I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Amongst us cheery depressives that’s not actually all that unusual (wouldn’t you just love to wind up sitting next to me on a long flight…?). I don’t mean that I’ve been actively thinking about killing myself, just that I’ve been thinking about death and dying.
What seems to get called ‘active suicidal ideation’ (i.e., actually making plans to kill yourself, if I’ve understood the phrase right) is fairly uncommon for me. I do have periods of it, and I’ve never told anyone in the real world about them – I think I have a right to kill myself if I want to, and I want to keep my options open.
In the past I’ve worked out what kind of over-the-counter pills would be best to go for, how many I’d need for an overdose, how many chemists I’d need to go to in order to get hold of enough, and what would be the best route between them. In fact, I did a dry run once, walking past each shop in turn, but (un?)luckily I was too anxious to go in and actually buy anything.
To most people, making such detailed plans probably sounds either ridiculous or horrendous, but for me it’s actually a way of coping. I’ve mentioned before that there are much easier ways I could kill myself – since I live several storeys off the ground, all I’d really need to do is open a window and jump out. Having detailed plans for another method means that I feel like I have an option, and that (so far, anyway) has been enough to stop the desperation building to such a point that I end up doing something immediately terminal.
But, as I said, that kind of thinking is fairly unusual for me. What’s much more common is that I wish I was dead. I’d actually have to say that this is my usual state of mind. That doesn’t mean I spend every waking minute thinking “Why aren’t I dead yet?”, but it’s still a more-or-less constant part of my mental setup. It comes and goes, of course, and it varies in intensity, but it’s like a kind of background hum that’s always with me, or at least has been for the last few years.
In his documentary on bipolar disorder, Stephen Fry asked all of his interviewees whether, if there was a magic button they could press to be instantly cured of their disease, they would choose to press it. I don’t really have an opinion on that (I don’t have manic depression). But I do know that if there was a magic button that would guarantee an instant and painless death I’d press it in a second.
I don’t spend all that much time plunged in acute despair, but large parts of my life have been spent in a state of constant melancholy. I remember what it’s like to feel happy, but I can’t remember the last time I actually felt happy. In fact, it seems like it’s been ages since I felt anything at all – I’d almost welcome acute despair. There are times when I wish I had a serious physical illness. That way I could refuse treatment and just lie quietly down and die. If you haven’t ever experienced it for yourself, it’s probably quite hard to understand how debilitating a life lived in the absence of pleasure can be, or how much it can make you wish you were dead.
Last night I spent several hours standing by my open window looking out over the streetlights down below me, and listening to the sounds of the occasional car as it went past. It was cold standing there, and lonely, but I didn’t feel like jumping. I did lean out to look at the ground, and I wondered what it would feel like to fall through the air, like I often do. But all I did was stand there, looking out, with the feeling that my thoughts were arriving more and more slowly. Of course, in the end I shut the window and lay down on the bed staring up at the ceiling. Eventually I fell asleep.
I’m worried that I’m starting to spiral down again, and I haven’t even got back on an even keel after the last one. I am trying to tell myself that this is probably just a bump in the road, that my process of recovery will start up again in a few days time. But I’ve only just started to feel better (I’ve only just found the energy to start this blog after the months of reading everyone else’s) and I’m not sure I can bear to have that taken away from me again so soon.
Sorry, I think this post is a bit of a mess. Normally I’d try to rewrite it and put it into a neat shape, and bring it to some kind of conclusion, but I don’t seem to be able to do that at the moment. Still and all, given the title at the head of this one, I guess it’s kind of appropriate that it should just –