2011 is nearly over, and it seemed like a good time to do a sort of personal 'review' of the year. It's been an eventful one, both brilliant and terrible. I left the job I'd been in for five years to start something new- a move totally out of character from my usual 'play it safe' approach to things. I decided I'd had enough of living on my own and moved house, with my sister as a room mate. I started to focus more on writing, on trying to create something. After always being very vocally happy about being single I started to think it would be nice to find someone to share things with. I made attempts to be more involved with the real people in my life, putting more effort into the friendships I have, and developing new ones. I got tired of being on my own, the comfort I had always felt in relying only on myself had been diminished.
There was a moment that started all of this need for change, the terrible part of the year. An awful thing that happened that shifted the way I interacted with the world. On New Years Eve, 2010 my friend took her own life, alone in her apartment, about 15 minutes away from me. She didn't call me to talk, but I'd never been that type of friend. A casual friendship, meeting in the pub or exchanging superficial chat. If she had called me I would have gone to her, and though I realize it is a normal reaction to a suicide I felt dreadfully guilty that she did not feel she could reach out to me.
It has taken me these months to get to a point where I was not entirely sad and unspeakably angry. An absolute sense of loss and an inability to understand what the reason for her decision was drove away the ability to think about her clearly, to put together memories of her not tainted by the way she died. I will never know what was in her mind, what pushed her to that point, I will probably never totally forgive myself for not seeing any signs of what she was going to do.
She was a woman that I was in awe of, so very full of life. She was the only person I have ever met who always made me smile, just by walking into a room. She was fiercely clever and impossibly glamourous, always pristine, always full of ideas and excitement. She engaged completely with the world, with honesty but never cynicism. It is inexplicable that, in the end, the world defeated her.
When I think about how she died I get a horrible sinking feeling in my gut, like being dropped from the top of a rollercoster. I have a memory of the last time I saw her playing over and over in a loop in my mind, I have examined it from ever angle, trying to find anything that might have been a plea for help. She seemed happy, excited by her new marriage, looking forward to Christmas and alive, in love with life.
I miss her very much. I think about her often. I wish she was still here.
Not being able to understand has made things very difficult, and the one thing we will never have is closure, we will never know why.
We cannot change what has happened, I will never see her again and can never ask her. I have gone through torturing myself, looking for the thing I missed, the hint that indicated she needed help. I have been so sad, thinking about the small things she will never do again. Simple things like having a cup of coffee, washing her hair, telling a joke. And the big things, finishing her PhD, having a family, living a life that had so much promise. I've missed her and I have been angry with her. I would give pretty much anything to have had the opportunity to try to help her, and to still have her with us.
This time of year can be difficult for a lot of people, Christmas bringing with it it's own particular pressures and difficulties. This season, amid the fun and festivities, I will be thinking of the friend I lost, and the friends I have who might need to reach out.
Now, I think about her and all of the things she will not do and am determined that I will not waste opportunities. The simple things I have been so cynical about are important, other people and their messy, fascinating lives are the reason to be here. We only get one chance at this living, and to refuse to allow ourselves to be happy, out of some misguided idea that we are somehow too clever to appreciate the tiny reasons to be so, is a special kind of stupidity.
For those I do not know who are in difficulty, there are supports available. If I can be so presumptuous I will say to you what I wish I had had the opportunity to say to her. There are people who love you, you probably do not even realize how many lives you touch, how heartbroken those people will be if you are not there, and how willing they will be to talk to you and support you. You are not as alone as you may feel.
My life is a work in progress, as all of our lives are. For christmas this year I will offer you all a simple wish that I would always have considered a trite cliché before, but which sums up what i would like for myself and for the people I love. A wish for a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year. Xx
National office for suicide prevention (Ireland): http://www.nosp.ie/