The Irreparable Wounds of Suicide

I’ve been procrastinating writing this blog the past couple of weeks – as it’s such a sensitive subject to write about and rightly so. There are two perspectives to suicide, the perspective of the person who acts on it and the one of their family, friends and loved ones.

In my past, I have been of the perspective of the one who acts on it. I have a lived experience of suicide attempts and have felt the intense pain that leads someone to believing such an act is the answer.

Over the past 12 months I have been working as a Youth Peer Worker, utilising my lived experience of mental health experiences to support others in theirs. Recently, unfortunately a client of mine lost his life to suicide.  Safe to say this has been the most influential death in my life so far.

I stood at his funeral, surrounded by at least if not more than eighty people.  People who loved my client. People whose lives were influenced and inspired by him.  People who were hurting by the loss of such a genuine and kind man. I cried during the speeches. I cried for the loss of a life gone too soon, I cried for the loss of my relationship with him, but mainly I cried for those who loved him deeply, and now have to carry the pain of a life without him there.

I looked around at my surroundings, at the photos of him up on the television screen. I watched the people of all ages there to pay their respects – and wondered how they were all connected to him. School? Family? University? Sporting Clubs? The list could go on forever. I had a realisation, the type that makes your stomach drop. This could have been me. This could have been my funeral. This could have been my mum distraught wondering how to go on without me. It could have been my friends crying through the microphone whilst talking about all our good memories together. This could have been my older brother carrying my coffin away.

I never stopped to think about the impact that my death would have on those around me. I was in so much pain – unbearable, incomprehensible pain. I never wanted to die, I just wanted the pain to go away. I felt like I had tried everything and here I was, still fighting to get through every minute. I couldn’t continue living like that. Death felt like the only choice I had left.

Despite understanding why it is I chose to do what I did back then, and in no way blaming or judging myself for that decision – I still came home from that funeral feeling guilty. I needed to contact my parents. I needed to apologise for the distress that I put them through. For them having to fear losing me.

I tried to imagine what life would be like for those close to me if I had succeeded all those years ago. The suffering that my parents would live with for life. The reality my brothers would live with forever more. The photos my youngest brother would be shown, whilst being told about the sister he lost back when he was too young to remember. My friends falling into a heap whenever something reminded them of me. The irreparable wounds I would have left behind.

It’s just not something I thought about when I needed the pain to end. My thoughts were overridden with agony, I didn’t have the space to imagine what life would be like without me. I just needed to be free from it. I assume this how my client felt too. As taboo as it may be to say, I’m happy for him. I am happy he is no longer in pain. I understand his decision, I have been there.

My heart breaks at the same time for his loved ones. I think of them every day. I cannot even begin to comprehend what they are experiencing.  This is something they will carry with them for life – and I’m so sorry, I wish I could take that pain away.

It’s funny how nine years goes by and I never stopped to think about the perspective of my loved ones, until I became that perspective myself. To all those out there that stood by me through it all – thank you. I’m not going to say I’m sorry, because I felt what I felt and there’s no shame in that. I do know though, that it wouldn’t have been easy and I love you for being there.




The Anxiety of Friendship

“Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please—this won’t take long.” Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time—and squawk for more!
So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.)” 

― Robert A. HeinleinTime Enough for Love

Friendships and boundaries – the fact there’s this perfect quote in existence for them, says to me it’s not only a problem I’m experiencing. Over and over again – I feel like I’m giving as much as I’m capable of to my friendships, but it’s still never enough.

An ex-boyfriend of mine sent me this quote the other day when my frustration was really beginning to bring me down. I couldn’t decide whether it was me, if I was truly a terrible friend or if I was drowning in other people’s unrealistic expectations of me. I think it’s clear to see he believed the latter.

The past couple of years, I have found myself being reprimanded again and again by long term close friends. After years of feeling lost and without direction, I have finally found who I am, what I want out of life and where I want to go. This in turn has resulted in my life being very busy – working two jobs and studying to reach my goals. The capacity I have to physically and emotionally be there for my friends has changed. I don’t have five days a week to be there like I have in the past.

