Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Return To Sender

Warning: This post contains discussions of suicide and suicidal ideation

After my last piece for someone who was never going to read it, I kind of hoped I wouldn't need to do another so soon. But here we are. People come, people go, and sometimes they leave without hope of return. At least this time there's a lot less left unsaid - I learned that much from James's sudden departure. Chloe was gone in a matter of moments, but she'd been close to departure for long enough that I made sure she knew how much I cared about her, how funny and clever and delightful I thought she was. It's a small comfort, but you take what you can get when a friend takes their life.

Chloe had been in my life for a while now - a year or two, maybe? It's hard to say, because she drifted in and out of my social circle at will. Aoife described her as feline, and that's the most concise way I can think of to sum her up - feline, but in a very wild way. Chloe was never a house cat. She'd come close if she felt like it, and sometimes we'd SMS each other across the world for hours (mostly when I was supposed to be working). But she always gave me the sensation of circling cautiously, even at her most affectionate, and if she didn't feel like company she was gone. While I got a lot of radio silence at times, she also had a habit of popping up at the most unexpected points, mostly when I needed her sharp, wild wit the most. One of the few things that seemed to truly give her joy was giving to other people, be it time or affection or encouragement. She was so deeply, painfully loyal to people she considered friends - I have no doubt she would have flattened anyone for me, anytime, had I asked. If I thought it would have helped, I would have absolutely done the same for her.

But it wouldn't have helped. Just as with all the times she needed to retreat, there was nothing to be done to stop her final retreat. When a friend kills themselves, it's impossible not to blame yourself at least a little bit, no matter how much you know about all the overwhelming factors that lead to it. But as with everything else, once Chloe set her mind to leaving there was no stopping her. She poured the same determination that had kept her alive thus far into ending her life, and as soon as I saw her arranging who all her possessions were going to, I knew it was only a matter of time. If you knew her, knew what she'd been through, knew what a ferocious little dynamo she had burning inside her, you'd know it would hopeless to try and stand in her way. Even on the slim chance someone could have done something, I'm not sure they should have.

I know, rationally, that you'll never read this Chloe, but I feel the need to get it all out anyway, the few last things I didn't get a chance to say. In your goodbye video, you pleaded for forgiveness, and I need to tell you first and foremost that to me, there's nothing to forgive. I was never angry at you for wanting to leave, not in any way. I empathise too much to be angry. I know the crushing weight of complete emotional exhaustion, of total hopelessness. I understand utter despair, the feeling that another day or even another hour is an unbearable eternity. I decided I could keep going, and you decided you couldn't - that's no reason to be angry at you.

You told me you were considering suicide last time you were really close, and we talked it over. Obviously, I was glad you didn't go through with it then, but you didn't loop me in on the conversation this time. I wonder if you thought I was angry that you were thinking about it again, or that I was going to try and stop you, or something. Maybe you just didn't want to talk about it this time with me. I guess I'll never know. But just for the record, I wouldn't have been angry, just as I wasn't last time. I could accept the idea of losing you, so long as I didn't turn around one day and find you vanished without my noticing, which is why I made you promise to say goodbye. Nothing else - I didn't ask you to not do it, or to tell me beforehand. I just wanted to know when you were leaving. And sure enough, in the middle of all your other, more pressing goodbyes, you remembered me. Goodbye is all I asked from you, and despite everything that must have been going through your mind, you made good on that promise, because that's just the kind of person you were.

Even if I was closer physically, more able to help support you, I could never have truly lifted your burden. So how could I possibly ask you to carry it longer than you were willing to, just for me? If I couldn't take your pain away, how could I ask you to bear it just so I could keep you in my life for a while longer? I couldn't, and I would never. I just hope so much you finally found what you were looking for - as I said in the goodbye SMS I spent 20 minutes figuring out how to send through streaming tears, even though I knew you were almost certainly already gone.

You were so funny, and sweet, and kind, and fascinating. I wanted to know so much more about you, but you were so skittsh I was always scared of pushing you away. I felt like I had to choose between pressing to see more of what was inside you, and having you in my life - and while I HATE not knowing things, having you around was absolutely worth it.

