Autobiography Chapter 17
by phil russ
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Chapter 17 A World Of Darkness
I found myself wandering the streets, as I couldn't face going straight home.
I made my way down a dark lane. All was quiet in the stillness of the night. The lane was dimly lit but I could still make out the railway tracks that were running parallel to it. So I ventured on into the darkness, walking as if in a trance.
I soon found myself standing on a bridge overlooking the railway line. "This is it! I want to die" I decided, the thoughts of suicide becoming increasingly dominant, my spirit crushed by the overwhelming relentlessness of hopelessness and despair. The depression had a stranglehold over me. It was hopeless to fight it. Death was the only way out now.
I sat on the bridge and decided that this is where I was going to die. My soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, tortured by the emotional pain.
I would wait for the next train to come along and throw myself in front of it as it passed.
I sat there, my body shaking and beads of sweat starting to run down my face dripping onto my hands. My stomach felt twisted and tied up in knots, as the hopelessness gnawed away at me inside. Soon I was going to be dead, my misery would be over. "Come on! Come on!" I shouted impatiently, desperate to get it over. "Where's that bloody train". I waited what seemed to be an eternity, but nothing came. I climbed down and decided to make my way home.
On the way, I passed by my local pub. I could here shouting and hollering coming from inside. I decided to go in and seek some comfort from a glass. There was a crowd of people watching a football match; this is where the shouting and screaming was coming from. As I stood there among the crowd, I felt so alone, caught up in my own little world. I felt an overwhelming crushing pain in my spirit, crying for help. It became too unbearable to stay, so I left and walked the rest of the way home.
Closing the front door behind me, I made my way to my room. Small, dark and windowless, with just a door to the back passage, it was so depressing that it made me feel worse. I began to pace up and down, my mind still bombarded with suicidal thoughts. I went to the kitchen, took the carving knife from the drawer and headed back to my room, shutting the door.
Sitting on my bed, I stared at the knife and then started to run my fingers down the length of the blade. I could hear voices in my head saying "Do it! Do it! Run it through. Your misery will be over." Pouring with sweat, I gripped the handle with both hands, pressed the knife against my chest, and began to apply pressure. I could feel the pain as the point of the blade started to cut in. "Do it! Do it!" The voices were now getting louder inside my head. They seemed to be taking over. I was drowning in deep despair. My hands began to shake uncontrollably "Oh God! Help Me!" I screamed, tears now pouring down my face. Dropping the knife, I fell to the floor beside my bed, reaching out for my pillow as I fell. I cried endlessly into it, unable to stop. "Help me! Please... Someone". I cried, but nobody came; I was alone.
I got up and fell on my bed, my pillow now soaked in my tears. I lay there for hours, unable to sleep because of the uncontrollable thoughts of suicide racing through my mind.
All night long, I rehearsed my suicide, over and over again, in great detail, the hopelessness and despair by now was crippling me. I just had to die, there was nothing to live for any more, and my life was over, my only escape, death! I was sure the next time I wouldn't fail.
I spent the next week in my room, only leaving to use the bathroom. I cried continuously, day and night. I just couldn't stop.
The pain was unbearable. By now, simple tasks had become huge undertakings, so I just avoided them. Most days I would just lay in bed, unable to muster up the energy to get up. What was I to get up for? I hated life and it seemed to hate me too.
I was drowning in a river of hopelessness, and despair was cemented to my feet pulling me down, deeper and deeper. My stomach was all knotted up and I was unable to eat. Strangely I didn't feel hungry even though I hadn't eaten anything for the last seven days.
The next morning, having been awake most of the night thinking about death, I sat on my bed holding the knife in my hands. "Cut your throat". The voices again started to bombard my mind. I held the knife against the side of my throat. "One flick of the knife and your pain will be over. Do it! Do it now!" The voices in my head were taking control. I just wanted the pain to stop - death seemed to be the only way to escape from my prison of torment.
Then closing my eyes, I pressed the blade into my throat. "Goodbye cruel world" I said, as I began to add pressure.
With one last desperate cry for help, I contacted the Samaritans. I spent over an hour talking, still playing with the knife in my hand.
They managed to persuade me to seek medical help, suggesting that I could be suffering from depression.
After making an appointment, I went so see the doctor the next day.
He looked at me with a warm smile. He was a small thin man with mostly grey hair, which was thinning on top. "What can I do for you young man?" he said in a quiet voice. I explained to him how I was feeling, including all the constant suicidal thoughts. "You have clinical depression and anxiety" he explained, continuing "I'm a little bit worried that you may be of risk to yourself. Perhaps you should consider getting some medical care". "What do you mean?" I replied. "If these suicidal thoughts continue, it might be wise for you to volunteer yourself to go into a psychiatric hospital for a while" "No! I don't want to go in one of those places" I remonstrated.
