Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images by Lawrence Scott
Six years ago, I tried to die. I was overcome in total despair. There was nothing left but a swirling black hole full of loathing with a one-track mind that screamed for annihilation, a cleansing of me from myself.
As I stood there alone in that room, about to make that final decision, I began to sharpen my liberation, my device to inflict pain, to feel something other than this roar of self-hatred. I stood there, afraid of what I was doing and yet the darkness engulfed me, was what I had become. There was not enough energy to stop forward motion. My mind was a jangling chasm of broken glass and was telling me that the body must break next.
In that moment, shaking uncontrollably, I tried to calm my breathing. I took the first plunge, carving into my inked wrist, a strange sensation, more noise than pain. I wondered if I was so damaged, the nerves in my mind cut to feeling that I was now unable to feel anything at all. This swirling thought was displaced by my phone, felt against my hip, vibrating over and over again. It had been going like this, non-stop for hours. Suddenly irritated by the feeling of it, I picked it up and threw it out of my sight.
I began again, this time with more force. Six or seven times, and yet I still felt nothing. A dull aching throb was making its way through but the feeling came like a train’s rumble from far away. The blood cool on my skin, drenched my clothes. I saw that it was time to finish what I had started.
I turned my arm over, sucked in a deep breath and recognized that it was now time to bite the bullet. My son’s face swarmed into my mind, the sweet smell of him, his soft skin and warmth. He was right there suddenly, taking over all the dark space in my being. I stared down at my wrist where his name was tattooed in ink, this child my anchor to this world. I was at once lost in a no-time eternal moment, his name ringing through my mind, my heart. It called to me.
A wave of great sadness blanketed me, a flood that my internal male Scottish heritage would not allow. Instead of howling anguish that is my truth, it immediately replaced those feelings with anger and a gnawing shame, an ache that won’t let up.
Through the deafening timeless silence, a shout like an electric shock drags me back into the 3rd dimensional world, cutting through the thick darkness. My brain, a rusted mud encrusted wheel now oiled, begins a forward momentum, focused on that sound. I know that name, the name being called. A bad dream being shaken awake, that name somehow belongs to me.
My brother is there. Now standing in front of me. My twin. Snapped back into reality, frozen in place, a broken shell unable to move, shame washed over me like acid, I am powerless, a hulk of a man with no strength, no language. What the hell was I doing? My brother’s body engulfed mine, wrapping me up, pulling me close, telling me “I’ve got you. We will be okay
I could not speak. Numb. My brain empty and I couldn’t even mutter a “sorry” A sorry that I now felt to my core.
More started appearing, filling the spaces of the room of my mind - family and friends, the people I had blocked out, stampeding through it. They were there to save me, help me, protect me.
I stood at the bottom of an impossible mountain. Trying to figure out how to climb it or even start. I knew there was a chance I would fall down, stumble or end up back at the bottom again, but the people around me, the safety net I had never considered before, began to show me safe passage, a way that I could achieve something to be proud of in this life I was now choosing to live. Choosing… a big word, rather than just achingly getting through…
There is nothing shameful about admitting you are in pain. It is the only way to get the help you need to climb uphill to a stronger version of who you are.
My shame. My pain has all been worth it if it speaks of the truth that so many men and women suffer with in silence. In that honest holding – that unconditional Brother’s love, I learned of his own silent pain – of his suicidal thoughts and deep unspoken depression. I began to see that these feelings are held in so many, too many, around me.
We are a soup of generations. Our people, the mighty Scots have learned to stay strong to bear evil weather, sacking of our sovereignty, wars, cruelty, fierce times, the hardest of human scars to bear. This has bled through the eons into our way of being. We are a brick wall of strength and yet, we are vulnerable beneath the skin. We stand strong, stoic and learn at a young age not to speak of it, the only safe outlet we see in our world is anger, alcohol – roaring into the wind. Strong men do not speak of suffering here…
And yet we must. Now. Speak. There is a pandemic of anxiety and depression that in speaking of it, recoils the dark hand of shame. It makes the blackness smaller and allows warm hands to reach. It allows us to become the most incredible humans. Brave, strong, wise and sure. Okay with our scars, more patient, better able to parent, care, live fully and partner with others. Wide, wise humans with room to be in Life.
I created an action plan. My body was sick, unhealthy and sad. I started exercising and I could see changes, visible changes and that drive and focus helped me find hope, self empowerment and a future.
My identical twin brother and I shared our stories, so hard to do at first and the world saw it. Before we could change our mind we created a video with the BBC. Not all understood that we could speak out this way. There were attacks and set-backs, moments I think both of us wanted to crawl under a rock, run, hide. Not everyone appreciated us sharing our truth. But, I firmly believe that dialogue is needed, for me and for those feeling the same way, for those suffering with the mental struggle of choosing Life.
Choosing life is something I actively do everyday. The darkness returns, it checks in. It’s there and everyday I have to say “NO” to it. I choose to talk about my journey for all those who cannot find the words to speak, who feel they are so completely alone. Some words that I think are very powerful, if you have someone in your life struggling with being here on this planet is making sure that they have an outlet to be heard. Cracking the dark lid on all those self harming thoughts and letting them spill out to be heard, releases them. “Have you spoken to anyone about how you feel” are great words to offer someone in pain. Be an ear where you can...
AN EXCERPT OF ALASTAIR'S STORY from the new series TRANSFORMED BY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
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Veronica Farmer, Author and Therapist, Brisbane, Australia. Passionate about sharing raw human stories that matter!