Updated: Sep 26
I Tweeted something last week following the high profile suicides of Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain. Unfamiliar to me, the battle they fought and lost struck a chord.
The sharing of this very private impulse was akin to pulling down my own pants to reveal a luminous micro-penis in a black-lit changing room spilling over with Victoria’s Secret swimwear models, in the hope that one may just have a penchant for brief, unsatisfactory sex. I obviously wanted to talk. A week on, I’ve just had a look at the tweet’s activity: 11 engagements & 1 profile click. What a fucking yell into the dark. Pointless. I realised I was jealous of Kate & Anthony.
In the current climate of #MentalHealthMatters, ‘it hasn’t got the stigma it once did’, ‘isn’t it tragic that XX didn’t seek help before it was too late’ it was a micro-request of acknowledgement of my own increasing suffering of self doubt and hatred. I don’t talk about my own state of mind, not because I don’t want to, though I am a very private man, there just isn’t room in my circle for it. Not to friends (I want to keep them), not my wife (she being rendered virtually disabled last autumn, I am now essentially her full time carer), not my employer (I’m not suicidal! No, wait…) or my family (I want to blame them, though I don’t). The only person I’m completely honest with is my 3 year old daughter, and I definitely don’t want to show her what a weak, shallow failure of a man her Dad is quite yet. Finding this out will surely be one of the highlights of her adolescence.
Like everyone, I think about death. It’s part of the human experience; the shit part that gives grounds to mid-life crises, pattern balding and all encompassing panic that everything you do or have done is offensively shit to ears, eyes and sensibilities, so why bother with the things that you REALLY want to do. Such as communicate, smile, make an effort, dance, tell jokes, feel comfortable in company, go to bed before 1.30am and smell the fucking roses, which, of course, are massively overrated. It’s just the frequency and ferocity of the thoughts that have, of late, become a little concerning.
I have, like I suspect most people do, a running internal commentary on my life, voiced by my own subconscious John Motson. And like the real sheep-skinned football warbler, I wish the prick had retired two decades ago, because all he does is whisper “kill yourself” after every life goal miss, every trip and every time I make an effort to do something out of the ordinary, like a World Cup Final, last minute, tournament winning Pananka that hits a goalie (also driven by my subconscious) right in his stupid face.
To contextualise the tweet above, the little tingle in my heart that follows a suicide is my ‘get out of jail free’ card. No matter how much of a cunt I am, no matter the cunty things I say, how badly I humiliate myself publicly, professionally, online or in my efforts to write for TV, which is my sole professional ambition, if things get intolerably bad, I could just hang myself. I know why and where. All I have to do is, well…learn how to tie a proper knot. I’ll be safe then.
The climate IS changing, however. People ARE talking. It doesn’t prevent people from taking their lives, but they’re at least often seeking solace, help and an alternative (usually immediately before they properly die forever). The heartbreak of Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, who I lost, found and lost within a few hours of his death sparked a new platform of discussion; I felt that people were suddenly open to admitting their own fears and dark thoughts, and these confessions were being embraced as part of our collective dialogue on the struggle for happiness on social media - “admit you’re struggling and you’ll feel better”, so they say. So, yesterday I tried again. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I don’t give a brace of the tiniest fucks about ‘numbers’, RT’s or followers. I don’t feel that I’ve made any tangible friendships from 8 years of daily Tweeting, I do it for my own amusement. Regardless, I did one of those god awful threads that people pretend to like to appear smarter than they really are. A shout into the darkness about what I’m finding difficult, why I can’t overcome and to admit that I’m so very, nauseatingly, tired from the fight. And the insomnia. And the alcohol. Over 5 tweets I spilled my little blackened heart and hoped someone would welcome me with open arms into the compassionate fraternity online. What I did get was a single comment from one contemptuous prick that doesn’t even have the good grace to follow me (NUMBERS!).
I don’t know why this bothered me, it wouldn’t usually. It’s just that I’d seen similar posts with inferior #content heralded for their honesty and bravery get frightening levels of engagement whilst being received like a newly found Shakespeare first folio. It must make the Tweeter feel better. To be acknowledged. Maybe it’s because I’m not on the telly box, maybe it’s because my followers only care about football, maybe it’s because I am just as alone with my thoughts as I suspected. Regardless, it hurt more than surviving a point-blank shotgun blast to the balls, because I really tried, however tentatively. Increased sensitivity to rejection and feeling of absolute isolation is all part of the grand old shooting match.
I don’t think I’m going to kill myself, yet. I have ambitions I want to realise when I have the strength to ‘go again’, though the voice gets louder and more persistent the more tired I feel. I have had to accept Motson into my life: he arrived in September, and thought he’d fuck off by the time the sun came out, but he’s started paying rent and compiling a bathroom schedule. I just can’t rule a future suicide out. It’s catching up and singing along to my favourite songs. If it weren’t for the fact that my daughter is so young, and needs me now more than anyone has ever needed me (I haven’t had anything like enough time to properly mess her up yet) I would probably be much, much closer.
“So, why are you writing and #publishing this, you attention seeking number whore?” Well, although my depression won’t make the news (unless I take a load of people out with me), if it really is time to talk, to move the dialogue forward, then this is my contribution. Maybe someone else will read this and think “yeah, I feel like that.” I suspect a lot of people feel this way. I’m not special.
There are no answers here, and it’s not the end of the story. It’s just some words written on a laptop that just won’t come out of my damn mouth.
Robert Webb of Peep Show tweeted me yesterday, suggesting I speak to the Samaritans. Not in response to my ‘help me’ tweet, but in reply to an oblique comment I’d made to him about something completely isolated. He related to a state of mind I didn’t even realise I had communicated and it frightened me into thinking maybe I should seek help (again), but hopefully not immediately before I properly die forever.
Helpful contacts: @samaritans, @theCALMzone & me, @wiltybanter if you want to talk.