It’s early March 1994, one of those early Spring days that make you think the dark days of Winter might finally be coming to an end. I am walking along the quiet lanes of Farnham, hands stuffed in my pockets, collar up and shoulders hunched against the chilly breeze. But the milky sun is doing it’s level best to claw it’s way through the clouds, and I can feel it’s warmth, fleetingly on my face.
I’ve been out of hospital for six weeks and, at 37 years old, I’m back living with my Mum. Her lovely cottage, that we helped her find when the family home got too much, after Dad died and, one by one, after we’d all moved out, is just about big enough for the two of us. I haven’t got much stuff anyway. Two bin bags of clothes and my records. Not much to show for 15 years of married life.
I pull at my collar as the breeze picks up. I am the thinnest I’ve been for years, and will ever be again. I’ve only started eating again in the last few days, the homemade Cottage Pie replacing the endless tins of Heinz Tomato soup. The breeze suddenly cuts through my skinny frame and I look for shelter. Across the road is an old wooden bus shelter, it’s back facing the wind. I hunch down on the bench, grateful for the relief. I pull the white Walkman out of the inside pocket of my jacket and ferret around for the jack-plug of the headphones, which are already around my neck. The plug goes in with a satisfying snap. I press Play and slide the little box back into my pocket. I lift the headphones onto my head, the round foam earpieces sitting precariously on my ears. The lead-in tape hisses and a song starts. I get up, turning back towards the cottage, the warm fire and a pot of tea.
I am scared. I don’t mean occasionally, I mean all the time. I am scared of life, of the future, of waking up. I am scared of the depression and what it made me do. And I am scared it might make me try again. When I was in the IC unit. I remember gripping my Mum’s hand, so tight, and whispering that I was so tired of being scared. She wept, gripping my hand even tighter, the pain of being so helpless, so unable to protect her second-born son, etched on her face. The machinery hummed and monitors bleeped, as white-clad nurses moved silently around the ward, just ghostly shadows on the periphery of my vision. A tear ran down my face towards my ear as I stared up at the ceiling, terrified.
I reach the bottom of Mum’s road and turn up the hill, towards the cottage. The song ends and the next one starts. An acoustic guitar drives the rhythm, and a voice sings, “Bite my tongue…”
A weak beam of sunlight warms my face and I raise my head towards it, almost breathing in the warmth. I reach the end of Mum’s drive just as the voice sings “It’s about time..” for the last few times. I wipe a tear away from behind my glasses, just another of many that have been shed over the past six weeks. I look up to the sun again, drinking in the warmth, closing my eyes to the light. As the song ends, I smile for the first time in many weeks.