Alone in a room smothered by darkness, with only torrential rain beating against the window breaking the silence, Simon Matthews lay back on his couch. Not for the first time in recent months, he succumbed to his overwhelming feeling of paralysis.
He'd been plagued with a bad lower back for months, but recently the pain's severity had increased, managing to push his depression to a new depth. Looking at the pills on the glass coffee table next to him, Simon contemplated his next move.
Painkillers. The term itself made him laugh. Painkillers: killers of pain. Physical pain maybe, and only temporarily at that, but mental pain? No, not a chance. For three months he'd been on the Diazepam, 12 weeks longer than recommended. He hated to admit it, but he was hooked.
Simon Matthews, who for so long had stood on his soapbox preaching against the use of drugs, had become an addict.
For years he'd looked down his nose at those who couldn't get through a day without a toke on something that could take away the stress. Throughout his University years, he'd upset more than one individual with his stance on the subject, even going so far as to alienate himself from his fellow students in order to preach about the use of narcotics. He'd been an idiot, a narrow-minded fool. He'd since felt the immense gratification the pills brought. The feeling of ultimate pleasure was one he found impossible to describe. Alone in his new house, his new wife out by herself doing the shopping because he couldn't walk properly, Simon Matthews felt the weight of hypocrisy resting on his shoulders.
He felt claustrophobic as the depression enveloped him.
Churchill had called them Black Days. Although Simon had often suffered from depression, it was usually something he could cope with. This time was different. This time he had a wife, a good job, a nice home, a great life. This time he had an addiction. His Black Days were darker than night.
He'd no idea what had caused the back pain, and it had been going on so long, he struggled to remember when it began. All he'd done was stand up after having his supper. There was no heavy lifting involved (unless you count an empty plate as 'heavy') and there was no click to indicate damage had been done. All he did was stand up and seize. He couldn't move. His wife had to help him to the bed where he lay till the morning full of Paracetamol. The following day, he'd been unable to budge! That was the start of a long and winding road that eventually led to Simon Matthews contemplating an ironic end to all the pain and addiction.
He'd tried it once before. He'd been living with his former girlfriend of eight years in a little known town at a time he now considered beyond the distant past.
She'd often worked late which meant he would get a couple of hours a night in his own company - something that had been a rarity when living with his parents and brother in a small two-bed roomed bungalow. As far as he was concerned, he thought they were happy - they certainly seemed happy... they were planning a holiday to America - a round the Country tour and they'd just bought fitted carpets for the house after spending time together decorating.
It was a cold night in more ways than one when she came home and told him she was moving out.
No, there wasn't anyone involved and yes she still loved him, but she had to get out; she needed her space. He thought he was fine over it. He understood that everyone needed time and space... he never expected her to go out the following day and find a new house to rent, a mirror image of their own.
Two days later she moved the majority of her stuff out.
He was left bemused. Not once did she offer an explanation, no matter how many times he asked. She reiterated that it was her and that no one else was involved. Her actions would have made it impossible to believe if he hadn't been so close to hand - all his friends and family had said so.
She led him on. For eight months after moving out she let him believe there was a chance that she'd move back in. For eight months she'd come round to what was soon to become his home, use his bath, and sleep naked in his bed. But if he so much as tried to touch her, she became stern, telling him 'how dare he' and that 'things are over'. Then she'd kiss him goodnight.
This was when the depression started to kick in.
The 'straw that broke the camels back' had been one late May Evening. She'd spent the day at the house, laughing and joking, and they ended it all with a meal. She held his hand over the dinner table; he held hers back, hope rising in his chest. He'd taken her back to the house and watched her as she climbed into bed. As he slipped in next to her, she simply said, "Do you want to buy my share of the house?" In that moment, he knew it was over. Knew that he'd been made a fool of. From that day on, she never slept in the house again.
What followed still hurts Simon every time he's reminded of it. It doesn't need a specific event, but the smallest of things have the ability to drag him back to his lowest point.
He battled with her, wanting to keep the house, wanting revenge (secretly wanting her back), wanting to hate her. He had a survey, they agreed on an amount. The Building Society weren't willing to hand over all the money and she wasn't willing to accept anything less. He had to get a loan. He phoned around. His Bank didn't want him, nor did his Building Society. He had to settle for the legal equivalent to a Loan Shark. They didn't quite break your legs but they got everything back and some. She didn't care; all she wanted was the money - in cash, in a small, plain white envelope. (She even asked for this after he explained that the Bank had refused him the Loan.) His love for her rapidly became hate. She came over to 'discuss' (for discuss read 'demand') how things were going to happen. She then told him she was seeing someone else. But by that time, he didn't care... his depression was the only thing that concerned him at that moment in time. She only told him so he'd either demand she stop seeing him (thus revealing any pain and feeling he still held towards her) or for him to simply offer his blessing. He did neither. He simply waited for her to leave.
Three days later, she came for her money. He gave her the five grand in the envelope she'd specified. There were no words from him, a simple 'have you got it?' from her. When he followed her out the door, his anger finally got the better of him... in her car was her new lover.
He was the physical representation of the humiliation she'd dumped on him.
"Who the hell do you think you are, coming round here with him! Don't you ever let me see him or you around here again, otherwise I don't know what I'll end up responsible for!" It was with an embarrassed satisfaction that he watched her leave, tale between her legs.