I had seen these places before when visiting friends and didn't like the look of them. Everyone is drugged up to the eyeballs and walks around like zombies. "Look! I'll be alright" I said, trying to reassure him. "Very wel1" he acquiesced "but if they continue or get worse, you may have no choice".
He signed me off, so I didn't have the added pressure of finding a job; he gave me the antidepressant 'Prozac' and a two-week course of tranquillisers and told me to come back in a few weeks.
I went home back to my parents, as I couldn't cope with being in Bath. It was making my anxiety worse and the tablets would take some time to kick-in.
Andy, a member of the Bath YFC team brought me back to Bath a few days later. "Would you like to go and stay at a retreat in Gloucester for five days?" he asked. "You'll get 24hour support and counselling by Christians". "How
much will it cost?" I enquired. "Don't worry about that... YFC will cover all the costs".
I took him up on his offer and arrived there a few days later. It was a beautiful building, surrounded by open fields.
All the staff were warm and caring, being sensitive to all my needs. I had a lovely big room with a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. I stayed up to the early hours most nights watching TV with a couple of other guests.
Although the suicidal thoughts had died down, I still felt deeply depressed and my soul felt empty. I was lonely. Even when the room was full of people, I felt all alone in my own dark world.
There was however, a real sense of God's peace in that house and it was a real blessing to have stayed there. I was so grateful to YFC for sending me; it was sad to have to leave.
I returned to Bath, but within a few days, I went back to my parents as I was still finding it hard to stay in Bath. Several days later, I went to meet Tony in town and found him in Woolworths looking at the CDs. Suddenly I felt strange. I became anxious as all the people seemed to be crowding round me and the noise everyone was making was unbearable. I was freaking out! I ran out of the shop leaving Tony open-mouthed and gob smacked.
I ran all the way home and shut myself in the bedroom. Sometime later I ventured downstairs and Mum made me a cup of tea. I couldn't stop moving; my body seemed to want to move all the time. If I sat down my hands and feet would constantly move; I just couldn't stop it. I got up and paced around the room. "Why don't you pack up and move back here?" mum said with a worried look on her face. "I'll be all right mum, I just need to go back to the doctors and find out what's happening to me."
I hadn't been able to sleep properly for weeks now; sometimes I would still be awake at 4am, pacing about in my room. My mind was racing so much I couldn't switch it off.
That night I spoke to my brother, Brian, on the phone. He said that after I had seen my doctor, he would pick me up and pay for me to spend a week in a retreat in Poole where I could get some more help and counselling.
I went back to Bath to see my doctor and he told me that 'Prozac' was unsuitable for me and that I needed heavily sedating. He gave me the tricyclic drug 'Dothiepin' and another two-week course of tranquillisers and booked me in to see the NHS Counsellor. Then he sent me on my way.
I went back to my lodgings and wasted no time in packing a few items of clothing into a bag and catching the bus back to my home town. I don't know what it was about Bath that filled me with so much fear that it would kick-off my anxiety. I wasn't going to hang around to find out.
The next day my brother picked me up from my parents' house and took me to the Christian house in Poole, Dorset.
After he had dropped me off, I was greeted by two women who gave me a frosty welcome. They seemed cold. Nothing like the warm and comforting welcome I had experienced in Gloucester. I explored the house and the room I would be staying in. It was tiny with no home comforts. I didn't like this place at all. As it made me feel uncomfortable, I decided the less time; I spent here, the better.
I walked along the coastal path into Bournemouth where I stayed for most of the day. Then in the evening, I made my way back along the coastal path towards Poole. It was getting dark and only the promenade in Bournemouth was lit up; the rest of the journey would be in darkness. As I walked along the promenade, I had this feeling I was being followed. Sure, enough, when I turned round there was a man following me and every time I stopped, he would stop as well. I walked to the end of the promenade and stopped. Leaning on the rail, I looked out to sea. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see he was doing the same. I waited and waited, then eventually he disappeared and I walked back to Poole.
Nobody was about when I returned to the house so I strolled into the TV room and sat down to watch 'match of the day' on TV. After a few minutes had passed, a member of staff interrupted me. "Can you turn it off and go to bed now... it's eleven o'clock". "Oh! I see" I said, surprised "Can't I just stay up and watch TV. I can't sleep at night because of my illness". "No! The rules are, bed and lights out at eleven o'clock".
I did as I was asked and went to bed. I knew then that tomorrow I was out of here. This was not what I expected at all. I thought this was supposed to be a Christian retreat. It felt more like a prison camp.
