Acceptance & Recovery

Trigger Warning – This post discusses suicide

I’m staring up at the wooden ceiling. It’s spinning, the whole world is spinning. People go past the open door, looking in with scared looks on their faces. It’s been about five minutes since I’ve accepted that I’m going to die.

Accepting death is surprisingly one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. You logically weigh up the facts, decide which outcome is most likely and accept it.

I’d been living and scuba diving in Mozambique for the previous 2 months. It was just after Christmas. The dive I’d just been on was spectacular. We’d descended through deep green plankton blooms, emerging into clear blue at twenty metres. Looking out into the blue a pair of aquatic wings came to life and a manta came, gliding toward us. Another followed, then another and another. Soon there were too many to count. There were 6 at most, gliding through our bubbles, playing with us. We float, almost motionless, as this aquatic ballet goes on around us.

It’s not until we’re back at the shore, waiting to beach the rib, when it happens. I collapse. I can’t move, can barely talk, I’m convulsing on the floor of the rib like a dying fish. I’m pinned to the floor, sideways in a vague kind of recovery position, so I don’t choke. As the convulsions slowly subside I’m lifted from the boat to a truck then up a flight of stairs to a small room. My only thought is that I’ve got decompression sickness. My breathing is rapid and short, there’s a tingling in my arms, what else could it be?

For those that don’t know, Decompression Sickness is what divers fear above anything else. It is when bubbles, formed in the body during a dive, fail to work their way out the body. These bubbles can grow and cause clots anywhere in the body. If not treated quickly it can kill or seriously alter your life.

By this stage I’ve assumed there’s a bubble somewhere in my head, affecting the balance centres in my inner ear. It’s only a matter of time before it starts affecting my brain. The nearest decompression chamber is over a day away. I’ve studied this disease, I know what happens. If I have a bubble near my brain I’m dead by then. I accept this; it doesn’t take long to come to terms with it. It’s my time, there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t fight this and if there’s nothing to fight against there’s only one possibility left.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I’ve woken up feeling unable to face work and I’m home alone. I’ve been feeling low for a few months now and it often feels like my depression is winning. I think about trying to set myself tasks to do but fuck that. I’m watching a film but have no idea what it is or what’s going on. It’s just colours and sounds. I can’t see what the point is. My mind is racing in circles flashing past the same thoughts, unable to stop and let my mind properly comprehend them. “You’re a failure, you can’t cope, you’ll never amount to what you want to be, you should just end it” round and round and round and round like some sort of depressive carousel. These thoughts take over your head entirely. There is no way out of them. My mind sees only one route out and it accepts it.

But I’m still here.

So how am I still here? Simple answer I fought back. I realised I wasn’t dead yet and whilst I’m still breathing, still able to comprehend the world around me, still with something worth living for. I remember thinking this as I lay in the back of a 4×4, rapidly depleting our oxygen supplies, as we navigated the dirt roads away from the beach. Time went by more quickly now. We were at the hospital in no time at all. I lay in a bed, breathing oxygen, a saline drip feeding into my arm. The worst was over, the dizziness was subsiding slightly. I was eventually diagnosed with severe barotrauma, unpleasant but not life threatening. The dizziness would leave me unable to walk for the next few days but I was alive. I still had my life in front of me. I would still be able to dive.

As I lay on the sofa at home I looked up and saw my cats, sleeping around me. I saw a picture of me and my wife on our wedding day. The amazing feeling of that day felt like an age away from the feelings of this moment but one thing came out. I have been that happy, I can be that happy, I will be that happy again. My mind slowed down, I forced myself to concentrate on this new feeling. Concentrate on the hope. That feeling of utter joy I’d felt on my wedding day might not happen immediately, it would be tough to climb out of this feeling but why would I want to give up on the person who makes me the happiest in the world. How could I leave my cats without me to play with them, how could I give up on my friends, my family, everything I wanted to achieve in my life. I couldn’t give up on this. I haven’t given up.

Tomas GW Shore