In August of 2016, my best friend committed suicide. At his funeral, I promised to tell his story. Sometimes, his story is about the reasons he did it. Sometimes his story about learning a lesson. Sometimes his story is about how we need to act like a suffragist and get really angry to fight for change. Sometimes his story is about something more beautiful; it’s sometimes about love.
Today, his story is about how I loved him and how I continue to love others on his behalf. For those of you who don’t know me, I used to be so cynical it was terminal and I was a professional complainer.
He suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder or Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder. Or at least that’s what they told him. One doctor decided and the rest of them followed, but he refused to be defined by his disorder.
He also refused to let his problems become something that he was identified as. He was open, honest and loving. He had time for every single person but could cut you down with an acid tongue if you took a step out of line. He was dark. He was light. He was intelligent. He was everything. You would have liked him.
He was everything I needed in a friend and he had promised to be my best man.
In the last three months of his life, I hadn’t seen him as much as I normally would have. We were in different towns and making time for each other wasn’t high on the priority list.
And so, he took his own life, but I no longer blame him. Somewhere in my head, I’ve been able to accept that this was his decision and that I have respected all of the bad decisions he’s ever made (including those 2010 blonde highlights), so why change now?
I might not agree with what he chose to do, but I’ve found a way of supporting him, even now that he’s gone. I will never see him again, but that doesn’t stop me thinking about him every day. And that certainly hasn’t stopped me wanting to think of him. I’ve put little triggers everywhere – whether it be in pictures duct-taped to my dashboard or in the tattoo on my wrist or in the books I leave lying around that he told me to read. I’ve even created a shrine that tiptoes the line between tasteful and creepy. I never want to forget.
There is a real cultural effort to move on, to forget, to process negativity and leave it behind. But that wouldn’t have worked for me. Talking, sharing, asking for help isn’t enough.
If you have a loved one that is going through stuff, just make sure to tell them that you love them. Even if that person is a colleague, just tell them when they do something that you like. If someone is opening up to you, make sure you tell them that you support them. If someone pisses you off, don’t hold a grudge. If someone holds a door open for you, just say thanks.
No matter how grand or small the gesture is, try to repay it. I spend each day of my life making sure that the people around me know that I love them. Whether that be a partner or family member, a shopkeeper or the person that periodically spits on my car on a morning. Put out as much positivity as you can and it makes life easier.
And, where possible, tell them you love them. At some point in my life, my dad put me on his shoulders for the last time. At some point in our lives, it’ll be the last time you ever tell someone that you love them.
After that, all we have left is stories, thoughts and changes. Through it all, I remember him. And at least I can be a better person because for him.
I miss him. I love him. I will never forget.
Wow. What more can we add to such a beautifully written, incredibly honest and intelligently constructed tribute to a true friend. We're sure that's something in this that we can all take away from, just as Aaron takes positives from life that can prove to be so hard at times.
Have you lost a friend to suicide? How did it affect you and those around you? Let us know in the comments below.
You can keep up-to-date with Aaron on Twitter, where he's @AJDBowman