I’ve recorded this as a video so many times over the last year and a half. I’ve written and deleted the potential post a further six times. No matter how many times I come to share this story with the world, I just cannot do it. There are people who know this story, people who lived this with me. There are family members who know half of the story, overheard from conversation, then there are friends who have held up a torch in the darkest of hours.
I was asked to take part in the #ILiveItIBlogIt campaign by John . He’s an incredible inspiration to us all.
The reason I started blogging comes down to one person, and one person only.
I hit my rebellious stage in my early teens. We laugh about it now, but I was a nightmare during high school. I’d smoke, I’d drink, I’d mix with people I probably shouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments of being nice, too. I met some incredible people who I still call friends today. I’d spend hours locked in my room, addicted to my iPod Touch. I remember one Summer, myself and my family and some family friends went off to France. We had been travelling for two days and so, upon trying to find the hotel, I’d had enough. I threw my huge bag down and refused to move. I caused quite a scene on the French streets, completely unaware of the brat I was being. My Dads friend embarrassingly picked up my bag and carried it for me whilst I sulked.
I was coming up to fourteen when I met James. He was older at 15, and was definitely cooler than me and my friends. I remember at the time being hugely confused about my sexuality, I knew I was attracted to men, but I wasn’t ready to give up my hope on being the straight guy. I had girlfriends at the time, the typical high school romances. But I’d never had a boyfriend. That was, until James came along. He was a breath of fresh air. He was cool, calm, collected, and he smoked. At the time, smoking was that super cool thing that kids saved their lunch money to do. He was beautiful, too.
I realised during my first few weeks in the company of James, that I was done with women, he was perfect. Slowly, we started a relationship. I was young, naive and impressionable, so naturally I followed him around in awe. As the years went on, me and James went on too. We started off incredibly, at first. He’d write my name on his hand during school, and we’d secretly hold hands under the table. Being gay was becoming more and more normal during my school years, if you take out the odd ‘gay boy’ comment shouted down the school corridor by unintelligent boys, then I had it pretty easy. Still, he was my secret, and I loved it.
As I left school and started discovering the incredible hotspot that is the park on a Friday Night, I dabbled with alcohol. Me and my friends would take it in turns to steal vodka out of our parents cupboards, topping it up with water.
It was during these times that I discovered James had fallen into the path of drugs.
Blinded by love, I continued with my man.
I was seventeen when we decided to have a Halloween party.
It was my last Halloween celebration.
“I’ll see you later” he said as he took himself upstairs. His friends just presumed he was using the bathroom, but you know when something doesn’t sit right inside your head? When you have thousands of tiny question marks bouncing off the inside of your inquisitive mind, you just can’t let it be. Five minutes later, I followed him up the stairs.
He wasn’t in the bathroom.
I knew at that point what had happened. I could hear the sound of my heart beating, as tiny cracks appeared at its edges.
I opened his bedroom door, and there he was.
He had taken a drug overdose.
There he lay, motionless and silent.
I must have stood there for a few minutes before I was interrupted by one of his friends, who had come to see what we were up to. It was her screams that alerted the others.
My heart finally gave way and cracked. Thousands of tiny pieces fragmented inside my chest.
That Thursday night, I put on a mask that I’ve still not really taken off. When I lost James, my world fell apart. I wasn’t sure how I’d ever comprehend what had happened.
Neither my friends or my mum and dad knew about James, nor do they know much now. He was my secret, and I liked that. I didn’t realise until recently how much that ruined my chances of mourning properly. I had kept him a secret and therefore I didn’t feel it appropriate to tell everyone that I had a boyfriend who one day killed himself because of me.
To my mum and dad, I am sorry that I hid it from you. I am sorry that I didn’t feel brave enough or strong enough to tell you. I was scared that you’re disappointment would outweigh everything else.
When I studied in Leeds, I cried to an Adele remix in the middle of a club one night. My best friend, Sian, had to bung me in the back of an ambulance because I could no longer cope. Through shame, we told people that I was spiked. I got a J tattoo’d close to my heart for him shortly after, when my sister-in-law asked what it was, I quickly lied and said it was a music note.
I am not ashamed of him, nor am I ashamed of his death. What I am ashamed of is that I never dealt with it properly. That I never, at the time, sat down and told people why I was acting out, why I was constantly down, or that I was having crazy thoughts in my head.
The reason I blog today, the soul reason is because of him. Because if I had understood mental health back then, or if there was more understanding of mental health throughout the world, then the conversation would have been easier for us to have. I would have known how to talk him down, I would have known how to deal with his episodes. I don’t carry the weight of his death on my shoulders no more, but I do carry the weight of his cries for help. He must have given us all signs at some point, but none of us were listening.
It’s a weight I’ll carry until I take my last breath.
I have never dealt with the loss of James, because I don’t think I ever wanted to admit that I had lost my boyfriend to suicide. A few days after his death they found his note. It blamed me for not being good enough, it blamed me for not being there. They also found a diary, in which he spoke about his depression and his desire to end his own life. The diary had been written in every week for two years.
Mental health in men is still a silent killer. We don’t talk about it enough. We don’t blog about it enough. We still roll our eyes when Mark in accounting is signed off with stress. We tut when the local bridge is closed because a man is threatening to jump from it, disgruntled enough that we say ‘if it were me, I’d push him’.
My hope with DanCooleDaily was always to share my story in order to help you share yours. A problem shared is a problem halved.
As for me? Not dealing with his death has ruined every relationship I’ve had since. My ideology of relationships is twisted and tainted, because my first relationship was engulfed by loss. Even now, I have this view that all relationships of mine will end up in death, or will end up in me not being good enough. So I play myself down, I let myself be not good enough. I let myself ruin those around me. If I burn you down, you can’t touch me.
To my exes, I am sorry that I ruined our relationships. I am sorry that I didn’t try hard enough.
I will always doubt myself, I will always remind myself that I wasn’t good enough for my birth mother. I also wasn’t good enough for my first love.
I walk through life with a piece of me missing.
But if I can share my story, if I can help you, then you can help me. Mental health is a conversation that needs to be had. If I could go back and change anything, it’d be to have that conversation with James. To have an honest conversation with my mum and dad.
If you do one thing tonight, have that conversation. Start a blog, record a video. We all have a story, we all have a starting point.
What’s your story?
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