I am inconvenienced, but I am ALIVE…

Something written in the doorway of the delayed train at Platform 4 of Northampton Station.

Before I had even reached the station, I knew today’s journey to Birmingham would be sluggish at best. A  kindly neighbour had already offered a lift to London after telling me someone had been hit by a train, a suicide in Harrow. After many years of mental training and a move out of London, now I can manage not to curse my luck, the trains and the clumsy or suicidal human who has hurled a spanner into my day. I summon my empathy from wherever it is usually hidden.

I am not sure I always succeed, sleepless grumpiness can slice into it. Having left plenty of time to get to Birmingham, and knowing I had oatcakes, water and a 5 books in my rucksack, far worse things have happened and I am not now someone whose life has achieved a bleakness, however momentary, that I have thrown myself into the path of a train.

I remember that today is Mental Health Day.

I think of when we are teenagers, and our rapidly mutating bodies and minds savage our emotions. The time of extremes and desperation to be part of a group and a striking individual. Many of us mull over suicide, we our the centre of our melodrama then.

I could be a solitary extremist from an early age. Long before I was a teenager, I was terrified by the adverts warning about the rabies. Soon, soon that hungry mongrel stowaway from Belgium will be skulking down your street. One bite and it’s madness or agonising injections directly into your belly button. Before I’d reached the age of nuclear apocalypse paranoia, it was rabies that signaled the end times. On a few occasions, I don’t know how many, time is so long when you are under ten, I held my breath thinking that it would a bring an end to me and save me from that ghastly aquaphobic death I’d seen on Terry Nation’s Survivors.

Then, there are the older school years, where your hatred of the manufacturers of your misery and inability to see that it will all end leads to ruminating on the revenge you could wreak by leaping from a building. I looked at the ledge, but I never got as far as sitting on it.

I think of my first full on heartbreak, where my drunken melancholy could apparently move others to tears. I don’t know why I was so heartbroken, it was only when I knew the relationship was dead that I saw any life in it, like most things, we jealously covet what we know must be lost. I remember sitting on a breezeblock steps, alone and in the dark, with the sharpened ring pull, grazing my wrists, but going no further. Inside, the will to live and perhaps knowledge of my own ludicrousness, meant it was unlikely I’d force the metal into a vein.

I think of the suicide of a young girl, I think she was eleven years old. She was bullied at school, her family were bullied on their estate, and she could see no reality, no future where that wouldn’t be part of her life…eleven years old.

And so I think of the human who stepped into the path of that train to or from Euston today. They could see nothing. They were unable to imagine their worth or those who preferred a world with them rather than without.

What of the man who I read about who killed himself because of shame? He had mistake at work and, despite a loving family, he jumped. What other creature would kill itself for shame? I think Montaigne wrote about a man he knew who had died from infection because he was too ashamed to depart from a ceremony despite the urgency of his bladder. I wonder how many die because of their fear of judgment, the worry of being laughed at, the shame of being admonished.

How I hate those moments of knowing I have fucked up. Those mistakes that consume you. You can’t speak, and you just have to walk, walk and walk. I am not sure if it is walking away from something or imagining that maybe you are walking to a solution. You can walk for hours and hours with no sense of destination, but it starts to shift the brain fog and ache of your embarrassment that has cramped your every muscle.

I remember being rung up and told of the suicide of a work colleague I was very friendly with. It disturbed me more than any other death, cinematic in its freezing of time followed by the sock of billiard balls to the stomach. Later, it would turn out that he had died from an infection, but still alone and in pain in his flat. The night before I knew the truth, solemnly drinking with a friend, we ran through all the different things you could have done, each one of the many worlds interpretations that saw events end up differently. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done, our outward character and inner thoughts being so different. How lucky we are if we believe that we can express ourselves without fear of derision.

I think of the scream I heard when my train pulled into Watford some years ago. A teenage boy had leapt in front of the train. He was with his mother. In play or film or any dramatisation of loss, I have never heard such a scream. It was the scream of losing everything, of seeing the worst imaginable, utter destruction. Fortunately, his leap was such that the train had passed right over him. He was shaken but unharmed. I hope whoever he was has never felt such an urge again, that moment  and that scream revealing the momentous love and mountainous importance he has in someone’s life.

