Even in 2015, there are still a hole heap of social taboos that centre around how an individual causes themselves physical or emotional pain or even death. Suicide, self harm, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, alcoholism – all of them will raise an eyebrow or two in any “socially acceptable” forum. However, and I am saying this as that little voice on the other side of the fence, there are ways that people mutilate their hearts and heads without ever picking up a razor blade or contemplating a one way waltz off of a tall building.
I’ll give you an example – when my marriage broke down, my first reaction was to get my nipple pierced. Now, for a couple of seconds can we just forget that the nipple is a “rude” place to get a piercing and just concentrate on the task at hand. It was a Tuesday evening and I called my mother to ask if she was around and if she wanted to pop by to the house that I had shared with my ex-husband, our daughter and two fabulous lodgers. She said yes, and I had a request – that she bring a cannula and a reasonably sized BCR. She obliged, without questioning this as she had been piercing me and my brother for years. Yep, we’re that kind of family.
So Ma pulls up and gets out of the car, comes in to the house and plops herself down on the settee. My friend and lodger was sitting on the other settee, my daughter asleep, the male lodger at work and my ex-husband was somewhere probably doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing. Or someone…I was in pain. And that pain wouldn’t go away. So, in the true spirit of fighting fire with fire, I, no noob to a cannula, asked my mother to pierce my nipple. My friend and my mother laughed, knowing that it was ludicrous and that I’d always maintained that I’d never be stupid enough to pierce anything below my neck for the simple reason – that shit hurts, man.
But I wanted it to hurt. That’s the point I’m trying to get across here. I wanted something to hurt more than my heart did, something to sharpen that dull, relentless ache in the pit of my stomach, something to spike some fresh, lucid tears from my swollen eyes. So, my mother, being the woman she is, pierced my nipple for me as I sat there on a cold Tuesday in November and my friend cringed right beside me. Needless to say, I don’t think she’ll ever be getting her nipple pierced…
And you want to know something totally fucking insane? It worked. For awhile. For at least the first week after I mutilated my left nipple, whilst the pain was still fresh and it ached like a rotten tooth somewhere near my heart, I felt like I could breathe again. So much so that a few weeks later, when the house was gone, the lodgers moved on and my marriage officially in the gutter, when I moved in with my mother for the first time since I’d left two years before, I asked my mother one day as she made her way out of the door, again on a Tuesday – if she had time to stick a couple of cannula’s through my lip. I didn’t bother asking her to “snake bite” me because my mother learned how to pierce people before people gave said piercings such ludicrous names. Again, she obliged, and I had two newborn piercings in my brutally swollen lip to get me through the next few weeks until they healed and the real pain came back again.
So then, after those piercings were on their way to healed, I went out and gave myself a rather nasty case of the “dead drunks” when I decided that a cocktail of tramadol, anti depressants and whiskey would numb me for a night in February. It worked, until I woke in a hospital bed feeling more shit than I thought was humanly possible. I trudged home looking like death warmed up, apologised profusely to my mother and sent a bunch of flowers and a thank you card to Joy, the nurse who had to deal with my issues that night in the emergency room because I hadn’t quite figured out how to tame my demons on my lonesome by this point. Rest assured, it was the last time I ever did that.
It all boiled down to distraction in the end. I started writing more and reading too much (as many as four books a day) and gardening, fuck me, the gardening. I started walking everywhere and playing my guitar and baking all the time. I was drawing, painting, sewing and even tried my hand at ceramics before I realised just what in the hell was going on – I was shutting down, slowly but surely each and every one of the little lights inside me were burning out whilst I was busy knitting or learning the chord progressions in Bruce Springsteen’s newest song. I was a husk of the teenager I had been, caught somewhere on the front line of being an adult, being a mother, being a woman and being alive.
Slowly, I was drowning in my own distraction. So I stuck a pin in it and tried, fuck me I tried, to be a good person and for the most part its worked ever since. The issue is, sometimes, things still hurt. It’s like I have a chamber in my heart solely reserved for a swarm of hornets that hold my all the tiny arrows the poor bastard has taken over the years and every now and then, one of those hornets stings against the bars I have carefully built up around it and its friends. Sometimes, the really determined ones even manage to break free of their cage and terrorise the softer patches of my heart.
And that’s when I’d give anything to feel a tangible pain again, instead of just the vague burning sensation that comes with immense emotional distress. Something I can get my hands on and sink my teeth into, a pain that I can control and manipulate at my pleasure or discomfort – something to make me feel anything other than what I’m feeling when one of those mutant wasps breaks free and pours its poison into my veins.
Pain is the key here, people. And yeah, you can pick up a razor or a piece of something broken and sharp, maybe even something poetic like a mirror, so that you can watch yourself hurting yourself and take comfort in the solace that knowing the attacker brings. And yeah, when it all gets too much you can get punch out a single and ride the train to the end of the line. You can drown in the bottom of the bottle or soar on the tip of a needle, or you can throw your beautiful, broken body at anything willing to call it so for a time or two just to feel like you’re not entirely worthless. And all of these things, were you to tell them to a psychiatrist or a even a friend or family member, may wind you up with an intervention at the best and a funeral at the worst, depending on the quality of the people around you.
