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I’m a recent graduate, looking for work in the middle of this crisis. I’ve been born and brought up in a typical middle-class household in Delhi in a tiny nuclear family without siblings. The coolest part about my background is that my 97-year-old grandfather worked for the Archaeological Survey of India and knows seven languages.
I am also privileged enough to be able to access therapy if necessary. But my experience with suicide is not my own. This is the story of a boy who joined my school in 7th grade, and with whom I became close friends. We’ll call him Rahul. We got closer and closer over the years until we started dating towards the end of 9th grade.
We had a rocky on and off relationship from 2012 to 2017, until we eventually broke up because I was in the first year of college and he was studying for medical entrance exams. All this time, I obviously knew him very well and loved him immensely. I was aware that he was depressed and that his relationship with his parents was not great.
To the best of my knowledge, his depression got worse when he took a second gap year, during which time all his friends (and me) had moved on with their lives and his sister was studying abroad. He had isolated himself and it got harder to contact him during those last few months—I wouldn’t get any response to texts or even emails. He didn’t have any social media and he just disappeared.
It happened when he didn’t get into a medical school the second time
It happened the day the results came. While the newspaper blamed it on the exam, it was a combination of many other issues. People try to view suicide in a very simple but twisted light.
Rahul would always tell me, “I want you to move on,” even before we’d officially broken up. I’d tell him, if not me, he could always find a cardiologist to match his neurosurgeon. He’d jokingly say that he’d never live to see that day. Little did I know that he could see the day coming and that he isolated himself to reduce the people that would get caught in the aftermath.
But I guess what he didn’t realise was that I’d love him fiercely for the rest of my life and think about him every day. While it pains me to think that we couldn’t get him the help he deserved, I’m grateful to have had that time with him anyway.
After he passed, I started going to therapy
I felt this burden of knowledge after his suicide. I knew he was depressed, and I told him I’d take him to therapy with me, that I’d accompany him. And each time, I was told to wait. “Wait until I get into med school, then we’ll go,” he’d say. That day never came.
While I didn’t continue with therapy for long, I found other outlets. I wrote about our memories, journaled my feelings, and tried my best to not suppress my emotions. I painted, leaned on my friends, and reminded myself that I did all I could—because the reminders of “you didn’t do enough” weren’t going to be healthy for me and wouldn’t be respectful of his memory.
I think the only thing that got me through was the conviction to live twice as large on his behalf. He wanted to move away, live in Canada or the UK, away from his family. So, I went to a university in London, keeping him in my heart wherever I went. He would’ve liked that.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is not to drown my memories in grief forever.
To grieve when my heart feels heavy but never bury the feeling or forget my time with him. To remember him fondly and with love.
I got through this because of my close friends
They’ve been an unbelievably huge support. Even when they didn’t know what was going on in my head, they’d just be there. In the early days, someone would always be at my house to sleep next to me and comfort me. I think it’s very important to be vulnerable and lean onto your support systems, to accept help when you need it. I’m living my life with more joy now.
Savouring all my moments here, immersing myself in the present instead of the past or future–I know that I’ve to keep living and loving to honour his memory and I’ll keep doing that.
But the one thing that I wish was different that I never got to be a part of his funeral proceedings. A mutual friend who informed me of Rahul’s passing, stopped responding to me and unknowingly took away my opportunity to say goodbye. I know he was grieving too, but I wasn’t in touch with anyone else. And so I couldn’t see him one last time.
Two years later, it still feels unreal. It just feels like he’s mad at me and not talking to me, and I’m just waiting for him to get in touch with me again.
To my younger self, I’d just like to say: don’t blame yourself. You did all that you could. It’s not your fault and you’ll be okay. To his younger self, I’ll say: I love you and I care for you, even when we’re not talking. I wish you’d come to speak to me and that I could’ve done something more to help you. But I love you, to infinity and beyond.
To anyone struggling, I can’t promise you that everything will magically be better. It’s hard to get out of this space alone. But you’re not alone, please go talk to your family, friends, professionals, support groups online.
Let people help you on this journey, supporting you through the bad parts and celebrating the good ones. Your life is worth so much more than your struggles. You will get through this. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
This story has been brought to you by YourDOST, on behalf of Hiranya, as a part of the World Suicide Prevention Day campaign. Hiranya is a postgraduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science with a background in Psychology.