You were SO insistent that I play Gone Home, and I was so glad once I did that I'd listened to you, even after spending an hour bawling at the end of the game. That little tiny taste of mourning an experience you'll never get to have made me feel like I understood you just a little bit more, gave me a glimpse of the sadness you carried with you. Anyone else would have just shared their experiences, talked it over, but you weren't the sharing kind. The way you insisted I play it, so urgently, so persistently, made me feel like it was an attempt on your part to share - awkward and deflected, but sharing nonetheless. I remember taking the sadness that game evoked in me, and extrapolating it to fit what I knew of your experiences, and I wept for you. I wept for all the good things you so deserved, that you so desperately wanted, that the passage of time meant you would never have. I never told you about that part though, only the things about the game that had spoken to my experience. I knew you'd be angry and uncomfortable that I shed tears for you, that you were important enough to me that imagining your grief made me weep. But I did, and you were. You still are.

So ner. 

It's all the things you'll never have that have been making me cry the most for the last couple of days. More specifically, and perhaps more selfishly, the things we'll never have. I've got no money, and there's no way I was getting to the US to see you any time soon. You talked about coming here to see me, but I got the impression you didn't really have the money for that either. Realistically, we would probably never have met in person, even if you hadn't died. But I keep going over the dreams we had - the violent, glorious technicolor dreams! The plans we made, the stories we told each other. Stories about dancing in your room to N*SYNC, and which of your stuffed toys you'd be willing to share with me. The dreams of a punk femme girl gang, "misandry" tattooed on our knuckles, and starting bar fights with sexist assholes before riding off into the night on our pink bikes. We both knew that even if we did end up in the same town somehow we'd probably never REALLY go that far - but god, it felt so good to contemplate burning the world down with you. You taught me that I shouldn't be afraid of this fire, this rage that burns inside me and always has.You showed me it could be useful, that it could be fuel to propel me forward instead of burning me alive. If I take away nothing else from our friendship, I hope I remember that much.

I don't know if you had any idea how much joy you gave me, just by being around and being you. Probably not - it was pretty hard to get any kind of positive input through past all the sadness and fear. And hey, I get that, I really do. But let me tell you now, when you're hopefully far away form all that sadness - you were such a good friend to me, so much better than I deserve. Your fierce, wild loyalty meant so much to me, and I knew that no matter I what I could always talk to you, about anything. There are so few people I can honestly say that of, and you were one of them. But now you're gone, and I need to stop going over the things I wish I'd said. Instead, I want to remember all the things I did say, and all the things you said in return; the friendship we shared, and the dreams we had.I want to imagine you chuckling at the absurdity of me getting teary every time I hear Bye.Bye,Bye and doing wheelies across the sky on a pink motorbike cooler than anything that could exist in real life. I want to imagine you sleeping peacefully, quietly, with a small smile on your face.

Thank you, Chloe, for everything said and not said. Because I know you'd be annoyed I put in a sappy song up there to open with, here's one I plan on dancing to with my eyes closed, so I can pretend you're dancing with me.


  1. (massive hugs) Chloe sounds amazing. :-)

  2. Again, I'm so sorry for your loss. A friend of mine attempted suicide last month, and a relative succeeded at taking his life within days of my friend's attempt, so this post hits home right now. Especially the part about someone potentially being gone before I could even notice. Neither of my people said goodbye to anyone. I'm glad my friend didn't succeed, but I worry for the future.

    - Michelle (@viridian from Twitter)

    1. I find I get enough of the "reaching for a step that's not there" sensation when mourning someone even if I DO get to say goodbye, so the idea of dealing without that is horrifying. I'm so sorry you've got so much of this in your life right now - I hope it passes soon.

  3. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    My partner of almost 8 years took his life when I was 4 months pregnant, and I slept through it. I found him and even 10 years on I feel so much guilt and regret.
    I understand suicide, as I also suffer from depression and have tried to commit suicide myself, and I would hate for someone to take that choice from me if i ever felt the need again, but there's still part of me that wishes I had had that secret combination of words that would have stopped him, that could have made him hold on just a little longer, just in case it did get better...
    It will get easier, but I think all of us who have survived a loss like this will find themselves wanting to share some random event- a joke, a song, an idea- many years after their death. Even the changing of the seasons can be hard because it's just another summer they're not here to see.
    I hope you have good people in your life, this can be hard to get through But I'm glad you got to say goodbye- that's one of the hardest things to accept imho