I was going to write something completely different today, but after watching last nights episode of Coronation Street and its male mental health story-lines, I felt compelled to write something very different to my usual posts. In Corrie, Aidan has taken his own life and David has finally admitted to the rape that has caused his mental anguish over recent weeks. These are such important stories to be told, and they both really resonated with me for this reason…
It has been almost 2 years since a very good male friend of ours committed suicide. Myself and my partner had been friends with him since we ourselves met, about 8 years before his death. We knew he had suffered with his mental health for many many years – he had been on anti-depressants for a very long time. We also knew that he was struggling; various aspects of his life had taken a turn for the worse and he was being drawn deeper and deeper into the darkness of his own mind. Even so, when we heard the news that he had taken his own life we were still shocked.
It was one of those moments when I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was sitting on the sofa with my oldest daughter when I heard my other half answering his mobile. Mine was upstairs on charge. He came through to the front and room and said “He’s gone”. I just looked at him and replied, “What do you mean gone?” My thoughts were that he had packed up and left as he had been saying he wanted to do for a while. But he just looked back at me with a closed expression on his face and shook his head. That told me all I needed to know – he was dead. I held my tears in until I could go upstairs by myself as I didn’t want to upset my little girl.
I won’t go through everything that I thought or felt over the following days or we’d be here all night – suffice to say that I spent a lot of time crying. I threw myself in to work (classic first stage of grief, see table), although as it was the same place he had worked for years it wasn’t necessarily much help.
Finally on the third day I completely broke down and had to go home from work. The anger was kicking in so I grabbed a huge kitchen knife and starting hacking down the rose bush in our front garden. I must have looked completely crazy to the neighbors, but it did help me to get a lot of anger out.
The thing with someone you love committing suicide is that you know you will feel some degree of guilt for the rest of your life. No matter how much you get told “they would have done it anyway” or “there’s nothing you could have done”, the fact is that there is always going to be a part of you that thinks “but what if I did this?” or “why didn’t I ring him that day?”. Guilt is a natural part of the grieving process, and it’s important to get through it as best as you can; every week, and then every day, it lessens a bit more – but I must admit that 2 years on I still feel guilt over it and I think I always will.
However, I can now think of him or listen to his favourite band without bursting into tears every time, and although of course I will never forget him and I still think of him every day, as per the old cliche – life moves on. I went through an extremely difficult time trying to cope with his death and the manner in which it came about, but I now have a beautiful baby boy who brings light to my life, as well of course as his sassy big sister! I believe he is still around in some way, laughing at my blonde moments just like he used to, and I talk to him too just in case he can hear me.
This is why I want to thank the producers, writers, actors and everyone involved in telling these incredibly significant stories on Coronation Street. Male mental health problems are far too overlooked, and the outdated stereotype of men just sucking it up and getting on with it simply isn’t relevant anymore in this society. Men have as much of a right as women to show what they are feeling and talk about it – keeping it bottled up inside you isn’t healthy for anyone, male or female.
If you have lost someone through suicide, I personally found that talking to someone uninvolved helped a lot. I could just vent and let it all out without worrying about what the other person thought. It doesn’t work for everyone, but there are plenty of helplines out there to ring if you just need someone to talk to, so please do. It might help.