But that outburst hadn't been enough to stop the depression. A week later, it hit him like a brick wall. It was October. His Birthday. He'd gone the pub with his Dad and his Brother. After forking out a fortune on someone he now thought of as a glorified prostitute, he was short of money, unable to buy a drink. Something unthought-of in his family. After being made a fool of with his ex, he was now the subject of ridicule with his family. He'd stormed out of the pub, not caring to hide his tears. He was at his car when his Dad caught up with him. An argument ensued, his Dad wasn't willing to let him drive and Simon wasn't willing to stay. For some reason, his Dad felt that a confession would make him come round... he decided to tell his eldest son that he was having an affair and was leaving his mother before Christmas! Where as his ex telling him he could buy the house from her whilst lying naked in his bed had been the 'last straw' with his relationship, this revelation from his father was the last straw for his depression. He climbed into himself, refusing to return.
Not long after that, he'd taken the pills. Paracetamol, Aspirin and Co-Codamol, swallowing 40 in total, along with half a dozen bottles of beer. He'd wanted to take more but he puked them all out, the powder coating and booze being too much for him to take. Lying on the couch, contemplating once more putting himself in that position, Simon Matthews felt a tear slip down his cheek - it was a tear he remembered from all those years ago.
He'd let his head hang over the toilet pan, nose close to the freshly regurgitated pills. Alcohol fumes spiralled up from the U-Bend, forcing his gags. The retching only stopped when he brought up something thick and black, something a Doctor later told him was probably part of his stomach lining.
Simon Matthews remembered this moment. Whenever he'd suffered from depression since, he usually thought of this time, using it as a catalyst to bring him back to normality. But his grip on normality had been changed. Where as before his depression had been an emotional thing, it was now physical. Even worse, it was chemical.
As if in appreciation to this, his back sent a twinge surging through his body, making his need for the Painkillers stronger than ever.
He'd been in therapy.
Actually, it was a combination of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy - he figured that if he was paying £35 a session, he should get his monies worth! For the first 20 - 30 minutes, the therapist would ask him questions to try and find out what was wrong with him, and more importantly, determine the methods in which to put that something right, before spending the rest of the session under hypnosis. Hypnosis was a weird thing for him. Time had no meaning... his visions became reality, yet despite seeming as if he were in a far off world, he was always conscious of where he was, always clinging on to the therapist's voice. Three sessions at £35 a time. Money well spent, or so he thought but as it turned out, most of his therapy came from books and self-belief - something he was in vast need of. He spent two years in a hole, either wanting to give his suicide attempt another go or wishing someone else would do him a favour and try euthanasia. He remained celibate for those two years, not having the ability to trust another woman.
When that changed, it came from the most unexpected source.
His depression had brought one piece of good news: he'd gotten back in contact with his friends - friends his ex had refused to let him see. In order to yank himself out of his pit, he started going out again, enjoying someone else's company - someone who wasn't going to judge him; someone who wasn't going to laugh at him. He felt something close to a recovery. One night, he met someone. Someone he thought would end his days of celibacy, without the ties of a relationship. All it would take was a couple of dates. He figured he was getting closer to the Holy Grail known as a 'shag partner' - one thing his previous relationship had scared him of was tying himself down in a relationship. A couple of date's later, celibacy still in tact, he called it off. The girl had wanted to settle down with kids and wasn't prepared to sleep with him until he agreed to such a thing.
It was close to sending him back into depression. If it wasn't for a chance remark his mate had made, he probably would have succumbed. One night, their talk had been of relationships in one form or another. They both agreed that the only way something was going to happen was if they were either set up with someone at work, or went to a Dating Agency.
The following day, Simon Matthews signed up to Internet Dating.
Lying on the couch, he heard his wife return from her shopping.
He'd been much better recently. The 'Bad Days' had been kept at bay by the love of a woman he'd never dreamed of meeting. He'd refused at the beginning of their courtship to believe they were serious... but then something changed; something he couldn't explain... he fell in love. They'd gotten married within twelve months of knowing each other and were soon discussing something Simon had always said he'd hate: having kids.
That was before his back packed in. That was before he began to feel useless, paralysed but able, weak but determined. Every time he did something, whether it was lift a chair or vacuum the Living Room, his back put him agony, crushing him with a feeling of weakness. So far he'd seen 5 people consisting of two doctors, a nurse and two physiotherapists and all had given different diagnoses. All Simon wanted was an end to the pain. He was sick of struggling to sleep, tired with waking and his first question being, 'how's my back?'
Each time he reached for the Painkillers he felt nauseous, the small white disks a talisman of his addiction.
He had a problem. The man who claimed he was bigger and better than drugs needed pills to get him through the day.
Not for the first time, Simon considered the unfairness of life.
His wife called to him, asking him what he wanted to drink.
He didn't answer; he simply turned his head towards the pills.
There was a certain irony in ending his life with the one thing he hated more than anything - something he thought to be his enemy would be his saviour. He thought back to everything he'd been through. He'd been embarrassed, used, humiliated and abused. He'd been dragged through the mire financially, physically and emotionally... he'd still be alone if it wasn't for his own initiative. His Father had managed to dump the mistress after realising his mistake but that hadn't stopped the family arguments. His mother found out everything on her eldest Granddaughters Christening. Simon's name was mud then for not saying anything and despite the veneer, he was certain that his name was still mud deep down. It had to be true; his depression had forced him to believe it.
His wife called again, concerned he hadn't answered. He heard her climb the stairs to him. His decision was made. Rising, he reached for the pills...