“WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY is an opportunity for all sectors of the community – the public, charitable organizations, communities, researchers, clinicians, practitioners, politicians and policy makers, volunteers, those bereaved by suicide, other interested groups and individuals – to join with the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the WHO to focus public attention on the unacceptable burden and costs of suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities.”
~ International Association for Suicide Prevention ~
Not long before Christmas, 2008, I lost a much-loved and close friend to suicide. Her name was Samantha, and she was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Never judging, never cajoling, never belittling, she sought to find the best in everyone she came across and help them shine their light on the world. Talking of her – especially of her death – is something the brings me great pain, so much so, that I will frequently and often shy away from doing so.
She would have hated that.
Today, I’ve decided to share with you an unsent letter I’ve written to Samantha; the first step I’ve taken in the long and winding healing process before me. It was written as a stream of consciousness between 8:30am and 8:59am on the 10 September 2013; World Suicide Prevention Day.
10 September 2013
It’s been nearly five years since I last wrote those words. Back then, in those days of hope and courage, writing them filled me with such girlish excitement, for I knew that within hours I’d be reading the words ‘Dearest Addy’ followed by your (usually) bizarrely convoluted yet courageously honest, rambling retort.
Writing those two words fills me with sadness, for not only do I know there will be no reply, I know you won’t even be reading the words I’m struggling to find. How exactly do you say miss you thank you fuck you in the same letter without sounding like an uncompassionate, unstable jerk? How exactly do I release half a decade of pent-up, unspoken emotion without triggering me into doing the unthinkable? How exactly do I say what needs to be said without alienating my meager readership?
Let me guess, if you were going to reply to that string of questions you’d write some pithy, intellectual quote from some random bugger I’ve never heard of. You know, like the night you told me “If you worry about what other people think, you’ll always be their prisoner.” I guess that quote is as apt for this letter as it was for that random, heart-warming conversation. Like with everything, I overthink it to the point of exhaustion instead of going with my gut and doing or saying what I know in my soul I want to.
You fucking broke my heart, Samantha, you know that, right? And I’m not just talking a slight crack or a minor fracture. I’m talking exploding it into a million gazillion tiny pieces that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men wouldn’t be able to put back together again without the help of the king’s woman.
What the fuck were you thinking? Fucking seriously? You didn’t even talk to me about it and you damn well know that you could’ve done, especially after all the emotional bullshit you dragged out of me. Were you embarrassed? Upset? Pissed off? Angry? Confused? Scared? All those things, probably, considering I’ve been in the position you were many times. And yeah, I know, I never asked for help either. But I never had someone the way that you had me. I would have understood, Samantha, you know that. So why the fuck didn’t you talk to me?
And don’t try to tell me it was accidental. You and I and your sister know that it wasn’t. Sure, I’ve tried to convince myself time and again over the last five years that it was all a big mistake. That you didn’t mean it. That it was just one of those things no-one could have predicted. But that entry, in your journal, the one for your sister…that was a goodbye, Samantha, and there’s only one bloody reason for writing a goodbye under the circumstances you wrote it. And that’s to say goodbye!
You knew you were leaving because you’d planned it. It was suicide, wasn’t it? However much I don’t want to, I already know the answer to that question. Why else have I chosen today of all days to write to you?
With all these fucking f-bombs you probably think I’m angry with you. Well I fucking am. Seriously. I am. You’ve never seen me this angry! Every fucking day for the last four and a half years I’ve been trying to make sense of why you did what you did, why you couldn’t talk to me, or Jess or anyone. Why you felt you had to go through everything all on your own – especially after all that time you spent bitching to me about never seeking help or opening up to anyone. Pot calling the kettle black, maybe? Or just a good ole fashioned dose of do as I say, not as I do.
So yeah, I’m effing fucking angry with you.
But I’m also missing you. Deeply. Absolutely. Unequivocally. Missing you.
I miss the endless conversations and email exchanges. I miss the completely random challenges we set ourselves. I miss the laughter and the tears, the smiles and sore cheeks. I miss you, Samantha, just you.
From the moment we first met in that ramshackle bar in Adelaide. From the moment my hand connected with your posterior. From the moment we lay beneath that tree sheltering each other from the cold. From the moment you messaged me and asked if I was the guy who’d streaked for you. I knew, deep down, that I had someone in my life who understood me completely.