The next day I caught the train and returned to my lodgings in Bath. The room was so dark and depressing that it didn't take long for the suicidal thoughts to come flooding back with a vengeance. After a couple of days of staring at four walls, the depression was deeper than ever.
I felt so alone, all I wanted was to be loved and cared for. I just wanted someone to hold me.
I cried for ages, until there were no tears left. I was in so much pain. I had no life. I had no one. I was lying on my bed with the carving knife in my hands. I began to imagine how on earth the landlord would explain a body with a knife through his heart in one of his rooms. Then I drifted back to reality.
Nobody cared. If I killed myself, who would even notice I was gone. I even began imagining my funeral, but a twisted and warped version of it.
There were just a handful of people stood around my coffin, no tears, only laughter. "Good riddance" they would say.
I was unwanted - unloved and uncared-for. I was no one and had no one. I didn't want to live this life on my own. It felt like someone had sucked out all of my life and there was nothing left inside me, just emptiness. I am all knotted up inside and I can't stop crying - I have no life; there is no hope - only darkness and loneliness. I am all alone in this cruel world - a life of misery. This wasn't living - it was just existing.
Desperate, I found myself on the phone to the Samaritans again, but this time it didn't help me. I felt that I was beyond help now and there was no way back.
As the days went on, alcohol provided a temporary escape from my dark world.
I would often be found sitting in a park for hours watching the world go by. I couldn't bear the thought of spending another waking moment staring at those four walls in my dark dingy room. It would drive me mad. So I would sit here in the park and watch all the people going by.
Most of them seemed to move with purpose and direction, having somewhere to go. Not like me at all; I would walk around in a daze.
Once when I was sitting in the park opposite the Scala supermarket, I noticed a young couple come into the park.
They were laughing as they held hands and hugged each other. They seemed so happy as they stretched out on the grass to eat their sandwiches. I watched as they embraced each other, and then kissed, as she gazed lovingly into his
eyes. I struggled to hold back the tears beginning to trickle down my cheek. It hurt so much so see this happy couple in love - I hated it. Unable to contain myself any more I angrily got up out of my seat and left the park. Seeing them all over each other was a kick in the teeth for me. I was jealous of them as they had something I wanted. I longed for someone to share my life with, someone to love me and to be in love with.
I knew though I was in no fit state of mind to be able to hold down any kind of relationship with anyone, even if I did want it. Nobody would want me anyway, not with all my baggage.
I would try as much as I could to hang around on the streets sitting in parks, anything to avoid going home.
Now when I was in my room I would spend most of my time drinking bottles of vodka, my new friend. I knew I would feel worse once the alcohol wore off and the after effects kicked in, but it was well worth it for the temporary respite it brought me.
The alcohol would lift the mist that clouded my life. Just for a short while I could see clearly. It was my only escape from the dark, deep depression - a momentary lift was all I could hope for.
I would occasionally go down and wait for Wes who was working in the Scala.
On one such occasion after an afternoon sat in my room, consuming a whole bottle of vodka. I wandered down to wait for him to finish work. After a couple of minutes, I couldn't wait any longer, so I marched in to see him. He was serving a customer at the checkout when I approached him. "Hello Wes" I shouted out. It was obvious to everyone that I was drunk. His shocked embarrassment said it all. "Phil, what are you doing? "Go and wait for me outside."
Vodka was to become my drinking companion for some time after that.
I returned to see my doctor, but had to see the locum, a young skinny man with small rounded glasses. I watched as he skimmed over my vast pile of notes. "If you don't mind me saying... you seem very disgruntled" he pointed out, unsympathetically "What do you expect? I'm depressed!" I said, offended. "No one will want to be around you if you behave like this... you need to cheer up a bit. Young lad like you shouldn't be depressed. What do you enjoy doing?" he asked. "Nothing! I hate my life - I want to die!!" I replied. The room went silent as I waited for his reply.
He started to fidget about in his chair, obviously finding my reply uncomfortable. "I think we should increase your dosage...and try to stop these feelings". It was obvious to me that he didn't have a clue about the effects of depression, unlike my own doctor.
I would hang around with Wes as often as I could; he was aware that I was ill, but I don't think he fully understood what the depression was doing to me. He made no attempt to offer me any advice, which is why I liked being around him. He was there to support me and was a real comfort to me. Unfortunately not everyone responded in the same manner.
Some Christian friends from church were less than sympathetic and were quick to offer advice. "You can't be depressed. You're a Christian" they would say or "you need to pray and read the bible more and just pull your socks up!"
