David, Suicide, and We Are Still Here

An old friend of mine committed suicide last week.

David's memorial

I can't even properly tell you about that grief yet. I have lost family and friends before to age, infirmity, and addiction, but losing David to suicide has opened up a new kind of grief for me, a grief that piggybacks on older griefs, and grief that digs down into my own history with suicide and its place in my life.

My grief for David is also a grief for me, and while it feels selfish, and I am embarrassed to state it here, it is true, and it is necessary to this story. I have a long history with depression and suicidal thoughts, and, at 40 years old, my history with it is now 32 years long. I am so enormously glad that I am here to tell you that.

The first time that I nearly attempted it, I was eight years old. I sat on my parents' kitchen floor in the middle of the night with a knife, turning it over and over. I've been told that I could not have seriously meant such a thing at eight years old, but I did. Life was already too painful for me to bear, and I had no faith in happiness. Thankfully, my knee-jerk fear of failure and parental disappointment saved me that night.

That night in 1981 was followed by a hundred others, dotted over the last more than three decades. I've been medicated with psychiatric drugs, I've been offered electroshock therapy, I became an alcoholic. I saw psychiatrists and therapists and religious leaders. A deeply Christian woman once laid hands on my head to pull out my demons. I didn't have her faith, but I thought anything was worth trying once. I have foundered, I have fallen, I have gotten back up. Sometimes I find my way back to equilibrium, sometimes I grip the edge of it and hang on.

At no time over the last 32 years have I considered suicide out of weakness. Not once. I have considered it because the weight I bore was simply too much. My will to survive and my battles to do so, while unseen wars, have been powerful proof to me of what human strength I possess, and when I think of David's suicide and the battle that he must have fought within his heart and mind, I do not see a weak man or a failed man. He and I have both fought hard, and I am proud to have known him.

I do so very much wish, though, that David could still be here, that his war could look like mine does right now. It can't now, though, and my mind refuses to understand that there is no more David to be here. I was sure that I saw him on the street and in shops today. There's David's hat! I would think, and then the man in question would turn, and it was no longer David's hat. I wept in the back of Vietnamese café and wished him well.

I am telling you all of this, because, if you struggle with suicidal thoughts, I want you to know that you are loved. I want you to know that depression lies, that it narrows down and filters your view into a dark space that does not reflect true reality. I want you to talk about it and reach out and seek help until you find the idea/person/therapy that helps you remove the dark filter of hopelessness. I want you to know that I have fought this beast off more times than I can recall to document, and I am still here.

I want you to be able to say I am still here, because it is so very good to be here on the other side of that dark period.

There is a David-shaped hole in the universe, and I cannot take it. I simply cannot, and if I can help just one person find a way through, I've done my job, because I don't want anyone to have to touch this flavour of grief. Please check out the following resources for both prevention and reaching out:

Please use the above resources if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or you are worried that someone you know is experiencing them, and check in with those you love who might be suffering.

We need all of you to stay with us, all of you, and I want you to be able to stand with me and say We are still here.

We are still here.


David's brother sang "Nature Boy" for him at the memorial, so this one's for him:

28/365: The Hungry Ghost

27/365: After the Memorial