I think – nay, I know – that this was the reason I loved you as completely as I did. Not once, ever, did you judge me. All the mental health shit that was consuming me back then, all the non-existent self-confidence and wishing I would just toddle off and die. You never once criticized me for being weak or wrong or lazy, you just got it. And I’d never really felt that before. I’d never felt anything like it. You weren’t someone who was trying to fix me or control me. You weren’t someone who was trying to mold me into someone you wanted or change me into someone I was never going to be. You listened to me; to my wants, desires, needs and feelings and you just let me be me.
But you did more than that, didn’t you. You knew there were parts of me that I couldn’t understand, which had confused and befuddled me for most of my life, so you chose to help me. You didn’t force it or demand any recompense, you just took time out of your life to help a scared little boy realize that he wasn’t someone to be afraid of, that all the confusion was just another part of me, a part that should be loved and cradled rather than punished or neglected.
And I’m pretty sure I never thanked you for that, until now.
Dammit Samantha, where have you been the last four and a half years? Although, if I were being honest, I’m kinda glad you haven’t been around the last four and a half years because you would hate the ‘man’ I’ve become. So consumed with trauma and pain, heartbreak and isolation, you wouldn’t recognize me anymore. The me that tore your ladybug underwear in a frenzy of excitement? The me that karaoked the hell out of Common People? The me that streaked down that bloody cold shopping mall? I can’t find him anymore. And you’d hate that, wouldn’t you?
That’s what you didn’t have to deal with Samantha; all the pain you left behind. You didn’t see Jess cry her heart out for three straight hours. You didn’t see me tear a room apart in a frenzy of grief and loss. You haven’t had to deal with the emptiness and sorrow that you left behind in the souls of the people who loved you – which were far-flung and many, dearest Samantha.
In spite of the anger I still feel (anger that would probably make you giggle, as it always did) I don’t hate you for what you did. I can’t, no matter how much I want to. I know what it feels like to want to die. I know that the only reason you did it was because of the pain you were feeling. Because of the pain that had consumed you past the point of whatever coping mechanisms you had.
For that’s all suicide is, isn’t it Samantha; suicide is what happens when someone’s pain outweighs their coping mechanisms of dealing with that pain. We’ve both been there, but only I crawled out the other side.
I can’t hate you because I miss you so much and one of the main reasons I miss you, is because I never had the opportunity to thank you for all you did for me.
Until now, in my own version of your bizarrely convoluted yet courageously honest, rambling retort! :p
A few months ago, one of my voices wrote a letter to you. You never got the chance to know her because she was something I was always too scared to talk to you about. I know it wouldn’t have made a difference to you if I heard voices, but I was too scared to talk about them to anyone back then. If you get the chance, you should read it, for she misses you too.
In her letter she talks about some of the things she misses about you; your random way of eating MacMuffins, your gorgeous way of pronouncing Tangerine, your ladybug underwear (oh, your ladybug underwear!)…and you know what, however much she lingered on the pain of your death and the senseless loss of your beautiful life, she’s right. I should be focusing more on all the wonderful things about you rather than getting lost in the pain of your death.
I should spend more time remembering what it was like to be curled up beside you as we watched My Neighbour Totoro or spending hours rambling away over a pint or two in some backstreet dive in Glasgow.
Or thinking of the way you leapt up in fright after sitting on that plastic chair in MacDonalds or how you helped me deal with the pain of abuse more succinctly than anyone else I’ve ever met.
Or perhaps I should be thinking of how you always weaved red into your outfits, of your ongoing love/hate relationship with your curls or the way you tried to lick your nose whenever you were excited.
Perhaps I should be thinking of all that could have been had I had the courage to tell you how I really felt about you, instead of beating myself up for remaining stoically silent throughout our time together.
But you knew that already, didn’t you?
I’m not going to say goodbye, because I know I’m going to write to you again. I don’t care that you may never read these words or that people will think I’m weird for wanting to write to someone who has passed on. Like you made me realize all those years ago; I don’t want to be a prisoner anymore, not to them, not to you and certainly not to myself.
I really did love you Samantha. And I think a part of me always will.
Wherever you are, wherever you may be, I hope you’re causing havoc and being as naughty as ever.
With all my heart,
- One Night in Adelaide
- A letter to Samantha, from Meadhbh (on Imaginary Menagerie)
- World Suicide Prevention Day 2012: Breaking the Silence
- World Suicide Prevention Day 2012: Stephanie; her grace, my guilt