Under the Iron Sea

Under the iron sea

 

 

 

It was 2006, and my head was just beginning to emerge from under the iron sea.
I was in a psychiatric ward due to severe depression.

I always remember these words during a review meeting, “You were very unwell when you arrived.”
Before then I had never viewed myself as having been ‘very unwell’ despite the self-harm and wanting to kill myself It still hadn’t registered with me that I was ‘seriously unwell’ I considered that kind of talk to be reserved for ‘real’ mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
I just viewed myself as a loser who couldn’t cope with life.

What did I have to be depressed about anyway? Sure I was teased a lot at school but compared to what some people go through who are bullied, it seemed like something I should just be able to shrug off. Sure my mobility had lessened for no reason that any doctor could find, and I used (still use) a wheelchair for long distance. But again, what did I have to be depressed about?

There were problems in time that I would realise I had, through the ever-growing self-awareness we possess. Each problem became something to tick off my list when ‘solved’ something that I could say, “aha! This is where the depression spawns itself and leaks into the rececesses of my mind from!” only to find once that problem dwindled, or was solved that actually my depression would remain.
Granted some of my problems cannot be ‘solved’ and only ‘treated’ with drugs and a ‘wait and watch’ approach. But the point is those problems get ‘treated’ and the pain from them becomes ‘lesser’ even if they sometimes come back with a vengeance every now and then.

But still, the depression persists like a cyst that keeps reopening it’s wound.

I’ve noticed stages to my depression throughout my life. Through childhood, I now realise I was already depressed very early on, but it was an emptiness that I could just about for short periods distract myself from. This made me a very demanding friend though, and I was insistent on always playing out, a friend that denied me my fun would anger me. How dare they feel too tired to play out, or heaven forbid just simply, ‘not feel like playing.’
What do you mean you don’t ‘feel’ like playing out? You think I ‘feel’ like it? No! I HAVE to play out! Because if I don’t, I’m left with my own emptiness. 

This persistent need to always be playing outside continued on into my teens but my depression was getting darker, and I was becoming more and more desperate. My thoughts soon turned from playing out to another way to escape. Thinking about death in general and specifically suicide. Depression had taken me whole now, and I didn’t even see much point in having friends anymore either.
Most of them had started to distance themselves from me by this point anyway, they didn’t realise I was just as tired of me as they were. Or maybe they did.
I understand I was toxic. Something negative radiated from me, how could it not? I always lied to save face every time I was caught out crying or just looking too miserable. Some really unforgivable lies passed my lips.
They were never planned out lies, there was never an intelligent manipulating mastermind behind those lies. They spilt out of my mouth in moments where I’d been caught out feeling too miserable for words to comprehend. How does a teenager who doesn’t really understand himself what the fuck is going on in his head explain his feelings? I didn’t have a word for it. ‘Sad’ didn’t fit, it wasn’t ‘sad’ it was more, it was worse than sad. I could have said, “Actually now that you ask if you must know I feel like the world is a dark place that has beaten and eaten me and spits me back out. My world is upside down, or it’s the right way around, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I have this despair filling my lungs and every moment of every day feels like I’m drowning. Death would be a good escape for me, but I’m afraid of the pain of dying so tell me, how do I walk the path to death without the pain? Also, does the world look dark to you too? I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean physically does it look dark to you? Those lights above our heads, aren’t they really murky and dark and give off hardly any light what so ever?” But who wants to listen to that? So when some kid who would usually be laughing at me one day for some bizarre reason unknown to me decides to ask me if I’m okay, because “god you look miserable” sometimes just being asked that question alone would make me burst into tears. And then they’d say, “Woah, what’s up? Tell us?” And since I couldn’t say the above I’d find myself saying something like, “One of my dogs just died.” But none of my dogs just died. In fact, the dog that has come to mind died when I was baby but she has a name, and so it’s an easy lie to tell, it’s a real dog that was once alive and had a real name, so I didn’t have to make it all up on the spot. It was there for me, and these kids knew no better. “Oh I’m so sorry,” They’d reply. And my tears would seem less pathetic because death had happened and who doesn’t cry when their dog dies?
Because most of the time I was crying at nothing that could be proven to be ‘real’ I was crying because I was crying any reasons behind it be damned. Yes depression was the ‘reason’, but there was often no catalyst like an actual dog dying other than those words, “Are you okay?” So there were no words to say when they asked me “are you okay” and I burst out crying other than some lie I could think of on the spot to make my tears look reasonable. Crying has always been something I reserve as something I do on my own, but in those moments for whatever reason, I just broke.
The truth is I only have two basic facial expressions for people to understand, still to this day, one is crying, the other is laughter.

