I really wasn’t sure whether to write this or not. But, given the subject matter, I think I’d be a right old hypocrite if I didn’t.
A year ago, today, a good friend of mine made the decision to try and end his life. By some odd stroke of luck or fortune or momentary clear-sightedness, I was the last phone call he was ever going to make. And, because I’m an arsehole, it wasn’t going to happen the way he wanted it to.
To cut a long story short, he made it – although it was touch and go for a bit. Much as I’d like to, I’m never going to be able to forget the sight or the feeling of seeing someone you give a shit about getting stretchered into the back of an ambulance. I won’t ever forget the moment the paramedics had to work on him to bring him back from the brink, before they could even go near a hospital. And the irony of it being Mental Health Awareness Week wasn’t lost on me.
It’s the third person I’ve known in the last three years who’s had a go. Thankfully, none of them got the result they wanted at the time and all of them have come back, fighting. All of them now know it wasn’t the way the dice were intended to fall and they’re all keeping on keeping on.
It hasn’t been easy for any of them. For the guy I’m thinking of, the first six months were bloody awful. You don’t just walk away from the edge without remembering the view. Relapses were only a dark thought away and they happened, in not-so-glorious Technicolor. But he got there and is now a fully paid-up member of The Living.
I had no idea that things had got as bad as they were. But that’s because there was no talking involved; it was all smiles that he didn’t feel and words that he didn’t mean. Inside, it was all wrong.
Like I said, it all worked out right in the end. But there are ripples that people just don’t know about. I didn’t. I’m lucky – the ripples that hit me, hard though they were and still are, surround someone who survived. I cannot imagine the size of the waves that must smash onto the friends and family of those who have taken things just that one, vital step too far.
For me, honestly, the ripples that wash over me or bob me up and down or whatever, are still very difficult to navigate. They’re still hard to swim with and I know that my own mental health probably isn’t quite what it should be. I’m certainly talking about it, with the right people, and trying my best to implement the strategies and mechanisms that help you through.
It’s hard. What’s even harder is that there’s part of me that doesn’t feel like it has the right to be affected the way it has been. It wasn’t me staring into the abyss and deciding it looked a lot more comfortable than Life. It wasn’t me in the ambulance and it wasn’t me in hospital.
But it is me who occasionally falls apart and doesn’t know why. It is me who probably throws an inordinate of weight onto my Missus’ shoulders and it is me who finds talking tough. Child of the Seventies and all that.
But I’m doing it and I’m having a go. Because, as a satellite to someone else’s darkness, I’ve got a half-decent idea of where it can all lead to if you don’t.
If you’re reading this and you’re in a hole, don’t forget the people around you. You’ve probably heard all the ‘they love you and they just want to support you’ stuff, and while all of that is the absolute truth, there’s something else to throw in the mix: they need you. They need you in their lives. You are part of the tapestry of their existence and when one thread unravels, that picture will never look the same again.
Reach out, talk and ask for aid. We all need it at some time or other and there’s no shame in calling out. Tomorrow is another day and, while it might look full of shadows, there’s some light there.
If you can’t see it, get someone else to point it out for you.
Start talking. It’s the best thing you can do.