‘He didn’t feel like he deserved to live’: My boyfriend committed suicide
‘Getting over grief is partly learning to feel again’
It was 6:30am, and I was in bed, four hours from my real home, when I was woken up by a detective enquiring about a “missing persons’ case.” He wouldn’t give me any details but deep down I knew something had happened to Chris. Something serious.
I was 16 when I met him, and having the best year of my life. The summer after GCSEs was packed with holidays, festivals, parties, visiting friends, and generally being free of responsibility. We met at a week-long festival towards the end of the summer. We exchanged our first words, drunkenly, on the last night. From the very beginning it surprised me how easy he was to talk to, although at the time I put it down to alcohol. We spent that night chatting and stargazing on a golf course. It felt magical. I didn’t want it to end. The next day all I wanted to do was spend time with him but my awkwardness got the better of me. I didn’t feel good enough for him.
His problems should have been obvious from the beginning: he had burns on his hand where he had put out cigarettes. I just thought he was cool and mysterious.
We talked online nearly every day after that and quickly started a relationship. It was like any first relationship: we thought we were perfect for each other without having anything to compare it to. With hindsight, though, we really did love each other. He hesitantly called us soulmates. I never thought I’d feel this close to anyone. He was a brilliant musician and wouldn’t go anywhere without his guitar. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.
However, our happy moments were interspersed with darker thoughts. Part of what I loved about him also scared me – he was incredibly reckless and often acted before he thought. For me, this was freeing. I’ve always been a cautious person and to be with someone who just did things – I loved it. However, this recklessness also showed a lack of respect for his life. He’d cross the road without looking even in busy traffic and be the first to climb on bits of a building that were about to collapse.
Our relationship was semi long-distance so a lot of our communication took place online. It was often hard to gauge his mood so I had to be very careful in what I said to him. He’d react strongly if I ever said anything negative and took everything I said personally. To start with, I passed it off as him being sensitive. This got harder as time went on when his moods got worse.
He often talked about death. He didn’t feel like he deserved to live. Several times he said he was going to kill himself and then he’d be offline for a day or so. I had to go to school and carry on not knowing if he was alive or dead, unable to contact him. I tried to be there for him but I felt hopeless, he would barely talk to me about how he was feeling. I found out he was self-harming and suggested maybe he could talk to someone who could help him. He got annoyed and said no one could help him.
It seems crazy now but I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on – he would have hated me. I couldn’t lose him, so we carried on. But eventually the hopelessness got the better of me and I started cutting myself too. This made everything worse but in a sick way, slightly better. He’d be kinder towards me and he seemed a bit less introspective. I was more aware of his pain. But then he felt like he had failed me.
Despite my constant reassurances, he was sure he had ruined my life by coming into it. He said everything would have been better for everyone if he hadn’t been born. I struggled to convey how much he meant to me. The more he pushed me away the more desperate I was to cling on. I found myself Googling what a mentally abusive relationship was like but very quickly I told myself to stop being selfish. It was him who needed help, not me.
Looking back I acknowledge there were times I could’ve been kinder when instead, I got annoyed. I never quite understood exactly how serious his thoughts were and I didn’t always react in the most supportive way. It was exhausting keeping up with his mood swings and his suicidal thoughts. It felt like everything I said just made it worse. He tried to break up with me during my exams when I said I couldn’t take a weekend off revising to see him. He thought he was doing me a favour. I had a panic attack and found solace in my knife.
This all reached a climax at the same festival we met at, this time a year on. Somehow, he thought I told him I had cheated on him so he stopped talking to me. But from my perspective, I thought he had started avoiding me without offering and explanation. I thought he wanted to break up with me, but didn’t understand why he didn’t say that. At this point in the festival we were both too exhausted for rational thinking and I was freaking out. All I wanted was to be with him but if I found him he would immediately leave. It was killing me.
Like any good teenager I stopped trying to do the right thing. I got horribly drunk. I got talking to a guy about a manipulative relationship he had been in in the past, and the similarities to my own experiences were surprising. I realised I had never even considered leaving; I didn’t feel like I had a way out. Then I made the biggest mistake I’ve ever made and went back to his tent. He was giving me the kindness and support I craved from Chris and I wasn’t thinking straight.
Now Chris’ assumptions had come true, and I felt awful. I didn’t understand how I could have done that to someone. People since have tried to convince me that it’s not as bad as I think, but I really can’t believe I did it. That point marked the beginning of the end and it had given me a way out. By this point in our relationship I couldn’t see a future for us. I still loved Chris very much but he was getting worse and I couldn’t deal with his moods anymore. I felt like I was becoming his carer.
He came over, essentially so that we could see each other before we ended it, but he became hysterical. I couldn’t let him leave in that state, so I tried my best to calm him down. For the first time, I felt strangely detached from his emotional outburst – I just wanted him to be happy. He told me if he calmed down he’d kill himself. After a couple of hours he seemed better. I asked him to leave. With hindsight he was too calm, too composed. He seemed almost at peace. I thought this was a good sign – that he had accepted our break-up. It turned out he killed himself later that day. I didn’t find out until nearly a week later.
The first thing people say to me is “it wasn’t your fault.” And the first thing I think is: maybe not, in the grand scheme of things, but in the end I caused it. I have to learn to live with that, not to deny any involvement. Following his death I saw a beautiful side of humanity. I was flooded by love and well-wishes from people close to me and people I barely knew. I just felt numb. Getting over grief is partly learning to feel again.
In my experience, it comes in waves. Most of the time I feel and act fine but it can all hit again so suddenly. This quote from the book “One Day” by David Nicholls sums it up beautifully: “These days grief seems like walking on a frozen river; most of the time he feels safe enough, but there is always that danger that he will plunge through.” One and a half years on this is still true. There’s just more time between the “plunging”.
Unfortunately Chris’ death wasn’t the only thing I had to deal with, as selfish as that sounds. There was an article written after his inquest which included my full name and contained lies as well as the truth being skewed to make it look like I was the only factor in his death. I had journalists calling me and adding me on Facebook before I even knew it existed. Eventually my name was taken out but the article remains.
His mum, with whom he wasn’t on good terms when I knew him, also made things worse. I won’t go into any details as she was grieving too, and it is too easy to discount that and to be cruel. Long story short: I didn’t go to his funeral on her wishes. I don’t even know if there’s anywhere to visit his remains. For a while it was hard to find closure. Even now it’s hard to say I’m completely over it – it’s just a bit easier to live with. Since the day I met him there hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t thought about him. I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
Some people say suicide is the coward’s way out. As much as I wish it had turned out differently, I don’t think it’s cowardly to actively take control of your life in the most extreme way possible. In the end, it was Chris’s life to do what he wanted with it. That should be accepted without judgement. Death, in itself, isn’t the worst thing in the world. I haven’t fully got over it and I will miss Chris for the rest of my life but it’s better that than him feeling broken and tormented for the rest of his.
If he had got help maybe things would have turned out differently. He just couldn’t see it how many people loved him and how many people would be there for him. Suicide is never really the end, just the beginning of pain for someone else.
*Names have been changed.
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