*Trigger warning* This post discusses suicide which some readers might find distressing
At the turn of Summer, the unthinkable happened. Someone I cared for – someone strong willed, adventurous and stoic, ended their life. Despite being a suicide survivor myself, I never imagined it could happen. Now, harsh lessons are being learnt.
A few weeks ago Facebook notified me that I had a memory from six years ago. Below the words ‘On this day 6 years ago’ was a photo of two feet – one donning aqua socks, inside red chequered trainers, and reaching towards someone else’s wearing a blue and white Converse.
I remembered the day well. A month earlier I had moved into a new house share in London and connected with one of the tenants, a captivating A&E nurse who was fearless, funny and brusque. Liz regaled me with unbelievable stories of her daily adventures in a busy A&E department, her travels, and favourite books. Unlike me, she was always on an adventure, living her best life, seemingly free of worries. She’d cycle off to work on her bike Nancy and on her return would declare that in a few days she would be of traveling to Moscow, Dubrovnik or some place I’d never heard of. That was a regular occurrence. And I admired her zest for life and exploring, and how brave she was, never buckling under pressure when her work got stressful.
Back on the day of the photo, Liz had introduced me to one of our local pubs, which would soon become my favourite haunt. The service was bad but the views overlooking the river Thames were stunning, and we had had so many laughs there, stumbling home late after one too many ales.
I shared many of my personal struggles with Liz, because nothing made her flinch and she was so stoic and always a logical voice when my anxiety sent me into a spiral. I told her about my two serious suicide attempts, my mental health battles and my long struggle with suicidal ideation. And I knew she’d never judge me. If anything, I remembered thinking she was so matter-of-fact that sometimes I just wanted her to be empathetic towards me. She showed me love in her own way but the truth is I thought she could never truly understand how I felt.
We lived together for many years, but our friendship didn’t stay that way. We had shared a lot, and had an undeniable bond that was hard to sever and made our disagreements terrible. Still, she continued to bake me cakes for my birthday, candles and all, and I continued to care for her deeply. When I moved out, she kept in touch and sometimes made efforts to arrange meet-ups. I never did try, I was afraid of conflict, getting close again as we would, then having emotionally tense fall outs. But she was never far from my thoughts, and sometimes when I met with our old housemates, I’d hope to bump into her. But we never did. I’d heard she was struggling with her mental health and I felt sad but I never got in touch. I wanted to help but my own mental health was fragile and I spent alot time thinking about what to do, and what was appropriate for our relationship. Admittedly, I also made the terrible mistake of thinking that she would be ok. She was Liz afterall, strong, determined and stoic Liz.
In May, Liz ended her life. Even writing it now seems unreal.
I’ve been very angry with myself. Being an advocate for suicide prevention, I feel I should have known what to do. I shouldn’t have hesitated. I’ve done lots of training and have lived experience as a suicide survivor. But despite all that, I was unsure of how to help, I made assumptions, and these feelings were muddled with our complicated friendship. During her memorial and chats with mutual friends, I realised that I was not alone in some of these feelings. I am still processing what’s happened, and there are days when I think I’ve spotted her in a crowd, before I remember that she’s not here anymore.
I desperately wish I was able to give her some hope. She so deserved hope and life.
It is a scary thing to confront the possibility of suicide, and I wonder if perhaps this fear kept me in denial. I’ve learnt that time is precious, and waiting to get in touch with someone might be too late. Now is the time. I wish so badly I had reached out when I thought of her. If only. All I can do is try to be better in future if this situation ever occurs again. I’ve since committed to renewing my training so I can be better equipped and most importantly, I won’t wait to reach out if I’m worried about someone’s mental wellbeing. I want to encourage you too to do the training and reach out if someone you know if struggling. Never assume someone else will support them. And never ever assume someone isn’t at risk of suicide for whatever reason. Anyone can be at risk of suicide, and it affects all of us. Every life is too precious to risk it. Once it’s done, we cannot turn back the clock.Never assume someone else will support them. And never ever assume someone isn't at risk of suicide for whatever reason. Anyone can be at risk of suicide, and it affects all of us. Every life is too precious to risk it. Click To Tweet
Liz’s absence is felt, and for all our highs and lows in friendship, I miss her dearly, and wish she was still here. Rest in peace Liz.
Zero Suicide Alliance offers free 20 minutes suicide awareness training that will provide you with skills and confidence to help someone who may be considering suicide.
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