I knew this girl once. Jackie. She was pretty – not beautiful, funny – not clever, and she always seemed happy in the shadows. When we all had boyfriends, Jackie didn’t. It was a bit of a surprise that, in her attempt to fit in, she hooked up with a married man. Don’t get me wrong, as affairs go – they seemed to be genuinely in love. He left his wife, they rented a little place and he even risked his big corporate job rather than give up “the woman he loved”.
Until, one day, six months down the line, the pressure got to him. He was fighting everyone. Fighting his estranged wife (thank goodness they had no children), fighting his parents, fighting his bosses (did I mention there was a race and age difference?). He’d come home, hoping to find peace – and he’d end up fighting there too. In the end, it got too much for him. He sat Jackie down and told her that he had to go back. There were too many obstacles and he hadn’t the energy to circumvent them any more.
Jackie was devastated. The final week before he moved out was hell for her – for both of them. Jackie took up smoking as she read that smoking was an anti-depressant. It depressed her more. She started drinking so she could sleep at night. Her days were hung-over and messed up. On the Saturday after he left, she made a half-hearted effort to slash her wrists. But the pain was too much. Jackie moved back home, for her sanity.
Jackie’s parents called the ex-lover to tell him about her suicide attempt. His response was “I did the right thing, then. She’s unstable.” .
Jackie’s father promised to kill him if he ever saw him again.
Over time, Jackie healed. Outwardly. The sun started to shine a little more for her, she started to eat again, and slowly began to appreciate life again. Feeling stronger, she went back to the flat she had shared with her ex-lover. In the week leading up to him moving out, her ex had promised to keep the flat going, paying all the costs towards it for 6 months – or sooner if she wanted. It was the least he could do. That was their arrangement. She wasn’t ready to let it go but her parents thought it was the best thing for her. They thought it was time for her to move on.
As she picked up the unpaid utility bill, Jackie had an urge to see him. She needed confirmation from him that it was time to move on. Nervously, she called him.
It was a different Jackie that got off the phone half an hour later. She was elated. He sounded so pleased to see her, he spoke about having wanted to call her but being too frightened of a confrontation with her dad to do so. They even laughed about her dad’s temper. He said he missed hearing her laugh; there was a sadness in his voice. Feeling stronger and emboldened, Jackie asked if he was free for lunch. She couldn’t believe her luck when he agreed to meet her at the little Italian restaurant down the block from his office at 1pm.
She had just enough time to go home, change into something a little sexier than jeans. If they were going to talk about their relationship and possibly get back together, she needed more than jeans.
It was the happiest her dad had seen her in a long while. Of course, she didn’t reveal where she was going – only that she fancied going to Oxford Street as it was such a lovely day. She told her dad that she was optimistic about the future and that she was looking forward to starting her life over again. Her dad gave her £50 to treat herself to something nice. He’d have paid anything to see her as happy as she was that day.
That was the last time he saw his daughter happy again. Or alive.
She met her ex-lover. She knew she should have waited at the restaurant for him, but she couldn’t resist the urge to surprise him by waiting outside his office. Walking to the restaurant together would give them a little longer to chat. She wasn’t prepared for his anger when he saw her outside the office. He shouted at her for putting him in this position, for being very obviously there to see him. What if someone saw? Her dad had threatened to kill him once, what if he found out about this meeting. Bewildered, she could only stammer out an apology. But he was relentless. She was a stupid, naive girl and he hoped she would get the message this time. There was no chance of a reconciliation.
Shocked, Jackie walked across the road and bought the biggest pack of paracetamol that she could. She walked a little further down, into another shop and bought some more. She used the £50 her dad had given her in an off-licence, where she bought rum and vodka. She took the Central Line back to the flat, where, she was found dead, several hours later, having choked on her own vomit.
What I learned from Jackie.
Nothing prepares you for a suicide.
You can’t stop a person determined to take their own life. But you will always feel that you could have.
Your anger outside is just a projection of guilt inside.
Don’t leave people to just “get over it”. Help them through it.
Be kind. People are fighting all kinds of battles inside we know nothing about.
Most importantly, if you’re struggling – talk to someone. Anyone. Most people are intrinsically kind and want to help. But they have to understand what they’re dealing with. And if they can’t help, they can point you to someone who can.
#Mentalhealthawarenessweek #suicide #depression