A while back, I read The Mighty’s newsletter for writing tips and submissions.
One of them was about a suicide letter for those that had tried (and fortunately failed).
It stumped me: I never thought about writing a letter. Despite the fact that, at the time I first attempted suicide, that no one knew I was suffering from depression (except for my husband), I also assumed everyone would just somehow know why.
Looking back, I realise that assumption was selfish – a lot of people wouldn’t have understood – especially as almost no one knew I was depressed, and even if they did, no one really knew just how to depressed I actually was.
This is the letter I never wrote, but filled with the thoughts that have never left my mind, even though (for want of a better word) I’m healed now.
This letter is to the woman who I sat next to for two years.
Who I opened both my home and heart to.
Who I let stay with me while her fiancé was away, because she was lonely.
Who I lent my car to for a week when she didn’t have one.
Who I took under my wing, and for over an entire year, spent almost every day with outside of work.
Who I flew interstate for her wedding.
Who I cared for, and loved.
Who I genuinely believed was going to be my friend for life, as we would often stay up until three in the morning just talking, because we really were that close.
Who raises money each year for “Liptember” (a mental health organisation), although seems to miss the cruel irony: That her and her husband’s treatment of me was not only an extremely traumatic event, but one of the direct causes linked to my anxiety, depression, and eventual suicide attempts.
To you, I say, what kind of person pretends they can’t hear the person sitting next to them? Who ignores them so frequently others notice and question you as to why, and what’s going on, and what’s happened, and why is she pretending she can’t hear you when everyone else clearly can?
To you, I say, do you know how painful it is to be deliberately ostracised? To try and organise events, but your response is a constant, repetitive, “We ate here last week, sorry” and when you try and work out what’s wrong, you’re dismissed just as easily? That you’re made to feel crazy just for asking?
Do you know how painful it was for you to say that you weren’t going to an event, and telling me that I shouldn’t attend, and then see you tagged with everyone else on Facebook, and realise you’re the only one who hasn’t been included? That not only were you not included, that your so-called friend deliberately went out of her way to lie to you, so you wouldn’t come?
And when asked about these events, you replied every time that it was a spur of the moment decision and you just forgot to ask me … despite the fact that before I fell ill, we used to at least “get ready” together via photos and Snapchat.
Do you know how humiliating it was being polite and kind to your husband who, at best, completely ignored me and would make faces at my silent husband while I talked?
Or the time I asked if we could dress up to our work Christmas party together and you lied and said you had nothing planned … and then turned up in an entire costume with an entourage, and tried to tell me that it was again spur of the moment and you didn’t think I’d be interested – despite the fact I’d asked you (again) about it that very day?
Do you know how it feels to be hated by one of your once closest friends, and they lie to you, ask you to catch up for coffee because it’s been forever, and then a week later block and delete you from your life without any further explanation?
You weren’t the sole cause of my depression.
But you did everything in your power to lie to me, betray me, humiliate me, and hurt me.
I was meant to be your friend, and you can tell all the lies you want, but you cannot rewrite history, no matter how much you try.
Apps like Timehop remind you of everything, even if you wish to pretend we weren’t as close as you now tell everyone. (After all, I’m sure it’s much easier to pretend that I’m crazy, rather than admit the truth about what you did.)
You cannot pretend that your actions and omissions didn’t lead to me wanting to kill myself.
To those that knew, this part is for you: You isolated me every time you didn’t want to listen to me, when you refused to listen because “you didn’t want to take sides” and “you were sure I was exaggerating because they weren’t like that.”
The more you silenced me by telling me it was all in my head, or that you didn’t want to get involved, the worse things became.
I stopped turning to people, because I didn’t want to be told I was crazy or that I was making things up.
I stopped sharing what happened, and what was happening to me.
There were times where I literally stopped speaking and no one even noticed, further reinforcing the idea that no one would miss me when I was gone, because no one missed me when I was there.
If I had been successful in any one of my attempts, you would be partly responsible.
It would have been because I was abandoned by people I was close to, without an explanation or second thought.
It was because you made sure I felt worthless every chance you got, because there is no way you can pretend that your actions didn’t have an effect.
I had so much hope the day when someone told you they thought I was depressed, and you never even asked, nor brought it up. Instead, you pretended as if you were never told.
You didn’t even try to hide the fact that I wasn’t welcome.
It was because some of you were more concerned with “appearances” and less concerned with my well-being.
So many of you turned a blind eye to what was happening, never taking into consideration the fact that I was sick and my “friends” were destroying me.
All of you made me feel like my life wasn’t worth living. You made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything.
I don’t say this to be cruel; I don’t say this to guilt anyone into being someone’s friend. I say this because people have got to start accepting responsibility for their actions. If I’d been successful in any one of my attempts, that would have been on me. I was mentally unwell, and I knew it – even if I didn’t want to admit it.
But I didn’t just become mentally unwell overnight. It was a gradual slip into depression, before a gradual slip into no longer wanting to live. It was so obvious that I heard people asking you why ‘I looked so sad all the time’, and you never bothered to ask me. You just shushed those who asked, and pretended like it didn’t matter.
I wasn’t successful in taking my life. I was lucky. Very lucky.
But you, and everyone else reading this, needs to take this message with them: What happened to me never needed to get to the place where it did. There were so many times that if people had just listened, instead of continually dismissing me, the outcome could have been so very different. If people had taken responsibility for their actions, instead of behaving with cruelty and malice, everything could have been so very different.
My story is unique. It doesn’t speak for every survivor, or every suicide victim. But the message holds the same: You are responsible for your actions and your omissions, and sometimes your choices can cost someone their life.
So be kind. Always.