BENEATH THE GNASHING TEETH

 

My OCD has always tried to convince me that the human race is eating itself.  I’ve invariably gone to bed expecting the world to be in flames when I wake up.

“You must be struggling at the moment?” I imagine Uncle Jack asking, while he mops the factory floor around my feet.

“Not really.”  My shoulders hunch and I pull a face.

With all that’s been happening over the last few months, my OCD and depression still haven’t convinced me that this IS the end of the world, just that it might be, which is no different to what they’ve been doing for years.  With all the hatred in the world right now, the coronavirus, riots, terrorist attacks, I thought I’d be in pieces, but actually, I feel quite liberated.   I’ve always feared dying and missing out, selfish I know, but the way it’s all going, and if I did listen to Crow, we’ll all be clocking off around the same time anyway.

“Picture a blinding white light or the world will implode,” says Crow.

“I can’t stop this,” I reply.  “Prefer to hang on for as long as possible, because I don’t want to miss the show.  Why kill myself when there’s enough stuff out there that wants to do it for me?”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the world to end.  I’ve got nieces and nephews and I really don’t want Liverpool to be the last ever Premier League champions.  But let’s face it, viruses mutate, hatred hasn’t gone away since cavemen began battering each other’s skulls with stones and tree branches, and people on opposite sides of the fence will always struggle to agree to disagree – violence (physical or psychological) looming over heated debate like Nosferatu’s shadow creeping up the stairs.  Throw in religion, politics, the left fist versus the right, and we’re all screwed anyway.

Gladys and Brian next door seem a nice couple but they’re not the ones who’ll be filling their pockets with spoils from a home invasion.  Although, when the sh*t hits the fan, and the only food in town is a tin of spam under your mattress, Brian may pay an impromptu visit after all.

“You taking up baseball, Bria—-” THWACK!

There are clouds in the sky, regardless of COVID-19.  I feel sad for what has happened, what IS happening, but can’t seem to find the tears these days.  The show has been emotional to say the least, but there comes a time when you have to turn off the TV and go to bed.  I imagine walking around the tooth factory as all my woes and worries spill off the conveyor belt.  Uncle Jack reaches for the broom but I tell him to leave everything where it is.

“Haven’t you learned anything?”  I ask him.  “The more intrusive thoughts I have, the more chance I’ll be able to ignore them!”

I try to explain, tell him to imagine an 80’s action film where the assailants come at our hero one at a time.  The protagonist fights them as they appear in front of his fists.  Now imagine an infinite line of attackers.  One goes down, another takes its place, forever and ever amen.  So what should Chuck Norris do?  If Chuck keeps fighting them one at a time, he’ll be here for a hundred years.  Chuck finally turns his back, and realises that the kung fu extras aren’t real ninjas after all, they can’t hurt him, and maybe he’ll get used to the aggressors cartwheeling over his head.

“It’s just gnashing teeth,” I say.

Uncle Jack stares at me blankly, shakes his head and bursts out laughing.  “You’re a strange one,” he says, but leaves the broom in the corner of the room, kicking an intrusive thought like a football, sending it crashing into a pile of OCD false memories.

Other than a coronavirus-related disappointment that led to a small meltdown last week, and the usual thoughts of hanging myself, these last months have merged with all the others.  And due to my repetitive thinking, I’m used to staring at walls.

ALL MOUTH AND VIOLINS

COVID-19 and mental health don’t integrate well.  Then again, what does get along with a coronavirus?  These are terrible times, and life was hard enough before the pandemic.  Death is all over the news these days and the thought of not being here anymore can be terrifying because it’s impossible for the human brain to perceive the details.  Even the religious can’t comprehend what it means.  As an atheist, accepting not being here is the obvious end but still no easier to imagine.  Not existing forever and ever, until the end of time and beyond, can be a depressing concept, which is not what any of us need right now.

The easiest way for me to visualise death is to imagine the year 1446.  I wasn’t around so I have no recollection.  I didn’t exist – I suppose I was outside of the universe.  I believe death will be like that.  I don’t believe there is a master plan.  No paradise in the sky.  And everyone alive today probably won’t be in a hundred and fifty years time, so what’s the big fuss?  Because the odds of life are so astronomically against us in the first place that I don’t want to throw it all away.  And there’s those I would leave behind of course.  The poor souls that have to pick up the pieces.

