As we creep into September and the days shorten I now face the pleasure of getting up when it’s dark to commute into Belfast for work. This situation will only continue to worsen in the coming months as the nights become ever longer. Soon not only will I be getting up in the dark but I’ll be heading home in the dark. I will know nothing else until next spring when the sun may choose to revisit our fair and pleasant land.
It’s a gloomy scenario. My fellow commuters look even more miserable than usual as we brave the elements on Platform 1 and desperately seek to avoid eye contact at all costs. The only light I have to look forward to is the artificial variety supplied by the open plan office where I do that 9-5 thing. The days are colder, bleaker and there seems no respite from the grind of the rat race. We batten down the hatches and wish our lives away towards Summer 2020.
Don’t get me wrong, it could be worse. We live in Northern Ireland, not the Arctic Circle. At least we don’t live in perpetual twilight for half the year. Plus we don’t have ravenous polar bears and melting icebergs to contend with. My daily train journey is far from riveting but it beats trying to steer a sled and eight huskies into Belfast during rush hour. I imagine the local constabulary might want to have a word with me about such antics.
No, I’ll take a world of partial darkness over one of permanent night any time. But what about those of us who feel as if they do live in the icy wastes. The sun may be splitting rocks outside but they don’t know as they can barely lift their head from the pillows, let alone get up, shower, eat, dress and face the outside world. The people who life has chewed up and spat out by the roadside. The collateral damage of our supposed caring, sharing society.
There are those of us who aren’t doing so well, who can’t cope, and who are slipping silently beneath the surface. We are oblivious to them as we are too engrossed in our own existences, too wrapped up in ego and self. When we should be throwing a life jacket to them, we are often looking the other way, immersed in the minutiae which occupy our every waking moment. We say we care but do we act as though we do? I know I don’t do enough.
Mental illness is a killer. It’s sucks the last drops of hope from our souls and leaves dry husks behind. Some stumble on, dragging themselves through life the best they can. Battling depression, anxiety, addiction, OCD, BPD, PTSD, and any other number of demons of the mind. They destroy our present and eradicate our future plans. These are the discarded, the unwanted, the people our governments want us to forget about.
Others, seeing no way out, choose to take their own lives. Suicide is a choice, a decision, a conscious act. But like the tip of an iceberg it only shows part of the story. Lurking beneath is the reason why they chose to do so. And that may have been as a result of weeks, months or years of living in the darkness. Until they reach breaking point and see no other option but to step aside, to let go, to slip away. Their journey ends and we scratch our heads in disbelief.
We need to do more. I need to do more. I can write about it, but is that enough? What more can I do to raise awareness of the mental health epidemic sweeping across our lands? What more can you do? I’ll leave that question with you as I travel towards another working day. The sun is out now, the skies are blue. I feel alive again as the light floods our carriage. I am grateful as so many others see nothing but the dark this morning.