Oh boy, Benjamin.
This is the story of Benjamin Boombastic, Debbie Downer’s older brother. It wasn’t Debbie though he found sticking to a plush wing chair. Ben had just been away over the weekend, only to return to this gruesome scene. The oven door was still opened, and the scorching stench would probably linger for days. Benjamin had just started his journey into manhood. It hit him like a laser beam, nothing like a dimmer light slowly swelling until full enlightenment has been reached. More a spasm-inducing explosion, leaving him worse for wear. Oh boy, Benjamin. Why wasn’t someone else there to find him? Why did you have to catch that first glance of despair in a nutshell? Five years on, Ben was still suffering the aftermath of this disaster. A person deciding to leave this world is akin to an inner city demolition of a building. It is impossible for near-by buildings not to be impacted.
When I first met Mr.Boombastic, I knew nothing thereof. Neither of the prime real estate location of his flat nor of the calamity he’d once was a part of. I liked his soft spoken demeanour. Indie-Rocker, deep, quiet, kind. This is our story. And our story it is, for once I left his life, I left his life. He stayed with me for quite some time though. Typing away, it suddenly occurs to me that Ben had always wanted to be a writer. Maybe he would be looking at blogs occasionally? The only reason why this may matter is that I am actually using his real name. Thankfully there are many Benjamin’s though, and thankfully Mr.Boombastic is an entirely made up name. He did have something quite fantastic about him. And, yes, he knew something about well written music. We would spend many hours on top of the trash of his flat, listening to Suede and Radiohead and other such things. Anyone worth their salt knows Yorke to bethe cream of the crop in musical terms.
Julie Burchill I knew all by myself. The highest paid female british columnist of all times. She started her career writing for the prestigious NME, New Musical Express. Ben read the NME mostly, whilst I stuck to Julie and Will. Ben wanted a job with the NME quite badly. Maybe he imagined his hording and excruciating depression to be the ticket to a flourishing career? At least, that is how he carried himself the first time I entered his flat. Only, a flat it wasn’t. A very central, Euston station four bedroom place, over one hundred square metres in size resembling a gigantic piece of shit. To Ben though it was exuding an air of understatement, aristocracy and substance, similar to Withnail & I. To me it stank of cigarettes, rotting food and mould. Why didn’t I run for my life at that very moment, standing in a four bedroom place filled knee deep with trash and swarming with worms and other creepy-crawlies?
I kid you not, we were wading to the living room, Ben shoved undesirable junk off of his settee, haphazardly sat down and started fishing in the pond of dirt. Some time later his arm and hand reappeared with Withnail&I. The look on his face was that of a king in his castle. I knew being allowed entrance into his kingdom was quite the honour. Sitting down was undertaken with overt care. Not due to his kingship though. Slowly I sat down next to him. On my way down I must have swallowed a broom stick, for I was unmovable from the second I took my place. Dear Lord, why didn’t I politely decline the offer and returned home?
A minute decision like that would have spared me two years of being a co-dependent clinical depressive. Ben became the sole content of my life. Anyone outside my head could not quite comprehend how there was even any time left for something as time consuming as caring for a handicapped man. There was my full-time apprenticeship, my part-time University course in Philosophy and a minimum of twenty weekly hours spent in dingy bars and dodgy shops, often way into the night. Being home by twelve or two was my daily bread. Leaving by seven the norm. Sundays was for nursing the accumulated hangovers of the week. Night time work always included heavy drinking. That bottle of Vodka graced the VIP lounge. Not all night time work is illegal though, and I was no sex worker by any means, but that world with its seemingly easy options lived next to me.
I had to cross London’s red-light district to get to my job. Upstairs was an SM parlour, friends at work would get married for money or sell themselves in other ways. Night life, drugs, sex work. That was my reality for most of those years spent in London, and pretty much all my time spent, yet not spend, with Ben. Once I did get to spend time with Ben, however, I was always already spent. He was too, but for entirely different reasons. Two packets of Benson and Hedges smoked daily manages to slow any decent human being down. Often I would return after those many hours away to find him floating in a fish tank of smoke. The anchor keeping him from drifting away was the overflowing ashtray. The aquarium however did not trigger poetic expulsions in me. Rather, ranting, frustration and a sense of defeat.
All along I imagined depression to be the dragon I could slay. I could force it to its knees. Oh, how wrong I was. Its as easy as trying to defeat death. Only one person has accomplished this impossible task so far. Yet I imagined myself to be the second person to do so. How stupid I was. Depression undoes the ability to experience pleasure. Others are not able to bring a sense of pleasure into ones life. Nothing boombastic in Ben’s life. Instead he was starring incessantly into the abyss. Not very pleasant. Ben spent his time either belabouring his own short comings or having anxiety attacks. Dear God. The worst thing I ever had to watch another human being go through.