Fast forward to 2006 and I’m in a psychiatric ward and on visits home my mother would always be playing a Keane Album in her car called under the Iron Sea. Now everytime I listen to that album it takes me back to the car seat. It takes me back to waiting in the car while she picked up my prescription from the hospital pharmacy and the music became a soundtrack to a silent emptiness that was somehow filling me. I was better than I was, I was back to the empty numbness of my childhood. It’s an emptiness with a glimmer of hope but somehow it’s all the more painful. It’s a more silent form of depression than the one where I couldn’t help but cry. Becuase I have no words again and no tears either just this growing deep brooding feeling. The car feeling too small, like I’m suffocating in it, suffocating within myself, my lungs suffocating from breathing. The doctors in the review meeting earlier on that day were all smiles and congratulations for me, for how far i’d come. And there I was sat in the car with this silent depression inside me with no way of expressing it. They were talking about me going home for good, not just for tea or for a weekend, but for good.

And i’ve been in this depressive cycle ever since. Back and forth from crying more easily than is normal to this silent depressive, oppressive thing inside me. Never really reaching a point where I’m passed the depression. Like being trapped in that car but I’m locked in, no words to describe it, at least not adquately enough.

No words are ever enough
And not speaking at all is torture.

Time’s indifference

All the while
Your own world, still

With the rush of time
By the windowsill

Trying to reconcile anguish
With the stretch of indifferent hours

The clap of a birds wings
Bringing you into the present

Nothing harmonized
Feelings still the same

Despite the heartless
Whims of the clock

Telling you it’s
A new day

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Retrieval

It was chilly out, and snow had started to swirl in a heavy breeze. I’d sat down to eat my dinner when my golden retriever, Darwin, raced to the windowsill, standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the sill. I slurped soup off my spoon and some if it dripped back into the bowl on the table, “What’s going on?” I asked Darwin.
Darwin turned his head to look at me, his paws still on the sill, his ears twitching. Then there was a knock at the door.
I dropped my spoon into the bowl with a clatter and headed towards the door.

