It’s a cliché, but it’s true – David was the life and soul of every party. After his death in February this year I spent time looking through his Facebook photos. In a great deal of them he was centre stage, posing or pulling a silly face, generally looking like he was having the time of his life. Anyone who met him came away with the impression that he was a charismatic, friendly and cheeky lad who loved a good time. And they were right; he was all of those things and more. But there was a flipside to this, one which he kept hidden from even his closest friends and which only came to light after he passed away.
When I told his mates that he had taken his own life, their initial reaction was obviously shock. Next they asked, “But why? He always seemed so happy and fun, I had no idea he was feeling so low.” They were utterly disbelieving. And that was the thing. It wasn’t as if David had been to see his doctor to tell them he was feeling down. He hadn’t discussed his feelings in great depth with anyone, including me, and I was his girlfriend for six years. What happened came as such a shock because it completely contradicted the image David showed to the world.
If I could talk to David now, first I would give him a slap for causing so much pain (sounds cruel and not particularly helpful but I genuinely would, and I’m sure he’d be expecting one). Next I’d ask him why he felt that he couldn’t come to anyone for help. But the thing is, I already know the answer, and I’m guessing it’s something that many blokes are still experiencing now. He didn’t want to let anyone down. He didn’t want to need help. He didn’t want to have a less than perfect life. He had a great job, lots of mates, an active social life, he was good at sport, he was incredibly intelligent – any pain he was feeling internally was just upsetting all this. He just didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that, from time to time, he felt pretty low. It would have been a sign of weakness to him.
Once David told me that he didn’t enjoy living – at the time this obviously alarmed me, but the next day he turned around and told me he felt fine and that he was just being silly. Hindsight is a wonderful, but also a terrible, thing and since his death I have asked myself countless times, why didn’t I take him to the doctors? Why didn’t I sit down with him and really thrash out what was worrying him? There are no answers, except that every time I tried to talk to him about it, he would shut down and tell me he was ok. I should have pushed him, but I didn’t.
The idea that society expects blokes to be strong, confident and controlled at all times is something that has been written about a great deal, so I won’t cover old ground (except to say that it’s a load of complete bollocks). David was definitely a victim of this, and I know that he was trying to protect his friends and family from the pain he was feeling; trying to shrug it off and plough on with life, which for the most part he did very well. But if David had sat his loved ones down and said to us, look guys, some days I just really don’t feel like carrying on, what can I do about it? We would have sat up and paid attention. But it would have been easier said than done. He would have needed to let go of his pride and let us all in.
So this is my message to all the guys out there who feel low, either regularly or occasionally – don’t shrug it off. Life is tough (understatement alert!) and just because you don’t feel 100% like facing it all the time does not make you less of a man. All the people who love and miss David every day would much rather he had asked for help than the situation we face now, where he is gone. The feeling of sadness and pure waste that is left behind is at times completely overwhelming. I won’t even say that it was a selfish thing that he did, because it wasn’t. It was the only option he could see at the time, and that breaks my heart. He was a gorgeous and successful guy who just happened to feel down from time to time. There is ALWAYS a different way out. Even if you don’t feel like you have close friends or your family near or a girlfriend, there is always someone who will listen, and never judge. Let down those walls and let someone in – feeling down is not an imperfection, it’s part of being a human being. You can still be the life and soul of the party.