A Second Letter to a Friend

Dear Mel,

I know I wrote you only a few days ago, but I’ve just read your most recent Life Update and I wanted to say a few things. I hope you don’t mind.

And before I start, let me just say that I know you’re going to struggle to believe everything I’ve written here. Remember what you said to me?

I want you to believe the words

Well, for the record, I know it’s not always so easy to do that, no matter how much you may want to. But please – in case you have any inclination to – please don’t feel bad about not believing the words. I am going to reassert, and reassure you with, the loving words which I believe ring true and you need to here; and I am going to do so again and again; but that doesn’t mean you have to believe them. Just know that I am here with open arms.

Turning to your thoughts of Friday night; you speak of doubt. Lots of doubt, and feeling like “a terrible person”; “selfish”, “cold”, and “unfeeling”. I realise that feeling like a terrible person deep down will lead to doubt about a lot of things, whilst feeling doubt about a lot of things may lead you to conclude that you are, in sum, a terrible person. You are not a terrible person. For what it’s worth – and I hope this doesn’t sound patronising – you should realise that even those unhappy thoughts are proof that you are not an unfeeling person. You feel things alright, and as negative as those things may be, they are feelings. And they no doubt do leave you cold, but there are always words, and people with those words, smiles and hugs, to warm you up.*

You speak further down of being angry at yourself “for not recognising sooner that I had a problem”. Well, as that cliche goes, “the first step is realising you’ve got a problem”. We can – and will and do – all feel angry with ourselves, because whatever time we do concede difficult things about ourselves, it will never feel early enough. But the recognition, that big, brave first step, is just that – the first step – and you have taken it. And no matter how many steps it takes to scratch this itch, you will reach it, and I and many others will be with you every step of the way.

With regards to the events – and people who shaped those events – which have brought you to the place you are now at, and in case any of those feelings outlined above are inspired by other people, let me reiterate what I said in my last letter to you.

I promise you that they are the ones who are wrong. The simple fact – and I am going to be arrogant here – is that whoever they may happen to be; whatever form they may take; I assure you that I can craft words in a more persuasive – and, for what it’s worth, loving –  way than they can. They are shallow, cowardly and – as defined by their actions – inferior. You don’t need to worry about them – ever. I will talk them down and out of the park. They do not matter. You matter. And I will help you realise that.

We’ve talked about what your doctor said to you. I’m still unsure exactly what I make of the tone. I think, for whatever my opinion is worth, that the thing that is sticking with you is indeed the casualness, the way it seemed “like everyday small-talk”. It is, I think – and I hope this doesn’t sound insensitive – inconvenient that it has stuck with you in the way that it has. It’s possible that it was intended to make you take a look at the bigger picture (as it were), which it seems to have done; but unfortunately, it seems to me that it is a fine line between the positive and negative consequences of such a difficult question, and it just may be that in this case the doctor’s judgement wasn’t entirely on the mark. But that’s just my opinion. In any case, I am truly sorry that you didn’t get the reassurance you were looking for. I promise that you will get through this. I’ll bloody well make sure of it.

I know what it is like to have been asked that question. I answered “yes”. I had intended to act on it at one time but couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. I too told my doctor that I was scared at how low I was feeling; in my case, I was scared about the fact that I had felt suicidal and furthermore had wanted, and set out, to act on that feeling. Matt Haig explains this perfectly in Reasons to Stay Alive: it’s not that I wanted to die, but that I wanted to stop existing, because it just seemed like that was the only way to stop the pain I was feeling. The thing my doctor told me at the time, though, and which I think is worth keeping in mind if we can; is that by having any such feelings – and, in my case, (at least intending to) act upon them – we are giving someone – whoever it is that is causing our pain – power over us. And that, he said, is a power that no one person should ever have over another. And I agree. It’s sometimes difficult, of course, to heed this completely: we can’t just switch off our emotions and our misery, as much as we would like to. But if we can realise – and ourselves believe – that whoever has sculpted this pain within us deserves none of our time, nor has any right to dictate how we feel or affect our actions, then I think we are doing something right.

You say:

I can’t help but wonder how I got to this point. When did sitting in a doctor’s office chatting about suicide become an average Wednesday morning?

I know exactly what you mean and exactly how you feel. When I took my first dose of Citalopram, I cried. I couldn’t believe that I had reached a point where medication was necessary to stop me feeling so low (and, maybe, to stop me from taking my own life). Staring at the packet, it seemed a symbol of everything that had gone so wrong. But what can we say? Shit does happen, and sometimes it’s fucking awful, and we – as only humans, who do have (indeed very strong) feelings – can’t help feeling fucking distraught about things. We are just flesh, bone and feelings, and sometimes things and people do their very best to break us. And sometimes they succeed. But, difficult as it may be, we can always put our pieces back together again, and there are always people here to help. The truth is, although it may not seem it, the world really is a beautiful place, filled with magnificent, loving people.

You speak also of being angry

as I watch myself slip away, while I long to be ‘normal’

Let me just say that none of us are “normal”, and you are not slipping away. Things are more difficult now, perhaps, than anyone ever warned you that they could be; but you are not slipping away. You’re here. I’m here. We’ll get through this together.

And I know it may seem like it, but you’re not losing the tug of war in your mind. (For what it’s worth, I know how that feels. You want to go in one direction, but it is simply a furious, jolting back and forth between good and bad, over which you feel you have no control.) Just by expressing that feeling, you are fighting back, and heading in the right direction. And, again; you are not alone in this fight.

I could go on longer but I worry that the more I write, the more there is to take in, and the less chance there is of that happening. And I’d really like at least some of this to stick with you, if it can do. But, again, I stress that you are under no obligation to take any of this on board. Just please know that I am here for you.

Love you, bestie.

You’ll be alright. I promise.

Let’s do lunch soon.

Josh xxx

*Hi there 🙂

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