Suicidal Thoughts



“I thought I would swim out until I was too tired to swim back. As I paddled on, my heartbeat boomed like a dull motor in my ears. I am I am I am.

P. 152

I watched my grandmother Joanna die, day by day. It was nothing like what you might imagine; my aunt, uncle and I held vigil over her, gathering by her bedside to see each other, the only other people who could understand.

She’d got to the age of about 97, her hearing and eyesight gradually failing until she couldn’t even read. I used to go and sit beside her in the old age home, while my aunt sat nearby. Jo couldn’t participate in the conversation effectively because she could hardly hear – let alone see us.

Jo used to sit beside me and feel me there and smile. She got older and older and seemed to shrink ever so slowly down into her armchair that we got to the point of almost not remarking on it altogether.

In the space of eighteen months, she fell and broke her right femur, then her left, then her right, until one night, crossing to the bathroom, she fell and broke her pelvis. The nurse that  found her lay beside her on the floor until the doctor arrived.

When I got there, she was crying. Not least of all from the pain; the nurses had to hold her pelvis level so she could use a bedpan, which was excruciating.

“I want to die, I want to die,” she’d cry, again and again, and over the next seven days, she did.

Just as she’d kept herself alive through an act of will, she willed herself to die.

I’d go visit her at midday and go to train at around two to three o’clock, when the gym was at its emptiest. I was squatting my heaviest at that point, following the Westside barbell protocol of five sets of five reps.

I’d climb under the bar with lifting shoes, knee wraps and descend until the elastic of the knee wraps wouldn’t stretch any further, letting me know I’d reached the nadir of the lift.

As I pushed out of the trough, legs driving the piston of my spine into the steel barbell where it rested across my back like a yoke, I’d say to the afternoon sun, ‘I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive!’

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