SUICIDE IS A TOPIC MOST PEOPLE WISH TO SHY AWAY FROM. HOWEVER, I BELIEVE THAT DISCUSSING IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE THINK ABOUT KILLING THEMSELVES AND THEREFORE PROVIDE US WITH AN UNDERSTANDING ABOUT WE CAN DO TO HELP.
IF YOU ARE FEELING SUICIDAL, OR ARE THINKING OF HURTING YOURSELF, GO TO YOUR NEAREST HOSPITAL OR CALL A SUICIDE HELPLINE – IMMEDIATELY. HOP TO IT!
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE – THIS HELPS!
Part III – Get Me Through December 
It was Rachel who introduced me to Natalie MacMaster, in fact it was our combined love of fiddle music and (good) whisky that drew us together in the first place.
My trip to Canada had three parts, like a film, three acts each with their own conclusion – each carrying on into the next, building to a climax of emotionally dramatic resonance. The first act ended in Halifax, my first goal, for it was here where I had accomplished my goal to travel across this vast continent by train.
Upon successfully completing this rather monumental achievement I treated myself to a night in a B&B – peace, quiet, no snoring room-mates or people vomiting into bins in the middle of the night.
Upon successfully completing this rather monumental achievement I fancied a wee dram of whisky to celebrate, and ended up sipping a glass of this nectar at a small table squashed into the back of an even smaller pub – toes tapping to the band playing on the stage: traditional fiddle led stuff, all jigs, reels and laments.
A short while into the set I noticed a woman approaching – so obviously a backpacker she may as well have had the word tattooed on her forehead . Being a tad shy I kinda looked the other way until I realised this massively unsuccessful way of ‘hiding’ was seriously not working, and eventually bit the bullet and offered her a stool. Which she pulled up with a smile, introduced herself as Rachel and we clinked our whisky glasses together.
It was a bloody fun night! We chatted, we boogeyed in time to the music, we laughed at our complete dorkiness and eventually ended up getting slightly merrily drunk by sampling each of the pub’s malts. Not a bad selection either. By the time we jigged out the pub into the cool night air we were stumbling around all over the place, and ever the gentleman, I escorted her back to the hostel in which she was staying, hugged her goodbye, and watched her dance up the steps a little shakily .
After a blissful sleep in my B&B my plan for the day was to check into the hostel and then explore Halifax. After dumping my bag in the lockers I spied Rachel looking a bit queasy in the lounge and mustered up a spot of courage and went said ‘hi’. This simple act of courage, of the like I’ve almost forgotten, kicked off a day where we ate a scrumptious breakfast, kicked back in art galleries, explored the cemetery, watched a movie (really trashy Hollywood crap) and then chilled back at the hostel smoking cigarettes and listening to music .
Kisses – sex – playful bottom slaps, they never came up. It wasn’t that sort of connection. She was a bloody gorgeous woman, that’s for sure, but we just kinda gelled more as platonic friends than anything sexual. I had a few crush-issues to resolve anyhow, and she helped with those, and helped make me decide what would be Act 2 of my Canadian story. we hung out in Halifax for three days, so I knew her for four days all up. We spent pretty much all that time together, and we got to know each other damn well as she was one of the easiest people I had ever found to talk to. When it came to part company we did so in a small park, with a fountain, where I had a couple of nights earlier (fuelled by a shared spliff) quoted Shakespeare’s “Agincourt” speech to Rachel’s stoned applause. A hug, followed by a smile, followed by several words of encouragement for my next mission, and some from me to her, an even bigger hug and…that was it.
I never saw her again.
We stayed in contact by email, happily exchanging stories and having a laugh. Then, in early October I wrote her an email about starting college in Inverness, which she never responded to. I thought it odd, because even if it took a wee while, she would always write back.
Two weeks later I received an email from one of Rachel’s friends who told me Rachel had killed herself.
I phoned her immediately.
Rachel had slit her wrists.
No-one found her in time.
It devastated me.
I have never spoken about Rachel before. Not to friends, not to family, nor to girlfriends. To everyone that knows or knew me, this will read as fiction. However it is not, because it happened, and I know it happened because I can remember the taste of those salty tears as the sourest morsel of liquid to ever pass my lips.
I can remember sitting on a bench in the Ness Islands crying so hard I thought I was going to throw up.
