How can we stop turning everything that happens to our family and friends into a reflection our own experiences?
How can we take new information on and react appropriately without spontaneously combusting on the inside as the bandaids fall off our crippling unclosed wounds?
Maybe we can’t.
We can only view life through our own lens, as hard as it is to admit that. I want to be purely empathetic, I want to be able to say the right things and to help meaningfully without anything becoming about us.
It’s not working.
I was in denial but now I’m just fucking angry.
And really confused.
The stages of grief? It makes some sort of fucked up sense maybe. I guess we’re grieving; but in this fucked up egocentric way we aren’t actually grieving our friend who passed away a few weeks ago, we’re grieving ourselves.
Gut wrenching emotional pain and simultaneous numbness. My old friend died suddenly a few weeks ago, I put it in a box in our mental attic, above the ones held together with gaffa tape and glue and next to the one that trembles with the thick chains and locks around it. Then I slammed the door with the 10,000 deadbolts and walked away.
I’m lucky because I can do that, I can live in beautiful denial, I can hide myself away while another part of me takes over as we drive past the places we used to see him, each reminder of him feels like a key to one of those deadbolts, a key I don’t want to hold.
We went out today with our sister in law, we went on a day trip to what my system dubs our ‘happy place’ which is a private garden in the highlands that makes us feel at one with the universe.
We laughed, we made grand plans, we went for a walk, we ate too much and poked around in little antique stores and commented on how it was a ‘perfect’ day, a holiday from realities harsh touch.
We went our separate ways to drive home, 20 min later our phone rang, it was SIL. She was shaky and struggling to speak, “*Scott’s just committed suicide”.
The perfect day fell away like shards of glass from a broken crystal ball that had been holding a bunch of attic keys.
Scott was her daughter’s (our niece’s) ex boyfriend, they had broken up around 6 months ago. They’d known each other since primary school and had dated through high school and college.
He had emerging mental health problems and refused to seek help, but he became emotionally abusive, cheated on her multiple times and then threatened to die by suicide if she left him.
Her parents highlighted the abusive nature of this and strongly encouraged her to leave, we also strongly encouraged them to encourage her to leave – V (our V) doesn’t tolerate emotional abuse very well and is generally very protective over our nieces and nephews so was pretty vocal about it at the time and reiterated to our sister in law how unacceptable that behaviour was and if he was actively suicidal he needed to go to hospital or get help otherwise he needed to STFU.
Well, she did leave him around 6months ago, Scotts mother was saddened about the breakup, she apparently thought my niece might be the only person who might’ve gotten through to her son. That’s a pretty shitty amount of pressure to put onto someone. Our niece still blamed herself for the break up on some level, it was never her fault.
Mental illness can be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse and it doesn’t mean another person is required to put up with toxic behaviour.
Scott took off to Queensland, my niece got on with life and recently started dating again.
But things didn’t work out up north for Scott, his family tried to get him help, they brought him home and went to a doctor, there were apparently waiting lists but we all know how wonderful the system can be and so he’s dead.
Now our sister in law who had called us from the side of the highway after a “perfect day” in a state of utter shock has to sit down with her daughter and tell her that the boy she’d known since she was a little girl, the boy she thought she’d marry one day, the boy who’d given her such a roller coaster of emotions, is now dead.
Today life ended for Scott and permanently changed the worlds of so many people, including our niece and we are just sitting here now hoping she doesn’t blame herself for not ‘fixing’ him.
V said – “He was unwell, but he made a choice and I don’t care what the fucked up people in mental health first aid courses say, suicide is not 100% preventable!”
This apparently cut us deeply and differently, there’s a mostly a combination of sadness and white hot anger festering inside us right now but mostly there’s the knowledge that we were just handed a key to one of the boxes in the attic, one that is overflowing with underlying guilt and unprocessed emotions, it’s nauseating.
I don’t know what to feel, we were unwell when we attempted suicide, but we made a choice too.
K says it’s not all about us, we need to focus
V says it’s different because we owned that choice, we never blamed anyone for our problems, we never tried to hold anyone hostage saying we’d kill ourself if they left us.
K argues No, but we did inflict pain and destruction on everyone around us and is the action or the intent the most destructive part of suicide?
Suzi says we need to be compassionate to ourselves, we were hurting and in pain.
I say Scott was in a lot of pain too.
V says “but HE was an asshole”
Suzi says people can both be assholes and have mental health problems, they are not one in the same nor mutually exclusive and perhaps we are forgetting that.
Bel is quiet, she’s upset and sulking inside a box in the attic without a lid – maybe she feels safe there, we’ve spent a lot of time blaming her for what happened to us and we aren’t all ready to get past it yet.
I’m tired, my head hurts from all the feelings and all the keys, people keep dying and I want to go to sleep.
But Suzi says we have to make dinner now.
*name changed to protect identity