Snow softly fell and clung to the fabric of his peacoat, his hands deep in his pockets for warmth.
I stared at him blankly for what in hindsight feels like too long. His blue eyes stared back at me, and a strand of hair hung above the rim of his glasses, his forehead creasing with tension.
“Mr Ashworth?” He leaned in.
I licked my lips, “Yes, whose asking?”
Darwin sat next to me, his head tilted with curiosity.
“I’m Jerry, Jerry North.”
He told me his name with a look on his face that suggested I should know who he was. I shook my head, “I don’t know any Jerry North!”
“I know your son,” He turned back to me, “Well, I know him very well actually,” He bounced on the balls of his feet and looked down at his shoes with a meek smile curling the corners of his lips.
“How,” I frowned, “He…” I faltered. It had been a long time since I’d talked to anyone about my son.
He held up his hands placatingly, “I know what you’re thinking,”
I gave him a scornful glare, “You have no bloody idea what I’m thinking!” I hissed and started to close the door on him.
He jutted his foot in the door, “I know he died when he was five,”
I swung the door wide open again, “What?”
“He died when he was five but,”
“But?” I asked him, bug-eyed, “But what? He died when he was 5, and that was that. What do you want?”
“Have you ever heard about the Soul retrieval facility, Mr Ashworth?”
I scoffed, and my face reddened in anger, “You,” I pointed accusingly, “Stop with this sick prank!”
“Have you heard of it?” He asked sternly, his hand on the door.
“I’ve heard the conspiracy theories!” I spat, “It’s nonsense!”
“What if I said that it’s true?” He leaned further into the doorway, “And,” He held up a hand to ward off any protest, “And that your son was retrieved there not long after his death.”
“I’d tell you what I’m telling you now; you’re sick! Playing a sick joke on an old man who still…” I could feel it in my throat. The hot swell of tears.
The blue-eyed man placed a hand on my shoulder gently, “Listen,” He looked me straight in the eyes. His stare was intense, and despite myself, I found something trustworthy about his eyes.
“Your son is 35 now,”
“Would be,” I hissed still not giving entirely into that trust.
“I’m his husband.”
My jaw dropped, and I scanned his face for answers.
“Listen, he was retrieved along with a lot of other children in the facility and,” He took a long breath and looked down at the ground sadly, “They were experimenting with this new technology. Downloading souls into clones.”
I baulked at the absurdness of what he was saying with a wry smile tinged with sadness, “Downloading souls? Clones?” I shook my head with a sigh, “I don’t know who you are but leave me alone!”
“I swear,” He shivered, and his lips tinged purple, “I swear it’s the truth!”
I would have slammed the door on him, but his foot remained on the step, and he held the door open with a strong looking hand. “Listen,” I started dejected, “Maybe you did know my son, maybe you knew him from the nursery,” I looked at him sadly, “But you’re clearly ill or,” I raised a brow at him, “On drugs?”
He shook his head, “If you’d just let me in!”
“No,” I held up a hand, “Next you’ll be telling me Elvis isn’t dead!”
“He isn’t,” He replied earnestly.
“What? See! You’re just like those usual crackpot conspiracy theorists!”
“Bowie isn’t dead either!”
I snorted, “You’re kidding me! Surely if either of them were still alive, they’d have been seen!”
“No! Their bodies are dead; they got cloned into different bodies to help them blend in unnoticed!”
“So those crackpots that reckon they’ve seen Elvis?”
“They’re just that, crackpots. He’s still alive, but he looks nothing like Elvis anymore!”
I didn’t know what to do. What was I supposed to believe? It was snowing, and we were both getting cold, “I don’t want to speak with you anymore,” I told him waving my walking stick at him, “Don’t ever return, do you hear?” I stepped forward and got in his face, “Do you hear?” I enunciated the question carefully.

And that was that. He held up his hands as if surrendering and stepped back. But there was sorrow in his eyes, and for a moment I nearly cracked and opened the door again. But in the end, I locked it up, put the chain on the latch turned the lights out and went to bed.

Falling

The words come
easy go
because I feel hard done
Oh woe is me woe is woe
Got a blue heart
Thrashing against my bones
Feeling thoughts, I don’t even know
The way the words are supposed to go
Building walls
Without foundations
Climbing ladders
With falling rungs
Maybe if I just smoke
All these things into my lungs
Till I’m bluer than grey
With my name etched in stone
More permanent than my existence
Are the words on my tongue.

Drafted

Wired by the violence
That mars our existence
Your face is stormy silence
Drafted into this war
Dragging guilt through the sands
Of the desert
Dry lips
Grenade in your belt at the hips
Shrapnel
It’s a gamble
As you grapple
Life at the end of a barrel
Keep your eyes on the medal
Framed on the mantel
One wrong move
Watch your manner
You don’t know who might wield the hammer
Eyes wide
Never closed
Can’t afford to be a star after death
You want that cigar at the end
Clenched between your teeth
Instead of bullets.