But there are a million and one socially acceptable ways to commit suicide. You can, for example, become addicted to the most foul and fiendish drug of them all – nicotine. You can smoke your life away one cigarette at a time and never once find yourself alone in a room full of judgemental faces and inquisitive eyes. Hey, you smoke, yeah you shouldn’t but my grandaddy smoked for like a hundred and two years and lived to be seventy nine thousand years old, or something like that.
You can go out every weekend and get blackout drunk, so drunk that you don’t remember how you got home or where your shoes are or what in gods name that is down the front of you t-shirt and you’re fine, because you only do it at the weekend. You hold down a nine to five, you pay your bills and you don’t beat your old lady when you’re wasted. You don’t drink and drive and nine times out of ten you walk away from the fights that find your face in those fabulous shit holes you frequent Friday to Sunday. But you’re just Dave, the local pisshead, everyone’s favourite pet yardstick that they measure their own failures against. Oh well, you weren’t as fucked as Dave was…is anyone ever as fucked as Dave is? Lol.
Spend your days walking around so stoned that you couldn’t tell your daddy from the postman. Go on, do it. You’re allowed to numb yourself so relentlessly against the bullets flying at you because you’re funny when you’re stoned, you’re easy when you’re stoned and easy is endlessly endearing. Pump yourself full of Valium and Prozac, hell skin up one hell of a joint and blaze your life away, because weed is natural and it doesn’t hurt anyone and it should be legal, man. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it helps people. Look, I’ve got this killer Wiki list that details all the good things about weed. You know, it doesn’t say anything about the fact that any chemical or natural substance, that takes you away from the way you feel is inherently dangerous to your basic understanding of identity and position, but you know… could you pass the oreos?
And here’s the best and the worst, saved for last as all things of its ilk should be. I’m going to tell you now to call him. To pick up your phone and call him. It doesn’t matter that it’s one o’clock in the morning and he’s probably passed on someone else’s bed, y’all just go ahead and call him. Tell him that you can’t live without him. Tell him that he will never, EVER find someone who will love him like you do. Tell him that you fell like you can’t breathe without him. Tell him that he’s the only thing that stops the voices in your head because he is the only fucking voice in your head. Tell him that you’re sorry and that you’ll do anything to be with him. Tell him that you’ll die without him. And believe it. Believe it all. Every. Single. Word. Of. This. Bullshit. Boil it down and breathe it in, because nothing, and I mean nothing, quite compares to the powerfully destructive pain of desperately timeless unrequited love.
And that’s how we do it. That’s how we live, creatures of immeasurable misery integrated fully into a functioning society that wouldn’t know us from the next. It’s how we survive by ritualistically torturing our minds and hearts and bodies with a whole heap of socially acceptable forms of self mutilation. We stick needles through our genitals and tattoo our rib cages. We drink, smoke and fuck like the worlds going to end, because in our heads, it already has. We throw ourselves into experiencing our lives in means and ways that we’ve told are enjoyable but in actual fact are dead end attempts to be happy on a road to absolute fucking misery.
And there’s hundreds of thousands of us out there. Some of you might have even read this and nodded along or sighed or shaken your heads because you know Dave the piss head, hell y’all might even be Dave the piss head. And you might be high now or smoking a fag or looking at your phone wondering if they got your text, telling yourself that it’s late and they’re probably asleep, crossing your fingers that they’ll text back in the morning with the obligatory apology and inadequate excuse, all the while knowing that the reason that they’re not texting back is because they’re busy living without you.
And you question whether that would be living at all because you haven’t realised that they have realised this already.
So, yeah, we’re all in pain and we’re all trying to find a way to make that pain go away or at least shut the hell up. Sometimes we win and it does shut up. And sometimes we lose and it whispers in the backs of our minds and we feel that wave wash over us, feel the water trickle down the back of our throats and find ourselves crawling through the hours on all fours gasping for the air that everyone around us is breathing seemingly with so much ease. And we wonder if that pain will ever go away. We wonder if we’ll ever be able to breathe again.
And sometimes, we hope we won’t. We call it a day and we settle into a sleep that we wish, somewhere deep and dark inside ourselves, that we don’t open our eyes again. That we just silently tap out of all it is that weighs us down and tears us apart, but then, more often than not, we wake up and realise that the world woke up again too. And that it would whether or not we were here or gone. We realise how small and insignificant we actually are and it scares the shit out of us. The notion occurs to us that were we to shuffle off this mortal coil and into the blessed abyss, no one would care. Yeah your mum and you dad would probably be devastated and your friends would probably go get your name tattooed on them and raise a bomb to you every other weekend, but given time, they’d live, because like all things, pain fades.
So you have a choice. You can either accept the fact that the world will go on without you just fine, that even those that would want to die if you did, would find a way to deal with that pain and would remember you always but that there would come a day in even their lives when they would be pouring milk into their cereal in the morning and your face wouldn’t be in their mind or your voice in their ears – you can take this information and drown in it, or you can take this information as a free pass to live exactly how you want to live without fear of what the world will think – because it doesn’t care, remember?
You’re free. Free to do whatever you want whenever you want with whomever you want for whatever reasons you want. The world doesn’t care. And neither should you. Be yourself, your own magnificently mutated self. And remember, that that place in your chest that aches all the time also beats all of the time, and in those moments of universal despair, lend a hand to that spot on your chest for a moment or two and take comfort in the fact that it never stopped beating, through it all – however much you may have wanted it to.
And be beautiful.
Because you are.
And know that we’re in it together.
Because we are.