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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

What Doesn't Kill Me

Fair warning, folks; what follows deals with mental health issues - specifically my own. Yet more specifically, depression, anxiety, and suicide. If these things upset you, or if they make you uncomfortable - either due to their nature or their relevance in my life - then I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

Here would be a good start. It's pretty awesome.

Everyone still reading...we okay? We okay to get real serious?

Okay, now...

For full disclosure: when I was in college at age 18, way back in 2001, I tried to kill myself.

It didn't take, obviously. Partway through the process I ruined a couple of perfectly good towels and called an ambulance.

There's a few reasons I did this. None of them were good enough. None of them are justifications. At the time, though - at the time they were all that mattered. That's how it always seems, when you're at that point. Nothing else is visible. Your world becomes a very dark tunnel.

It took a long time to recover. Not physically - now I have two very fine scars that are basically invisible unless you know what to look for. Mentally. I had suffered from significant anxiety problems beforehand, and they only got worse; for years, I pretty much sequestered myself away in my room, only emerging briefly every now and then. To compliment this, for as long as I knew how to assess myself and my feelings, I have suffered from depression.

The accepted wisdom is that if you think of committing suicide, then you really ought to get help immediately. I confide in you, dear reader, that this would be impossible for me; because however briefly, ever since I did it once, I have thought about it regularly.

Does this affect how I live my life day-to-day? Well no, not especially. Nowhere near as much as my physical health (which long-time readers will know is pretty fucked, and not just because I'm fat). It's just a thing, that pops up in the back of my skull every now and then. For me it's as much a part of life as that urge to slap someone for being rude, or to shout at someone for doing something stupid, or to buy something I clearly can't really afford just because it looks neat.

Human beings are animals, and animals have urges. One way in which we can be better people is to not give in to the urges we feel. The urge to immediately strike back when wronged, or to hurt others when we are hurt, or to pursue a brief insubstantial high in exchange for a long-term low. I'm not saying that the life of an ascetic is a good one - but as I often say, moderation in all things (including moderation).

If you look at life this way...then the call to end it, no matter how soft, is another harmful urge to be controlled. We all face shadows and darkness, and we all have mechanisms to cope with it. Some mechanisms are better than others - harmful in and of their own right - but the important thing is that we don't give in.

Here's where I could spout any number of insipid platitudes that I've seen all across social media, but honestly - that's not very me, is it? That's not very me at all.

In truth the reason it is important is simply because life is here to be lived. There's no purpose outside of that which we give ourselves - and my purpose is to keep going. Happiness happens. I have felt it, I have seen it, and I believe in it. Happiness makes it worthwhile. Some days are easy, and some days are hard - but I never regret surviving the day I almost didn't.

Between then and now I have grown so much. I've seen so much of the good (and bad) side of life. I've met people that have changed me, almost always for the better. I've seen things, read things, heard things that have made every day worth it. I've seen my favourite bands play live, I've seen the sun rise over mountains and the stars over a desert. The days that have seemed the worst have ended up containing moments of utter joy, crystalline and near-perfect, embedded in the shit of mediocrity.

It's hard to remember that. A lot of the time. I only see it right now because I am making the deliberate and concerted effort; that doesn't mean it isn't there, always there, waiting in between the shadows.

All of this was prompted because a friend of mine posted something the other night; a picture that stated simply, "I am glad that you survived".

I'm glad I survived, too.

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