Still Alive


I have been having a particularly horrible week. So much has gone wrong in the last seven days that I am tempted to just call this the worst week I’ve had, in memory. Family members are ill, I’ve got no money, and a friend who I thought would always have my back were actually just waiting for the right opportunity for the knife.

As someone with quite severe depression, this has all led to me having some pretty horrible thoughts about self harm and suicide. As you can probably guess, I haven’t killed myself and I think the largest factors towards my not having committed or attempted suicide boil down to a couple of things.

First and foremost, Chris. Even with my incredibly low self-esteem, I know beyond any doubt that if I killed myself, Chris would be devastated. He loves me and cares for me more than I ever thought anyone would. I stop and think about it sometimes and I’m blown away. I really can’t understand it but Chris is not the kind of guy who would ever or could ever fake these kinds of emotions. He’s not particularly open, emotionally, and I think that his love for me is the only extreme or intense emotion I’ve ever seen him display. How could I inflict something like me committing suicide on him? A fine way to repay all of his kindness and generosity.

How To Save A Life – The Frey – this video can speak to anyone who has lost someone and subsequently wished they could have done something to prevent it.

Leading neatly on from that is the fact that I could never do it to any of my friends or family, either. No parent should have to outlive their child, and no friend should ever be made to feel that they couldn’t intervene, that their friendship wasn’t enough to help convince a person to stay alive. It would be left to someone I love and care about to clear out my bedroom, too, and I can’t think of anything worse for someone who is grieving to have to do, especially with a bedroom as personal as mine. Every thing on every shelf is some outward display of a memory or an emotion or an aspect of my personality. I attach huge amounts of sentimentality to objects that have no real worth, and there will be someone out there who will understand something about each item. I still have a small heart made of tinfoil that Karl made me in the lower sixth. No worth to anyone but him and me, and while it might seem easy for someone to throw it away, what if you knew that it held some kind of memory, some little part of the person who used to own it, even if you don’t know what the memory is? I wouldn’t find it easy.

Thirdly, as much as there are things I hate about myself and my life, there are so many things that aren’t shit. I love music. I love reading. I love video games. I love spending whole evenings with people who I love, watching TV shows and talking. I love my friends, my family and my boyfriend more than anything. I love my cats and my dog. I love nature and all the amazing, breathtaking things she is capable of. I love ingenuity and capabilities of mankind (even if I don’t always approve of the uses they’re put to). I love the way it feels when Chris looks me in the eyes and tells me that he loves me, and the way his hands feel when he holds me.

What I think the most important factor is more of the how than the why. I’ve already expressed concern for whoever gets stuck with the horrible job of emptying my bedroom, but what about the person who would find the body? I can’t imagine much that would be more awful than finding someone like that. If I were to do it in my house, the most likely candidate for finding the body would be someone I care about whichever of my housemates was to find it. Worst case scenario would involve Chris finding me – he’s had to deal with that once in his life already, and if there is anyone who doesn’t deserve something horrible to happen to them, it’s Chris. He is kind, generous, shy, polite and would never do anyone any harm without severe provocation.

I could never do it in a way that impacts another person, either. I just think it so selfish, the people who commit suicide by throwing themselves under trains. I wonder if they’ve ever given a thought to just how really, seriously traumatic that would be for the train driver? I used to fantasize about jumping off the train bridge in Lancaster as a non-stop train sped through, but I just can’t bring myself to subject anyone to that, let alone a random stranger just trying to do their job. On top of that, imagine the chaos – it takes so little to disrupt train service, there would be many people inconvenienced just because of me.

Lastly, no matter how bad it feels when I am usurped by the oppressive certainty that everything is shit, I’m not worth anything to anyone, and nothing will ever be ok again, when I am lucid and rational and only mildly convinced of the world’s hostility to me, I hope.

I hope that one day I will be healthy and whole and happy again, that one day Chris and I will have a place of our own that I can fill with clutter and colourful rugs with blankets and throws over all the chairs and a welcoming front door. I can hope that in the future I’ll start each day with a smile and be the person I’ve promised myself I can be.

I hope that Sam will realise that in the classic “reason/season/lifetime” paradigm, he is supposed to be a lifetime friend. WE are supposed to be lifetime friends. I hope he’ll realise just how horrible this whole situation is, just how much we both lose from this. I hope he’ll realise that no-one will ever care about him like I do. Without him I have almost no doubt I wouldn’t have managed to make it through the last two years in Lancaster. I hope he’ll realise that the trust and loyalty he can get from a best friend is greater than that which he can expect from a girl to whom he is the other guy, the guy she’s cheating on her boyfriend with, the guy she kissed out of mild curiosity and swore blind she didn’t have any interest other than friendship.

