The Hidden Village of Aspergers

December 4, 2011

On suicide and Clarkson

This is not going to be an easy post to write. But a lot of people have been talking about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments on suicide recently – not to mention that one of my beloved Everton FC’s former players, Gary Speed, recently killed himself – and I thought I’d weigh in. What I am about to say will piss a lot of people off, but here goes: Clarkson may be a professional douchebag, and the way he expressed his sentiments was pretty disgusting, but I can see where he’s coming from. I’m not universalising my experiences; everyone has a different story to tell regarding their mental health, and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself.

I have been suicidal, but even at my lowest, I would never have considered throwing myself in front of a train. It is one of the most disgusting and horrific ways a person can commit suicide. Train drivers have had to quit their jobs because of train deaths. Maybe it’s because I was raised to be considerate, maybe I’ve been conditioned into caring too much what people think, but I never once considered going down to Piccadilly or Oxford Road and leaping onto a track as a train was coming in, thereby ensuring some poor train driver would end up in therapy, while some unfortunate railworkers cleaned up the bits of me that had not been splattered all over the front of the train or screaming passengers. My reasoning always was that I didn’t want to involve strangers, I didn’t want to be a nuisance to people on trains, and I didn’t want a disgusting messy death that would end up on Rotten.com. Each time I’ve attempted suicide, it’s been with overdoses of pills. The only strangers getting involved would be the paramedics who would find my body, hopefully before it became one with the carpet. There would be no traumatised driver or bystanders. It would not be a grande geste, just a small, hopeless death in a flat somewhere in south Manchester. I would take my pills, post my goodbyes on Livejournal, lie down and wait to die.

I can joke about this because the alternative option is to cry about it. Sometimes I feel what I did was so pathetic, I have to laugh. I didn’t even take that many pills. The first time, I was swallowing Nurofen. The second time, I think it was anti-depressants, codeine and G-d knows what else. No stomach pumping was involved, although the second time, I ended up sleeping in the hospital with a drip in my arm to fight off the meds. I was given some counselling the next day and released. The first time, I ended up dropping out of university for the rest of the year because I simply could not cope anymore. The second time, I was worried I’d miss my presentation on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in my Assent & Dissent in the Third Reich class.

I mention causing an inconvenience. The reason why I wanted to die in both cases is because I thought I was an inconvenience. The first time, I thought my flatmates would be happy if I was dead. Their behaviour towards me afterwards made me wonder if I had been right. The second time, I’d had a screaming argument with one of my bandmates at a gig. I removed myself from the house in 2005, and was thrown out of the band without my knowledge in 2007. I genuinely believed, both times, that they would be happy if I had died, and that I deserved to die because I was making them unhappy.

Not once did I think about the effect it would have on my family and friends. G-d knows how my friends must have felt when they discovered the suicide note on my Livejournal. Maybe, deep down, I didn’t really want to die and I was hoping they’d catch me before it was too late; I can’t recall clearly because my mind was such a mess at the time. But I thought, for some weird reason, I would have to be considerate and at least let people know I was going to die so they wouldn’t wonder where I was. (Luckily, the one bandmate who actually gave a shit about me called an ambulance, and my then boyfriend sat with me in the A&E. Even if I did dump him a year later, I’ll always be grateful to him for that night.) But I didn’t think about the impact it would have. I didn’t realise my mum would have to sit down because her legs were shaking, or that she’d ring the university counsellors in a panic because I’d said the night before that I wanted to slit my wrists. I didn’t realise my brother would be frightened of me going back to uni in case it happened again.

When I was suicidal, I was selfish. The only person I really thought about was myself. People with Aspergers are often accused of lacking empathy, and while I don’t lack empathy myself, I admit I didn’t consider people’s feelings at all. You don’t. All you can think about is wiping yourself out of existence. You don’t think about upcoming gigs or Naruto chapters or friends’ birthdays. You just want it all to stop. I do consider what I did to be selfish, albeit unintentionally – when you want to kill yourself, you’re hardly thinking rationally. It’s not like going down to the corner shop to buy milk. Even if it’s calculated and planned out, you are not yourself.

I don’t know if Clarkson’s ever lost a loved one to suicide, but I have friends who have, and family who’ve lived through continuous suicide attempts, and I can understand why they might be angry. To people who have never been suicidal, it’s hard to rationalise and explain. It can be seen as the ultimate act of selfishness, with no heed to how the people left behind might feel. I’m not saying “OMG people who kill themselves are bastards”. But if either attempt had worked, Mum and Jack would have been angry as well as sad, that someone they loved could hurt them so badly. G-d knows what was going through Mum’s head the first time I did it, besides ‘oh no, not Lotte too’.

I wonder how many people with Aspergers have resorted to suicide. Bear in mind that a lot of us cannot deal with strong feelings, and that we cut ourselves or smash things or hit people because it’s the only way we can express those feelings. When you’re suicidal, you’re overwhelmed with feelings and the only thing you hear is the screaming in your head and that one little voice telling you that all you have to do is pull the trigger, jump off the chair or onto the tracks, eat the pills, shove your head in the oven. You can’t talk to anyone because they won’t understand or you can’t articulate how you feel or you’re scared you’ll upset them, if you’re me.

I’ll probably write about this again in more detail. There is so much more I could say about the times that I’ve been suicidal. One thing I will say in conclusion is that suicide is still something a lot of people don’t understand, and maybe they never will. Clarkson, professional troll though he is, is one of those many people. To the rational-minded, it’s crazy and selfish, even cruel. But you’ve got to remember that it is not a thing that can easily be rationalised.

To any of my family reading this: I’m sorry if I upset you.

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