Because it’s been the case with me for so long – well, all my adult life, 35 years or so – I find it impossible to imagine what it’s like not to have suicidal thoughts drift into my consciousness with regular abandon. Do people really not, ever, never ever, have genuine suicidal thoughts? Unbelievable!
If you lose your hearing in adulthood, or even late childhood, or lose another sense, you have a memory of that sense. You know what some things looked, sounded, smelt, tasted, felt like. It must help with dealing with the loss of a sense.
But I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to live without weekly, often daily, thoughts of suicide. And they’re not just thoughts; they’re instincts. A need, almost, same as any other physical and mental, spiritual, need. And this has gone on for decades. It’s bloody tiring, I tell you. Never let it be said people with a mental illness aren’t strong. We’re Hercules, Samson and, uh, other very strong people.
I manage to ‘hang in there’ (an unfortunate turn of phrase) and ride the storm, which comes in waves. Sometimes the waves are like prissy lappings at the Welsh shoreline in summer at the beach. Sometimes they’re like surf-stuff in North Cornwall. Sometimes they’re thrashings at cliffs, like that sea which just hates the land and wants to, like, totally destroy it.
At this very moment, I’m in a North Cornwall-cliff thrashing kind of place. And I have no-one to talk to about it. I’m not a ringing Samaritans kind of guy. I’m certainly not a ringing that emergency number my therapist gave me kind of guy. I’m too shy for that; don’t want to cause any bother, eh?
Not only do I have to deal with the idea that there are people who aren’t suicidal, and who never, ever have been not even for a fleeting second, I have to deal with the apparent fact that some people even experience happiness. Daily!
People are strange.
So I put my blinkers on, put the music I know will make me focus, have a glass of wine or two (I know, I know..), and wait for the waves to stop beating up on the land.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell (whose childhood home was in a village with a lot of meaning for me, Trellech) pointed out that just because the sun comes up every morning and has done for millions of years, there’s absolutely no reason why it should do so tomorrow.
I’ve weathered the storm, Canute-ed the waves, and no doubt I’ll make it through the rest of this evening too. Same as it ever was. Same as it’s always been. And if I’ve done it for 35 years then it’ll never be different. Will it?