The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 29 Aug 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

The workings of my brain

MENTAL ILLNESS WARNING: To see what depression is like, read this post. I wrote it a few days ago, when I was feeling bloody awful. I am not, happily, feeling bloody awful anymore, but if you want to understand how depression takes elements of your life and weaves them into a narrative whose ending has you taking your own life, then here it is. And people who have depression find that this is often a daily or hourly or minute-by-minute battle.

Here’s a thought that’s been troubling me.

What if depression is nature’s way of telling me to remove myself from the gene pool? Before you recoil in horror at this idea, you need to hear me out.

I’ve plateaued in my recovery and have been flatlining for some time. While I can work, I can’t do any more than freelancing from home and a few hours here or there. This isn’t the thing of which glittering careers are made and I know full well that even before my breakdown, working in any kind of office eventually became insuperably hard. The shortest amount of time I managed was days, the longest, several years, but it ended in my final and complete collapse.

This means that my spending power is gone. Utterly gone. Today, I faced the very capitalist humiliation of buying a present for two children I like very much and having to shop in the bargain basement aisle for a LEGO model that they’d both like. A small thing, maybe, but it comes on the end of a long line of other humiliations, from avoiding Costa because I simultaneously like it and can’t afford it to having my overdraft paid off once and eating into it again.

We live in a capitalist society. We are defined by what we can buy to wear, eat or drive. And right now, I couldn’t buy a pot to piss in. By capitalism’s reckoning, and remember that it’s the system we live under, so it determines what we do and, to a large extent, who we are, I am a useless eater. I don’t produce much in the way of surplus economic value and do, in fact, consume it. My partner and my mother, who is 73, are supporting me and I have lived to see myself become a bad parody of everything I ever hoped I could become.

Across the top of this sits my mental illness, for which I’m taking Sertraline and probably will be for the rest of my life. Illness makes me unproductive and, like some flyblown, shit siren, it keeps calling me onto the rocks. Its message is simple. You’re supported by others, to whom you’re a burden, so there’s clearly something genetically wrong with you. Do the decent thing, avoid reproducing and find a way to kill yourself that inconveniences as few people, as few productive units who are much more healthy than you, as soon as possible.

I attach some credence to this position as it’s clearly the right one. Quite when I will ever be productive again remains uncertain, which means I’m failing every minute I draw breath. Were I to make the compromises I need to be productive and get a generic office job, I’d either break again or be dead before the end of the year. And there is a genetic defect. My grandma and uncle both attempted suicide, so something in my DNA is permanently going off like a klaxon and willing me to the supreme act of self-destruction.

So why don’t I do it? Three reasons. I’m in a relationship with someone I love and who I wouldn’t want to leave behind, I’m always trying to get more work in the vain hope that one of my idiot emails sparks something and, finally, I’m a massive coward. Despite being religious, I’m worried that life after death is a big load of old bollocks and I would, in effect, be turning myself off in perpetuity and going nowhere special and sparkly.

Here, then, I am. Bleeding money out of my backside just for drawing breath, sending out offers of work that have the hollow positivity of a stewardess who has just seen a wing fall off and is now toking on a bong, and writing. Which, admittedly, I think I’m not too shabby at and do rather enjoy, whether it’s this blog or, heaven help me, stuff for corporate clients. It makes no odds what I’m writing as I just enjoy writing for the sheer, unalloyed joy of it. Funny old me.

With that, I go to bed, with those two narratives chasing each other around my brain, both ‘kill yourself’ and ‘hang on, it gets better.’ This is how it’s been for years, and it’s all rather dull. There are moments when it buggers off, like when I’m doing DIY, heaven help me, playing my PlayStation 3 or fitting one word next to another. But it bides its time and it’s there for me when I’m done, which calls to mind a line or two of TS Eliot’s ‘Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,’ which reads “I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, and I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid.” The eternal footman won’t be kept waiting forever.

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