You Don’t Want To Hear About My Dreams…

But I’m going to tell you anyway.

About once a month or so I dream about my own funeral. I dream about it in so much detail that I could paint it for you (or at least commission someone to do it for me, I paint even worse than I write).

It’s a graveyard on a hill. It’s cold, windy and rainy, which probably speaks more to my sense of genre than anything else. The number of mourners changes from dream to dream, but it’s never exactly a crowd scene. Sometimes both my parents are still alive, sometimes just one. Occasionally I have survived them both, but not very often.

Like most young people (at least those that I know), I have always had trouble imagining myself as an old man. But realising that my subconscious has placed a covering bet on me not even making it that far was quite the unwelcome epiphany. Clearly, some part of my mind is worried and wants the other parts to know it. Which begs the question: how do I think I’ll go?

Let’s talk lifestyle factors. I’m not a smoker. I drink, but the fact that anyone’s turning up to my imaginary funeral at all militates against me having slipped away passed out in a gutter somewhere. Plus my fear of addiction has always been slightly stronger than my tendency towards it, which explains the non-smoker thing and the fact that I’ve never taken any illegal drugs. I exercise reasonably often, which one would think might count for something.

Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer, and cancer can never be discounted. But they’re so commonplace that I can’t think why my mind would be so worried about them as to keep bothering me while I’m trying to sleep. Plus it’s not as though I’m dreaming about cardiac arrests or ineffective chemotherapy. No, if these dreams mean anything at all it’s that my brain is expecting, or rather fearing, something a bit more…sudden.

Suicide is the UK’s single largest cause of death for people between 20 and 34. I have a past, present and quite probably future history of depression. The odds are shortening at an alarming rate (this is one morbid bookmaker). But somehow I just don’t see it, or won’t let myself see it.

Medical literature and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that most depression sufferers think or have thought about suicide in a sort of casual, uninterested way, as though daydreaming. Even those with no recognised symptoms of mental illness report these kinds of suicide fantasies. I do this a fair bit, particularly when I’m in my low periods or simply bored, and I do it in a perversely organised manner. I work out heights, angles, timing; it’s like I’m planning a bank heist or a particularly involved snooker trick shot. But I do dispassionately and on autopilot.

Even at absolute rock bottom, when the darkness was so absolute as to be utterly impenetrable, I have only ever once seriously thought that ending my life would be preferable to living it. I took no steps to act on it (how could I, my malfunctioning mind had sent my body into near shutdown mode) and once the depression took the pillow off my face a little I was so terrified by this mental impostor that I haven’t let myself even think about thinking like that since.

Perhaps that’s it. We often dream about doing things we would never consider thinking, let alone doing, in waking life. I’ve managed to ignore my suicidal thoughts to the extent that, unless things go more wrong than I’m comfortable with or capable of imagining, I’m never likely to act on them. But once thought, a thought cannot be fully suppressed and must find expression somehow. Therefore, about once a month or so I dream about my own funeral.

PS – I actually sometimes have that dream when I’m feeling OK. Except then it’s a Viking funeral followed by the most lavish Irish wake the world has ever seen. I’m putting it in my will that you’re all invited.

——-

‘To all, to each, a fair good-night / And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light!’ – Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, ‘L’Envoy’

Why Jonathan Trott Matters More Than Cricket

Australia won at the Gabba, but we knew that was going to happen two days before they actually did. Mitchell Johnson, about whom I collected a lot of very interesting stats which suddenly seem irrelevant, bowled fast and mouthed off, but we knew that was going to happen two months two months before it actually did.

What no-one knew was going to happen was that Jonathan Trott would go home with what the England management described as a ‘stress-related illness’. While this phrase might seem like another piece of ECB management mumbo-jumbo, as Dr. Brett Morrissey explained in an interview on Cricinfo it is actually to protect Trott’s privacy. Mental illness, at least while someone is in the midst of it, is an intensely private and personal thing, and until Trott has made a full recovery and is ready to talk about it as the estimable Marcus Trescothick has to such good effect the public do not need to know what precisely has gone wrong in his head.

I have suffered from depression. There are days when I still suffer from it. It took me a year or more to reconcile myself to the idea that I was ill and seek help, a month or so of CBT to be able to function in any meaningful way and all of the 13 months since to pick up the pieces, a process which has still not finished and might never do so. Many of my friends still don’t know what happened, and most of those who do have no idea of the specifics of my illness. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if my every up, every down, every therapy session and every empty black rage had been splashed across the back pages, talked about, written about and dissected in minute detail.

I’ve had run-ins (thankfully not very many) with a few of the ‘man up’ brigade – those troglodytes who still see mental illness as a personal failing or lack of effort rather than a medical issue necessitating treatment. I don’t dare think about what might have happened to me if the effect of that ignorance had been multiplied by the ‘take one for the team’ ethos of professional sport, laudable and thrilling to watch as that normally is, and the burden of wrongly thinking I’d let my team-mates down.

I know you’ll probably never read this, Jonathan, and I know you’ll be told what I’m about to say many times by people you love and trust. But I’m going to say it anyway: you don’t owe anything to anyone. Your only obligation is to yourself, to fix your mind and get on with your life in whatever way you see fit. Those of us who love cricket will hope that’s with the England team, but if not, so be it. Just get well very, very soon.

Don’t Forget To Be Happy

Recall Now The Roses
There will be a time to cry.
There will be a time to remember that you’re the only one
Who went home alone.
There will be a time to go twelve rounds with yourself
And lose on points.
There will be a time to second-guess every glance,
Every laugh, every conversation and every half-heard whisper.
There will be a time to call yourself a cunt.

But in this place
Of vast, terrifying beauty that seems
To us more-or-less intelligent primates
The last word in permanence but
Has only been for a few blinks
Of the great geologic eye;

And under these stars
Shining their impossibly ancient light,
Light that was born before the first
Rocks of Earth collided and now
Rests orphaned in your tear-damp eyes;

And with these people
Who, despite their happy, normal, love-filled lives
Can still find the time
To remind you that their world at least
Would be the poorer for your absence;

In this place,
Under these stars,
With these people;
This is a time to hold on tight to
And say,
“I am happy. And that’s okay.”

——-

No quote this time, Buzzfeed already said it all (or rather collated it all):
http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/comics-that-capture-the-frustrations-of-depression

Okay fine, here’s your quote, with a pretty picture to boot: