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I guess I'm hoping that, by the end of all this, I can look back and see how silly I am and move on with my life. It seems like a good idea, I don't want to make any rash decisions, and I don't want anyone to think I've not spent at least some time thinking about this. It's a feeling that has been gnawing away at me for as long as I can remember, making everything just that little bit more difficult than it ought to be.
So here we go, a goodbye letter, one hundred words a day.
"Why," my grandmother asked, wrist deep in soil as we worked in the garden, "are you always so sad?"
I couldn't think of a good reply then, and almost twenty years later, I can't think of a good reply now. At the time, I just shrugged my shoulders and carried on hunting for the roots of some persistent weed or other.
"Why," I asked her later, over our well-deserved cups of tea, "are you always so happy?"
"I guess I'm just lucky," she said.
I remember hoping that the sadness would pass back then. Even now, I still hope.
This isn't to say that I've always felt sad.
Imagine if you had a little voice in your head, which constantly reminds you at moments that should be joyous that these positive emotions will certainly pass. That the following sense of emptiness and loss will be so much worse because of that brief moment beforehand where you felt like a whole, real person. And that every time you sink back into that helpless depression, the little voice gets a bit louder and it gets a little easier to give in rather than try to find a safe way out.
That same little voice made maintaining friendships, or any meaningful relationship, very difficult. The tired old line of "it's not you, it's me", feels applicable. I would make friends and, often, form firm, close friendships with the people around me.
But the fear of them seeing what was really going on underneath the happy, excitable mask that I wore meant that I would, inevitably, start to distance myself from them. Not speaking to a close friend for a few days turned into a few weeks, then a few months, until finally I found I had isolated myself from almost everyone.
I noticed a similar pattern with my mother; I had always wondered why people would suddenly turn from "firm family friends" to "avoided in the street". Growing up on a small island certainly didn't help in that regards, as not only is it very difficult to avoid somebody over there, but it's painfully obvious when you are trying to avoid somebody.
Perhaps I should try and talk to her about it. Was she going through the same thing? Is she still going through it? And how do you even go about bringing the subject up over the phone? Who knows.
If it runs in the family, well, I can't be certain. My father died just after I was born, and my family - well, my grandmother, to be precise - seemed to do everything in her power to stop that half of my family getting in touch with me.
I don't even know what he looked like. I assume he must look a fair bit like me, because I share very features with my mother. It's quite weird to look at the photographs of your family and realise that you look nothing like the rest of them. An outsider, even amongst family.
My mother married again when I was young. I don't know how young I was exactly but, to me, the man I called my father was always that - my father. My parents had another child, and we lived a pretty comfortable life together.
When I was eleven, my parents split up. While my father was away fishing - he was a fisherman! - my mother packed up our belongings and we moved to another island. With the relationship between my parents ruined, the relationship between my father and I changed as well. I was no longer his son, just "your mother's child".
But I sat through it, taking the verbal abuse, the needless put-downs and the constant jeers of my father, who all the time was encouraged by his new partner. I remained strong, I gave every impression that I was cheerful and up-beat each time my brother and I was put on a plane to see my father for the weekend.
Because I had a plan, and with it, direction. I was miserable and unhappy, but I'd work hard, knuckle down at school, and one day I would be successful. I'd visit my father and say "look, I'm here."
For the first time, I could keep that voice quiet. I wasn't impervious to harm, but at least I saw that there was something to work towards. I celebrated successes at school, and found myself traveling away from home to continue my education at sixteen years old.
It wasn't my age, or my freedom from home that let me blossom here. It was that I saw a way for my plan to work, that I'd successfully taken those first, vital, difficult steps. I could finally see the scenario in which my father and I would meet as adults, as equals.
When my father was lost at sea, a few months before I turned eighteen, it destroyed me. I remember the day it happened, sitting at the reception of my school, waiting for somebody to come and collect me. I had no idea what was going on, I'd assumed I was in trouble, or that the family I was staying with - who I had disagreements with - were unhappy with me for something or other.
The lady I was staying with arrived and took me outside and, in the cold winter sunshine, she told me, "your father is dead."
I broke down.
And while I grieved, the voice came back, louder and strong before. The only thing I had that kept me going, my only goal was taken away. While I could easily put into words then how I was saddened by the death of my father, I could never seem to explain to the people around me what that death meant.
I tried to proceed with my education, but my heart and mind was no longer in it. It was no longer in anything. I began going to sleep at night hoping that I simply wouldn't wake up in the morning.
It was then that I feel like I fell off the world, another lost person who finds themselves slipping through the cracks of society. What little money I had went towards rent and enough food to get by. A series of accidents saw my health deteriorate, my only piece of identification was a birth certificate that didn't even have my name on it and, each time I tried to climb back up, I eventually found that I'd pull myself back down.
Part of me had always known this is how it was going to end. There'd be no other way.
For something that's described as a cowardly act, taking your own life is pretty difficult. No matter how bad things are, no matter the pressure, it seems like there is always a point at which you're held back by your body and subconscious. When I was younger, I'd sometimes sit on a bench overlooking the cliffs on the southern edge of the island and weep.
But my health is failing. I planned to take my own life, slowly, so that I could hit the point of no return without realising it. I won't know when I hit the rocks.
Half way through now, and I find that I'm no closer to a satisfactory answer than I was at the beginning. Slowing it all down and writing it out, a little bit at a time, has gave me the space to think about what I want to say. What it hasn't done is made me any less, or any more, sure about whether I can go through with it.
I caught myself just standing in the kitchen this morning, staring at a knife. I go outside, I see a bus or train, and I want to throw myself underneath it.
I've got so used to lying about how I feel that even the thought of being honest to those around me about this makes me want to cry. I know that repressing these emotions isn't healthy, but I am so afraid that if I let this happy-go-lucky façade slip, I'll lose the few people I'm still close to.
I don't want to risk hurting them, but it means that I'm left hurting myself. The longer I leave it, the harder it will be for everyone involved, but I try to eke out one more day of happiness.
When I woke up, it was still dark outside, and I could hear the occasional car drive past my window. When I managed to get out of bed, it was the middle of the day. Hours pass by with me just staring at the wall, trying to pluck up the courage to go through this all again. Talking myself in to facing the world, then talking myself out of it.
Four hours later, and I've retreated back to my bed. I stare at the wall for half an hour. It is one of those days, same as yesterday and tomorrow.
Again, I wake up alone and wait for it to get light outside. I listen to the sounds of traffic coming through the open window. I catch the muffled sounds of other people in the building moving around. It takes me three hours to finally face the world and, immediately, I regret my decision. I listen to people argue, I listen to people complain, and I remain silent, because I can't risk saying anything.
At three o'clock, I retreat back to my room, hide underneath a duvet and curse myself for not being brave enough to say how I feel.
When you're about to hit the bottom, the small gestures of friendship that come by mean a lot and they're something I'll cherish until the end. A warm word, a hand to hold, or even just a smile.
I'm finding things to do, things to occupy my hands and my mind, just anything to keep the voice quiet. It's not that things are improving, and I know that eventually this coping strategy will fail, but it's got me through a day that might have otherwise got me down.
For better or for worse, I still cannot say how this ends.
I was asked, recently, whether I'd like to meet up with a friend next month. It's an awkward question to answer at the best of times; there dare days when I wake up in such a state that I struggle to face the world, and other days where I can pull myself together.
I wanted to say, "help!". I wanted to say "I've spent the last few weeks writing a letter goodbye to you and everyone else". I wanted to say "I am sorry for all this".
What did I say? I just said "maybe", and quickl changed the subject.
The worst part is knowing that I am frustrating the people who want to help me. It's like I'm stuck down in a deep pit. When I was young, I called out for help constantly, and people would peer down at me in the pit and shout back. "How can I help?"
If I knew how, I'd tell you.
As time goes on, those people who were peering down, they move on, and rightly so. I'm still down here in this pit and, as time goes on, I shout for help less and less often, Perhaps rightly so, in fact.
I'm sure, once this is over, somebody will say, "why didn't you just say something?".
What I can say, there's the first problem, and who can I say it to, that's the second. I don't know what caused me to simply give up asking for anything, but I look back at my childhood and see that I must have been taught this lesson at an early age.
One day, I came home from school in tears. A bunch of older children grabbed my folders and wrote "FUCK OFF" all over them. I showed it to my mother. She ignored it.
Okay, that last bit might have been a little bitter. When my parents split up, the relationship with my father crumbled apart because I was just "my mother's son", and it felt like my mother was so wrapped up in her own problems that there wasn't room for the problems of others in her life.
I learned, as a child, that there was no point asking for help, and that's a hard lesson to forget. Rather than recognising it as a bad thing, I justified it to myself; everyone else is carrying their problems, and I should not burden others.
Presumably, there's still some hope left. I've managed to keep this all going, keeping it together through the rough and the occasional smooth, for over thirty years. I remember, on my thirtieth birthday, waking up and feeling surprised that I had made it this far.
I just need to find the courage to ask for help again. To be honest about how I feel, about what I'm going through, and not to just retreat into hiding or lies when it gets too much. I have to try being up front, even if that means that I'm going to upset people.
To my family, I'm sorry. I know that I've distanced myself from you over the years, but please know that I've distanced myself from everyone. I love spending time with you all, I miss talking to you, but not being able to talk about what's going on has made it harder for me to talk to you about everything else.
I don't blame you for anything, and I don't want you to blame yourself for this. I had always known that it was going to end this way, I just never had the courage to address it with anyone else.
To the friends I've left behind over the years, I'm sorry. It's a pattern that has repeated itself time and time again over the years and, honestly, I'm ashamed of myself that I've squandered so many friendships over the years. I would like you to know that, however short the time we spent together was, I still think about you all.
I simply wasn't brave enough to speak up and, I thought, if I just disappeared, you'd move on and that'd be for the best. I always knew how this was going to end, so I pushed you all away.
A few weeks back, I wrote about how I was feeling, trying to come to terms with a life coping with depression and what hope I had of managing this problem. Today, my mother read it, and this lunchtime she rang me up to talk about it. It pains me so much to know that the hurt that I'm feeling hurts the people I care about as well.
They struggle just as much as I do to come up with an answer about how to solve this and, like me, they can't. After the phonecall, I just sat and cried.
My mother is coming to visit me this evening; I don't know what to do. I know she's worried about me, but I know that I can't give her the answer that she's looking for. I'm happy that I'll get to see her, of course, but I'm petrified of what she's going to say or, worse, not say.
I need to pluck up the courage to talk to her, honestly and openly, for once. It's a conversation I've played out in my head for twenty years, but I've never been able to start it. Once, I came close, years ago.
When I started this, I thought that this would be the end. Over the course of one month and two thousand seven hundred words, I've tried to make my peace with a world I was prepared to leave behind.
Today, I am still as lost and confused as ever, but I've spent time with my family, and I've spoken with friends. There's still that voice that makes me scared of myself, that feeling of powerlessness in the face of my own internal monologue and I still don't know I'll be like tomorrow.
I just know that I am not alone.
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