We would go to sleep by maybe two, two thirty. By four his tense body spasms would awaken me. He would jump up, his whole body rigid, curled up into some kind of ball of muscle and sinew and bone. His gaze fixed ahead. His pupils widened. He would pace up and down the room, the aggression exuded from his body was terrifying. This would take anything from an hour to two hours. Trying to soothe him only encouraged him it seemed. Animating him to offload by punching pillows or doors did not help either. Anxiety attacks were part of his daily routine. Anxiety, smoking, drinking beer, not eating, hating himself and despising anything around him. We did not have a whole lot of fun.
Those years I would get by on three to four hours of sleep a night. It didn’t go on for very long though. Soon after I found myself being sucked into the same vortex. I was diagnosed with depression and was off work for over a month. Six weeks in fact, and it cost me my apprenticeship. Other than Ben though I didn’t hesitate to take pills. Prozac were fun happy pills. For Ben, Prozac had long been surpassed. He needed the real stuff, not just some gentle uppers. Once he actually got himself to a doctor, who would later subscribed them. First and foremost though he was a horrible man who smoked in his office, suggested Ben go out and enjoy his life, sunshine and women and soon all would be well. Dear God! What Bullshit. Ben considered suicide daily, and looking at the sun would fix that? In a way, Vitamin D does help with mood disorders, but not at the critical level Ben was at.
So, once he took those pills, his depression worsened. He had paranoid episodes. Things that weren’t there appeared to be really threatening. Shadows turned into monsters out to harm him. Nothing the patient information leaflet did not warn us off. However, one month of a worsened experience of something that was already an all together horrible condition? I am really not surprised at the numbers of suicides. One has to really be made of stone to endure such an ordeal, and let me tell you, most people are just human after all. Besides the general shittyness, and now added paranoid episodes, general admin stuff began to mushroom out of control. Bills were left unpaid, eviction letters amassed, once he was only three days away from being evicted from his place. An easy way into homelessness. Purely by accident I found those letters of warning under piles of trash.
His dad got involved. Ben hated me for it. But I didn’t know what else to do. Ben’s dad? I soon knew why he didn’t want him there. All the nonsense Ben got from me only potentiated with his dad being around. It was all only Ben’s fault for being a lazy bum, that was the gist of it. This talented and soft hearted man now morphed into an evil lazy cancerous amassing of cells. At least according to his dad. Ben should just get his act together and things would be fine. Dear God. There was the awful girlfriend laying in to him, clobbering him with well-meant advice of eating salmon and going for daily walks. His totally irresponsible doctor who resembled something out of a comedy show. A dad who was entirely out of his depth, and later, a terrible hospital care to follow up everything. As though the previous shit hadn’t been shit enough.
After an especially awful anxiety attack I called the ambulance. Now I can only explain it as being possessed. Ben was thrown into his furniture, against his walls, a real force seemed to grab him and thrust him around the room. It looked as though someone had come into the room and edited the stuntman, who had relentlessly catapulted Ben across his big pile of trash, out. Doors were yanked out of cupboards, drawers smashed out of their chests, Ben’s crashing body accomplished all of that. The ambulance took him to the near by hospital, literally five minutes away. I remember walking back from there in the morning, having lost my faith in the medical profession entirely.
He supposedly didn’t pose a threat to himself or others, and apart from that one could do nothing. I had just seen a man being hurled across the room into a door which now as a result had a hole in it, and all that was said was “There is nothing we can do” ? Dear Lord. He needed to be in care, someone who at least fed him once a day. Ben needed help. And none was offered. Calling suicide hotlines did not offer much of relief either. I read all I could on depression, took him to different therapy institutions, made appointments, cleaned his flat more than once, only to see it deteriorate back to its original state within days.
All of the sinks were filled with cigarette buts. Once, the drain was blocked. Water was pouring all over the kitchen floor. The kitchen hadn’t been used in many many months. It was just rotting dishes and ash and animals everywhere. Now there was an amassing of water on the kitchen floor. I called the plumber, Ben spent his time sleeping in bed. I guess, really, he probably wished to drown in bed, finally bringing an end to his sufferings. When I opened the door for the plumber I saw the most disgusted pity in his eyes, and I felt like scum that floats on scum. Probably this is what Ben felt always. Ultimate low-life. Pitied by everyone. It was the disgust however that was hard to swallow. Not quite what a Mr. Bombastic deserved.
Considering my own life deteriorated further and further, I would soon spend my time attempting to break up with Ben. Over and over. A total of maybe seventy times. Dear Lord. It would be actually due to one of Ben’s very thoughtless action that my life was about to take a dramatic turn. He had looked me outside my own flat. Left the keys inside and all. After I had stopped taking Prozac some weeks earlier, my own depression had returned. Finding myself locked outside my flat had nearly given me the rest. Much of my time now was spent deliberating suicide. My life did not hold much in store for me. I was spent, tired, worn out, overly full of all kinds of toxins, and there was no end in sight of my misery. Some months earlier I had started to go to churches. Long story, don’t ask. However, upon entering, two things would happen: First, everyone would turn their heads to see me, the unidentifiable object, half shaved head, the rest in pink, a dog collar around my neck. Yes, I had grown hard over time.
