+++WARNING THIS POST CONTAINS TRIGGERS+++
I was 19 when I ran away from home. Well, I say ran away but to be fair, I had just come home from a 15 hour drinking session in the Cross Keys and my folks weren’t happy. Who knew that disappearing for an entire evening, night and morning would cause so much concern? Remember, this was in the days before mobile phones, so we drove our poor parents demented while going out and becoming so drunk that our livers begged for mercy.
When I eventually stumbled in the door, my frazzled mother proceeded to lay it on thick. She had had no sleep, she was worried sick, thought I was dead, blah blah blah etc. I believe there may have been violence. I wasn’t happy about this treatment. I had just spent a glorious few hours at an epic lock-in filled with vodka, music, dancing and topless cross-country (that particular story is for another time). I felt I could no longer live in a house with such selfish attitudes. So I legged it.
“NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME!” I yelled, before slamming the door. Unsure of where to head, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the McIntyre’s spiritual home in Eaglesham. Linn Cottage is situated near the top of the Orry, a wooded area slap-bang in the middle of the village. My Grandpa was born there in 1920, and I’ve always vowed one day that we shall return to our castle and claim what is truly mine (I’m not sure my wife, Karen agrees with me, however). I slumped down beside a tree and fell into an alcohol-induced coma.
“Erm… good morning?” wavered an elderly voice. I stirred, opened my eyes, and hadn’t an absolute fucking clue where I was. Two old ladies looked down on me. I peered back through the sunlight.
“Oh hello,” I rasped. My mouth felt like someone had shoved a sheet of 240 grade sandpaper in it.
“Are you okay, dear?” one asked.
“Yeah great. Never better,” I lied. As I slowly came to, I realised that they had on their Sunday best. Returning from church, I concluded.
“Have you hurt yourself?” asked the other.
“No, I’m just BLEEEEUUURRRGGHHH….”.
The two women recoiled in horror as I projectile vomited and just missed decorating their lovely shoes a new coat of green and with teeny bits of carrot.
“I’d best be on my way,” I groaned, before meandering home to apologise to a now livid mum.
It’s not quite clear what I was thinking that bleary Sunday morning. But it just made sense. I was leaving home, completely ridiculously, and nobody was going to stop me. Looking back now, it’s laughable, a good tale to tell and proof of what a complete numpty I was back then. But at the time? It was the right thing to do.
Just like the few occasions I took a razor blade to my arms and cut them to ribbons.
It made sense. I knew it was wrong then and I know it was wrong now. But take myself back to those dark times, perched on the end of the bed, sliding that sharp, clean edge across my forearms? It needed to happen. That was my calling and that’s what I’ll do. It felt good. A nip of pain, the flow of blood.
And then the guilt.
Man, I hated myself. As soon as I gained control of my senses, I was utterly appalled at my actions and the devastation that I’d created. I would rush to clean up my tattered arms, run them under a cold tap to numb the pain and dab them dry. I would never cut deep you see. I could always stem the flow. That way, I could wear a long-sleeve top and everyone would be non-the-wiser. It’s a bit calculated and chilling, I know.
And then I would cry myself to sleep, hating every fibre of my own being for giving in to the demons again and having to hide myself away until the scars healed. I have one, permanent wound from this time. It’s as if I left myself a wee reminder, a warning if you wish, to never go there again.
There’s a case for saying that I did these things simply to become more depressed. If you’re reading this and you’ve never suffered (well ain’t you the lucky one), you may struggle with this concept. Why would you want to become more depressed? To the outsider, this is nonsense. Illogical and improbable, nobody wants to become more ill, surely the aim is to recover and live your life normally?
Here’s the problem: we become too used to being depressed. We’ve been this way for a while and it’s just how we behave. It’s our default setting. This is what we are and what we’ve become. The thought of change becomes unbearable, getting better is unthinkable and a normal life is unobtainable. People offer assistance but you don’t trust them. They’re putting your best interests at heart but you fail to see this and scurry away into the shadows, like an insect sensing danger.
Visions fill your head, thoughts wander in and out your mind, whispers filter their way to your ears, prodding, probing, suggesting, hating. An offer to help comes your way but you can’t trust it. You’re stuck and you don’t want to budge. You envisage yourself being dragged, kicking and screaming into the light, hands tearing at you, scratching, wounding, hurting.
You don’t want help. You need depression. You’re addicted. It’s your comfort, your security blanket.
But it is also tiring. Ask anyone who has a mental illness and they’ll tell you how much it takes out of you. On bad days, you can’t move. Other days a trip to the shops can flatten you. To carry this burden around takes it out of you. Add in a crushing lack of desire and man, are you fucked or what?
But again, to those who haven’t ever felt like this, it’s hard to convey just how dominating it can be – to actually understand what it’s like to suffer from crippling exhaustion. To be completely dominated by an invisible illness that insists you sit down, shut up and take what you deserve while dancing a merry jig upon your tortured soul. To have that large, jagged security blanket of yours casually draped over you when you least expect it, which acts as a shroud, lying heavy on top of you, smothering and preventing any form of joy leaking out of this battered body you have.
You’re aware of it, sometimes you fight it, but what you realise is that battling with this unseen condition only makes you even more exhausted. You’re stuck, and there’s no way out.
Except that ain’t true, is it? Either you or someone you know has beaten this damn thing and is getting on with rebuilding their shattered lives. I know I have. I’ve had my therapy, I’m off my meds and I’m improving each and every day. It may be inch by inch rather than mile by mile, but at least it’s forward, isn’t it?
This has been no ordinary or easy process. People have been hurt by my actions or what I’ve said. The occasional item has been damaged. There’s a few years of my life I’d like to edit. Rewind, delete, forget, move on. But I can’t and maybe just like the little scar on my arm, these memories can be used as an incentive to move forward, regroup and focus on the long term plan.
However, I don’t suppose we’re ever really cured. This hellish nightmare looms over us at all times, waiting for that tiny glimpse of an opportunity to envelop us with its hate, it’s restrictions and it’s deception. The threat will always be there. Hell, I’m nowhere near perfect yet. I’ve still got miles to go. But the end goal is much closer than before. And the road gets smoother and more comfortable to travel on at this side.
So while I may have the odd relapse – the occasional day where everything is a problem and nothing makes sense – I know that I’m through the worst. With love, care, effort and a whole heap of time, I actually feel, well, fucking normal again. I know that I am lucky and I am aware that so many of you perhaps can never see the way out. But you can and you will. Words are easy to write but actions take bravery. Be bold.
Ask, talk, do whatever it takes.
It’ll be the best thing you ever do.
If I can, you can.
And I’ll help.