(TW: suicide, funerals in detail)
This week I had to attend the funeral of a friend of mine who sadly lost her life to mental illness. That’s the phrase I’m going to use not ‘suicide’- as I’m not describing a crime like homicide- something that is ‘committed,’ I’m describing the devastating desperation of a 14 year old that eventually led to her deciding she could not take the pain that living provoked in her any longer.
It was absolutely horrific. And I’m naturally a Brit in underplaying emotional things. But I can’t and won’t bend the truth on this one; it would be inappropriate and unbearable.
I met my friend Nash in the adolescent unit of a psychiatric hospital we had both been admitted to. It’s hard to describe the friendships you make in these hospitals. You know each other for relatively short time (in this case about 4 months) without ever meeting their ‘normal’ friends, visiting their home or knowing how they have been when well. That said, you really do know these people. You live and share the same small space with them for months, you see them at their worst when the on-going struggle they have with their mental health has got to crisis point- you talk through life’s trials and gradually try to work each other out. You do things that the majority of the population would consider ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ not only because you are the ‘mentals’ society stigmatises but also in a humorous way out of sheer boredom. I imagine it’s quite different in an adult acute unit but the quirks of adolescence make it that bit more intense and emotional.
This girl was quirky, chatty and lived in a world of her own. She could be trying, as we all were much of the time yet she could be hugely supportive and caring. Her thinking had clearly been twisted unhealthily both in an anorexic and depressive way but also in a fantastical way. Her mother had died- she clearly blamed herself, and instead of living in this painful world that her cruelled her in such a way I think she had decided to live in her own. Help was offered countless times but she didn’t really take it, honestly- much too my frustration. However she wasn’t to blame for that- I think she needed more investment from professionals and people who cared, I don’t believe her diagnosis was the whole story, she was certainly dissociative a lot of the time, she was struggling in care and she was grieving the loss of her mother in a difficult time between childhood and adolescence. I don’t know many of the details about her situation- as it was difficult to know the truth out of what she was saying but I do know from myself that that awkward period between childhood and adolescence is a seriously bad time for things to go wrong. Your brain is developing and trauma can affect that biologically, behaviourally and cognitively for the long term. Sadly, I wasn’t able to keep in contact with her after I was discharged as I got re-admitted elsewhere which I regret as I know she looked up to me but that, unfortunately, was the reality of the situation. I wouldn’t have been well enough to see her anyway, and then heard 3 months later of her death.
She was brought in to the church to ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera and the coffin was opened to the song “You can close your eyes’ by James Taylor both songs beautifully chosen and so appropriate. Many of my tears were not only for her and the distress I knew she must have gone through, but for her brother who in the space of 4 years had lost his mother and his teen sister. The sense of real support and community in the pews was tremendous but it wasn’t enough to mask the pain in that room. The tearful pauses that showed the silent suffering of those reading the eulogies and tributes, the knowledge that she was just a girl afraid of living without the protection and security of her Mum, the anger we were all feeling that the care funded for her hadn’t been enough- that she couldn’t have just hung on a bit longer and the desperate cries of her school friends when it had all gotten too much. The thing about funerals, is that they reveal the things that are truly important in life.
I want to honour her, I hope she and her family knows now how many people loved Nash and her wonderful quirks. But I also want to show the real, horrific realities of this issue people often see as theoretical. A life is lost every 40 seconds to suicide somewhere in the world and that day in July it was my wonderful weird 14-year-old friend Nash. She will never be forgotten- I’ll light a candle for her every year somewhere in a church. And I am reflecting on the seriousness and real consequences of my own impulsive actions.
The situation I am in is that out of my five friends from various hospitals- one is doing much better, one is similar to me, one is in a secure ward, one a forensic ward and one is dead. And this is when I’m not even 18 yet. This world of severe mental illness is of life-and-death seriousness and is dark, even with great support. I’m sorry for the tone of this blog but it is something I need to reflect on. Over the next few blogs I will be telling my story in sections. Feel free to have a read and I’ll be interested to hear if any readers have had similar experiences.
Love you Nash.
Thanks for reading. Stay Safe.