Spit and Spirits

Stop the Black Dog

with 3 comments

Today it’s been exactly seven years since an ex-girlfriend of mine committed suicide.

I’m not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me, or I’m trying to ruin your day by dragging you along to feel shit with me. It’s more I feel the need to try and explain why after seven years it’s still present in my mind, especially today, as I’m sure it is for everyone who was involved within our lives back then.

Suicide doesn’t simply go away when someone dies, as I’m sure you already know. I can wholeheartedly vouch for that, and I’m sure the parents of my ex-girlfriend can vouch for that too.

During a counselling session back then a doctor told me that for someone to go against all of nature’s primal instincts of survival, and to go ahead and end their own life, means there’s something very chemically imbalanced happening. It sounds a little harsh, but I think what he was trying to say at the time is that it wasn’t my fault. We, as friends didn’t make that chemical imbalance so there wasn’t anything any of us could actually do about it. And I say ‘any of us’ because I know that everyone connected to my ex felt in some way guilty.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to dredge up old guilt, or say screw it she was broke when we got here. I’m trying to explain in a very unfortunate sense that this began before any of us even knew her. Mental illness can be brought on by any number of scenarios. Her’s started as an eight year old girl. For others it’s simply bad luck they have a slightly different chemical makeup than other seemingly ‘normal’ people – and I use the term ‘normal’ very loosely. Regardless of that she turned into the woman we knew. She was happy, funny, loving and damn well knew how to party. She also had many problems that no one except me, and perhaps her parents actually knew about. She was very good at hiding them. Probably the world’s best actor.

My ex could, and should, have received more treatment then she had. She knew there was a problem and she tried. We both tried. There were clinic stays, meetings, medication, you name it. Treatment came and went as did symptoms, like eating disorders, drug use, chronic depression and smashing fists into glass mirrors at her own reflection. One list just never seemed to cancel out the other.

It got to the point where she eventually seeked her mother’s advice – who also suffered from a form of mental illness – and they devised a plan to see her mother’s psychiatrist. She got into fitness and became a personal trainer, something she had always been passionate about. She seemed alive. She seemed level. She seemed to have found a life to love.

And that’s where I left her. I had to find my own life to love. A couple of months went past. We had quite a few of the same friends so our circles still crossed from time to time and we stayed in touch, perhaps to her detriment.

I can still remember being told by a best mate, Brendan, that she’d killed herself. We were standing out on my driveway at 3 am after he called to say we needed to talk. I already pretty much knew what had happened. There aren’t many other scenarios that jump to mind when someone calls like that. Apparently my legs buckled and he had to hold me up, but I don’t remember that bit.

I always wanted the best for her. I wanted her to have a joyful life and meet a man and have children who adored her. Sometimes I still see her walking along the street and for a moment I could almost believe all that came true. But it didn’t of course. I can only slightly imagine how her parents feel. What I feel multiplied by about infinity. I hope they’ve been able to live a somewhat decent life. Her father made it through in the early days by hating me. Raining the blows as if they’d somehow explain why it happened, why his little girl had gone. It’s all right if he still feels that way. Maybe it helps. I’ve had my own hate and blame I’ve had to work through.

Seven years and all this still rattles around in my mind, as I’m sure it always will for all of us. Her friends, family, workmates. It’s alright if it does. And it’s alright if we go for sometime and not think about it at all. At some point I’ve had to let go of the guilt and blame and sorrow to make sure I survive and am able to love those around me as best I can. I have a wife who is the most understanding person I know. She knows this day is a hard one and will never take it away from me. We have happiness in our lives and I’m fiercely protective over what we have and what our future will hold.

I guess after all this I just wish my ex-girlfriend had continued seeking help for her illness. Pretty much everyone I know has had some kind of experience with it whether it’s themselves or others. There’s as many different levels as there are people in the world. We’re all different and we need to know seeking help is the first and most important step. Suicide creates a fallout that keeps spilling long after the act, and it’s the people who loved them the most who suffer. It can’t continue to be a solution.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to say, even after seven years. People everyday are going through the same emotions and illness as my ex-girlfiend. They need to know there’s a life worth living beyond mental illness.

If someone pushes ahead of you at the supermarket, or is taking too long at the teller machine, choose to hold the door open for them or simply give them a smile. We can’t make others happy, that’s up to them, and we can’t tell when The Black Dog is barking or walking quietly alongside, but we can at least perhaps give a little hope and friendliness in what could be the worst day of their lives.

That could be all it takes to make a difference.


Written by Jake Fox

September 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Very poignantly written. I suspect that no one ever ‘gets over’ something like this. They just learn to live with it, and perhaps with time take more and more lessons away from it as age and wisdom allow. All the best today – I’ve no doubt you’ll hug your wife just a little tighter knowing what a valuable jewel you have found and how precious life is. x


    September 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  2. As above, Jake, this personal expression is deep, raw and sincere. Thanks for putting it into words with such impact, compassion and understanding. Hope to see you around the tracks again soon! Karina

    Dixie Pussyfoot

    September 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  3. Brother Its seem so long ago and yet it feels like it could have just happened yesterday, time puts our life and our actions into prospective, and as you know there was sadly others going through the same thing at the same time that made them also choose the same path as your Ex, I know this cause I was there with you when this all sadly happened, and only a few years earlier I nearly went down the same one way freeway with the old Black Dog riding shotgun, that cold dark form of depression that we wear as heavy wet cloak that washes out all the colour from our lives and drains us of happiness and emotions leaving us numb. RAGE AGAINST ALL NEGATIVE THOUGHT MY FRIENDS !


    September 12, 2012 at 5:50 am

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