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Nothing But Thieves saved my life

Monday, 20 February 2023 Nadia

Nadia blogs about how she was planning to take her own life then heard a band that gave her a reason to exist.

There is a time before Dublin, and a time after Dublin.

The weeks leading up to the 9th of November 2021, and the post comedown weeks of what happened in that city, are all a bit of a blur. Any memories are bolstered by scribbles in a diary or the odd picture on my phone to remind me of the before Dublin Nadia and the after Dublin Nadia.

That day, a Tuesday, was the day I was going to end my life. I spontaneously hopped on a flight from London that morning, stormed my way into this small, river-hugging city, and walked its streets pondering whether this is it. For weeks now, it didn’t feel like I was viewing the world through my own eyes, but rather, I was watching myself from a bird’s eye view, like a tiny little drone was following me everywhere, watching omnisciently, documenting my mental decline.

“Music had saved my life so many times in the past. This was a last-ditch attempt to feel something again.”

As night fell, I sat outside a tiny pub, nestled in an alleyway, and had my first Guinness. I watched as groups of friends wrapped arms around each other and listened as their laughter bounced off the wet walls, rising up into the cloudy skies. I called my mum, I called a friend, and never gave the slightest indication that life was trying to kill me.

I was here to see a gig. Music had saved my life so many times in the past that I considered the notion that this was a last-ditch attempt to feel something again, and if that failed it would be my rock and roll goodbye.

A few months before this moment, I first felt like I had a leak, which had started before I had even noticed it. My body was full of liquid emotion, the good and the bad, and it would slosh around in my body.

Feeling complete nothingness

Before I knew it that leak became a crater. I felt I was losing myself, I had a feeling of complete nothingness. I was here, but I wasn’t here. I was listening, but I wasn’t listening.

Until that moment.

Everything I had lost to that deluge of nothingness, swept back in with such force when I heard Nothing But Thieves. Unperson played, the raucous, aggressive nature of its guitar licks, appropriately coupled with the lyrics ‘and maybe I’m flawed, but I do exist’, rang out. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I doubled over, arms wrapped around my own waist as I sobbed into my chest. The bass punctuated the air above us all, bodies jostled beside me, the honey-whiskey voice of a singer whose own despair cut through the room. A moment before I was unperson, I had no identity , and now I finally, finally felt. I felt happiness, I felt rage, I felt guilt, I felt every tiny emotion flowing back into me.

“I walked the streets in a daze. What the hell has just happened? I’ve just stared down death.”

The gig finished, and I walked the streets in a daze. A different daze to what I had entered the city feeling. A daze of ‘What the hell has just happened? I’ve just stared down death’.

After Dublin, life was still hard, I’d have the epiphany that I wanted to live, but turning that notion into reality was like being given an aeroplane, and a manual and told ‘now you fly’.

I walked everywhere, leaving the house at 9am, and not returning until 6 or 7pm. On these walks I listened to podcasts, audiobooks, and of course, Nothing But Thieves. That song from that night, the one that had me bent double, came to me on one of those walks, and much like Forrest Gump, I just started running. I ran so fast I felt my heart was going to burst, but there was no pain. There was no resistance, there was no voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. There were no distractions. It was solely about putting one foot in front of the other. I ran everywhere.

I would drive to the coast, then run up and down the shoreline, with the sun on my back, tears sometimes streaming down my face. I would tell myself, ‘just one more kilometre’. For the few hours I am running there isn’t any pressure on me, there isn’t anybody wanting or needing anything from me.

Finding peace

I put my phone on don’t disturb, I do what I want to do and go where I want to go. My friends and family know that I’m safe and I’m left to find my peace. Sometimes I listen to nothing except my own breathing, feeling the swell of my chest, my heart a steady, strong beat, knowing that it would have stopped if it wasn’t for that night.

Wanting to end my life saved my life. My therapist calls it My Near-Death Experience, each word capitalised, like a chapter in a book. And that is what that night was. A milestone. I know there exists a future where I may feel like that again. There may be another time, another city, another gig, and I may feel the nothingness of a world which at times is too loud to bear, but I know that life also ebbs and flows. Like the tide that carried me in that gig, the tide inside me sometimes curls at the crest and sinks back into the sea. It’s how you ride that wave that matters.

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