I can remember sitting on a bench in the Ness Islands crying so hard I thought I was going to throw up constantly thinking that if I had said this? Or done that?
Or…anything? Would she have still killed herself?
There must’ve been something I could have done. Surely. For the ridiculously brief time that I actually knew Rachel, I had found her one of the liveliest most intelligently witty creatures I had ever encountered. She had a smile so radiant it could light the darkest of souls, and an aura so contagious that merely being in the same room as her could you make you feel more alive.
I have never spoken about Rachel before. Not to friends, not to family, nor to girlfriends. It happened though, because for an incredibly brief time I knew a woman called Rachel.
[give me a minute]
My decision to tell this story now was not an easy one to make, for it paints me as a liar. However any discussion of how suicide has touched my life would not be complete without it. Rachel and I’s lives touched for the most briefest of times: we drank, we danced, we talked, we laughed, we connected – for a mere four days. Yet, seven years later, her suicide still haunts me.
I cannot begin to imagine how much more pain I would be carrying inside me had we known each other for four months – or four years – or four decades.
My friend killed herself. Two other people close to me have attempted suicide. I know people whose lives have been destroyed by the suicide of a loved one. It is a pain that never heals. Nothing you can do will ever heal it. Nothing anyone ever does will ever heal it.
I cannot under any circumstances sit here and preach about how wrong suicide is. I have, by own admission attempted suicide twice, and have been on the verge a further two times. The eternal pain that Rachel inflicted on me, I have nearly inflicted on my own family and friends.
However, when you have deiced to kill yourself you are thinking about only one thing:
Suicide is a selfish act. Whether you are hurling yourself off a bridge, or suffocating yourself with a rope, or slicing your wrists open with a knife, you are thinking about only one thing.
YOU. YOUR PAIN. YOU WANT IT TO STOP.
The guilt, torment, agony, grief, anger, frustration, the whole scope of human emotion that you would be thrusting on the people you care about for the rest of their lives is the farthest thing from your mind. When you have decided to kill yourself, you care only about finally ending the pain that you are in. The pain that you can no longer cope with.
I said in Part II about how my friend would never have forgiven me if I had killed myself. I do not blame her for this in any way, I can’t, because a huge part of me despises Rachel for what she has done to me. This side of me can never forgive Rachel for transferring her pain onto me, onto everyone that knew her. Her death forced me to not only shoulder my own agony and frustration, but also shoulder hers.
Even now, seven years after her death, I still wish I had done something and then maybe she would still be here – still warming the world with her smile.
Still sharing stories over a bottle of whisky whilst a fiddler sets the scene for an eternal memory.
The eternal conflict that suicide creates in my brain I fear will never be resolved. On the one side I wish death so much sometimes it hurts, eager for the pain I feel to be over. On the flip side I am only too aware of the damage this would do to those people who care about me.
All I can say is if you are thinking about suicide, get help. Pick up the phone and call a suicide hotline, get yourself to the hospital, call a friend and cry your heart empty.
If they are a friend they will drop everything to be by your side. A stranger should drop everything to be by your side.
Have no fear that I know what desiring death feels like. I have never had a friend beside me in those dark times, I fought through them myself, and I would not wish that on anyone any more than I would wish someone dead.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, as someone once said.
There is always hope in life, hidden away, out of reach, somewhere you haven’t even looked yet, maybe somewhere you have you just didn’t see it. There is always something left to do – just as I did not want to die a virgin, I do not want to die now because I crave to feel the warmth of a hug again. There are always things to do, places to see, dreams to fulfill and drams to be drunk.
Life is a gift!
tear the wrapping off,
and play til your heart’s content.
…track number 10 from Natalie MacMaster’s beautiful album In My Hands.
…it’s a well known fact that backpackers sniff out other backpackers, although I’ve never truly undertaken any form of scientific experiment to figure out why this is or how it happens, I believe it has something to do with the odour of musty socks.
…true backpackers that is (i.e. the ones with an actual backpack and not this new generation of wannabees with their wheelie-cases, designer clothes and laptops)
…yep, it’s true I could have made more of an effort to get a little action, but (a) I was shy (b) so massively paranoid about the whole ‘virgin’ thing and (c) sometimes you shouldn’t ruin an awesome night by allowing sex to rear it’s perversely-gorgeous ugly head.
…where Rachel played me Natalie MacMaster for the first time.