wouldn’t even matter. Because there would be more. The battles were never-ending. They would keep on coming until I died.
And me and my stupid little wooden sword could defeat all the armies we wanted, it didn’t matter, because either way we were still going to lose.
Because one day I was going to die and I would have spent my entire fucking life fighting whilst everyone else around me seemed to be enjoying themselves and making their lives mean something so much more than just the fight to get out of bed in the mornings.
It’s pretty hard to find motivation for the cause in a war like that, y’know?
I was starting to feel a bit like my dog. She’s wonderful, but not the most intelligent creature. And most of the time I don’t even think she’s aware she has a tail, but sometimes she notices it wagging away and starts chasing it like dogs do. And she keeps running towards it and the more she runs towards it the further away from her it gets and if she does manage to catch it between her teeth then she yelps because that really fucking hurts. Obviously.
Basically, I was fighting a losing battle.
And then I started looking out to the future, hoping to find something worth fighting for, something to hold onto, but everything out there looked pretty shit, too. I looked out and all I saw was boring office jobs and bills and taxes and marriage and divorce and politics and declining health and old age and car crashes on the motorway and children dying in poorer countries and I didn’t want any of it.
Why would I fight so hard for all that miserable meaningless bullshit that I didn’t even want? Why the hell was I bothering to go through all of this, when even if I won, the outcome was just more terrible life stuff? And then I would die anyway. Is that all my life was going to be?
The problem is when staying alive becomes an obligation.
I wanted out. But what about my family? And my dog? And all of those people that somehow still seemed to think there was something good in me and would be devastated if I left?
I started wishing that no one loved me or even knew me so I could just slip out the backdoor and make a swift exit without anyone even noticing.
Safe to say, things got pretty bleak for a while. But I started seeing counsellors and doctors more regularly, I tried out several different types of medication and there was something of an opportunity for things to get better.
And then, somewhere along the line I made friends in college. And I started hanging out with people, and texting people, and going to parties. I even fell in love.
And although none of that cured me or anything, one day I woke up and I realised I wasn’t on a battlefield anymore. And even though everything else still looked pretty shit around me, behind me and in front of me, things were looking pretty good from where I was. And when you’re seventeen and you have a huge bottle of cheap cider in your hand, surrounded by friends who are all just as weird as you are, that can be enough.