For the last seventeen years I’ve either been backpacking or house sitting.  That’s obviously been put on hold for the foreseeable future and it’s started to sink in that I don’t actually know what else I can do.   Continuing forward terrifies me at this moment in time.  And stronger people than me have killed themselves.  I could swallow medicine three times a day and become a husk of a person lying on a couch but that also destroys me, just in a different way.  Medication reaches into my head and turns the lights off.  And even now, as a gruesome image sits heavy in my mind, I discard the option until another day.

“How about the ultimate goodbye?” suggests Crow.  But for me, suicide is a mountain shimmering in a heat haze on the horizon, a hundred miles away in the wrong direction.  I stop and stare at it sometimes, but essentially I try to use it as OCD prevention, a holstered gun on a cop’s hip. 

It’s like when people say, “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that.  Next year, when I’m ready, I’m gonna blah blah blah…”

I hope it’s an empty threat.  I suppose it makes me feel a little better, peering into my eyes, searching out the demons, threatening to blow the OCD from my brain.  Uncle Jack might say that actions speak louder than words.  But sometimes I’ve been known to act on a manic idea.  Like when I told people I was going to backpack around the world all those years ago; I don’t think anyone believed me until I emailed them from Toronto.

“You didn’t have another viable option!” says Uncle Jack.  “”The paint factory was killing you, how would getting on a plane be any worse?  It’s not quite so bad today.”

That crazy idea saved my life, and although the OCD and depression came with me, at least I didn’t have to wake up at six thirty and cycle to work with the Devil on my back.

But I’d done what I said I would.  I’d made the break.  Since that flight from Heathrow (or was it Gatwick?) I’ve tried to keep my promises to myself, however impossible OCD tries to make it.  Yesterday, when I found myself staring into the mirror, I compared my OCD battle to how I felt during the first few weeks of that curious adventure.  Trust me, OCD makes catching a bus in Tijuana a walk in the park.

Fear of the unknown still played a massive part in those early days but OCD cast a darker shadow.  I recall a particular shabby hotel in a coastal Mexican town.  “Be careful in there,” said a middle aged American man as a friend and I entered through the battered front doors.

“Why?  What do you mean?”

OCD didn’t give me time to fret, head already full of Crow’s b*llshit, body collapsing onto the uneven mattress as soon as I entered the threadbare room.  The three Mexican men arguing aggressively outside the door lost in a swirl of dust as I pondered a three year old obsession.  My roommate wedged a table against the door, and when we woke up in the early evening, we headed to the nearest tienda to buy ourselves some beer.  He wanted to party, I wanted help to get back to sleep.

That night, thinking of what I’d left behind in the UK made me wistful.  I’d sold my house, left my job, my family and friends, all just to be here, sleeping on a filthy bed among crushed cans of Tecate and cigarette burns on the wall.  I fantasised about pouring burning cooking oil on my arms – that way I’d have an excuse to return home without destroying my pride.  The next time I went to the store, I bought a bottle of sunflower oil.

 “I’ll do it tomorrow when I cook breakfast,” I whispered to a cockroach on the wall.  That night I was stopped by the police for being drunk and disorderly on my way home from a bar.  The policeman searched my wallet for a few pesos but came up short – I’d exchanged them for alcohol with the miserable barman who wasn’t interested in which football team I followed or how England fared in the last world cup.  The policemen took pity on me as I explained in slurred English that I’d only had a few beers, a couple of shots of tequila – or maybe they didn’t want to fill out the paperwork.  Either way, they allowed me to stumble home, falling asleep on the lumpy mattress, dreaming about Tijuana, when two cops had given my friend and I a lift to the nearest bus station in their squad car.  We had wandered lost in that bustling city, and they’d been good enough to give us a ride to where we needed to be.  And to think I’d been warned how corrupt the Mexican police were.  By people who had never been there, of course.

When I woke up I was surprisingly happy, and I vowed to burn my arms the following day.

Thankfully, it was all mouth and violins.  Just something to say to get me through each day.  When I tell Crow I’m going to kill myself, I hope I don’t mean it.  I’m simply highlighting the extreme, like in Mexico, convincing myself that I’ll sort things out tomorrow.  Suicide is the final move, like pushing the red button to start a nuclear strike.  You do it if there’s nothing else you can do, nowhere else to go, but sometimes you have to hover your finger over the button to remind a rogue state what your potential is.

So yes, Crow, I’m going to kill myself tomorrow.

But as we all know, tomorrow never comes…