This is a story about slow motion...
"He looks respectable..." began a work colleague of mine, talking about me. I deliberately walked away and somehow closed my ears, managing not to hear what he was about to say. I'm well aware that I do a very good job of keeping up appearances. It takes a lot of hard work to project a professional image, hide my mental health problems and leave any personal life problems at the entrance to my office. It's incredibly exhausting maintaining the illusion that everything is A-OK in my world.
The last thing I need is extra problems. The last thing I need is something or somebody, throwing a spanner in the works.
"He looks respectable, but underneath..." my colleague managed to say, before I successfully got myself far enough away to not hear the end of that sentence. I don't need anybody chipping away at me right now. I have plenty of reasons to feel like an imposter, without anybody actually calling me out as one.
I stopped writing.
I need to write.
I was at work when my friend phoned me to tell me how he was going to kill himself. He called me to say goodbye. He called me to thank me for keeping his secret. He thanked me in advance for not calling the emergency services. He thanked me for bearing the dreadful burden of knowing what he was going to do.
I was at work when I made the phonecall... the phonecall to have his door kicked down and his body taken away to the morgue. I was at work when I received the phonecall back: "We have his body".
I went back to my desk and carried on as if nothing had happened.
I've carried on for more than a month like nothing has happened.
Finally, my friend's funeral is going to be on Friday.
On Friday it will have been 50 days in-between my friend first calling me to tell me that he was planning on committing suicide, and the day of his funeral. That's a long time to wait for some kind of conclusion.
I've been waiting to grieve.
I've been waiting to cry.
At work, everybody thinks I'm just fine. At work, everybody thinks that everything is A-OK in my personal life. At work, everybody thinks I'm "normal".
I've been having a manic episode most of the last week. I've been letting my mask slip a little. I've been unable to completely cover-up my inner turmoil. However, nobody really knows or appreciates how much effort and energy goes into wearing my mask. Nobody really knows how hard it is for me to turn up at work, day after day, and to hold myself together.
The world is a shitty place. Shitty things happen every day. People are born into shitty lives. People have shitty luck.
I am by no means claiming to have the shittiest life out of anybody on the planet.
By all relative measures, my life is pretty peachy. If I were able to directly compare my life with the most unfortunate wretch in the entire world, it would be pretty obvious that I've got relatively little to complain about.
I can't write. I can't grieve. I can't move.
I just need to get to my friend's funeral. I owe him that.
What I've written about past couple few times has been about me as much as it's been about my friend. So what? This is where I come to work stuff out when I'm hurting and/or confused. This is where I come to say all the things I can't say anywhere else. Writing is my therapy. Writing is my healthy outlet.
I said to myself I wouldn't write any more of "the world's longest suicide note" until after my friend's funeral, because it seemed disrespectful.
I've often asked myself if my words perhaps made it easier for people who were feeling suicidal, to feel less guilty about ending their lives. I've often wondered whether I'm being irresponsible. I've had to face accusations that I glorify, glamourise and romanticise suicide. I've had to defend my actions and my beliefs. I've had to defend my words.
When another person who crossed my path committed suicide and I wrote about it, I wondered whether I was co-opting his story. I wondered whether I was using that young man's name in vain. I questioned the legitimacy of writing about another person's suicide.
My friend was close. My friend expressed his wishes clearly and concisely. I know with certainty that I'm not a grief tourist and I take no ghoulish sensationalistic sick pleasure, or derive perverse benefit from writing about suicide. I'm not morbidly fascinated by suicide. I'm not reckless or careless. I'm not thoughtless or inconsiderate.
I started writing so that I would not die misunderstood, and an unexpected consequence has been that suicidal friends and strangers have contacted me to have frank, candid and brutally unflinchingly honest conversations about ending their lives. I've intervened - calling the emergency services - and I've advised - on therapy and medical help - and I've listened and I've responded appropriately. In the three and a half years I've been writing this blog, it's kept me alive and it's played a minor role in keeping some friends and strangers alive, where otherwise we would have perished: We'd have killed ourselves.
I haven't been able to write. I need to write to look after myself. If I'm not writing, I'm not looking after myself.
I haven't been writing.
It will be a relief when the funeral is over.
I hope I will be able to write again, after the funeral.
I need to write.