In My Experience

I’m approaching probably the most difficult period of time in my life. I feel that I won’t be able to write closer to the time as I will be in a completely different state of mind and quite honestly won’t have time for it. In 26 days time, it will mark a year since my brother killed himself. Whilst I may have been getting on okay and doing my best to get on with life and not let it hinder me, I feel that this milestone can’t be avoided. I have tried concentrating my thoughts on the birth of my baby boy in March but no matter how much I try and think positively, the whole occasion is tinged in sadness for me. It’s an occasion that I wish Tom was here for. He would have been an amazing Uncle and as I think back to my childhood and the relationship I had with my ‘crazy’ Aunties and Uncles, I feel my child has been robbed of a relationship they never knew they had. I slightly worry about the point in my child’s not too distant future when they can talk and I have to explain who Tom was and what he meant to me. Then the inevitable follow up of ‘Where is Uncle Tom now?’. Do I spare them the hurt, the pain and the agony of it all? Or shall I tell them the unedited version of events that led catastrophically to his untimely demise? The truth always hurts the most, or so they say.

It’s an internal conflict that has been raging inside ever since I found out we were having a baby. I worry that if i’m not up front about it, that they too will fall into that pit of misery later on in life. The hard bit of it is trying to teach them from Tom’s mistakes without painting him in too much of a bad light. I had untold amounts of respect for my big brother and despite his flaws, still hold him in such high regard. Is it worth mentioning that maybe our vulnerabilities are what make us human and that no one is perfect? You might think this is all a bit premature but if I don’t work out what i’m going to do now, I never will. I don’t underestimate the task of being a parent and the time involved in being one, I simply won’t have the time to think about this conversation later on in life. Whilst I have the clarity of mind and the ability to think about the situation without being sleep deprived and having to be constantly attentive and/or being interrupted, I think this is the only opportunity I will get!

To me, it feels like to everyone else Tom doesn’t matter anymore. They have got on with everything like nothing has happened and it’s only the ones closest to Tom, that it’s still effecting. I suppose everyone grieves in their own way, but completely shutting him out will get you nowhere. I don’t talk about Tom to pretty much anyone apart from my family now as no one bothers asking. I shouldn’t be surprised really, I have always been let down by people in general and only have a close circle of friends who I would deem as reliable. That’s life though, and I probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth if I said that’s most likely how Tom felt for the last year of his life. I’m almost expecting a fake outpouring of grief from people on the 8th of February ‘always missed, never forgotten’. Like people need to be seen as compassionate and caring. Pull the other one! Maybe that’s a little harsh but one thing I can never be accused of, is being dishonest.

Me and Tom talked about his feelings of abandonment when he came out of hospital. He felt massively disconnected from people, he also didn’t want to shout about the fact he’d come out of hospital in fear of being seen as crazy. Maybe this was one of his critical errors, as that may have lead to him not having the necessary support that he needed around him, at that specific point in time. Not owning up to your problems can definitely have an effect on how you deal with them. How can people help if they don’t know what’s going on? This is where i’d like to turn the dial and touch upon drug abuse.

I think the main cause of people turning to drugs as a coping mechanism, is because they either have issues at home or because they can’t cope with situations and the emotions attached to them. They don’t want to feel and they numb it with drugs or sometimes alcohol. It’s a bit harder to spot because of the drinking culture we have in this country, which I have nothing against. The only reason I bring up this observation, is because from experience most of the people I know that have done drugs, have usually had something ‘wrong’ at home (I use the term ‘wrong’ loosely as it depends on your perspective). I want to use Tom’s situation as a wake up call to people, that drugs aren’t the answer. This is usually why drug use almost always escalates, as once you’ve created a tolerance to a certain drug, it doesn’t give you the same ability to mask your emotions/problems. You have to face your problems and yes it may hurt but hurting is part of being human, something I have only really properly learned about because of my experience to do with Tom. You will only become stronger by pushing yourself out to the other side. It’s a life lesson that I think people try and avoid, as they’re too afraid of being hurt or can’t face up to overwhelming emotion so try and block it out. The other lesson you will then learn, is that if a problem is too overwhelming for you, then sharing your problem halves it. Usually drugs will loosen your tongue and that’s why some people use it as an escape. Most of you reading this will have at some point been stuck either in a kitchen or on a patio at a party with someone off their face on drugs, spilling all of their problems to you, a complete stranger. You might laugh at this situation, me too or you might take this as a story from your past where you’ve made a friend. Both of which are great. But going back to what I said, look closer and dig deeper into that situation and how that person got there. They only felt okay to share their problems because they’re on drugs and you’re usually in the same situation, getting fucked up at a party, be it on drugs or drinking.