And the staring would get worse once the second phenomenon manifested: I would start to sob uncontrollably. Not a pretty sight, I fled as soon as the service would come to an end. Since this had been taking place for far too often, I had taken to having church come to me. Via the telly. On Sundays. The most old school show imaginable. Ancient chorals were sung in even older chapels. The day I had to go up to my neighbour for the spare keys, I saw her watch God tv. Only a few days prior, I had seen a church featured on Songs of Praise. It had been as though I had found the love of my life on timber, and I occidentally swiped him off. I did not know how to find this church. But intuitively I knew I had to go there. This would be the love of my life, I just knew it.
When I saw my neighbour watch God tv, I asked her if she had heard of this church. And she had. In fact, she had not just heard of it but called it her church. That following Sunday, I found my way to that very church. Since then,almost a decade ago, I have missed maybe a total of ten days in church. But I knew nothing of this the first time I went. As chaotic and destroyed my life was, the routine of going to church seemed absurd but nonetheless magically appeared. The only routine I knew then was smoking all sorts of strange things and downing other funny things. And here I was going to church. Regularly. I was mostly nursing my hang over and avoiding the usual chit-chat. But, I was in church. A dark and anonymous church for me, where I could cry in secret.
Dear Lord. What happened next? Things with Ben got more and more out of hand. Attempts to break up were piling on top of each other. Of course I wanted nothing more but to see him well, but, as with any co-dependant, there comes a time when the realization hits and one becomes aware of the fact that the problem lies as much with oneself as with the other, supposedly sick, person. That cognizance grew, but the ability to do anything about it didn’t. I spent hours in church crying my eyes out. Crying and crying. One day, it was Easter Sunday, some random stranger girl put her hand on my shoulder, prayed for me and gave me a text. God would guide me, and there was nothing to be afraid of. The next day this should become reality.
I went to Ben, and within five minutes I realized something which had never been that obvious to me. The selfish aspect of his debilitating illness would make it impossible for him to care for me. By no means am I degrading people with depression to just have a bad case of selfishness. Remember, two years spent reading up on this illness, living with it and later actually experiencing it for myself didn’t allow for such an easy way out. No, it was a real enlightenment showing me my part in this scenario. The day I went round to his, I needed a minimal amount of understanding towards something in my life. Instead I received copious amounts of verbal abuse. After two years of me giving him almost unlimited support and love, he was unable to give me even just two minutes thereof in return.
Someone had cut a chord between us, our heart string was severed. I walked away. Something I should have done that first day in his flat, two years earlier. I walked away, and for the first time I was not afraid to get a call informing me they had found Ben dangling from the ceiling. This after all had been my main motivation for staying with him, being petrified to be responsible for his death. Fighting death after all is an impossible task. I can only say I thank the sweet Lord above for not yanking Ben out of his life that day. Instead, the next day he would experience a nervous break down, something which finally secured him a place in a care home, eventually resulting in a recovery spanning over many years. Organically he remained fully intact. I wouldn’t learn of this until many months later, since I had managed to break away from something addictive in my life.
Please don’t hear what I am not saying: caring for someone who suffers from depression is an honourable thing and not always a case of co-dependence. In my case, however, it was. Once I broke it off, he too could finally get the help he’d always needed. And I was able to begin to look at my own life. My own soul. Something in it allowed me to sleep in a creepy-crawly infested bed for far too long, after all. Gross. Obviously, I felt as though I didn’t deserve any better. I felt like part of the furniture in his flat, buried deep under piles and piles of trash. I felt like trash, and I had hoped I could rescue myself from there by organizing some exterior circumstances for someone else. It was however my soul that needed rescuing. I must say, the most valuable thing I found within my soul was my Saviour. Jesus. I had been rescued many years before that.
He was there throughout. In that storm of life. I still don’t make sense of this at all. Life still is very puzzling to me in more ways than one. How would He let this happen? How did He allow for all the other rubbish before to make me feel like rubbish? I haven’t a clue. But I know that He kept me save in His hand. Somehow. And I am most grateful to have had this experience with Ben. Not in an adventure-tourist kind of way. More in a I have been eating with the pigs-kind of way. The most treasured possession in my life is Jesus and His church. By far. Only, He is not mine to keep, but I am His love. For ever. I am, so to speak, to die for.
I wish I could say Ben is now well and we are a happy couple. We are not. But he is well. So well in fact, that he blamed me for the whole episode. God bless his heart. One thing I have learned is to take responsibility.And apologize I did. For all my wrong-doings. Of which there are many. I can. Because I know someone has wiped all mine away. I am as fresh as virgin snow. Thank you, Jesus, the true Mr.Bombastic, for saving this Debbie Downer from drowning.