I wonder about those who, if they had just thought for a minute longer, received a phone call or seen someone or something they loved suddenly come into view, might have paused, and in that pause, seen the reason to continue.

I am still on my way to Birmingham, a slow train day, but another day where I am fortunate enough to see a point and hungrily want many more. A human lies pointlessly dead in Harrow, what could we have done?

I am at Edfringe 2017 with two shows, one art, one all manner of things then off on tour from September to June from Salford to Exeter via Colchester. details here

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5 Responses to I am inconvenienced, but I am ALIVE…

  1. Reblogged this on Soup du Journalism and commented:
    I don’t usually do reblogs, but today is World Mental Health Day and I think it is important that we think about the difficulties associated with a) Contending with a mental illness in the first place and b) Then having to contend with the stigma and the appalling misunderstanding bestowed upon those who admit to having mental conditions.

    I particularly like this blog from Robin Ince because it is something everyone can relate to. We are all guilty of sighing when we’re told our Tube journey is delayed because of ‘a person under the train’, because it is easier for us to think about it as an inconvenience than to remember the fact that, in many cases, this was a human being who may have been going through any number of mental conditions. No matter how fleeting or chronic, mental illness can affect anyone, and we need to start being kinder to those brave enough to speak up and get the help they so desperately need.

  2. Reblogged this on The Train Guard and commented:
    Today is, of course, World Mental Health Day. As an ex-depression sufferer, I know all to well the mental strain and anguish someone who sees little way out of their situation. I was lucky to have a supportive family, an excellent GP, and a fantastic local health authority who put me squarely on the right road to recovery, but even now I have bad days.

    It is no small thing, the loss of a life, and to do it on the railway is a very public way of saying that you see no hope, no future for yourself, and the best action is to commit the act of putting yourself into the path of an oncoming train .

    It is, of course, every train crew’s nightmare. Many drivers do not recover, and I remember such dizziness such that I had to sit down when I had to announce for the first time that a train maybe a mile from me had struck a person. It was awful to think that someone within walking distance saw such bleakness in their life that this was the only way out for them.

    For those who are struggling, there is of course The Samaritans, who have posters and boards on most stations on the railway now, as well as CALM. Please don’t suffer in silence – life can, and does, get better.

  3. I am so glad you mentioned CALM. Suicide takes more men than prostate cancer and yet that gets a whole month of facial hair growing – Movember….but suicide is not a cool, sexy of even vaguely acceptable subject to tackle so it’s all just left unsaid.

  4. gailebishop says:

    I am a hardened London commuter – in the last few months there has been a spate of delays “due to a person being struck by a train”*. In years gone by this has made me quite angry and frustrated in my struggle to get to work/get home, but recently I’ve taken to choosing serenity. The delay is not my fault and there is nothing I can do about it, so there’s no point giving myself an aneurysm over it. Yes of course I feel sorry for the poor bugger (and the unlucky driver and the paramedics who have the grisly task of gathering the remains), but harrassing station staff (it’s not their fault either) and elbowing other passengers out the way in order to be on the first moving train only serves to make you more stressed. Call you boss or beloved (depending on direction of travel) and tell them you’re going to be late. It’s going to be at least an hour, possibly two, before there is any semblance of order restored, so go and do something else – grab a coffee, find a bookshop, go for a wander around the shops, hell if it’s the evening and you’re in London, go to the theatre/cinema if there’s one nearby with something good on – just anything to take your mind off a situation caused by someone else’s misfortune.

    *although possibly the weirdest one was a couple of years ago – we’d just pulled out of Clapham Junction to be told that there was a fatality on the line. The train stopped and we were prepared for a long wait. The announcement then came that it wasn’t a fatality, but a train had narrowly managed to stop in time to avoid hitting the person, only for them then to crawl under the train and refuse to come out. It took British Transport Police almost an hour to persuade him to come out, but in that time, a bunch of people on a crowded train had decided they’d had enough, opened the doors and toddled out along the tracks towards Norbury. This added another 90 minutes while BTP had to go out and round up all the stragglers (and subsequently arrest them for trespassing) before they could switch the power back on.

  5. sam says:

    Cheer up everyone, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow……

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