In 2006, I met a beautiful girl.
We were patients on a psychiatric ward together. She was two years older than me and I looked up to her like a big sister. We instantly clicked, and I so much wanted to be like her. She was vivacious, cool, carefree and eccentric in equal measure. Yet she was also caring, sensitive and vulnerable.
After she was discharged, we spoke every day on the phone. She moved back to London, and I to Southampton. We met up whenever we could to chain smoke and pick at lunch together. We shared our ups and our downs online, despite not seeing each other often. A couple of years later, we drifted apart. She started to drop off the radar a little. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and I was busy with my final year of art school and my two part time jobs. I didn’t think a lot of it. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and we were moving on with ours as we became adults.
Little did I know that things had gone downhill again for her. I found out that she was back in hospital. A short while later, she was dead.
I will never forget the moment I found out. A mutual friend of ours sent me a rambling message. A flurry of texts passed between us; she didn’t yet know the details I so desperately craved to be able to process what she was telling me. A part of me thought that until we knew what had happened, that maybe it hadn’t really happened at all.
It wasn’t real until it was real.
But it was real.
Gradually we learnt more about what had happened. The feelings of heartbreak passed, and I felt very, very angry with her. How dare she?! How dare we go through so much together for her to leave me? How could she abandon her family like that; her mum, her twin sister, her little brother who was so broken at her funeral that he couldn’t read his eulogy? Watching her pink coffin lower into the ground will always be one of the most devastating moments of my life. She was a louder than life, towering presence. In death she seemed so small.
Eventually the anger subsided, and I started to feel incredibly guilty. Why didn’t I try harder to contact her? Why did I let her drift away from me? How could I not have realised there was something wrong? Why didn’t she talk to me? What could I have done differently?
All that was left in the end was a dull, lingering sadness. She did what she did, and I had to come to terms with that.
I still think about her a lot – when I hear her favourite song and around her birthday and Christmas. I visited her grave for years around the date she died, but she was buried a long way from me and I rarely get time to visit these days. I have a tattoo of the song lyrics from one of her favourite songs on my ribs.
I still feel sad and I still miss her, but my life has moved on in many ways and I am in a place where I can look back on our friendship with fondness and nostalgia. It is only now, writing this post and forcing myself to relive that time in my life, that I am finding myself getting tearful for the first time in years.
Life goes on for the loved ones of suicide victims, but it isn’t truly the same again. When I think about it as I am now, it still feels raw and painful.
What I guess I am trying to say is that suicide hurts. It really, really hurts. It hurts the victim, it hurts the friends, it hurts the families. I have been in very dark places myself; there have been many times where I have thought people would be better off without me. But I urge anybody out there, if you take one thing away from this, it’s that the world is a better place with you in it. You matter. There is always, ALWAYS somebody out there to talk to, even if it is a helpline or somebody you don’t know.
Please, please reach out if you are feeling hopeless. You are never truly alone, no matter what your mental health leads you to believe. And for those of you who have lost somebody to suicide, please don’t blame yourselves.
However, I’d like to end with saying that as long as we stigmatise and minimise mental illness, we wont win the war against suicide. I implore you to not only ask those around you how they are, but to truly listen to the answers. If you feel like somebody is starting to drift away from you, doesn’t seem quite themselves or is going through a rough time, let them know how much they mean to you and how important they are. And even if you think everything is fine, check in with them anyway. Sometimes – often even – those that seem the strongest are fighting the hardest battle, and we don’t find out until it’s too late.
Suicide is preventable. Lets join together to prevent it.
If you feel alone and need somebody to talk to, you can contact the Samaritans for free.
Call: 116 123
RIP Lizi Rattenbury
13/1/88 – 11/5/2009