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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Space Boy 2: Robin Williams and Why It’s Good To Talk

I didn’t think I would be able to write this. In fact, this is the first time in around 5 weeks I’ve actually managed to sit down in front of a word processing document. It’s the first time I’ve been able to stand the presence, more accurately, of a blank word processing document, with that impatient blinking cursor that seems to etch out the rhythm of your own insecurity.

It’s been exactly 37 days since I was told by a dear, dear friend that I was no good, as far as writers go. It was a heated exchange, granted, but like the handful of people that I allow within my inner circle, they knew exactly the right combination of words to hit my weaknesses. Like when the boss reveals its big shiny red spot in any boss fight from any videogame ever, I am very easy to take down a peg or two once you know your way around my brain. And, hoo boy, it worked. Big time. I’ve been shakily staring at blank documents since that day, and as a cold bead of disappointed sweat would wind its way across my furrowed brow, I’d sigh and call it quits ‘til another day.

The reason for my above candour isn’t to garner sympathy or attention. It’s not (and I really hope this comes across) some veiled passive-aggressiveness towards someone I love very much. My intention in revealing this information is simply that I (literally) tearfully fought my way past the massive billboards in my head screaming “GIVE IT UP, SHITLORD. NO ONE THINKS YOU’RE LIKEABLE AND YOUR BEARD IS A BIT CRAP” Because what I have to talk about today is really quite fucking important.

For those of you that read The Story of Space Boy- Consider this part Deux.

2 years (and a couple of days) ago I was DJing at my local shithole nightclub when I received some news that shocked me to the point of missing a song cue.  Robin Williams had passed away. And worse – by his own hand. In the sweaty haze of budget drinks, endless house music, and far too many kids writhing up against each other, I was more cold and sober than I ever had been. I spent the rest of the night playing a perfunctory set of songs while checking all available social media channels, witness to the tsunami outpouring of love, despair, and disbelief. This wasn’t some washout-out celebrity or  random music personality – this was The Genie. This was Mrs Doubtfire, or Mork, or Patch Adams, or Mr “It’s not your fault”. This man brought so much joy to millions that the juxtaposition of his own personal life and depression was almost too much to comprehend.

At the end of the night, after the last song, I decided to make the announcement to the club. I’m not one to end a night of absent-minded partying with a big old toilet flush of negativity, but something needed to be said. I explained to my adoring public that Robin Williams had died and then proceeded to passionately explain to them that suicide is prevalent, real, and needs to be addressed. I broke towards the end, and simply ended with a tearful plea that all of them go home that night and keep an eye on each other. I then ran home myself and recorded a very raw reaction episode of Gentlemanly Chats (GP’s longest-running podcast) and uploaded it the next day.

The reason I did this was very simple: I knew, in excruciating detail, what it feels like to want to die.  For those of you that listened to that particular episode – you may want to skip the next 4-500 words. For those of you that didn’t, here’s what happened to Space Boy a few years on.

I know. I know. Effin’ cool.

Being a teenager is awful. Your body is doing horrendous things to you while you go through a stage (that some never left) of hating those that spawned you and desperately attempting to carve yourself into whatever niche presents the best facsimile of acceptance and belonging. All the while your skin doesn’t fit and you are definitely trying to wank yourself to death. Suffice to say, it’s confusing as fuck and leaves most kids feeling lonely. Especially weird geeky kids with no peers his own age.

I had started to make trips to Rochester from the age of 15 and although I had made friends by that time, I also carried a predilection for melancholy that I couldn’t quite explain. It gave me a comfort to be sad, to revel in the morose feeling. Little did I know I was feeding the Black Dog.

At 16 I was, for want of a better expression, a God Bothering Goth. I had earned the nickname “Preacher” due to my rather virulent quoting of a particular religious text and had become known throughout the small, incestuous alternative scene of Rochester as ‘that guy in the Trench Coat’ that you could go and have a chat to. It was cringey as all hell with hindsight, but at the time it just felt good to be heralded as cool and wanted by people.

It was in my time with this group I met Emma. A short, curvy girl with jet black hair and prevalence for fellatio I had previously been sorely lacking,  Emma seemed lovely and we quickly fell into the idea of love you have when you’re 16. The sad feelings were still there and she seemed to be a kindred spirit that would list the things she hated about herself at the drop of a hat, telling me all about how good it felt when she hurt herself. It was quickly apparent when she  brought me home the first time why she felt so comfortable with sadness.

In her tiny two bedroom house lived 6 people. As well as her, her two siblings and her sofa-dwelling dad, there lived her mother and step dad. The latter two spent their entire time in one of the bedrooms, strung out on heroin. In the year and a bit I spent with Emma as my girlfriend, I witnessed every addiction related stereotype you could imagine. As a by-product of this I was watching my own girlfriend sink further and further into her own darkness, which made me fall, too. The feeling of sadness was becoming somewhat normal – I just assumed this is what growing up felt like.

