Originally posted last March…
I discovered that there seemed to be two distinct varieties of depression – good depression and bad depression. Good depression seemed to be endogenous, that is, it was caused by factors beyond a person’s control, probably as a result of wayward brain chemistry, and could arise without warning like a dirty black storm in the middle of a clear blue sky. Bad depression was exogenous, reactive – it was what happened to people too constitutionally feeble to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without throwing themselves to the floor like thwarted toddlers, howling against the injustices of life. Obviously, all my reading of the available literature could be filtered in such a way as to strongly suggest that MY depression was of the good, morally blameless variety – I wasn’t wrong or weak or stubbornly trying to build a life from unsuitable materials, I was a victim of chemicals. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help myself.
I began to attract a certain amount of unwanted attention from senior staff. I was taking time off work for all sorts of spurious reasons willy nilly – I was turning up to work bedraggled and hollow eyed, I was frequently seen on my time off staggering around the grounds drunk and unkempt. And then it all went really wrong.
I was working on an acute admissions ward in the second year of my training, and attended a drama therapy workshop which, to my abject horror, involved a large amount of interaction with my peers and a horrible amount of role play. Every time I had to stand up and speak or act out some scenario I felt myself withering, diminishing, dying beneath the gaze of others, wilting beneath their judgement. At the end of the day I said my goodbyes, see you tomorrow, all that bullshit. I wasn’t going to be seeing anyone tomorrow. It was a relief. I hurried home with a packet of razor blades and a bottle of vodka, almost jubilant to have finally reached the end of this grossly unpleasant journey. I got home and snapped the blades from their plastic casings and began drinking.
For years afterwards I described the events of that night as a suicide attempt, in reality it was more an attempt at sidestepping my life than ending it. It was, I guess, a classic ‘cry for help’ – but who would want to admit to that? A cry for help is a pathetic, mousy squeak of terror – a suicide is a big, bold, bloody fuck you to the world. Rock stars kill themselves – bedwetters and inadequates take the ‘cry for help’ route instead. The truth is, it’s not very difficult to die – and if I’d really been pursuing death, I could very easily have obtained it. Instead I was left with rents in my arms and legs through which you could see the muscle wetly glinting and slithered off to my bed to pump out a couple of pints of sluggish blood, black in the sodium glow of the streetlights outside, knowing that IF I woke in the morning – as I almost definitely would – I’d done something so extreme that I would have rearranged the topography of my life forever. For better or worse didn’t really matter at that point – escape was all.