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Theo is running a political campaign to promote The Union Party, and as part of the campaign, has a TV interview with Ken Sorge…
The effects of prejudice
‘So what caused it?’
‘An idiot trying to be clever. He wrote some things down about my face; bad things. I was affected badly, and people couldn’t understand it. All the things I’d heard people say in the past about racism, sexism, any-ism, any prejudice, I never took any notice. I even said things to people in the past that I shouldn’t have, but now I know. I experienced what others experience when they talk about prejudice.
‘Because of the way I looked; my hands, my face. People stared, treated me differently, and pitied me. Some called me names, and some just…reacted without saying anything. They were prejudiced people. I’d never experienced it before, or never realised it if I had.
‘And I lived with it. It got to a point where I was OK with it, you know. Then some…‘BLEEP’er has a go at me on paper. They say words never hurt you, but I assure you they can.’
‘What do you think you’d say to him if you saw him now?’
‘I don’t know,’ Theo thought about the question for a second. ‘I think I’d probably smash his face in.’
Kenneth raised his eyebrows. ‘Really?’
‘No, not really. I’d probably just ignore him.’
‘Do you think you could ever find yourself in a place where you could forgive him?’
‘I can’t really answer that. At the moment, no, but I don’t know how I’m going to feel in the future. Maybe. I don’t know. I know now it was more than just that. It was a build up over that year and he was just the final straw. His comments broke my back, released all the pressure, but if he hadn’t made those comments, I wouldn’t have experienced what I did.’
‘If you were given the chance to go through it at the time, knowing how you would be when you came out the other end, would you go through the same experience again?’
‘No way. I was happy with my life. I had no problems. I got over all the stress and had come to a good place. I feel good now, different, but even better than I was before. But, if you’re asking if I liked the suicidal part. No, I didn’t enjoy that, I never want to experience it again, and I would never wish it on anybody, not even him. It’s a horrible place to be.’
‘Are you OK talking about that?’
‘Yeah, fine, I think. I still get a little emotional when I think about it, but go ahead.’
PTSD and suicidal thoughts
‘You’ve said in the past that the whole thing you went through was like the five stages of bereavement, as if something had died in you. What was it that died?’
‘Bereavement is the death of a person, and it was the death of a person. Me.’
‘But you didn’t die.’
‘No, clearly, but something inside of me did. It was the death of the old me. I was letting life wash over me and was heading towards a happy ending. I hope I will still have a happy ending, but it will be the way I want it, not other people. I think we are dictated to and controlled by too many things in our lives; too many people.
‘Rules, laws, behaviours, all created by society. OK, we need a lot of those things, but we need common sense as well. Common sense is being taken away by people with clipboards and rule books. As Douglas Bader once said, ‘Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.’
‘And you’re a wise man?’
‘I am a wiser man than I was before.’
Kenneth smiled. ‘So has that feeling gone?’
‘No, not completely. It never goes away, you know? It’s a constant battle I always have to win. You might hear a story about me one day that I’ve died. Drowned. If you ever see that, well, you know what’s happened.’
‘Oh, I hope not.’
‘So do I, but hope’s not good enough. It’s about fight. You have to keep overcoming it. It’s a kind of state of mind you find yourself in. If you let it win, it’s won forever. I’ll be gone.’
Theo thought he may have gone a little too far by saying that. But it felt to him as if there was going to be nobody watching this interview. It was just him and Kenneth, talking. ‘I can definitely never get drunk again.’
‘Because I don’t like where my head goes. Drink makes everything go bad.’
Life after depression
‘So … sorry to be blunt, but what stops you?’
Kenneth, and the camera, noticed a glassiness come over Theo’s eyes as he thought about his children and how they could have been affected. He closed his eyes to take the glassiness away. ‘Sorry, nearly started bubbling there.’
‘That’s OK. It’s a hard subject. Your kids are still young, aren’t they?’
‘Yeah, well, kids usually are.’
They both smiled at each other.
‘What was your childhood like?’
Theo paused. ‘Entertaining.’
Kenneth left the silence in the air, hoping Theo would fill it.
Theo did. ‘It was great, actually. When you’re a kid you don’t know any different. It’s only when you grow up and hear about other people’s childhoods that you start to think you might have missed out on something. All childhoods are idyllic until you find out about other people’s.’
‘So what happens when they’ve grown up and moved out?’
‘I don’t know. I’ll have to find something. Grandkids, hopefully, but it might be a while before they come along. I’ll be OK, I think, but it kind of crept up on me unexpected, and it might do that again. I’m in a good place now, but good places all have their dark spots, same as good people.’
‘Was it like a midlife crisis, then?’
‘I hope not, I was only thirty-two when it happened. If that’s midlife, then I’ll be dead at sixty-four. But I’m not sure if it was or not. It was the shock of what I saw written about me. It’s difficult to explain, but it doesn’t feel like midlife. It could have been end-life, and it still could be.’
‘Are you still OK talking about this so…openly?’
‘Yeah, I think so. I think there’s too much stigma around it. There’s a lot more people feel like this than you think. A quarter of the people in this country suffer from depression. That’s fifteen million people. That’s a lot of ‘BLEEP’ing people.’
There was another look of recognition in Kenneth’s face. ‘Please try not to swear, Theo.’
The right to assisted suicide
‘Sorry, Ken. First off, we’re in my house and I can swear if I want to, and second off, it’s a big problem in this country, and there must be a reason for it. With that many people suffering from it, I don’t know why there’s such a stigma around it.’
‘What about people having the legal right to assisted suicide? What do you think of that, from a position of thinking about doing it without any help?’
‘Hm. I think they should be allowed to do it but I think they should be forced to fight for it. You can’t just say yes to anybody who asks for it. They might just be having a bad week, or month. It’s a question of which is stronger; the fight to live or the fight to die. If you have that much determination, you deserve the right to do it. Like, if I asked for it, I should be told no.’
‘Yes, but these are not people who are just having a bad month. These are people who’ve had years of pain, and don’t want to be a burden on others or to have a pointless rest of their lives. Somebody like you doesn’t have that pain.’
‘No, I don’t, and would never ask, I guess. I have too much to live for, and I want to see my kids grown-up with their own kids just so I can laugh at them. I also have a bit of a target in mind; I want to live ‘til I’m a hundred.’
‘A hundred? Why?’
‘Because when you reach a hundred, people always ask what your secret is. When I get asked, I’m going to say I smoke twenty tabs and have a bottle of brandy every day.’
‘Because whatever’s going to get you in the end is going to get you, and it doesn’t matter if you do all the right things. I know of people who do all the right things and die in the night aged forty. People say if you do this or that, then you would put a few years onto your life, but what for? So you can sit in a retirement home waiting for the end? I’d rather have seventy-five years of enjoying myself and stop there than be forced to have another ten years of being looked after. That’s not what life’s about, even if you don’t feel you want to keep hold of it.’
Kenneth let Theo fill the silence again.
If you’d like to read the full book, you can find the full The New Starter book here.
It is part of a seven part story: The Theo Mallier Story.
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