The depression had disrupted my relationship with God and I had lost the joy of my salvation; I no longer felt God's presence. Praying and devotions were impossible, since both acts require a great deal of concentration. God seemed to be unreachable - I was cut off from Him and beyond his help - I felt so dead inside.
I surprised to find there was quite a stigma attached to depression and they failed to realise that these so-called 'well-meaning words' just pulled me down further. They just compounded the additional guilt I was already feeling; I condemned myself for not snapping out of it. They were negative, unhelpful words from uninformed people who just didn't understand.
The depression was now accompanied by the urge to cause myself pain. Sometimes I would scratch my arms or cut myself with a knife, just enough to make them bleed. For some reason I found the sight of my blood very pleasing.
One sunny afternoon while waiting for Wes outside his house, I had an overwhelming urge to cause pain. I lashed out with my fists hitting the pebble-dashed walls. "Phil! What have you done?" he cried coming out of the house "I thought I could hear banging".
He grabbed my arms, pulling me away from the wall. There were splats of my blood all over the wall; all my
knuckles were covered in blood. Even though I was now in pain, I had a real sense of satisfaction.
It must have been hard for Wes. He was a young lad and it must have been quite a weight on his shoulders, to have the responsibility of looking out for me.
I went out with Wes clubbing one Thursday. The nightclub was heaving with people and I could hardly move. I headed for the bar where I was to stay for most of
the night. After drinking several 'Red Bulls and vodkas I headed for the dance floor.
As I got there, I became aware of that strange feeling again, the noise and the people dancing all around me. I couldn't cope; I just had to get out.
I left the nightclub and made my way home along the river. I was struggling to breathe as my chest was tightening. Panic was setting in. I collapsed under a bridge. "Help me somebody" I screamed. "I'm dying! I can't breathe". But I was alone in the darkness. Then suddenly it dawned on me
. This was my opportunity to let
myself die. My life of pain would be over. No more hopelessness, no more despair. In those few moments, the panic had gone and I was breathing normally again.
"Let me die God! Please kill me!" I cried, now feeling robbed of my chance of death.
I got down on my knees and cried uncontrollably as the thick black cloud of depression surrounded me, bringing with it nothing but darkness. I felt such a deep pain in my spirit as hopelessness and despair again began to choke me.
After a long wait, I eventually had my three sessions with the NHS counsellor. I didn't find them to be of any help and was referred to see a clinical psychologist.
Over the next few weeks, I drowned out the voices and thoughts with bottles of vodka, my only escape from the tormented life I was living.
Wes got me to join the local pub's darts team just to keep me out of trouble. One particular night we had gone down the local to practise. We were enjoying our practice session when we were interrupted by a group of blokes. "Get off that dartboard" demanded one guy. "There's another board over there" I said, pointing. "Phil, it's no problem... Let them have it" said Wes, not wanting any trouble. "No Wes!" I argued, unwilling to give it up. Another bloke got up and approached me. "We want to play on this board. Now get off! He said, staring me in the face. I could feel the anger rising up in me. "Make me!" I roared. We stared at each other and I could see the fear appearing in his eyes. He backed down and they all left.
The illness had left me with a very short fuse and my anger was getting me into trouble. Once activated my anger was like an-out-of-control steamroller.
On another occasion, I almost got into a fight again over the use of a pool table. I had an argument with this guy and threatened to punch him out. Thankfully Wes had the presence of mind to drag me outside. After cooling off, I was able to return and shake hands.
Hitting another low point after several more anxiety attacks, I returned to the doctor to get some more tranquillisers and headed back 'home' to stay with my parents until they took effect.
A couple of days later the phone rang; it was my landlord. "Is everything all right? he asked. "Only at church today, it was announced that you were looking for somewhere else to live. A few days before coming home, I had mentioned it to one of the leaders in the church, having recognised that I needed to find a new home. "Yes... Sorry. I just need somewhere where I can be around people. I need that at the moment" I said, as tactfully as I could. There was nothing wrong with the room, apart from the lack of a window and always being dark. It just didn't feel like my home and I felt trapped in there. I needed to have people around me. "But where am I going to find that?" I wondered.
The next day, the phone rang again for me. This time it was Richard, one of the students from Argyle Terrace. "We heard at church yesterday that you were looking for somewhere to stay for a while" he said. "Would you like to come and stay with us? Sarah is going back home for the summer so you can have her room." he explained. "That would be great. Thanks!" I responded, delighted with the idea.
I hadn't seen much of them over the last few months and had enjoyed hanging out with them sometimes. So a week later I began to arrange to move my stuff into my new room. I stood there in my empty room for the last
Time and said goodbye. I was glad to see the back of it; it held nothing but bad memories.
© Phil Russ 2007
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