I want to push the fact that emotions are not a weakness. Stand up for yourself. We’re adults now and should confront this misconception. I understand there are people out there that will use your weaknesses against you as a way of manipulating you. All you have to remember is that the reason they do this is, is out of fear someone will do the same to them and they want the power. It’s the same mindset of a bully, they’re usually bullying someone because they’ve been bullied themselves. Everyone has emotions, there is no escaping it. It seems silly to me that it has to be written in those black and white terms, but I suppose sometimes people just need to go back to basics. Don’t ever be afraid to admit these things and it’s never too late to face up to your problems. Even if they stem all the way back to childhood. Maybe you had an absent father (that’s a common theme i’ve seen if i’m being honest), or there was a break up in your parent’s marriage and you got caught in the crossfire or even worse you blame yourself, maybe you felt neglected or strived for attention from parents which was never forthcoming, maybe you were abused by parents physically or even (god forbid) sexually. If you can count one of those that has happened to you and you haven’t tried drugs i’d be surprised. You may not think these are the causes behind you taking drugs and come at me with the argument you tried them for another reason but it always stems from something that happened to you in your childhood. I’ll admit that’s a short list and there are endless factors to do with home life that can have a resounding effect on you throughout life, but these are the main factors I think. It’s having the courage to admit something happened and working through it that helps you cope, not distracting yourself from the issue with drugs. It can probably still be said about people my age or even older still smashing the sesh, maybe it’s become habitual now and is detached from the original reason you started taking drugs, but i’m sure if you peeled back the layers you will find something on that list or similar that is the underlying issue. People love to carry a chip on their shoulder and can play the whole ‘drugs are cool’ card for their latter teenage years, but when you’re on the wrong side of 30 and still regularly on the sesh, you need some help. I don’t care about dropping truth bombs or upsetting people, it needs to be said. There are a lot of people in my friends list that this can apply to, if you want to take it that this is aimed at you, then please do. Do take it to heart. Do something about it. Confront it. Confront me, I couldn’t care less. Tomorrow can be the start of the rest of your life. Or you can stay inside the cyclical nature of drugs and it’s warm, cosy comfort blanket of distraction whilst you descend deeper until you’re in the position Tom was in. What a waste of a life. I’m only telling you what it’s like to be on the other side of things and what it feels like for the people around you, who love and care for you. Take heed of my advice and my words and stick at it. Always strive to better yourself and put yourself on a good positive path in life. Would you rather just live or live FOR something? It won’t be easy but life never is.

I mean this sincerely, if I’ve touched on something in this you want to talk to me about, then my ears are always open and i’m happy to talk about anything.

me and tomm

Advertisements
Featured

Help.

The world is a different place to me now. Loss is a horrible thing to deal with at the best of times but i’m in a peculiar situation at the moment. My dear brother Tom has taken his own life. Whilst it is still weird and hard to write those words down, they take me to a place in my head where only Tom exists. It’s like a library of thoughts and memories. To miss someone you love is normal but the weird feeling is he’s still here, living on in my memory, a perfect carbon copy of exactly how I remember him. Just like a library I can scroll through and pick out a specific memory and replay it and it’s like he’s still here in the room with me. When I first got the news of Tom’s suicide, I just wanted to pick up the phone to him and hear his voice. I couldn’t process what had happened, as I hadn’t seen his body it’s almost like it wasn’t real in my head. I also had a long period of time where if I tried to think about him, I couldn’t remember what his voice sounded like and that was heartbreaking.

