I am devouring wonderful TV at the moment during Lockdown - The Nest, Call the Midwife, Shrill, The Split, Gameface, King Gary, Line of Duty, Killing Eve, Last Tango in Halifax, Unforgotten, Marcella, Black Mirror, This Country, Liar, Our Girl, Friday Night Dinner, Flack, Bosch, All Round to Mrs Brown's Boys and Luther. As you can see, my tastes range from absolute silliness to beautiful comedy drama to deep despair and darkness. I think this is why I'm currently really enjoying and connecting with the wave of tragicomedy from the likes of Dead to me, Fleabag and Ricky Gervais's After Life because it blends all three of these things into one, big emotional punch. It's raw and unfettered and a ballsy way to address the delicate subject of grief.
It has taken me 6 months to pluck up the courage to watch After Life after friends recommended it. They warned me I needed to make sure I was in the right headspace because of its subject matter. So now, I've almost finished Series 1 and its sheer brilliance is bringing me to my knees and I am in awe, so much so that I had to write about it on today's post. I said to my sisters that if they want to know what life was like for me when I was having my break down, please watch this. The portrayal of grief in all its many crucifying forms stomping on my heart daily and causing the greatest of pain I have ever felt, the absurdity and randomness of life when I truly believed I'd lost the only thing that really mattered to me, and the beauty of Gervais's writing that makes me laugh and cry and gasp for air simultaneously - this is the brilliance I am talking about.
Because the pain of losing your best friend and soul mate is undeniably one of the worse pains of all, powerful enough to crush your body and turn your mind to insanity and you will do anything, anything to eliminate it. And how do you tell that story without making your whole audience suicidal as well? Humour. Injecting just enough lightheartedness in whatever form you choose - romantic, tragic, dramatic - to warm the soul, whilst simultaneously feeling the pain and despair. This is such a fine balance that I would love to be able to portray in my own writing one day.
Like Tony, I remember feeling like a suicidal, invincible superhero (as paradoxical as that sounds) - the worse thing had happened to me so nothing else was ever going to be as bad. I remember looking at suicide as my "get out of jail free" card and the odd sense of peace and comfort it gave me. I remember seriously wanting to try heroin. All of a sudden I could see very clearly how people become addicts. I remember the countless times on my commute home how I almost stepped off the platform as an incoming train rushed through. I remember standing at the tops of buildings, looking down, weighing up the pros and cons of smashing my body into the concrete below. I googled methods of suicide whist on my lunch break, looking at comparison charts rating effectiveness, reading case studies of overdose patients to work out how much I needed of each type of medication, arguing with doctors to give me more sleeping pills, plotting how I could get my hands on benzos and opiods from all over the world, watching videos to educate myself on how to tie a hangman's noose, testing out the dark web to see if I could buy a gun and then, when I realised I wouldn't be able to shoot myself because I read a story about a woman who tried to and all she did was blow her face off, I looked at hiring someone to do it for me. I even considered a euthanasia clinic to end my suffering.
It was a dark, despairing, hopeless place to be in, but, unlike Tony, I kept it to myself. And to this day, I don't know which is worse because the burden he is putting on the people around him is exactly what I didn't want to do. Yet looking back, I would also say that talking about my grief and everything else it was bringing up for me was the best thing I ever did.
When I was in hospital, in the early part of my stay, one of the nurses said to me that I frightened her because she witnessed me laughing and joking around on the ward trying to cheer up the other patients, but my notes said, if I was allowed leave, I would immediately go out and try and kill myself again. It took me a long time to realise that the extent I was going to to hide my pain was not the best of coping mechanisms and I didn't have to smile and laugh and joke my way through this crisis. And the fact I wasn't going to be discharged until I did some real work in the form of CBT, DBT and ACT - all very useful therapies when your crisis has gone beyond the spiralling stage and you've hit your rock bottom - meant I needed to be there to get myself back on track because I'd proved I couldn't do it on my own. Another nurse said to me that it wasn't just about me and happiness is everywhere if I look hard enough and that made me think too. Just like Tony, I had lost myself in my grief and it was exhausting.
I think this is why I can connect so completely and fully with the heart wrenching tragedy, bubble wrapped in the silliness and fierceness of brash and brazen "on the nose" comedy portrayed in the likes of Fleabag and After Life. In my mind, it is a way of tackling those difficult, despairing issues and talking about my own experiences so I can educate people whilst also entertaining them, or, maybe that should read "engaging them" because what has happened to me is not a joke. It was a real and painful, tangible experience which has changed me forever. And now I am thinking about boundaries and how I am still trying to find that line I decide I won't cross, which I know is somewhere in between being the shy, reserved, emotionally stunted child I was to the overly extrovert introvert person I have become. Neither of which sit well with me. But I am working on that!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.