When the relationship came to an end she continued to hit out at me, despite being the one to do the “dumping”. She would mock my insecurities to make herself feel better, and who could blame her? With the home life she had, having any sort of control was a powerful source of mental nourishment and an anchor upon which she held herself in place. It was a few days after the breakup that I thought for the first time “would it be better if I just died?”

Cut to 2009. Now 19 years old, that question had not left the back of my mind. I would return to it involuntarily, when I got too stressed, or when I couldn’t sleep. Every hardship was the worst thing to possibly happen to me and I couldn’t find respite in anything anymore. I felt like Atlas: world on my shoulders, struggling under the weight of it with a pained expression.

In recording Callous’ “Descension” Album I was in the grips of the worst relationship I ever had, with someone physically abusive who attempted to get pregnant to make me stay with her by lying about taking her pill, among a myriad other horrors she decided to throw my way. It was after the PTSD-inducing shitstorm that was that particular break up that I decided it was time for me to leave in a permanent way.

I had been thinking about it for years and I always wanted it to look like an accident, so no one would suspect anything or blame themselves. So I entered my windowless bathroom one afternoon with a bag full of paper (old documents, bank statements, etc) and, turning the extractor fan off, lit a small fire in the bath. In my warped way I was attempting to make it look like I was trying to hide something that was in those documents and had just succumbed to the smoke. As far as legit suicide attempts go, this is a pretty dumb way to go about it. But in my head it was a surefire way to die and make it look accidental. As I started to black out from smoke inhalation I panicked and hit the extractor before collapsing on the floor.

Later that year I attempted it again, this time walking out into the sea and attempting to drown myself. Again- dumb. Again- seemed a fantastic idea at the time. The aftermath of these and a litany of other events lead to seeing a councillor and having to retake my 2nd year of University.  While I was scraping through that year, saved from impending homelessness by Callous’ lead singer and all around top bloke, I was in no way happy. I would spend days in bed, occasionally texting my on/off girlfriend about how I didn’t want to be around anymore, attending every other counselling session and feeling completely naked afterwards in the most horrible way .

One particular snapshot lodged in my mind of that time had me sobbing on my doorstep, frantically texting my then best friend and on/off girlfriend to come see me, to which the reply was vitriol from him, and simply a no from her. The Black Dog can take over your life if you keep feeding it.

Okay, so it’s been a bit of a bummer, this trip down memory lane. But please believe me when I say there is a point to it. Above are snapshots from a horror show of bullshit and sadness that were my formative years, with a lot of that sadness carrying on into my mid-late 20s. I’m sure the feelings and situations described above ring true with many of the folks giving this a read. That’s partly the whole reason for this post in the first place, the second being that I want you to know without a shadow of a doubt that I completely understand how it feels. I get it, dude.

Now come ‘ere and give me a love.

Here’s the thing, though – I don’t want to die anymore. I don’t want to because of a journey I started in 2010 beginning with a dude showing me it’s okay to read comics in public (or at your desk at work). I re-learned that it’s okay to be a freaky sort of bear-like chap who reads comic books and makes references to Logan Nine-Fingers, or spotted the Watchmen reference in Batman V Superman. With this acceptance of who you are you don’t feel so lonely.

When you don’t feel as lonely you sort of want to stick around. And then you find others that love the shit you love, and you befriend the ever-loving Bejesus out of them. Eventually, you’ll have an inner circle of people that love you and vice versa. People who aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re being a dick, or letting something get to you too much, or that you’ve become terrible at writing. This kind of nourishment is chocolate to a Black Dog and pretty soon you’ll find whole days pass before you remember you’re supposed to be being sad all the time.

Like I said in the last part, we as geeks have to stick together and support each other. There are some of you (cosplayers) that wind the utter shit out of me (Deadpool cosplayers), but you’re still one of the tribe. We’re geeks because we’re different from the perceived norm, which means that we’re more than likely going to feel lonely and sad sometimes. If these feelings are left unchecked you too could end up in the sea wanting with all your heart to not be alive anymore and please believe when I say that it’s not a feeling you want to have. ipso facto we, as a community, need to persistently be a support network for each other.  Don’t know what to do? Opening up a dialogue is super simple with the following two questions:

1: Are you okay?

2: No, really, are you okay?

In just knowing someone gives an iota of a shit about them you could save a life. Those questions show, in plain and simple terms, that you give a damn. Robin Williams was one of us, a Nintendo-obsessed comic-loving, card-carrying nerd. He succumbed to the sadness that plagued him throughout most of his life, and we need to see his death as a stark warning that it could really happen to any of us, and in his memory do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone we know.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 35, which happens to a large part of the demographic who identify as geeks or nerds. That’s a terrifying Venn Diagram to do nothing about, so let’s honour Robin in not allowing that terrible darkness to prevail.

It almost sounds like a quest, doesn’t it?

Roll for initiative.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, or feel like there’s no way out of your current situation, please contact the Samaritans on  116 123 

Hailing from Kent, England, Mike is a writer, editor and podcaster who has just finished his degree at CCCU. He also is a drummer of 11+years, plays in several bands, and is available for session work. His other interests are Batman, music which doesn't suck and pizza. Follow Mike @The_Dark_Mike

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