We’re lucky that we live in an age of videos and pictures I suppose, as they act as a kind of therapy for someone in my position. Being able to see and hear someone from beyond the grave is a treasure like no other. It’s surreal to think that this person was here and then suddenly not. It’s more upsetting to me now to think of all the milestones that he’s not going to be here for. He’ll never get to meet my children in the future, no more birthdays or Christmas’ together, no more boy’s day outs, even just sitting watching old films together which was a favourite past time. (Anyone who knows us properly will know that we would usually quote the entire film word for word!) The videos help to re-immerse yourself into their character, little traits or how they laughed, build the picture up clearer in your head, almost as if you have to reconstruct them. It all helps when dealing with something as big as this.

It’s no secret now that Tom struggled with mental health issues for a long time previous to his suicide. The main aim of this post is to open up slightly about what it’s like to be left behind or left in the wake of a suicide. I won’t bamboozle you too much with facts but there are some astounding figures that i’d like to share. 3/4 of all suicides in the UK are male. 3/4. Try to wrap your head around that. Even though statistically, suicides have steadily been decreasing over a number of years, due to more coverage and availability of information, it’s still massively high. The most suicides actually took place in the 40-44 year old age bracket. You could account some of those down to ‘mid-life crisis’ which would still come under mental illness. Mental illness comes in many shapes and sizes, some you can see like Stress and Addiction. Some you can’t like Depression and Social Anxiety. There is a broad spectrum and in varying doses. Just because someone says they’re fine, doesn’t actually mean they are. Almost all of these people suffer in silence, sometimes to avoid becoming a burden to people or maybe because they haven’t even realised they have a problem.

I’ve had plenty of time to process what has happened and have made my peace with it. This was definitely made easier by seeing his body and getting a bit of closure in my head, even though it was a harrowing experience and will stay with me for life. But now that it’s done, I feel that something should be done. All I see in regards to mental health are people raising awareness, which is good. However, i’d like to try and make a change. I don’t want to set a precedent because it’s massively annoying when people jump on bandwagons and in the era of ‘inclusivity’, I don’t want to see my idea twisted and used for other things. I will be writing to my MP and to the Prime Minister to ask for a specific number to be set up that you can call, almost like the emergency number 999. I understand you have people like Samaritans already doing a great job but if you were to ask me their phone number I couldn’t tell you. They should make it short, personally I like the idea of 4357 as it spells out HELP on the keypad, which is easy to remember. With the right education and targeting this could save a huge amount of lives. It would make a statement of intent that we as a nation are taking mental health seriously. It might be a tad too far but i’d like to see the phone companies getting on board too, maybe every phone sold should have 4357 saved in the handset memory/ contacts of every new phone sold. Almost like a constant reminder, because let’s be honest everyone is glued to their phones now and miss out on a lot of social interaction which might be one of the detrimental effects on mental health at present. If you were to have that in your phone always, subconsciously you would know you always have someone to talk to. It might not work but you never know unless you try and it’s worth taking any preventative steps in order to save lives. People that close to suicide might not even be thinking of their phone as they’re so fixated on the here and now and the overwhelming finality of their actions.

Maybe someone should create an app, called Buddy. Almost like a self therapy app. Day in day out, people always ask ‘you alright?’ we go ‘yeah’. Buddy should ask ‘how’s your mental state today?’ as no one ever asks. People with mental issues sometimes will neglect to speak to others in fear of judgement or being labelled crazy. Just knowing that it’s an app, you could almost take the peer pressure out of the situation. Talking to a computer is easier, surely? No social stigma or judgement. It could be programmed much like Siri, but only to give positive answers or links to information for the end user. The next generation are entrenched in the digital world and to get through to them we have to engage on their level. That’s not forgetting older people like myself who thinks the phone number would be enough.

Any feedback on this piece before I write my letters, is welcome.