We need to talk about what you did. About the fact you took your own life. I've been waiting for the perfect moment ever since that day to talk about it, but I don't think it's every gonna come. Right now, I'm as ready as I'll ever be and my need to say these things is growing. It's been tugging me towards this conversation for months now.
So, Josh, let's face it head on. You killed yourself. You threw yourself off that walkway with the sole intent to end your life, and you succeeded, albeit with it a short delay. I just want to make it clear, right now, that I don't blame you for what you did. However, that doesn't mean I don't get angry sometimes.
I wish I knew why you did it. I wish I knew exactly what was running through your head in the weeks, days, hours beforehand. I suppose I can imagine a lot of it, though. I don't think much of it would shock me, I suppose I just wish I'd known so in some Other Life I could have talked to you about every one of those thoughts. I guess on a wider scale too, I have some ideas about what caused your depression and kept it going strong. The things you told us about your upbringing and family would certainly seemed to play a big part in the value you saw in yourself. The lack of support from uni probably made your future options seem very bleak indeed. But the exact reasons are probably far more complex and intertwined and have gone with you to your grave.
What I really wish I knew is what happened that day. I'm not on a witch hunt, but the story I've heard makes it sound as though there were one thousand, tiny, missed opportunities to stop you. What I know is that you had an exam that day, an exam you hadn't revised for. In the middle of that exam you had one of your strange fainting fits. I'm not sure if you continued the exam after that, but it can probably be assumed that the rest didn't go well, even if the first half had done. After that, you took yourself up to the fifth floor of the maths and stats building; you pushed a chair up against the barrier and you wrote your brief, final message to the world on your hand. Then, at around 11:05am that morning, you climbed over the barrier and let go. The rest, as they say, is history.
I lost count of the number of times we told you to go to the doctor about those fainting spells. "If there's something wrong with me, I'd rather not know", you'd say. Then you'd follow it up with a story about how your dad had gone decades without a GP visit. We suggested to B one time that she should withhold sex until you agreed, but she just laughed that she couldn't wait that long. Those fainting spells were strange things. I remember you having one at the top of the stairs once. You were lying there, eyes open, but unable to speak or move. I remember feebly trying to maneuver you into the recovery position, unsure of what else I could do and feeling helpless as I stood over your body. Looking back, I don't think you were fainting. I think they were seizures, likely caused by the extreme stress you were under. I didn't know that was possible at the time, but it seems the signs you weren't coping were staring us in the face.
With this in mind, it makes sense this would happen in the middle of an exam you hadn't revised for. But that also makes me question your state of mind after it happened. The stress alone would probably warp your thinking, and if it was a seizure you had, you brain would have been even more fried. I'm not trying to minimize what you did or imply that you didn't mean it. I fully believe that you wanted to die. But the method you used implies a snap decision as opposed to a planned approach. A moment of weakness in a lifetime of fighting your own brain. It wasn't your fault, you fought so fucking hard for so long. But somehow it breaks my heart more to think it was a spur of the moment decision, potentially added to by a fried brain. You wanted to die, but the lack of plan makes me think a small part of your heart wasn't in it. In another life you could have got past that moment, yet in this reality that part of you was never allowed to grow and flourish. Your poor, tired brain had a moment of weakness and dragged your body down with it, permanently.
I have questions about the whole thing that I'll probably never know the answers to. For example, I wonder what the fuck you were doing alone after becoming unconscious in an exam? People were obviously aware it happened, otherwise we would never have been told. And yet you were just allowed to wander off alone soon after. Did someone try to help and you lied and told them you were fine? Is there someone out there forever blaming themself for believing that you were okay? Or did no one give a fuck? Were they all too self absorbed for your wellbeing to truly matter to them? Did staff stop caring as soon as the exam ended and they were off the clock? Just how did you end up alone, suicidal, five stories high right after publicly collapsing, Josh? I wish to God I knew.
I have other questions too, of course. More general ones that you could probably guess. Like, what stopped you talking to us? Why did you choose to jump instead of sending me a text? What was your last thought? Were you in any pain as you died? Who was the last person to see you properly alive? Did you think of us, of me, before you did it? And is there any reality in which I could have stopped you?
Truth be told, Josh, if I had another chance at that day I still wouldn't know how to change things. Of course I would have tried harder to talk to you about how you were feeling, but I still wouldn't know exactly what to say. Most of all, it seems, you were afraid of failing uni and nothing I could have said would have changed that. Sure, I would much rather have a living uni-dropout friend than a dead one who never technically failed. But it wasn't about what I was okay with, it was about how you felt and the million reasons you felt that way. Simply put, if I could do that day again, I feel like I would need to be by your side for the entire duration to change the outcome. And even then, I would be afraid what the next day would bring.
You were in a terrible fucking place, Josh. I fully understand that. I mean, I will never know the details of your personal mental nightmare, but having lived my own and come close to ending it myself, I feel like I can say I get it. Even now, on bad days, I think of you and just think "I get it." Your depression, a severe and chronic condition, killed you. Just like cancer and strokes and heart attacks kill. It hijacked your brain and the control of your body, just as cancer cells invade and blood clots starve the brain of oxygen. You had just as much choice in the matter as patients of any physical illness. I will never blame you Josh, I promise. It was never your fault.
But, like I say, that doesn't mean I don't get fucking angry. When it first happened the anger was constant and it took all my energy just to stop it boiling over. Now, it comes and goes. I feel angry that you did it. Despite all I know, the part of my brain that reacts impulsively wants to scream that "you're a fucking idiot!", "you're so selfish!" and "how the fuck could you do this to us?!". Of course, when I think about it more I remember that none of that is true. You just wanted to end the pain, you never intended to cause ours. But I have to be honest that those thoughts do always creep back in. It's very easy to be angry that you chose the solution that would never allow it all to get better. It's so permanent, Josh. It's so horribly, painfully permanent.
I just wish I could go back in time, to way before the day you died, and plant the seeds for you to think it okay to talk to friends. To think it okay to drop out of uni. To think it okay to ask for help. I wish so badly I could help the Josh you were before I even met you.
Thank you for letting me finally get this off my chest, Josh. Fuck, I had been holding onto that for so long. So fucking long.
I love and miss you so, so much.