Lead Balloons

They ate all my thoughts. All the good ones. Maggots in a rotting apple. And you’re old suddenly. Time does some sci-fi shit as you get close to the event horizon. Love is the lead balloon which holds them to their blighted earth while they wither and shrivel in the heat of a lifelong day The loves that bind us to our earths, the loves that lead the plough and wield the whip. Pointless, stupid old love. Maybe without love there is no guilt. The two seem to spend a lot of time in each other’s company. If you have a child and a mental illness (the two are, actually, sold separately) there are the times the love of a child – for all the good that will do them – is the one thing that keeps you  hanging on in there. Without them, it’d be better at times to just. Let. Go. We all have our limits. I think I know what territory is encompassed within the bent topography of my mind – give or take a few country miles – and I feel confident that since becoming a father my attitude to suicide has shifted. I think it’s the one of the most appalling legacies a child can be left with, and I don’t believe my derangements, modest as they are, would ever change my mind on that score. It’s off the table, whileever my son lives and breathes. I know some people whose derangements ranged somewhat further afield than mine and they decided in their moment that killing themselves and leaving the kids was an idea that made sense – and I feel desperately sad to think that anyone could be in a position where the view along their darkened horizon was so grossly restricted that this would in any way be a good thing; but I understand it, too. People sometimes talk of suicide as being a selfish act – but I think a lot of time the suicidal person sees it as something else altogether. If you really – really, really – believe that you and the world around you are so horribly fucked up that the best way to cleanse the ones you love of the sickness that is you is to slit your own throat, then selfish doesn’t really come into it. You’ve moved some way into having a rather niche understanding of those kinds of concepts. Some of us make it, some of us don’t. Some of us never make it home. And most people who have suffered from depression will have used the idea of suicide in the same way that people with anxiety disorders view the ‘spare’ box of Diazepam in the cupboard – there are some things you might not need, just knowing that they’re available offers enough comfort to get by. I would have viewed it with a cold eye and a level head as a fair solution to certain puzzles – I would have seen it as an available choice. Not now. Tied to this earth. I know some can’t hold onto the knots – the storms that pluck them from our earth tug at them more violently or they are too fragile in some fundamental way or they just find it easier to let go. I would have let go, I think, maybe, a time or two, over the last seven years, if I hadn’t been a father and had my son to think about. I think about it in safely abstract terms. But something has changed in my internal wiring. So I don’t just. Let. Go. I don’t think about letting go. Not in real terms – not any more. I don’t let it all hang out, either. I don’t know how it happens, but in the time I spend with him I’m somehow able to function. I can spend the days when I don’t see him – I have a largely 50/50 custody arrangement with a local ex – sitting in a coat with a hood up under a duvet in the flat in silence in the dark, l00king out into nothing, just listening to the gears grinding on my head, not eating, hardly sleeping, a churning, spiralling machine chowing rational thought into more food for the maggots. Everything brings its own terror. Every thought, ever action, every everything in everything that limps drearily back and forwards over the darkening kitchens of the day, brings dread. Dread as something physical. Dread which is justified. The constant feeling of being beneath darkening skies as something hideous rushes towards you. And then I have my son and a father shaped lid drops down over the whole sorry mess. The darkness in my pages never leaks onto his. I grew up in a crazy environment where murder and suicide became a family reality at quite a young age. I’d hate, more than almost anything, for him to grow up to be like me. I know how depression can be such a monstrous, astronomical event, a rupture in space and time that drags everything and everyone into its bleak, changeless, empty heart and I seem to be hardwired to be different when he’s around – he never sees the howling void at my centre. It makes me wonder how I can’t just bring this change on at will – it doesn’t seem a skill willing to be learned, though. When I drop him off at school and turn around to walk home, knowing I won’t be seeing him again for a few days, the chemistry changes instantaneously. The moment I turn my face away I can feel my features realigning, my step becoming heavier, the world around me getting colder and louder. And the worry is there, that this amazingly convenient transformation is a borrowed superpower – that it won’t last forever, that at some point the journey will go too deep too long and he’ll see me as I can be – unshaven, stinking, covered in crisp packets, pacing around the kitchen at 3 am trying to pry apart the guts of everything that makes me happy, virtually mute, unresponsive, screaming inside,all of us evolved beyond the lower branches where happiness hangs, overwhelmed and broken and human and quietly making a mess of it while he’s out at school. Am I being overprotective in wanting to shield him from myself? I dunno – whatever – they fuck you up.

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