I try my hardest to see my closest friends at least once a week. It doesn’t seem to be enough though. I am in trouble for finding it hard to find the time and energy at the end of a long day to speak on the phone. Both of my jobs are emotionally demanding – in one I’m tending to those with mental health difficulties and the other to children. I am dead at the end of the day and sitting on the phone for an hour tending to my friend’s problems takes emotional energy that I don’t have.

By the time I reach my weekly catch ups – in which don’t even cover all the friends I would like to be spending my time with, I am in trouble. I’m in trouble for not having called, for not having messaged enough, for not checking in with them, for not caring about them. They assume they’re not important to me, that I don’t care about what they’ve been experiencing during the week.

Every week, I sit there, reassuring them – that no they’re wrong, I still love them. Yes, I am still here. No, I’m not angry with them. It’s not them, I blink my eyes and a week is gone. I’m just busy. And tired. So fucking tired.

I’m beginning to become judgmental of them, something I never was before. I’ve always been the compassionate one, the one with an open ear ready to listen at any time. Seriously though, at the age of twenty-seven, how are my friends having that many dramas and issues in one week, that they need my support every few days? I feel guilty for it. I’ve found myself, I am happy. Permanently tired, but happy. It’s easy to be so judgmental once you’re on the other side, once you’ve found happiness. Where has my patience gone for those still searching? For those who haven’t quite found their contentment? Why is it that I am supportive and understanding for those I work with in a professional manner, but not those in my personal life?

My friends’ feelings of constant discontentment brings me down, it exhausts me. I become frustrated with it. I just want them to work it out already. Objectively, their lives aren’t all that bad – they’re pretty great actually. Perhaps that’s what gets to me. I hear horror stories of people’s lives all day and then see my friends unable to cope with what seems a pretty privileged situation. I know we can’t compare – we can’t judge how someone feels, they feel what they feel. Yet I still do. My patience is still short.

Perhaps if I wasn’t always being chastised for being out living my life and chasing my goals, I’d have more emotional energy to listen to their ‘discontentment’. Every time I see them though, it goes the same. I turn up, they tell me how hard their week has been, how incredibly sad and stressed they have felt. How me not calling or being there has exacerbated it, how they’ve been feeling angry towards me throughout the week. Secretly cursing me in their minds. I reassure them, they apologize profusely (despite having done so last week and knowing they will do so next week). They then continue to confide in me about all their distressing experiences, feelings and thoughts throughout the week before I leave and go home.

It has come to the point that my friendships are not where I go to be happy. They are not the escape in my life. Or where I receive that warm comfortable and fun-loving feeling. They make me anxious. I spend my nights worrying that I haven’t rang, and knowing I should – but feeling way too tired. I watch my phone light up when they call and feel my stomach drop. I can’t bring myself to answer from fear of being reprimanded, yet I know that by not answering, I’m only making it worse. I shake and breathe heavily in the car whilst I drive to visit them, bracing myself for the lecture I’m about to receive. I mentally sigh relief as we are saying goodbye, as I am done for another week. I collapse from exhaustion when I get home and question why I keep doing this, and how do I fix it?

It’s not as though I don’t love them – I do. They’ve been amazing friends over the years. I want them in my life. I don’t want to lose them. Something needs to change though – and I stay silent out of fear. Out of fear of upsetting them, out of fear of being in even more trouble, out of fear of being painted an even worse friend than I already am and out of fear of losing them.

It’s coming to the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. I have promised myself this year my new year’s resolution will be to fix my personal life. I have to stop living in fear and anxiety. 2018 is going to be the year that I have boundaries and make them clear. I don’t want the future Heinlein speaks of, I don’t want to end up with termites that will nibble away at my life.  I will not allow this to happen. It’s time I take control.