Last year I wrote a piece about suicide. I had the intention of writing about my own suicidal impulses and ideations, but bottled it at the last moment, retreated into the general and the universal. I have to write about this now. I remember when this all started, back in October 2009, when I had a girlfriend and a job but kept thinking of suicide, would talk to people in bars about suicide, because that is the scary thing about this, it is a tornado that comes out of nowhere, it has nothing to do with your actual circumstances. Things stop existing in the tornado. Futures. Plans. Hunger. Rationality. Some dreams do survive in the tornado. I remember when this all started, back in winter 2004 where I ordered up a Leeds callgirl (no sex, just what they call the girlfriend experience) and afterwards went to the Royal Park and closed my eyes and thought that I was in some gentle place, on a picnic table in the sunshine, and it was like a light had gone on in my head, I’d found the source of happiness. I had already been getting bored with the company of others, with friendships, peer relationships and needed no more reason to cut my ties (for loneliness is incredibly underrated) just wander round cities, reading books in pubs, having short-term relationships with women and the occasional socialising or big event, just to keep up appearances.
The suicide phase in October didn’t last. I had already had an idea for a long story about a suicidal man based in South Manchester and threw myself into it – I’m not a big believer in the writing-as-catharsis thing, writing for me is about invention and the exploration of other worlds, but I poured this poison into the story and was refreshed. The whole thing was a paean to the night. The night I was born under and found myself in. The night. And the suicidal impulses and ideations disappeared until last winter, when I found myself thinking of suicide and getting further along the attempt-suicide thing, once or twice a week, would just take a bottle of wine to the nearest bridge and sit under it, cutting myself and sobbing into my hands. It got where I was hesitant to plan long term (long term being like a month or so) because I couldn’t trust myself to be alive that long. I did everything I was supposed to fucking do. I exercised, ate well, cut down drinking (even considered going to AA at one point, and read their literature, and then changed my mind, purely because the stories of recovery, of God, and marrying a woman you met in recovery, had this annihilating joylessness that made death seem almost a real alternative) I did everything I was supposed to fucking do. I made a referral, waited six months to get in front of a therapist and then last week was told, in essence, that they would not treat me because I had kept myself together since January.
And now, man, and now, the shit is back. Last night, started crying, battered the shit out of some sign in front of some Chorlton garage, cut my arm to shreds and ribbons in someone else’s bathroom. The disease is back – and may well prove terminal. The constant state of fear and aggression gets hard to live with. What can I do? What can I do that I haven’t tried? What is so special about me that I should cry? Is it just a matter of running? Is it that I need to change this life or end it? Still, I’m lucky. I like to read, I like to write, I have a healthy and active fantasy life. The game of relationships, dating, marriage and childbirth got boring very quickly and I went headlong, with gratitude, with love, into the abandoned idealist world of wildflowers picked from the cycle paths, cats and dinosaurs, Frank O’Hara, Blue States, long walks hand in hand, long slow and tender lovemaking. Where I go it’s always darkness, but a kind darkness, and I feel the breath of the wind and the scratch of the other palm in mine. For a long time I dreamt I was on an island. Now, I dream I’m on a country road, like the cycle paths, that leads forever, with the other (my fantasy companion is the Anna Forbes character from This Life) and it’s a fascinating journey, nothing on here except goodness, conversation, warmth, happiness, love. Thing is, though, I know I’ll go to the edge, but never right the way over, out of cowardice and curiosity and a drive to keep writing and to outlive everything in this world I hate. Don’t worry about the suicidal nonsense I put on Twitter in the middle of the night. I will not go. I will not fucking die.
Update: Many thanks to everyone who got in touch through the networks following the publication of this piece.