Tuesday, 6 November 2012

It's Not All Doom and Gloom

So, last week I admitted to you all that I've been undergoing a bit of a meltdown. Thank you all for your messages of support, by the way - they really have helped me to feel much better, and certainly a lot less isolated. Both from close friends and family and folks I don't know so well, I feel touched by the warmth I have been shown, that I admit, through no fault of your own, was unexpected.

Last week, I wrote to vent and to hopefully offer some support to others. This week, I decided to shed a different light on things, and maybe even make one or two of you laugh.

So, whilst depression can make a person feel low, want to hibernate, feel isolated and fragmented and somewhat burdensome, there is another aspect that can have some interesting consequences: irrationality. Whilst most of the time this simply triggers paranoia, illogical strands of thought floating about in frustrating intangibility and seemingly alien thoughts, there can also be a funny side. This happened to me a couple of weeks back, and although I don't advocate it (in hindsight, it was extremely stupid and dangerous: don't try this at home, kids), it seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution at the time. Now it seems idiotic, and in all honesty, a little bit hilarious. Here's what happened.

Feeling low, I decided to go hang out with an old friend of mine. He's a great guy to talk to, as he understands the highs and lows of the mental illness rollercoaster, and he's a damn fine cook to boot. We arranged for dinner and a rant, which turned into post-dinner drinks, which turned into sampling some of his new, home-brewed alcoholic ginger beer.

Unfortunately, it was delicious. And 18% proof.

Far too much ginger beer later, I drunkenly decided it was an excellent idea to cycle home. It was half past one when I left, and the evening felt young and crisp. The stars were out, I was wearing my trusty bowler, and I felt at odds with the idea of being alone. I set off back home, to hopefully sleep off the hangover before work the next day, when halfway down a dark and wobbly road, I came to an unfortunate crossroads.

If I turned right, I would be forced to cycle past my partner's apartment block to get home. We were going through a rough patch, and I was drunk. Could I trust myself to cycle straight past and not look back? Or would this result in a teary midnight visit I would no doubt regret the next morning? I felt a lump in my throat. I looked at the lights.

If I turned left, however, that could all be avoided. All, including the eventual making it home. At least temporarily. Maybe I could clear my head. Get some fresh air. A bit of exercise never hurt anyone!

The lights turned green, and I turned left.

The air was fresh, and cold. I felt emotional, but refreshed, and somehow at peace with my idiot decision. I kept cycling, past the takeaway joints, past the supermarket, past B&Q, and right on to the dual carriageway. Wobbling round the empty roundabout in the dark, I felt content, free, alive. Which, given that I was cycling, drunk, on a dual carriageway, at approximately 2am, wearing a bowler hat and squinting through my cycling glasses, I was very lucky to be.

Now, somewhere along this momentous, wankered journey, one of the few rational parts of my mind that was still functioning realised where I'd actually got to. Somewhere in my ginger beer-addled brain, a road sign had lodged itself. It was a simple sign, noting that this direction led to Scarborough. And suddenly, a new, fresh wave of stupidity hit.

It was 2am. It was cold. I was drunk and on a bike. And I was wearing a bowler hat. It was like an odd British answer to the Blues Brothers.

And at this point, I decided this was the best time I could possibly choose to cycle the 40-odd miles to Scarborough, to visit an aunt who didn't know I was arriving, at an address I didn't actually know.

I smiled. This was a fantastic plan.

Blissfully unaware of any flaws in my spotless plan as I swayed along a thankfully empty road in a jaunty-angled bowler hat, me and my precious orange push bike Herbie cruised on into the night. It took about 15 minutes for the entire idea to come crashing down, when, in an attempt to adjust the front light to read an oncoming sign, I misjudged my strength and it came off in my hand.

With it came the logic that had evaded me up until this point. I stopped at the side of the road. There was no-one in sight (unsurprisingly); I had no idea where I was. It was now 2.30am. I was cold and tired and sobering up. I was much more likely to get myself killed than get anywhere near the seaside tonight.

Giving in, I made a 999 call.

"Which service, please?"

I thought about this. "Police," I said.

The operator stifled her laughter with utmost professionalism as I explained the entire situation.

I hung up the phone and waited. Exasperated by my own loose grip on reality, I threw the bowler hat on the ground and cried.

Within half an hour, the first cop car arrived.

A burly bloke named Don was driving. He was bald, with a thick Yorkshire accent, and a slightly bemused look.

"Bit of a pickle, isn't it?" he said.

We sat in his car as I explained what had happened. He nodded soberly. I waited to be arrested for drunkenly cycling down a dual carriageway at stupid o' clock.

That moment never happened. He called in for a van to come and pick Herbie up, and we sat and waited for them to arrive, making small talk.

Ten minutes later, and two officers were loading my little orange bicycle into their van. One rapped on the window.

"Is this yours?" he asked me. He was holding my mud-spattered bowler hat.

It was 3.30am when I got home.

I had a hot chocolate, went to bed, and called in sick the next day. I spent the time cleaning my bowler hat.

My dear aunt never did have a clue I intended to turn up somewhere vaguely resembling the vicinity of her doorstep. Perhaps if she reads this, she will.

And that, dear readers, is one of the more amusing incidents that has arisen out of the sheer illogic of depression. Profoundly stupid though it was, the truth is there was no ill intent or harm intended; all I wanted was a bike ride, and all I found was darkness, and a lift home from a stranger.  





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