I remember sitting on a window ledge three stories up, looking down and thinking, ‘what difference will it make to anyone if I jump?’ I was ten years old. It might sound contradictory but things weren’t going particularly bad for me at that time. I was reasonably happy but it stayed with me that moment, it clung to me like a smell. The day was glorious, I remember it because there was not a breath of wind and save a couple of puffy clouds, the sky was a perfect summer blue. The window ledge belonged to a stranger, that story is too boring to tell, but it was part of a fantasy house, Georgian, covered in ivy that shone in the sunlight. The paint was peeling from the ledge on which I was perched and I rested my neck back against the open sash window as my little legs dangled in the nothingness.
Looking down I could see a gravel drive that stretched out along a tree lined avenue, surrounded by green in all directions as far as I could see. It was so different from the council house concrete path and small grass patch that I called a garden back home and the quiet was beautiful. My senses were overloaded. I could smell the colour, feel the sound of the wood pigeons in the trees and I could taste the damp from the walls of the old house whose window ledge I had borrowed.
There was no real sense to my desire to jump, to die on that day. It was an illogical, seemingly random desire, except that it was far from those things. There was a place beyond the pale of my senses, a wild and rugged dimension of my mind that I was too young to comprehend.
If I just leaned forward I thought, I could fall in that perfect moment and I would never have to ever think again. I have no idea how long I indulged that thought. It certainly seemed a lifetime but of course I leaned back eventually, stepped inside and walked away as though nothing had happened, except of course it had.
The key to understanding the thought, to assessing the risk and evaluating the danger that I placed myself in, was to try to get back to what was going through my head at the time. If in a moment of relative calm, I could so easily consider what is in many ways the ultimate act of selfishness, what would happen to me when tragedy struck or when the normal stresses of life enveloped me. The scent of that fear didn’t just cling to me; it embedded itself in my brain. I knew I would smell it again and I wanted to recognise it for what it was.
That dying could be so easy and that it would stop the thoughts, these were the abiding memories that I retained from that defining moment in my life. The most salient thought was the origin of the desire to die that day and that it was summed up, in how I recalled that ledge moment as being a way to stop the thoughts. My head is filled always. I believed everyone’s head worked like mine and as such it was normal. But on the edge of my mind there is a swirl of thought. It kicks up like a dust bowl twister and beats against the quiet. Locked inside away from the brouhaha, there are other thoughts trying to steady the ship. Between the shelter and the storm, is a noise like you wouldn’t believe. Every precious second, every calming moment belies the race of feet through my head. There is a stampede of thought, a veritable cavalcade of whispers and shouts, each thought competing for space, every single thought compounded by other irrelevant considerations and they stick like Velcro to each other.
Sometimes I sit quietly still and those thoughts work away in the background. At least that is how I have made it seem for those who sit by and fail to notice. I cannot adequately explain the barrage of thought that never ceases, for along that path madness lies. And yet I function. I cope. I fundamentally act no different to anyone else. I am not crazy. I am calm, coping and confident. So why then do those thoughts appear, those darker ones? How do they get past the scent guard and consider the peace that would ensue if I could only make it stop? How have I kept them at bay? Are they ever that far away?
Like many I have suffered anxiety and depression at different times in my life, but I am neither anxious nor depressed. I have not been overwhelmed, though sometimes my defences creak and the walls around my mind are almost breeched. Importantly they are not or at least have not yet been.
When I write, I let loose the beast. The inner wild being that creates the vortex of thought is set free to do as it will. More often than not, I can’t keep up. I am constantly writing across multiple projects, a release valve for my mind. So many writers suffer from the thing they call ‘writer’s block.’ I cannot imagine such a thing might ever befall me. As I write this, I am working on multiple projects simultaneously in my head. I see Wormhold, a wonderful new character that I adore and who has become central to my next book The woman who never wore shoes, and he has taken a final turn for me in this moment that will change the final chapters of this unfolding story.
I am working out my finances, planning a house move, going through an e mail I have to write to my solicitor or maybe not, debating that question, adding in potential conversations with my auctioneer, worrying about things I have to do in work, trying to work out all the things I have to get done in the garden before we move, planning the garden in the next house, worrying about how things will pan out, working through a million other things and all in this very precise, exact moment. As each new moment arrives, these thoughts evolve, continue grow and are added to. Each thought process moves at an incredible speed. It sounds impossible I know, but it is true. All this and more all at once all the time and no way to stop it, to silence it. This is a relentless violent storm that intrudes my every waking moment without exception or relief.
It is in there that I began to unravel the mystery of it all. I am all of this and more. I am all of this and no more. Somehow, the noise has become normal. In all of my life, it has never abated, never let go of me, never allowed me peace. Yet I am at peace and there is the secret. Somewhere between that window ledge all those years ago and now, I have come to accept that I cannot change the way I am and what goes on beneath the fabric of my mind. Instead I have learned, through trial and error I guess to accept my fate, to embrace the challenge it presents and thankfully, through my writing, I have discovered a channel to give this potentially debilitating pressure release. It turns out even in this as I believe with most things, there is an upside.
Because of the relentlessness of my thoughts, the volume of them and the speed at which they have to be processed, I have always been quick witted and sharp of tongue but in a nice way. I never think later, ‘ I wish I had thought to say that’ because I generally have done. My speed with a quip and answer or solution to a problem, is almost uncanny and I take it for granted. I know how much it costs me, but at least it helps me write and despite the challenge that accompanies the din, it often makes me smile.
This is not a treatise on mental health or my own peculiar malaise. I daren’t presume to have an answer for anyone else. All I can do is share my experience my odd solution based on an unspoken personal compromise of acceptance and stubborn refusal to be overwhelmed. I know we each of us carry a very personal load in life and at different times it can become too much. What I also know is that for me, here and now, I am fulfilled and happy, but I know also that I was thus on the day I leaned back with my head against the sash window, with the sky so blue and the light just right. I can never be complacent as I find my way, always smiling, to the next page.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower