This blog, 'The 'S' Word' was posted on Radio for Daddy on 14 September 2017.
Shhhh. Just five more minutes lie in.
As my brain fumbles around & starts to figure out what’s going on, I realise what day it is, and what happened five years ago today. But to most others, it’s just another day where the alarm goes off again.
Five years ago my sister committted suicide. Suicide, life completion, ended it all, took her own life, call it what you want. I’ve absolutely no preference. They’re just words which all point to the same dark thing, and when it comes to something like this, there isn’t really a politically correct way of saying what she did to herself. Either way, it was, it is sad, and horrific, and incomprehensible, and all those images and words and thoughts and feelings you’d associate with it.
It. It has a name, and it’s called suicide.
So here I am doing what society is keen for us all to do, to talk about It. To be open, transparent and to ‘engage’ with mental health. But generally speaking how much do people want to listen and to understand that five years in, I’ve felt very little emotion. And that’s difficult. So, if you are interested and want to find out what life is like for someone who things about suicide every day, thank you for your time and for choosing to read on.
I’m writing this like I’m dictating the notes of someone else’s case study. Like I’m floating above a scene as an uninvited observer, keen not to be discovered for fear of causing ripples of distress to a private scene below. But that’s the problem. There has been little distress, which I attribute to my head wrapping itself in cotton wool to protect it from what it knows it’s capable of doing to itself. It’s like there’s a door which I know I have to open and walk through to start to acknowledge all this, but right now, there are a million and one thing’s between me and that door which demand my attention, and which seem more immediately important. Big Small’s football coaching on Saturdays, a week of outside broadcasts which need planning. Passport applications. Life.
So up I get, shower, try not to wake the Smalls or Mrs RfD up, have my Shreddies & head out onto the 0643 to London and work. There I’ll be the guy who helps people, smiles & sorts stuff out. I’ll come home and be Daddy, there to play with, learn from and snuggle up to. I’ll be a normal guy doing normal things. But as someone said to me a long time ago, each of us carries a problem the rest of us know nothing about.
Like all parents my days have a routine which leaves little space for manoeuvre. This leaves me with a problem I’ve been carrying around with me for the last five years. I tried Counselling sessions to see if they could help start to untangle the jumbled mess of spaghetti caused by my sister leaving us all too soon, but for whatever reason, they weren’t right. As a family we talk about what happened too, but it’s still very raw. And so, the overwhelming profundity of what happened is still to wave its ugly hand and draw me in.
Grief. It’s grief, and I’ve yet to get past this stage. I’m very aware that these things take time and that everyone deals with it in very different ways. On the one hand I wish it’d just hurry up so I could move on, but on the other I worry sometimes about how it’ll present itself and when. Because it will, sometime, and you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be ready for it.
The thing I have the biggest problem with is understanding it all. Making any kind of sense of it and trying to align it with any sort of conventional or social blueprint which will help explain why, and how, and what to do. If I leave it long enough will I come to my own conclusions? I fully understand that my sister was very ill. Her healthy mind would’ve recoiled in horror at the thought of being manipulated to such an extent that it chose, chose to shut down and die instead of choosing to live, breathe, laugh and love. But that doesn’t help me with that part of my life which will never leave, the fact that my sister killed herself and that now, society has given me a new label; I’m a suicide survivor.
I’ve many close friends who loved my sister and I know who love me. I know they’ll listen when I need to talk about her, and I hope they know that if they feel comfortable doing so, they shouldn’t be afraid to bring my sister up in conversation too. But she’s not the only one in our circle of friends to have ‘moved on’ in this way.
Earlier this year another childhood friend left us too early too. People were quick to make sure I was ok, and I was quick to contact the family of my friend to offer any kind of help I could too. But it’s tough. It’s an unnatural and hugely complex set of emotions which are deeply erratic and highly unpredictable. What makes it worse is that none of us, maybe you included, asked for this. What I may have gone through will be totally different to them, and it’s heartbreaking to think that another family who I spent much time with growing up has to go through this, never mind the countless others round the country who will go through the same too.
But talking about it has to be the only way. So if you see me today, or any other day, you now know a little more of my story. What it’s like to be me and of life as the relative of someone who committed suicide. Sometimes life is a proper bastard and I’m not looking forward to figuring out how to explain it all our our Smalls when they’re old enough to want, and fathom the detail. But as Big Small closed his eyes and fell asleep last night, he said “I had a nice day at school today Daddy”, and I knew that in the end, everything will be ok. We have each other, we have hugs and we have tea.
You can read the original blog post on Radio for Daddy here.