This blog is not FDA approved
When I drive in foggy, rainy weather or through the night I sometimes picture him standing on the side of the road, over and over again, in different postures. Leaning against trees, rolling a cigarette, putting his thumb out, waiting to cross the road… There he comes… there he is… and he’s gone… There he comes… there he is… and… gone.
He looks ghostly, but that’s not my imagination, that’s just how I remember him. Christian was the suicidal character out of a novel: Skinny and pale even in mid-August, aged far beyond his age. Yet beautiful, fragile, almost transparent. Sad, reluctant irony in his friendly eyes. If I were making him up, I’d be the least original writer ever.
I have no idea why I do that thing in the car. It gives me a morbid feeling of going slightly insane, but something about that is nice. As if I had to demonstrate to myself how much Christian’s death affected me. Or maybe I just like the aesthetics of it, I don’t know.
I was never so fully alive than I was that summer in Berlin. I felt the five basic emotions – happiness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust – as if my brain was a bouncy ball, hitting with vibrant frequencies from one side of my scull to the other. During the day I was running around clean, shiny corridors in a white coat that bared the name of the most famous German hospital on it. All week long I got to wallow in the life stories of borderline patients with opiate addictions until that robe felt soiled with phlegm, spit, tears, withdrawal sweats and vomit. If I wasn’t in the psychiatry ward, I engaged with the Madagascan bush hospital I had been volunteering at. Bending over my laptop until early in the morning, I had an endless stream of malnourished patients at the dusty doorsteps of the hospital in front of me. The sweating foreheads, the moaning women, the blood, the puss, the dirt, the flies. I felt so important.
Everything in between was Christian. He was incapable of sleep and I was incapable of saying no to him. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, bursting with tension like a little boy who had been forced to sit still for too long, he whined, “Let’s do something! I’m so bored!” and I got up and came along. We stumbled and danced through Berlin, that dirty playground of a city. We went through packs and packs of cigarettes and beer on the banks of the Landwehrkanal, found ourselves at host-less private parties, broke into parks, wolfed down Döner at 5 am. We went on and on until the sun came up. Staying at home felt wasteful to me. When I was with Christian, I constantly felt the urge to climb things, to smash something, to set something on fire, to do just anything out of the ordinary to create a memory. As if I had known.
However, I really didn’t. Though the term ‘knowledge’ has become an ambiguous one to me ever since. I didn’t know. But how could I not know? I had Christian sobbing at my shoulder, holding onto me like a drowning man, incapable of telling me what was wrong. In the past, I had found myself standing on the edges of rooftops in less mentally strained states than the ones he was experiencing, but I didn’t make that connection. I didn’t insist, I didn’t ask again, I let him be.
He left one night to be by himself. The next morning, he still hadn’t come home when I got up at 6am to go to work. I remember feverishly scanning the apartment for his shoes while I was getting ready. Something must have felt very wrong to me. Yet, again, I didn’t investigate further when I came back in the afternoon and he was there, doing his little “I cooked dinner and succeeded”-dance, as if everything was just fine. Did I not care enough? Certainly not. I was just so head-over-heels that I only saw him up-side-down. I made his frowns into smiles in my head, projecting my own mental state onto him. You would have needed someone else in your life that summer, Christian. Someone less blindly, stupidly in love with you.
The irony. Once there was a young, idealistic and profoundly naïve psychologist, enthusiastically loading humanity’s grievances onto her unconsumed, privileged back. She lived together with a tortured musician that was kind, passionate, thoughtful and sensitive beyond his own comprehension, so she fell in love with him. Sounds like a story that could have had a happy ending, doesn’t it?
During my last two weeks in Berlin, Christian seemed happier and livelier than ever before. We talked about his plans to travel, watched TV in cosy harmony, and he increased his training for a half marathon. He seemed concerned about me and my workload and took care of me with the sweetest empathy and pragmatism. His last spoken words to me were: “Don’t you have a crisis, now!” when I left for Munich all stressed and tense about irrelevant challenges ahead. Two weeks later, we had a skype date. When I went online that Saturday, he wasn’t there, so I got angry, knowing that he had gone out the night before, thinking he was still asleep. I felt rejected, forgotten, unimportant in his life and a whole bunch of other egocentric things. Then my cousin called and told me he had jumped off a bridge that night and was gone forever.
It’s kind of a classic in psychology: People who went through long phases of major depression often commit suicide after they’ve partly recovered and started participating at life again. By exposing themselves to stressors their risk of relapsing increases, especially when alcohol or other drugs are involved. Relapsing into depression is terrifying. You feel the same dreadful nothingness that tied you up and almost suffocated you over many, many weeks. Only now it’s paired with a regained sense of self-efficacy. You don’t know that relapses are quite normal for all kinds of mental disorders, and even if you know, distinguishing between the voice in your head that is the disorder and your own voice is near impossible without an objective point of view. So, you think that everything you escaped from is starting all over again. You panic and impulsively try to end it all. If you’re male, that is typically with a method that is not reversible.
That’s what I’ve been told and it makes perfect sense. Only, that it doesn’t and also, nothing makes sense.