I hope that someday I will actually be able to do what I want. I want people to like me. I want to do things that make their lives better and happier and richer, somehow. I want to be the woman who Chris deserves. I want to be the friend that my friends deserve.

I hope that one day, I can be my own person with no shadowy black dog lurking around every corner in my mind. I hope I’ll be free.

Remembering what never happened


Because of the way the human brain stores and recalls memories, the strangest things can trigger a memory. Sometimes, things that have nothing to do with a particular memory can trigger you to think about it, perhaps because it is in some way tangentally conected. It is a very abstract process and one of the things that both science and psychology continue to investigate.

One of the more interesting things that I have recently learned is that you can have a memory that you can visualise so clearly that it might have happened only a few hours past, but that doesn’t mean that that memory is real. Your brain can actually ‘remember’ things that have never happened. There’s a fabulous word to describe the process – Confabulation. Ther’s an article here on Cracked that words it much better than I can.

As the Cracked article states, many people who have uncovered ‘repressed’ memories of events from their past (this most often seems to be related to some kind of early childhood abuse) have actually just made up (or confabulated) those memories. However, I don’t think that this totally debunks all of Freud’s theories. As much as I hate the majority of what I’ve ever learned about Freud, I have to acquiesce that some of his ideas were, and remain, incredibly insightful (not that all theories come from him, but he was the first major proponent of them).

I do believe that some people genuinelly repress memories, but only because it is apparently something I have done. According to my mother, the first Christmas after she and my father seperated, my paternal grandmother came up with a scheme that involved my brother and I decieving my mum and lying to her, so that we could spend Christmas day with our dad. This deciet and deception resulted in my brother and I coping in markedly different ways. He became even more easily angered and aggressive than he usually was, and I became something of a nervous wreck, especially whenever my mum began enthusing about Christmas, what she was going to be cooking, presents, our maternal gran joining us, boardgames we could play. and other things. The stress of the situation was only exacerbated by the fact that neither Lewis nor myself really wanted to lie to my mother in a way that we must have known would hurt her terribly. Eventually, my mum got the details of my grandmother’s scheme from one of us (it was a very simple plan, really – it would just involve us going to her place on Christmas eve, as already planned, but instead of going home to our mother at six o’clock, we’d just phone her and say we wouldn’t be coming back until boxing day).

Now, as horrible as that story sounds (or so I’ve been told), there is something very odd about it. I don’t remember it at all. When my mum brought it up a few years ago (I think I was asking her why the relationship between her and my paternal gran was so much more acerbic than that of other ex-mother-in-law-relationships) she was shocked that I didn’t know which ‘awful Christmas thing’ she was talking about, and I was shocked to learn that my gran could do something like that (though having had several years to mull it over, I’m aware that my shock was misplaced).. But I can’t remember it at all, even after really straining my memory to breaking point, there isn’t a single thing about that Christmas that I can remember. Incidentally, my brother can’t remember this either but he admits to being unable to remember very much at all before he was about fourteen.

The only indication of this having impacted on me in any way is the sense of dread foreboding I often get when going out somewhere. I used to get it when going to a friend’s sleepover for example, this feeling that I should have stayed home with my family instead. I get it these days if I’m leaving my friends to do something else or see someone different, that I should just be staying where it’s safe and comfortable. It makes me want to get on the very next train home, or to cut my visit short somehow. Even when I know I’ll enjoy what I’m doing.

What I’m trying to point out is that memory is an incredibly unreliable source. It’s possible to completely forget something that really should have been very important, with quite a large impact on one aspect of my family life. On the other hand, it is equally possible to ‘remember’ something that is not true at all. It’s such an odd concept, being completely able to ‘remember’ something that never happened.

They say that the human brain is the least understood thing in the world, but I think that if the brain was simple enough for us to understand it, we would be too simple to want to.

 

Added:

It occurs to me that this blog entry came about of me wanting to write about something that hasn’t made an appearence at all, so I’ll write about it here, because it is related to memory.

In the bathroom in my house, there is a cupboard on the wall that is shared between myself and my two housemates. It’s made of stained pine, I think, and must be a fairly new addition to the house, as you can still smell the wood when you are stood near it. When you open the door, the wood smell gets blown out at you, along with the scent of a housemate’s aftershave, Old Spice. There is something about the combination of these two scents washing over me that makes my knees weak. I want to bottle that smell and carry it around with me. It is simultaneously relaxing and arousing, and highly evocative.

However, I don’t know what it’s evoking. It clouds up on the edges and in the corners of my memory, tantalizing me with the promise of reliving some divine moment. Unfortunately, that memory is out of reach, blocked off, or perhaps not even real. There is just something about the combination of the woody, natural smell of the cupboard, and the intoxicationg scent of Old Spice aftershave that makes me want to go and make love with my boyfriend, or have a barbeque with my friends, or go running through a field with my old dog. I just don’t know why.